A new study published by EY Parthenon in cooperation with Booking.com, “Online Travel Agencies: Helping Europe’s small and independent accommodations succeed in the global marketplace” looks at the unique situation of the European travel market, which is dominated by smaller accommodation providers. It digs into direct interviews and survey responses from 600 small- to medium-sized independent European accommodation providers who offer between 2–250 rooms, all with the goal of measuring the value that platforms like Booking.com offer to them.
The report identifies online travel platforms as one of their most cost-effective marketing and distribution channels, providing them with access to global marketing and distribution and enabling them to compete with chains for international travelers. We dug into the report to pull out some of the most interesting findings.
European SMEs – small but mighty
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Europe is the world’s leading tourist destination, accounting for around 50% of all arrivals. But this marketplace functions differently than in other regions. Where chain hotels lead in most areas of the world, around 87% of all hotels across Europe (representing 63% of room capacity) are small- to medium-sized businesses that are independently owned and operated.
While their share of accommodation versus chain hotels has decreased by about 10% since 2009, these smaller providers still maintain a serious advantage in the region. And when you consider that 80% of guests who use an online travel platform originate outside of an accommodation’s typical sourcing market (as the report finds), it makes a lot of sense for these providers to rely heavily on platforms like Booking.com to help attract international guests and fill out their calendars.
The online travel platform marketing advantage
The report concludes that an online travel platform’s marketing capabilities is the chief advantage for independent hotels: “OTAs provide a highly flexible and risk-free marketing channel as accommodations don’t have any obligations in terms of capacity or prices offered through the platform and are only charged a commission in case of a successful booking.”
When asked directly about the value of using a platform like Booking.com, 95% of accommodation providers said that the marketing function is the main reason, with 4 out of 5 (81%) agreeing that they would need to invest significantly in their marketing efforts to operate without online travel platforms.
The importance of incremental sales
The study digs deep into statistics around incremental sales, with a very high percentage (91%) believing that being listed on a platform like Booking.com results in additional bookings. This high response rate suggests that incremental sales is perhaps the most important point of value for European accommodation providers.
This belief may be linked to their real-world experience when it comes to realizing additional revenue. For example, the report identifies the increase in incremental sales from online travel platform bookings as actually being higher for smaller providers: “The incremental level of OTA bookings for smaller-sized accommodations is greater than for larger-sized accommodations and chains. Our research indicates this figure to be in the range of 20%–30% and is endorsed by various accommodation providers.”
The value of value-adds
Online travel platforms also provide property owners with the infrastructure to handle reservations, process payments, and offer customer support. The report calls out sentiments and opinions around these value-added services, with 78% of providers agreeing that the 24/7 multi-language customer service that online travel platforms provide is a benefit to guests.
When it comes to processing payments, three-fourths of respondents (76%) believe that online travel platform prepayment and pre-authorization options help them reduce cancellations and no-shows. Ultimately, most participants concluded that these value-added services do provide value, with 3 out of 5 (62%) saying that platforms like Booking.com help them reduce their operational costs.
Most providers also see a clear benefit in looking to online travel platforms for info about market dynamics and consumer behavior, with 83% agreeing that online travel platforms allow them to track and improve their performance via insights and analytics. This kind of info is often provided via dashboards that track demand or seasonal guides with advice on customer trends.
The report calls out pricing, in particular, as an area where smaller accommodation providers often find value in platforms like Booking.com by following data-backed advice designed to help improve their yield. As they note, “Smaller-sized accommodations in particular often have a less differentiated pricing approach. They lack the capabilities and resources to pay continuous and active attention to this service.”
Taken together, the positive findings in the report suggest an increased understanding of the essential partnership between accommodation providers and online travel platforms, with 85% of participants believing that online platforms are a cost-efficient way to increase the reach of their property and appeal to diverse international customers.
To learn even more about how small- to medium-sized accommodation providers are successfully using OTAs to compete with global chains, download the full report from EY Parthenon.
- Chain hotels take the lead in most regions but not in Europe, with 87% of hotels being small- to medium-sized and independently owned and operated
- A study by EY Parthenon found that smaller European providers received 20%–30% more incremental bookings from their online travel platform listing than larger chains
- 85% of participants believe online platforms are a cost-efficient way to increase their reach and appeal to international customers
- 83% of participants agree that online travel platforms allow them to track and improve their performance via insights and analytics