The Role of Online Booking Solutions as Critical Travel Content

Director of Research and Online Marketing
Published 3/2/17
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Miles has just published an updated and expanded version of its white paper, “Online Booking Solutions” for Destination Marketing Organizations. The 2017 edition of this Miles white paper highlights the critical role hotel information plays in travel and destination decisions. 

Travelers may yearn for experiences when they travel to a destination – but a comfortable bed (at an affordable rate) is also on their mind in considering where to go. Information on hotels and places to stay have consistently been shown as one of the top three most important topics when deciding on a place to visit – along with information on critical areas like things to do (e.g.: historical attractions) and dining/restaurant information. 

The white paper also reviews the major online booking engine options for DMOs in greater depth. Over 400 DMOs in North America and the Caribbean offer online booking options on their website. 

The paper describes in expanded detail the major features and functionality of the three major online booking platforms: BookDirect, ARes and RoomKnights (formerly Regatta). All three (with between 50 and 230 DMO clients each) have added expanded features including improved reporting for DMOs, more sophisticated merchandising and remarketing tools and expanded inventory in activities, flights, rental cars and more. 

The new white paper also explores the changing face of Online Travel Agency (OTA) booking solutions for DMOs. Expedia has stepped back from proactive engagement with DMOs including discontinuing their Orbitz white-label solution. The other dominant OTA, Booking.com is more active with DMOs – but has retired their white-label DMO solution – in favor of a branded Booking.com option, which they argue has the benefit of name recognition, industry leading merchandising and therefore a greater revenue share. The tradeoff for DMOs is their role in helping the hotel sector build a balanced mix of direct vs. OTA bookings – a major issue in the minds of many hotel managers, marketers and owners. See my two part blog on “OTAs: Their Rewards & Risks in Hospitality” 

However, analysis in the white paper concludes that online booking volumes (and revenue) are modest for almost all DMOs with online booking – regardless of the platform they use. Indeed for many DMOs booking conversion rates and volumes have been in decline in recent years as OTAs and more recently Hotel Groups aggressively compete for online booking. The primary benefit of hotel information on a destination website is therefore its value as important content helping travelers see the relative price, availability and options in places to stay for that comfortable night’s sleep – even if in most cases they elect to actually book elsewhere. 

More 

Online Booking Solutions – 2017 Edition White Paper

“Hotel CEOs Aren’t Slowing Down Their Push for Direct Bookings,” Skift, February 2017

“OTAs – Their Rewards & Risks in Hospitality,” Miles Blog, Chris Adams, October 2016