Starwood has re-launched the Sheraton website with a social networking flavour, looking for customers to add their stories and interact with the brand online. If properly executed this is a superb brand move by them. The hotel chains initially fought back against third party distribution by emphasising price parity. This was not the right move as it was treating distribution partners as the enemy, turning the marketing battle into which distribution channel the customer should use rather than which hotel the customer should stay at. Customers don't think in terms of distribution channels. They make decisions based on emotions around "is this a good deal" and "will it be a nice place to stay" not "disintermediation pricing plans by the hotels are now beginning to work and therefore there is value in booking direct again". Too many times I heard from hotel marketing managers that customers are focusing on the latter. Instead I have argued that hotels should be focusing their online and marketing energies in building a brand and personal relationship with customers. This will drive their long term success much more than simply fighting it out with distribution partners as to where a booking is made.
Travelmole and eyefortravel have more.