3rd February is the International BookDirect Guest Education Day.
Hospitality owners around the World are coming together to promote the #BookDirect message and explain to potential guests the advantages of booking directly with owners, rather than through one of the huge Online Travel Agents (OTAs) such as Booking.com, Expedia, Airbnb or Tripadvisor, many subsidiaries under the same offshore ownership. This applies from your smallest B&B to the larger hotel chains.
What’s the problem with big Online Travel Agents?
While OTAs provide a quick, convenient search and booking service, they can become a habit, More people, aware of the anticompetitive nature of OTAs, are using their listings, but then spending a few moments to finding the owners directly online. Most have an online presence (their own webpage, Instagram or Facebook).
OTAs charge property owners up to 20% for every booking and some add a substantial service fee for the guest to pay. Subject to any changes in policy, these can include Airbnb, Homeaway and VRBO. In total this could be 25% more in commissions and fees via an OTA rather than booking directly with the property. Inevitably, these costs are being passed on the consumer. This is money that goes into the offshore accounts of OTAs rather than being invested in the local economy where you are staying. Millions in revenue are lost to local economies through bookings done in the same country. If you live in the Republic of Ireland, why would book through an OTA for accommodation in Ireland?
Let’s be honest, OTAs cannot claim to offer cheaper accommodation than that available from the people providing it. It is misleading advertising. They do not own the properties being advertised, they only market them. Having established a dynamic web presence and good reputation, you will no longer find Ballynoe House on any commission-based website.
OTAs do mislead potential guests and have been exposed for giving inferior ranking in search results if the property has a cheaper price quoted elsewhere or if the owners aren’t paying extra fees to rank highly. The UK Competition and Markets Authority launched an investigation in 2018 after it became concerned that OTAs were using pressure tactics and “giving a false impression of a property’s popularity”. This practice has been banned in many EU countries and the OTAs are supposed to be applying the changes to all EU countries where they advertise.
Many small accommodation providers feel obliged to use OTAs, who have enormous advertising budgets and can therefore reach far more widely than they can on their own. Some guests can feel more reassured by booking through a large company or prefer to book all their accommodation through one site for convenience. It is time to think differently.
Why should I Book Direct?
OTAs are formulaic and limited in what they can provide in terms of property descriptions. Direct contact with owners allows you to ask any questions you may have before you book. At Ballynoe House, we can tell you more about the guesthouses and the area to be sure that this is the right property for your needs. Also seasonal variation and events means this information is often not available through the OTAs. Why not enjoy a personal service in making your holiday plans?
Accommodation providers may be able to offer certain extras to make your stay even more special (for e.g. early/late check-ins, pre-arranged supplies for your arrival), and many do if you opt to book direct with them. Often discounts are available at hotel chains if you #BookDirect.
OTAs don’t protect you any more than booking directly with most accommodation providers. In fact, you’ll get a better customer service experience by booking direct as we always make sure your stay is as customised and enjoyable as possible.
What can I do?
By all means search to OTAs listing, but find the provider on their own website. Book direct for any accommodation you trust, whenever you can. Quality providers will have a standard contract of “no nonsense” Terms & Conditions.
It is even more important during these uncertain times not to have middle men involved in your holiday plans. Encourage others to do likewise.
When you get a great experience by booking directly, tell the world! Share the message on social media using the #BookDirect hashtag.
Thank you for booking direct. Small accommodation providers need your support more than ever.