Hotel Industry Blog

New “Direct” booking via Google and Tripadvisor - threat or opportunity for hotels?

By Des O'Mahony | On Tue, October 06, 2015

Tripadvisor has effectively positioned itself as a new breed of online travel agent by launching its Instant Booking service recently. The service allows hotels to directly display rates and availability on Tripadvisor via a feed from their booking engine system, such as Bookassist’s. Customers on Tripadvisor can then see both OTA rates and those direct-from-hotel rates to make their booking choice. The customer never leaves the Tripadvisor site when booking “direct” with the hotel. (That “captive” approach of trying to keep the customer on one site for all was originally driven by Tripadvisor’s mobile business, where jumping between sites on mobile was a far bigger barrier to conversion than it would be on desktop.)

Not to be outdone, Google has now also expanded its Book on Google feature (now in the USA) in a change of strategy from their previous Google Hotel Finder and Hotel Price Ads approach. Again, the service allows hotels to directly display rates and availability via a feed from their booking engine system. The customer can now book directly from search results without ever leaving the Google site.

Both services claim to be “direct” friendly, helping the hotel to reach their customer directly, and positioning themselves apart from the big-brand OTA players such as Expedia and Priceline. But their “hybrid” services nonetheless come with hefty commissions from 12% to 15% for delivering acquisitions via this route (cost per acquisition or CPA model). In parallel, both continue to offer cost per click (CPC) alternatives also.

With these two giants of the travel search and research arena offering hybrid booking services, what does this mean for the hospitality industry? As usual with disruptive play, there are both threats and opportunities for the independent hotelier.

The moves from Tripadvisor and Google are, in our view, a positive for hotels if they know how to leverage the potential advantage. It does take specific action on the part of hotels to engage with the new services appropriately however, and, with inaction, therein lies the threat.

Giving Hotels Leverage

In terms of hotel online business, we are in the midst of a monopoly or duopoly stranglehold in most parts of the world with Priceline/ and Expedia dominating OTA sales. Often, this has meant that hotels are reluctant to challenge that status quo and have no option but to go along with often onerous contract terms.

The introduction of new viable routes to capture online business, backed by serious players in the travel space who can potentially deliver volume, breaks that monopoly/duopoly and introduces real competition for the main OTAs. If managed correctly, hotels should no longer fear reducing their exposure on specific OTAs since there is real opportunity to leverage the broader metasearch space encompassing Trivago, Kayak and others, as well as Google’s and Tripadvisor’s hybrid booking options.

Of course, managing carefully means managing availability and rates distribution at channel level, and not making total inventory available everywhere. The management of these hybrid metas is no different to the careful management required of OTAs.

Remember that if hotels refuse to “play” with these hybrid channels, their inventory and rates will appear anyway via OTAs, and at higher acquisition cost. It’s far better to be there directly and be in control of your offering. Therefore, it’s a question of effective management of such opportunities by the hotel.

Overall, adding new strong players to distribution is a good thing for hotels. Choice breeds competition that may ultimately favour not just the consumer but the supplier. (We will see.)

The Data Play

In the case of both TripAdvisor and Google, the hotel’s booking engine is the technology feeding the rates and availability to the site, there is no new “extranet” for the hotel to manage. Also, completion of the booking takes place behind the scenes on the hotel’s booking engine platform. Unlike the OTAs who have rowed back even further on the information they supply to hotels regarding the inbound customer, TripAdvisor and Google are providing the customer’s real email, and the hotel sends the actual booking confirmation email. This allows hotels to manage, own and monetise pre-stay communication, as well as maintain ownership of the customer interaction post-stay.

This is particularly important when you consider that the large OTAs are increasingly generating their revenue from “private” club sales to their customer base via email offers or private log-in, offering deals that never appear on the public sites. Clearly, customer data is extremely valuable. (Whether hotels are equipped to capitalise on that effectively is another question however.)

