Blog pro hotelnictví

Mobile Marches Forward - Is Your Hotel Ready?

By Des O'Mahony | On 14 08 2017

Mobile is increasingly becoming the dominant avenue for information access and is increasingly strong in the decision-making process in travel.

​Mobile internet access continues to move to “the norm” versus desktop/laptop access. This is hardly surprising given the advances in mobile devices and access capability, as well as the reduction in access costs. Mobile is particularly critical for the travel sector, since it combines key elements of the experience in a perfect storm, i.e. the ability to geo-localize information, to research and to book, as well as the ability to share travel experiences in-the-now via mobile-dominated social media.

What we’ve looked at

We’ve analysed traffic and revenue generation across hundreds of hotels in the European marketplace for the first six months of 2017 and compared with the equivalent period in 2016. In order to be sure of a representative and comparative sample, we focused on the top 200 hotels in each of the following catchment regions that we manage with our local Bookassist teams, namely UK & Ireland, Spain & Portugal, Italy, Austria & Germany, France, Czech Republic & Slovakia.

Traffic on Mobile in Selected European Regions

In every market looked at, desktop traffic as measured by average user sessions per hotel has shown a decrease for the first six months of 2017 versus year ago, and the smaller tablet-related traffic element has also decreased. This drop has been taken up by strong double-digit growth in mobile phone traffic in all markets in terms of user sessions (see figure 1).

Mobile phone alone will surpass 50% of sessions in our Ireland and UK sample by the end of 2017 based on the current trend.

Visitor sessions by platform
Figure 1: Visitor sessions by platform on Bookassist client hotel websites in Europe from January to June 2017, together with the relative change (in brackets) compared to the same period in 2016. Mobile traffic is significantly up universally.

Revenue Generation on Mobile in Selected European Regions

With revenue generation data, we see quite a different story. For the same hotels, mobile revenue generation also shows strong double-digit growth year on year, but this is coming off a very low base of mobile revenue generation in many cases (see figure 2). The volume of mobile business is increasing in all our European markets, and again Ireland and UK is proving to be in a strong position with this trend.

The ratio of mobile to desktop traffic however is far higher than the ratio of mobile to desktop revenue generation, indicating that customers are still far more comfortable committing to hotel booking transactions on desktop despite researching on mobile. At least for now.

Revenue share by platform
Figure 2: Revenue share by platform on Bookassist client hotel websites in Europe from January to June 2017, together with the relative change (in brackets) compared to the same period in 2016. Mobile-generated revenue is significantly up universally but doesn’t capture the same impressive slice that mobile traffic does.

What does it all mean?

The data presented here are just the tip of the iceberg in our analysis, but there are two key points here for hotels: the obvious growth in mobile access and the need to cater for it, and the questions around the relatively slower pace of mobile revenue generation.

In terms of access, hotels need to be fully mobile-aware online right now. It’s no longer something for the future. The industry must also recognize that a full user experience is increasingly required on mobile, and must move away from having lower-level content and weaker experience on mobile versus desktop. There is a trade-off here in terms of what you can present to the mobile visitor and the bandwidth requirements for it. But the key is to always have information optionally available should a visitor take the active decision to access it, rather than taking pre-emptive action by stripping out content to satisfy online speed tests but leaving yourself with a fast and useless site. Active access decisions are less influenced by mobile speed issues than relatively uncommitted browsing for example, so optimizing everything to match a browsing or search-oriented mobile speed test could be detrimental. This is a complex area of debate that we continue to study and try to quantify.

Regarding revenue generation, there are a number of factors at play. It could be that difficulty with credit card entry or payment models on mobile could negatively impact mobile conversion versus desktop. But in our data we do not see an appreciable increase in cart abandonment at the payment stage on mobile versus desktop. Bookassist’s mobile booking engine does allow credit card scanning for example, as well as the possibility for “book without credit card” in some cases. But there is no doubt in general that the industry struggles with credit card entry and/or payment as a higher barrier on mobile. Fixing this as an industry will certainly help trends.

Another factor often touted for relatively lower mobile revenue generation is that people book last minute and cheap on mobile. In our data, this is not so. There is no significant difference in the individual transaction values between mobile and desktop in our preliminary data. In other words, people tend to be booking the same kind of thing whether it is on mobile or on desktop. In fact, for one of our 5 star resorts outside Dublin, we saw 36% of their booking engine revenue come via mobile in July 2017, so “expensive” bookings are not immune to mobile at all.

Right now, it seems that many people may simply be more comfortable booking on desktop, or may be in a different frame of mind (i.e. at a different stage of the decision process) when on mobile which reduces their tendency to complete a transaction there. If so, this habit will certainly change soon.

Not the Complete Picture

It’s important to realise that bookings on mobile in particular are not confined to the web, though this is the only really viable channel on mobile for the independent hotel. In-app booking on mobile is on the rise, but publicly-available data on the area is difficult to find. In discussing bookings via OTAs with a number of hotels, it is clear that OTAs are not sharing information on whether bookings for their clients are coming from in-app on mobile or from mobile web. Thus OTA figures in the public domain regarding mobile booking need to be treated with some caution in terms of their exact interpretation. See https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/in-app-booking-worrying-endgame-hotels-one-enabling-des-o-mahony.

Bookassist Keeps You Prepared

Bookassist solutions have been mobile-ready since our first mobile booking engine launch in 2010. All web design and booking engine products are now responsive/adaptive or tailor made for mobile. Our mobile booking engine is the fastest and cleanest experience out there - and is set to get even better with a new release in late 2017.

Bottom Line

Mobile is increasingly becoming the dominant avenue for information access and is increasingly strong in the decision-making process in travel. But for now, revenue generation on mobile for hotels falls short of desktop. Continuing improvements in mobile user experience, and in payment methods should redress this shortfall in time.

