MAXIMIZING THE PROMISE OF META-SEARCH

Meta-search travel sites are a boon if hoteliers have the technology to leverage their advantages. But without such enabling technology, they can muddy the travel consuming picture.

The emerging category of meta-search travel sites — led by SideStep, Kayak, Mobissimo and Travel Zoo, along with the recent integration of its FareChase technology into Yahoo's main search engine — holds as much promise as peril to hoteliers as these sites become increasingly efficient at letting travelers quickly and easily compare features and prices for all things travel-related.

These sites are getting better at finding all of the places where a potential guest can obtain information about hotel rate — whether from the hotel's own site or participating online travel agencies like Orbitz and Octopus — and display the results using advanced search technology.

Still, hoteliers need their own advanced technology to handle the increasing “look-to-book” ratio, which meta-search engines have helped drive from a four-to-one ratio to thousands-to-one-plus.

They need technology that not only shields their central reservation systems from the increasing number of “hits” from meta-search engines, but also gives them exclusive control of pricing and branding.

Such decisions can be overwhelming. That's why smart hoteliers choose technology partners to help them make the right ones.

Such partners help shield CRSs from the increased look-to-book ratios by making rate and availability engines available that store, maintain and continuously update a property's data to keep it in sync with the hotel's CRS. This enables travel agents and online consumers to identify hotels that meet their travel needs more quickly and efficiently, knowing the information they see while shopping will not change as booking continues.

That's a first step. Before potential guests stop looking and start booking, they must be convinced that a hotel is right for them. That's where a website comes in. Some call a hotel's website the new front desk. It's probably even more important than the concierge's smile and a welcoming “hello” in cementing brand loyalty with regulars and turning new customers into repeat ones.

A good technology partner can give hoteliers total control over their websites so they can be easily updated with the still photography and video that capture the beauty and ambiance of a property and its rooms as well as the in-depth, seasonal information on amenities and local attractions that visitors want, in the language or languages they use.

Such a partner can also make sure a website is seamlessly connected to a robust Internet booking engine that matches the look and feel of the site and allows visitors to move through the booking process easily. And, as visitors book their rooms, the technology should allow them to make reservations for on-site amenities like visits to the spa and off-site activities like a round of golf or horseback riding.

A good technology partner can make sure a website is seamlessly connected to a CRS with sophisticated inventory, rate and revenue management capabilities to give the property complete control over revenue and distribution strategies.

Such a partner should also make sure hoteliers have the technology that can give them instant knowledge of the rates key competitors are displaying on their sites, allowing rate changes to be made on the fly.

As the industry moves online with increasing velocity, a good technology partner can help hoteliers make the choices that will allow them to turn the Internet into an ever-increasing source of revenue, restore control of their brand and pricing and still give them time to greet-and serve-their guests.

By Tim Unwin, vice president of product strategy, reservation and representation services at Pegasus Solutions. Call him at 480-624-8729 (U.S.)/44-121-329-4801 (U.K.) or e-mail tim.unwin@pegs.com.

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