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Open Availability Explained
Open Availability is an initiative to broadcast your latest availability and accommodation rates directly to your potential Customers using the internet search engines. Internet users would see your availability and prices, alongside all other local options, directly in the search results. They wouldn't have to go into the website of an Online Travel Agent (OTA)m, they'll find availability and prices (and much more) right there in the search results. And the results they'll see? These are the prices YOU have set and a link to YOUR chosen booking website or contact.
Our plan is to give all search engines a live feed of data including your latest availability and prices, so that these can be used directly in search results. You decide your rates you can choose how you want your customers to book with you.
Right now, in January 2017, Open Availability is an idea, a dream. But its a dream that can rapidly become reality. Technically the idea is sound. And its bound to be popular with guests. But what we need is your support.
Before we move forward to create a solution we want to guage how many others share our vision. If you do sign up today for our email list, and SHARE, SHARE, SHARE with all your colleagues.
Ultimately we need every accommodation provider like you (in the world) to opt in. And why wouldn't you. It's free, or very low cost, and would offer a way to cut your costs and increase your connection with your customers.
- We are not interested in building our revenues - we don't have any
- We are not trying to sell to your customers - we just want you to have more of them
- We want your guests to book direct with you, at your rates
- We want travellers to see true availability and best rates easily
Maybe we won't be able to achieve all our objectives and still be completely free. But it won't stop us from trying. And if we do every charge for our service we'd expect it to be peanuts compared to today's alternatives.
Right now, it me, Martin Finn. My company Smart-Tactics, and a few of my friends who are hoteliers and accommodation owners. This is an idea at its beginning. But all large trees start from a tiny seed, and right now we want to see who else feels like we do, who will help us, who wants to make this happen? Join us.
Whats this all about ?
The cost of winning each new customer for my Vacation rental home sis rising and I am not happy. I know that this year I will have to pay more commission to get bookings and guests than I did last year. Each year my costs are rising, each year the middlemen take more, and it has to stop.
I know I am not alone. I have many friends own hotels, B&B's and other rental accomodation and they feel like they are being ripped off too. Each year it costs them more and more to get their bookings. And it really shouldn't be like this. My wife and I spent years renovating two victorian vacation homes beside the sea in southern Ireland. We know that there are lots of people who would love to come and stay here - we just want to reach them - deal with them direct and cut the costs we pay to the middlemen.
I am quite sure that you feel the same way too about your property, be it the most modest cottage or luxury hotel. There are millions of people out there who could be interested in your accommodation, what you need to is an effective way to reach them - that doesn't break the bank.
So we got to thinking. Is there are better way? And there is. We have a dramatic new plan - a plan to reconnect accommdation providers, like you, dirstly with your customer's - and (incredibly) do it for free!
It sounds crazy I know? But so did television when it was first described and the internet.... so, please, hold your disbelief and hear me out.
My name is Martin Finn. I have been involved with Rental businesses and the internet for most of my life. In fact the first website I ever created was almost 30 years ago. Back then the internet was for nerds and techies, so I guess I fall into that camp. But I am a marketeer really, and even back then I was trying to grow my online business.
But of you cast you mind back to pre-internet days (those of you that can) you'll recall the vacation booking process asd it was. It started with a brochure describing destinations and then either a collection of packaged holidays or a list of local accommodation choices rated by the local tourist board. You either booked with a travel agent or you got on the phone and booked direct .... or maybe you just turned up unannounced and looked out for the 'vacancies' sign.
It was all very hands on, and a bit haphazard and time consuming. And you may end up after dozens of calls finding that everywhere was booked up.
When I moved to Ireland 15 years ago I became and advocate for change and introduced online booking to hundreds of properties and hotels in Ireland and across Europe. I was certain that online booking would transform the vacations and how they are booked. And I wasn't wrong. Today we all very much more independent travellers, confidently researching and arranging our own itineraries. We couldn't do that without the internet.
And independent travellers have created new markets for niche destinations and experiences. And web marketing has created an outlet where the smallest cottage can appear next to the largest hotel chain.... well they can, or they could.
The internet was never a level playing field. But if you were smart about your online presence you could punch well above you weight... you could get the top of the first page of Google. And that's the nirvana for any web based business becase it means that your be seen thousands times more than your competitors.
And that's how it was for while. There were winners and losers, there always are. But at least you had a chance.
But not today..... it doesn't matter how big you are, how well you've crafted your online presence. It doesn't even matter if you are only hotel in your country, or if your the one and only official tourist site for your destination ... I can almost guarantee that you won't get to number 1 on the Google pages. That place is already taken - oh and by the way so is number 2 and 3 and 4.
And who is there in positions 1,2,3 and 4. More than likely it will be one of the major OTA (online travel agents). (FACT) They have a business plan which involves being at the top of Google and cornering as many users as possible. They do that by offering your accommodation and Hoteliers and Owners like you, who want bookings, like you, feel that have to sell via the OTA or they will loose out.
This model worked OK for a while - but its been going BAD and it won't get any better. The OTA's have been getting bigger (FACT) and buying up rivals. I don't blame them. If I was them I'd probably do the same. Its a standard buisness practive but in business it only leads to one thing (FACT - incumbents and badness)
And so now, not only are the OTA's charging you to advertise with them, they're also charging your customers extra too. Your customers end up paying extra and you receive less... and where does all that missing money go ... well some goes to the OTA's profits and a lt goes towards ensuring that they keep their stranglehold at the top of the Google pages.
And so you, and your customers, are in effect both paying so that you can't deal directly .... thats mad ! I mean you may think my solution is crazy - but really ... the place we are today is mad! ...
So .... whats our plan?
Well its simple really. We will create a new online system for you to enter your details, including rates and availability. It won't be dissimilar to ones to the OTA's use today. BUT we will offer that data directly to the search engines so that it can be directly used in their results.
So that if someone Google's (or Bing's) "Hotel in St.Ives, Cornwall, June 17th" then search engine can deliver back search results showing the available properties and prices (and map position) ... showing this directly in the search resuls without having to go to the OTA at all. (Show graphic)
I mean does that sound too fantastical to believe? Not to me. I know that the search engine companies want to improve their customer experience. They want to get their users to the information they want as QUICKLY as they can. So why not let customers search directly for availability and prices ... because thts what they are searching for. Its kind of obvious.
But there is a big challenge. For the search companies to provide accurate property details and availability they have to that information. And it can't come from millions of individual providers. It needs to be a fixed format and a smal number (or 1) golden source. And THAT's what Open Availability is all about .... creating the single open source of availability and pricing for accommodation EVERYWHERE.
And now you can see the real challenge here. We, I mean you and I and thousands of other accommodation provider needs to agree that we want this to happen. If we do, we can make it happen. We are at the very start of this journey, but if we believe in it, if YOU believe in it and SHARE this idea with your colleages we can make this idea a REALITY.
And what have to got to lose? Nothing. There is not cost, No downside. Its all good.
But please, for this to happen you MUST take some action IMMEDIATELY. Not later, NOW
Minimum action. Sign up below to our email list AND share this website with all your colleagues.
We'd like you to complete the quick questionaire that we'll send on to you too. That will tell us what you REALLY wnat to change with your online bookings.... and we need to know that.
But please please ... if you are an accommodation manager or owner sign up for our email group, and share this now with your colleagues!
And if you work for a major search engine, please get in touch. We'd be delighted to work directly with you.