(Note that there are more specific data for the Island of Ireland in the news post “Are Irish consumers more avid users of mobile?”)

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

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Bernhard Böhm is Product Research & Development Officer at Bookassist.


Učení se od gigantů: jak Booking a Expedia zvýšili svou online návštěvnost pomocí Metasearch

By Jacopo | On 26 06 2017

Metasearch již není hudbou budoucnosti, ale přítomnosti. Je to realita, kterou nezávislé hotely nemohou ve snaze o přímé rezervace přehlížet.


Vždy je dobré zaměřit se na to, jak se chovají velcí online cestovní agenti (OTA) operativně, k identifikaci osvědčených postupů, které mohou být převzaty pro každodenní provoz vašeho hotelového byznysu. Od toho, jak oni staví svou on-line viditelnost, po špičkové konverzní taktiky, jsou OTAs vysoce optimalizovaní a velmi dobří v tom, co dělají, takže je vždycky co se učit.

Viditelnost středem strategie OTAs


V uplynulých měsících došlo v hotelovém průmyslu k značnému hluku po tom, co společnost Priceline Group Inc. zveřejnila svou výroční zprávu Form 10-K 2016, v níž byly podrobně popsány nepředstavitelné částky peněz, které vynaložila na online inzerci v roce 2016. Nešlo jen o $3.5B, které ohromily, ale také skutečnost, že meziročně vzrostl náklad téměř o 30%. Jak se mohlo stát, že tak velká skupina, která již vlastní největší podíl na trhu na většině trzích, ve kterých působí, považuje za vhodné zvýšit své vlastní výdaje na on-line reklamu takovou marží? Co změnilo dynamiku trhu tak dramaticky?


Důvod, proč společnost Priceline udržuje - a zvyšuje - výdaje na on-line inzerci, je vlastně velice jasně uveden v jejich výroční zprávě a není tajemstvím. To je přesně ten stejný cíl, který má každý hotelier v oboru:

Výkonnost výdajů na reklamu vzrostla [...] především s cílem zvýšit hrubé rezervace a hrubý zisk


Vytváření rezervací je hlavním cílem, neboť toto je jediná cesta k ziskovosti: a jak lze cíle dosáhnout v první instanci, je společnosti Priceline naprosto jasné: učinit masivní investici do on-line reklamy.

Kde jsou výdaje?


Není to však skutečně o výšce výdajů, ale o jejich kvalitě. Jak je tato obrovská částka skutečně vynaložena společností Priceline? Na jaké kampaně? Které platformy využívají, pokud jde o generování viditelnosti? Tyto informace jsou ve zprávě také uvedeny, a to:

…výdaje na reklamu se skládají primárně z nákladů na
a) nákup klíčových slov ve vyhledávačích;
b) referrals (odkazů) z metasearch


Nyní to zní zajímavě. Víme, že OTAs již léta vynakládají vysoké částky na Google AdWords (společnosti Priceline Group Inc. a Expedia Inc. vlastně samy o sobě zajistily zhruba 5% celkových výnosů společnosti Google, jen odhadem). Ale vidět odkazy z metasearch specificky zde uvedené je ve skutečnosti velká změna ve strategii viditelnosti společnosti Priceline. Jiné zdroje uvádí, že společnost Priceline vynaložila v roce 2016 zhruba 350 milionů dolarů na pay per click reklamu na Trivagu, což představuje zhruba 10% celkových výdajů společnosti Priceline na on-line inzerci.


Z pohledu Metasearch vidíme značky Priceline (hlavně Booking.com, pak Agoda, Priceline.com atd.) pravidelně inzerované prostřednictvím reklamy založené na ceně za proklik napříč dalšími stránkami metasearch, a to především na Tripadvisoru. Očekáváme, že tato viditelnost bude růst, teď když se domníváme, že společnost Tripadvisor snižuje důraz na jejich snahu o “direct-to-hotel” rezervaci. Je tedy rozumné předpokládat, že dalších 10% celkového rozpočtu pro on-line inzerci je přiděleno kampaním cost-per-click (CPC) od Tripadvisoru (nebo potenciálně více, protože náklady na akvizici přes Tripadvisor jsou daleko vyšší než průměrné CPC u Trivago). Navíc je možná dalších 10% rozděleno na jiné metasearch webové stránky, kterým Priceline stále, v rámci viditelnosti CPC, pravidelně dominuje, například Google Ads, Kajak atd.


Tato analýza vede k našemu prvnímu závěru: že OTAs vyčlenily ze svého rozpočtu na on-line reklamu 20% až 30% na metasearch. To také potvrzuje pohled na on-line provz u OTAs. Můžeme využít funkcí SimilarWeb k porovnávání návštěvnosti z metasearch s návštěvností z ostatních zdrojů, jak je znázorněno na obr. 1 a 2 u Booking.com a Expedia. Zdá se, že Metasearch přináší přinejmenším ekvivalent placeného vyhledávání pro OTAs a dále roste.

Figure 1
Obrázek 1: Booking.com v březnu 2017: Pohled na vyhledávání, 34.38% veškeré návštěvnosti je z vyhledávání, a 54.82% vyhledávání je placené. Tedy 34.38% x 54.82%, nebo přibližně 18% návštěvnosti je placenou návštěvností. Top referral stránky jsou TripAdvisor, Kayak a Trivago - v tomto pořadí, zodpovědné za 18.29% návštěvnosti. Zdá se, že metasearch je tedy zodpovědná za podobný percentuelní podíl na návštěvnosti jako pay-per-click v on-line viditelnosti Booking.com (SimilarWeb).
Obrázek 2: Expedia v březnu 2017: Pohled na vyhledávání, 34% veškeré návštěvnosti je z vyhledávání, a 27.49% vyhledávání je placené. Tedy 34% x 27.49%, nebo přibližně 10% of traffic is paid search. návštěvnosti je placenou návštěvností. Top referral stránky jsou TripAdvisor, Trivago a Kayak - v tomto pořadí, zodpovědné za 22.72% návštěvnosti. Zdá se, že metasearch je tedy zodpovědná za podobný percentuelní podíl na návštěvnosti jako pay-per-click v on-line viditelnosti Expedia (SimilarWeb)

Rostoucí zralost Metasearch


V rozporu s některými diskusemi v hotelovém průmyslu, Metasearch pokračovala v posledních několika letech v růstu a jednoznačně přešla od fáze rané inovace k většinově přijaté platformě (Viz Obrázek 3).


