By Marco Benvenuti
Honestly, I thought the war between hotels and online travel agencies would’ve died down by now. Clearly the battle rages on.
Brands continue to attempt to woo travelers and franchisees with direct-booking strategies. And OTAs are punching back, with a recent report reiterating the strength of the Billboard Effect and claiming direct bookings are no less costly for hoteliers.
At the same time, more “billboards” are cropping up. Hotels have at their disposal hundreds of shelves on which to place their product, including Airbnb. Higher up the funnel, companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook are starting to direct traffic differently.
When it comes down to it, the distribution waters remain pretty murky.
Bringing Clarity to Hotel Booking
One thing we’re pretty adamant about here at Duetto is that neither hotels nor OTAs are providing the best booking experience.
There are hundreds of websites listing the same hotel, all at different prices based on different room types and cancellation policies and packaged offers, and choosing the right one is a cumbersome process full of second-guessing. It’s about as personal as the robot taking your luggage at check-in.
Our hope is that one day booking a hotel will be as easy as calling an Uber, and our mission is to provide hotels with the open technology and analytics platform that would allow them to build out such an experience.
To us, the goal should not simply be to build a 3-click booking experience, but to improve and innovate the entire hospitality ecosystem. It is our view that a customer’s needs can be better anticipated from the dreaming stage through the booking path to the on-property experience and afterward.
Starting with the dreaming phase, also known as traveler intent, a hotelier’s goal should be to get travelers thinking about booking a stay at your hotel without visiting Expedia, Booking.com or even Google.
Hotel Guests are on Social Media
One untapped market I feel strongly about is social media, where a whole world of potential travelers and their friends are milling about.
Specifically, Facebook’s goal in travel is to dynamically recommend the right hotel to the right traveler at the right time, taking into account destination, availability, dates and pricing.
The company recently launched a product called Trip Consideration, which is meant to reach people who have shown they want to travel, such as liking a company’s Facebook page, but haven’t decided on a destination.
“Selecting a destination often comes after someone shows travel intent,” Christine Warner, head of travel for Facebook, told Skift. “After you show them a trip consideration ad, then a brand could potentially retarget travelers with a dynamic ad.”
in conjunction with Duetto, Facebook Dynamic Ads allow hotels to display real-time rates in your Facebook ads that ebb and flow as your supply and demand changes. This ensures Facebook users that click on the ad and are redirected to your site see the same rate or offer listed in the ad, rather than the common bait-and-switch frustration.
From Facebook, travelers are sent to your website to complete the reservation, saving on OTA commission costs and giving you all the guest data that OTAs won’t.
And if you ask guests to sign up for your loyalty program to receive these special rates, you’re using a fenced offer to stay within rate parity constraints.
Giving Hotels the Tools to Fight Back
Hoteliers looking to take back control of their business won’t be able to beat the OTAs at their own game. If done correctly, however, social media can be the great equalizer.
A December 2017 survey of ad buyers by financial services firm Cowen and Company showed Facebook as the second-best platform for ROI on ad spend, behind only Google. Nearly half of respondents named the platform as offering the highest ROI. Facebook ranked second, named by 30% of those polled.
Think of the audience on social media. Unlike an OTA that spends millions of marketing and advertising dollars to drive travelers to their site, these same travelers are already on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat. Reaching them with the right personal offers at the right time has never been easier.