A short introduction: twenty years ago, when a new marketing channel for hotels – called the web – started to emerge, it came in handy for everybody to delegate sales to specialised agencies.
Amid walk-in customers, telephone bookings, agreements with tour operators and companies, the web was just a small share of the pie. Then the share grew to become a large portion of the pie.
Now, a new miscalculation seems to be impending.
Online agencies and other players are going beyond the notion of selling hotel overnight stays: they are pursuing a stronger and stronger relationship with guests. And it is not only about providing increasingly user-friendly websites. They want to establish a human relationship, once again superseding hotels.
As I said on other occasions, the hotel stay experience today should be viewed as one, seamlessly combining the online and offline environments. It is precisely in the online stay experience that web players are intent on eroding a great deal of the relationship between hotels and guests.
It is no news that our guests will rely on TripAdvisor to decide where to dine, and will often not inquire with the reception. But there are other signals in sight: Booking.com has started a programme, currently being tested in Amsterdam alone, to also sell museum tickets. Google, for its part, has just released a new app which allows to obtain information on tourist destinations by aggregating GMaps profiles.
I would imagine that some hotels may think: “Well, just a headache less to deal with, so we can focus on something else”. Others will say: “I know my guests and they will turn to me for any needs they have”. Either approach is not very far-sighted, and may endanger our customers’ trust.
In Milan, I met a hotel manager who did not know that public transport tickets can be bought by SMS, and experienced reception staff who did not know that the entrance to the Duomo is no longer free of charge.
In a world where tourism means living an experience, did we decide to only sell a bed with a nice hall and a sprinkle of revenue management?