It worries me that many of our small hotel customers, do not perceive themselves as suppliers. They often see themselves as a “product” “supplied” to the market by middlemen. Nothing is further from the truth. The hotel owner is the supplier of rooms and of an experience. Together these make up the core product of a holiday. The hotel owner should choose to be inventive and create total packages that fulfill the travelers dream”.
Ultimately travel marketing is about selling a dream, and each hotel is distinct, offering a unique experience. All of the tools the hotel needs to package an experience, even including airfare is available for direct bookings.
Believing that middlemen are suppliers erodes the hotel brand and places market leadership in the wrong hands. When consumers go to online channels to book reservations, they are influenced as much by the channel used to book the reservation as they are to the actual hotel they selected
It is time to take control.
Control of the channel is not about getting more sales out of middlemen – it is about offering a service that competes with middlemen, marketing your own brand and engaging customers directly; getting high margin sales at lowest costs, being in control of your market and your brand.
Max Starkov, Chief eBusiness Strategist, Hospitality eBusiness Strategies writes “The Internet is all about transparency, efficient distribution of information, and inexpensive e-commerce transactions. It is simply the best direct-to-consumer distribution channel ever created and it definitely favors supplier-buyer relationships”.
The trend is clear, the Internet is revolutionizing marketing with more and more travelers choosing to go to the suppliers website and book direct rather than with a middleman. Travelers say they feel they have more control working with the supplier directly, but they expect rates and services to be comparable.
There are now new tools and services for travel suppliers to help them provide the full set of interactive and social networking solutions expected। AXSES has been a pioneer, providing 'supplier centered tools' to manage and distribute travel products. These can be installed directly on the suppliers own website. They include:
- Airfare ‘search and book’ that can be put right on the hotel website
- Dynamic packaging that for hotel suppliers that adds activities that match travelers profiles
- RSS feeds, blogs, travelers’ comments and travelers ratings
- Website booking engine
- Rates management and
- A range of travel components that hotels can put on their sites
All of these may be integrated with:
- Hotel Property Management Systems
- Global Distribution Systems (GDS) and
- The Internet Distribution Companies like Expedia.
What the middlemen do well is offer comparison shopping and search capabilities. AXSES bookings and reservation portals like http://bookingsBarbados.com, http://BookingsStlucia.com and http://CaribRes.com provides this also, but with this twist - requests and bookings are made directly with the hotel. (see axses arcRes supplier travel suites).
Unlike middlemen systems the hotel is not hidden and travelers can go direct to the hotel website at any time. There are popups and standard views of the information which travelers like as supplier websites follow no standard and it is confusing to compare several. All information on the direct channel (including websites content, amenities and features) is under the control of the Hotel.
These new tools are different to middlemen solutions for suppliers and destinations। The supplier-centered tools are designed from the ground up for suppliers, ie hotels, apartments, villas, activities and all tourism operators. They are configured to any set of rules and rate options. The tools are a powerful set of integrated suites to help tourism suppliers compete with all middlemen, for more high profit DIRECT business.
But be wary, not all who claim to be direct are!. Some marketers are jumping on the bandwagon, without credentials. A direct channel will not hide your brand, infact direct is about marketing your brand. A direct channel will allow users to go to your website and will not require guest to prepay the booking, deposit it in their bank, and pay you the balance less commissions. A direct channel gives you control on payment options, terms, content, rules, branding, and customers.
In 2008* 60% of online travelers chose to BUY Direct from the supplier, bypassing the middleman. The trend to direct is expected to continue. Merrill lynch forecasts that it will exceed 65% in the next 2 years. Current the large chains receive over 80% of online business direct (see trends by Merrill lynch HeBs).
We need to gear-up now for this market and take control
* Merill Lynch report is dated 2007, the table says 2008 but it probable is 2007. This is to be verified!