Když Metasearch poprvé, před mnoha lety, narušila hotelový průmysl, OTAs byli první, kteří se v hnutí Metasearch angažovali nejen tím, že se účastnili z marketingového hlediska, ale dokonce i díky fúzím a také perspektivou akvizicí se solidními akvizicemi. Společnost Priceline inovovala jako první, a to akvizicí Kayaku a před několika týdny uzavřela smyčku nákupem Momondo. Ostatní OTAs také v mezidobí hráli svou roli - Expedia získala významné podíly v Trivago a čínský gigant Ctrip, který získal Skyscanner.


Dnes je Metasearch oblastí, kterou si OTAs nemohou dovolit ignorovat. Otázkou je ale jakou mají nezávislé hotely pozici, aby mohly z Metasearch těžit?

Figure 3
Obrázek 3: Křivka přijetí inovace Metasearch a pohled společnosti Bookassist na pozici hotelů nyní.

Metasearch pro nezávislé hotely


V Bookassistu jsme hrdí na to, že pracujeme s velmi chytrými a vynikajícími hoteliéry, kteří okamžitě pochopili potenciál Metasearch a pracovali s námi jako časní osvojitelé, aby se okamžitě zapojili. Tyto hotely dnes generují významné množství přímých rezervací prostřednictvím odkazů z Metasearch s náklady na akvizici, které jsou trvale nižší než 10%, a s příspěvkem k jejich celkovému přímému byznysu v rozmezí od 20% do 30% obecně, nebo dokonce až 40% v některých vynikajících případech (Viz obrázek 4).


Tyto vynikající hotely se již více než rok účastní Metasearch a jejich časné osvojení jim umožnilo zcela porozumět stále se rozvýjejícím výzvám Metasearch, a to jak v příležitostech, tak v hrozbách.


Ale my stále vidíme většinu hotelů, které zůstávají vůči Metasearch skeptické, hotelů, které ji nerozumí a nejsou ochotni přijmout změnu, kterou představuje. Hotely skutečně potřebují změnit svůj přístup a přijmout příležitost, kterou může Metasearch představovat. V opačném případě je pro hotely s pomalejším postojem velké riziko, že se dostanou k Metasearch až jako pozdní většina, nebo dokonce později, když většina příležitostí již bude vyčerpána.

Figure 4
Obrázek 4: Výsledky využití Metasearch časnými osvojiteli, vynikající nezávislé hotely, které přijaly Metasearch a dokázaly ji využít ve spolupráci s Bookassist.

Na závěr

Metasearch již není hudbou budoucnosti, ale přítomnosti. Je to realita, kterou nezávislé hotely nemohou ve snaze o přímé rezervace přehlížet. Hoteliéři potřebují změnit dosavadní přistup a přiřadit rozpočty k osvojení Metasearch jako klíčový nástroj k získání klienta.

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Jacopo Rita je Metasearch Manager ve společnosti Bookassist (http://www.bookassist.com), mnohonásobně oceněného partnera hotelů v oblasti technologie a digitální strategie. Bookassist je The Direct Booking Expert™ a Google Premier Partner.


Hotels Hamper Their Own Direct Online Business

By Editor | On 26 04 2017

At the recent Bookassist + Google summit held in Dublin on April 24, we specifically polled the audience of some 80 hoteliers or so on quite a number of topics. Of particular interest was the view of their own direct business versus their approach to business via online travel agencies (OTAs).

Here’s just a snapshot of the issues that make OTA dominance harder to manage.

We asked hotels whether they set budgets (spend limits) on their own efforts to advertise their direct business​. Almost three quarters of hotels set hard limits on what they will spend each month, on pay per click advertising, meta search and other costed reaches to their direct potential bookers. In discussions, it’s apparent that the majority review such budgets just annually, not on an ongoing basis. In reality, the 24% of the polled audience who are flexible is actually a figure that represents an improvement over previous polls we have taken in earlier years, so there is a growing realisation that flexibility is needed. But that growth is slow.

Conversely, asked whether there are equivalent maxima on what they will spend on OTA business, two thirds have no limits. Effectively, 66% of hotels polled have an “open tap” ​on the cash they will channel to OTAs once the bookings come in, versus the cut off they apply to their own potential direct business.

The polls are a stark reminder that a mindset change is needed in the independent hotel space, a change in how real cost per acquisition is measured and accounted for, and indeed budgeted for.

Simply deciding to monitor your return on direct advertising on a weekly basis, and adjusting what you are willing to pay once that return is positive, would make a major change in how hotels compete for online market share versus OTAs. Hotels should be prepared to buy business at any rate that is less than or even equal to OTA commission costs (all else being equal). To not do so means (a) paying OTAs so that they grow in strength and (b) yielding valuable booker data to OTAs who increasingly leverage their marketing prowess to switch bookers from online (where you have some chance of competing) to in-app booking routes (where you have no chance pf competing).

Once the OTA has successfully switched potential bookers to in-app booking, that route is locked to external influence and the hotel’s ability to compete overall will further diminish. This shift is further enabled by hotels themselves, offering discounts on so-called “private” sales on OTAs, which again is a tactic being used to switch bookers into in-app booking where “the best deals” will be found.

