If you’re someone who pays attention to travel news, you may have seen recent references to the “Book Direct” movement…a movement that is picking up steam. It’s an campaign mounted primarily by small lodging businesses who find themselves losing in a pitched battle with Google and the online travel sites (Expedia, Booking.com, Trivago, TripAdvisor and their ilk…also referred to as OTA’s). The battle is over fair access to online marketing tools for presenting our lodging products and services. And our battle cry is “Book Direct”!
Most folks don’t realize how Google and the OTA’s have collaborated to do two things.
- First, by using ads (you’ll see them noted with the word “Ad” in a little box next to a link) they have captured the top, if not most, of the first page of most travel searches. They know that most consumers never make if further down the page to find the actual website(s) for the lodging option(s) they are looking for. By manipulating the search process in this manner, they make it easy to click an advertiser’s link vs. finding and clicking the link to an actual property website.
- Second, by using this strategy they are capturing reservations and, in turn, collecting EXPENSIVE commissions from small lodging establishments on reservations that might otherwise have been booked at the property website…bookings that would not have required payment of those commissions.
In order to pull this off they, they subtly lead consumers to believe they are actually booking at a property’s website when that is absolutely not the case. Most often, consumers are never aware of the deception and only discover what has happened when a change or cancellation becomes necessary. Looking to the property to solve an issue, they are surprised to hear that our only recourse is to direct them back to the OTA where they made their purchase. It is generally at this point when we hear “but I thought I WAS booking at your website”. And often times, dealing with an OTA to make a change or cancellation is a frustrating and time consuming process.
Our “Book Direct” campaign is designed to call out Google and the OTA’s for their business practices and to educate consumers about how EXPENSIVE those practices are for small lodging businesses…business that already struggle to survive against the competition from the large hotel chains. And it seems to be gaining traction. Consumers are taking note and some…but not all…of the OTA’s have agreed to stop misleading travelers.
What can you do to help? Well, in two words, make absolutely certain to always BOOK DIRECT! It might take a few seconds more to find a property’s website, but your effort WILL BE appreciated! And, it might be worth your while since working directly with a business owner could earn you a better rate or even an upgrade!
Won’t you PLEASE join our effort?