What is hotel distribution?

A hotel sales strategy is an action plan for selling rooms profitably through various channels.

Hotel sales channels

Typically, a mix of direct channels such as a hotel website and indirect channels such as online travel agencies (OTAs), global distribution systems (GDS), and wholesalers are used.

Rethink hotel distribution

When online travel agencies (OTAs) arrived around the turn of the millennium, they leveled the playing field between big global brands and local hoteliers. A 3-room B&B in the Alps or a family-run Italian osteria can enjoy the same online visibility as a Marriott or Mercure hotel and attract customers from all over the world.

But now every hotel is using the same tools for sales and OTAs have become a commodity. This means that it is again more difficult for smaller hotels or chains to stand out from the big brands. To make matters worse, standard layouts and quantitative search criteria (number of stars, room price, average user ratings) make it even more difficult for hotels to present their unique properties.

“OTAs have become a commodity.”

The Student Hotel in Amsterdam offers large and flexible classrooms and workspaces that can be used in various facilities and booked for events. – –
Photo: EHL

Strategic partnership

To stand out from the crowd, hoteliers must now look for new distribution channels. Some have benefited from the rise in niche travel guides like Wallpaper, Monocle, or Louis Vuitton. Others have started using local partners with additional offers as ambassadors.

The Waldhotel in the Bürgenstock Resort on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland has teamed up with renowned private clinics in the region, which refer their patients to the hotel. In Amsterdam, the student hotel relies in part on recommendations from local demand generators such as universities and student guides. This type of strategy helps hotels establish themselves in the local scene, offers a more authentic experience, and creates new revenue streams that are tied to local visitors.

“Affinity-based referencing is another way for hoteliers to stand out.”

The Louis Vuitton City Guides, published since 1998, have achieved cult status among well-heeled and ambitious customers alike. – –
Photo: EHL

Strategic referencing and social media

Affinity-based referencing is another way for hoteliers to stand out, especially if they have a strong concept. For example, road trip enthusiasts who book a classic car on the Washington-based platform PacWesty are encouraged to stay at the Kimpton Hotel Vintage in Seattle before or after their trip. Virgin Hotels are active on local Reddit forums and offer tips on activities, attractions – and, of course, where to stay. Social media apps like Pinterest and Instagram have also become ideal points of sale for hotels and offer more creative control over the experience than with OTAs. As long as they can be tied to the hotel concept, these new points of sale can increase the perceived value of a hotel, reach a higher quality audience and increase direct reservations.

This article is taken from the Hotel Concept Handbook developed by Creative supply in partnership with EHL and has been used to create successful hotel concepts. For hoteliers, it helps to develop integrated, compelling concepts that arouse the interest of guests and industry professionals alike by linking storytelling with operation or design. The Hotel Concept Framework is taught to EHL students every year.

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