Have Your Way with the OTAs: Finding Your Happily Ever After

Please note: The webinar transcript is available below.

Originally presented in 2019, this session has been revamped to bring you the latest tips and tricks to have a fairytale relationship with your OTA partners.

Two words: relationship goals. Learn how to best work with your different online travel agencies to optimize your revenue and marketing objectives. We're sharing tips and tricks from lodging professionals and marketing partners who have found their happily-ever-after.

Key takeaways for attendees:

  • Strategies on how to put your business in the driver’s seat in your relationship with the OTAs
  • Managing your OTA inventory to improve your direct bookings
  • Ways to use their tools and requirements to get more exposure to a wider shopping audience
  • Why guests are not finding you direct
  • How to measure the results of your efforts

To learn more about working with OTAs, check out some of our related articles:

Webinar Transcript:

Laura: Welcome, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us today for our latest free webinar: Have Your Way with the OTAs: Finding Your Happily Ever After. I'm Laura McDowell, the Marketing Director for ThinkReservations, and today I have Scot Fuller-Beatty with me. He's our Director of Sales + Education.

We are really excited to be sharing this session with you today because it's actually a revamp of one of our most popular presentations ever. So, if you've been with us before for this topic, you're gonna learn some new tips and tricks for 2022.

Before I turn things over to Scot to get started, I want to just mention some of the usual webinar details. This presentation is being recorded, and we are going to send this out to all attendees later on today via email. It will also be added to our website and our customer support center in the coming days so everyone will have access to it afterward.

Then, as always, all of our attendees are muted to avoid background noise and distractions, but we would love to hear from you. So please share any questions that you have using the questions feature of the GoToWebinar control panel. We've also got Sean with us here today. He's going to be in the background helping answer those questions throughout the session. And then we will also have a live Q&A at the end, so some of the questions will get answered throughout the session by Sean and then we'll also take some questions live at the end.

So, I'm gonna go ahead and turn things over to Scot.

1:25 Scot: Thank you Laura, and thank you Sean for being here as well. Can everyone hear me OK, I just want to double check that. Can you hear me Laura?

Laura: I can hear you.

Laura: Great, excellent! So, today, this webinar is usually a long webinar and Laura and I have been able to update it. We think we're going to be able to keep it under an hour today. So, that's some good news. So, let's just dive right in.

You all seem to know us. So no real need to get into super big details about us.

So today's agenda, we're going to talk about first before we can really talk about your OTA relationships and stuff like that, there really is a key component which is knowing your own business and what your own business capabilities are.

2:09 So we are going to spend a little bit of time talking about that so that you have a better idea of maybe why you want to work with OTAs, why you don't want to work with OTAs, or helping build that strategy of how to work with OTAs.

We're also gonna then just kinda do a basic refresher of what are your OTA options out there, and what do they cost? There's always a lot of confusion around that, and we have a lot of pre advanced questions about that to help clarify that. So, we definitely wanted to include that information.

We're then going to dive into developing OTAs strategies for your business. And there are several strategies out there that you can use. I've interviewed a lot of people in our industry, and over the last six years, and really, it boils down to about five different strategies. So, we're gonna kinda go into each one of those.

We're going to talk about your Book Direct strategy. So, an OTA strategy is also about how to improve your direct bookings as well. It's not about replacing bookings. It's about supplementing your bookings. So, we need to talk about your overall Book Direct strategy.

Of course, I'm going to tell you to test, test, test everything. You need to be looking at the results of your efforts, otherwise, you don't know if your efforts are actually doing anything for you.

And then we'll also have some questions and answers. I'm sure that there'll be some sprinkled throughout and Laura and I will be kinda talking back and forth through this and we'll pull in Sean, especially when we need his help.

3:42 So, let's get moving on into knowing your business for an overall profitable plan.

So one thing I really like to talk about and kind of put the concept in your head, is that rooms are perishable. So the way I think about a room is that, if I don't sell a room that I have available tonight, I never have that opportunity to sell that room again. I'm sure we can sell the room in the future and stuff like that, but tonight’s room is a perishable item.

And just like any other perishable item, if it has spoiled, we never have that opportunity to sell that room again. So, when we think about this, we have to think about, What is coming up in the future? What is available? What haven't I sold yet? Because that room is getting closer and closer and closer to expiring, you're never going to be able to sell that again.

So, I just thought that this was a great visual example because A, it's really disgusting. And second of all, as a bed and breakfast owner, I would have never served these types of raspberries because they are expired. I can only sell the fresh ones or serve the fresh ones. So, that's exactly what we want to do with our rooms, keep that visual and in mind.

5:06 So, how do we actually calculate our break even point? So, break even point? What does that even mean?

Break even point means that you are just staying in business, paying your bills with no money leftover.

You have broken even in your business.

So the step back that we have to take is how should we even price our rooms to have our businesses survive. And we've broken it into some very simple calculations to actually figure that out.

So, first off, let's think about your fixed and variable costs for your business. Most businesses have a mortgage, you definitely have utilities to pay for insurance, maybe you have employees. You offer amenities, laundry, repairs, and contractors that you pay.

Let's not forget about marketing website stuff, but also, let's not forget about how you pay yourself as well, because paying yourself shouldn't be a second thought for your business. It should be calculated into your break even point before we even talk about profit. So, make sure that you're also paying yourself.

And there can be other things included in those fixed and variable costs. We've just listed out, you know, some of the most common ones that come to mind. You could probably use something like QuickBooks or whatever you're using for accounting to actually figure these things out.

6:36 So, in our hypothetical situation, I'm going to estimate that we're a five room property and that our actual cost of doing business is $160,000 after we've done all of those things. I'm not saying the business makes $160,000 I'm just saying that this is how much it costs to run this property approximately in a year with all those fixed and variable costs.

Then, moving on, we need to look at our occupancy projection, So total room nights in a year, multiplied by what your expected occupancy percentages.

So if you're a brand new owner, you might not have a clear occupancy projection.

However, if you've been in business for multiple years, you can probably use reports within your PMS, definitely within ThinkReservations, to get an idea of what you think your occupancy projection for the year is going to be based on historical data.

Now, of course, Covid kinda threw a whole wrench in the plan, but you just need to go back further years. Or if you're expecting improvement or decline, you need to kinda factor that in. So what is your expected occupancy percentage?

So in our scenario here, we're going to say five rooms at 365 nights, meaning that we're open every night of the year, we don't have any blackouts or anything like that. That gives me a total of 1825 total nights that I could sell.

And if I'm predicting that my expected occupancy projection is around 60% for the year, then I gotta take that number, divide it by 60%, and I get 1095 sold nights.

So that's how many nights I know I'm going to sell.

Next up is actually figuring out what we should know. What is our break even point? What did these rooms need to sell for?

8:44 And to figure that out, to figure out that break even point, we need to take the fixed and variable costs and divide it by our occupancy projections. So in this case, we're going to take that $160,000 divided by the 1095 room nights. And our break even point is $146 per room per night.

