Check out the insights from the industry’s biggest names on mobile strategy, loyalty programs, and contract negotiations at the inaugural Direct Booking Summit...
Two hundred hoteliers and industry allies travelled to Washington, D.C. to hear one thing: how they can drive more direct bookings. In a world where third-party costs keep rising, driving direct is key.
The Direct Booking Summit took place September 13-14, 2016. Hosted by Triptease, the flagship event featured industry experts and leaders from Marriott, Four Seasons, IHG, and SIXTY Hotels.
Attracting a range of attendees from independents, big brands, hospitality management companies, and investors, the Summit highlighted the different strategies hoteliers can implement to drive direct.
At the top of hoteliers’ minds? Quite simply: how. How to leverage the direct booking movement to their advantage, find the perfect distribution mix (both external channels and internally among mobile and desktop), and balance consumers’ desire for instant rewards with long-term loyalty.
Marriott International, Morgans Hotel Group, and Skift kicked things off with a discussion on the direct booking movement and all agreed – the battle for direct is not new, to either hoteliers or consumers. “In other industries, people understand the customer service benefits of going directly to brands – that’s where hotels should double down,” industry expert Rafat Ali of Skift maintained. “Hotels must acknowledge human nature.”
Of course, “human nature” in 2016 means embracing rapidly-changing technology. Panelists from IHG, Four Seasons, and Choice confirmed that as technology advances and consumers adopt, hotels must adapt – especially with mobile. However, when asked if mobile is an increasing priority, IHG’s Michael
Menis pointed out “mobile first does not mean mobile only.” Chris Cocca of Four Seasons agreed that hotels can use mobile to leverage inspiration to book direct, but noted that his team is still very much people-first: “we’re looking for ways technology can ultimately enhance and reinforce that [concept].”
As for independents, things tend to work a little differently. Josh Runes, Digital Marketing Manager at Modus Hotels, opened the panel with a harsh reminder: OTAs don’t care if your guests don’t come back.
“Once the customer steps in your hotel, it’s up to you educate them on why they should keep coming back.”
Educating guests entails focusing not on the rate, but rather the unique value a hotel provides and the services being delivered on property. By enhancing the on-property experience, hotels see direct results; Gary Hawkins shared that SIXTY Hotels have seen success [in the boutique channel] by empowering the front desk teams.
Improving the guest experiences leads to increased loyalty, which can be maintained using CRM data to know your guests as much as possible. “CRM data must drive loyalty perks, or you risk missing the mark completely,” said Claudia Infante of Hard Rock Hotels. Sonesta’s Scott Weiler supported this method for loyalty, noting that a hotel implementing personalization tactics can give lift, but failure to connect with your guest is twice as bad.
Equally important to knowing your guests? Knowing your OTA partner. Greg Duff of Garvey Schubert Barer advised that hotels should make an effort to understand their OTA partner’s position and wants.
Frequent topics of negotiation in 2016 are connectivity, use of affiliate networks, tax liabilities and guest data.