Australian holiday parks are gradually regaining control of their online sales distribution channels, and clawing back market share from large OTAs such as Booking.com and Expedia, according the first RMS Cloud Holiday Park Performance Index.
The findings were based on more than two million online bookings that were made through the RMS Cloud distribution and property management platform from 2014-2018.
Holiday park operators boost direct bookings
The performance index shows between 2014-2018, the online market share of Booking.com and Expedia fell from 65% to 55% – a drop of 15%. Meanwhile, consumer direct bookings on independent holiday park websites rose by 15%, climbing from 34% in 2014 to an all-time high of 39% in 2018.
If the present trajectory continues, the index stated that direct bookings would be able to overtake OTA bookings by 2024.
Direct bookings much more profitable for operators
Cabin revenue achieved by operators through their own websites is much higher than via either Expedia or Booking.com, the RMS Cloud Holiday Park Performance Index also revealed.
Direct cabin bookings generate an average of 21% more revenue per booking than Expedia and are 10% more lucrative than Booking.com, the analysis showed.
When the 15% average commission charged by OTAs is factored in, the income differential between direct and OTA bookings can exceed 30%. It must be noted direct bookings often comes at a cost such as marketing, website development or price incentives.
Holiday park rates peaked in 2015, but it’s been mostly downhill since as operators have no pricing power outside of peak holiday periods. As a result, profits in the industry are under pressure and it’s easy to see why operators are putting a greater emphasis on direct bookings.
OTA sector a straight duopoly
Despite the progress Australian holiday parks have made over the past 18 months in reclaiming online share, the OTA duopoly of Booking.com and Expedia still have 55% of web bookings. Booking.com is the market leader, outselling Expedia 3: 1 in the holiday park market.
These two companies are famously competitive but in the Australian holiday park market, Booking.com is the clear OTA leader and pulling away.
Managing director of RMS Cloud, Peter Buttigieg, said holiday park operators are building better websites and marketing more aggressively to boost their share of online bookings and save on the commissions charged by dominant OTAs like Booking.com and Expedia.
“The landscape has shifted, and the data shows that for the first time ever, OTAs are losing market share to holiday park operators,” said Buttigieg.
“Previously it’s all been one-way traffic in the other direction, but now smart operators have lifted their online game and are fighting back, often with great success, demonstrating that given the choice and a great deal many consumers prefer to book directly with suppliers.”
Other findings of the report revealed that holiday park stays are getting shorter while average booking lead times have increased. The average booking in 2018 was made 39 days out, up from 30 days in 2014.
Average nights per stay has also fallen 10%, from 2.1 nights to 1.9 nights. While it doesn’t sound like much, when combined with flat or declining rates, this fall has significantly impacted the average revenue per booking.
After many years of allowing foreign-owned OTAs Booking.com and Expedia to dominate online holiday park bookings, Australian holiday park operators are fighting back. They are investing in their websites and online presence while pushing book direct offers to consumers, cutting out the middlemen and saving on hefty commission rates.
In an era of stagnant rates, it’s their best option to maintain or increase profit, and for that reason alone it is fair to assume 2018 marks the leading edge of a longer-term trend, one that over time may eventually see direct bookings exceed those coming through the OTAs.
The full report can be viewed here.