Now, does this number mean all of our rooms need to sell for $146? Absolutely not. That's not what this number means at all. Sometimes, people have been confused when I've talked about this. You can sell a room for less, or you can sell a room for more.

For instance, when I was running my property, the least we would ever sell a room for is maybe $100, That was well below our breakeven point. However, that was usually something that was like mid week during our super slow time of year.

And in the summertime, we've sold rooms in the upper $300s, and even the low $400s, which is well above the break even point.

Where this number really comes into play is, when you look at things like your revPAR or your ADR, you want to make sure that if your business is going to be profitable, that overall, you end up above this $146.

Because this $146 is basically telling you, this is how much my average room rate has to cost for the ones that I plan on selling to actually be able to pay the bills. So the goal is to get over that break even point.

And what I think is actually pretty interesting is, when I've worked with properties, 1 on 1, to kind of figure this out to take a look at this. I usually ask the question of, what do you think your break even point is? And then, once the calculation is done, were you close to that, was it over what you thought, or was it under what you thought? In a lot of cases the break even point is actually higher than what we thought it was in our head.

10:44 So, this is just a simple process. You can do, probably in about 10 minutes, just pulling reports together. But this is a number you should keep in your head, and it's something you should re-project. Do you have to do it for just a full year now? You can do it by season. You could do it by month. You could do whatever, but I'm just using a very simple example of a whole year to calculate that breakeven point.

So, how does this relate to… OTAs factor into all of this as well? So you need to make sure that after your cost, your break even point, that, on average with OTAs, you're still getting above that break even point. Otherwise, it's not worth working with them.

And, I think, today, we're actually going to go through some points that actually prove that it is good to work for them. I also want to be really clear really quick that neither myself Laura or Sean work for an OTA. We are with ThinkReservations, we have connections to properties and stuff like that. But in no way is this meant to be a promotion for OTAs. It is simply saying, how to use OTAs in an effective manner so that they're actually profitable for your business with all the tips and tricks that we've learned from our customers and from our own usage.

So, that's how to calculate break even point.

12:00 So now, the next step in this process is, we need to know, how much does my business already rely on ...?

And if you're not using OTAs, then that reliance is going to be zero.

But if you already are using the OTAs, if you don't know what percentage of your revenue is actually coming from the OTAs, then you don't really have a starting point beyond the break even point either. So, we're going to talk about how to figure that out, as well.

So, in ThinkReservations, if you're one of our customers, you can actually go to your Reservations by Channel Report.

If you're not one of our customers, A, you should consider becoming our customer, and you probably have a report like this in your property management system. So you can pull it from there, as well. But in this case, I used an old report from 2018. I looked at the whole year, and I said, the OTAs that I worked with were Airbnb, BedandBreakfast,com, which really no longer exists anymore, but it's something I used back then.

I used Booking.com and Expedia. Those were the OTAs that I was using, so I want to separate those out in the report so I can look at the amount paid.

Then that's gonna give you a total of how much revenue, the third box here is, how much revenue overall we made in that year. But what we're going to have to do with this amount page, and these, Airbnb, BedandBreakfast.com, booking.com, Expedia, or others, if you use them as add them together.

So, in this case, we're going to take our total OTA revenue and divide that by our total room revenue, and that equals our OTA revenue percentage.

So in this case, $22,733 was the revenue that came in from those four sources, Airbnb, BedandBreakfast.com, booking.com, Expedia.

14:09 Our total revenue was $262,502, so that divided by that, is going to give us 8.66%.

That 8.66% represents how much of our revenue came from .... So out of 100% of my revenue, 8.66% came from OTAs.

So that's, that's the next number that you really need to know to help you figure out what strategy you want to take, What are your goals, and also to take a look more at where your business is headed in, in relationship to your OTA, in conjunction with your OTA relationships, so let's kinda plot this out.

Now, I will admit, this is probably going to be the most confusing slide in the presentation. But all you need to do is pick the square right now that represents how much room revenue you bring in in a year. Because I wanted to show for, like, a smaller customer, a medium customer, and a larger customer. And of course, your numbers may be very, very different from this, but the math all works the same.

15:24 So in this case, if we had, all you need to do is pick the square that you want and follow the row across as things start to pop up, that's all you need to do for me, OK?

So if we were to have a property that relied on 85% of our revenue coming from ..., the green number represents how much revenue that brought in.

And the red represents roughly how much we paid in commission for that money to come in.

So, using the first example, the first line, if my business brings in $215,000 worth of room revenue, and 85% of that revenue comes from OTAs, that green number, $182,750, is how much revenue was generated from the OTAs for me.

However, the red number, assuming a commission rate of 18% across the board, I know there are going to be variations, but assuming it's 18%, just to make the math easy, $32,895 went right back, of that, went to the OTAs as a commission that I paid for that reservation.

So you can see why people hate to work with OTA, especially if they have a high percentage of their revenue from the OTAs, because it's costing you a lot of money. Now, Laura, I have a little pop quiz for you. I want to see if you get the answer that I'm thinking in my head.

What do, what do marketing companies suggest from your revenue? What percentage of your revenue should be reinvested into marketing for your property?

17:13 Laura: Well, it definitely wasn't expecting a pop quiz by pop quiz. If you're right, if that is the definition. I would say 10%. I think typically, what's recommended.

Scot: Sounds good. Sean, are you able to unmute yourself and tell us about your guesses?

Sean: Zero.

Scot: Zero, what? No way. No way. You need to be spending marketing dollars. So Laura was closer, so Laura wins.

The actual answer from what I've talked with, a lot of marketing companies, the number that seems to boil up is about 15%.

So, 15% of your revenue should be reinvested into marketing, that helps you raise your rates. It helps you get more reservations.

It helps you know, attract all of that stuff, so, in the end, people often say, Scot, I don't have any, I can’t invest 15% into marketing. That's ridiculous, I'm running on a shoestring budget. Well, the fact is, when you work with OTAs, OTAs are exactly that, a marketing expense.

So if you are getting 85% of your revenue from ..., you're already spending 16.3% in marketing.

So I have definitely sat down with properties who have told me, No, I can't afford 15% in marketing.

But then we look at how much they're spending with the OTAs and they're already spending more than what the average is, the, you know, the suggested amount that they should be re-investing into marketing.

So by reducing OTA reliance, that actually puts more money into your pot, that you can do, other things, like improve your website, your SEO, Google ads, Google Hotel Ads, all sorts of different things you could be doing.

So what happens when we're able to reduce that from 85% down to 30% revenue from ...? Again, just follow your row.

And you can now see those numbers, that those numbers dropped significantly, And what ends up happening is, all of a sudden, at 30%, you're down to spending 5.4% of your revenue with the OTAs, which is a marketing expense.

But, that now has opened up what, 13.6% that you could be spending on other things, like the website, SEO, all the stuff that I just mentioned previously…

Laura: Giving your marketing director a raise…

Scot: I know, there you go. And your sales director, that could happen, as well. So you have lots of options, all of a sudden, that open up to you.

So even if you only wanted to spend 10% on a marketing budget, just by reducing it to below 30%, you've already opened up money that was going to be spent some other way.

