The pandemic is transforming the hotel business in order to improve its profitability, after two years of heavy debt. What has led some chains and hotels to bet more strongly on their direct sales channels in order to release dependence on intermediaries, with the distribution of cake that this entails. Especially with regard to travel agencies that operate through the internet (OTA), including Booking, which occupies practically 71.2% of the market share, according to the 5th Hotel Distribution Study of the European restaurant management association, Hotrec.
The document already shows how the proportion of direct bookings has increased, largely through bookings made by e-mail and websites of hoteliers.
Something that they assure that they perceive for the first time since they began to carry out this study in 2014.
The truth is that despite this trend, dependence on OTAs remained at the same level as in 2019. And especially on the Booking platform, which monopolizes the OTA market, according to the sector, which expects the new standard of the EU that regulates parity clauses (OTAs require hotels not to mark better prices than those they put in their direct sales channels) serves as a breeding ground to solve the problem. Although the rule will not be in force until 2024. «The hotel distribution market is more concentrated than ever in the hands of a single company. We are looking forward to repeating this study in 2024 and 2026 to specifically assess the impact of new EU rules affecting online platforms, such as the Law of Markets and Digital Services», says the CEO of Hotrec, Marie Audren. 55% of hoteliers currently feel pressured by this type of clause, according to the survey.
But hotels are still aware of the importance of these platforms to reach customers who increasingly use these types of tools. The general secretary of Cehat, Ramón Estalella, explains that although the conditions of these intermediaries are sometimes abusive, “they are also a great opportunity for hoteliers to whom they have opened many marketing channels.” And he points out that not even the big chains do without it. “Some use it for specific markets, for a small percentage of their rooms or for last minute sales.”
From the largest Spanish hotel company, Melia, acknowledge to this newspaper the importance of these platforms, “which we now complement with our commitment to the direct channel.” They are very focused on online sales: this year they already sell 5% more than 2019 through their website, while OTA They have not registered any evolution. The company has recently launched a new page to promote “a strategic channel that already receives approximately half of the reservations.”
Also the Balearic hotel RIU recognizes the advances in its strategy to promote its direct channels, which was pushed by the pandemic. “During the health crisis, it made up for the drop in sales of traditional channels due to confinements and restrictions and now we see that it continues to behave positively,” sources from the firm report.
But the process will be easier for urban hotels, with less exposure to other stakeholders such as tour operators. the hotelier Sercotel(owned by the Gallardos, main shareholders of Almirall) admits that it has set itself the goal of reducing intermediation margins and already sells 20% of its rooms through its own channels. “We want to reduce dependency on third parties, without ever doing without them,” its CEO explains to ABC, Jose Rodriguez Pousa.
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