By Yogeesh Chandra
December 2010

Hotel business faces pressures on all fronts. Customers expect the world in terms of service, competition watches you very closely and demands keep fluctuating. To add to that, there are visibility challenges on the internet and discounting & reference based leads end up affecting the margins on a consistent basis. All this while new competition keeps getting added in the city’s supply to further correct room rates and dent your occupancy.

There is also a visible shift that is occurring where traditional travel agents and referral hotel reservations are giving way to hotel’s own website and the ability to reach out to an ever growing number of OTAs that should be tapped into, through distribution service providers.

In this two part series, we are covering some vital business opportunities that will help your hotel stand out against your competition.

1. Visibility on the consumer’s search path

Is your hotel visible enough in a consumer’s search path. What are the organic rankings on key search engines?

If the rankings are not good enough, do you have an effective SEM program to counter this situation?

What’s your visibility on key OTAs and Travel Meta Search engines?

If your brand visibility is not there at least you must be visible on key booking sites across the web to come in the search path of a potential booker.

Is your enhanced visibility matching up to positive online reputation to ensure that customer feels confident enough to make a booking for your hotel?

How structured is your online reputation management process?

2. Avoid Commoditization

There is more to hotel rooms than price and so must be kept in mind while we present the product on various channels.

Each room type with hotel facilities must be given its due in terms of physicals and aesthetic descriptors to make the customer understand the offering and match their expectations accordingly.

3. Measure Awareness

How many customers search you by name on different OTAs?

Discuss the pent up demand experienced by your partner OTA for your own specific hotel property to measure how well your customers know you or want to come and stay with you and match it to your online visibility tools. It helps to ensure that the property is getting its due in terms of visibility at the right place amongst search engines, travel meta search engine and OTAs.

The results may be surprising and also revealing enough to devise an e-marketing plan or using the leverage to negotiate better contractual terms or free marketing opportunity with the same or other OTAs.

4. Increase visibility on high producing OTAs

A recent report mentioned how Expedia sells most of its hotels rooms from the first results page and out of that a staggering 47% right from the top 5. It is important for you to ensure that you do not get penalized on rankings due to incorrect unavailability or price disparity.

While optimization is an algorithmic process there are some basics to ensure better visibility like room availability across different booking windows, rate parity, running specials on limited time offer and better value based deals. It surely pays off to cover important aspects that the optimization is engineered around for any OTA and following the guidelines to move up the ladder slowly but surely.

5. Get taken ‘Seriously’

You may have done everything well enough to deserve a place on the first page and still not gotten your due.

Measure your rankings over a period of time and against availability and parity criteria to report any indifference to the OTA.

A consistent endeavor from your side to gain visibility backed by fulfillment of their main criteria may help your rankings.

Regular meetings with market managers are very helpful and they do provide important tips to optimize performance on their platform.

6. Responsible Discounting

Selling on opaque channels over valley periods will offer you occupancy while not putting traditional channels of sales under any pressure.

Thus, the hotel must have day on day forecast based strategy to optimize through opaque channels

7. Multilingual Website / Booking Engine

Your booking engine should connect with your target audience with all your important source markets and presenting relevant information with multi language options will just help in being more approachable, presentable and easy to book.

The revenue and distribution resource needs to exercise caution in terms of devoting time in an efficient manner else it’s very easy to get caught in day to day non issues and that comes at the cost of missing out on sales through your electronic channels.

About the author
Yogeesh Chandra is a hotel revenue management specialist and has worked as Revenue Manager with Spencer on Byron Hotel Auckland in New Zealand and Taj and Leela Group in India. With over 11 years of industry experience, Yogeesh has also been associated with Intercontinental Hotel Group, SKYCITY Entertainment Limited and Millennium & Copthorne Hotels, New Zealand. He is currently AVP, Product Management at RateGain.