The firestorm, which began when the negotiations between Choice Hotels and Expedia broke down on October 15th, stirred-up a lot of deep-seated feelings about OTA's and Expedia in particular.
The article I wrote last week, with an alternative viewpoint from that which was presented by another Internet strategist, was well received, but it exposed some apparent sensitivities among hoteliers.
It seems that there is a veritable love/hate relationship going on between many hoteliers and OTA's from franchises to independent hotels. I heard from many hoteliers who enjoy the business they receive from Expedia, but resent the commissions and terms of engagement. When asked if they would disengage from Expedia, the answer was a universal no way.
The point of my article was simple. When two organizations fail to come to agreement to join forces, I don't believe that gives license for anyone, outside either organization, to take sides and publically castigate one of the parties. Fairness and balance should be the goal. I've heard from many hoteliers who work well with Expedia and consider them indispensible, while others feel that Expedia's terms are unreasonable.
I am not taking sides in this controversy. As a hotelier, I could easily argue the merits from either side, but my final determination would be largely based upon many individual factors affecting each property and each OTA.
Partnering with OTA's is an individual choice for every hotel and/or hotel company, as it is with any other marketing partner. My desire is to tone down the rhetoric so that hoteliers can fairly evaluate the relevance of OTA's for their own hotels without outside interference or conjecture.
Trying to influence the decisions of other hotel operators because one organization has determined that the terms are unacceptable is plain wrong; especially when those comments come from someone who is not even a party to the negotiations.
To me, this is very much like sitting with a potential salesperson, thinking he/she is asking for too much compensation, and then publically criticizing that person to all other hoteliers so they will not hire the salesperson either. Unthinkable? That's my point. This goes a long way past factual reporting and fairness.
OTA's, including Expedia, are not hoteliers so they approach the table from a different perspective. They do, however, have the same goal as hoteliers; that is to sell hotel rooms. If you feel that you can accomplish this goal, as partners, great, but if you feel that you cannot, that's fine too.
In my career, I partnered with many travel agents, tour wholesalers, consortia, and OTA's; some easy to work with, some not so easy. My goal was to sell rooms to drive profit for the hotel for which I was responsible. Never did I believe that they were opponents; their success, with my hotel, was my success. Every hotel should make its own decision whether or not to partner with Expedia and other OTA's. Don't let the comments or feelings of others cloud that decision.
Neil Salerno, CHME, CHA
Hotel Marketing Coach
Email: NeilS@hotelmarketingcoach.com www.hotelmarketingcoach.com