Why Direct Booking Maximizes Data, Loyalty, and Profits
By Ellen Meyer
As hotels struggle with rising costs, many are redoubling efforts to have customers book direct to cut out not only the fees associated with OTAs, but also the relationships OTAs are able to form and leverage with the customers who are loyal to them.
LODGING discussed some options for achieving this direct relationship from two very different perspectives: that of Robert McDowell, chief commercial officer for Choice Hotels International, who focused on his company’s loyalty program, which is supported by national advertising and marketing; and that of Curtis Brewer, senior vice president of reservations and website solutions for TravelClick, whose clientele of both big brands and small independents use its suite of data-driven solutions to acquire and retain guests—usually without a formal loyalty program.
What is behind the current focus on direct booking?
RM: We’ve always focused on driving direct channels for our franchisees because we want to support their profitability, and that’s the channel that costs the least. We made a strong push for this with the relaunch of our Choice Privileges loyalty program in 2016, figuring a strong loyalty program was the key to direct booking.
CB: While the cost of sale for a direct booking has always been lower than the cost of sale for most other channels, what has changed is the intensity of the competition among distributors and channels to understand and build a personalized relationship with the customer. This is especially the case since the OTAs have managed to get between the customer and property, developing their own relationship with customers by doing things like restricting the customer’s email from the hotel’s records and otherwise preventing the property from marketing directly to the customers to personalize their experience.
Read more at LODGING Magazine.