Recent criticism of independent distributors by a leading hotelier is wide of the mark, insists Christoph Klenner, secretary general of the European Technology & Travel Services Association (Ettsa)
It was with some astonishment that I learned of the comments by Chris Roe, of Accor Hotels, at the recent ITM Conference in Newport.
In his eyes, there is a “battle” going on between hotels – or at least Accor Hotels – on the one hand, and OTAs and what he calls “other digital attackers” on the other hand.
Independent travel distributors, which include OTAs, are not enemies but partners of the hotel industry. Our unique selling point to suppliers is that we provide them with unmatched access to the global travel consumer.
We invest heavily in technology and marketing to constantly improve the visibility of hotels.
We provide a very cost-effective way for hotels across the globe to connect with consumers worldwide, particularly in a Google-centric online shopping environment where access to the consumer has become ever more costly for suppliers.
And since we are independent distributors, by nature independent of any supplier, all hotels enjoy equal opportunities to be visible in the global online market place, regardless of size or allegiance to any chain.
Of course we welcome more competition in distribution, as this has the potential to trigger innovation and increase consumer welfare.
But it is a question whether incentivising a consumer to shop directly with the supplier, or on a supplier-owned and controlled platform, ultimately benefits that consumer or rather the supplier.
In a world as complex as travel distribution, with billions of offers and combinations available every day, consumers want the confidence that what they see is a competitive and transparent overview of available options.
As the price parameters of the hotels on independent platforms are set by the hotels, consumers expect not to be discriminated against when they make their reservation through an OTA.
The comments by Roe expose the common fallacy of suppliers to focus all their attention on discriminating between distribution channels, and even foreclosing certain channels.
It is the consumer that in fact decides in which channel they want to shop, and the supplier is much better served by respecting that choice.
Independent distributors happen to be the darling of the consumer – and for a very good reason.
It is because of our independence, because of the choice and transparency we provide all the time, globally, in local language, using local payment methods, with local support.
It is time suppliers saw the tremendous opportunity that that provides them. We are true partners, at least that is the way we see it.