In my discussions with hotels, I’ve not met any that can tell me whether guests arriving via OTAs have booked online or in-app with that OTA. It would be very interesting to see those statistics, and hotels should make efforts to ask arriving guests and start to see where this is going.

Hotels need to think about the endgame, not just the current move they are making.

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


A Vision Of Hotel Excellence Online

By Editor | On 20 04 2017


The second Bookassist-Google Summit for hoteliers takes place in late April at Google HQ in central Dublin. Building on the last, this meeting’s theme is “A Vision of Excellence” to show how smart hotels achieve higher direct booking figures, with both companies presenting their joint view of what excellence looks like, as well as what it results in. This latest summit meeting for hoteliers follows a very successful Bookassist-Google Summit held at Google HQ in Dublin in mid-November last that highlighted best practice in online strategy for hotels in what is a very fast-moving space.

Bookassist’s overall aim is not just to improve direct online business for hotels, but to allow hotels to benchmark themselves against their peers so that routes to improvement become more clear. To this end, we launched our Direct Booking Clinics in March to allow for assessment of a raft of online and offline metrics for hotels resulting in a personalized Direct Booking Health Score .

To date, almost 200 hotels have been benchmarked in our clinics and have taken positive action based on the findings that give measurable improvements to their online business.

It’s the Journey

So what does excellence in hotels look like? What are the critical factors in achieving success? Is it actually worth striving for excellence? These are the concepts being teased out in the Direct Booking Health Score and in the Bookassist-Google summits.

Let’s start with the result. Achieving excellence online is for sure worth it. Understanding online strategy, to the point where you can control and leverage distribution and develop strong direct business, pays in real hard cash in terms of reduced cost of acquisition and higher margins. It also insulates you against an overly-dependent exposure on online travel agents who can change their fees or terms of business at any time, to your detriment.

However, achieving excellence is not a one-off event. It is a continual journey that requires strong effort and ongoing nurturing. What separates excellent hotels from the others is not just how they leverage knowledge and technology for their own advantage, but how they continue to re-educate themselves to stay ahead of the pack to protect and nurture their direct business.

What Does Excellence Look Like?

Let’s run through a few of the key factors that separate the excellent from the ordinary.

1. Excellent hotels know their numbers inside out. And they understand them. It is critical that all decision makers in every part of the business know what the breakdown between online and offline business is, what the breakdown between GDS, OTA, travel agent and direct to web is, what the real cost of acquisition per channel is, regardless of the revenue. Without this knowledge shared in your organization, there is no urgency created to reduce distribution costs and focus on margin improvement. In our experience, a majority of hotel staff have misconceptions about their own distribution figures and costs, and this needs to be fixed.

2. Excellent hotels share information with their online partner, be that Bookassist or any other online strategy partner. Your marketing agency and online technology provider can only operate to the optimum with full information on your overall marketing plans, online and offline promotion plans, advertising campaigns, distribution strategy and, of course, your numbers. This requires coordination at the marketing strategy level that, in our experience, is often missing in hotels. It is a lost opportunity at best and at worst leads to conflicts of approach that affect performance both online and offline. Hotels and their online partners should also challenge each other to strive for improvement and ensure that expected outcomes are reached on both sides.

3. Excellent hotels leverage the best technology and recognize the need for investment in staff upskilling. Distribution strategies need micro-management that can only be achieved with technology. Rates and availabilities have become dynamic variables that need 24 hour attention. The battle for customer interaction requires relationship management technology to stay on par with or ahead of OTAs. The increasing need to control long-tail business and exposure requires 12-24 month forward planning and management. The plethora of online sales channels means that your web and booking engine must be highly optimized at all times to ensure you can convert, not just optimized once every two years. All of these issues require interconnected technology, and staff who understand how to operate it.

4. Excellent hotels are never complacent and are continually working to improve on processes and remain on top of the changes in the marketplace and in technology. It is not good enough to get the best technology and implement workplace change as a once-off. This sows the seed for excellence, but to flourish there must be ongoing nurturing, constant feeding with a continual watchful eye on your natural predators.

5. Excellent hotels demonstrate excellence throughout the organization. Every staff member has their part to play, this is not just a senior management game. For example, the cleaning staff are more responsible for your TripAdvisor ranking than anyone else in most cases. The breakfast chef, or the doorman, is often the last impression left on the guest of what your brand stands for. And the reception staff are those who can encourage every arriving non-direct customer to consider the direct booking path next time by cheerfully explaining the advantages given to direct customers (do you/they actually know what they are?). In excellent hotels, front-line staff understand their influence on the customer and are trained to ensure that influence is a positive one. This is about management and an empowerment culture, sharing the organization goals with the entire team.

6. Excellent hotels know their data and use their data, using good CRM technology to capture data and good segmentation principles to organise their data. From targeted email marketing to segmentation and personas driving search engine marketing, hotel data usage is invaluable in ensuring differentiation for hotels and helping hotels balance the power of OTAs.

What does excellence bring?

Excellence comes with a cost. Technology, strategy, education, training, marketing spend, continual improvement – none of this is cheap. What’s interesting is that when all these elements work in unison, like a tuned orchestra in flow, they help each other to produce better overall brand recognition, better customer satisfaction and more direct bookings, resulting in a reduction in cost per acquisition and improved profit. However, when done half-heartedly, like randomly-played musical instruments, they fail to compound eachother and simply cost money without clear return.

If efforts to improve direct booking are not working for you, the solution is not to reduce budgets and limit your exposure, which will only guarantee failure. The solution is to redouble your efforts, seek help to improve your strategy, and increase your targeted spending to ensure results. Success breeds success and rewards concerted effort, so identifying areas for potential improvement in your strategy is something you should embrace. This is what the Direct Booking Health Score is designed to do.

