Are hotel chains’ “book direct” programs—which promise better rates and amenities to hotel loyalty members who book on their websites - working? Yes, they are, says John Hach, senior industry analyst at hotel technology company TravelClick. But at the same time, the travel-agent distribution channel is more important than ever. “Early indications are that hotel chains’ brand-direct programs are having an impact,” Hach said during a webinar on the industry’s first-quarter performance. There has been a year-over-year uptick of 0.8 percentage points, from 25.4% to 26.2%, in hotels’ direct bookings. But the GDS channel is growing 60% faster. Hach noted “surprising growth” of 1.3 percentage points—18% to 19.3%—for the GDS channel during the first quarter. He urged hotel companies to “make sure travel agents have access to those rates.” “People would have said a few years ago that it’s a dying channel,” said TravelClick director of data partnerships Katie Moro. “I love seeing that large number. It’s typically your higher-rate business.” Get the full story at Travel Market Report