What is a hotel distribution strategy and why does every accommodation need one?

A hotel distribution strategy is a plan to promote and/or sell rooms on a carefully selected mix of online and offline channels. This mix typically consists of various direct and indirect channels, such as Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), metasearch platforms, Global Distribution Systems (GDS), the official hotel website, social media, phone or email reservations …

With travellers overwhelmingly using the internet to plan their trips, accommodation owners need a strong online presence in order to be found by potential clients. Relying exclusively on one source of reservations or haphazardly choosing a bunch of OTAs is not the most profitable approach. In addition to selecting the right channels, strive for a healthy balance between direct and indirect bookings to keep commission costs under control.

An effective hotel distribution strategy allows you to:

  • Boost your online visibility
  • Reach more potential guests
  • Receive more bookings
  • Maximise your room occupancy & profits

#1 – Define your target audience

In order to find a mix of distribution channels that works well for your accommodation, you’ll need to define your target audience. Who is most likely to be interested in your property or service and who is your ‘ideal guest’? Different types of travellers have varying habits when it comes to planning trips. Think about where your target audience typically searches for a place to stay and make sure you are visible on those platforms!

Here are some guest characteristics to consider:

  • Local vs. international
  • Nationality
  • Family, couple, group or solo traveller
  • Age group
  • Business vs. leisure  
  • Basic vs. luxury
  • Relaxation vs. adventure

#2 – Choose at least five channels

We recommend distributing your rooms through at least five channels that match the needs of your target groups. With Bookingplanner, you have over 200 OTA, metasearch and GDS partners to choose from. However, don't forget about your 'owned media': your own website and social media.

  • Your own website is one of the most important distribution channels, as it generates direct (commission-free) bookings. Rather than just leaving your contact details, integrate a booking engine for guests to easily book online.
  • Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) are an indispensable part of every distribution mix. Large, international players like Booking.com and Airbnb are the obvious first choice, but local OTAs can be just as valuable!
  • Metasearch platforms are very popular too, as they offer travellers a useful overview of the rates on different booking channels. Google Hotel Search, Trivago and TripAdvisor are certainly worth considering.
  • Destination marketing organisations, like the tourist boards of towns or regions, often list accommodations on their websites and therefore represent an interesting marketing opportunity for you.
  • Global Distribution Systems (GDS) give you access to a multitude of travel agents at once and form an ideal solution for filling rooms last minute.  A few well-known players are Amadeus, SynXis and ATEL.
  • Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Youtube are a great medium to promote your accommodation, either through organic posts or through paid ads.

#3 – Tell your personal story across all channels  

Establishing a successful distribution strategy doesn’t end with increasing your online visibility. Because of the strong competition on the travel market, accommodations need to find new and creative ways to stand out from the crowd. Convince travellers by telling your personal story and by conveying the unique experience you have to offer through both text and image. Show people what your property stands for and clearly communicate your core values.

#4 – Provide an easy direct booking process

A hotel distribution strategy is only profitable when there’s a healthy balance between indirect and direct bookings. Not only are direct bookings free of commission, but they’re also more likely to lead to repeat visits and are better suited for upselling with packages and extras.

Your own website is usually the main source of direct reservations. Allow visitors to easily check availability and complete their reservation by integrating a user-friendly Booking Engine. The more convenient the whole process is, the more reservations you’ll receive! Connect your booking module to a Payment Service Provider to offer your clients secure online payment options. This encourages potential customers to complete the reservation and provides a form of guarantee for both parties.

#5 – Enhance your website to boost direct reservations

First and foremost, your website needs to be found by searching travellers. Use SEO techniques to accomplish this, for example by frequently using relevant keywords and by dedicating a page to places of interest in your region. Once travellers land on your website, the design, product variety and perceived value for money are among the top criteria that they base their booking decisions on.  

Make sure your professional website is aesthetically pleasing – with quality photos – and easy to navigate. Eye-catching “Book now!” buttons should draw visitors to your booking module. Always try to offer the best prices and booking terms on your own website. Convince potential direct clients further by offering exciting advantages to your direct clients by offering, for example, a free breakfast, early check-in, a welcome drink …  

You can highlight these advantages using the Ratebox price comparison widget (included in our Booking Engine). Check out our previous article for more tips to enhance your website.

#6 – Manage your channels efficiently and avoid overbookings

Manually updating room prices and availability on multiple channels would be a very time-consuming process. A Channel Manager gives you easy access and allows you to manage all your online distribution channels efficiently from one central place. This way of working significantly reduces the risk of error and double bookings! Don’t forget to make your rooms bookable at least 365 days into the future in order not to miss out on early birds or returning guests.

Easy management of your distribution channels

#7 – Implement a good pricing strategy

Offering the right room prices at the right time is key to a profitable distribution strategy. Don’t set your rates too high in comparison to your competitors, but don’t set them too low when there are sudden spikes in demand (e.g. because of an event). A Revenue Management System (RMS) like RoomPriceGenie can help you automate your daily rate management and boost your RevPAR thanks to optimal pricing.

#8 – Monitor your channels

Once you have built your distribution strategy, it is vital to keep monitoring and finetuning it. Calculate the distribution cost for each channel (commission models used by third-party booking websites vary) and compare it to the revenue it produces. The auto-generated business reports in Bookingplanner help you gain insight into the performance of your distribution channels, so you can easily make the right decisions.  

#9 – Manage your reviews

What is more convincing to potential guests than other travellers recommending your property? Collect reviews by asking your guests to leave a rating after their departure. Allocate some time to review management in order keep up the performance of successful distribution channels. Even if you have multiple positive ratings, one or two unattended negative reviews can deter people from booking.

Would you like some additional advice or assistance?

Don’t hesitate to contact us through the form below if you have any further questions. We’re happy to help you perfect your distribution strategy!