According to recent research published by the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research (www.hotelschool.cornell.edu), hotels that are listed on third-party distributors' websites (online travel agents, or OTAs) can expect to capture reservations in addition to direct sales. The report, The Billboard Effect: Online Travel Agent Impact on Non-OTA Reservation Volume by Chris Anderson, Ph.D., found that when hotels are listed on Expedia, they benefit from an increase in reservations through the hotel's own distribution channels (including its website), as a result of that hotel being listed on an OTA website.
The benefits associated with these channels are numerous, enabling hotels to extend their reach to a wide community of Internet-savvy travelers, yet it also presents hoteliers with the challenge of effective channel management. To combat this problem, hotels like New York City's Washington Jefferson hotel (www.wjhotel.com) are tapping into channel distribution management technology to update room inventory, create rate parity, and free up man-time.
"The careful management of Internet distribution sites such as Expedia and Hotels.com can help hotels maximize revenue from a point of sale that is yet to be fully explored and understood by the hospitality industry," wrote Greg Ludwiniak, the Washington Jefferson's director of sales and marketing in a June 2009 Hospitality Technology article. "While the Internet is becoming the place of choice for consumers to research travel, many hoteliers still struggle to understand these new demands. Manual inventory updates are time-intensive, offer little reward, require employees to spend long days updating multiple channels with the same information, and can be prone to errors if information is updated incorrectly."
Although the effective management of channel distribution will lead to more online bookings, hoteliers should also never underestimate the power of a sophisticated hotel Website booking engine. The 59-room independent hotel, Patti's Inn and Suites (www.pattisinnandsuites.com), increased its number of direct online bookings by 500 percent following the selection of GuestCentric Systems (www.guestcentric.com) to manage its online services.
Like Patti's Inn and Suites, Warwick International Hotels (www.warwickhotels.com) turned to a web booking engine to drive online bookings directly to 27 of the company's 40 international hotels and resorts. They are using Pegasus Solutions' (www.pegs.com) NetBooker NG Internet booking engine.
"With new functionality flawlessly incorporated into the Warwick web site, NetBooker NG allows us to offer the ultimate reservations experience, with options such as room upgrades and eConcierge services available during booking," says G. Paul LeBlanc, VP of marketing and sales for Warwick.