Independent hotels with fewer than 80 rooms are facing more challenges online, including struggling with basic website costs and functionality, trust and operational issues, accepting reservations, maintaining personal contact with guests, increasing traveler awareness, and lifting low occupancy rates.
The recent survey of 300 hotels, conducted in February 2008, shows dramatic differences in how independents and more well-known branded hotel chains are leveraging their websites to attract travelers and book consumer and business travel online.
The differences between small and large hotels are apparent in each aspect of online presence analyzed in the survey: website satisfaction, ability to receive online reservations, presence on internet distribution systems, and average occupancy rates.
While more than 85% of all independents and chains say they are happy with their websites, significant differences emerge between them when they are asked about their biggest website concerns:
Accepting Online Reservations
The research also shows that independents have not completely embraced online reservations, do not employ booking engines to streamline reservation processes to the same extent as chains, and are more distrustful of the online booking process in general:
Presence on Internet Distribution Systems
When it comes to presence on internet distribution systems – sites that are the main source of hotel visibility and research by online traveler:
GuestCentric suggests these results indicate that independent hotels have not recognized the importance of being present in internet distribution systems for visibility and are concerned with the high commissions that these sites demand. However, this strategy is potentially limiting access of their properties to online travelers. Because almost 50% of the users prefer to book directly on the hotel website being present in distribution sites will not only create reservations, but also increase direct bookings on the hotel’s website.
This lack of presence, among other factors, could also be affecting occupancy rates. More than a third (35%) of independent hotels have occupancy rates below 50%, while only 6% of the chain hotels have them. Conversely, 55% of chains have occupancy rates above 75%, while only 34% of independents have them.
“The differences between the chain hotels and small independents shows the opportunities and challenges that face the independent hoteliers,” said Pedro Colaco, GuestCentric’s CEO. “This gap indicates a real need for the independent hoteliers to find available technologies to allow them to cost effectively close this gap and gain advantages over the chains, supplying the market with what they do best: customer intimacy.”
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