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Visit Scotland | Alba
VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

Understand your customers

Information and practical advice

The purposes of distribution channels are two-fold. To give potential customers the information they need to make a holiday choice, and to allow them to book once they have made their holiday choice. Choosing the best distribution channels for your business to develop and grow requires time. It also requires research.

Your routes to market

How consumers plan and book their travel varies from market to market. Many elements will influence their decision-making process, such as the destination or the type of holiday. Cultural norms with regards to holiday booking and planning in their country may also come into play.

When growing your accommodation business, it's always good to:

  • understand what type of customers you are looking for

  • know whether, and when, you have capacity or space to accept more customers

  • understand how your potential customers are planning and booking their holidays

  • identify which markets are best for you - taking into account visitor profiles and expectations

You'll find that some customers will book directly with you. But many others will also want to book indirectly via an intermediary, in which case you'll most likely pay a commission per booking.

Many consumers do rely on an intermediary booking channel as a trusted source. They expect a familiar brand to understand their needs and deliver the quality holiday they are looking for.

There are benefits to diversifying and growing your business in more than one route to market. In practice, you probably want to rely on a combination of direct and indirect bookings. That way, you'll get as many potential visitors see and consider your business when they're booking their trip.

Direct route to market

This is where a customer books with your business in person:

  • via phone, email, or direct message

  • through your website's online booking engine

  • approaching your accommodation business in person

Indirect route to market

This is where a customer uses a third party to research and book their travel, such as:

  • an online travel agent like or Expedia.

  • a travel agent or advisor

  • a traditional tour operator