Loyalty and hospitality: Taking on the OTAs at their own game
By Scott Dahl, Senior Lecturer at Ecole hôteliere de Lausanne
After years of complaining about online travel agencies (OTAs) and how they have inserted themselves in the relationship with their customers, most major hotel brands have identified loyalty programs as the tool to re-engage directly with their customers, but for many of the industry's owners and operators, their efforts so far fall short of the goal.
Basically, as an industry, we are once again forcing our guests to change their behavior, versus making them want to, and all to get a discount, as if we are somehow going to beat the OTAs at the game they invented. Many of the seasoned hotel people I speak to feel we never will. One poignantly stated, "Let's face it. The OTAs build websites and we carve ice."
They also say all is not lost and agree that loyalty is likely the key. As one of the hoteliers stated: "In the face of all this technology, we have to reconnect with the fact that we are innkeepers. When a customer eats breakfast at my Marriott, every Marriott hotel in the world has the opportunity to know what that person likes to eat for breakfast. Expedia does not." He went on to say: "Consumers are loyal to value, not just price. Hotels have to win by knowing them better and caring about them. Think about it in terms of your own loyalty. You might go out of your way to save a little on a tank of gas, but you'll practically kill yourself for a true friend."
Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne
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