A Comprehensive Guide to Hotel Distribution Strategies

When it comes to running a successful hotel, distribution strategies play a crucial role in attracting customers and increasing revenue. In today’s digital age, it is more important than ever for hotels to have effective distribution strategies in place.

In this guide, we will discuss the different types of distribution channels available to hotels and how they can be utilised to maximise bookings. We will also highlight the importance of a channel manager, a strong online presence and how it can impact your distribution strategy.

Exploring Distribution Channels for Hotels

Hotels have several distribution channels through which they can reach potential guests. Understanding these channels is crucial for maximising bookings and revenue. Let’s explore the primary distribution channels available to hotels:

Direct Bookings

Direct bookings occur when guests reserve their accommodations directly through the hotel’s website, over the phone, or via email. This channel offers hotels more control over the booking process and allows them to build direct relationships with customers. Utilising various digital marketing strategies and offering incentives can help hotels drive more direct bookings.

Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)

OTAs are third-party booking platforms like Booking.com, Expedia, and Airbnb. They provide a wide reach and access to a large pool of potential guests. While OTAs charge commissions, they can significantly expand a hotel’s online visibility and attract guests who prefer the convenience of using these platforms.

Global Distribution Systems (GDS)

GDSs are reservation networks that enable travel agents and online booking platforms to access hotel inventory and make reservations. Examples of GDSs include Amadeus, Sabre, and Travelport. Participating in GDSs can enhance a hotel’s visibility within the travel agency community and attract corporate travellers who rely on travel agents to book accommodations.

It’s important for hotels to carefully manage their presence across these distribution channels to optimise occupancy rates, maximise revenue, and maintain a balanced distribution mix. Each channel comes with its own set of advantages and considerations, and finding the right balance among them is key to a successful distribution strategy.

By strategically leveraging these distribution channels, hotels can effectively reach, attract, and retain guests while optimising their overall revenue.

Table of Contents

Negotiating Favourable Terms with OTAs

Negotiating favourable terms with Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) is essential for hoteliers seeking to optimise profitability and maintain a competitive position in the market. Here are some effective tactics for negotiating commission rates and terms with OTAs:

  1. Demonstrate Value: Highlight the unique value proposition of your property, such as its distinctive amenities, positive guest reviews, or strategic location. Emphasising what sets your property apart can provide leverage during negotiations, potentially justifying a lower commission rate.
  2. Volume Commitments: If you have multiple properties or a considerable inventory to offer, you may be able to negotiate better commission rates based on the volume of business you can bring to the OTA. This approach allows you to leverage your scale for more favourable terms.
  3. Seasonal Flexibility: Negotiate for flexible commission rates that vary by season or demand fluctuations. For instance, you could propose lower commissions during off-peak periods to ensure that you maintain profitability throughout the year.
  4. Value-Added Services: Offer additional services or packages exclusively through the OTA platform to incentivise them to consider a more competitive commission rate. This could include exclusive promotions, bundled offerings, or unique experiences tailored to their audience.
  5. Performance Incentives: Propose a performance-based commission structure tied to specific booking milestones or revenue targets. By aligning incentives with the OTA’s goals, you create a win-win scenario where both parties benefit from increased performance.
  6. Rate Parity Considerations: While negotiating, be mindful of maintaining rate parity across all distribution channels to avoid potential conflicts and maintain a fair playing field for all partners.

By utilising these tactics and approaching negotiations strategically, hoteliers can seek to secure more favourable terms with OTAs while maximising profitability and maintaining a competitive edge in the dynamic online travel marketplace.

Implementing Calendar Synchronisation

So why is calendar synchronisation important for hotels? Simply put, this feature allows hotels to manage their availability and rates across multiple distribution channels from a single platform. This not only minimises the risk of overbooking but also ensures consistent pricing and inventory management.

Implementing calendar synchronisation can also help hotels maintain rate parity and avoid conflicts with OTAs. It provides real-time updates across all channels, ensuring that the same rates and availability are displayed to potential guests, regardless of the platform they use.