But more than anything else, excellence brings independence. It reduces reliance on external distributors who view you only as a supplier, not a partner. It ensures that you can take decisions that are in the long term interest of your business.

Bottom Line

It’s clear that there are no absolute benchmarks when it comes to online measurement. Each hotel is genuinely unique in terms of its location, feature set and appeal. However in almost any category you care to mention, there are best performers and worst performers that you can gauge your hotel against, and in doing so implement change that puts you on the track towards the best performer position where you can reap the benefits.

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


Hotels Must Work Collectively To Champion Direct

By Editor | On 03 03 2017

The industry saw a strong return to focus on direct-to-website online business from the big hotel chains in 2016, with campaigns from Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt and IHG attempting to push the customer from online travel agents (OTAs) to the direct hotel website route (see Skift). The chains are fighting back against OTA dominance to woo the customer directly, and are clearly prepared to pay to do it. Their action alone should be an example to independent hotels that there is a serious issue to be tackled here, and that they too must engage.

But the chains have very significant resources to take on the OTAs and counter their advertising. What can an independent hotel do against the OTA onslaught? They key is for hotels to work together and leverage the scale of the industry itself.

It’s not the product, it’s the route…

Before we address actions, let’s step back and look at context. The competitive issue for hotels is quite unusual versus other industries. With most industries, you live or die on how you shift product or gain customers versus your competitor. But where hotels suffer real competition is on the route to sale and the relative costs of those routes, not on the ability to sell.

routes
Hotels don’t have a product problem, they have route-to-sale problem. OTAs have optimised their route to sale while the lack of collective action by the hotel industry has blocked opportunity on the direct route.

Getting the right mix of routes to sale is the key to profit generation in hotels. Shifting more sales to the direct-to-hotel route means saving on OTA commissions. But successfully getting that shift means spending money elsewhere - on advertising, on web presence, on technology. This is where hotels are challenged, balancing what needs to be spent versus the gain.

Individual hotels rightly wonder if their digital marketing spend can have any meaningful influence on the rise of OTAs. The perception that OTAs have endless online advertising budgets compared to independent hotels is technically correct, but it’s not the whole story. Priceline, the parent of Booking.com, apparently spends over $3 billion ($3000 million) on online advertising annually. But remember that Booking.com lists over 1 million properties, so this equates to $3000 or so spend per property per year - a figure that individual hotels should easily top. So the total amount being spent by the OTAs is not necessarily the issue, it is how it is being spent - and how optimised, targeted and single-minded it is - compared to the highly fragmented approach of individual hoteliers. Think laser versus blunderbuss.

But the route is not always visible

What’s worse, OTAs are now leveraging their brand and customer tie-in position to move their customers onto mobile apps in the next phase of sales route dominance. In the mobile app, no amount of online budget will help hotels - the customer is locked into the route with no advertising distractions allowed. Customers of course like the app route and gain from it precisely because hotels give cheaper prices and special offers to the OTAs to use on those routes - hotels themselves are enabling the creation of a business model that will drive down their own pricing, ensure cost of acquisition rises, and against which they cannot hope to compete.

Obviously as OTAs build stronger and stronger usage of the app route rather than the web route, online advertising by hotels would have comparatively less and less effect. This is already happening. I would bet that most hotels have no idea if the OTA guest arriving has come from the web route or the app route - but it would be sensible if hotels asked and started to find out!

What to do?

OTAs do a great job at getting business, but should not be ceded business that hotels can readily service themselves. This is the hotels’ fault - you cannot blame OTAs for taking business that is easy to take. Hotels can only hope to compete if they genuinely work together to change the way the customer thinks. It can be done, but it takes hotels and hotel organisations to get fully behind it and start thinking in terms of their industry rather than in terms of their own individual business. That’s the tricky part - the hotel industry needs to act collectively.

1. Champion Direct

Hotel websites need to clearly show customers that booking direct gets them something better. There is no point encouraging a booker on your website with the same price and same features that an OTA guest will have. You will lose that sale. It must be better direct. Better.

What are you giving the direct booker that you are not giving the OTA booker? Access to spa or treatments at preferential rates, vouchers to use for f&b discounts at the hotel, guaranteed upgrades or superior rooms compared to non-direct customers, late checkout, early checkin, discounts on future stays?

Define that direct advantage and champion it on your website and on advertising within your hotel. Hotels must educate the booking public that direct brings real advantages compared to OTAs, but hotels need to make sure there really is a clear advantage first. This is not happening universally and hotel organisations need to be educating hotels and encouraging them.

2. Think Collectively

Every single customer that arrives at your front desk from an OTA should be told on check-in that by booking direct they would have gained more advantage - those you’ve already defined in point 1 above. Your staff should be required to do this based on the OTA arrivals list every single day.

But more importantly, ensure your staff speak for your industry and remind OTA customers to book direct every time they travel, not just at your hotel but at any hotel. Spread the word for your industry that direct is best. What comes around goes around, and if every hotel encourages direct then every hotel will benefit.

3. Recommend Direct Alternatives

Your booking process should be smooth and simple, and should recommend alternative dates and packages when a chosen date or package is not available. That’s a given. But again, thinking in terms of your industry, your system should offer alternative hotels nearby right within the booking process if you cannot service the guest - don’t let the guest leave and go to an OTA when they are already engaged on the direct route.

Bookassist’s booking engine allows hotels to offer their own selection of alternative accommodation right within the booking process if there is no availability for your hotel. With reciprocal arrangements, hotels in an area can pass business to each other in this way and recommend direct booking at other hotels. This helps keep the direct booker within the direct community, and it actually works. We see significant engagement with alternative accommodation advertising.