The cost of acquisition for that first hybrid booking via Tripadvisor or Google may therefore appear high (though not as high as OTAs), but it is critical the hotel has a data-use strategy to ensure that opportunities are created for the customer to book direct next time.

Browsing and Research Phase

A fundamental difference also between Google and Tripadvisor on the one hand, and the OTAs on the other, is that the browsing and research phase of travel planning overwhelming takes place on the former. By building in booking opportunities to the research phase of travel planning, it may well short-circuit the decision and lead to booking acquisitions that would otherwise have ended up on an OTA at a later stage in the decision process.

Also, with Tripadvisor the hotel has much more control of the content describing its services via the comprehensive multi-lingual content it can manage as part of its Tripadvisor listing. Google likewise is championing the clear display of hotel amenities as a way for hotels to stand out. Both these areas help hotels to be less commoditised compared to the OTAs’ approach, and to shout a little more about what makes them unique. Such rich information often drives additional confirmatory traffic to hotel websites, where direct booking potential can also be capitalised upon.

Bottom Line

It remains to be seen how this play from Tripadvisor and Google will work out. The primary disruption is to the OTA model, but for the reasons above we do not believe that it diminishes the hotels’ opportunity to increasingly drive direct business on hotel websites. Both OTAs and direct-to-hotel booking rates continue to grow, mostly at the expense of offline and traditional travel modes, even if OTA business has the stronger growth rate.

Indeed OTAs are increasingly interested in direct business, and have been signalling their concern about how direct may evolve to reduce their business growth - witness’s move into providing the booking suite for hotels, and their associated acquisitions in the hotel direct business space.

With book-direct models, Tripadvisor may well have the edge over Google here, as a dominant travel-focused brand with a “good” reputation among online customers who trust its reviews and among hotels who value the custom and exposure it brings. Google on the other hand has massive volume but still did not manage to deliver effectively with its Hotel Finder or Hotels Ads approach previously.

With Tripadvisor, bringing in a money element may well introduce a risk to its standing as an independent review provider. Can it truly be independent in how it ranks hotels if it has more to earn from some hotels than others? They have to manage that issue carefully. Likewise, Google has to thread carefully with its push towards booking since its primary bread and butter in travel is pay-per-click advertising fees from the OTAs as well as from hotels. Google also has continual issues with anti-trust investigations into how its monetisation of search may lead it to skewing the validity of search results.

For the independent hotel, the moves are broadening the landscape yet again and this means that more careful management is key. Hotels need to have a full digital marketing strategy across all potential customer touch points, and need to work more strategically with their customer data if they are to properly leverage these new avenues for business. The key, as always, is for hotels to be able to actively manage the opportunity, rather than allow themselves to be managed by it.

For that, they need the appropriate technology and the expertise.


Dr Des O’Mahony is CEO and Founder at Bookassist (, the multi-award-winning technology and digital strategy partner for hotels worldwide, and is a HSMAI “Top 20 Extraordinary Minds” recipient.

Hotels must think more strategically and collectively about direct booking

By Des O'Mahony | On Mon, September 14, 2015

In all the noise and opinion about rate parity changes, the pros and cons, some simple realities about the dynamics of the industry are often overlooked. For example, online travel agents (OTAs) are crucial to hotels’ business because they provide the reach into the general market that a single hotel cannot possibly achieve. And there will always be a need for that regardless of how the prices compare from OTA to hotel website.

That’s because a primary disadvantage for independent hotels that OTAs can continually capitalise on is that hotels cannot (or do not) behave collectively. Hotels are so busy competing with each other that they hand a significant amount of business to third parties at a high cost to themselves, rather than figure out ways to hand it to each other and benefit from reciprocation! For OTAs, it’s like divide and conquer except that the hotels oblige by doing the dividing part themselves.

Hotels are so busy competing that they hand business to third parties rather than figure out ways to hand it to each other!

The brands and chains have worked hard in this area of course, and can move business between properties through association and brand building. Pushing their business towards direct is happening more and more, as seen by Marriott’s clever #itpaystobookdirect advertising campaign recently. But the brands and chains are still walled gardens, passing business among themselves but not outside the brand.