To make calendar synchronisation even more effective, hotels should regularly update their inventory and rates across all channels. This includes adjusting rates according to demand fluctuations, updating room availability after cancellations or modifications, and keeping track of rate disparities across platforms. This can be done easily by using a channel manager or property management software.

Evaluating OTA Partnerships

When evaluating OTA (Online Travel Agency) partnerships, it’s important to consider various factors to determine their suitability for your business. Here are some key aspects to assess:

  1. Audience Demographics: Evaluate the OTA’s audience demographics to ensure they align with your target market. Look for platforms that reach your desired customer segments in terms of age, income, travel preferences, and interests.
  2. Commission Structures: Analyse the commission structures offered by different OTAs. Consider the balance between the commission rates and the potential for increased bookings and exposure. Some OTAs may charge higher commissions but provide access to a larger audience, while others may offer lower commissions with more targeted marketing options.
  3. Brand Compatibility: Assess how well your brand fits with the OTA’s platform and marketing approach. Ensure that your property or service aligns with the overall branding and positioning of the OTA to maximise the partnership’s effectiveness.
  4. Booking Volume and Reach: Evaluate the OTA’s reach and booking volume. A larger OTA with a significant market share may justify higher commission rates due to the potential for increased bookings and visibility.
  5. Technology and Integration: Consider the ease of integration with your existing systems and the technology tools provided by the OTA. Seamless integration can streamline operations and enhance the overall guest experience.
  6. Marketing and Promotional Opportunities: Explore the OTA’s marketing and promotional opportunities, such as featured listings, targeted advertising, and promotional campaigns. These can significantly impact your visibility and bookings on the platform.

By thoroughly examining these factors, you can make informed decisions regarding OTA partnerships that best suit your business goals and target audience.

Diversifying Distribution Channels

When it comes to diversifying distribution channels for your travel business, exploring alternative options beyond OTAs can be a strategic move. Here are some alternative distribution channels to consider:

  1. Direct Bookings: Empower your business by promoting direct bookings through your own website. This allows you to build a direct relationship with customers, retain more revenue per booking, and have full control over the booking process and customer experience.
  2. Metasearch Engines: Consider partnering with metasearch engines such as Google Hotel Ads, TripAdvisor, or Trivago. These platforms allow users to compare prices from various OTAs and direct booking channels, giving you exposure to travellers who prefer using these comparison tools.
  3. Niche Travel Websites and Blogs: Identify niche travel websites and blogs that cater to your target audience. Collaborating with these platforms through sponsored content, affiliate marketing, or direct partnerships can help you reach specific segments of travellers who might not be reached through traditional OTAs.
  4. Local Tourism Boards and Associations: Establish partnerships with local tourism boards and associations to tap into regional marketing efforts and gain exposure to travellers seeking authentic and unique experiences in specific destinations.
  5. Corporate Travel Agencies and Consortia: Explore partnerships with corporate travel agencies and consortia to capture business travellers and corporate clients who may prefer a more personalised approach to booking accommodations and services.

By diversifying your distribution channels beyond OTAs, you can expand your reach, gain more control over your bookings, and tailor your marketing efforts to specific customer segments.

Leveraging Technology

Leveraging technology plays a pivotal role in optimizing distribution channels within the travel industry. Here’s an overview of how various technological tools enhance distribution channel management:

