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Make the most out of your Online Distribution Partner?

September 23, 2008

In todayís highly competitive environment, millions of hotels are capturing every opportunity they get to maximize their presence and position in the Hotel industry. One of the many ways in which hotels are gaining recognition & popularity is with the help of the Internet. With over 60% of people now having Internet access and 40% having been online for over three years, the Internet has now become a mainstream information tool.

The introduction of the Internet technology to general business has led to its wide-scale application in the Travel industry & consumers have been increasingly using the Internet to search for accommodation related information on various travel websites. Many hotel properties have made the marketing leap into the 21st century & are now using Travel portals as a means to gain exposure & visibility in the hospitality market. The travel industry and the Internet now go hand in hand, making a prosperous pair. Hotel reservations make the travel industry one of the strongest e-commerce markets in existence today. Travel sites have become the most widely utilized online channels for booking travel, lodging, and complete vacation packages for millions of travelers around the world. Much of the hospitality e-business is derived from popular travel sites, such as MakeMyTrip, Travelocity, Hotels.com, Yatra.com and many others. The biggest factor in stimulating your hotels online travel sales is through these travel sites which are designed to meet consumer needs.

So what should you do to get the most out of this fast moving trend?
Firstly, you need to closely monitor the consumerís online booking habits and search behaviour by doing a thorough market research. Then consider all the available options for joining a travel site & determine the best strategy towards adopting it into your marketing initiative. Select the most cost-effective and compelling channels that will in turn bring guests to your door and after you have got all the answers you are looking for, you can start allocating the necessary resources.

Once your have chosen to list your hotel on a site, that and every other site where you are listed should be reviewed on a regular basis to verify that the data for your property is accurate & complete. If not, correcting the deficiencies needs to be a top priority. Next comes the commitment to maintain the same rates and availability data on the websites. It would be entirely your responsibility to determine the ongoing review and maintenance of rates, inventory, and information on the site. It is important that you keep updating and reviewing your account on the travel sites at regular intervals, as you donít want to display outdated information & leave a bad impression on the customers mind. Periodically reviewing these sites will allow you to correct data displays that do not do justice to your hotel.

Secondly, make sure that the pictures & images that you have provided are clear & of high resolution, reflecting the true nature of your hotel property. We all know that photos create interest. You can make your hotel images & photos look more appealing to your viewers, luring them to your hotel. Graphics with higher density are likely to be very slow to load which can be very annoying to your site visitors. Therefore donít choose a photo just because itís pretty. If in any case your hotel is not showing the current images and content, submit your pictures and text to the travel site at the earliest, as you could be losing a potential customer every second. Keep in mind that travelers are always on the hunt for the best deals and if you fail to provide them, they will go to your competitor.

Once your information is updated, make sure you understand what rates are offered on the travel sites and how the reservation system works. Any problem faced by the guest while making a reservation at your hotel via the travel site will directly affect your sales conversion, thereby causing a major hindrance for your business.

Another important factor that can make or break your online business is customer feedback. It's one of the surest ways of knowing whether your hotel is meeting customer needs and doing what it promises to do. While nobody wants to hear negative comments, it's better to hear about it beforehand while you're still in a position to do something about it. For instance, if you introduce a new package designed to improve relations with your customers, itís also important to find out whether it suits the requirements of the customers & if itís actually worth the effort. Give them a reason to return to your site and especially to tell others about your unique services. Good reviews will rank you high on travel sites, hence request your guests to leave their feedback about your hotel on the travel site.

Lastly, it is essential to carefully track your results on a regular basis, to effectively gauge how your product is working and to plan future strategies. When tracking your performance you need to record how many prospects come to you through the travel websites, how many of them become clients, and how many become repeat clients. Although it may sound tedious, it is the only way to make sure your hotel is doing well. If your production is not up to the mark, you will have to change your strategy. Also gain valuable insight about potential customers that will give you an accurate picture of what is working and what is not.

Online distribution channels are a powerful and productive sales tool & fundamental marketing principles apply to it just as they do in every marketing decision. 2009 will be another year of exponential online growth for the hotel industry, with more than 60 percent of bookings affected by Travel portals. Keep these thoughts in mind as you plan your marketing efforts and promote your hotel effectively.


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