The multi-chain CEO’s have reiterated their belief in the value of direct booking pushes, whether in the form of multi-million-dollar campaigns or special loyalty member rates.
Now, with a year’s worth of data to rely on, most of those CEOs also seemed more confident than ever in the ability for these strategies to have an impact on bookings.
Hotel CEOs have seen significant changes in how consumers are choosing to book with them, and in how many travelers are signing up for their respective loyalty programs.
"IT'S BEEN QUITE SUCCESSFUL"
Hilton, in many ways, has had the loudest voice when it comes to promoting direct bookings, thanks, in large part, to its massive “Stop Clicking Around” campaign.
Hilton added 9 million more members to it's Hilton Honors program, which now has more than 60 million members in total. Loyalty members also drove 56% of the company’s system-wide occupancy, which was 400 basis points higher than in 2015. Web-direct and mobile bookings were also up by 200 basis points over 2015, and in the fourth quarter, nearly 30% of all bookings were web-direct.
"WE ARE ENCOURAGED"
Marriott, like Hilton, pursued a similar direct booking strategy with discounted member rates last year, although it didn’t market those rates quite to the degree that Hilton did.
Why not? Perhaps the company had other things to concern itself with, including a massive $13.3-billion acquisition of Starwood Hotels, for example. Marriott has, however, been heavily marketing its multiple loyalty programs, and it has been very vocal about how important its loyalty members are to its global growth strategy.
“We are encouraged by the growth in sign-ups to the loyalty program since we’ve rolled out the member-direct rates, by the awareness of these kinds of discounts, which we remain convinced will drive good behavior from our perspective, from our customers and the way they book.” Sorenson said (Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson).
"WE ARE NOT ANTI-OTA"
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) CEO Richard Solomons said that direct booking pushes are working, but also said that perhaps, an equally important benefit of more direct bookings is the ability to gather more data about guests via the loyalty program.
“Since launch, the relative change in our retail channel growth rates has outstripped that of the OTAs demonstrating the shift in behaviours guest recognise the advantage to them of booking direct.” Solomons said.
Solomons also noted that more customers aren’t just booking direct but that they are doing so on mobile. “Mobile continues to be the driver of growth with bookings reaching $1.6 billion in 2016, up by a third from 2015” he said.
Like Hilton, Choice Hotels said it saw some good numbers related to its loyalty program membership numbers and direct bookings.
CEO Stephen P. Joyce, in his prepared remarks, said, “At the beginning of 2016, we announced our company’s most significant redesign of Choice Privileges and it is paying off in spades. The program surpassed 30 million privilege members and signed up 4.6 million in 2016, more than any other year in our history.
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