Increase web presence to lure travellers rather than relying on travel portals
MUMBAI: With travellers increasingly using internet for researching hotel and travel-related information and bookings, hoteliers have started beefing up their online presence to connect directly with their customers rather than relying only on online travel portals.
Until now, hotels have been relying mostly on third-party aggregators like travel agents (TA) and online travel portals (OTP), besides generating business from in-house sales and marketing personnel.
“Hotels are aggressively marketing their properties online and making it a more attractive proposition for customers by giving best available rates on their respective websites. It makes lot of business sense as hotels can then offer much discounted room rates by passing on the commission benefits which they would have paid to third-party aggregators,” Milind Mody, chief executive officer of search engine optimisation company, eBrandz Inc, said.
Search engine optimisation includes increasing visibility of the website when a related search is keyed.
A case in point is the Kumarakom Lake Resort in Kerala, which saw sales rising after the management pursued the online marketing seriously.
“We used the search engine optimisation process to enhance our online presence and reach out to more and more travellers looking at internet for information. After initial 3-4 months of work, results started showing and enquiries over website saw a significant increase. We also incorporated the online booking facility simultaneously and have witnessed 94% increase in room nights from the website and 110% increase in room revenue,” said Asa Abraham, spokesperson for Kumarakom.
Of the 59 villas, KLR sells around 6 daily to both domestic and foreign travellers on their website. While the resort also gives out 5% of its inventory to third-party aggregators, the bookings on their website are double.
A large number of hotels and resorts taking to online bookings can be gauged by the growth witnessed by ResAvenue, a leading player in offering online booking software payment gateway to hotels.
There were around 300 hotels in FY 06-07 providing online bookings through ResAvenue payment gateway, which have now increased to 700 in FY 07-08, a 100% rise.
“Today travel is the biggest commodity sold online. There are approximately 7 billion potential guests online and around 58% of travellers obtain travel information directly from the internet. And 73% of online guests prefer to book directly via the hotel brand website,” said Anannya Datta, Indian director of contracting and procurement for Avenues India Pvt Ltd. There are over 500 Indian properties using the ResAvenue payment gateway, balance are international. ResAvenue claims to have clocked in a turnover of around $40 million and generated 60,000 room nights last year.
Experts say that with current economic downturn affecting travel industry, hoteliers will have to optimise online sales.
“In a market scenario like this where everyone is looking at cost rationalisation, internet marketing can prove to be a very effective tool for hoteliers to ensure higher occupancy. Putting room inventory on online aggregators is not the best solution. Instead of paying commissions on confirmed reservations hotels should use that money on building their brand online,” an hotelier said on condition of anonymity.
Mody of eBrandz feels that hotels should spend money on pay per click campaign. “This is important if hoteliers want international tourists. Each year our tourism ministry spends crores of rupees on ‘Incredible India’ campaign. The most common way international tourists find hotels is by using search engines. Hence hoteliers should spend money (especially in off-season) on PPC which helps them target visitors from specific countries,” said Mody.email@example.com