Hotel Online  Special Report



No More Whining About Third-Party Suppliers; 
You Control Your Own Fate On The Net
By Neil Salerno Ė December 2003

Now that í03 is quickly coming to an end, letís make a resolution for í04 to do less whining about those big bad third-party suppliers that are ruining our average rates. As an industry, we chose to participate with them; we allocated rooms to them; and we gave them the low room rate ammunition to fire back at us. 

Letís face it; they do a better job than we do. They are in the primary search results for most major and secondary hotel-city searches. That doesnít happen by accident. Their sites are designed to lead people to make reservations, not to entertain users with fancy, but unnecessary flash animation. Few hotels make the extra effort and investment necessary to produce those results.

Many hotels are still very happy to get reservations from third-party suppliers. All this chatter about how they are destroying our rate structure; tell that to the hotel manager who is looking at occupancies in the teens or is 10 occupancy points under budget. 

Itís scary to me to see several franchises now guaranteeing web users that the rates on their franchise sites are truly the lowest available rates; a very effective means to control franchisee third-party rate quotes. I remember when we used to publicize rack and special rates only; seems like decades ago, now. The point is, be cautious when selecting which third-party programs in which to participate and be more pro-active in promoting your own website.

The data demonstrates that the majority of people prefer to deal directly with the hotel and not through intermediaries. We just have to make it easier for them to find our web sites and make our web sites more marketing oriented to induce them to make real-time reservations while they are there. 

I wonít go through all those fancy stats which show that online reservations are rising at an unbelievable rate; you all know the numbers by now. If you are not convinced about the viability of the web as a marketing medium, you probably wonít even finish this article.

Youíve heard the numbers that a little more than 50% of web hotel searches are hotel-city searches. Youíve heard that only 20% search by hotel brand. Itís pretty clear that you need individual coverage on the net. If youíve wondered why the third-party portals are in the primary search results, itís because they invest in search engine optimization. You can too!

The Internet has changed the way people book travel and we need to compensate for those changes. If you, like many others, are looking for the Internet to fulfill its promise of producing 15, 20, or 25% or more of your total room nights, consider thinking like a consumer. 

The first step is to remove your hotelier hat, adorn your consumer hat, and take a good look at your website. No, donít enter your site address; perform a search like the vast majority of your site visitors will do. If your site is on the first or second page of search results, great.  If it isnít, you have some work to do. 

You probably found that the first few search results were the dreaded third-party sites. Donít despair; your hotel can be among the first few sites, too. With a minor investment and some savvy optimization, your hotel can be among the elite search results. After all the third-party marketers do it. We are at least as smart as they are, right? 

Ok, youíve found your site. Does the copy and graphics on your site accurately and clearly reflect the primary selling points of your hotel? The primary selling points are still location, facilities, and entertainment. This is the information, which sells your hotel. No more and certainly no less.

Unfortunately, website design is a subjective art and not a science. It amazes me why so many website designers insist on adding complexity and confusion to an otherwise clear and marketable website. Flash animation is great in cartoons but confuse search engines and increase download time for the vast majority of users still on modem connections.

Virtual tours have their place if you have a fancy spa or very unusual room you wish to show off but, who cares to see a virtual tour of an ordinary room...boring. I have even seen many sites void of the hotelís address! But somehow they do have fancy flash animation. Good clear static photographs are far more important than these cumbersome virtual tours. Rich content on your site is costly entertainment that doesnít sell anything. 

Now that youíve cleaned up your site and checked your copy and photos, check out your booking engine. If you donít have one, save even more money and delete your website. Hotel websites are no longer online brochures. They are sales engines. Without a booking engine, you canít close the sale. 

If you are one of those franchisees that divert reservations from your website to your franchisers booking engine, thatís fine. But understand that this means you are forfeiting your ability to develop and maintain a database of your Internet guests in a World of one-to-one marketing opportunities. If not having the ability to send future email solicitations to those who have already made reservations directly with you online doesnít mean anything to you, so be it. 

The Internet is still the most cost-effective medium to market your hotel. Use it wisely or you may be among those whining about being out-marketed by third-party producers in 2004 too.

Neil L. Salerno, CHME
Hotel Marketing Coach 
1369 South Wembley Circle
Port Orange, Florida 32128

Also See: Six 'Maxiís' Guaranteed To Boost Hotel Sales / Neil Salerno / November 2003
Itís Time To Take Back Control Of Rates & Rooms - But Is The Enemy...Us? / Neil Salerno / November 2003
Booking Engines Are Like A Box of Chocolates...You Never Know What Youíre Gonna Get! / Neil Salerno / October 2003
Hotel Web Site & Search Engine Optimization; Always A Work In Progress / Neil L. Salerno / October 2003
Hotel Budgets and Marketing Plans; Oh No, Is It That Time Again? / Neil L. Salerno / September 2003
Increasing Hotel Internet Sales Is Not Rocket Science...And It Doesnít Have To Be Costly Either / Neil L. Salerno / September 2003
Are You Treating Third Party eWholesalers As Competititon Or a Valuable Marketing Partner? / Neil L. Salerno / August 2003
How Often Have You Heard, 'I could have gotten a better rate but the client saw our rates on the Internet' ? Itís Time To Get Back To Selling Location, Facilities, and Services / Neil L. Salerno / August 2003
Before You Begin that Marketing Plan Challenge Your Sales Team; Expect More and Get More / Neil L. Salerno / July 2003
Jump Up and Shout Yes - Delivering Best Online Customer Experience, Nice Job Vividence! / Neil L. Salerno / July 2003
Is The Internet Delivering On Its Promise? Well, It Depends on How you Look at It / Neil L. Salerno / June 2003
Coaching and Mentoring, Sometimes A New Paradigm Can Go A Long Way / Neil L. Salerno / June 2003
Sales Training Works Well, But Sales Mentoring Makes It More Effective; Mentoring Lasts a Lifetime / Neil L. Salerno / May 2003
Is It Time For A Sales Tune-up? How Healthy Was Your Last Forecast? / Neil L. Salerno / May 2003
Hotel Web Sites; Want it Creative or Effective? / Neil L. Salerno / May 2003
If You Always Do What You Have Always Done.... Youíll Always Get What You Always Got! Hotelierís Mantra... Thinking Outside The Box / Neil L. Salerno / April 2003
Good Sales Planning - The Basics Still Work / Neil L. Salerno / April 2003

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