Is there another way?

Many (but not enough) hotels adopt the sensible policy of telling their guests at checkout to please book direct with them next time. It’s that few precious moments of personal facetime with your guest when you can give them a message that sticks, and if it’s not policy in your hotel it certainly should be. Even if the price is the same, a personal request is often a strong psychological inducement to action. Don’t underestimate it.

OTAs have been leveraging this for years of course - encouraging their users through shrewd email marketing to return to the OTA platform when booking again, and making more and more use of “private” clubs to encourage their users to stop looking elsewhere. This makes sound business sense if you’re an OTA, and they’ve done it very well indeed. But independent hotels have failed to figure out how to work collectively when it comes to customer acquisition, effectively handing the advantage to OTAs.

That’s because they concentrate on customer acquisition for their own hotel only, whereas OTAs don’t need to care about which hotel their customer books once they do book.

But here’s the thing:

Hotels need to think at a higher strategic level when it comes to booking direct. At Bookassist, we advocate that hotels should be encouraging their guests to book direct at ALL hotels, not just theirs. Getting the message to every single hotel guest that any hotel would welcome direct bookings when next they book gives hotels an opportunity in this one small way to work collectively for their greater benefit.

Maybe your guest doesn’t book with you next time, but the message to book direct gets around and all hotels eventually benefit. (Ramping this up to offer some form of collective benefits or awards could be a next step.)
Remember, the hotel industry is larger than any OTA if it can just work collectively for its own benefit. Getting a larger slice of the online pie and redressing the balance of business with OTAs and other distribution avenues is a reasonable thing to work for. There’s plenty of business to go around for all.

Suddenly, hotels are vouching for their industry, not just their hotel.

So, suppose tomorrow every hotel told every guest at checkout to book directly next time at their next hotel, no matter where they decide to stay. Suddenly, hotels are vouching for their industry, not just their hotel.

Just imagine what a game-changer that could be.

Dr Des O’Mahony is CEO and Founder at Bookassist (, the multi-award-winning technology and digital strategy partner for hotels worldwide, and is a HSMAI “Top 20 Extraordinary Minds” recipient.

Capitalising On Changes In Contractual Rate Parity

By Des O'Mahony | On Mon, August 17, 2015

France’s landmark Macron Law, passed in July, prohibits online travel agents (OTAs) from writing rate parity clauses into contracts with their hotels, giving French hoteliers full freedom to offer lower rates on their own websites or to other OTAs. Crucially, the bill also prohibits OTAs from offering prices lower than those supplied by the hotel, so OTAs cannot sacrifice part of their own margin to secure a lower cost sale in competition with the hotel’s website. While rate parity changes are not applicable everywhere, the law has re-opened the debate on rate parity and how hotels balance business with OTAs.

Predictably, dire warnings on the fall of rate parity have come from the OTAs themselves, who predict a price war between small independent hotels (who will now be unprotected and unrepresented online) and the large branded chains - as if the OTAs were the guardians of the small hotel in the pricing landscape!

The highly specific French law comes on foot of legal challenging of aspects of rate parity in other countries and recent anti-competition investigations in various EU countries. France’s move is the most straightforward and clear. The hundreds of hotels that Bookassist works with in France are overwhelming in favour of the move - but capitalising on rate freedom is not as simple as it may sound.

As it stands, France is the only country to specifically give hotels full freedom to alter rate in whichever way they wish. But Europe-wide, and Expedia are now no longer able to write contractual clauses prohibiting hotels from giving lowering room rates to other OTAs. The new contracts cannot prohibit hotels from offering lower rates to their corporate or loyalty club members (non-public rates), and to the general public through offline channels.

