According to this year’s first research by eNET and Hungarian Hotel Monitor into the online accommodation market of Hungary, 45% (58 billion HUF) of the total accommodation fee revenue was generated through online booking channels in 2012. It is online accommodation brokerages that have the biggest market share.
The Hungarian tourism market has gradually opened up towards online channels in the past five years, where pricing, clear communication, positive feedback and extra services are more important than ever before.
The accommodation market is still rather Budapest-centred thanks to the high number of tourists and business bookings, but the marketing efforts of accommodation owners are increasingly focused on private guests instead of conference tourism. Consequently, the role of brokers has increased besides the owners’ own tools (homepage, phone) that are used to reach both Hungarian and foreign guests.
Until now, no regular, comprehensive and widely accepted methodology has been available for the evaluation of the Hungarian accommodation brokerage market and the revenues generated online. Thus both accommodation owners and players of the brokerage market made their decisions solely based on their knowledge of their own and their immediate competitors’ facilities. Therefore, eNET has decided to add this dynamically expanding e-commerce area (which also generates high total revenues) to its measurement suite.
According to data measured by KSH (Hungarian Central Statistical Office), the total Hungarian (net) accommodation fee revenue amounted to 129 billion HUF last year. Of this, the share of the online segment was measured by eNET – Hotel Monitor. The total price of the guest nights booked online was 58 billion HUF in 2012, of which 29 billion HUF was realised through online brokers. The largest part (21 billion HUF) of this amount was generated by classic accommodation brokers. Bonus/coupon sites and online travel agencies offering accommodation in Hungary total 4 billion HUF each (without travel costs).
Szallas.hu in the lead
The players employing the classic accommodation brokerage model actually collect and aggregate supply and distribute bookings; few of them currently offer payment or real-time booking. Working for a commission, they cover the complete range of accommodation service levels, from rooms to let to five star hotels. Regarding concentration, 10-15 players dominate the market, of which Szallas.hu is the largest, with 6.5 billion HUF of mediated turnover.
On the other hand, the marketing model of bonus/coupon sites clearly emphasises preferential offers instead of providing wide variety. Among accommodation owners, the judgement of the model is varied, and press reports have also been rather ambiguous. However, everyone agrees that the proper use of bonus/coupon marketing helps boost business and is an excellent way to fill the weekday accommodation capacities that are difficult to sell. Opposite to the logic of accommodation booking sites – where specific dates can be booked – bonus/coupon sites sell vouchers freely usable within a time period, with actual payment on their sites.
Impulse shopping and the effectiveness of a discount strongly depend on the presentation and packaging of the offer, so only those accommodations are competitive which add a special experience such as a wellness or spa section, an adventure park, or even a candlelit, romantic supper. Such needs are primarily satisfied by hotels, and that is where customers are the most likely to return to.
The bonus/coupon market is very saturated; beside sites with general offers, numerous players specialising in accommodation battle for the favour of guests.
Besides the analysis of turnover indicators, the research put emphasis on other aspects of the online accommodation market as well.
Among the most popular accommodation types as indicated by the transmitted turnover, 98% of hotels have their own homepages, and almost all of those include a booking interface. In the case of pensions, the situation is similar as the overwhelming majority has its own homepage, with a possibility to book online. In the case of apartments and guest houses, the picture is much more varied as only slightly more than 60% is present on the Internet. Within these, 50% offers online booking.
The possibility of payment via the booking interface currently plays a smaller role than the existence of a web site and a booking interface. Only 37% of the accommodations interviewed offer online payment, and the majority (66%) of these are hotels. Offering online payment is clearly advantageous no brokerage fee is payable for bookings paid for in that way; furthermore, guests booking directly usually spend more and are more loyal. So this tool will probably be used by more accommodation sites already this year.
Regarding communication, 93% of accommodations use online tools as well. Beside a homepage, the most popular such tool involves social media. Some 40% of pensions, 46% of apartments, 48% of guest houses, 32% of three star hotels and 20% of four star hotels use social media. Their usage of social media is currently limited to a presence that requires no extra spending; professional social media services are typically used by four and five star hotels, with an annual budget of a few million HUF earmarked for that purpose.
In almost all segments of the accommodation market, search marketing plays an important role in strengthening online presence. However, it is mostly hotels and pensions that spend significant money for that purpose.
Newsletters are very important to hotels (30-40% use newsletters in all hotel categories). Banner advertisements are an essential communication pillar to pensions, apartments and guest houses.
Due to the increasing importance of online interfaces, accommodations fill their capacities via more and more independent brokers and interfaces. Consequently, the management of incoming requests and bookings has become an important task even in the case of smaller accommodations. Capacity management systems aimed at the simplification of such processes are not yet in common use, even though several software solutions developed in Hungary are available.
According to the research, only 26% of the interviewed accommodations use such a process management tool, while most hotels already enjoy the benefits of these solutions.
However, that 26% ratio will probably rise already this year. The almost 2 million people who purchase goods on the Internet commonly book and pay for airplane and other tickets online in real time, so this need will gradually arise in the near future among prospective guests searching for accommodation as well.
In summary, online accommodation sales are on the rise; as in other fields of e-commerce, more and more people are reached online. Consequently, accommodation owners may look forward to more prosperous years than before.
The survey was conducted by eNET and Hungarian Hotel Monitor in the spring of 2013 based on a sample of more than 6,000 accommodations in Hungary, with the CAWI method (computer-assisted web questionnaire interviews).