What Is an Alias or Anonymous Email Address in OTAs?
You might have already noticed that for each reservation made on booking websites like Airbnb and Booking.com, some forwarding anonymous email addresses like @guest.booking.com,” “@guest.airbnb.com,” or “@host.airbnb.com” are used instead of the guest or the host’s real email addresses. The OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) generate these alias email addresses for temporary communication purposes, and these will not be valid a short time after the guests’ check-out. OTAs do not show the guests’ personal email address but any emails sent to the temporary address are forwarded to the guest’s private email address. Online booking websites like Airbnb say these anonymous emails are used to fight scammers and protect your personal information from potential spams, viruses or other online threats.
Why Do OTAs Like Airbnb and Booking.com Use Alias Emails?
By masking emails, OTAs such as Booking.com and Airbnb are sharing as little data as possible and working as intermediaries between the guests and accommodation providers. They claim that this has been done as a data protection measure, but in fact they don’t want to lose their customers to direct bookings. The alias email addresses used by OTAs will become invalidated a short time after a guest’s checkout, and the communications through them will be lost. When the booking sites take away your guests’ contact details, they’re keeping the guests to themselves and make it harder for you to develop long-term relationships with your past guests. Watch out! Do not give too much away for short-term achievements at the expense of your long-term success when working with OTAs. The following are the side effects of the OTAs’ alias email system for hosts.
Hosts Become Too Dependent on OTAs
The more property owners and hoteliers rely on OTAs like Expedia, Booking.com, and Airbnb for driving bookings, the more money and market shares they will lose, and the more dependent they will become in the long run. By listing their properties only on OTAs, hospitality accommodation owners and managers not only pay hefty commissions, but also give up on their guest database and severely lose their own power and control over their marketing strategies. Consequently, they have to rely on OTAs and booking platforms for more business.
Hosts Cannot Personalise Their Campaigns with OTAs
Data-driven email marketing is a smart way for vacation rental owners to influence their repeat guests effectively, but this is impossible without an accurate, comprehensive guest database. Access to data and related market information, including travellers’ personal profiles, preferences and needs, buying behaviors, and booking trends enables vacation rental owners and property managers to target customers with personalised offers and deliver tailor-made experiences that can create mutually beneficial relationships and devoted customers.
Email campaigns can be easily personalised based on what you already know about your customers’ preferences. You can send your customers messages with relevant and enticing content targeted directly at them, giving them a sense of exclusivity. By utilising email marketing in a meaningful and effective way, you can offer your own VIP loyalty programs, promotions, and special discounts to even your first-time bookers.
Hosts Lose Control of Their Branding and Marketing Strategy
When your guests book through an OTA and not directly with you, they have access to the real email address of your customers while you do not, and as a result, they are able to continue their relationship with the guests and promote their own brand. In such a situation, you will lose a whole lot in terms of branding and marketing strategy. In today’s increasingly competitive and saturated vacation rental market, fostering relationships with travellers and increasing repeat bookings is critical to the future of your brand and business. A brand must be able to talk to its target market, as well as to listen to them to take care of its brand image and get feedback to understand what their guests are dealing with and create opportunities for better customer experience, conversation and trust.
Suggested Solutions to Overcome the Alias Emails Policy
To give your marketing efforts a boost, you need to build your own database by collecting the real email addresses of your guests who come through from an OTA. You can either assign your reception staff to ask the guests for a valid email address during check-in/out or ask the customers via an email (remember, anonymous emails are valid for a short time) to provide you with their real email and ask them to subscribe to your newsletter or offer a discount for direct bookings through your website. There are obvious difficulties and heavy liftings when it comes to such manual measures. As there is no obligation, guests might or might not give you their real information, and there will be nothing much you can do about it. Plus, not all properties have a meet and greet reception mode or check-in staff. In addition, OTAs do not let you use their anonymous emails for marketing and follow-up purposes after the guests’ check-out. Therefore, it is highly recommended to avoid this process.
What Is the Best Solution?
OTAs have an undeniable presence in the hospitality industry, and you can’t avoid them. Even if you take advantage of OTAs’ potential in exposing your listings and driving bookings, you may still need to invest in a balanced multi-channel marketing strategy and have complete control over the relationship with your customers to get more direct bookings and maximise your profits through sales on your own website. Focus on improving your digital marketing techniques such as search engine optimisation (SEO) incessantly and equip your hotel or serviced apartments’ website with the same tools the OTAs are using to target your repeat guests directly through email and direct marketing. Once you have collected your guests’ contact information, you need to find a way to keep track of them and automate this process, to manage your time effectively.
How Can Zeevou Help to Collect Guests’ Real Email Addresses?
Zeevou’s Booking Engine allows guests to book directly through your direct booking website with live rates and availability. Besides, Zeevou Book offers a unique 5-Step Booking Confirmation Process, through which the processing of all bookings are streamlined regardless of their source – channels or your own website – and the guests are asked to confirm and provide additional information after placing a booking.
When a booking hits Zeevou from any channels or OTAs, a message will be automatically sent to the guest to follow Zeevou’s 5-Step Booking Confirmation Process. The guests will be told which conditions they have already met, and which steps are still left to be completed. The very first step of this process gets the guest to identify whether they are booking for themselves or on behalf of someone else, and then they are asked to complete their own and their likely travel companions’ profiles. During this step, the guests will not be able to see the anonymous email addresses of the channels and must fill in the email field with their personal email address before moving to the next step. This way hosts will be able to collect personal details including name, address, email address, and even phone number. Moreover, Zeevou enables you to ask your guests’ permission for future marketing to comply with GDPR requirements, which allows them to unsubscribe from any marketing emails sent through at any point in the future.