The Internet was lauded to be “the great equalizer,” the ultimate distribution tool that would allow any business to reach potential customers around the world. The Internet, technology and computers have managed to push efficiency in just about everything we do. There seemed to be no end in sight with how much technology and the Internet could boost just about every business model. And then, the e-business bubble burst. But as Thomas Friedman so nicely described in The World is Flat: that was just the beginning. The real revolution is just starting, because new tools which take advantage of our interconnectivity have now been developed and distributed. And it is all the complementarities between these tools that are truly leveling the playing field, even making room for new business models. In light of all this, the discussion about Direct vs. Indirect Distribution has become much more interesting and meaningful.

Although we all would likely agree that a balanced distribution strategy which leverages both direct and indirect channels, including third-party sites and the GDS, is the best solution to optimize hotel revenue, today I’ll focus on the advantages of direct distribution. Specifically, we will look at how direct distribution is empowering hotels like never before to drive demand, generate profitable business, and maximize ROI for owners, regardless of the affiliation they may choose. Here is just one example of the power of the Internet to level the playing field across hotels of all types. What do the Royal Crown, Sofitel Brussels, Hotel Amigo and Hotel Metropole have in common? They are luxury properties. They are located here in Brussels. They have different brand promises to their guests. They include an independent, a branded property, and representation company hotel. What they all have in common is that each of these hotels is placed on page 1 of Google’s search results when searching for “Brussels luxury hotel”. They are on the first page of a popular European OTA, Lastminute.com. And they are listed as a preferred placement on the GDS.

So, the Internet is an equalizer. Hotels can compete at previously unattainable levels. Now, no matter what the distribution strategy or marketing affiliation, hotels can compete effectively across all distribution channels. What this new playing field has done is give control for all channels of distribution back to hotels. In the excitement over the Internet as a new distribution tool, hotels unintentionally relinquished too much control of their bookings to third parties. With direct distribution, hotels can take back control of: their pricing, their brand identity, their promise to guests, and their relationship with the customer. Most importantly, direct distribution allows hotels to take back control of profitability.

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