Metasearch is increasingly delivering ‘visibility’ and ‘direct bookings’ to independent properties, but third-party dependence and tech-adoption remain hurdles

The growth of metasearch and a shift to digital marketing activities, has helped independent lodging properties recover some lost ground when it comes to driving business online, new research shows. However, critical issues such as third-party dependence and tech-adoption barriers remain in place, according to the ‘Independent Lodging Properties and the Online Marketplace 2019’ produced by Phocuswright and global hotel metasearch provider trivago.

The whitepaper explores independent lodging properties in the current online marketplace across six key markets: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States of America and is based on an online survey of lodging executives in the five markets, undertaken in spring 2018.

It highlights clearly that metasearch is increasingly delivering both visibility and direct bookings to independent lodging properties, with a general shift to digital marketing activities also helping them recover some lost ground when it comes to driving business online.

It says that nearly two-thirds of independent properties now receive direct bookings from metasearch, and almost 90% intend to maintain or increase their use of metasearch for visibility and bookings in the future.

However, in the online environment, OTAs still play a very important role in most markets, with revenue shares for 2018 around at 39% in the US and 45% in Europe. Hoteliers’ understanding of the complexity of today’s online environment, as well as their use of the technology that can help level the playing field, remain constricted, the study found.

The study reinforces the value delivered by what have been pivotal changes in hospitality’s marketing and technology landscape in the last few years. This has seen metasearch become a more attractive direct marketing channel for hotels and helped hoteliers to diversify their marketing and distribution mix.

“With the digitalisation of the industry, we have seen independent hotels slow to adapt and struggle to compete as a result. This research sheds new light on the issue and delivers crucial insights into the challenges and technology-adoption barriers keeping hoteliers from succeeding online,” explains Johannes Thomas, managing director and chief revenue officer at trivago NV.

The study shows that the majority of independent lodging properties surveyed reported generating most of their business through online channels: 79% and 69% in the US and Europe respectively, up from 59% and 63% in 2015.

Metasearch has emerged as an important digital channel for driving direct bookings for independent hotels, generating significant proportions (13% in the US and 12% in Europe) of their total online room revenue. Of the hoteliers surveyed, 60% rated metasearch as a very or most effective marketing channel and 42% stated they intend to use it more in the future for distribution.

Despite the improved online performance in the sector, dependence on third-party sales is still high, especially in the UK market where OTA sales account for over 50% of independent properties’ online room revenue, according to the findings.

The study found that growing costs of third-party reservations is hoteliers’ biggest marketing and distribution concern overall and that better use of technology to increase direct bookings can help mitigate this threat; but with 46% of respondents saying systems are too expensive, 40% citing they lack time to evaluate tools, and 35% admitting to not being aware of available options, scaling technology adoption remains a challenge.

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