Ok so I have run into quite a few people lately who has asked me about listing their parks with an online travel site such as Expedia. I have a few thoughts both good and bad on this. Thoughts on how it can hurt you and help you. Thanks in advance for spending some time on our blog.
I will start with the easy stuff. Why would you even consider paying some one else to help sell your sites? Easy, you want more people to visit your site and that should translate into more business which should translate into more money. Pretty easy eh? (that is the Canadian in me). Not so fast cowboy. Online travel sites shave not cottoned on to the outdoor hospitality business as of yet. The consumer user experience is not what it should be. Which leads me into my list.
- The Online user experience for the camping public is not good. It is designed for flights, hotels, car rentals and cruises. I have yet to see one online major travel website list campgrounds or RV parks in their home page menus. So the consumer has to really dig for your park. Sometime when they punch in a city to find accommodation your park will come up and be compared to hotels! Not a good thing for a guy who is driving a 45′ motorhome.
- Not cheap – The pricing for online site sales ranges anywhere from 11% to over 25%. There are a lot of fees they do not tell you about. While those fees are OK for $200 hotel rooms that operate for 52 weeks per year, those kind of fees can really knock a whole in your margins especially if you make all your money in 2 months on a $35 per night site like we do at our park
- You lose control of your pricing – Yep, think about it. You are then in the price ball game instead of the value ball game in your offerings. Why? When the public puts in your geogrphic area into one of these major travels sites, they enter in the dates they need and it brings back prices and locations for the consumer. They usually list it from cheapest to most expensive. In an effort increase your business you are forced to match these prices in order to show up on the first page. So be careful what you wish for.
I am not saying that online reservations are a bad thing. Far from it. Indeed your campground software has to be able to take reservations over the Internet. Dead stop. No discussion. You have to be taking reservations over the internet. However before you spend a lot of time or money investing in the OTA (online travel agencies) please investigate all their fees and the actual user experience. We are have attached our BookYourSite™ system to Trip Advisor and are working on Booking.com. Why? Because our customers are asking for it! The day we stop listening to them are the day we are gone.
I think that the fixed roof business (cabins) in your park is a good place to start with the OTAs. Just wanted to give everyone a heads up and provide some food for thought.
Please feel free to comment.