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Hotels vs. OTAs: No Need to Go to the Mattresses

It is not uncommon that I speak to a fellow industry colleague on the hotel operations front that – sooner or later – we come across the topic of OTAs and distribution of flat, albeit seasonal contract rates. “Genius Program”, “wholesalers” and “amoma.com” are just some of the names that are dropped, usually in tandem with “we must fight them” or “it is a battle”. 

But I ask myself: Since when has “going to the mattresses” been a positive solution for everyone involved? One wins, the other loses. Then what? Why is coexistence not an option?

If working in the hospitality industry for the better part of the last 20 years has taught me anything, it is that we are individuals who evolve and adapt. There were times when we thought brick and mortar travel agents would all go out of business, and the GDS would become extinct. Yet here we are. Yes, some of the larger agencies are struggling, but there are others who have persevered. We have even seen the emergence of a breed of [offline] travel agents catering to the needs of the millenials.

Putting myself into the shoes of a hotelier, I ask myself: What should we do differently?

Evolve. Think outside of the box. 

As part of the property leadership team, what can you do better than anyone else? If you are an independent hotel, you almost need access to the widespread footprint and marketing reach of the OTA or a wholesaler - they are far from the “enemy”. And let’s face it: the OTAs have done an incredible job at simplifying an all-encompassing booking experience.

But there is one thing that they don’t have direct access to. All the information and preferences you collect about the guest when they are on property will help you make them return to your hotel and allow you to capture their next bookings via your direct channel. When you find repeat visitors continuing to book through channels other than your website, that’s when we (you and I - not the OTA) need to sit down and talk. 

100 years ago we had never heard of the jet engine, yet here we are - in 2018 - and not only are we transporting people across vast distances, we have even seen the rise and fall of traveling at the speed of sound. And that’s what competition does: it should push us to rethink and re-envision how we see our business, rather than ensure we maintain the status quo. 

And since I enjoy my airline references, here’s another one: Release the breaks. Onward and upward.

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