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Now is the time to take control!

In the UK, we have all been celebrating recently with the news that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) are now investigating OTA’s and the illegal practices which we as an industry have been strangled and held hostage by for years.

Some of the big players – Booking.com; Agoda, Expedia and Trivago have all been told that they have until September to ‘play fair’. The CMA have cited 6 practices that will be investigated:

1 – OTA Choice Hotels – As we all know, these ‘preferred’ hotels have nothing to do with a great location, fantastic service or great product – top spots are down to OTA’s getting more commission. Now they have to be clear about that.

2 – The old chestnut of ‘there are 6 people looking at this hotel’ – we all know this isn’t true and that this messaging is there to try and ‘panic’ people into purchasing. Now the OTA’s have to either remove this or let people know that 6 people may be looking at this hotel but not for the date in question

3 – Booked 10 times in the last hour – again totally false and this has to be removed or customers need to be told that whilst this maybe a popular hotel, the 10 times it has been booked is most certainly not for the dates they need

4 – Adding ‘Sold Out’ hotels again to increase that feeling of panic. Frankly this is a despicable thing to do and I am delighted that they have been caught at this practice.

5 – Claiming that the price they offer is a HUGE discount of some fictional high price. Again we all know that this higher price could be related to a high season price or even a different room type (think of someone looking at a standard room in winter, compared to a suite in summer).

6 – Showing incorrect lead-in prices. This practice is where an OTA will take off a breakfast cost, VAT, taxes etc and present with a good old nett rate and then only add everything else back in when the customer is ready to hit the ‘pay now’ button. Of course this is not only unfair to the customer but if a customer is browsing even your brand site, these ‘lead prices’ will of course look cheaper than you are direct.

So the fact that the OTA’s are being investigated and have a few months to ‘shape up’ or be prosecuted is great news, of course it is. But my question is, what on earth as an industry are we doing about it?

My thoughts are that this is the absolute right time to up our game. We need to see this time as a weakness by suppliers that have throttled our industry for so long. Clever hoteliers will take the advantage and build on it.

Investigations like these are putting these unfair practices up-front-and-central with our customers so in my opinion, we should be building on that momentum.

As an industry we should be building on our marketing campaigns; making our Book Direct message really strong; ensuring that our pricing is perfect; building on loyalty campaigns; ensuring that we have the best inventory on brand site and most importantly communicating with our guests.

Get your messaging right and ensure that your front office team are well trained to deliver what you need. Collect those email addresses; change your check-in procedures to deliver a different message to OTA guests; build loyalty to your own brand; get the service right; listen to what your customers say about your product and honestly, up your game!

Now is the time to actually do something about the OTA’s. Make a determined effort to shift your customer’s thinking. We have a window of opportunity, let’s use it!

(and for help with your Book Direct strategy and all things revenue just ask@rightrevenue.wpengine.com)