Contrary to the belief that OTAs have now dominated hotel bookings, European wholesale/travel agency distribution still is the largest share of business for hotels in Thailand.
About 80 per cent of Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts Phuket’s German bookings comes through the wholesalers, area director of sales & marketing Ludovic Gallerne told TTG Asia.
Banyan Tree Resort Phuket
Likewise, at The Rembrandt Hotel Bangkok, which boasts a strong North European market, the UK, Swiss, German and Danish wholesale markets have been traditionally strong and are still growing, said general manager Eric Hallin.
The UK and German-speaking markets also make up the strongest business from Europe for the Sala Hospitality Group, particularly for its Phuket and Samui properties.
Said group director of business development, Nicolas Reschke: “From the first year of opening we started great relationships with the major players who have supported us for 13 years since.”
The strong agent culture in Germany and Switzerland clearly has a role to play in driving contract bookings to Thailand hotels, said Klaus Sennik, general manager of Ramada Plaza Bangkok Menam Riverside.
“It is also important to recognise that Germany and Switzerland are home to some of the world’s most successful and influential tour operators such as TUI and Kuoni.”
The overall tendency for the European feeder markets to book further in advance through tour operators has helped Manathai Hotels and Resorts to be less reliant on last-minute OTA deals to fill rooms, according to group director of sales & marketing, Matt Fynch.
However, hoteliers in Thailand are not discounting the rising influence of OTAs, as outside of the German-speaking markets the travel agent holds less sway.
Banyan Tree’s Gallerne commented: “Trends are not similar in France with high online numbers and the rise of flash sales operators.
“The UK is a good mix but increasingly heading towards more online while Scandinavian operators remain strong in destinations with charter flights and not for luxury brands like Banyan Tree.”
Views also differ as to how the hotel-wholesaler relationship will pan out, with Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort’s director of sales and marketing Pond Leartsinpakdee believing that key OTAs will “continue to gain market share from the traditional wholesalers in Europe and across the world” while the hotel grows its direct-to-website business.
Weighing in on the discussion, Ramada’s Sennik’s sentiments are more mixed. “There’s no doubt that more and more European travellers are using the digital space to book their holidays in Thailand,” he said.
“But the sheer strength, experience and determination of the agency wholesale market in Europe means that we expect to enjoy significant business from this traditional source for many years to come.”
Said Fynch: “I believe the agent/wholesale business will not go away soon or even shrink. The personal touch is still very much alive and well in European longhaul travel decisions to Thailand.”