By Larry and Adam Mogelonsky
With the pandemic subsiding, hotels are gearing up for another summer of largely domestic guests, with many of these customers finding their accommodations through an OTA. With this in mind, one pain point we’ve found from working with revenue managers throughout the pandemic is that it is a slog to constantly update each channel with new rates as each property yields to growing demand. The problem here is that with so much focus on the rates, we’re often missing how much influence the content on these websites has in driving bookings.
For clarity, with the banner term of ‘content’, we’re referring to all the non-sellable attributes that accompany a hotel’s nightly rate and address including text descriptions, images, amenities, cancellation policies, COVID-19 safety procedures, onsite service availability and so on – practically everything that influences bookings besides the price.
To understand why content is a leading determinant for hotel selections in this post-pandemic environment, we have to first look at how dramatically customer behavior and hotel operations have changed since March 2020. For this, we sat down with a content distribution expert, Andreas Posmeck, the CEO of GIATA (www.giata.com), who shed some light on the forces that will drive revenues from the OTAs in Q3 and Q4 2021 based on their work developing a platform that automated content distribution to all the OTAs, wholesalers and tour operators across 24 languages.
Foremost to consider from the prospective guest’s perspective are the lingering anxieties over COVID-19 safety and how the pandemic has affected a hotel’s operations. While many people still yearn to travel like it’s 2019, they have cautiously retreated to their most trusted accommodation sources. Quite often these are the OTAs which show booking flexibility, good deals, packages, clearly stated safety measures and a variety of lodging options.
Customers want to know all the various changes to a property in full detail prior to making a reservation decision, and if a hotel isn’t displaying its content accurately enough to convey all these key points, then guests will book elsewhere – that is, those competitors where all these important points are in fact comprehensively described.
Next, consider the rebirth of international travel. There are nearly eight billion people in the world, yet how many consider themselves English-primary speakers? A quick lookup of most commonly spoken languages reveals that each only has a small percentage of the global market share, thus making content translation a great asset for hotels focusing their efforts on generating more booking conversions from the forthcoming international arrivals. That is, while indeed many around the world understand and speak basic English, such customers may prefer, and be more emotionally moved towards booking, if hotel descriptions are presented in their native language.
Especially true when distributing inventory across international borders, there are the channels you know and the ones you don’t. By itself, this necessitates the use of a process or platform to efficiently control your content across all of cyberspace to ensure that your hotel is advertised properly and so that your hotel is seen as the brand of choice in any given market.
In tandem with the need for better visibility on all hotel distribution channels – whether your revenue manager works directly with a channel or not – there are also the prospective guests you see and the ones you don’t. That is, for example, how do you know your hotel does or doesn’t appeal to guests from certain countries if you don’t already have good reach within that territory?
These types of hypotheses are what we workshopped with Posmeck, all of which are especially relevant during our current period with so much ‘reshuffling’ of preferred travel destinations and accommodations. Travel bubbles will open, and you have to be fully visible on the most popular channels in a given country to get traction with those locals.
While we all want travel to return to its 2019 metrics, that won’t happen all at once. Certain territories will benefit before others as the situation evolves. For instance, southernly US destinations like Disneyland (and the surrounding Orange County) are bound to see huge swells before northerly, urban centers like New York. Thinking internationally, the announcement for each bubble will likely be carefully periodized to not reopen the world too quickly and cause more harm than good – that is, induce another Covid wave by opening too early.
For any scenario, you have to get ready to pivot. Our worry, though, is that once travel and occupancy numbers improve, your team will find itself too far in the weeds of daily guest service requirements to have the time to effectively keep every third-party website in working order. This is especially true for when you factor in different preferences for each country and high-margin versus low-margin distributors as well as those channels you don’t work directly with for foreign language mistranslations and missing connections that can jumble the way content is displayed.
Automating all that content distribution to literally thousands of multinational distribution channels is the only way to stay above water, lest you miss out on any of these staggered travel surges. In this sense, the best course is to set up the right software now so that your revenue manager is primed to focus on yield management and so that hotel is first on the list in any market, whether you’re actively advertising there or not. Above all, technology is your best friend for the decade ahead, or as Posmeck remarked to close out our chat, “Nurturing good roots so that future forests can grow.”
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Editor’s note: To discuss business challenges or speaking engagements please contact Larry or Adam directly.