Hoteliers are “in a battle” with online travel agents (OTAs) and other “digital attackers”, a senior UK hospitality figure told the Institute of Travel Management (ITM).
Chris Roe, Accor UK and Ireland vice-president for sales, distribution and loyalty, said: “Booking.com spent $1 billion on advertising last year. Metasearch is a growing influence. We needed to respond.”
Roe listed the “new digital attackers” as aggregators, OTAs and “innovators” such as Airbnb, and highlighted Accor’s response in a €225 million investment in eight “digital innovation” programmes and its opening of the accorhotels.com site to independent hoteliers last year.
He said: “We launched Accorhotels to help in the battle with OTAs. We’re looking to get it into the GDS. It was not done to alienate or annoy [buyers] – it was to compete with the OTAs. We are in a battle.
“This is not just about B2C [sales]. We’re investing heavily in B2B platforms.”
Roe defended direct marketing to corporate travellers saying: “We don’t force customers to sign up to these things.”
Etihad UK general manager James Harrison agreed, saying: “We don’t market direct very often. When we do, we’re looking at incremental offers and saying ‘You might be interested’.”
Concur European vice-president and general manager Scott Torrey highlighted the direct marketing moves by major hotel groups such as Hilton’s ‘Stop clicking around’ and Marriott’s ‘It pays to book direct’ campaigns. He said: “We can’t ignore this trend among suppliers.”
His colleague Eoin Landers, Concur international sales executive, told travel managers: “Suppliers continuously market direct. Even though we employ hundreds of engineers to try to keep up with them, we won’t be able to. So we opened the Concur platform. Travellers will book direct, but with Concur the data will come back into your system.”