And then if you're able to get down, say that 8%, which is in the example where I was, if you look at your row, again, green represents the amount of revenue that's bringing in of your total revenue.

The red equals how much you're spending in commission for those on an average of 18%.

And all of a sudden, that drops it down to 1.4%.

So you can see how your marketing and your OTAs really go hand in hand because OTAs are marketing. There are different ways that people shop. You're meeting people in different places, who could potentially look with you. And you have the ability to help reduce that, so that you can market in more ways to get people direct to you.

So, Congratulations, Laura, on getting close in the pop quiz and, and Sean, maybe we should just leave you on mute.

Sean: I was just saying maybe I didn't understand the question.

Scot: OK. I will give you that. I will give you that. Put in the comments if you want to believe, Sean or not.

Laura: So I would say too, Scot, about your percentage of marketing is you know, in your business is are you looking to heavily grow right now? Are you looking to maintain? Because that factors into it as well. So maybe a little bit different for our, our clients industry versus like, you know, I look at like as a SaaS provider, but, you know, it's definitely a number to play with, depending on what type of growth and exposure you're looking to get for your business at any given time to sell.

Scot: Absolutely will ever be in the zero, Sean, but it can fluctuate.

And I think once we get into the strategies, we'll actually be able to determine, what are your goals with OTAs? So you'll be able to make a decision about, you know, do I want, you know, because there is a strategy that works?

If 85% of your revenue comes from OTAs, you can still make that work, but there's a very specific strategy to do that. We'll get to that later.

So let's talk about the actual OTA options in the cost, because they all function a little differently.

So the first one, let's talk about Expedia. Expedia has three different methods that they could charge their commission. They do what is called Hotel Collect. This is where the property gets the guest credit card. You're responsible for the charging of that credit card, and they say, you have to pass a 15% commission on those reservations.

There's also a program called Expedia Collect, which is where they provide you with a virtual card. The guest actually pays Expedia. And then they give you a virtual card charge against that, and that is 18%.

23:16 And the reason why they say it's 18% or the reason why they used to say it was 18% is because now they're incurring the roughly 3% credit card charge that they would have had or that they have by processing that card.

However, now that they've moved over to the virtual credit card, I think it's kind of a bad deal for you, only because you're now paying 18% for their credit card processing. That 3% has worked in, but now, you're also going to pay 3% to process their virtual credit card, So not my favorite program out there.

And then there's also Expedia Traveler Preference, which is where Expedia says, hey, do you want to give your credit card information to the hotel? Or do you want to give the credit card information to us? And it gives them the choice in either way. Whatever way they choose, it is going to be an 18% charge.

So Hotel Collect, if you're looking for the least expensive commision is the way to go.

However, there are certain other perks by doing Expedia Collector Traveler preference, like being able to be included in the network, for example, for bundled packages.

Booking.com is kind of similar. They have a program called Booking Collect, which is what almost all people have used with Booking.com. Right? Those commissions range from 15% to 20%.

Almost everyone today is at 15%, however, Booking.com used to collect 20% and more, and if you've had a long term contract with Booking.com, they haven't exactly called you up to say, hey, by the way, we've reduced our pricing.

So you, if you are not paying 15%, you should be calling up your market manager and getting that changed because they're just making an extra money off of you when your next door neighbor might be paying something a lot less than what you are. So my tip there is to call up your market manager. Get to 15%.

They also do something very similar to Expedia Collect, but they call it online payments. It's also a virtual card. With their program, the virtual card is 15%. It's a relatively new feature with Booking.com. So you may not have heard about it previously.

25:46 Tripadvisor Instant Booking. They do a hotel collect program similar to Expedia, where you get the credit card, and they charge anywhere from 12 to 15%, And that is based on your election when you set up your Tripadvisor Instant Booking account. If you only show up 25% of the time, they charge 12%. If you want to show up 50% of the time against the OTAs, they charge a 15% commission.

And we have a great webinar on Tripadvisor Instant Booking on our website, that if you're interested in that program, it actually explains that a lot more in detail. So I would definitely recommend checking that out after this.

Next is Airbnb and VRBO. Or Verbo, they're now going by the term verbal and they collect the money, and depending on the program, you're in with them, you could be 3%, you could be 5%, or you could be 15%, so it just depends on the program that you're in with them, and how you pass booking fees on to guests with those ones.

And then lastly, Hotel Tonight. They only offer virtual card options where they provide a card. The nice thing with Hotel Tonight is that they're guaranteed reservations even if they don't show up, so you still get the money, And these are usually last minute reservations, and they charge an 18% commission.

So these are the various models that are out there and their current pricing, how they price. So, if you want to take a screenshot, I'm going to leave it up here because it's a great reference. And, of course, we'll have this webinar up on our website pretty soon as well.

OK, and next up, we have what are called cost-per-click models.

So instead of paying per reservation, anytime someone clicks on an ad on Google Hotel Ads, or on Tripaadvisor's TripConnect, you pay for that click. And it really depends on the area where you are, the competition you have, if your competition is using Google hotel ads or not, or Tripadvisor's TripConnect or not. We can't really answer the question of how much should a click cost, because there are so many factors that go into that.

There are some pros and cons to these cost-per-click models.

Pros are that the customer books directly with you, as opposed to going through a third party. You have more control over available inventory. And overall, we find that with most properties, it's less expensive versus OTA commissions.

I just did a webinar for CABBI, the California Association of Boutique Bed and Breakfasts + Inns yesterday. And we talked about how we're finding, with our customers that use Google Hotel Ads, when you convert it to a percentage, that it generally falls within the 4 to 8% range, versus an 18% standard for OTAs. And it's not taking away from your direct bookings. It's actually reducing your reliance on OTAs in giving you new bookings overall.

The cons, though, are that for either one of these programs, your property management system does have to be an official partner. So they have to be connected to them.

ThinkReservations is an official partner.

For both, OTAs are bidding against you. So the bids that you're paying are competitive. Because Booking.com, Expedia, they can advertise on Tripadvisor. They can advertise on Google Hotel Ads as well. So that's gonna possibly affect the amount that your bid needs to be.

29:39 And you do have to be on top of your per click bids. So you need to make sure you don't run out of money. You need to make sure that the program's actually working for you. You may have to adjust your bid price. So there is some work that goes into it for sure.

So, those right there are the various pay-per-click programs and the, you know, OTA pricing.

And based on the information we just got on the last slide, really what that tells me is that if you are using OTAs already, like Bookin.com, Expedia, Airbnb, and so on, you really need to start using Google Hotel Ads or TripConnect. Because if you don't, you're just a spectator at the game that you should be competing in.

Google is happy to promote the pricing on Booking.com and Expedia. If you're not using Google Hotel ads, you're not competing against that.

Tripadvisor, they've partnered with the OTAs and if you're working with the OTAs, they are showing the pricing through the OTA price.

You have the ability to also get your direct price up there as well.

So if you, again, if you're using OTAs, you really should be considering using Google Hotel Ads and or TripConnect, because Google and Tripadvisor are really just pushing them to the OTAs more than your website.

