ICHM’s aspirational hotel managers were in their seats early on 14 August, keen to hear Dr O’Connor’s presentation, ‘Online Hotel Distribution: Will the Chaos Clear or Continue?’
‘It depends!’ was the catchcry of the presentation, in which Dr O’Connor explored the role and importance of online distribution in the successful running of a hotel in today’s complex, competitive and highly dynamic online environment.
‘Firstly, it’s about real estate and how to maximise return on investment; and secondly marketing and distribution so that customers find your property and can make a booking easily.’
It became clear throughout Dr O’Connor’s fast-paced presentation that distribution is a battleground, with hotels fighting against online travel agents (OTA's). And there is no doubt that OTA's - such as Expedia, booking.com and cTrip - are winning the war.
Dr O’Connor says that hoteliers need an online distribution strategy, and there is a massive opportunity for motivated employees with the right knowledge and skills sets to capitalise on the ever-changing search habits of consumers.
‘Given that an ever-increasing proportion of a hotel’s business flows through electronic channels, it is essential that hotels understand where these bookings come from and the systems that back them, as well as the relative strengths and limitations of alternative points of sale.
‘The right competencies to be able to manipulate and optimise bookings from these channels are in high demand.’
And whether a property should look to OTA's or market direct to the customer? ‘It depends!’
‘It’s more expensive to drive a booking through a hotel chain than an OTA, and the answer appears to be a combination of both, with properties working with OTAs and at the same time leveraging their own online presence to get more direct bookings.
‘However, content is the key, and it needs all of the elements that contribute to converting a search into a booking and, potentially, the capacity to upsell.‘
Some statistics mentioned:
Dr O’Connor’s is Chaired Professor of Digital Disruption at Essec Business School, France, and Director of the school’s MBA in Hospitality Management.
His research, teaching and consulting interests centre on technology, distribution, e-commerce and e-marketing, particularly applied to the hospitality sector.
Dr O’Connor has held visiting positions at the Cornell Hotel School and his roles within the hospitality sector range from luxury hotels to contract food services.
He recently launched the first MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) on Hotel Distribution Revenue & Demand Management.
He is highly sought after as a speaker at industry events internationally, and is the first of a number of guest speakers to visit campus to present to students this semester.