Debunking OTA Myths – A Chat With Expedia

TrevPAR World Expedia

Many discussions involving the acquisition of rooms always results in a negative connotation targeted at the Online Travel Agents, they are to expensive, they take to many of our rooms, the rate is to low – at TrevPAR World we feel that the correct partnership between the hotels and the OTA’s can create a win – win situation for all.

We decided to have a chat to the Expedia Perth team in order to try and debunk a few myths, Victoria Yannopoulos and Xavier Sala Busquets took the time to answer a few questions posed to them by TrevPAR World, we hope that you find this as helpful as we did and we hope that you take some of the great advice to drive your room sales as well as total revenues.

TrevPAR World Expedia

As a OTA team, what would you say is the most important thing to remember when dealing directly with Hotels?

The most important thing to remember is to listen. Listening and understanding the needs for the region, the city, the industry and each partner is the only way we can be successful in our jobs. At the same time, you have to be able to share some insights to the hotels and help them deliver strategies on how to increase the occupancy and ADR performance.

What type of hotels would you say are the top performers with Expedia and what would the reason for that be?

The top performing hotels are certainly the ones that fully utilize our partnership to meet their desired business objectives.

It is not about star rating, size or location. What will help a hotel to outperform the competition is their ability to maximize the tools available in Expedia Partner Central.  Expedia Partner Central is our Hotel Extranet – the one stop shop where all of our hotel partners manage every aspect of their Expedia listing. For example, rates, availability, content, promotions and reservations.

As we know, high commissions are a hot topic at the moment, where do you see the Revenue Management and OTA relationship in 5 years from now?

The most sophisticated hoteliers, regardless of size, will use online travel agents as one tool in their toolbox – and we see that our hotel partners understand the value that an OTA brings.

After all, online travel agents are one of the highest yielding channels for the hotels. Unlike the Wholesale / Inbound contracts, where they tend to have a static nett rate or RPFs via the GDS with specific corporate contracted rates. With OTAs, you can dynamically change your rates and yield them depending on the demand, selling your rooms at the highest possible price in each specific point of time.

What would you suggest a hotel does to drive revenue with escalating costs?

Use the tools available to you in Expedia Partner Central. You have the option to join our branded campaigns or increase guest engagement pre-stay via our EPC Conversations tool.

By using our Real-time Feedback tool, you can quickly resolve any guest issues while guests are still on-site. You are also able to contact the guests prior to their arrival via Expedia’s Message Center and use it as an up-selling tool for meals, breakfast, room upgrades and beverages.

Every extra revenue dollar you can get in your business will help you with the escalating cost. The 2015 Gallup Study shows that engaged guests spend 22% more per stay so it is really important to engage with your guests pre-stay, during-stay and post-stay and Expedia Partner Central gives you the tools to do this.

What kind of campaigns would you suggest a hotel focuses on in order to maximize revenues in a downturn market like Western Australia?

The Perth team would recommend participating in our short Flash Sales and Seasonal Campaigns. We also work closely with some of the Western Australian RTO’s and continuously create campaigns together to sell the state, for example with Tourism WA.

We would recommend getting on board with these campaigns and supporting the Tourism Industry, airlines and Expedia when promoting Western Australia.  Package Path, International Deals and Member Only Deals are also three very, very strong options we would recommend to increase the hotel’s market share.

In terms of Revenue Management and Revenue Growth, what do you think the most important aspect is to focus on?

Every dollar counts. Keep an eye on what your competitors are doing. Be competitive; be strategic with your rates, promotions and discounts.

Utilise Expedia Partner Central’s revenue tools including Sell Tonight (when you need to shift rooms last minute); keep an eye on your Market Watch which highlights the rates your competitors are putting out in the market. Make sure your content is excellent and that it makes you stand out from the competition by highlighting particular features of your property and display these features in high-resolution images.

Real time feedback and the Guests Reviews are important to be able to yield the rates and incentivise revenue growth.  A partner with good reviews and / or with acknowledged reviews will convert at much higher rates, improving their ranking on our websites and increase conversion at the same time.

What would you say the 5 myths around OTA business is at the moment and how would you go about debunking these myths?

Myth #1: OTA’s increase or decrease rates when they notice when the customers are shopping.

In fact, the properties are responsible for their availability and rates. Either using a Channel Manager or manually loaded, all the rates and availability can be checked in Expedia Partner Central via the “Inventory Grid”

Myth #2: OTAs compete for the same bookings which would otherwise go to my hotel website

We are a Marketing Partner and very often the customers will visit your website after they have been on Expedia – This is what we call the billboard effect, and that is why it is so important to have great content, rates and availability on all of your online platforms.

Myth #3: There is no need for the hotel to update their content on OTA websites. As long as I am listed on an OTA, consumers will book my property.

For example, many properties believe having one image per room is sufficient where we see that having four images per room including one of the bathroom is key. No one wants to buy or rent a house without seeing the kitchen or the bathroom first!

Myth #4: Expedia Market Managers don’t know anything about my business needs

Actually, most of us come from a Revenue Manager or Sales & Marketing background. We have worked for years in hotels and are well aware of the challenges, needs and goals set to you by the owners or the hotel’s management team. Most importantly, we are here to help you to optimize your revenue and ensure we work to align your business needs.

Myth #5: It doesn’t matter where I sit on the search ranking. As long as I am listed with the OTA’s, my property will be booked by consumers.

We know that the top 15 properties get 75% of the click through traffic. Our Market Management team are here to help hotels improve their ranking and look at ways to optimize traffic.

 In order to improve revenue as well as relationships, what would you say the five best practices are for a positive growth in both?

You need to work in partnership with your market manager so we can help you to drive your business objectives.

Ask your Market Manager to provide you with periodic reports. These, together with your Revenue Management system, Ideas, Hotel 360 and others will provide you with great insights and help you on your Revenue Management strategy.

Be active and strategic with your Market Manager. Selling the rooms at the right time for the right price via promotional opportunities will help you increase your room nights and revenue.

Understand all the tools available to you on Expedia Partner Central and share the knowledge with your hotel staff. Only by having the full support of all your staff, will you will be able to positively grow your RevPAR and overall revenue for the hotel.

Join our classes, seminars or virtual calls. In Western Australia, we have the RIO (Regional Industry Outlook) calls once a month. During the call, we share how each one of the different regions have been and are performing together with lots of data trends.

Historical and current data, together with knowledge and insights are key elements for any Revenue Manager’s success.

On closing, what bit of advice will you give all aspiring revenue managers who will be dealing with you as well as different OTA managers be?

Do not be afraid to reach out to your OTA Market Manager and work as close to him/her as you can.

They can provide market insights that can be shared with you as well as reporting. We share the same goals to increase your business and maximise your hotels visibility to the consumer as well as selling the most amount of rooms at the highest rate possible.

If you are from Sales and Marketing, make sure that your Revenue Manager gets involved with your OTA’s strategy and has periodic contact with the OTA’s Market Manager responsible for your account.

TrevPAR World Expedia