The Big Battle - Meta-Search vs "OTAs" (online travel agents)
In 2011, Google entered the hospitality business with the launch of Google Hotel Finder which allowed users to search for hotels based on name, location, property type and chain. Using its multiple platforms like Google Carousel, Google+, Google Local and Google Maps, Google offers property owners and OTAs the opportunity to attract the attention of potential guests at every stage of their booking journey. Working on the same premise as the Adwords model, it allows Google Hotel Price Ads (HPA) users the option to place their property on Google’s different platforms, and charged on a cost-per-click basis. To compete with the search-engine giant, meta-search channels already in the market have had to offer an improved search experience, and they have taken the challenge head on.
Until recently, savvy customers checked close to 22 sites to ensure they got the best price for their accommodation needs. Further, more than 60% of them began their searches on one device and finished on another (Source: Google Study). Meta-search is liberating travellers from this wild goose chase and information overload. Through strategic alliances with key channels, meta-search players are adopting semantic searches, and ensuring near accurate customized price comparisons based on user preferences in an easy-on-the-eye display.
For hotels, knowing their guests and their online purchasing behaviour has been of paramount importance for targeted campaigns which lead to improved booking conversions. According to a recent study by TripAdvisor, 50% of their respondents agreed that hotel price comparison or meta-search saves time and helps to find the right price for their preferred hotel. According to the same survey, hotel guests read between 6 to 12 reviews before booking.
This is a global trend cutting across regions and a clear indication that user generated content (UGC) is having a greater influence over traditional marketing material. Meta-search channels, which place aggregated rates next to millions of hotel reviews, significantly reduce the number of steps and sites a consumer needs to visit prior to making a booking. The tremendous growth of this platform can be attributed to the value proposition these sites offer to the travel consumers – not only do they provide real-time availability and rate data, and enable price comparison – these sites are one-stop solutions for travellers to research and consequently book their hotel stay.
All is Not Lost for Hotels Either
A fast independent website with high quality photographs and descriptive content and an excellent user experience on desktop, mobile and tablet instils confidence in the guest, which helps booking conversions and builds brand integrity.
There is also ‘the billboard’ effect working in your favour to help build and expand your brand reach. Part of the magic formula is to be consistently represented across all channels, helping to build your brand.