February 6, 2019 marks the second annual #BookDirect Day, when small independent lodging properties around the world join together to educate our guests on the benefits of booking directly with us. In our case that means going directly to https://innonmillcreek.com or calling us at 828-668-1115 to reserve your room at the Inn on Mill Creek B&B. Want to know more? Get ready because you are about to learn some things about the travel industry that may blow your mind.
Did you know that when you search for Inn on Mill Creek on Google and then click the “BOOK A ROOM” button on the search results page, it does NOT go to our website? You would think that’s the obvious and best way to book a room at our B&B, but Google doesn’t think so. You are instead taken to a third party booking site like Hotels.com, also known as an OTA (online travel agency).
If you believed that the “BOOK A ROOM” button on Google took you to the lodging property’s website, you’re not alone! Nearly 70% of travelers believe it as well, based on a joint survey conducted by Acorn Internet Services, the Association of Independent Hospitality Professionals (of which we are a member), and the Professional Association of Innkeepers International. Not linking to the lodging property’s actual reservation site and rather steering travelers to third party booking sites is Google’s business practice; we didn’t set our search results page up that way. Why do they do it? One theory is that Google wasn’t happy that people were starting to use third party booking sites as search engines for their travel plans, instead of using Google, so Google gave OTAs an incentive to advertise on Google search results pages. And Google makes much more money off of behemoth OTAs by allowing them to advertise on Google search results pages than they do on small B&Bs like ours. Expedia’s annual marketing spend is roughly $5 billion. Yes, billion with a B. So that is who we, a five-room Bed & Breakfast run by two people, are competing with on Google.
And speaking of OTAs, did you know Expedia owns Hotels.com, Trivago, Travelocity, Orbitz, BedandBreakfast.com, HomeAway, VRBO.com, and a majority of the other third party booking sites? Booking/Priceline and Airbnb are two other OTAs in the travel industry. Even TripAdvisor has jumped into the OTA game.
You might ask us why we list on a site like Hotels.com (Expedia) when we want our guests to book direct at https://innonmillcreek.com. The answer is simple: We really have no choice if we want you to find us. Did you know that one of the factors that Google uses to rank lodging in searches is whether the lodging property is listed on a third party booking site/OTA? So if we don’t list on an OTA (which charges us for every reservation made), we are ranked lower in a Google search and you might not find us when you search for a place to stay near Old Fort, Marion, Black Mountain or Asheville. This ranking method has been going on since April of 2016.
A small B&B like ours has no control over Google’s business practices, and we have no way really to compete with an OTA’s $5 billion marketing budget. So we are part of a community of independent lodging properties like B&Bs and vacation rentals who have set out to educate our guests on why it’s best to #BookDirect.
Here are some perks you get when you book directly through our website or call us to make your reservation:
- You get the lowest room rates that we offer. A lot of travelers think that a website like Booking.com offers the lowest rate. Not necessarily true! Are you active duty military or a veteran? Coming in the Quiet Season (January-March)? Staying with us for three or more nights from April through December? We offer special rates that are only available when you book direct on our website or call us to make your reservation.
- You don’t have to pay any fees. Some third party booking sites, like Airbnb, charge travelers a “service fee”, sometimes as high as 18% on top of the advertised room rate. And all OTAs charge lodging properties, big or small, a commission on every reservation, from 3% for Airbnb to 15%-18% for Booking and Expedia. As a result, some lodging properties increase their room rates on OTAs or add things like cleaning fees or other random supplemental charges in order to compensate for the commission that they are paying, essentially passing more fees onto the guest.
- You get a better selection of rooms. It is rare for a lodging property, even a large hotel, to put regularly its best rooms on a third party booking site. And not every lodging property uses an OTA due to the cost (this is especially true for smaller B&Bs and rentals), so you are limiting what’s available to you when you go through a third party booking site.
- You can make changes to your reservation and contact us easily. When you book a room on an OTA like Hotels.com, there is a middle man between you and us. Communication is more challenging and inefficient as a result. When you make your reservation directly with us, you are able to contact us directly to easily make a change to your reservation, or to ask us questions that will help you personalize and optimize your getaway.
- You get access to specials and other amenities. We run specials throughout the year. For example, we give the gift of complimentary chocolates all month long in February as a Valentine’s gift to our guests who book direct. You can get discounted Biltmore tickets all year long by booking directly with us. Order flowers or cake for a celebratory getaway. And more.
Are we asking you to never again use a third party booking site like Expedia or Booking or Airbnb? No way! The decision is yours. In fact, sometimes it might make sense to use an OTA, for example, when you’re traveling to another country where there is a language barrier. We just want to make sure our guests know there are tangible benefits when making a reservation directly with us. Thanks for reading and celebrating #BookDirect Day with us!