The Perils of OTAs
Since I returned from New Zealand in December I have been trying to make sense of Corse Lawn’s position/profile/image on the internet and how to maximise our bookings through OTAs.
Initially it took me an hour or so to even work out what OTA stood for! Obviously, now, it is Online Travel Agents – but these are not the travel agents that I remember from eight years ago. This is not Thomas Cook, Hogg Robinson and Co. but Booking.com, Expedia, LateRooms, Trivago and about a hundred others. (Should I be using just lower case letters when I write these website names?)
I have figured out some of these companies and indeed we spend too much time plugging bedroom rates and deals into the ‘backends’ of Booking.com and Late Rooms. Indeed our own booking system is directly linked to Expedia and Hotels.com. Did you know that these two companies are basically one and the same. In fact, many OTAs have multiples sites with different domain names running from the same database. Moreover, many sites – Trivago.co.uk is a notable example – simply pull information from all their ‘competitor’ sites and publish it in one place. Thus all the various rates and deals that you have loaded in the other sites are displayed together here. So who gets the commission when someone books through Trivago? Damned if I have worked that out yet!
Getting your property description updated or altered is also a major task. Where do they source their information from? Corse Lawn seems to be on a hundred different websites with about 30 different descriptions, some of which are just plain wrong. We are NOT in Corse – but in Corse Lawn. Corse is a village two miles away and we are in Gloucestershire – not Worcestershire. (Although we pay our rates to Malvern District Council which is in Worcestershire, but lets not get into that!) Have you ever tried ringing one of these websites? They don’t display a phone number. You have to e mail them and most don’t reply. And when they do it is 5 days later and you have forgotten what needed changing!
I haven’t even mentioned the ‘deal’ sites yet like Travelzoo, Groupon and Secret Escapes. Sure these companies can bring you a lot of business but they all want the lowest price you do and they want it exclusive to them. How do you do that? Is one company going to fill your hotel for you. No they are not. So how to you work with say two of them to fill your hotel during the depths of winter without lying?
It has just got so damned complicated and as I type at the end of February I have still not worked out an effective online pricing strategy. What I will say is that we very much want you to book DIRECTLY with us and will match ANY price that you see online for our hotel. Just call us – I know its old fashioned to use the telephone but it still by far the best way. 01452 780771 – look forward to hearing from you.