There is little doubt that third-party channels such as OTAs, Metasearch Engines, and other directories are beneficial for hoteliers in many ways. They’re key distribution, marketing, and sales channels, of course, but even the best of them often fail to do right by the hotels they work with. Some channels offer little or no value to their partners and many create additional difficulties for hotels and consumers.
A hotel, just like other online businesses, relies on a correct and accurate description of its product. Whether that’s content describing the facilities, the rooms, amenities, ancillaries and so on. Information changes regularly, new services are added and images become outdated, with hotels adding new content and photography throughout the year. It’s what keeps them fresh and relevant and it’s what helps them stand out from the competition.
The problem is that these changes are often not picked up by third-party channels, so as far as the consumer is concerned, you’re offering the same product, with the same facilities and services you were offering 3 or more years ago. In addition, channels may claim that you offer certain facilities that you’ve stopped providing or indeed have never offered to your guests.
So, when third-party channels misrepresent the content of your hotel it leads to confusion and frustration.
Here’s a typical example. An OTA could claim that a particular hotel allows smoking in guest rooms, or that pets are allowed. The hotel has never allowed pets and became a no smoking property over a year ago. At best this can be a minor annoyance but it could become a serious revenue-impacting issue. Let’s say the hotel doesn’t allow pets and the customer has brought their furry friend with them. Such a problem isn’t easily resolved and creates big problems for the customer as well as hotel management and staff.
This could be a genuine mistake but in many cases the situation is much worse, with third-party channels providing inaccurate information regarding the services and amenities provided. Sites like these will often mention facilities even if a hotel doesn’t have them, such as swimming pools, air-conditioning, scenic views and private bathrooms. When third-party channels over promise it inevitably leads to disappointment and anger as customers ultimately factor these benefits into the costs of their stay. It can also lead customers to believe that the hotel itself has misled them, rather than the travel website.
With these issues being so prevalent, any benefits that third-party channels offer become negligible and in some cases counterproductive and damaging. They are costly too.
Not all of these mistakes are deliberate, especially among the more reputable OTAs, but they are important issues that damage a hotel’s credibility and its revenue as bookings lost through incorrect or outdated information are mopped up by the competition.
There are tools available that provide a holistic view of hotels at every touchpoint. Tools that have been developed to check content across all direct and third-party channels using artificial intelligence, machine learning, and a dash of human ingenuity to ensure accuracy and brand continuity.
Third-party channels won’t check the accuracy of a hotel’s content, and in some cases may deliberately mislead customers. As the hotel industry regains travelers’ confidence once again trust is a key factor in the growth of this industry. Research the tools available to ensure that your potential customers have the latest and most accurate information about your hotel - whichever channel they find you.
Fred Bean, CEO, HotelPORT