  1. Property Management Systems (PMS): PMS platforms streamline operations by centralizing reservation management, guest profiles, and room inventory. They facilitate seamless integration with distribution channels, enabling real-time updates on availability, rates, and bookings across multiple platforms. By leveraging PMS integrations, properties can efficiently manage their distribution strategy while minimising the risk of overbooking or discrepancies in room availability.
  2. Channel Managers: These systems act as intermediaries between PMS platforms and online distribution channels, synchronising inventory, rates, and restrictions across various OTAs, GDS (Global Distribution Systems), and direct booking channels. Channel managers automate the process of updating information, ensuring consistency and accuracy across multiple platforms. This automation not only reduces manual errors but also empowers properties to maximize their visibility and revenue potential by efficiently managing their presence on diverse channels.
  3. Revenue Management Software: Advanced revenue management software utilizes data analytics and demand forecasting to optimise pricing and inventory decisions. By incorporating historical booking patterns, market demand, competitor pricing, and other relevant factors, these systems help properties adjust their rates dynamically across different distribution channels to capture the highest possible revenue. Additionally, they provide insights into booking trends and performance across various channels, enabling informed decision-making and strategic adjustments to the distribution mix.

Incorporating these technologies into a property’s distribution strategy enables efficient management of rates, availability, and bookings across diverse channels. This not only optimises revenue potential but also enhances operational efficiency, allowing properties to focus on delivering exceptional guest experiences while maximising their market reach.

Analysing Revenue Performance

Analysing revenue performance across distribution channels is crucial for optimising marketing efforts and maximising overall profitability. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of each channel and help guide strategic decision-making. Here are some essential KPIs for monitoring revenue performance:

  1. Revenue per Available Room (RevPAR): This KPI measures a hotel’s ability to generate revenue from its available rooms. By calculating RevPAR for each distribution channel, businesses can assess the contribution of various channels to overall revenue and identify opportunities for improvement.
  2. Average Daily Rate (ADR): ADR reflects the average revenue earned for each occupied room in a given time period. Analysing ADR across different distribution channels helps determine which channels yield the highest average returns and informs pricing strategies.
  3. Occupancy Rate: The occupancy rate indicates the percentage of available rooms that are occupied within a specific timeframe. Monitoring occupancy rates by distribution channel provides insights into demand patterns and the effectiveness of channel-specific marketing efforts.
  4. Cost of Acquisition: This KPI evaluates the cost associated with acquiring customers through different distribution channels. It considers marketing expenses, commissions, and operational costs, helping businesses assess the efficiency and profitability of each channel.
  5. Direct Booking Percentage: Tracking the percentage of direct bookings compared to bookings through OTAs and other third-party channels provides insight into the effectiveness of direct marketing efforts and the potential for reducing reliance on high-commission channels.
  6. Return on Advertising Spend (ROAS): ROAS measures the revenue generated for every dollar spent on advertising. Calculating ROAS for each distribution channel helps evaluate the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and advertising investments.

By monitoring these KPIs across distribution channels, businesses can identify trends, allocate resources effectively, and optimise marketing efforts to maximise revenue and profitability. These insights also inform strategic decisions regarding channel mix, pricing strategies, and marketing investments.

Implementing Direct Booking Initiatives

Implementing direct booking initiatives requires a strategic approach to incentivize customers to book directly through your website. Here are some effective strategies for encouraging direct bookings:

  1. Loyalty Programs: Launch a loyalty program that rewards repeat guests with exclusive benefits, such as room upgrades, discounts on future stays, or complimentary services. By offering unique perks to loyal customers, you can motivate them to bypass third-party channels and book directly to take advantage of these rewards.
  2. Exclusive Offers: Create special offers and packages that are exclusively available to guests who book directly through your website. These could include discounted rates, added amenities, or bundled experiences that are not accessible through OTAs. Highlighting the value of these exclusive offers can entice customers to book directly to access these benefits.
  3. Personalised Marketing Campaigns: Leverage customer data to personalize marketing campaigns and communications. Tailor promotional emails, retargeting ads, and website messaging to offer personalised incentives based on a guest’s past booking history, preferences, or behaviours. Personalisation creates a sense of exclusivity and makes customers feel valued, increasing the likelihood of direct bookings.
  4. Best Rate Guarantee: Instil confidence in potential guests by offering a best rate guarantee for direct bookings. Assure customers that they will receive the most competitive rates by booking directly, backed by a promise to match or beat any lower rates found elsewhere. This not only encourages direct bookings but also builds trust with your audience.
  5. Transparent Value Proposition: Clearly communicate the advantages of booking directly on your website, such as flexibility in room selection, access to specific room types, direct communication with the property, and potential savings on additional fees charged by OTAs. Highlighting the unique value proposition of direct bookings can sway customers in favor of this option.

