The European Technology and Travel Services Association (ETTSA) recently criticized an ongoing Book Direct campaign. And some of the critics indicated that this was a major incentive for Hoteliers to push book direct sales is to reduce transparency for customers.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association originally unveiled a Search Smarter campaign to create awareness helping travelers avoid lost reservations, additional fees, and potentially ruined vacations.

Booking Direct means, the money customer is paying for the service is going straight to the Hotel. Hotels get the reward for providing the customer with the “full” experience, as they don’t have to pay commission to travel agencies. It helps support the Hotel brands and gives the customer good karma.

Who controls the transactions?

Online travel agencies and metasearch engines, which have evolved from Hotel partners into bona fide competitors.

Despite many efforts over the years, we see that especially millennial travelers prefer online travel agencies. They want easy booking options and loyalty in the traditional ways that Hotels promote is not important to them.

Online travel agencies and metasearch engines have been good at creating alternatives for the customer. These alternatives have acted like a one-stop dashboard where customers can find the best deals.

For many years Hotels and Online Travel Agencies worked well together, and several Hotels thrived on the relationship.

But in recent years Hotels has experienced that particularly that major online travel agency players started to hike their fees. These players now charge up to 30% commissions.

I see stories whereas much 50-75% of occupancy comes from bookings via online travel agencies.

And in many of the cases seen the Hotels often also rely on bookings via online travel agencies.

To start with Hotels has to take ownership of their missteps. They have handed control over to online travel agencies and the customer.

Customers have for many years been educated that online travel agencies provide them with easy one-stop alternatives.

With the introduction of Social Media, customers have been educated and discovered they are in now in full control of the customer experience.

Hotels need to understand that today customer is in full control of the customer experience.

Focus on perceptions and patterns NOT the battle against Online Travel Agencies

My friend Mark Simpson with Boostly has together with several B&B and Inn owners pulled off some very effective and creative #BookDirect campaigns.

Here are just one of the many creative #BookDirect campaigns;

If you are interested in learning more feel free to join Mark’s Hospitality Community on Facebook.

Online travel agencies educated their community about their alternatives, and now Airbnb is doing the same. It is all about building and educating your Hotels community.

Compared to baby boomer’s data shows that millennials are less brand loyal. Millennials are loyal to their community and the experience. And today they also influence their extended network of friends and family.

One of the myths is that price is one of the key reasons millennials prefer online travel agencies. Research and data have shown that the price is not as important when it comes down to the booking decision.

The perceptions online travel agencies have educated their community on for years is that they can provide more affordable alternatives. It is all about easy accessibility and alternatives that allow them to bundle different service and save money.

It is the same with Airbnb. We see a lot of similar complaints that we see over the years with online travel agencies that Airbnb has unfair advantages.

In principle, Airbnb has done the same as online travel agencies have done. They built a community and educated them that they provide a new unique one-stop affordable alternative.

What Airbnb has done is creating an experience bundle. They provide millennials with an alternative that meets their emotional perceptions of what they want and need.

It is interesting to us that over the years has studied several Hotel and online travel agencies surveys and data from a focus group to look at some of the perceptions.

For years free Wi-Fi, free breakfast, free parking, bigger beds, bigger bathrooms, proximity to mass transit and shops, etc. have been on top of the list of amenities required by travelers. And it did not matter if the booking was done directly or with an online travel agency.

This is where online travel agencies real advantages lay. They focus on combine price with what type of “Free” amenities come with the price. And with bundling options it allows the customer to compare the different alternatives.

This way they have been able to create a perception of an affordable deal that comes with multiple “Free” alternatives.

ETTSA reactions to the Book Direct campaigns is all about the momentum of customer perceptions.

Hotels have started to figure out that the real battle is not on price, but the unique experience.

And this shift will require Hotels to start building communities and together educate themselves on local snackable moments that they can showcase on their website.

Start to implement stories from your Hotels community that will add value to the #BookDirect campaigns.

Your Hotels job will be to educate the community about the values of #BookDirect, and it is not enough just telling what the benefits are you have to showcase them.

When done right Social Media is a tool your Hotels can use to amplify the #BookDirect campaign.

Make it a positive campaign that focuses on real transparency and humanness.

I said it before that Hotel Marketing defines the marketplace, and Social Media Marketing defines the community. Use Social Media Marketing positively and effectively to build a community that helps you inform and educate the marketplace.

Earned media is what will make your Hotels #BookDirect campaigns thrive. Getting into a battle with online travel agencies will not help you educate the community. Most customers today simply don’t understand the real difference between a direct booking and a booking made through an online travel agency.

A customer that makes a reservation with an online travel agency will have the same expectations as a customer that makes a direct booking. If the guest has a crappy experience and leaves a negative review it doesn’t matter where the booking came from.

The experience comes first, never forget that!

I have recently read several articles about Airbnb has transformed and targeted their experience channel towards segments like graduate students. And students with their families from some of the larger Universities are now preferring Airbnb services.

In some areas, Airbnb has reported a 98 percent increase in revenue. Airbnb has through their community created new awareness around segments like commencement season.

#BookDirect is an opportunity to start embracing the opportunities to tap into uncontested market segments.

The initiative from my friend Mark and members of Hospitality Community is an important start. And as I have outlined in this article there are creative alternative solutions for Hotels to try on.

As a community, we will together make a difference that will help bring revenue back to the Hotels again. Let’s make it a fun and effective experience for everyone. Give value and you will receive value.

Maybe your next Hotel guest loves a unique experience with anaglyph glasses and popcorn.

If your Hotel need help to put it all together then make sure to let us know.


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About the author

Are Morch is the founder and owner of Are Morch – Hotel Marketing Coach. Get more from Are on Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Pinterest | Instagram| Podcast