Rate Parity Impact

It was, ironically, the hotel industry itself that pushed for rate parity in the early days as hotels sought to ensure contractually that OTAs would not undercut their own website prices. In turn, OTAs accepted this, provided hotels agreed not to allow other OTAs to undercut their pricing and retained parity across all OTAs. The concept became engrained in the industry but OTAs were quick to capitalise on their best price position through massive advertising, brand development, and more recently private clubs for their customers. They built their brands on promising best price, giving little reason to consumers to bother going to hotel websites. The margins realised by OTAs grew at multiples of the hotel industry margin growth as a whole, and a shifting of the power balance resulted.

But how rate parity affects a hotel today depends on their strategy – whether they are distributing widely and want to keep uniform rates (or indeed vary rates) across multiple OTAs, or whether their strategy is to limit distribution to a manageable few and target direct business to their website. Those strategies also depend in turn on the size and location of the hotel, since larger hotels need more specific distribution and rate management policies than smaller ones who have less rooms to fill. But, for the smaller independent hotel, in particular those seeking to drive more direct bookings to their own website, the fall of rate parity can be a very good thing indeed, provided the hotel truly knows how to manage their rate distribution.

The Meta Search Mirror

The focus on OTAs has side-stepped some of the looming problems arising on rate issues today. Control of selling-rates is more and more difficult. Meta search holds up a mirror to your hotel’s distribution strategy online, and when you examine a hotel on meta search to see how their rate and availability stacks up, it’s often not a very flattering picture. Many hotels seem to have lost control of rate online, without even knowing it in many cases.

FIT rates for example, that are supposed to remain wholesale or offline, are regularly appearing on meta search sites at below the intended public rate, where wholesalers privately sacrifice part of their commission to get the sale. Often hotels have no idea how to track or control this, or may not even be aware it is happening. (Other than making a booking themselves to determine where exactly the rate has originated from.) Discussions we have had with our client hotels in Italy, France and the Czech Republic recently indicate that this problem far outstrips the OTA management issue for many hotels and is the real rate erosion problem faced by many.

Hotels must revisit their FIT contracts and determine exactly which of those are playing by the contractual rules - delivering real value offline and not just undercutting the hotel on obscure websites. There are certainly some players who are bending the rules to the detriment of hotels’ direct business. Hotels need to be forceful in stopping that practice.

Meta search is only going to grow. The massive investment by TripAdvisor shows that there is appetite for a third way between hotels and OTAs, with 235,000 of hotels on TripAdvisor now bookable on that site as of July. Google Hotel Finder has also announced a revamp as it pushes towards making all hotels bookable from search. The opportunity for hotels in meta search will become stronger as time goes on. It has not yet delivered massively for direct-to-hotel business, but at Bookassist the booking value generated on all our meta search integration channels is showing clear progress. It is critical that hotels get their direct business on to meta search and begin to play with and understand how each platform works, as they all differ so much. Meta is often the simplest way to see how hotels’ distribution strategies are working (or not), since so many hotels still (inexplicably!) appear with better availability and lower rates on other channels compared to their own website. With hundreds of Bookassist hotel clients availing of our direct meta search connectivity to Google, Trivago, and TripAdvisor, our strategic knowledge continues to rapidly grow and can be shared among our clients bringing to them the benefit of scale.

How Do Hotels Capitalise And Drive More Direct Bookings?

Stay Competitive - Controling rate is more difficult than it sounds and the consequences of getting it wrong can be large. Using OTAs appropriately is crucial for their reach, but simply altering your OTA price upward so that your hotel website is cheaper will not work. OTA listings ordered by price will obviously disadvantage hotels who up their OTA price with respect to their previous offering, regardless of contractual terms. Hotels needs to be careful to remain competitive here if they are to continue to use the OTA advantage of widespread exposure.

Value - The key is to deliver better package value on your own website for the same price. There are many ways hotels have successfully done this, from offering preferential room upgrades, to free in-house services for direct guests versus third party guests, to promotional codes off future bookings.

