Eager to avoid the cost of “middleman” sites, hotel Web sites are building an edge: Consumers who are members in a hotel loyalty program more often choose the hotel’s Web booking program first.
Given the choice, 37% of consumers said they would rather purchase from a hotel Web site, versus 20% from an online travel agent (43% said “it depends”). But after researching hotel accommodations for a specific destination across multiple sites, such as Expedia, Hotels.com, Marriott and Starwood, consumers were twice as likely to purchase from an online travel site than a hotel’s Web site, according to a study conducted by eVOC Insights, LLC, a customer experience consulting firm, and RelevantView, a research company.
Members of hotel reward programs are willing to pay more for a room and are twice as likely to return and recommend the hotel to others than non-loyalty members. And once those members have become comfortable making a reservation directly from the hotel and experiencing the stay, they often turn to the hotel’s Web site to make bookings.
In general, 55% of consumers said they preferred booking a hotel Web site because they can earn reward program points, no additional fees (51%), and because it was easier to change or cancel their reservation (55%), the report said. Sixty-three percent visited Marriott’s site, and 64% visited Starwood Hotel’s Web site because of reward program benefits. Others cited good quality and a well known, respected brand as top reasons for visiting branded sites.
However, 76% of consumers reported using online travel sites for the broad selection of hotels and cheaper prices (76%).
Both groups (hotels and travel sites) are sparring off in a competitive travel industry that accounts for the largest consumer spending online with more than 150 million consumers shopping for travel on the Web and more than $70 billion in online revenue forecasted for this year, the report said. Last year, the industry forked out $5.46 billion to promote its offerings to consumers, according to TNS Media Intelligence.
The study, The Battle for Loyalty: Online Travel Agencies versus Suppliers, sampled 200 consumers as they interacted with five travel sites: Expedia, Hotels.com, Marriott, Starwood and Hilton.