Anything to add to that, Laura, at all? I know I've been kinda talking on for a bit.

Laura: No, I mean, I think, generally speaking, it's just, you know, like you said, take a screenshot. Know the information that's out there, that's available to you, so that you have it on hand and, you know, use it as part of your evaluation process, which I know we will talk about later.

Scot: OK, so the next thing I'm going to talk about also before we even dive into, like, OTA strategy and all that stuff is your Google My Business, or Google Business profile.

So I have to get used to saying, Google Business Profile, because Google just changed its name. It was formerly known as Google My Business.

If you do go to a Google search and you type in Google My Business, It, still is gonna come up, but it's just now called Google Business Profile, so let's get used to saying that now.

If you haven't claimed your free listing for your website you need to go to claim that free listing.

And why is this Google Business Profile so important?

It's because Google now is placing a lot of weight on the information that you plug into it. To, actually promote your business, promote your website, promote direct bookings for you.

Yes, they work with OTAs, but they've actually created some really good tools to help you get more direct business, and if you already own your Google Business Profile, if you've already claimed it, it is really important that you go in and update that listing monthly.

The reason being is because Google always is adding new features to it, and you should be updating services and hotel attributes.

For example, I spoke with a property that has jacuzzi tubs at their property. They never had gone into their Google My Business or Google Business Profile now, to update that, to show that. So anybody searching for, you know, bed and breakfast with jacuzzi tubs, Google is now using this as primary information, not secondary information.

So if you're saying in your profile all the things that you have, you're more likely to come up in search results, more of those general search results.

So make sure you go into your services, and the hotel attributes to update that.

Respond to Google reviews. This is through your Google Business Profile is how you respond to Google reviews.

A lot of people for years have just been sending people to Tripadvisor.n I would highly encourage you to start sending people to Google, or offer them the option to go to both places. Or maybe you alternate one month. You ask people to go to Google another month, you ask people to go to Tripadvisor. Google is just expanding a ton when it comes to the travel industry.

You can also post photos, which we've always been able to do, but now, a new feature this year is you can start posting videos as well.

So if you've invested a lot of money into video content or you can use other free tools online that can take collages of photos and make them into a video, video is like the big thing right now. So, you now can put that on your Google Business Profile, if you have that. Or search ways to create like collages from photos, videos from photos. It's a great way to get a video without shooting a video, I guess you could say.

Another new feature is engaging with posts. Posts were never something that the lodging industry was able to do on a Google Business Profile. Other business types could do this. We could not as lodging properties and now you can, so posting things about your specials about packages or other content, things that are going on, covid stuff, policies, all of those things, you now have the ability to post that information, and you determine how long it stays up when it comes down.

35:29 So, it's kind of like a cross between social media, and, you know, just, you know, a profile, but you now have this ability to communicate even more in your business profile.

You also get study insights, and a nice little tip is you can actually solicit your friends and family to ask questions for you to answer. Don't ask them to do reviews for you, because that could get you in some hot water. But there is at the bottom of, when you do a search for your property, if you look at that Knowledge Panel on the right hand side of the screen, you're going to see a little button at the bottom that says, Ask a question.

Are there questions that you're constantly asked? Like, Do you have hair dryers, breakfast served every day? Things like that, You can have friends and family go in and ask those questions, and then sign into your Google Business Profile, and actually answer those questions, so that you can help someone else.

And my pro tip here is that one of the features that they've added is that you can add a manager to your account as well. So, you can actually say, an employee has the ability to go in and answer these questions, or make updates, this is something that an employee would be able to do.

I also went in today, and I looked at a couple of other things that I didn't put on the slide, but some interesting things that I've found that you can also do now, is you can actually say, if you're a black owned business you should definitely do that.

They actually offer an app now for Google Business Profile, that you can have on your phone. So it's quick to answer questions or respond to reviews in real time.

I already mentioned you can add the manager to your account. You can also update Covid policies or announcements. A lot of people have gone in and actually done that. But have we gone back and maybe edited that as our procedures or policies have changed?

And another thing that I always see when I log into my Google Business Profile is always an offer to claim. Anywhere from 100 to $500 advertising credit for Google Ads, formerly known as Google Adwords. So if you've never done that before, that's a credit you could claim. I would definitely encourage working with a marketing company to best claim that and get the most out of it.

But if you haven't ever dabbled in Google Ads, specifically what used to be called Google Adwords, this is something that, you know, Google says, here some money to try it out.

Laura: I want to just add really quickly before you move forward, we did have a comment come through from Patrick who's attending with us live, and he says that having those questions dramatically helps with SEO, so it's definitely, you know, there's benefits to it, you know, beyond just making sure people have the, you know, get the answers to the questions that they have, for sure. So I just wanted to add that.

Scot: Absolutely, like, can we all just put our hand up right now and just PROMISE that if you haven't claimed your Google My Business list, Google Business Profile that today, like after this webinar, we're going to claim it, and if you have already claimed it, you're gonna go in and just update it. Updating it is literally like, 10 minutes of your time, once a month.

So just promise me that you're going to do that, because this could be one of the biggest things that helps get your new business in the next few months.

Laura: So, I'm going to go one step further. I just shared a post on our Facebook page and our Instagram page just with a screenshot from one of our slides in your presentation, Scot. If you have already claimed your Google Business profile or if you do go and take that step today, go and comment on those posts and let us know so we can cheer you on.

Scot: Yes, I love it and love it.

Great, OK, So now we're going to move into developing an OTA strategy. Now, we can really get to kind of, you know, 40 minutes into this, we can get into the crux of what this webinar is actually about.

39:41 So when you're talking about an OTA, what you want to do, what are your goals with the OTAs? It's really about picking a strategy that you want to support those goals.

So one of the questions you may ask yourself is, am I looking for more exposure?

Am I looking to reduce my reliability and OTAs?

Do I want to appear in more Google searches because OTAs are going to show up in Google searches?

Do I want to fill last minute availability?

Am I trying to attract, attract a type of guest?

Or is my whole goal to compete against the OTAs?

Now you may put a checkmark in each one of these boxes, but I think that the overall goal for most people is to help reduce that reliability over the years. So taking a look at what we did last year compared to this year, and what our goals are kind of going into the future.

So, looking at that strategy, how do you want to work with the OTAs, You can look at availability. Do I want it? Do I want to have limited or greater exposure?

Limited availability could be, because you just want to fill up last minute rooms with OTAs.

Greater exposure, maybe you're a brand new business, and you haven't invested in all that website, SEO stuff. We have a basic website and you just need to get your name out there. You need greater exposure, maybe that is, you know a priority for you.

Another thing to think about is your restrictions. Are they the same or different from direct? One of the things that we know on the OTA websites is they make, you choose kind of cookie cutter policies. And maybe those policies don't really line up with your own policies. My suggestion is that you always go more restrictive on an OTA and reward them for booking direct with you as opposed to rewarding them for booking through an OTA.

