As the world of hotel online bookings moves forward at a furious pace, it has become harder to track changes and innovations. Equally importantly, it is hard to know which of these ideas will be here to stay and which one should we put our energies towards.
Is there a way to figure this out? A recent trend briefing from Trendwatching.com provided a useful perspective – “Why watching businesses, not customers, is the counter-intuitive secret to anticipating what people will want next!”
I found this really relevant for our industry grappling with change. But the most important takeaway for me was looking for clusters.
“You can see new consumer trends emerging when you look at clusters of innovations that are leveraging change to address a basic human need in a new way.”
So applying this to the online hotel booking industry, there are some clusters which caught my eye. Here they are in no particular order.
1. Auction websites
There is something about setting your own price for a product or service that is exciting. And more companies are joining the fray.
Tansler is an online vacation rentals marketplace. Renters can name their own price for multiple properties to start a reverse auction which ends when the first host accepts the offer or after 24 hours, whichever comes first.
At RoomAuction.com you see standard rates for hotels. Bookers place an offer (bid) stating how much they are prepared to pay for their stay. That offer is sent to the hotel where a member of reservations team decides whether to accept or decline your offer.
With Onlybidding.com, you have three chances to bid on the hotel for the selected dates within a 24 hour period.
Instead of charging high commissions to hotels, Bidroom asks them to give discounts on their room prices to guests and give the assurance that bookers will always save at least 5% on their bookings.
Sky Auction is a fast growing travel auction marketplace. Anyone can bid after registration.
BackBid turns hotel shopping on its head. As a potential guest, you become the pursued rather than the pursuer.
2. Hotel rebooking websites
As a booker, one is usually left with a little nagging thought before confirming hotels and flights – ie “have I really get the best price?”. Metasearch websites help with this, but you still have no way of knowing if the price drops. So what if you could overcome that little niggle?
Dreamcheaper asks you to book your hotel anywhere in the world, on any platform. Make sure that your reservation can be cancelled for free — the price is less important. Forward your confirmation to them and they’ll then continuously compare prices, rebook and cancel your old reservation to get you the best price.
Corporate travel companies identified this need earlier and some companies like Yapta claim to have identified over $550 million in savings for travellers.
Tripbam is a hotel rate shopping service for travel managers whose pitch is “Get the best hotel rate possible, increase traveler compliance and corral open bookings”.
Hotels cannot be too pleased with this particular trend neither can the online travel intermediaries – but this seems to be what bookers want!
3. Group booking platforms
While the need for group bookings online has been widely discussed, there has traditionally been little progress. Established companies like cvent and Mpoint still work on the multihotel Request for Proposal (RFP) model. This is completely understandable, given the complexity of groups, and their booking behaviour and needs.
There are some changes on the group booking front, however, you wouldn’t call them drastic.
Roomblocker aims to make it easy to book and manage room blocks for a group.
Triporama provides a free web site that makes it fun and easy to plan a group trip with friends and family.
With the pure meeting industry, the evolution is slightly more visible. Again understandable, as there are fewer variables to deal with.
With Okanda, you can book your meeting room instantly without requests for proposal.
Book2meet allows users to discover and book from over 32 000 meeting rooms and conference venues with no extra costs and a flexible cancellation policy.
At Meetingrooms, planners can search and compare the rates and availability of thousands of available meeting rooms from numerous brands across the globe.
4. Growth of metasearch in vacation rentals
With the staggering growth of the vacation rental industry, it is no suprise that there are now a host of metasearch websites that pull this information together.
Tripping helps search top vacation rental sites with 5 million vacation homes and short-term rentals.
5. Bleisure websites
This rather horrible sounding word seems set to stay. It is clear that there is an increasing overlap between Business and Leisure and vice-versa.
Tripchamp offers a personalised, intelligent travel platform that claims to understand the user and their business.
Tripbam offers a hotel rate shopping service for travel managers as well as a custom platform for individual bookings.
6. Online itinerary building and booking websites
Another item on the wishlist of many travel bookers – “If only I could book everything I needed for this trip on one website.”
Hello Gbye is a new online and mobile travel booking tool allowing an end-to-end solution for even complex travel itineraries within minutes, but it’s still in beta testing.
Inspirock offers a trip planner that will build a day-by-day schedule.
Tripcreator‘s founder was inspired after he sat in front of a computer where he had 36 browser tabs open and entered the details of is upcoming trip into an Excel sheet.
7. Increased deployment of machine learning technologies to influence bookings
Increasingly, technology is being applied by companies to influence travel booking behaviour. Previously exclusively driven by the giants of Online Travel, these technologies are becoming more accessible and user friendly. Some of the products from the following companies will give you an idea.
Holistic learns who will buy, what they buy from you and when, and automatically picks personalised content and ads, creates hot leads lists and more.
Evergage helps target travelers based on current or past session behavior, purchase history, CRM data, loyalty points, location, or even stage of a trip. Automatically promote articles, travel tips, restaurants and attractions based on the traveler’s preferred destinations, mode of travel, or price sensitivity.
Qalendra’s algorithms ingest data from many sources, compare all destinations at once and identify where the best conditions for each type of vacations are, anywhere in the world, up to 4 months in advance.
8. Meta search results on hotel brand websites
Hotels are fighting harder to get their share of direct bookings aided by companies that provide a little widget to ensure prospects do not leave the hotel website to compare rates on OTAs. In fact this seems to have caused a lot of aggravation to OTAs with Booking.com sending notices to hotels working with the Triptease widget to have it removed or else….
Triptease offers smart tools to improve transparency and conversion.
Clicktripz offers conversion solutions for travel using data-driven technology.
9. Local destination concierge & in hotel merchandising
This strictly does not come under the online bookings section, but with the blurring of lines across every aspect of our industry, it is only fair that this got included.
It is the rise of the destination or in-house concierge that not only helps enhance the traveller stay, but also helps sell more.
For example, Lucy at Virgin Hotels lets guests ask for anything – extra pillows, spa reservations, laundry pick-ups, turndown service, valet – she’ll make it happen without them having to talk to anyone.
What are the clusters of change that you see? And how do you think that is driving innovation and change? And how can the industry use these trends to make an impact for their business?
As a specialist in hotel sales, Vineeth Purushothaman helps hotels boost sales efficiency and productivity by combining hotel expertise with business process redesign and the use of appropriate technology. He loves the constantly evolving world of hotels and travel and has worn several hats in the course of his professional journey, in a range of diverse roles in hotel operations and sales.