The discussion around the pros and cons of rate parity has been around for almost a decade now. Regulations on the issue are, at best, patchy, with some countries where RP clauses are strictly prohibited (such as France, Austria, Italy, and Belgium), partially prohibited (Germany and Sweden), announced (Switzerland), or still unregulated (US and Latin America). With lower volumes of booking coming from OTAs during the pandemic, moreover, the debate about rate parity became even more heated: some properties decided to work in wide rate parity to avoid OTAs' dimming and improve their online visibility at the expenses of direct revenue, while other ones preferred to openly break rate parity on their top-performing channels. Both the OTAs and major hotel brands complicated the issue even further when they began offering out of parity “member only” rates, hidden behind an easily obtained loyalty program password. With so many different approaches and fragmented regulations, how should hotels deal with rate parity, especially after the whole industry has been severely hit by COVID-19?
Similar to asking a chef to grill a steak “well done”, I'd argue that it's not because you can do something that you should. I recommend looking at the rate parity issue with a customer-centric perspective. On Google Travel the different rates offered on all platforms are visible for the world to see. From a guest's point of view a big difference between rates on various platforms gives a bizarre first impression. We all know the hotel experience starts well before arrival at the looking/booking stage so let's make it a good one from the get-go!
Being professionally focused on Meetings & Events Revenue Management, I'd like to emphasise the crucial times we are in with hotel function space distribution. More and more we see OTA-like platforms arise for function space bookings. The OTA's took off by a storm but knowing what you know now you have the opportunity to think strategically about the approach you like to take this time around. The evolution will be rather similar. Do you put your inventory online? If so, will it be the full inventory? Will you work with third parties, your own website or a mix? You are in full control.