Bookassist hotels can offer their own selection of alternative hotels within the booking engine, encouraging customers to stay on the direct route even when your hotel has no availability.

Bottom Line

Only by genuinely working together as a collective can independent hotels hope to move the dial back towards direct business. The traveling customer must be made aware that booking direct will bring them advantages, and the onus is on hotels to educate their customers for the benefit of all hotels. OTAs will continue to capitalise on a lack of collective action by hotels. It’s time hotels and their associations and organisations moved their thinking towards the bigger picture and began speaking with one strong voice.

—-

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


Pět věcí, které by hotely měly v roce 2017 přestat dělat

By Editor | On 22 12 2016

Toto období roku je ideální pro předsevzetí a sestavování seznamu věcí, které bychom měli přijmout za své a pustit se do nových začátků. Přijmout dobré návyky dá však práci a bez patřičného okamžitého uspokojení se mohou rychle změnit v přítěž. Když ale dané postupy budeme provádět po drobných krůčcích směřujících ke změně, může to být snazší a nakonec přinést kýžené ovoce. Konkrétněji to znamená, že pokud určité věci přestaneme dělat, může být jednodušší si na změnu zvyknout. Zde uvádíme aktuální praktiky hotelů, které je opravdu třeba změnit, a rok 2017 představuje příležitost k tomu, abychom zjistili, zda je můžete začít realizovat.

1. Přestaňte přistupovat ke svým webovým stránkám jako k zábavě

Nadále sledujeme, jak hotely degradují svou internetovou a mobilní strategii v horším případě na pouhý doplňkový nápad, v lepším případě jako vedlejší zástupnou strategii. Strategie viditelnosti vašeho hotelu na internetu a mobilních zařízeních musí stát v čele a samotném středu veškeré strategie – ne v čele a středu vaší online strategie, nýbrž celkové strategie.

Pokud nebudete považovat svou strategii příméhoh prodeje za prvotní a distribuci za druhotnou, automaticky to znamená, že záměrně nebo (pravděpodobně) bez zvažování bude vaše organizace upřednostňovat uskutečňování prodejů prostřednictvím nákladnější distribuce – protože se to zdá jednodušší. V horším případě to povede k tomu, že se vaše organizace bude spoléhat na nepřímý prodej a sníží kapacitu na kanálu pro přímý prodej, což bude mít za následek další omezení vašich možností.

V roce 2017 musí hotely přestat považovat prodej prostřednictvím webových stránek nebo na mobilních platformách za doplňkový bonus. Místo toho by měly přijmout následující postoj: cokoliv, co se neprodá na webových stránkách nebo přes mobilní platformy, představuje problém, který je třeba řešit. V každém hotelu je nutná jasná a srozumitelná kontrola viditelnosti na internetu a taková strategie musí být prioritou. Pochopte, že tvorba webových stránek už není jen zábavou, nýbrž nástrojem na vytváření prodeje. Takže mu přidělte finanční a personální zdroje, které si zaslouží. Pokud tak neučiníte, bude váš prodej i nadále svázán online portály. Dokážete toto v roce 2017 změnit?

2. Přestaňte ve svých manažerských reportech skrývat provize třetích stran

Je rozhodující pochopit skutečné pořizovací náklady a rozvíjet postupy k jejich sledování. Smutným faktem je, že většina hotelů vůbec nezná své pořizovací náklady podle distribučních kanálů a konkrétněji neví, jak se liší mezi přímým a nepřímým prodejem. Jednou z nejvýznamnějších příčin tohoto nedostatečného rozlišování jsou ve skutečnosti účetní postupy hotelů.

Nastávají dva problémy, které zakrývají skutečné náklady na vaši distribuci.

Prvním problémem je postup po prodeji „post sale“, v kterém hotely nepočítají v rozpočtu předem s tím, kolik jsou ochotny vyplatit na provizích OTA. Jednoduše vypíšou šek na provize na základě ubytování hosta. Tím se vytvoří scénář, v němž neexistují žádná omezení ohledně toho, co umožníte OTA, aby poskytly vašemu hotelu, ačkoliv každý pokoj prodaný prostřednictvím OTA může znamenat zmařenou příležitost, neboť byste bývali mohli prodat daný pokoj přímo přes své webové stránky s vyšším ziskem. V horším případě vaše účty pravděpodobně zaznamenávají všechny tyto náklady dohromady jako nevinně vyhlížející náklady na prodej bez rozepsání jednotlivých OTA na samostatné nákladové řádky. Výsledkem je nekontrolovaný a často neviditelný výdaj na OTA.

Druhý problém vzniká tam, kde vůbec nejsou zaznamenávány velkoobchodní provize ve výkazu zisků a ztrát. Podívejme se na tento příklad skvělého reportu o pořizovacích nákladech irské organizace Fáilte (http://bit.ly/2ieWJOS):

  • Host si rezervuje ubytování prostřednictvím online cestovní kanceláře na bázi obchodního modelu a uhradí OTA 200,- EUR, a to včetně DPH a včetně smluvní přirážky ve výši 20 %, kterou předem dohodl hotel s touto online cestovní kanceláří.
  • Příjmy, které váš hotel utržil, jsou zaznamenány ve výkazu zisků a ztrát hotelu v hodnotě 160,- EUR od hosta. Host však ve skutečnosti zaplatil 218,- EUR (včetně DPH ve výši 9 %) [příjem uhrazený hostem].
  • OTA vybere svých 40,- EUR provize ještě předtím, než vůbec host překročí práh vašeho hotelu.
  • Ve výkazu zisků a ztrát není kam zaznamenat 40,- EUR jako výdaj na získání zákazníka.

