With all of the chatter about the Room Key collaboration, the websites of major hotel chains in North America are indeed asserting control and stealing room-night share -- from their own voice channels.
That was one of the data points that could be extrapolated from TravelClick's latest North America Distribution Review, covering the third quarter of 2011, the latest statistics available.
Brand.com's room nights sold increased about 6.1% during the third quarter, compared with the same period in 2010.
And, Tim Hart, TravelClick's executive vice president of business intelligence solutions, says much of these gains came from the chain's own voice channels (their toll-free phone lines), which saw about a 2% decline in room nights sold.
"The dominant dynamic is that people who are picking up a phone are going online," Hart says. "The primary direction they are going is brand.com. That is exactly what they want to see happen. That [the hotel website] is going to be the lowest-cost channel they operate."
For the record, online travel agency room nights climbed about 5%, the travel agency channel through GDSs increased 4%, the direct channel (the property's own phone lines, walk-ins and emails to the property) notched 1% ahead, and room-night grown overall in TravelClick's top 25 North America markets grew around 3%.
The roughly 5% room-night growth for the OTA channel in the third quarter was not necessarily a bad thing for the hotels even though it is a higher-cost channel than brand.com, Hart says.
That's because OTA ADRS (average daily rates) climbed about 12% to around $110, Hart says.
What that means is that hotels were easing up on discounting through Priceline and Hotwire, and in air-hotel packages, and promotions on other OTA sites, Hart says.
"The OTAs continue to deliver good volumes to the hotel at a much higher rate so that continues to be a positive story," Hart says.
"Clearly, it's a high-cost channel, but the OTAs are delivering important guests into the mix for hotels," Hart says, adding that the OTAs sometimes reach a customer base that the hotels themselves aren't touching.
Hotels get much higher rates, on average, through brand.com ($140), voice ($145) and GDS/travel agencies ($155), Hart says.
One shocker about the latest TravelClick numbers: the largest channel for hotels in the third quarter was the "direct channel" (property phone lines, walk-in and emails to properties), which accounted for about a 27% share of room nights sold.
Hart surmises that mid-level hotels probably drive this portion of the business.
The percentages of room night sold for the remaining channels in the third quarter were: brand.com (25.4%), GDS/travel agencies (18.5%), chains' toll-free numbers (17.2%) and OTAs (12.4%).