So, for example, if you have a 10 day cancellation policy and a 10 day cancellation policy isn't offered on an OTA, then maybe the next closest thing is the 14 day cancelation policy on their website. I would recommend choosing that over a five day cancellation policy. You don't want to, you know, really reward people. Even though we want to treat these guests the same, we don't want to reward them for not booking direct with us, Um, and pricing. So always incentivize direct to get that booking. Meaning, it doesn't necessarily mean the price has to be different, although the price could be, and we're gonna get to that in a little bit.

But you don't want to make you don't want to make it less expensive to book through an OTA ever. So that's something you really need to make sure of your channel manager's handling or you're on top of.

Then asking yourself which OTAs are best for your strategy, so Booking.com, we know that they have the largest exposure of all the brands and lots of brands fall under Booking.com.

The same thing is with Expedia, second largest and they have tons of brands that fall under Expedia, Airbnb is actually the fastest growing OTA out there.

And, you know, we also know that Airbnb is attracting younger guests in general as well. So maybe that's a demographic you're trying to go after or not go after.

On Tripadvisor, Instant Booking gives you the ability to compete against OTA competition, like Booking.com and Expedia, even though you're really just paying the same commission to Tripadvisor instant booking.

Hotel Tonight really focuses on last-minute bookings. So availability tonight, tomorrow, later in the week. Even though Hotel Tonight allows you to put, I believe, it's 90 days out into the future, it may be more than that now , in talking with market managers, that Hotel Tonight, the vast majority of reservations are still for tonight, or within the next 3 to 4 nights.

And with VRBO, it's vacation rental focused, and, therefore, we have longer stays. Usually, people are renting for a week at a time, and you need to update your property management system to reflect those strategies. So make sure your rates are updated, your availability, your restrictions, and your automatic yield management.

This is another hole that people fall into all the time and working with OTAs is that they set up automatic yield management or automatic rate adjustments in their property management system. Really quickly, if that's a confusing topic for you, it is tools that are built into your property management system.

There, definitely, I think, reservations where you can say, based on how many rooms I've already booked, I want to either raise or lower my rates, based on the amount of time into the future that they're booking.

So this is, you know, what it boils down to is supply and demand your rates going up or your rates going down automatically without you having to have to adjust them.

Well, you need to make sure that your channel manager is passing that same information on to the OTAs as well. Otherwise, someone could yield, management, rule, could pop in and raise your rate on your website, $25. And they found you went out on an OTA. They took the time to Google your name. They went to your website. They went into your booking engine. They found the same room for the same night. But it's $25 more through your own website than it is through Booking.com.

What are they going to do? They're gonna go right back to Booking.com and book that room right through them, because to them, they're saving money, it's cheaper. But for you, not only did you lose that $25 boost, but you now are paying an 18% commission on what would have been a commission free reservation if they had booked through your website. So it's a double loss for you there.

So think about all of these things as you start working with OTAs. Are, if you are, ask yourself these questions, if you haven't asked them already.

46:10 So there, in my interviewing, what I alluded to earlier, is that I interviewed a lot of marketing companies, and have continued those conversations with marketing companies to see if things have changed.

And really what it boiled down to were six strategies that were out there. And I'm gonna go through each one of them, so that you can kind of figure out what is right for your business.

But the other thing I want to throw out there to think about is, you don't have to just pick one of these strategies. These strategies you could use at different times of year when it makes sense for you.

So the first strategy is don't use OTAs, but compete with Google Hotel Ads and TripConnect. So if you aren't putting pricing out to the OTAs, then Google isn't getting pricing from the OTAs for your property. But if you're using Google Hotel Ads or TripConnect, your price is going to show up on those Google searches. That is one way to do it. I don't think it's necessarily the best, but if you are absolutely opposed to using OTAs or you don't have a need to use OTAs, but you want to increase direct bookings, using Google Hotel Ads and TripConnect in place of OTAs is definitely an option.

I think the downfall with this strategy is you still aren't meeting people who are going to OTA websites, who just look through those websites who shop differently, who shop that way.

The next one is every day for maximum exposure. So this means your pudding, everything out there on the OTAs. If it's available through your website, you are putting it out through the OTAs.

Now, this is a strategy, as I said, that works really well. If you're a brand new business, maybe you've rebranded your business. And you just need to get your name out there. You need to get traffic through the door, but the goal with this one is eventually, you move away from this strategy, and you start using a different strategy. Once you get that exposure that you're looking for.

The next one Sunday only for Google Local Pack exposure. Now, I included this one on this slide, however, I'm putting a big red X through this. This was part of our original presentation back in 2018 or 2019, on this subject. And that is how, if your business ended up in Google's local pack, This is what it would do, is it always would pick Sunday nights as the night it was looking for.

That is not the case anymore. If you go to Google, they're randomly picking dates. Sometimes it's tonight. Sometimes it's tomorrow night. Sometimes it's a week from now. Sometimes it's two weeks from now.

There really doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to how Google picks that random date when they are trying to show availability to you when a Google search is performed. So that is no longer a strategy. I still wanted to include it to basically say, if you've been doing this, it's not a strategy anymore. Get rid of it.

49:19 Next step is only where you need the assistance. So, this is the strategy that I, personally, think works for a majority of businesses out there. Anybody could argue, argue with me on that, that's not a problem. I'm not going to say it's the only solution, but I think that it is one of the best solutions for a majority of businesses. This is where you take the time to identify where, you know, you can book your rooms given enough time to do that. You know, when the most popular times of year are. You know, your most popular rooms? You know, your most popular days of the week?

If you have no problem booking those rooms, you have to ask yourself the question, Why would I ever give that availability to the OTAs.

So, a good example of this is if you always are getting phone calls leading up to the coming weekend, and you're constantly turning people away, because you're already fully booked. If some of those reservations were coming through OTAs previously, those probably could be filled with last-minute reservations that are direct with you. So, why would you give that availability to the OTAs to book from the beginning?

Let's face it, the most popular rooms, the most popular, times of year, the most popular days of the week. They're going to be exactly the same things on their websites as they are on your websites. And their websites have hundreds of thousands of eyes on them when your website maybe has hundreds of eyes on it. So just by math alone, statistically, they're going to be able to book your most popular nights faster than what you are able to book them. So give yourself enough time to book your rooms as well.

Next up is a little more advanced only where you need the assistance with yielding rates based on lead time.

So, this is where you can set up your automatic rate adjustments to say, Hey, I'm going to give you more availability out into the future. But, I'm also going to set up a rule that slightly raises the rates, excuse me, through the ..., You know, for booking through them, and oftentimes, I'm asked, you know, Scot, can I have different rates on the OTAs than I do on my own website? And the answer is yes, and no.

According to your contract, let's just get to the brass tacks on this one. According to your contract, it says, you will have price parity period.

However, I've been to so many conferences where I have literally watched and talked to Booking.com And Expedia agents say, yes, of course, you can have a different price on your website. They literally say that even when people say, well, the contract says and they're like, it's fine. You're going to be fine.

