In order to set the context of the presentation, it is important to examine where the distribution strategy takes place in the global marketing strategy. According to Meidan and Lee (1982), four main stages constitute the global marketing strategy of hotels: identification of the target market and the needs of these customers; formulation of the marketing objectives; definition of the constraints (mainly linked to the environment of the hotel); and finally, allocation of marketing resources. This last stage can itself be divided in four components, following the Marketing Mix model of McCarthy (1960): product, place (also called distribution), promotion and price.
Before the internet and online technologies, the distribution channels
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The importance of the internet in marketing and distribution is undisputed by scholars and has been for years. This is no different for Hoteliers who can access this resource through a number of different ways. Their own website allows hotels to have more reactive pricing strategies, keep information about themselves up to date, and provides the easiest method to have contact with customers. Online directory websites, tour operator websites, and travel agency websites all act as intermediaries between the hotel and customer in much the same way as the offline travel agent used to do but to a global audience. Whilst taking a commission these can still be profit maximising channels for hotels because they sell to a broader customer base than the hotel would otherwise have access to.
Review websites, whilst not run by hotels either, are also a crucial contact network with consumers. They are trusted by consumers and tap into Word of Mouth which has long been recognized as effective. Search engines have similarly been identified as commonly used by potential tourists and provide huge amounts of traffic to hotel websites. It is therefore important to consider purchasing advertising space through these for the Hotelier’s distribution channel. Whilst search engines and review sites are not technically distribution channels (as you cannot book on them) they are still important to be aware on when looking from a hotel’s perspective at the online