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Will Meta-Search Push More Travelers to Book Rooms Directly on a Hotel's Website? (by Melodye Jung)

As technology advances in our society, it creates a myriad of changes that help improve people’s everyday lives.  A particular advancement, the creation of the Internet, has proven to be essential to the success of the hospitality industry.  It efficiently tracks, records, and provides information in a matter of minutes when it would have taken hours to do it manually.  

In the past, people normally went to travel agents and spoke to them in person to arrange their trip.  When the Internet was created, travel agents took their business to the Internet.  Guests were happy to make the switch; after all, it was more convenient for them to book their travel online than in person.  Realizing that guests could book directly from the hotel’s website instead of from OTAs (Online Travel Agents such as Expedia.com), hotels have long tried to persuade guests to book through their own website.  After all, why pay someone else to do the job when you can do it yourself?

Today, everything is easily accessible through the web.  It has assisted many guests with searching for rooms, looking up reviews, and booking rooms.  Hotels have particularly made it very easy to book rooms through their own websites.  They provide information about all the different types of rooms, discounts and rates, amenities, and etc. that a guest would look for when booking a room.  Not only is the website informative, but it was also aesthetically designed to streamline the reservation process without a whole lot of hassle.  Though as convenient as it is to a book room directly from the hotel’s website, some guests have continued to use OTAs to book their rooms for their own personal reasons.

Now, with the help of meta-search, OTAs may finally disappear.  Max Starkox, president and founder of HeBS digital, believes that meta-search will encourage more consumers to book rooms through the hotel’s direct online channel instead of going through OTAs.  He claims that meta-search will “improve the value proposition to online travel consumers” by providing real-time availability and rate comparisons (Starkov).  With real-time availability and rate comparisons on hand, consumers can readily decide whether to book the room or not, because they can see how many rooms are left at the current price.  Starkov believes that by providing these two additional pieces of information in addition to having hotel location, hotel information, and customer reviews, meta-search provides all the information that a guest would ever need in order to make a well-informed decision on when and where to book a room.   With everything laid out for the consumers on the hotel’s website, people won’t need to use OTAs to find better deals.  People won’t also need to depend on OTAs’ expertise to book a nice room, since they’ll be fully equipped with the all the information that they need to make the right choice.

It’s no surprise that people today are all about having the facts instantly.  The Internet has changed how people gather and process information.  Companies in the hospitality industry must adapt and change to best meet the needs of its consumers in order to be successful.  As meta-search becomes more prevalent, it will change the way hotels market and price their rooms.  With real-time availability and pricing information available for customers to see, hotels may see the rise of dynamic price marketing in the hospitality industry within this year.  If hotels implemented dynamic price marketing in their marketing campaigns, the way hotels advertise their rooms will change.  Rather than posting a message of “Our weekend get-away package starts at $159,” the advertisement might read like “Four rooms left for $135 a night, get them while you can!"

Though I believe that meta-search will cause a significant drop in the use of OTAs to book hotel rooms, I don’t think that OTAs will completely disappear.  As many people as there are who avid  Internet users, there are still quite a few people who don’t use the hotel’s website to book rooms.  Seniors and other people may simply stick to OTAs, because they trust in the OTAs expertise.  There are some people who are just not aware of all the hotel brands in their particular area.  OTA’s can help them shorten the search and find a better fit for the consumers.  Others may stick to OTAs simply out of loyalty after using them for a long period of time.  Either way, OTAs will find a new way to market itself so that it can maintain its current consumers.  It will be interesting to see how OTAs will respond to the emergence of meta-search.

Do you think meta-search will completely eliminate the consumers’ need for OTAs?  Should hotels implement meta-search into their websites?  How will real-time availability affect the hotels’ advertising campaigns?

References:  
Starkov, Max. “4 Multi-Faceted Ways That Meta-Search Can, and Must, Help Hotels Take On the OTAs”. Hotel Online. N.p 11 Apr. 2014. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.

About the Author
Melodye Jung is an undergraduate student in Hotel and Restaurant Management at California State Polytechnic University of Pomona.  Her emphasis is on Event Planning.  Since her first year in college, she has been very active on campus.  Listed on the Dean’s and President’s Honor List, she has continued to pursue academic excellence while holding several leadership positions on campus.  After graduation, Melodye would like to move back to the Bay Area and pursue an MBA in Management.

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