Five lessons from HEDNA about the future of distribution

We were excited to attend and speak at HEDNA Miami, which was themed “Together Again. Moving Hospitality Forward.”  This theme was appropriate for us because this was our first in-person conference in over a year. Gathering with the hospitality industry’s leading minds reminded us what is important today, and what will be important in the future for distribution.  

1st: Brands must own their content   

This year at HEDNA, a common theme was the fact that content is only getting more complicated. During my panel, Under Pressure: the Complex Balance of Managing Product Evolution and Content Technology, we discussed a problem facing every chain: they need a reliable way to share their content with channels.  

For many years, channels have relied on many sources for hotel data, media, and rates. This has created a whack-a-mole problem for chains, with out-of-date content appearing on channels sporadically with no identifiable source. After tracking down and fixing one, they inevitably find another. All of this manual effort can be avoided if brands own their content and centralize control.  

Brands need to mandate content standards and processes to their member hotels, and they need to use the right tools to do so. Products like our own Content Manager allow travel channels to “clean up” their listings by establishing a Distributor of Record that is recognized as the single source of truth to internal and external channels.  

2nd: “Static” content is an out-of-date term 

Gone are the days when there’s anything ‘static’ about marketing a hotel. What’s more, calling content like media, hotel descriptions, and property details, static, diminishes their importance. After all, would you buy anything in this day and age without seeing a recent photo? Probably not – and neither will someone book a room without seeing it first.  

The rapidly changing environment of the last two years has shown that static content is a misnomer. Content like opening hours or amenity availability can change fast. That’s why more and more hotel chains are seeing all content as dynamic – and looking to distribute it as such.  

In the future, chains are looking to increase control through reliable technology that integrates directly with channels so that all of their content is brand approved and delivered seamlessly.  

3rd: Properties and property owners must take content seriously 

Time and time again we heard that while brands are focused on content, their properties are not. Understandably, they’re busy with the day-to-day operations of the hotel. Too many hotel owners believe that the cheapest hotel gets the booking, and that’s just not the case anymore.  

Brands need to remind their member hotels that content = conversions. A little work, and let’s be honest, a little investment in improving content across channels now will yield big results because…  

4th: Travel is on the rise 

Throughout our conversations at HEDNA, one of the biggest takeaways was all the ways travel is rebounding. Numbers are up in almost every region, across every market. The United States, where this year’s HEDNA conference was located, is in the process of re-opening its global borders. Immediately after the border reopening announcement, United Airlines shared that bookings for November onwards were exceeding 2019 levels.  

Of course, optimism must be balanced with realism. Leisure travel is on the rise, but business travel is still lagging. This increased optimism is important as the travel industries sets benchmarks and budgets for next year. It shows that now is the time to make sure that you have the underlying processes and solutions for ongoing success.  

5th: In-person is better  

There’s no way around it: having a conversation is better in person than it is on Zoom. Connecting with people around the world over a digital meeting is an amazing way to keep in touch. But there’s just no beating face-to-face brainstorming.  

As the first round of conferences kicks off, we expect to see that travel rebound strengthen as people are reminded of the value of safe, in-person gatherings. We’re looking forward to meeting with more partners across the travel industry throughout 2022.