The reality of travel in 2021 is that travelers have options when it comes to how they book and where they stay. Securing brand loyalty should be prioritized over channel loyalty. After all, if one customer books 5 stays through an OTA like Expedia or Travelocity, and another customer books 4 stays directly through your voice channels, would you value the first customer any less?
In short, no. At the end of the day, reservations are what matter. To comprehend loyalty in today’s travel landscape, hoteliers must understand today’s travelers, recognize what booking channels are preferred, create offers that appeal to travelers on their desired channels, and make it easy for travelers to book across all channels.
1. Understanding today’s travelers
When OTA’s first emerged onto the travel scene, they were highly disruptive. That’s because, in the past, most bookings occurred through direct channels or traditional travel agencies. The introduction and mass use of online travel agencies was now changing the travel landscape. Consequently, hoteliers saw a loss in direct booking revenue as online booking options became mainstream, making OTA’s the antithesis to a hotel’s revenue.
Since then, the hospitality industry has adjusted to the presence of OTA’s. Afterall, they still present hotels with valuable insights, such as data that revenue professionals can use to help secure future reservations. And for the marketing team, this information can further their understanding of today’s travelers to establish brand loyalty.
Today, hoteliers exist in relative harmony with the many popular online booking options. In part, because travelers enjoy the convenience and numerous benefits available through their preferred booking channel. Regardless of where hoteliers stand on this topic, OTA’s have forever shifted the marketplace, and they are here to stay.
The simple truth is that OTA’s, alone, no longer pose the threat to hotel revenue streams that they did when they first appeared. Now OTA’s are institutionalized in the hospitability industry and should be embraced by all parties.
At the end of the day, travelers are going to do what’s easiest for them to book. If that’s booking through an OTA, then hoteliers must understand why travelers turn to OTA’s and ask, “how can they create brand loyalty without channel loyalty?”
2. Should loyalty always be defined by source?
Emily Bowen, CRME, CHDM Director of Revenue Strategy, questions whether the source of the booking becomes less relevant as long as it meets the emotional needs of the guest during their transactional experience.