Middleton, Wis. – The “book-direct” slogan gets tossed around in the hotel and vacation rental industry a lot lately. Two words which seem clear enough have recently become less clear now that Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) are moving to an online transaction model. Today, when OTAs refer to booking direct it does not mean directly with hotels or vacation rental owners/local managers. It means that travelers book “directly” through middleman websites. Wait… that means its no longer actually direct, right?
Travelers beware: many third party booking websites still waive the book direct flag, but only over their website properties. Booking though middleman booking websites is not actually booking direct. The OTA booking path has forked – unpredictable booking fees to the left and new traveler fees to the right – both roads resulting in extra fees for travelers.
Have you been watching the hotel giants spend millions to clarify the meaning and benefits of booking direct? Did they just wake up and ask themselves “How did we become barnacles on the hull of these giant OTA freighters?” Did they wait to long to detach themselves? Their urgent shift to a true book-direct model sends a clear message to the booming vacation rentals industry: You want to control your booking process, customers and rental inventory, not lose control.
Though my JM Creative Group is a start-up business which competes with hotels for traveler dollars, we are inspired by their commitment towards clarifying what “book direct” means, and we embrace the same philosophy for the vacation-rental industry.
The travel business is ever changing and as the industry realizes the priorities of its customers, hopefully “book direct” will actually mean “book direct” once again.