Hotel Booking sites, OTA’s and unhappy hoteliers

So, Last week I read a really interesting article over at Secret Serrania

The owners of an art boutique hotel in the beautiful white village of Gaucin, perched high up in the Serrania de Ronda have called for a boycott of OTAs (Online Travel Agency) including Booking.com, Hotel.com and Expedia saying the COVID-19 crisis ‘has revealed the true nature of OTAs’.

But they’ve had enough of the OTAs and are now calling on their guests to book direct with them.

Read the full article on Secret Serrania here.

It would seem that there are some very unhappy hoteliers out there (and in some cases for good reason I suppose) but I think that we could look at this from a different perspective. The perspective of someone like me who runs this, the Grazalema Guide and other websites focusing on tourism in Western Andalucia…

Lets face it, I am not the only “niche” website in the world (as the link to Secret Serrania shows.) There are many small and very focused websites covering all sorts of subjects. But, and this is a big but. Although I would consider myself to be an expert in my field its almost impossible to get relevent local businesses to be confident in my product.

What’s my product you may ask?

Well I have spent years and years studying my subject. Thousands of people each month read my thousands of articles and I receive over 200 emails a month asking me for further help or thanking me for the help I have given them. My various websites have around 200,000 people visiting them each month… Surely this means something to businesses such as hotels in the area? well, apparently no!

I can give a perfect example. Over the years, I have approached literally thousands of businesses asking them to support my websites by taking out an advertising campaign.

In the past, for as low as 25 euros a year a hotel could have had main coverage and promotion from any of my sites. I can see my stats. I know how many customers I push their way and the statistics speak for themselves.

So, one day, the owner of a hotel in the Ronda area asked me. “that 25 euros a year is for what exactly?” My response was an estimated 5 double rooms booked each year…. “Hahahahaha” they said.

Maybe next year.

This went on for more than a couple of years and to be quite honest I became rather upset and annoyed that the people in the hotel industry were spending thousands yearly on “OTA’s” and couldn’t spare 25 euros for me? (After all, if I could get even 500 business across my sites I would have a reasonable income from them as a whole.) They would be helping a local business to promote their local business… Win win no?

So, one day I simply gave up trying to “tout” my business. No more phone calls or visits or emails. I just switched every link to every hotel across all of my websites to the booking.com links for that particual hotel… Easy! (though it took many weeks to rewrite, and edit and republish many of my articles)

And what of that original business in the Ronda area that thought 25 euros was too expensive? Well, last year they paid me 1200 euros in commissions (via booking.com.) Money that they need not have spent because I would have been very happy with the 25 Euros…

In a a way the hotel industry is now sowing what it reaped. You all put your faith in these OTA’s and the greed that comes along with them. You all became obsessed with tripadvisor and facebook and twitter and booking and hotels and venere and rough travel and all the rest of the guys that spend YOUR money keeping YOUR website OFF the top of Google search.

The fact is, that whether anybody likes it or not, My tourist websites and thousands of others like mine are funded by click ads from Google and affiliate links to OTA’s. Your customers don’t see your website. They see mine because it is packed with well researched and well written content that PROMOTES your local business.

You would have been better to have spent your valuable time writing better content for your websites and talking to local people, employing local guides and and advertising on locally focused businesses.

The key to the future of tourism is cooperation, trust and sharing…. look at Wildside Holidays to see what I mean by sharing… It is a dedicated website promoting walking and wildlife holidays in Grazalema… Or is it? I`ll let you decide.

Wildside Holidays

Grazalema Guide

Caminito del Rey

Ronda Today

Comments are always welcome either here or on the post at facebook.

Planning for trips closer to home this summer?

Some of us are “lucky enough” to live in areas of outstanding natural beauty close to all the holiday amenities anyone could ever need. (I like the word “lucky”… Seems the “harder” I “work” the “luckier” I get!) 🙂

Looking to the future as this coronavirus thing starts to settle down I guess that anyone in the holiday/tourism industry must now see that international tourism is finished for 2020 and probably won’t get started properly again untill the end of 2021 or even as far away as 2022.

But that doesn’t mean that we all roll over and cry ourselves to sleep! No matter where you live in the world, within a hundred kilometres there must be something of Interest? I mean, If you live in Málaga or Marbella then Ronda is easily within reach for a weekend visit yes?

In my opinion its up to us small businesses, local guides, hotels and other tourist related outfits to focus our advertising efforts towards local clients. (As I have always preached!) After all, a great part of the global economy does depend on tourism and local tourism could help to get us out of this coronavirus mess we seem to have found ourselves in.

And if you can get to Ronda then, of course Grazalema as well… You could visit the botanical gardens in the village of El Bosque for example…

What about a weekend getaway somewhere in the Sierra de Grazalema?

Booking.com

45 days of lockdown in the Sierra de Grazalema

So, here we are at day 45 of quarantine lockdown in the Sierra de Grazalema, Spain. To be honest, for the family and I, it really isn’t too bad as we live in a house in the countryside 10 kilometres from Grazalema and we have about a hectare of land with vegetable gardens and plenty of space for the 3 children to play. I feel for the parents and kids stuck inside small apartments.

Grazalema so far has no cases of the dreaded virus along with other fairly isolated villages in the area such as Zahara de la Sierra, Villaluenga del Rosario and El Gastor. Ronda has had its share of suffering with over 100 registered infections and, sadly, 13 deaths but that is to be expected as the regional hospital is located here so infected people have arrived not just from the town of Ronda but, outlying villages as well. The nearby village of Ubrique has suffered with many people in an old peoples home becoming ill with the virus.

Tourism is effectively finished for the time being. Towns and villages normally bustling at this time of year are empty. The roads through the Sierra de Grazalema have hardly any vehicles on them and wildlife is quickly reclaiming its space.

I leave this post with a few pictures of the stunning views in the Sierra de Grazalema.

The white villages of the Sierra de Grazalema

Absorb the tranquillity as you meander through the narrow, charismatic streets and open squares, noting the blend of Arabic layout and design with eighteenth century grandeur and ornamentation. The White villages of the Sierra de Grazalema natural park are waiting to be explored.

This guide offers you a choice of 3 short tours passing from village to village through stunning surroundings of lush Mediterranean woodlands and high mountain passes, with each white-washed population cluster separated by stunning Andalusian scenery.

Continue reading The white villages of the Sierra de Grazalema

The White village of Grazalema

Grazalema is a traditional white village (pueblo blanco) located in the north-eastern area of Cadiz province. It nestles amongst the beautiful mountains of the Sierra de Grazalema and has a local population of around 2000 people inhabiting the village and surrounding countryside.

Set in a protected area popular for nature and outdoor enthusiasts the village itself is on the list of “obligatory visits” on the route of the white villages of Andalucia.

Continue reading The White village of Grazalema

Tourist Information Portal for the Sierra de Grazalema, The town of Ronda and the Caminito del Rey.