When OTAs 'steal' the hotel's brand

Reading Time: 4 mins. 18/04/2018

OTAs not only charge very high commissions for selling hotel rooms, but take advantage from them to position themselves in search engines and metasearchers
As we have already explained in our pill Direct sales vs OTAs, 20% of the direct sales of a hotel come from users who have discovered the hotel in an OTA. But, what about those who already know the hotel? Well, 80% of these users will use a search engine to find information about the hotel, and of these, more than 90% will use google.
This is why getting the hotel's own website to be among the first search results in google is fundamental in the online marketing strategy of any hotelier.
Although all the efforts that we make to optimize the hotel’s web SEO and get to position it in the first position, they can be affected by the SEM strategies of third parties. And the fact is that OTAs not only charge very high percentages for selling hotel rooms, but take advantage of their brand to position themselves in search engines and metasearch engines.
As we can see in the following example, the hotel Es Princep from Palma de Mallorca has managed to optimize its website and position itself in the first position in organic searches, but we see how booking.com and expediause the brand 'Hotel Es Princep' to position themselves in the first and second place of the search, relegating the hotel's official website to third place.
This is where the OTAs do not add any value and the only thing they intend is to attract the maximum number of users to their platform, regardless of their origin. OTAs have always been sold to hoteliers as a platform that allows them to reach where the hotelier cannot reach, but in this case the user already knows the brand of the hotel and what the OTAs look for is to take over this client as well.
And appearing in the first position significantly affects the traffic of the hotel's website. As we can see in the following graph, for all the searches done in Google,there is a big difference in the ratio of clicks according to the position in which it appears.
Therefore, it is easy to say that Hotel Es Princep, after working to get a good brand image, a good positioning and a marketing strategy that makes their brand to be in the user’s minds when booking a hotel in Palma, they see how they go from a clicks ratio of 32% to 10% because third parties take advantage of all the work done by them, it does not sound fair right?
And as much as they say that deleting these ads will affect the hotel's distribution, it is totally false, because if these ads do not appear, the hotel's own website could appear in first position and, if it is based on a good web and a good booking engine, direct sales are practically assured through the direct channel.
We can assure that between 15% and 20% of booking.com's reservations come from this type of campaigns, therefore, we could say that booking.com is 'stealing' these reservations from the hotel since it uses their brand and its economic muscle to position itself in a privileged position, a situation where hotels have no option to compete at the investment level.
At the same time,it increases the costs of distribution of the hotels since many of them are not willing to accept that a third appears in a more favorable position, so they also invest in their own brand.
For all this, we recommend all hotels to request OTAs to remove the ads in which their own brand is used. The first step to achieve this is to register the trademark in order to legally demand that no third party can use it to advertise.
Surely they will excuse themselves and threaten saying that this will directly affect the sales of the hotel, but what they do not say is that it will affect the sales of them and that what will be achieved is to increase direct sales since, as we have said, with a good SEO strategy the hotel's own website will appear first position in the search engine and it will not affect the positioning within the OTA itself since it does not correspond to any of the criteria on which they are based for positioning.
It is clear that very few hoteliers want to lose position in the OTAs, but not because of this they must be forced to accept strategies that harm them. And, At the end, what booking.com and the rest of OTA is trying to avoid at all costs is that the hotelier realises that he needs their services much less than he thinks.