Hotels might finally be wresting back some control from OTAs.
After years of ceding ground to the online giants, hospitality’s online supplier-direct channel is now slightly outpacing OTA bookings, according to Phocuswright data. Last year, direct bookings accounted for around 49% of U.S. hotel and lodging online gross bookings, versus OTAs at 51%.
By 2022, Phocuswright predicts, direct bookings are on track to grow to a 50% share.
The turnaround follows a period of intense investment for many major hotel companies that have encouraged customers to book direct by beefing up loyalty programs, launching marketing campaigns and offering exclusive discounts or “best price” guarantees.
Though denied to OTAs, Hilton’s direct booking benefits extend to the travel agent channel, with guests able to take advantage of the same discounts and perks available via Hilton’s web-direct channels when booking with an agent.
Hilton’s efforts appear to be paying off. In the company’s recent fourth quarter earnings call, Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta told investors that over the past year, direct web bookings grew three times faster than other channels.
“We’re focused on driving direct relationships and direct business,” Nassetta said. “If you look at web-direct channels, they remain the fastest-growing channels we have and are growing at a much faster rate than OTA channels.”
He attributed the direct-booking surge in part to robust marketing efforts, including Hilton’s recent “Expect Better” ad campaign launched in September. Featuring actress Anna Kendrick, the campaign highlighted Hilton Honors loyalty program perks like discounts when booking direct online or through its mobile app and access to exclusive Hilton Honors experiences, among others.
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