By implementing these strategies, you can cultivate a stronger direct booking channel, reduce reliance on high-commission OTAs, and build lasting relationships with customers who value the benefits of booking directly with your property.

Mitigating Risks

Mitigating risks associated with distribution strategies is essential for maintaining a balanced and sustainable revenue ecosystem. Here are strategies to address common risks:

  1. Rate Parity Issues:
  • Implement robust rate parity monitoring systems to ensure consistent pricing across all distribution channels. Utilise rate shopping tools and automated monitoring to promptly identify and rectify any parity discrepancies.
  • Communicate proactively with OTAs and other distribution partners to address rate disparities and ensure compliance with rate parity agreements.
  1. Over-dependency on OTAs:
  • Diversify the distribution mix by investing in direct booking initiatives, such as personalised marketing campaigns, loyalty programs, and exclusive offers to incentivise direct bookings.
  • Develop a comprehensive multi-channel strategy that includes direct booking channels, corporate partnerships, and niche distribution platforms to reduce reliance on any single source of bookings.
  1. Regulatory Challenges:
  • Stay informed about evolving regulations and legal requirements in the hospitality industry, especially those related to distribution and online sales. Seek legal counsel or regulatory experts to ensure compliance with local and international laws.
  • Establish proactive communication with regulatory authorities and industry associations to stay abreast of policy changes and advocate for fair and transparent distribution practices.

By addressing these risks, properties can foster a more resilient and balanced distribution strategy, reducing exposure to potential pitfalls while maximising revenue opportunities.

Long-Term Sustainability

Sustainable distribution strategies are paramount for long-term growth and resilience in the rapidly evolving landscape of the hospitality industry. Here’s a discussion on the importance of sustainable distribution strategies:

  1. Reduced Dependency on Third-Party Channels: A sustainable distribution strategy aims to reduce over-reliance on high-commission third-party channels, fostering a more balanced and cost-effective revenue mix. By prioritising direct bookings and cultivating direct relationships with customers, properties can mitigate the impact of fluctuating commission structures and market dynamics.
  2. Enhanced Customer Relationships: Direct booking initiatives, personalised marketing campaigns, and loyalty programs foster stronger connections with guests, leading to repeat business, positive word-of-mouth referrals, and higher customer lifetime value. Sustainable distribution strategies prioritise the long-term relationships with customers over short-term gains, resulting in more stable and predictable revenue streams.
  3. Flexibility and Adaptability: Sustainable distribution strategies emphasize adaptability to changing market conditions and consumer behaviours. This includes the ability to swiftly adjust pricing strategies, distribution channels, and marketing tactics in response to industry shifts and competitive pressures.
  4. Cost Efficiency and Profitability: By optimising distribution channels and minimising reliance on costly intermediaries, properties can improve cost efficiency and preserve profitability. Sustainable distribution strategies seek to maximise revenue capture while minimising distribution costs, thus safeguarding the financial health of the business over the long term.
  5. Compliance and Ethical Practices: Sustainable distribution strategies prioritise compliance with industry regulations, ethical business practices, and fair treatment of distribution partners. This fosters trust and credibility within the industry, reducing the risk of legal and reputational issues that can undermine long-term sustainability.
  6. Innovation and Technology Integration: Embracing innovative distribution technologies and strategic partnerships enables properties to stay ahead of the curve and adapt to emerging trends. Sustainable distribution strategies involve continuous evaluation of new distribution platforms, marketing tools, and guest engagement technologies to remain competitive in the evolving landscape.
  7. Environmental and Social Responsibility: Sustainable distribution strategies align with broader environmental and social responsibility initiatives, reflecting the values of modern travelers who seek eco-friendly and socially conscious accommodations. This can include partnerships with sustainable travel platforms, carbon offset programs, and community engagement efforts.

