A few years ago now, a new method of allowing travellers to search for hotels burst onto the market: metasearch sites. Slightly different to the onlione travel agents (OTAs), they quickly became a useful tool that many properties are now using as part of their marketing strategy. Let’s take a closer look at what metasearch is and how it might be useful for you.What is a metasearch engine? You’ve definitely heard of these sites already. They filter rates and availability from hotel websites and display all the results together in one long list. A popular example is Trivago. They’re great for travellers because it reduces the amount of time they need to spend looking for accommodation and prices, therefore improving their experience of planning a trip. Differences between metasearch and OTAsYou might think this sounds quite similar to the way OTAs work.
However, they are actually a little bit different. OTAs allow customers to book directly through them, so the booking is registered with, say, booking.com.With a metasearch engine, the site usually takes the would-be guest through to your own website – although it will also display prices from the OTAs and allow people to click through to there too.They typically operate using a pay per click (PPC) model, whereas OTAs work on commission and take a cut each time a reservation is made.Advantages of metasearch The obvious benefit for hotels using this method of marketing is that it could significantly increase the number of direct bookings achieved, which cuts out the middle man. You do eventually need to pay metasearch engines, of course, but the PPC model is usually more cost-effective.
Another plus point is that sites like Trivago typically offer more information about hotels than the OTAs, which are mostly interested in rates and numbers. This has the advantage of permitting would-be guests to learn more about you and build a rapport with you before they make a decision.Changes to Metasearch originally came onto the scene several years ago now and some changes have already taken place in terms of the way it works. Some sites have now added ‘book now’ buttons, which effectively makes them more like OTAs and does result in the ‘middle man’ situation again.
It’s up to you to decide if each site is worth having a presence on even with these booking facilities, or if you want to stick to solely the ones that act as information aggregators.Also, many hotels have discovered that if they have rooms out for reservation with wholesalers and these are showing up as cheaper on the metasearch sites, it can undermine their own efforts and result in them losing bookings anyway.How to make metasearch workAs with any advertising and marketing channel, there are pros and cons with metasearch and you’ll need to weigh them up if you’re considering putting your hotel on such a site.The first tip is to make sure your rate parity is consistent, or that you can offer better value through add-ons or packages if travellers book directly through your site, otherwise you’ll still lose bookings to the OTAs.
Another recommendation is to set budgets as you would for any other advertising campaign, whether they’re weekly or monthly. That way, you can monitor your data and see if metasearch is having a significant effect on your bottom line.If it’s improving bookings, maybe it could be something you continue with on a regular basis.