By Colleen Isherwood
I first heard about Check In Canada four years ago at the Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association annual meeting. It wasn’t called Check In Canada then. AHLA president and CEO Dave Kaiser introduced the new Canadian Star Quality Accommodation rating system.
The new rating system would use the Jack Rabbit Booking Engine to direct users from the Star Quality information to hotels’ online booking sites. The rating program would collaborate with provincial and destination marketing organizations (PMOs and DMOs) on their travel guides and websites to provide better information and quality assurance for the consumer.
But most importantly, as Kaiser said at the time, “The program could move customers away from booking with the online travel agencies (OTAs). This would be of much greater benefit to the industry.”
Fast forward to 2015 and while the elements are the same, the program has evolved. The Hotel Association of Canada endorsed the program and contributed financially. The name was changed to Check In Canada, and the Canadian Star Quality Accommodation ratings, still an important part of the program, took a back seat to the major goal of providing a way for Canadian hoteliers to take back some of the $400 million in commissions and room revenue they lost to online travel agencies in 2014.
Bruce Okabe of Okabe and Associates has played a key role in developing Check In Canada. He spoke on the subject at both the CONNECT Food + Drink + Lodging Expo and the Western Canadian Hotel and Resort Investment Conference last month.
He explained how OTAs like Booking.com are piggybacking on DMO websites, capturing travellers who are interested in restaurants and tourist activities as well as hotels. Often, the sites promote destinations other than the original DMO’s location.
Check In Canada is also working to bring provincial travel organizations, DMOs and hotels together, to capture those bookings. Currently, if you go to the Travel Alberta website, you can book a room directly with the hotel by clicking on the Check In Canada link. While Travel Alberta doesn’t get the 60 million unique visitors Expedia gets each day, they do have 4.7 million eyeballs per year searching their website, said Okabe. As the former CEO of Travel Alberta, he should know.
The big news last month was that Destination BC is now on board with Check In Canada, and that Manitoba and Ontario are also supporting it.
And why not? For consumers, the benefits of Check In Canada include a comprehensive Canadian hotel directory with searchable listings by date and rate, assurance that every reservation is booked directly with the hotel, best rate guarantees, hotel brand and loyalty points, access to credible consumer reviews and comments and accessibility information.
For industry, Check In Canada provides effective online marketing provided by destination marketing organizations; low cost distribution with commission-free direct bookings; no inventory management; real time listing updates (availability, rates, etc.) and participation opportunities for all properties.
To learn more or to have your property listed, please visit www.checkincanada.com.