Nedostatečná transparentnost skutečných nákladů na distribuci negativně ovlivňuje strategická rozhodnutí. Hotely musí podniknout kroky k vyřešení tohoto problému a zajistit, aby údaje nutné pro řádné sestavení strategie už nebyly skryté. Dokážete toto v roce 2017 změnit?

3. Přestaňte klást překážky vlastní propagaci

Je paradoxní, že i když jsou provize OTA často vyplaceny po samotném prodeji bez zvláštního omezení (či transparentnosti) vůči jejich skutečnému významu, účetní postupy hotelů zahájí rok tím, že se budou snažit omezit rozpočet na vlastní webovou prezentaci a svou viditelnost na internetu. Jinými slovy: Hotely nahlížejí na svou vlastní propagaci jako na „předprodej“ - přičemž si pokládají otázku, kolik jsou ochotny utratit, aby získaly rezervace přímo – což často vede k omezení takových výdajů.

Oproti poprodejní strategii to často vede k vytváření bezprostředních překážek k vlastnímu úspěchu hotelu. Podívejme se na následující jednoduchý příklad, proč zjednodušující přístup k vytváření rozpočtu na online propagaci může mít za následek promarněnou příležitost:

Váš hotel má bar. Prodává v něm pivo Guinness. Pokud vám Guinness dojde v polovině měsíce, svým zákazníkům neřeknete: „Promiňte, tento měsíc jsme už vyčerpali rozpočet na Guinness, už ho nemáme. Pokud ho chcete, běžte ke konkurenci.“ Namísto toho nakoupíte více piva Guinness, a budete v tom pokračovat, dokud budete mít příležitost ho prodávat.

Výdaje na online propagaci je také třeba chápat tímto způsobem – kupujete stále více reklamy tak dlouho, dokud máte příležitost ji proměnit na zisk. Přesto neustále nacházíme hotely, které svým výdajům vytyčí horní mez kvůli předem definovaným rozpočtům, i když jsme prokázali, že je zde stále ještě příležitost získat výnos z investic do online propagace. Posíláte zákazníky jinam, aniž byste se chopili příležitosti.

Hotely se musí usilovně zamyslet nad tím, proč stále používají zastaralé přístupy k vytváření rozpočtů či omezování vůči novým dynamičtějším trhům, kde je třeba příležitosti nepromeškávat a kde lze rychle měřit návratnost investic. Dokážete toto v roce 2017 změnit?

4. Přestaňte motivovat zaměstnance dle tržeb

Důsledky některých z výše uvedených bodů, zejména nedostatečné transparentnosti, kterou hodně hotelů vykazuje vůči skutečným pořizovacím nákladům, znamenají, že mnozí zaměstnanci odpovědní za obchodní akvizice jsou i nadále motivováni dle tržeb. Tyto praktiky je třeba zastavit, neboť motivace na tržby samotné ve skutečnosti podporuje více prodeje prostřednictvím OTA na úkor přímého prodeje.

Na dnešním trhu je poměrně snadné získat tžby. Boj spočívá v dosažení tržeb při nejnižších pořizovacích nákladech. Vzhledem k tomu, že cílem je zisk, aby byl kapitál k dispozici pro rozvoj podnikání, musí se hotely zaměřit na čisté tržby za disponibilní pokoj (NetRevPAR) a zbavit se starých počtů. NetRevPAR se počítá jako tržby placené hosty (podle definice ve výše uvedeném příkladu) po odečtení celkových pořizovacích nákladů, děleno počtem dostupných pokojů. To se zaměřuje na to, co vám jakožto hotelu zůstane z toho, co byli hosté ochotni zaplatit.

Jednoduše řečeno, motivace zaměstnanců k tomu, aby maximalizovali NetRevPAR znamená, že je nutný důraz na nákladově levnější distribuce, například přímo prostřednictvím webu. Dokážete toto v roce 2017 změnit?

5. Přestat věřit, že nemůžete konkurovat

Poslední zprávy ukazují, že Expedia utrácí cca 28 % svých příjmů na online reklamu. Booking.com utrácí nyní více na propagaci přes vyhledávače metasearch než na reklamu u společnosti Google. Obě čísla se pohybují v extrémně vysokých hodnotách. Hotely mají často pocit, že hra skončila a že nemohou dále soupeřit. Ale divokou kartu má v tomto případě v rukou zákazník, který je stále vynalézavější. A to znamená, že se rozhlíží a ověřuje na webových stránkách hotelů.

V tom je vaše příležitost přesvědčit a prodat, dokázat zákazníkům, že při přímé rezervaci obdrží něco, co nedostanou od OTA. Pokud zobrazíte tytéž ceny, vybavení a podmínky na svém webu jako u OTA, znamená to jen jedno: prohrajete. Musíte jim dokázat, že přímí klienti jsou odlišní a že je chcete nalákat. To vyžaduje jednoznačnou odpověď na hostův dotaz položený online: “Co speciálního pro mě máte?”. Pokud chápete, jak toho dosáhnout, znamená to, že ve skutečnosti dokážete konkurovat a že můžete zvrátit nerovnováhu v prodeji přes OTA ve svůj prospěch. Není to žádná věda, ale vyžaduje to úsilí a vytrvalost, i výdaje.

Dokážete toto v roce 2017 změnit?


Zaplať, nebo to vzdej

By Ciaran Rowe | On 28 10 2016

The last year has seen significant changes in the way hotels can attract and convert guests through their direct website channel. Some of this change has been driven by updates from big players such as Google, while other aspects have been brought about by changes in user behaviour. Either way, the effect is the same: it is costing more to generate direct traffic and organic traffic is being increasingly replaced by paid traffic. If you’re not paying, you’re less and less in the game.

Changes in Google search

While Google is still the undisputed leader of traffic generation, recent changes in their search results page layout have changed the balance between paid and non paid real estate on the page, which means a reliance on Google for website traffic has now become more expensive than ever.