Data - Projecting value is the key element to allow the prospective online purchaser to make an informed decision, while proper use of guest data in the form of pre-arrival upselling and highly targeted post-stay offers will derive best future value from the acquisition cost of that first booking. Remember, OTAs are now generating more and more business from their private clubs because they know how to use personal data. Hotels can and should be doing this too with a clear strategy to collect customer data, proper segmentation of their customer data and targeted email and social media exclusive offers to segments that are highly relevant and compelling.

Loyalty – As with my comments on data above, develop a loyalty programme to maximise the return on your efforts. Customers love the exclusivity of being a member (of anything!) provided you show how well they are treated in return.

Website Quality – Even with price parity or better value, you are competing for the mindset of the online customer when you pitch your own hotel website against the OTA website. OTA websites are conversion machines. Top quality hotel websites, designed for conversion (such as those produced by Bookassist for our hotel partners) are critical if hotels are to compete. But hotels too often take the same approach to web design as they take to decorating their hotel and end up compromising website design for the sake of their own aesthetic view. Hotel management must get away from reacting personally or emotionally to website design and realise that the objective scientific approach to conversion optimisation is what counts. Take the advice of expert companies in this area like Bookassist, resist interference and let them do their job to build your online business.

Mobile – The growth in mobile continues and so much browsing now comes from cross platform access, where people jump between devices as they do their research. Not being on top of mobile is a big mistake. Even if you are not getting significant mobile bookings, the availability of your information on mobile is a critical part of the decision matrix process leading to conversion on other platforms.

Even with all of the above, it’s critical to remember that a driving force of online sales on any platform is the reputation of the hotel and staff. Thankfully, there is nothing new for hotels to learn in order to get this one right and boost their reputation online – good old fashioned quality of service, personal interaction, and engaging with guests online and offline in as helpful a way as possible. The best way to win the online reputation status you want is to deserve it.

Dr Des O’Mahony is CEO and Founder at Bookassist (, the multi-award-winning technology and digital strategy partner for hotels worldwide, and is a HSMAI “Top 20 Extraordinary Minds” recipient.

We are working with educators on the next generation of hoteliers

By Des O'Mahony | On Wed, June 10, 2015

Education and knowledge is key. Bookassist has always had education in its ethos and has long supported the training of the next generation of hoteliers. That’s why Bookassist continues to hold annual seminars in all our key markets, as well as regular hands-on workshops where our staff and clients work together on the real issues being faced by independent hotels every day. And that’s why Bookassist staff are happy to actively engage with national and international schools in hospitality on an ongoing basis in bringing market-based expertise and viewpoints to students in institutes such as

Evolution of the skillset requirement in our space has been rapid, and keeping your knowledge up to date is a considerable challenge for independent hoteliers. Trying to stay in control is just one reason why hoteliers need to partner with reliable external expertise, such as Bookassist, who can leverage economy of scale across hundreds of clients in multiple markets to keep hotel clients abreast of critical emerging trends and technologies.

Independent hotels today may have access to an array of technology tools and know-how to successfully compete with OTAs and third party booking providers in order to build their direct booking business. But whether they can optimise their use as part of a coherent and effective strategy is the real challenge. (This issue was discussed in detail at the recent Phocuswright Europe Executive Round Table on the Complex World of the Independent Hotel.) removing email addresses from customer data

By Des O'Mahony | On Mon, May 04, 2015

Across our European markets, we’re noticing that Priceline’s is implementing changes in the customer data that hotels are receiving.

In France in early April, an email was received by all hotels citing potential “threat posed by online criminals” as the reason to stop making customer emails available to hotels. The same has occurred in the Czech market this week and is sure to continue in all markets. To quote the email:

As of this week, guest email addresses will be made anonymous in order to provide an extra level of security. Your email address will also be protected in the same way. You can continue to send and receive emails to and from guests as you normally would. The only difference is that your identity, as well as that of your guests, will be additionally protected.

While it is obviously in everyone’s interest to enhance security online, the value of guest data to hotels is something that will take a big hit as this rolls out, requiring additional work by hotels to now capture that data from their guests, while booking of course can retain that data. Many hotels have already expressed frustration at the move and see no additional security advantage in it.

