Is Google the only one opening doors to the independent hotel room?
Hotels are rethinking their relationships with online travel agents and wholesalers, and putting Google at the centre of their distribution strategy, according to EyeforTravel’s latest free whitepaper – ‘Dirty Distribution Tactics and how Hotels are Fighting Back’.
“Google is probably by far the only making one strides to make the independent hotel bedroom relevant,” says Gopakumar Menon, VP – Distribution & Revenue Management, Highgate Hotels.
Highgate, which has a portfolio of 100 hotels and 30,000 across the world, says the Google’s Hotel Paid Ads product has entirely changed the hotel distribution landscape. “This is huge because Google is even going a step further by making hotels visible and bookable based on the number of transactions they secure,” he says.
There are many reasons, outlined in the whitepaper, that hotels are radically rethinking their distribution strategy. Maite Aguilar NH Hotels VP of Distribution, NH Hotels, says: ‘What we have seen in the last year is that there are more and more distribution channels popping up.”
On the hand that can give hotels more visibility, but it also makes it difficult to control how rates are being distributed, and in the past year, NH has seen competitive scores falling.
The whitepaper reveals seven ways that hotels can and are fighting back including revising all contracts, pricing and terms and conditions, notifying partners when they are breaching agreements and rethinking wholesaler relationships.
Says Menon: “We are making them [partners] aware that just as they are watching us, we are also watching them. We are letting the OTAs know that we are as serious as they are and our direct business is very important.”
NH Hotels also means business. “Getting our distribution strategy under control is a major priority for our business right now, and we are experimenting and testing various techniques to see what works,” Aguilar says.
While Google, as Rough Guides’ CEO René Frey, puts it “is a different beast” and “sits all along the user journey with incredible power” not everybody is comfortable with that.
Senior leadership at Expedia, for one, has been vocal about acknowledging the threat. Expedia Chairman Barry Diller has called for greater regulation of Google, while Group CEO Mark Okerstrom recently admitted that the search giant is now their biggest competitor.
Bobby Healy, CTO of CarTrawler, a firm that works with over 100 airlines, and was also interviewed in the white paper, believes that Google has “erected the largest toll booth on distribution that the travel industry will ever see”.
While Google might be delivering value to hotels today, there are drawbacks. Menon says: “We are forced to work with intermediaries approved by Google and they are in a very nascent stage of tech development”.
Ana Salom, Head of Innovation, EyeforTravel, says: “As we all know, the travel industry moves like a glacier but new technologies are helping hotels get their house in order, and those that don’t will be left behind.”