I'm not saying you should do it just because they say it's fine. But the truth of the matter is that what we see with customers is that Booking.com is looking at Expedia. And Expedia is looking at Booking.com, if they find a pricing difference between the same room on the same night, between their websites, that's when they're going to send you that notice to say you're out of price parity.

It does not mean that they won't do won't check your website. It's very rare that they actually do check your website. So, yes. People have been called out because of their website before. Does it happen a lot? No.

If you're using a strategy where you only need the assistance, that's because you've identified that room as, you're going to make zero dollars on that room. If it doesn't sell? And for me, I'm OK making 82% of what I would have made on that room if it sells through an OTA rather than making zero dollars after paying an 18% commission.

Laura: And can I jump in quickly? We had someone submit a question earlier. Just asking, you know, how strict are OTAs with a parody and then the follow up question was, what are the penalties if you don't have parity? You didn't mention it yet, right? I don't recall you saying anything, specifically.

Scot: Yeah, so they will, the contact method is via email. They usually send you an email and usually it is because your parity is out of place with Expedia, Booking, or vice versa, and they'll send you that email to say, hey, you gotta fix this, otherwise we're gonna, like, push it down in the rankings. Um, and if it continues to be a problem, eventually, they could end their contract with you. Like, that's the ultimate penalty that you could have. Um, so there, the penalty is pushing you down in the ranking. Or they get rid of you as a client.

If you're a ThinkReservations customer, you'd never have to worry about the parity between the two of them, between Booking.com and Expedia, because literally, we're feeding the same exact rate to them from the same exact chart. You set up an OTA rate and your ThinkReservations account that if you link all your OTAs to the OTA rate, then that's exactly what's going out to them. There's never going to be a parity issue with ThinkReservations between booking and Expedia as long as you've set it up correctly.

But with your own website, yes, there could be, but the probability of them going onto your website, I can only think of like two customers in the last six years I've been, with ThinkReservations, that they've ever received a notice from one of those companies to say, Hey, your parities, not in place with your website. Does that answer the question, Laura?

Laura: Yeah, I think that, I think that just about answers that. If anyone has a follow up on that, or just needs more information or more explanation, feel free to submit that through the question box.

Scot: Great.

And then the last strategy, and this is really more of an advanced strategy, but I've seen it work numbed like, amazing when it comes to revenue, which is, you are making everything available to, the, to the OTAs for maximum exposure, regardless of whether you're established business or not.

But you are yielding your rates each and every time a room books. So, I'm not talking about a yield management rule that says something like, when I'm 30% booked, we're going to raise the rates. And then, when we're 50%, we're going to raise the rates a little bit more.

No, I'm talking about, if you have 20 rooms every time, one of those room cells, all of your other rates go up. And, this is, you know, really based on supply and demand. It's very simple. But, by the end, what you're selling, your last available rooms for that extra revenue that's coming in is really making up for all of that marketing expense that you use with OTAs.

So, this is, you know, tread lightly with this one, but it is something that I've definitely seen work. You really have to go in with a plan and be very committed to it. But I definitely have seen this work and be something where a property which relies heavily on OTA reliance or their revenue reliance is heavy with OTAs. This is the best strategy for them to work with.

OK, so now we're going to move on to your book direct strategy. So increasing your traffic through reduced OTA dependency. OK, so how can we encourage people to book direct with us?

57:11 OK, now going into this next section, my basic concept is that, or my basic assumption I really should say is that you already have a professionally built website that is connected to a stellar mobile first property management system. Hopefully ThinkReservations, and if not, consider working with a website marketing company that specializes in lodging properties and or evaluate your property management system itself, so this is my assumption going into the next section.

OK, so your Book Direct Strategy.

How does Working with OTAs actually help with your Book Direct Strategy?

Well, first off, your website, SEO and your mobile first website, are what are going to make Google love you and get people to go to your website in those organic search results.

Google does penalize you if you do not have a mobile website. And I'm not, 10 years ago, we were talking about whole separate websites that were mobile. Now, all you need to have is a responsive design website, and it works perfectly on mobile, tablet, desktop. It doesn't matter what you're looking at. It's going to be a good user experience.

Google places high value on that user experience. And also things like load time and stuff like that. The SEO is what's going to get people to your website. If you don't know what SEO stands for, search engine optimization. So how do we get people who are searching on the web to get to you?

The second part of that is call to action buttons on your website.

Now my job is, where I ThinkReservations is when someone says hey or sends an email or leaves a voicemail message They're gonna say hey, We're interested in learning more about ThinkReservations.

Well the first thing me or one of my sales team members is going to do is we're gonna go right to your website because we want to know who you're using now. What is the experience that you're having? What are the things that we know about the feedback we've received in other sales? We want to know who you're using already and how can we help improve upon that?

And the number of times we go to a website, and we can't figure out how to even make a booking on your website, it's very frustrating. And if we're people who are used to doing this, literally tens, if not hundreds of times a day, then how is that person who's booking that one vacation that they have for the year? How are they expected to know how to make a reservation on your website?

1:00:00 So call to action buttons, these book now, check availability, whatever you want your buttons to say. They need to at least be on every single page of your website. They should definitely be near your header or in your header, And on your homepage, they should be at least three times, somewhere at the top of the page, the middle of the page, and the bottom of the page.

And even those pages that don't get a lot of traffic, like, your policies page, you never know what's going to trigger someone to say, OK, I'm ready to check availability, Or, OK, I'm ready to make a booking. You never know what's going to make them do that. So make it easy from every page to make that booking. Otherwise, they could just give up and go look for your name and Booking.com or Expedia and now, you've just lost direct booking. And now you're paying a commission on that OTA relationship.

That's what we've been talking about. Really working, you know, using a strategy to work with OTAs really changes your mindset. Because if I pick the strategy of, I only want to give them availability, where I actually need the assistance, where I know I'm going to have open rooms on a given night, then, all of a sudden, you're changing what would have been zero dollars in revenue into 82% in revenue. So, in that commission, so 82% of what would have been zero.

And I think if you were to really ask yourself the question of, would I rather get zero dollars, or would I rather get 82% of the value of the room, I think each and every time, we'd say, I'd rather get 82% of the room value than get zero dollars.

So, that's where OTA relationships can really build your bottom line and change your mindset from, Man, these OTAs are just taking all this money away from me too, I just made 82% of what would have been zero dollars. Instead, you now have a profitable relationship with them, also with our TAs.

It's really important that you get to know your market manager, have a monthly meeting with them. Have a quarterly meeting with them. That's what they're there for, to help you figure out. Now, they're always probably going to push you in the direction to just give them more availability. Give them more availability but you can do things like try to negotiate with them.

You know, one of the questions that came up before the webinar was, um, how do I stop properties or how do I stop OTAs from running specials on my property without my permission? Well, technically, in your contract, you gave them permission. Like, let's just put that out there, that when you read the fine print, you're actually giving them permission to do that.

However, having a relationship with your Market Manager, gets you the ability to be able to send an email directly to someone or a phone call directly with someone who can make that stop. Who can say, no, like, we aren't going to do this on that property? So building those OTA relationships actually help your Book Direct Strategy.

