Chris Peppers, Director of E-Commerce at H-Hotels.com, had a clear goal when travel began reopening in early summer 2021. He wanted to ensure visibility for his properties across all hotel metasearch channels and to show every user that booking direct is the best option.
But with Google search trends on the rise and OTAs spending billions to squeeze hoteliers out, he was entering a hyper-competitive arena. Having the best rate was the game changer that secured the hotel group’s success and turned metasearch into a major direct booking channel.
We caught up with Chris ahead of this year’s EMEA Direct Booking Summit, which will be taking place in Berlin from May 31 - June 1, 2022. Chris will be sharing his experience beginning campaigns on metasearch with Triptease, the major challenges he faced, and his advice for other hoteliers looking to capitalize on direct bookings as we enter a new travel landscape. Read on for a taster of some key learnings you can expect to hear lots more about at the summit.
Price is the deciding factor on metasearch
Even with evidence that this is the year of ‘revenge travel’ and that customers are prepared to spend more on their trips, price will remain the most important factor influencing where they book. And metasearch is the best place to reinforce that you have the best available rate.
Chris took this lesson on board. His strategy from the start of his metasearch journey was to always have the best available rate. This was key to taking bookings back from OTAs and driving more direct revenue. Using member rates on metasearch platforms like Google Hotel Ads, Tripadvisor and Trivago helped H-Hotels to ensure their direct price was always 10-15% lower.
“This is such a game changer in itself, because people are always keen on booking the cheapest rate”, says Chris. At Triptease we know that having the best rate on metasearch can triple your direct bookings. Hoteliers need to become strategic with their prices if they want to capture their fair share of the post-Covid travel rebound.
Ranking isn’t everything - the goal is to be visible
Many hoteliers assume that you need to rank in the top place on metasearch to deliver the best results. But this isn’t necessarily the case. “If you have the cheapest rate”, says Chris, “then you should just aim to be visible”.
What counts as visible will differ between metasearch platforms. On Tripadvisor it’s only the top three entries that are visible for each property listing in the hotel search. In this case, you simply want to ensure you are visible somewhere in these places. Having the best price will immediately stand out and influence the visitor, so it is pointless wasting budget on ranking right at the top.
It’s a different situation if you’re in parity or undercut. In this case you may have to work harder to capture the customer’s attention. If you’re in parity it’s still worth bidding up to ensure you remain visible and have a fair shot at capturing the booking. In some cases where you’re undercut it’s worth staying out of the auction altogether.
Triptease’s flagship Parity Boost and Parity Blackout automate this work for you, ensuring that you are boosted in the metasearch auction when your price is cheaper direct and that you’re removed when you’re significantly undercut to protect your brand and avoid wasting budget.
Monitoring your parity on metasearch is critical
Metasearch is a rate parity battleground. Having the best price can be the difference between winning the direct booking and losing to undercutting OTAs. It’s therefore essential to make sure you’re monitoring the right price sources and paying attention to your metasearch parity.
For Chris, monitoring specific OTAs is the most important thing because it’s important to see which booking channels are undercutting you. When identifying OTAs who consistently uncdercut, the question he always asks is, “how can we create a plan to improve our rate strategy across metasearch to better compete with the other booking channels?”
The first indicator to always look for is whether there’s a certain date on a certain OTA channel that is undercutting you badly. Having specific data on what OTAs are undercutting you the most, and when, is really important.
However, it’s also useful to have a broad overview of how often guests are seeing your direct price undercut on metasearch - this can make it a lot easier to flag trends and take action. Triptease recently launched the new Metasearch Parity Insights Dashboard to help hoteliers better keep track of how often they’re being undercut on metasearch and how this is impacting their performance.
Find the metasearch channels that work for your hotel
Chris started his metasearch journey with Triptease focusing purely on Tripadvisor. This was not the most obvious choice for the German market, which is dominated by Trivago. But he nevertheless had a clear vision.
Tripadvisor had always brought in revenue pre-Covid, so he knew there had to be some potential there. Tripadvisor is a big name in the US and UK markets and Chris was determined to engage with it. “I was like, there has to be some potential for that channel. It’s so big. People know about Tripadvisor”.
Chris allowed Triptease to manage three H-Hotels properties to see if they had potential to generate revenue from Tripadvisor. Before long the channel was contributing a significant proportion of direct website revenue, with the group’s highest performing property in Zurich drawing 3.61% of website revenue from Tripadvisor alone in March 2022 (4x higher than the market average for Europe).
Asked about his success with Tripadvisor, Chris agreed that hoteliers need to be bold and experiment with different metasearch channels to find the ones that work for them.
Having the best rate makes dealing with wholesalers a breeze
Asked about how he deals with undercutting wholesalers on metasearch, Chris answers that he honestly hasn’t even thought about them for ages. He’s always had the best rate, which means his properties are always a step ahead of OTAs. Parity is the key to avoiding the problem of wholesalers altogether.
That said, this doesn’t mean you will never have a wholesaler undercutting you. When you are confronted with repeat offenders, the most important action is to conduct regular test bookings. “The key thing to do here is to see what distribution partner the booking is coming from and then contact the relevant account manager to deal with the wholesaler”, says Chris.
Sometimes the same problem will come up again in a couple of weeks. But test bookings allow you to keep some measure of control. “It’s an ongoing process”, he admits. However, maintaining the cheapest rates possible is the best way to avoid the problem to begin with.
Keen to learn more about the world of metasearch, parity and OTA management? Chris will be joining us at the Direct Booking Summit in Berlin from May 31 - June 1, 2022, where he’ll be sharing his key learnings since embarking on his metasearch journey. To find out more about the summit or to book your ticket, head straight to the Direct Booking Summit website.