Hotel managers are being challenged by the increasing multitude of distribution and sales channels. Online travel agencies (OTAs) in particular generate a great deal of uncertainty: Which are the best ones? Which ones offer the best conditions? How many channels are optimal for my hotel? How can I evaluate costs versus benefits? These and other questions concerning the optimal online distribution channel strategy have produced different reactions in practice. The aim of this paper is to challenge the need for an over-optimization of channel strategy by proposing that the consumer, at the end, deals with a network of information presented on one networked environment, including the Web. Hence, the network effect of the numerous online platforms is what drives consumer choice and, finally, bookings.
A series of multiple regressions with representative samples of hotels in Switzerland from the years 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 was performed to estimate the importance of the number of platforms against other independent variables. Additionally, further multiple regressions with samples from the years 2011 and 2012 using the most important platforms (first-tier channels) shows again that the number of platforms is more important.
The analyses show that the estimated number of online bookings by the respondents in the hotels is a result of the number of channels, not the type of channel. This is particularly true for non-categorized establishments and one- and two-star hotels. The analyses do not confirm the billboard effect, according to which particular platforms (first-tier channels) increase the probability of bookings. Thus, the survival strategy is to maximize share of shelf and to build on interdependencies and network effects.
The study looks only at online bookings. Additional research into the connection between online and offline channels, particularly from the viewpoint of the consumer, will provide further insights. The study looks at the booking volume per channel, not the monetary sales volume or the profit. A study that quantifies not only the volume of bookings but also the total profit or the contribution to profit per channel could quantify the benefits of the multi-channel strategy.
The multiple online channel strategy seems to be the more effective approach to maximizing bookings online, regardless of the platforms chosen. Results of the study challenge the current opinion among practitioners that the multitude of distribution channels forces them to choose among single online channels and, therefore, drives the search for criteria to assess these channels or even to disregard them. The consistent results across 2009-2012 show that even in the turbulent phase of the advent of OTAs in the travel industry, hotels can adopt a winning strategy. Finally, the results suggest that the intermediation of online distribution of hotel beds has approached the condition of perfect competition, causing the OTA business model to be cannibalized.
Beritelli, P. and Schegg, R. (2016), "Maximizing online bookings through a multi-channel-strategy: Effects of interdependencies and networks", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 68-88. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCHM-07-2014-0326Download as .RIS
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