Looking to disrupt online travel agencies, Australian-based startup reZme is providing a SaaS platform for hotels to improve user experience and drive more direct bookings.
Within the short span of just two decades, software platforms, such as Booking.com and Expedia, have monopolised the online travel industry, with more than half of hotel bookings said to be done via travel agency platforms rather than through hotel websites.
Looking to dethrone the travel agency monopoly, disruptive Australian tech startup reZme is offering hoteliers a cost-effective way to increase direct bookings and pad their bottom line by cutting out hefty commission costs of third-party booking agencies – which can run as high as 25%!
The firm also provides further support via additional services ranging from website design and social media management to communications marketing, aiming to improve both hotelier productivity and the customer experience.
To find out more, we spoke to co-founder Matt Taylor to find out more about the current tourism market, the direct booking problem faced by hotels, and his top survival tips for hoteliers during these challenging times.
From your experience, what are some of the most common industry challenges that hotels face?
In the last five to 10 years, the biggest challenge has been what we call the rising cost of distribution. This refers to the cost of getting a booking through the door. A lot of big online travel agency companies like booking.com and Expedia have been growing significantly over the last 10 to 15 years and driving a significant number of bookings to hotels. However, as a result, commission costs have also risen substantially. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where it’s detrimentally affecting the ability of hoteliers to run a profitable business and offer good quality accommodation to guests.
A lot of hoteliers have been trying to drive bookings through direct campaigns and messaging to consumers over the last five or six years. What most customers don’t realise is that you almost always get a better deal by booking directly as opposed to booking through a travel agency. However, the challenge we see is that the technology and infrastructure still doesn’t exist for hotels to deliver on that promise. More often than not, customers that book directly with hotels come out with a deflating, clunky, and outdated experience, as compared to online travel agencies which have successfully created a process that is very quick, easy, and intuitive for guests to work through.
How has COVID-19 impacted the domestic tourism market in Australia?
COVID has without a doubt decimated the industry. Most hotels would have at one point been trading in less than 5% occupancy. In fact, most Victorian hotels are still trading at that level because of severe lockdowns in that region.
Having said that, I think that there is still optimism on the horizon, especially domestically. Once the lockdown starts to come off over the next few weeks and months, people are going to want to get out and leave their houses. By Christmas, I hope that we’ll see regional tourism starting to pick up and people from other cities getting out and exploring closeby regions.
Have traveller needs evolved, given the context of COVID-19?
There’s a higher expectation of cleanliness and hygiene. But apart from that, I think that the needs of the actual consumer are what they’ve always been – customers want comfortable and high-quality accommodation at a good price.
What is the importance of having a direct booking strategy?
When the booking comes through a third-party travel agency company, the relationship becomes more between the booking agent and the guest rather than the hotel and the guest. On the other hand, a direct booking strategy creates a close and direct relationship between the hotel operator and the guest, which means that hotels will be able to deliver the best quality service to their customers.
On top of that, there has also been a really strong movement in supporting local businesses in Australia within the past few months. So, I believe that guests would want to support these local businesses rather than booking through a global company.
What are some of the top strategies hoteliers and accommodation providers should leverage right now to get more bookings in this day and age?
Content is key. Customers want to be informed, so providing them with relevant and engaging content is paramount. However, managing the content and backend of their websites can often be a very cumbersome and difficult process for hoteliers, particularly if they don’t have a technical background. This is where reZme comes in – it’s really simple to use and you can provide good quality content, rich media like videos, as well as consistent updates that keep the content alive, lively, and exciting for guests.
The second thing you need to provide is a great user experience. If the booking engine offers a bad user experience, then the chances of converting that guest into a customer are almost zero. So, it’s really important for hoteliers to execute a booking engine or deliver a booking experience to your guests that is simple and quick to do.
What are some of the top SEO keywords to use right now to appeal to travellers?
Keywords will vary dramatically from location to location, so hoteliers need to understand what those keywords are from a locational perspective. However, in general, I think that honing in on things like COVID-safe, cleanliness, and hygiene, and making sure that these words run through your content significantly is going to be really important. In Australia, the governmental tourism agency is creating registers for businesses to be registered as COVID-safe. Registering and stating that publicly on your website is going to be paramount in these times.
What is the biggest lesson that hoteliers and accommodation providers should take away from this COVID-19 crisis?
Start owning your guests. Deliver on your promise and execute the experience. Don’t leave it up to third parties to control your destiny.
What’s next for reZme?
We would like to think that we’re going to be a critical component to hotels’ technological infrastructure in the next five years and be able to empower thousands of hotels. The platform we’ve built is also a global, scalable product – we’ve already built in the ability for it to be multilingual so it’s translatable across 100 different languages, so we hope to establish a strong global presence the next few years.
More about reZme
reZme is an innovative platform that allows hotel operators to easily design and manage their proprietary websites and drive more direct bookings. Founded by Aussie tech entrepreneurs Matt Taylor, former GM of Marketing at Choice Hotels Asia-Pacific, and digital marketer Luke Young in 2019, the direct-booking platform hopes to not only save hotels thousands of dollars in commission costs, but to also boost Australia’s domestic travel sector.