With the dawn of the milliennials, there has been a profound shift in the way bookings are being made, most notably is the surge in online bookings. Harleen Mehta believes that this transition is equally beneficial for their direct channels as well as for OTA partners. Also, like other major players in the hospitality industry, Hyatt too has seen increasing number of app users, ensuring that the mobile app traffic has outperformed desktop traffic numbers. Excerpts of her interview follows:
How do you ensure ‘best rate guarantee’ on your hotel’s website, especially at a time when you have also offered it to OTAs, many of whom are subsidizing room rates by paying out of their own pocket to garner a bigger market share?
All the direct sales channels of Hyatt including our website and mobile app across platforms offer a best rate guarantee. OTAs are a significant part of the Hospitality industry and we value our association with our OTA partners. Having said this, our association with all major OTAs has contractual protection to ensure that they are unable to undercut our best rates. We continuously monitor exceptions and instances at both corporate and regional levels. All this also depends on the source of rate parity issues.
Do you reckon that your own website would be able to match the might of OTAs ever in terms of outreach?
Hotel industry has approximately 50% branded hotels (in APAC as per a Hotelnews report). With the advent of alternative lodging options via Airbnb and other online websites, the percentage is still lower. When you look at segments of luxury travellers, hotel loyalty members or cities/regions where global hotel chains have a good distribution strength, the hotel website is able to compete with and exceed the OTA reach. At Hyatt, our focus is not just on improving direct business with our loyal guests but also to work with our trusted OTA partners to capture incremental business and introduce them to the World of Hyatt.
Innovation is a critical component to technological growth. How are you going about enhancing the online experience of the consumer? What is the share of the business coming from the cumulative online space, including your own website, domestic and foreign OTAs, and how do you intend to take this forward? What is your business plan for the next couple of years?
User experience and technological innovations are at the forefront of our online business strategy for the coming years. As we transition from the last generation of travellers to the millennial generation, we see a shift from offline bookings to online bookings. This surge is equally beneficial for our direct channels as well trusted OTA partners. The offline to online is definitely more pronounced in the leisure segment than the business segment. However, as we see more of the millennial generation travelling on business, there is a shift in behaviour and accommodation type choice for this segment as well. We are excited to meet these new challenges and tweak our business strategy accordingly.
How is the transition from computers to hand-hand devices happening? How are you capturing the brilliance of your product on the mobile? How much of your online business has moved to app from computers? If you have not moved to the app then will you be taking to it? Will that be the next logical step?
We have already been making headway in the mobile and app space for the past few years. The growth in our mobile and app traffic has been outperforming desktop traffic growth. We are constantly improving and optimizing our user experience on mobile and apps to meet the needs of our guests. This will be an ongoing exercise. The next phase of technological development will entail responding to voice based search and Internet of Things being the norm in homes and user behaviour.
Is web booking increasing your average realizations?
Online bookings have a reduced transaction compared to offline bookings. The average realization is in turn higher provided the net rate yielded is the same in both cases.