1:03:23 And lastly is a marketing company. Now, some of us, this is our website company. Sometimes it's website and marketing, but your web, your marketing company, your website company, is really going to be able to help with that SEO stuff in that mobile first. So that's where it really becomes full circle.

So, all of these components really work towards your Book Direct Strategy to get those more direct bookings, and reduce that reliance on OTAs.

So, the last thing we're going to talk about here is testing. Um, you have to test your results of any strategy that you're trying to do, or any relationships you're creating, especially where you're spending money, to know that you're actually getting the value out of it. So you have to learn to love your reports. Reports really are your best friends when it comes to this.

1:04:22 So within your property management system or, these are the names that we give them and ThinkReservations.The reports you really want to be looking at are things like your Booking Pace report.

That's going to help you determine, Hey, where do I actually need assistance in booking my rooms, and where do I not need assistance in booking my rooms? That, given enough time, I can book these rooms on my own.

The first report we looked at today was the reservations by Channel Report, where are my reservations coming in from coming in? And we divide that report into online. We do it through mobile and we do it through all the other channels that you can book through like Booking.com, Expedia, Hotel Tonight, Airbnb., and so on.

So, take a look at where that stuff is coming from to really figure out what OTA reliance that you have?

Reservations by Booking Date Report? It's just going to help confirm information, your Booking Pace Report. Revenue by rate type Report is going to also help you figure out, you know, OTA revenue versus package revenue versus, you know, straight up regular reservation revenue.

And then your Google Ads Campaign Report, if you're using Google Hotel Ads, sorry, I should say, Google Hotel Ads campaign report. Um, that is something that is going to really help you figure out, hey, this is how much money we've spent on Google Hotel Ads. This is the results it's given me. And now I can compare that against what that looks like against OTAs.

1:06:00 So those are the five reports in ThinkReservations that I really heavily relied on when I was running my property And outside of your property management system.

You'll also want to use your Google Analytics. With revenue tracking, If you don't have revenue tracking turned on with your Google Analytics, you definitely need to get that turned on. Talk to your marketing or website company to make sure that that can happen.

Also, TripConnect provides a monthly spend report as well. You'll want to look at that to see what clicks are turning into actual reservations using Google Analytics, but how much do they spend with triple TripConnect, and is that better off than using OTAs? Is that helping me get more reservations through that as opposed to through OTAs also your OTA monthly reconciliation report.

So there's lots of data within your centers that you can log into with Booking.com and Expedia. But your reconciliation report is really going to make sure that you see all those dollars that were spent there, and that came in through there.

And there's actually, you really should do that reconciliation every month, because sometimes there are mistakes that happen, and they are charging you for things you never actually got. So, you want to make sure to take that time, in that. I think it's seven days at the beginning of the month, where you can basically report any errors to get them removed.

Then if you are working with a marketing company, they're probably providing you with some sort of reports that they can help with. They may actually be using the reports that are listed right here on the screen, but they will be able to go down and talk about any more further data that they've been able to drill down. Let's face it. That's what they're specialty is in, you know, they're going to do everything that they can to try to help you make more revenue, So use those reports.

If you are working with them, I'll be the first to admit. When I was working with a marketing company, I would get reports every month, and sometimes, I would just put them aside, thinking, OK, I'm going to have time to do that later. Make time for it. Because you can make real-time decisions to really help your business.

1:08:19 That is what I have today. I want to thank everyone for being here. We are going to stick around for questions and answers. So, please stick around for that. I always like to thank our entire ThinkReservations team, because this is not just my knowledge. This is knowledge, collectively from all of our staff here.

Many of our staff members have all worked for lodging properties, or owned, lodging properties, and through that experience, we're able to really test our product to make sure that it does the way things that we wanted to do, but it also gives us the opportunity to collectively share our knowledge, and our experience with our customers. And I really do think that is something that separates ThinkReservations from our competitors. If you are one of our current customers, please reach out to support. If you have any questions at all about stuff that was covered today, or you can give them a call or shoot them an email.

And if you are not one of our customers, and you're interested in learning more about ThinkReservations, you can reach out to sales. Or if you have a specific question for education, we can answer that as well.

And lastly, again, if you're not a ThinkReservations customer and you'd like to go ahead and get signed up for a demo, we have a Bitly link right there. Or you can use your Smartphone to scan that code and we'd be happy to get you on an on demand demo or get you scheduled on one of our upcoming live demos that usually happen twice a week.

So, I'm gonna go back to this slide, and Laura, Any questions? Sean, any questions, any other things left for discussion that we should go over?

Laura: Yeah, I have a couple of questions here, Scot.

But as Sean, actually like, thank you, Sean, so much, because Sean covered a ton of questions throughout the port, the, the entire session. So, if anybody has any last questions, go ahead. This is the time to kinda get those, And if you want us to try to answer them live before we let you all go, if you don't get a chance to submit a question, you can always reach out. Like Scot said, either support, if you're a current thinker, or to reach out to our sales team, and they can certainly try to assist you as well.

But I do just have a couple of questions here that I will throw at you

Scot: OK, OK, go ahead and shoot.

Laura: So, the first one is really just clarifying the Commission that I'm paying to the OTAs. Should that be coming out, or does that come out of my overall marketing budget?

Scot: So, I would say yes. Now, it could be a question, your marketing company might say something different, but the way that I personally look at it is, that, you are spent, you are spending money with a company to get your name out, there to get your availability out, to get bookings to you. So I look at that commission as that's marketing like that was a marketing expense that I paid to get those reservations.

So that's how I classify it all, as marketing, personally. Do you, do you agree with that, or do you,

Laura: I would agree as well, so I would say, I mean, at the end of the day, you can categorize it however you want. Like, if in your own budget, of course, you don't want it to be under marketing, that's OK, but I think, you know, with the information that you shared, Scot, it's really important for people to understand the marketing benefits that you receive as a business working with the OTAs. It's not just, Oh, I'm paying them a commission to get a reservation. It really is a marketing tool. And one of the things I always like to highlight with the OTAs, and again, we're not, we're not pushing OTAs, tis that there are people out there that use the OTAs like a glorified search engine, and then they're gonna go seek out your site directly. So, you know, you're very likely to get, or not, I won't say very likely, but it very well may be, that you receive reservations that end up being direct bookings, because somebody used the OTAs as a way to kind of do a quick search. Maybe they narrow down to a couple of properties and then they go ahead and book direct.

So, you know, there's, there's benefits to working with the OTAs that aren't just so cut and dry and I think categorizing them under marketing is a smart way to, you know, take, keep an eye on that expense.

Scot: And this is why we invite Laura because she can say it in a much better way than I can.

Laura: It's true. It's just true. Ready for the next question?

Scot: Absolutely, absolutely. Yep.

Laura: I've got, it looks like I've got two questions left now. More of them are coming in.

Is there a general goal of OTA versus Direct Bookings for occupancy? For example, if a property is at 30%, OTAs, is that a decent, 50%, et cetera?

