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    There is no doubt that the global online travel agents are here to stay. We can’t and shouldn’t try to fight them head on. However, there is a lot that independent hotels and DMOs can do together to encourage direct and fair booking. Consumers often don’t know that upto 25% of the room price they pay through an OTA goes on commission and that that is revenue which often goes straight out of the country. Independent operators can do a lot to help themselves by making sure that that if they publish a rate with an OTA they will honour it for anyone enquiring direct and they should give the same undertaking to their own DMO so that if that website is charging commission, it is money invested back into the local tourist economy. Independent operators also need training on how to maximise the effectiveness of advertising on OTA websites without necessarily giving away all their profit.
    We have set up a new initiative called It’s simply a sign posting service at present showing independent hotels and independently minded guests that there are other ways of doing business and still getting the best deal but also getting better choice, better service and better availability. If we can embrace the concept of direct booking and fair booking everyone wins and there will be investment in the future of our vibrant independent hotel sector.
    Too many small businesses are still frightened of the concept of collaborative marketing but this has to be the way forward because a loud group voice is always going to be better than a small lone one. The issue of customer retention and loyalty has got to be at the top of every small business’ agenda and the best way to foster an ongoing customer relationship is to show them you value them by giving them the best deal, the best service and the best choice at the point of booking with you. If they don’t get that they will go to bigger booking engines where the perceived rates are better and you’ve probably lost them once they’re there.
    VisitEngland can do much to foster an environment enabling private sector led collaborative marketing initiatives and also to broker cooperation between such consortia and DMOs to create a stronger message.
    Simon Bennett



    I believe in business that if we are giving value we can and should charge a decent price to reflect that.
    As an industry we are responsible for allowing a culture of deals. There always seems to be such a strong focus on price whenever PR for example is requested. Other things matter to guests too. I believe we should all work together to educate guests and those interacting with our industry to expect a fair price for quality and service given. Not an automatic deal. And speak about other things than price. Value, service, quality, flexibility etc. As SME’s we have many points of differentiation over a larger travel agent.

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