The big question: where do metasearch loyalties lie?
With hotels or with OTAs? Are they a help of a hindrance? We all know it's a complicated relationship to frame in black and white, but at the Direct Booking Summit we explored the meta grey zones with our friends over at TripAdvisor, Google and Skyscanner.
Take a read through the highlights or watch the video below.
Charlie Osmond, Chief Tease, Triptease: “What do you think is the importance of meta search engines in terms of booking travel?”
Satyan Joshi, Hotel Ads Business Leader, Google: “Firstly, we need to acknowledge that there are many different stages to booking travel. Dreaming, researching, booking, experiencing, sharing. Google has many different touch points for consumers, such as YouTube, Search, Maps to name a few. We have the ability to speak to a lot of users and get a lot of valuable information and identify exactly what users are after. We give users the choice if they want to book direct or via an OTA. What we’ve seen is that it’s essential for people do a lot of research before they buy. Understandably. They read reviews, that’s really important, and they look at photos and videos, before they buy, We try to show them all of this valuable information because we know that it makes up a huge part of the experience of booking a holiday.
Specifically on how we help hotels, when a user searches for a specific hotel, we will always surface the hotels contact details as a preference, including their phone number and a link to their website, which we know is an incredible driver of traffic to hotels websites.”
Chief Tease: “It feels like meta is an opportunity to help hotels drive more direct, but the big OTAs certainly have more money and therefore are more capable of doing deals with meta and making sure they are at the top of the ranking. It suddenly feels like meta doesn’t provide much opportunity for hotels, and the OTAs are getting disproportionate benefits.”
Nikhil Gupta, Director of Hotels and Car Hire, Skyscanner: “We are championing direct business to hotels. For example, we give preferred placement to hotels regardless of what they pay us compared to OTAs. We do this because we know that guests generally do prefer to book direct. In fact, roughly 65% of users will book directly with the hotel is they see in meta listings that it’s the same price as OTAs. Additionally, while we work on a CPC business model with our OTA partners, we completely understand that hotels need heads in beds’ more than traffic to websites, so with hotels we work on a CPA basis, and we can be flexible. However, it’s important that hotels offer us the cheapest rate, and sometimes we find that they don’t, which makes it hard to prioritise them over the OTAs, because that would actually be a hindrance to users.”
Chief Tease: “The problem is, hotels have so many things on site to deal with as it is. Then they have so many metas and OTAs to deal with on top of that. The big hotel chains like Marriott and Hilton are only working with a few and they are huge chains with a lot of money so, what chance do independent hotels have?”
Gupta: “Approximately 36% of all trips started on a meta search, and more than 68% of all travel planning starts on a search engine. We do understand the challenges hotels have because they're not tech companies, but the reality is, they need to put more emphasis into their digital strategy because there are competitors out there so they need to be in it to win if they’re to have a chance at fighting for their business.”
Christian Becker, Head of Europe, TripAdvisor: “As Satyan mentioned, a huge part of the trip planning process is doing research, and users actually enjoy doing it. TripAdvisor is the home of hotel reviews and in fact have become addictive in the hospitality industry. TripAdvisor is really important for hotels and ultimately consumers are driven by price and loyalty. We will show our users the best prices and the best deals out on the web, because we know how important that is, so hotels need to make sure they offer the cheapest price on the web, and they will always appear at the top of the ranking.”