The meetings segment of the global hotel industry is a particularly nuanced business where hoteliers are on the precipice of change. Digital bookings are slowly becoming expected and stakeholders have the opportunity right now to mould new habits.

The hotel meetings industry is ripe for digitisation. Customers not only want but expect to see real-time availability and to be able to book online instantly with the brands they trust.

The order in which management creates this more holistic booking ecosystem of direct and third-party channels matters. It is prudent to first introduce a direct online booking platform and then list meeting rooms and event spaces on a selection of intermediaries at a later date.

How does this approach lead to lower distribution costs?

Because launching direct online booking first gives hotels the time and breathing space to encourage their existing customers to book directly, and capture their data for the future, at zero cost. Hotels can take control. Once these loyal customers have been safeguarded, hotels can then safely list on OTAs to reach new customers and secure top-up bookings.

The risk in the burgeoning meetings industry is that if hotels start to list their facilities on OTAs first, they are gifting their existing loyal customers to intermediaries, losing control of their customer base, and creating habits in which direct is the last frontier in the booking journey. The distribution cost is only worth it once a direct channel, and loyal customer data, is secured.

Intermediaries are already launching services for meetings, but integrating these services ahead of investing in direct booking channels would be a short-term gain and hotels will pay much higher distribution costs over the long term.

“Hotels should safeguard existing customers first; otherwise, they risk a future where, in three years’ time, the majority of their meetings customers come through OTAs.” BookingTek CEO Matthew Stubbs explains.

“That’s when commission fees start to rise, and hotels become dependent on a channel they have no control over.”

Direct booking and OTAs will both play an important role in the meetings booking economy. The key is for hotels to get the order right. Direct bookings must take precedence, and launching a direct booking platform first is absolutely essential to lower distribution costs for their meetings business in the future.

Out with RFPs and lengthy negotiations. In with efficient booking and a refined customer experience.

To learn more, download the white paper 5 Steps to Lower Distribution Costs & Drive Meeting Bookings here. To learn more about BookingTek and how we can help your hotel achieve a holistic booking strategy, contact sales@bookingtek.com.