Metasearch: The good, the bad and the money

The metasearch channels are highly polarizing ones. Travelers love them. Metasearch sites make it quick and easy to compare all the properties in a destination and find out the rates and availability of each on all the online booking sites without spending all day searching site-by-site. The transparency that the metasearch channels offer makes guests feel confident that they got the best possible deal. I mean … that’s fair, right? 

Hotels have a slightly different view on the metasearch channels. While I know hotels appreciate them because they are a valuable source of revenue, bookings coming through metasearch sites can make an already complicated process (managing a property’s room rates, inventory, channel management, etc.), even more complicated. 

But that doesn’t mean that hotels should throw up their hands in frustration and ignore the sites altogether; no matter the property’s star rating, size, location or whether independent or branded, the metasearch channels are very important ones. According to Roiback, a direct channel hotel sales specialist: "12 percent of hotel reservations are made through metasearch channels and they assist [in funneling] 25 percent [of bookings] to other channels.” 

What? Yup. That’s a HUGE number of bookings (and potential revenue) that your property will lose if you’re not using the metasearch channels. 

As if the potential bookings and revenue weren’t enough reason to prioritize metasearch, the increasing competition in the online marketplace means that the metasearch channels will continue to work in your favor over time—especially in highly competitive markets—because the popularity of the channels is likely to continue to increase exponentially, every year. 

Now that you’re officially convinced, I’m here to show you how to make the metasearch channels work for you instead of it making more work for you. 

Technology Makes the Impossible Possible

Trying to manage technology-based channels without technology is like trying to catch droplets of water without a glass: inefficient, pointless and guaranteed to end with you shivering and soaking wet. Without a cup, the water (bookings) will flow right through your fingers, pouring into the gutters or someone else’s cup (your competitors). 

Truth time: It is completely impossible for a single human, or even many, to replace a technology-based reservations solution. We just don’t have the advanced reasoning and algorithmic capabilities to execute changes at the speed and specificity that technology can; after all, it’s called computing power for a reason. 

Let’s just play pretend for a minute to test out that statement. Even if there was a superhuman, cyborg hotelier managing all of the reservations manually, your property still would risk having your operations compromised by an all-to-common problem: human error. A missed reservation here, a duplicate reservation there, accidental overbookings everywhere; the ways that human error can negatively impact a property’s occupancy and revenue per available room are endless. All humans, no matter how super they are, are still human and, as such, flawed.

Bottom line: Technology is a must-have for hotels to effectively manage reservations coming from the many online channels. This includes direct bookings, the online travel agencies, metasearch, mobile, last-minute apps and offline ones such as walk-ins and phone. It’s a literal no-brainer.

So, what technology should your property be using to most effectively manage your metasearch channels?

Lucky for you, you only need one technology to effectively manage your reservations across all of the on- and offline channels: a channel manager with a built-in metasearch-management tool, which will seamlessly connect your hotel with the OTA channels, automate your pricing updates and inventory management processes AND manage the metasearch sites—all using a single solution and an easy-to-use dashboard. 

By connecting the solution to your Google Analytics account, it makes it easy for you to effectively establish how much return on investment you earn from each channel. Because metasearch channels can be so expensive, you’ll want to make sure that you’re allocating your inventory to the sites that are earning the highest ROI. 

Lean on the Experts

Especially at a small, boutique property, the reservations and revenue manager(s) may feel that the financial fate of the entire hotel rests on their shoulders. (Anyone need a back massage after carrying that heavy load?!)  

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Look for a technology provider that offers a reservations plus metasearch management tool, plus comprehensive tech-support services to make it easy for you to implement, use and maximize your property’s ROI on the highly profitable metasearch channels, without all of the headaches. 

With these two very simple tips, you can now take advantage of the good in the metasearch channels (the money, of course), without any of the bad. In fact, I might even say that you would have metasearch completely managed.

Mark Lewis-Brown is CEO and president of Vertical Booking USA.