I love talking to our customers; they live these crazy, busy and successful lives that inspire. Earlier this week I spoke with Scott, down at Jaybird’s Inn in Florida, about the benefits of online travel agents (OTAs). He’s been running this hotel for two years now, and has been using innRoad the entire time. He embodies what it means to be an innRoad client through and through, because he understands the power of being found online and has embraced all that that means.
He describes his relationship with OTAs as cyclical and value-filled. Early on, Scott recognized the power OTAs had to help build his business. When he took over at Jaybird’s Inn, it was ranked 78th out of the 78 properties in Florida that were listed on TripAdvisor. In less than 4 months, he was able to increase his ranking to the 5th spot, and for the past two years he’s sat comfortably in the top 10. That wouldn’t have happened without his willingness to vigorously partner with all of the OTAs. Scott described OTAs as the evolution of the friendly neighborhood travel agent: “It’s fingertips instead of footsteps. The neighborhood travel agent has been replaced with individual consumers searching OTAs. It’s my job to show up near the top of their list of possibilities. With OTAs I can make that happen. And, with innRoad it’s a piece of cake.”
Those partnerships have paid off. He’s now at 85% occupancy year-round (at the least) and his online ratings are better than they’ve ever been. Scott understands that the partnership he’s formed with all of the OTA organizations have helped Jaybird’s Inn tremendously and he recommends independent hoteliers do the following 5 things:
1. Get your property on all of the OTAs you can as soon as possible.
2. Use the innRoad team to help you set up your accounts and determine how much inventory you want to allot to the OTAs.
3. Give the OTAs last room availability. The increase in revenue and profit will outweigh any loss of control you might be concerned about.
4. Once you establish a consistent volume of bookings, the OTAs will negotiate their commission, but you can’t do that if you are constantly giving and taking away availability. Just like any partnership, it only works if both parties put in the effort. On the hotelier’s side, that effort comes in the form of available rooms.
5. Don’t play around with your rates too much. Sit down once or twice a year and review your holiday/special/weekend rates, and then just leave them be. If you increase rates as your availability goes down, you could be seen as a price gouger. If someone tries to book online, and you’re sold out, they’ll remember that you didn’t gouge them on price and the next time they come back, they’ll book sooner. It’s a win/win.
Scott reminded me that he treats his OTAs like he would any travel agent, or large group: “If someone walked in your front door and said, ‘I want to get a discounted rate if I can sell 1000 room nights a year,’ you would of course give them a discounted rate. That’s what it’s like to partner with the OTAs; yes, they might charge you a percentage of the booking, but you get that back in the volume of business they can deliver.”
I am always so grateful to talk to independent hotel operators like Scott who run an honest business, successfully.
If you want to read more great reviews of Jaybird’s Inn, you can do so here: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34599-d85754-Reviews-Jaybird_s_Inn-Saint_Augustine_Florida.html