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Direct online hotel bookings fall but OTAs fail to benefit

12 December 2013 by
Direct online hotel bookings fall but OTAs fail to benefit

Hotel guests continue to favour booking online, but despite considerable industry investment the number of customers looking to do so directly rather than via an online travel agent (OTA) has fallen.

The number of guests who said they regularly book directly slipped from 56% in 2012 to 52% in 2013 according to the latest Leisure Wallet research carried out on behalf of financial advisory firm Zolfo Cooper.

However, the survey of more than 2,000 consumers found that the number of people using OTAs was static across the two periods at 37%.

The telephone remain a popular channel for reservations with 20% of those polled favouring it in 2013, falling just one percentage point from the previous year, while smartphones accounted for 10% of bookings this year, up from 7% in 2012.

Just 5% of UK hotel visitors used traditional travel agents to make a hotel booking in the domestic market.

Graeme Smith, partner and head of hotels at Zolfo Cooper, said: "It is striking that, despite both greater focus and investment by hotel operators and brands to drive direct bookings online, fewer hotel guests are using this channel.

"While this decline does not translate directly into growth for the OTAs it is clear that online intermediaries are a significant part of the industry landscape, and perhaps the overall focus needs to evolve to strategies that deliver the most from each channel rather than one over the other.

"What is also very clear from the research is the enduring popularity of the telephone, and also the growth in smartphone bookings, which should continue to grow as location-based search apps become more sophisticated."

Price remains the most influential factor when selecting a hotel in the UK for 60% of respondents, with location a close second. Only 11% said they relied on a booking website recommendation, a similar proportion to those who looked for personal "word of mouth" recommendations (12%) or media reviews (9%). Only 7% said that an ‘established brand name' was an important factor in choosing a UK-based hotel.

While 11% of all respondents had used "contactless payment" in a bar, or restaurant or leisure environment in the past 12 months, and 32% would use contactless payment if they had the opportunity to do so in the next 12 months, 58% said they would not, suggesting many were wary because of the perceived lack of security of such payment methods.

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