Some sample changes include (see Figure 1):

  • Expanded ads and sitelinks - bigger ads mean more of the page is dominated by ads and less by organic
  • More ads at the top of the page - up to 4 ads at the top compared to 2 or 3 in the past is pushing organic results further down the page
  • Increased number of ad extensions - these are the text additions below the main ad body which include everything from sitelinks to a list of facilities and unique selling points (USPs).
Figure 1 - SERP October 2016
Figure 1 - SERP October 2016

The combined effect of all these changes is that less users are finding your hotel organically and more and more are using paid clicks to reach your site. A typical scenario would be that for a brand name search, where someone directly searches for your hotel name, your own pay-per-click (PPC) ad is now joined by up to 3 other ads from review sites and competing online travel agents (OTAs). This leads to your organic listing being pushed further down the page and an increase in the likelihood that a user will click on an ad rather than the organic result.

This picture is even more dramatic on the smaller mobile screen, with users needing to scroll through up to 3 screens to reach the organic result, as shown in Figure 2.

This situation is likely to become the norm and indications are that it could soon become even harder to reach the organic result, with the latest test from Google moving the company’s own hotel ads booking widget from its previous position in the right of the page to pole position at the top, above the PPC ads. This makes paid channels even more prominent at the expense of organic.

Figure 2 - Mobile SERP October 2016
Figure 2 - Mobie SERP October 2016

Changes in user behaviour

While searching for a suitable hotel to book, users are bombarded by messages from every quarter, all promising the best deals and options. So it is no wonder that the customer journey is getting longer, with multiple touch-points along the way.

Users choose to research on multiple platforms, using multiple devices, at various times of the day as they gather information and move towards decisions. This dramatically increases the potential cost to an advertiser of reaching their potential customer along this complex journey. In addition to this, many users are now on ‘closed networks’ that cannot be accessed by advertisers. Such closed networks include users using a downloaded OTA app for example, rather than a search on Google, or someone who bases their decisions on information gathered from social media networks. The move to mobile has accelerated this behaviour, making it even more urgent to develop a coherent strategy for improving direct business.

The choice is clear - engage more strongly with these users through paid channels or risking passing them to competitors or third parties. However, just throwing money at the problem is not the solution. You need to make the most of the various paid channels by using all the tools at your disposal correctly and strategically.

Use your data

Given the changes highlighted above, it is more important than ever to maximise the conversion of existing users and this is where advertising networks come to our aid. As usual Google is at the forefront, with a variety of options to help leverage your existing data.

  • Remarketing - presenting a recurring message to users who have previously visited your site - is achieved by creating an audience of visitors either through Google analytics or by adding remarketing code to your website. Once a user visits your site they are added to this audience and you can then present them with a tailored message while they browse other sites on the web to encourage them to return to your site and complete their booking.
  • RLSA - remarketing lists for search are similar to remarketing but they work directly in Google search rather than on Google’s display network of websites. This allows you to customise bids for searchers on Google who have previously visited your website, while they are actively searching on Google, so you can decide to pay a premium to capture a click from a user who is already familiar with your brand but may be tempted to go elsewhere.
  • Customer match - again this works by creating an audience, but instead of users who have visited your website, it allows you to harness the power of your email database by presenting a message to users who have an existing relationship with your hotel while they browse the web.

Other options include remarketing through Facebook which works on the same principle as Google and allows you to target users who have visited your website, but this time while they are browsing on Facebook, or consider using cart abandonment tools (see Figure 3) to present a message to users when they leave your site.

Figure 3 - Cart abandonment pop-up example

Meta search or free listings?

Most hotels are already present on the major meta search players such as Trivago, TripAdvisor, and Google Hotel ads, but these listings are effectively useless for generating direct bookings unless you are willing to pay. The major OTAs dominated this area until recently but more and more hotels are now consolidating their position online by bidding to appear in these searches. It makes sense that if a user is actively searching for your property, and your ad will appear only if you have availability for their chosen dates, that you should try and wrestle that user away from third parties and towards your own site.

In addition to giving hotels the opportunity to compete directly with OTAs for their customers, participating in metasearch platforms encourages the use of stringent rate management and allows for additional insights into customer behaviour.

Get smart

With the increased costs involved in customer acquisition, we need to use budgets in a clever way to maximise returns at the lowest costs. The old mindset of spending X to generate Y is obsolete and needs to be updated to reflect the current reality. Instead of looking at individual budgets on each platform we need a more holistic approach, with the use of a bundled budget. This requires a leap of faith and assumes a competent digital marketing provider, but the objective is to maximise revenue across all platforms rather than focussing on them individually.

The basic premise is to analyse performance across multiple platforms regularly and to shift budgets according to performance to achieve an agreed overall target. So for example if PPC on Google is not performing well, but hotel ads are, then budget should be moved away from PPC towards hotel ads, until such a time as performance changes and budgets need to be adjusted again. It’s a continually iterative process.

Bottom Line

The landscape has changed but with a little effort and some additional costs, good results can and will be achieved. We recommend you consult with the experts on these fast-moving issues, and you will find the Bookassist Digital Marketing team always ready to give you up to the minute advice.

  • Examine all the available platforms and see what will work best for your property. You don’t need to appear at every possible touch-point, but you should decide which ones are key and invest in them.
  • Forget about return on investment per platform and look at the overall growth in traffic and business through your paid digital marketing initiatives.
  • Keep on top of the latest trends and examine how users are responding to your message so that you can constantly update and refine it.
  • Remember, although there is a definite push towards paid platforms, organic traffic is still an important part of the mix, so don’t neglect your SEO and social media engagement.

—-

Ciarán Rowe is Senior Search Specialist at Bookassist (www.bookassist.com), the multi-award-winning technology and digital strategy partner for hotels worldwide.


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