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Five Ways for Hotels to Maximize Agency Relationships in a Post-COVID World

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As the hospitality industry continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and early stages of recovery, a common sentiment among hotels is a focus on fundamentals—ensuring the foundational elements are in order to achieve success as the market recovers. While a focus on restoring revenue is key in recovery, agency relationships also play a pivotal role. Unique partnerships are being forged across the hospitality industry to protect against the significant disruptions of COVID-19, with some partnerships showing early indicators of success.

The question remains: How can you optimize your agency relationships to better position your hotel for success in recovery? Below are five reasons to focus on nurturing those business relationships with agencies to position yourself for success in the post-COVID hospitality market.

Share Hospitality Data Insights

Man sharing hospitality data insights analyics to support agency relationshipsTravelers begin researching potential destinations far in advance of travel and average roughly 15 weeks to decide on trip details. With the vast amount of data available online to compare itineraries, flights, costs and accommodations, travelers could spend even more time seeking out the best deal for their dream destination. Along with all that browsing and research comes data around traveler preferences, which is available to agencies now more than ever before.

Agency-based data solutions and data mining capabilities have multiplied in recent years, enabling data capture on traveler sentiment, preferences, habits, spending and more. Things like demand analytics—which can be used to understand the most popular destinations, dates, segments, and hotel types—can be highly beneficial to hotels for planning and forecasting.

Agency Relationships Takeaway

To get closer to traveler trends and sentiments, partner with data-enabled agencies.

Target Traveler Volume

While individual travelers or families may leverage online booking through a hotel website, working with agencies can enable a hotel to reach a larger base of travelers at the same time, or with the same initiative, than alternative approaches. A Cornell University study also showed that hotels with a listing on an Online Travel Agency (OTA) experienced a “billboard effect” that resulted in increased reservations through their own (non-OTA) distribution channels, of between 7-26%. This uptick in direct channel bookings is attributed to a traveler accessing information or discovering the hotel via the OTA but deciding to book the hotel directly.

Agency Relationships Takeaway

Partnering with an agency on a promotion or incentive can enable a hotel’s message to be received by more potential guests, faster, for earlier consideration in their planning process.

Combine Marketing Budgets

A pervasive impact of the coronavirus pandemic is a reduced budget among hotels. Across the industry, teams have had to deal with downsizing, furloughs and slashed budgets. One strategy for doing more with less while the industry recovers is joining forces with an agency partner. OTAs have significant advertising budgets, as they have evolved in response to traveler behavior, particularly during the online research phase. The average traveler makes 38 site visits, reads 12+ reviews, and searches almost 50 times online when planning a trip. Depending on the size of the agency, this partner may have a larger budget or more flexibility to put resources towards a campaign that has mutual benefit, and a downstream positive impact to hotel bookings.

Agency Relationships Takeaway

Finds ways to work together with agency partners to promote mutually beneficial travel experiences.

Ensure a Positive Guest Experience

Women, booking a room in Hotel through travel agency In times of uncertainty, travelers often default to what is safe, familiar and low risk. Over half of travelers booking through agencies report their experience is better than booking without an agent and even more say a travel agent helped them avoid costly inconveniences and mistakes. By improving guest experience with booking a hotel, a halo effect is created. Guests appreciate a personalized touch, exclusive packages and deals—as well as having their voice heard. Partnering with an agency enables a closed feedback loop. A phenomenal guest experience starts with the booking process, which can be driven by an agency partner. And a top-tier guest experience usually ends with greater brand loyalty from the guest in the future.

Agency Relationships Takeaway

Emphasize partner relationships that focus on the guest experience at booking.

Emphasize Strategic Promotion 

Partnering strategically with trusted agencies can result in more consistent repeat bookings. According to eMarketing Associates, gaining new guests can cost 5-8x more than retaining, or ensuring, repeat guests, but almost 70% of guests will fail to return to a hotel if they do not feel appreciated during their initial stay. Even prior to the pandemic it was a challenge to stand out to guests as trustworthy and guest-centric; now, as travelers may be venturing out for the first time in over a year and are more worried than ever about their health and safety, a perfect guest experience may seem impossible. Working with an agency to communicate the unique offerings of your hotel—sanitation, automated or flexible check-in, cleanliness, booking flexibility— any value proposition can help guests feel comfortable before they even book their stay and can result in repeat bookings.

Agency Relationships Takeaway

Build strong agency partnerships that make it easy to communicate your hotel’s value proposition to guests booking a stay.

While the top priority for many hotels during COVID recovery is revenue, it is beneficial to consider a dual focus on relationships, particularly with agency partners. The result can be more repeat business, cost-effective marketing, reaching broader traveler audiences and understanding the needs and behaviors of travelers more than you may be able to do alone.

Find out how Onyx’s commission processing solution CommPay can help hotels identify and target their preferred agency partners through booking data by contacting us today.

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