Hotel websites generated 68% of the room nights booked via electronic channels in 2010; up from 62% in 2009, according to Middle East and Africa data from Micros-Fidelio partners. By Louise Oakley

Rotana corporate vice president front office, Dominic Carr.

Rotana corporate vice president front office, Dominic Carr.

Over the same period, GDS decreased from 36% to 27%.

“Looking at the countries we represent in the Middle East, the strongest channel is now the hotel’s own website, followed by the GDS and the OTAs,” said Micros-Fidelio regional vice president services and business development, Oliver Menzel.

To capitalise on this trend, there have been a number of hotel website relaunches in recent months.

Since a new direct booking engine was introduced on rotana.com in late 2010, the company has seen bookings more than double, reported Rotana corporate vice president front office, Dominic Carr.

Similarly, Al Diar Siji Hotel general manager Fouad Melhem said he expected the recent launch of aldiarhotels.com to increase online bookings from 15% to 40% by the end of the year.

“Without a doubt, direct online bookings are the most cost-effective reservation channel,” said Carr.

This is because they sidestep the commissions charged by OTAs and GDS, which typically range between 15% and 30%.

“They also bring in the highest ADR on electronic channels and usually bring in more revenues through selling add-on services and discounted standby upgrades. They also encourage loyalty and repeat bookings through the promotion of our loyalty programme,” added Carr.

Menzel commented: “The weakest opportunity is still the OTA scenario, but with Expedia.com and Booking.com entering the market with a local language site, the picture may be about to change again”.

While direct bookings make financial sense, Travelport hospitality business development manager Assita Kone pointed out that they did still require significant investment by the hotels.

“Although hotels do not need to pay commissions on reservations made direct, they do bear all the costs associated with maintaining their websites and driving traffic, whilst the GDS has built-in infrastructure that provides access to an established network of loyal travel agency users around the world,” said Kone.

Rotana’s Carr acknowledged that “we still need OTAs and GDS,

“They are very important to us as they provide excellent international exposure that we would not achieve on our own,” he said.

This was especially important for smaller hotel chains and independent properties.

Arabian Park Hotel revenue and reservations manager Imelda Ramos said: “For non-branded hotel properties like us, our own website does not have the reach that other hotel brands have.

“We are therefore more reliant on OTAs to expose our properties to a much wider audience and drive room night production into them,” explained Ramos.

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