Expect deeper, broader and richer media content including virtual tours and videos from hotels in the near future, was just one of the conclusions at the latest Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association’s (HEDNA) conference.“The experience of our customers will drive our industry,” Paulo Boni, CEO of marketing firm, VFM Interactive told the meeting of executives who gathered to learn about the latest technology in the hotel distribution sector in Frankfurt, Germany on Tuesday.
“Hotels will begin to generate more content about the experiences consumers can have and about the hotel environment—and visuals are crucial to this,” explained Boni.
This confirms a Harris poll in the U.S. among 3,000 people who book hotels online, which found that visuals are more important than testimonials, property star-ratings and other types of content.
“The hotel distribution business is changing rapidly with the evolution of new technologies, business models and marketing approaches to reach a growing global consumer,” says HEDNA president Tiffany Topcik.
One of the big issues discussed in this area was the dilemma facing hotels in providing continually updated content about their properties.
The fact is hotels would like to provide uniform and consistent content to the various platforms, so that it does not need to be tailored each time.
However, distribution channels and various portals require inconsistent content and data that is unique to their needs, in order to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.
Hotels and executives are also now very aware of the potential for rich media such as 360 degree images, podcasts—such as Jumeirah’s Jcast—and BlackBerry images, as well as the rising importance of customer reviews.
“The hotel brands will be the innovators in this business and the language now has to be right, it has to be the language of the consumer, they do not know what rack rate and cover mean,” says Richard Power, director for UK operations, Rocco Forte Hotels.
Multi-language and multi-faceted
Unique global identifiers for hotels across distribution channels were discussed, as was the move to multi-lingual sites. “Strategically going forwards multi-language sites will become more important,” says John Ryan, director of hotels for online portal Opodo.
The move to a single European payment area for credit card transactions was also highlighted, since this will impact hotel payments across the continent, while one session looked at the rise of travel portals in the booking of hotels and the boom among portals of combining flights, hotels and car hire.
“Dynamic packaging is more important and we are bringing it more to the online scene,” says Yahya Fetchati, director hotel partner marketing for Lastminute.com and Travelocity.
This comes as Opodo rolls out dynamic packaging in four European markets, Italy, France, UK and Germany, with a focus
“We will soon be able to offer people the holidays and hotels that correspond to the experience they want,” says Severine Philardeau, head of strategy, Bookings/Active Hotels, Priceline Europe.
The role of global distribution systems (GDS)
Hotel electronic distribution executives also focused on the role of GDSs and that they are still too expensive, with not enough information and that companies can pay for biased coverage and a higher profile on the GDS.
One of the major issues focused on by one of the panels was the commercial involvement and financial backing of airlines in the GDS system, even though only seven to ten percent of hotels are booked through GDSs.
“Amadeus is the only GDS still owned by an airline and this is still an issue for us, they are in a position of double dominance,” says Brendan Mitchener, director for C-FARE, the Coalition for the Fair Access to Reservations in Europe.