But there are ways that your paid search strategy can help you to fight back.
OTAs and Metasearch
While at first glance these may appear to be the same, there are some important differences.
Online Travel Agent: An online platform where you can research and book - not just hotels and flights, but often also car hire, insurance, etc. This could be for a single-night stay, city break or two-week all-inclusive holiday - all in one place. OTAs rely on partners to provide them with inventory, such as blocks of rooms or seats to sell. Examples: Expedia, Booking.com, Lastminute.com.
Metasearch: Unlike OTAs, you don’t book via metasearch. A metasearch site will aggregate rates and information from a variety of channels (including OTAs, potentially) into a single location and then offer that up to users searching. A customer will click through to the partner’s website and book there, with the partner paying a fee to the aggregator (this could be on a cost-per-click basis, share of revenue, etc). The advantage that metasearch has is that it can look at more than the block of rooms that an OTA has been assigned; they have access to the entire inventory of the partners they work with - potentially allowing them to offer more options. Examples: Travel Supermarket, Skyscanner, Trivago.
If you’re an accommodation provider, having more places that offer your product sounds like a good thing. But many companies now have to rely on OTAs to move their inventory, while taking a big slice of margin. Things become even more complicated when you factor in competition from completely different platforms such as Airbnb, which is eroding the number of people considering traditional accommodation options.
Data from YouGov shows that when people plan their holiday accommodation, it’s only a minority who consider booking directly - whether that’s using a website (25.09%) or over the phone (10.64%).
If you are one of these accommodation providers, be it a boutique hotel or multi-national chain, how can you compete for direct bookings in an environment where everything appears stacked against you?
Here are Epiphany’s top tips for using your paid media budget and campaigns to help you stand out.