It will be interesting to see if the hotel community reacts in any way or just accepts the reduction in information quality.

Google’s Mobile Update

By Des O'Mahony | On Sun, April 19, 2015

Google begins rolling out a mobile friendly search algorithm update on April 21, and expects to take a few weeks to complete the change. The purpose of the change is targeted at the fast-growing cohort of mobile users who use Google search and will highlight those sites in search results which are optimised for mobile viewing. A simple example is shown below, where Google is now inserting the “Mobile-friendly” tag into the page description of search results, in this case a Bookassist-designed hotel website with an optimised webapp.

While having the “Mobile-friendly” tag on search results for your website may or may not influence the searcher’s opinion on whether to access your information or not, the real issue is that over time those sites that are not mobile optimised will begin to drop in mobile search results. Given that, for many searches, Google local information already takes up half the screen, it’s not wise to allow your site result to drop any further than first or second position.

Also, there are no different degrees of friendliness - either your site is deemed to be mobile friendly or not by Google and you can’t influence that decision other than to meet their criteria.

You can check if your website is considered mobile friendly at this address:

Note that ALL Bookassist-built responsive sites and mobile webapps are classified as “Mobile-friendly” by Google’s new search algorithm.

webapp, mobile, google

​The Decision Matrix For Online Booking

By Des O’Mahony & Bernhard Boehm | On Sat, February 21, 2015

A recent article on showed that in the last quarter of 2014 reservations made directly through a hotel websites increased year-on-year by a very decent 6.8 percent. Conversely, phone calls directly to the property and walk-in customers decreased by 5.2 percent. While the pace of increase in online bookings is slowing overall (as it must do, given the proportion it now accounts for), its growth nevertheless continues and represents significant opportunity for the savvy independent hotel.

With this in mind, it’s worth returning to the concepts of the customer journey online (customer funnel or path to purchase) when it comes to hotel booking. The landscape is changing so much and so rapidly that many of the ideas from just one or two years ago are already outmoded.

The Decision Matrix

Much of this flux of course has to do with technology. The continued growth of web access on mobile phones and tablets, which is surpassing desktop access and changing habits in so many ways, is requiring online services like the hotel website to be fast, nimble and punchy on multiple format screens used by increasingly impatient audiences. But much also has to do with seismic changes in the online travel technology sector. There’s been rapid consolidation of large brands with Priceline/ buying up smaller companies and expanding into web services, Expedia buying Travelocity and Orbitz, Sabre launching website services for hotels. There’s also been development of a whole third way of travel booking, with meta search engines like Trivago, Kayak, Hotelscombined, and of course Google’s Hotel Finder. TripAdvisor has entered the fray with instant booking being rolled out throughout 2015 to capture bookings right on that review site.

This dizzying progression is good news for independent hotels though, once they can keep up. Why are and Sabre trying to get into website development and on-site booking? Because they see huge potential in the growth of direct booking on brand hotel websites and they want a slice of that too. And of course they see the threat to the growth of their online travel agency (OTA) business from the direct channel also. Reducing dependence on big pay-per-click spends on Google is also a desirable aim for them I’m sure.

The result of all this change is that the customer funnel is now multi-dimensional and multi-device driven. It can be a simple search-to-hotel-to-book model but it is more likely to be radically more complex, moving between devices over time and eventually leading to a booking via a ‘decision matrix’ rather than path to purchase (see figure). Tracking this is extremely complex.

Paths to purchase are multi-dimensional and multi-device driven. Each left-to-right horizontal line above, A, B, C or D, could represent a typical path to purchase, but the reality is that the customer can also jump vertically between lines or switch devices before reaching the goal.

