In my opinion, the booking and reservation landscape is entirely disjointed and can feel very confusing to a guest. Technology has made this process much like the wild, wild west. It started in the 90s with the onslaught of OTAs pulling availability from the hotel websites and allowing guests to book through their sites, never making contact with the hotel itself until check-in. Upon check-in, the confusion would then play out as guests would reference the booking process, which would not resonate with the Front Desk clerk as it all occurred on a third-party site. As we learned to reconcile with this new player in our inventory, we came to parity agreements and payment options to allow the two parties to co-exist.
Leaving well enough alone is not how tech companies make money, and so began the identity crisis that has become the affiliate partners. Many affiliates attempt to represent themselves as the hotel to confuse the guest into booking with them and force the hotelier to pay margins for bookings that should have been theirs. Ironically, the affiliate is the only party that comes out ahead in these bookings. The guest and hotel are left searching for original reservations, cancellation clauses, advance deposits, etc., only to realize that the booking was never originally booked with the hotel.
“First impressions remain king, and yours may not always be your online presence, so make sure the smile at the Front Desk is well equipped to serve all paths to your hotel”
As a hotelier, you must realize that your hands are NOT tied. To control the booking environment, you have to read the fine print in the OTA and wholesale agreements. This is where you will find the terms and conditions that allow the third party you are working with to deliver your inventory to hundreds of their affiliates. You can negotiate that flow by determining at what level you are willing to allow those affiliates to use your inventory. If a third party represents your hotel outside of an affiliate agreement, you can send a “cease and desist” letter to stop them from booking your hotel.
Regardless of how the guest gets to your Front Desk, you are ultimately responsible for a frictionless booking journey. It is your responsibility to go online and search for your hotel as a guest would identify the many doors that they potentially can walk through to book. Review all of these sites for accuracy, ensuring that your pictures and content are current and accurately represent your hotel. If you do not recognize a booking path via a site you did not authorize, you will need to reach out to the third party. In the interim, make sure that your Front Desk is aware of all booking paths so they can assist guests arriving with different confirmation numbers. First impressions remain king, and yours may not always be your online presence, so make sure the smile at the Front Desk is well equipped to serve all paths to your hotel.