As hotel’s come under renewed pressure to maintain prices, editor of Hotel News ME, Sophia Soltani looks into how hoteliers can seize the moment and get ahead with rate parity.
Relations between hotels and their OTA partners have always been a little strained, to put it delicately. While there’s no denying the major influence that these online marketing giants have had on the visibility of independent hotels, OTA regulations can sometimes be stifling and restrictive.
And no topic has been the subject of more debate than rate parity. Governments around the world are gradually stepping up and taking a stand on the issue – France became the first country in Europe to ban rate parity clauses last year, and the British Hospitality Association (BHA) has been campaigning against this ‘restriction of freedom in the market’.
While it certainly does look like rate parity is no longer the undisputed element of online distribution it once was, hoteliers can do a lot more than wait for something to happen. There are a number of creative yet simple ways through which your independent property can circumvent rate clauses, without breaking them, so what are they I hear you ask?
First things first – Information widgets. Hotels use widgets to collect information about potential guests visiting the site, but without having a strategy in place, it doesn’t matter how many emails the hotel ends up collecting. Sending emails containing promotional codes to avail of discounts is a great idea, but it only serves its purpose if it’s relevant to the traveller’s plans. Try using a widget asking for the potential guest’s email address and preferred month of stay, before redirecting them to a confidential landing page. You can then send out an email with promotions for that month and expect much better conversions.
Next, a confidential landing page. While the month-specific emailing technique is a great way ensure better returns from the customer, it doesn’t do much for visitors looking to make a booking within the next few days. Guests are interested in an offer that they can make use of immediately, making them wait is just going to send them right back to the OTAs. And that’s why creating a private landing page for discounts is imperative. Just make sure that the rates cannot be found on search engines. That way, once guests get to your hotel’s booking engine, they can simply make use of the codes they’ve ‘earned’ on the previous page.
And lastly, auto-responders. While the majority of hotels do utilise auto-responding apps to send out confirmation mails among other things, only a few really make the most of them. Sending out personalised emails that gradually educate potential guests in the months leading their preferred time of travel can build your hotel’s reputation in their eyes. When you do finally send out the email with the discount codes, the same guests will appreciate your deal so much more than if you were to send it without any of the preceding emails.