In conclusion, sustainable distribution strategies are essential for long-term growth and resilience as they prioritise customer relationships, cost efficiency, adaptability, compliance, innovation, and environmental responsibility. By embracing sustainable distribution practices, properties can navigate the challenges of an evolving industry landscape and position themselves for sustained success.

In summary, a strategic approach to distribution is crucial in the ever-changing hospitality industry, and sustainability must be at the heart of this strategy. Emphasising reduced dependency on intermediaries, forging enduring guest relationships, and adapting to market changes are central to longevity and financial stability. Additionally, maintaining cost efficiency, adhering to regulations, leveraging technology, and operating responsibly are not just ethical imperatives but also business necessities. The successful integration of these elements into a hotel’s distribution strategy represents a comprehensive path toward resilience, profitability, and competitive advantage. Ultimately, a hotel that can balance its immediate financial objectives with long-term sustainability considerations will be best positioned to thrive in the global hospitality marketplace.

Further Reading About OTAs

 

How To List Your Property on Airbnb

Airbnb is a popular online platform for short-term rental accommodations. If you are looking to list your property on Airbnb, this step-by-step Airbnb guide will walk you through the process and provide tips for maximising your listing’s success.

 

How To List Your Property on TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor is a well-known travel review website that also offers booking options for accommodations. Listing your property on TripAdvisor can help increase visibility and bookings. Check out this step-by-step guide to listing your property on TripAdvisor.

 

How To List Your Property on Booking.com

Booking.com is a leading online travel agency for hotel reservations. Listing your property on Booking.com can help reach a global audience and attract more bookings. This step-by-step guide will walk you through the process of listing your property on Booking.com.

 

How To List Your Property on Agoda

Agoda is a popular online travel platform that connects travellers with accommodations around the world. If you want to list your property on Agoda, our step-by-step guide will help you get started and make the most of your listing.

 

How To List Your Property on Trip.com

Trip.com is a Chinese online travel agency that offers booking options for hotels and other accommodations. If you want to list your property on Trip.com, this detailed guide will lead you through each stage, offering advice on boosting exposure and securing reservations.

 

How To List Your Property on Expedia

Expedia is a popular online travel platform that offers booking options for hotels, flights, and other travel services. Listing your property on Expedia can help attract more bookings from a global audience. This step-by-step guide will walk you through the process of listing your property on Expedia.

 

How To List Your Property on Hotels.com

Hotels.com is a leading online platform for hotel reservations. Listing your property on Hotels.com can help increase bookings and reach a global audience. This step-by-step guide will walk you through the process of listing your property on Hotels.com, including tips and best practices for maximising your listing’s success.

 

How To List Your Property on a GDS: A Step-by-Step Guide

Global Distribution Systems (GDS) are computerised reservation systems used by travel agents and online booking platforms to access real-time information and make reservations for flights, hotels, car rentals, and other travel services. Listing your property on a GDS can help increase visibility and attract bookings from travel agents worldwide. Our step-by-step guide will walk you through the process of listing your property on a GDS and provide tips for maximising your presence within this distribution channel.

 

How To List Your Property on VRBO: A Step-by-Step Guide

VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) is an online platform for listing and booking vacation rental properties. If you want to list your property on VRBO, this step-by-step guide will help you get started and make the most of your listing. It includes tips for optimising your listing, managing reservations, and leveraging VRBO’s marketing tools to attract more guests.

About the author

Kendra, the Marketing Content Manager at Preno, brings her expertise in Marketing and Communications to help hoteliers stay ahead of the curve. With a deep passion for the industry, she is committed to providing valuable insights and strategies for success.

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