Reading the hotel industry news every day is part of my daily tasks. By doing so I try to learn more about what is going on in the industry and new trends. Not surprisingly, nowadays I have found many articles that talk about the economic downturn. Is this crisis really a disadvantage for independent hotels or is it the opportunity for independent hotels to create and optimize their online presence?
“Exactly a year ago around this time we used to have 24 bookings per week, this year we are lucky to get more than 5 bookings. I believe this is related to the decrease of traveling caused by the financial crisis”. These were the words of a Spanish customer that felt the crisis knocking at his door and came to us for online solutions. The year 2008 was marked as the year of innovating online services for the hotel industry: guests became more demanding and expected not only a better service but also a better online experience. There was a continuous shift from the traditional booking channels, typically more expensive, to the online channel. As a result in 2009 online bookings will reach an increase of 10.5% or above.
Although the latest research from the Travel Industry Association’s (TIA) predicts a drop of at least 1.3% in overall leisure travel, hoteliers will see more online opportunities than ever before. Studies indicate that 80% of travelers make their decision online with 60% starting their search with Online Travel Agencies (OTA) of which 82% will try to book directly on the hotel website. If properly prepared, independent hotels can put a good fight against chain hotels when competing for customers.
Last year GuestCentric conducted a survey of independent hotels and chain hotels to analyze their online presence. The results were shocking; we discovered a huge gap between them. Close to 20% of Independents don’t have a website, less than 15% are present in an OTA and less than 10% have some kind of booking engine (for more information please go to “The Online Report”). Looking at these statistics it is clear that independent hotels are particularly at risk in this new economic climate.
Independent hotels should adapt to new online technologies and benefit from the opportunities that this can create for them (see Hotel Aiken case study). The new environment in 2009 will require changes in the way independent hotels operate to maintain/improve their standing in the hospitality market. Adapting their online presence will create new opportunities for independent hotels: more website visitors, more conversions, more direct online bookings, more revenue and more visibility for their property.
Learn how easy is with GuestCentric to create a good online presence: GuestCentric Integrated Platform