Recent research by PhoCusWright, sponsored by Webtrends, determined that leisure travellers typically access more than 6.5 “digital touch points” (devices and websites) before booking a trip, with anything up to 38 website visits being recorded. We know this ourselves without any statistics – jumping around between devices during the day is now commonplace and we expect to be able to continue where we left off seamlessly. As customers move between awareness, evaluation and purchase stages, it’s therefore critical that hotels optimise their informational presence across all touch points in a coherent fashion. You need to be firing on all cylinders everywhere and your message needs to be consistent, consistent and consistent.

One example of a Decision Matrix: A customer may start on desktop (top left) and visit Google, but may then proceed later on their smartphone or tablet, or restart their search with the seeds of a decision in mind. As they progress left to right they can move up and down also between information sources and between devices (blue overlaid line), all paid and unpaid digital touch points on the decision matrix potentially assisting the final decision to book your hotel. The reality (along the bottom line) is that multiple devices and multiple sources are in use in the customer funnel. Tracking return on investment requires a more holistic view of your spend across the whole matrix.

Improving Your Impact And Measuring Correctly

Here are a number of things that Bookassist recommends your hotel to do now to improve your impact on the newer and more complex customer decision matrix.

(1) Presenting a coherent image and coherent content across all touch points is a must, but in our experience this still presents a challenge for hotels. Consider devising and maintaining one master content set or database, a superset of all the information you may need for websites, mobile, tablet, social media, OTA websites, meta search sites etc. Give one person in your organisation ownership of this.

Keep a clear record of what elements of content are being used where, so that if an update is needed to your facilities, opening times, etc., you can go from the single master content to all known digital sources and update them all accurately and quickly.

(2) Do the same for imagery. There is a lot of inconsistency and lack of thought for example on the selection of profile/primary images for hotels. Choosing imagery that encapsulates your brand is not easy, but it is worth doing and worth paying to get it right. In a fast-moving online world where your target audience is skimming through pages of your competitors, we believe that this singular identifiable image can help your hotel stand out from the noise and be remembered later on, especially as people move between sites and platforms.

Develop your imagery, and keep a master record of it all and where it is used. Again, when updating, update across the board. Consistency reinforces, and helps you stand out. It’s worth the time to get right. It follows that as people move between devices and platforms, more consistent information is critical in order to engender confidence and reinforce the buyer’s decision-making. Displaying different descriptions, photos, pricing etc. across multiple platforms or devices just raises questions and doubt that ultimately diminish conversion rates.

(3) Hotels must also expand their advertising strategy thinking beyond just Google search. Meta search for example targets potential guests who are very close to making a reservation decision and is a good area to invest in. Remarketing and Display Advertising also makes the hotel brand more visible, especially in your local market. But what if they are not showing a clear return?

Businesses need to think holistically on return metrics. The return-on-investment (ROI) measure revolutionised advertising, making digital spend simple to track in comparison to print, radio and TV. But it’s now becoming less relevant and less accurate. Here’s why. Within the more complex decision matrix, multiple paid and unpaid sources can assist or aid an ultimate reservation though information provision and consistent brand reinforcement. Different campaign types target guests at different stages of their decision process from awareness to evaluation to purchase and inform and assist the decision even if they don’t directly trigger the final action.

Rather than deciding on a budget allocation by comparing cost and revenue for each campaign or platform in isolation, hotels also need to measure the totality across all their digital touch points as a coherent unit. The ROI on the purchase trigger is an easy measure but it is not the full picture as the purchase trigger alone is likely to be far less effective without the assists from the awareness and evaluation stage contributors.

Bottom Line

At Bookassist we urge hotels to look at the total investment versus the total direct revenue achieved on your digital platforms and not be too blinkered to the cross-fertilisation effect they can have. It makes it more difficult to tweak and optimise as a strategy, and it is harder to identify cause and effect, but it’s a critical view to take. The decision matrix today is far from linear and certainly less immediate than it used to be.

Dr Des O’Mahony is CEO & Founder and Bernhard Boehm is Senior Digital Manager at Bookassist (, the multi-award-winning technology and digital strategy partner for hotels worldwide.

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