Scot: Yeah, that's actually, I really like that question, because it is something that I actually talked about in our original webinar. I didn't include it just for timing reasons this time. But, I'm actually gonna point out Alison at Whitestone Marketing, who said this to me, and it's always stuck with me, which is, if your reliance, if, if, if you're using one of the strategies, that does not yield your rates every time a room sells. If you're using a strategy that is based abound, reducing OTA reliance. If more than 25% of your revenue is coming from ..., you really have to ask yourself the question, Who owns your business?

Do you own your business or do the OTAs on your business because they're making an awful lot of money and not having them have to do all of the other day to day stuff that it takes to actually host that guest.

So as a general rule, I would say you want to have your OTA reliance 25% or lower, and for a couple of reasons, if we go back to that confusing chart that I had up. You just had to follow your row across.

If you're under that 25% mark, if, then, you actually have a lot more money. If you really want to, say, I'm gonna put 15% re-invested into marketing, that gives you a lot of money to actually do other things. And the lower you get, the lower that, you know, number goes. So you can do it then gives you that freedom to try things. Like maybe you're really hesitating about putting money into Google Hotel ads. I get that. I was a business owner. I didn't want to spend an extra $100 on anything. If I wasn't sure, if I wasn't positive, it was going to make me money, Um, but it now gives you that ability to be flexible and try out things.

1:14:58 And don't be afraid that if things aren't working out to get rid of it or to change it or to try a different method, don't be afraid to change it up. You are not, you know, you're not marrying the OTAs.

You're saying, Hey! Let's work together to try to make my business more profitable.

Laura: OK, yeah, I think, I think that's actually a really great point. I'm really glad that that question came up. And I just love, like, when you say, who really owns your businesses that you are, the OTAs, I just think of my daughter, she's nine. And, like all of her friends, they do sick burns, you know, where, like, they say, like, little insults, and then they get a sick burn. And that just popped into my head when you said, Who really owns your business? So, I'm going to give credit to Allison from White Stone, for she's the one that initially mentioned it to you. But, yeah, that's what I think. And I, you know, again, like, you're, you're, you just have to be confident in your own strategy, and, and understand what those numbers mean. And evaluate, use your reports, and evaluate.

Yeah. Alright, I have one last question if anyone's gonna sneak something. I'll say, and I'll let you know, but the last question I have is, is it worth it to pay higher commissions like the Genius Program for a 10% discount or do higher commissions get more exposure?

Scot: Well, I think it comes down to what your strategy is.

You can have, if your strategy is to get more exposure, then sure. And if it works out with your marketing budget that you have. Absolutely. And I know it's kind of strange, because not a lot of us actually have a marketing budget. We haven't actually thought about building a budget. How much money do we want to spend on this? But now that I've given you that 15% figure, like, go ahead and say that's my marketing budget, or maybe you're more comfortable, 10%. Now you have a marketing budget, OK?

So you have to ask yourself, am I willing to spend more money because I need the exposure? Am I willing to spend? Do I not want to spend? Do I not need that?

No. Overall, my initial opinion of the genius program is that it's helping the OTA get more business not you more business. Um, unless you absolutely need that additional exposure, that's just my personal thought. I don't have any research. Can't guarantee that. I'm sure OTAs are going to come back and say, no, no, no, no, no. It really helps your business grow. That is something where you, if you want to try that, try it. But then it's also your responsibility to look at how many reservations that I end up getting through that program.

Did all of a sudden the majority of my OTA reservation's turn into an additional 10% off the rate? Or is it only affecting a few here and there? Is that worth it to me to do that? And if you want to get more exact on this, I rounded everything to say 18%, that's just, you know, what I did. I just you know, rounded to 18% because that seems to be the average, but if you want to really dig down into more of that and say, OK, on these reservations, I actually paid, you know this much, because we also reduced the room rate for that program. You can do that. You can get into more detail.

What I think Booking.com and Expedia really profit from is the fact that we don't double check. We don't actually take the time to say, is this profitable for me? We just go, OK, it's, I'm going to take your word Booking.com, that this is going to bring me more reservations, but is it just taking away reservation's? You could have got on your own, is it not really bringing in more reservations? It's just bringing in more reservations at a reduced rate or a higher commission.

That's where you really do have to take the time to look at the reports and not many of us came into this business because we were all excited about the accounting and report side. Let's be honest. Now, yes, there are people who came into the business from those areas, but most of us got into this, because we just genuinely really like people. And we wanted to host people, talk with people, and meet people from around the world. And we were the hostess with the most, this, we were the eight type personalities and we have a lot of wishful thinking going on.

But the fact is, you do have to, as a business person, you do have to take that time every week, every month, every year, to sit down and really evaluate. Is it worth it for me? Is that, is it accomplishing what they say it's going to accomplish for me? Is it accomplishing what I've set out to be my strategy or my goals? And if the answer is no, you gotta drop it.

Yeah, and now we're going to pass around the plate where everyone puts a little money and cooling. Or something there.

Laura: Um, I think, I think that we are, we're good for now. Again, if anyone has any questions that we didn't get to, definitely reach out to support or reach out to sales. If you're not yet, I think we would love to chat with you and help you learn more about the OTAs and how ThinkReservations can help you obviously. But I'm gonna go ahead and wrap up. Scot, if there's anything else you want to say before I do that?

Scot: I just want to remind you what your homework is. You need to go to your Google Business Profile and claim it, or go and update it. And then, Laura added that you need to go to Facebook. If you haven't liked ThinkReservations yet, you should like ThinkReservations. Go ahead and tell us that you've done it so that we get some engagement, and we can congratulate you and encourage you and other people to keep doing that.

1:20:47 And, lastly, throw in the comments if you're still here. I know a couple of people have signed off because we're, you know, we're over our hour. But, we always go over the hour. But, tell us if you think Laura and I and Sean should have our own podcast because we would love to do something that is a little more, like, once every few weeks, 30 minutes. That's what we're thinking about. Tell us if you would listen to that. It's more of a banter. And what's up just in the lodging industry. But tell us, if you'd listen in, just put it in the comments. Laura will have the comments open for a little bit. Just give us a thumbs up or a yes or a hell no, or whatever you want this to do.

We want to make sure that we're producing content that is helping your business. And it's helping your business grow and make more revenue year after year. And it's making your job easier. So, tell us how you think we can share that information with you.

If you don't have time in the comments, go ahead and shoot us an email.

1:21:47 And, lastly, I'll just say, thanks for taking the time, I love when people are able to come to these, or watch them on the recordings, because it means you care about your business. And those are the exact type of customers we want to be working with each, and every day, because that's our focus, is how to help grow your business. And help you save time. in the process. So, thank you, Laura, and Sean, and I'll let Laura close it out. Thank you, everyone.

Laura: All right, thanks so much that we've already got a lot of people saying that they would love a podcast. We have one honest person who says perhaps, I love honesty. Seems good to get working on that., I want to thank you so much again for joining us today. As a reminder, we're going to be sharing a recording of this session via email later on, probably in a few hours, so check your email for that. And if you have any questions, again, let us know, otherwise, enjoy the rest of your day. Thank you so much, everybody.

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