The 5 Things We Learned About The Hotel Industry at the Direct Booking Summit: Miami
By Rob Funnell
Thursday, 31st October 2019

Alongside influential speakers from the likes of Google and Hilton hinting at their upcoming plans, the Summit puts a spotlight on the biggest challenges facing hotels of all sizes - from up-and-coming independents to huge, established brands.

As the leading event for hoteliers around the world looking to drive online bookings, the Direct Booking Summit provides attendees with a rare glimpse of not only where the industry is right now, but also where it’s headed in the future.

Through audience participation amongst delegates and within our very own Direct Booking Summit app, we’ve been able to identify which topics proved the most popular, and which questions, keywords and ideas repeatedly showed up across the 35 speakers who took to the stage in Miami.

1. Metasearch is growing momentum, and is here to stay

To kick off the Summit, we asked attendees to let us know what the one thing was that they'd like to take from across the two days of the event. Despite an early start and many jetlagged hoteliers, the vast majority of the audience were able to cast a vote - and the results set the stage for a packed day of fantastic presentations.

When asking hoteliers of the one thing they wanted to learn at the Direct Booking Summit, 19% replied with improving their Google exposure, closely followed by 14% each for driving acquisition strategies and direct bookings.

Through this survey, improving exposure on Google came out on top, with driving metasearch and acquisition strategy a close second. From the emphatic response to Dean Schmit’s opening talk on the second day titled “Which metasearch engine should I invest in at my hotel”, it’s clear that the rapidly-growing distribution channel is now a crucial strategy for many hoteliers around the world.

While driving more direct may not come as a surprise based on the event, it was particularly interesting to see the enthusiasm of the audience to discovering and embracing new tools and innovations. It comes as no surprise at this point, but it’s more evident than ever that the industry is modernizing at a rapid pace and is making ground against OTA rivals with far superior budgets.

2. Google’s future plans remain a question mark

Alongside this opening poll, delegates asked over 200 questions across the Direct Booking Summit keynotes, panels and discussions from within the app, giving speakers a chance to respond the very best from the entire audience. Analyzing the content of these questions reconfirms Google’s prevalence in the minds of the hoteliers in attendance.

Alongside this, other frequently mentioned keywords included OTAs, rates, loyalty, meta, website, parity and independent hotels - the latter serving as a theme across many of the panel sessions during the Summit.

Google, OTAs, independents and more were frequently mentioned across our questions and polls on our interactive app, reflecting the interests of the hoteliers in attendance.

While this interest in the search engine giant may be in part skewed due to the conference kicking off with Rob Torres, Managing Director of Google Travel, their future plans were certainly in the spotlight, with the most upvoted question from Sanovnik Destang being “Is Book on Google really ‘direct’ if Google takes a 15% commission on the booking (same as Booking.com)?”

This post was alongside over 30 similar questions submitted during Rob’s session, with many hoteliers also interested in how Google’s metasearch platform is evolving, how the number of touchpoints for guests is changing and how independents can compete with OTA giants despite the disparity in marketing budgets.

3. Hotels are refusing to be taken for a ride by wholesalers and third-parties...

An atmosphere of defiance lingered over the conference, especially following an explosive and enlightening talk from Colette Labis, Director of Partnerships & Distribution at Westgate Resorts, who spoke of her successes of suing Amoma after they repeatedly reneged on the terms of their contract. While the app was full of questions asking about the practical steps behind taking action, many of the comments were simply thanking Colette for sharing her story - the top comment being “I just want to say THANK YOU!!!!”

Colette Labis of Westgate Resorts providing a memorable Summit highlight when she detailed her incredible journey, culminating in finally taking action against Amoma.

Retargeting was also a recurring theme of the Direct Booking Summit. Even before our exciting announcement of Triptease Retargeting, many hoteliers were looking for clarity in their advertisement attribution windows, and more details on how their partners are claiming bookings when a guest sees an ad. With many speakers advocating for a fairer approach, some delegates were set on re-evaluating their existing relationships to ensure they’re not getting the short end of the stick.

4. ...but they really just want their teams to work smarter together

Despite all this the overarching theme of the Direct Booking Summit in Miami was undoubtedly one of collaboration; working together, breaking down silos and ensuring teams are making the most of their diverse talent. Dan Wacksman started off the first day by posing the question - how do we narrow these knowledge gaps across teams?

With many hoteliers advocating greater communication, cross training and even merging teams, it was apparent that this conundrum has been a sticking point for many in attendance. While Marketing may not become an arm of Sales anytime soon, this set the tone for the rest of the Summit.

When asked to build their ideal direct booking budget, both Pablo Delgado, CEO of Mirai, and Stuart Butler, COO of Fuel Travel cited aligned incentives and staff training as the foundations of their strategies.

Later on the first day, Scott Weiler revealed Sonesta Hotel’s experiences in overhauling their direct booking strategy to realign teams against their shared goals. Finally Stevie Stevenson, Director of Offer Strategy at Hilton, ended the entire Summit with a fascinating workshop session that got hoteliers closely collaborate across tables to devise ways their teams could work smarter together. Stevie’s fantastic ending reminded delegates that whilst new innovations, channels and techniques are all well and good, they can’t come at the cost of neglecting the basics.

5. 2020 will be a watershed year for the industry

As the biggest event in the history of the Direct Booking Summit - and the first-ever sell-out in the series - the enthusiasm towards growing direct bookings and embracing innovative acquisition and conversion channels is at its highest, and the movement continues to gather momentum.

We may not know exactly what 2020 holds, with the likes of Google holding many of their cards close to their chest, but it’s set to be a crucial year nonetheless for hotels everywhere. Don’t miss out - join us at next year’s Direct Booking Summits in Bangkok, Berlin and the Americas to ensure you stay on top of the latest trends in hospitality.

Rob Funnell is a Content & Product Marketing Executive. Find him in the DJ booth at the next Direct Booking Summit!


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