As a hotel owner you really should be placing a high priority on increasing the number of guests who book directly with your hotel, and chances are, you are already actively trying to drive people to your website to do just that. Commissions with OTA’s can reach as high as 30% and it is this increased level of commissions which has provoked big brand hotels to invest heavily in campaigns to encourage direct bookings via their sites.
“OTAs are online companies whose websites allow consumers to book various travel related services directly via Internet. They are 3rd party agents reselling trips, hotels, cars, flights, vacation packages etc. provided / organised by others.”
You might be asking what you can do as smaller hotel owner, without a substantial budget to invest in campaigning like the big hotel brands have. The good news is although OTAs deliver bookings, nearly two-thirds of guests prefer to book directly with hotels.
So how do we take advantage of this fact and increase direct bookings on your hotel website?
1. Know the strengths and unique selling points of your hotel. Firstly, identify the strengths and unique selling points of your hotel property, doing this means you don’t waste any time or money on expensive irrelevant marketing campaigns. To help you identify your strengths, list the features and benefits that are unique about your hotel. You can carry out a Google search and compare your property with your direct competitors, and identify the things that set you apart from them. You are looking for characteristics and qualities that your competitors cannot replicate. When you are writing your list highlight anything that cannot be easily reproduced or copied. Then create phrases about your hotel that are short, clear, and concise and use them throughout your website. Whether it’s your friendly service, local home-cooked vegan breakfast, or your unique décor – find the things that set your hotel apart from the competition and use these things to stand out to your future new guests.
2. Know who your typical guests are and what they are looking for. Can you describe your typical guest? If you can’t you could be wasting a huge amount of time marketing your hotel to “everyone”. Once you define the characteristics of your ideal guest, you’ll be better placed to find more guests just like them. When you zero in on the type of people you are targeting with your online activity – your website, your social media, your advertisements can all be tailored to speak to and appeal to your ideal guest. Are they families? Are they young professionals? Are they wealthy couples looking for a quality and luxury experience? Once you have an increased understanding of who your guests are you can speak their language and produce marketing messages and create offers that will truly resonate and excite those audiences to book directly with you.
3. Focus on your online guest experience. Once you have identified the unique selling points of your hotel and defined your ideal guests you then translate this knowledge onto your website. Write to appeal directly to them. When your potential guests reach your hotel website, you need to make sure it’s designed to be easy to navigate and that the images that clearly reflect your hotel exterior, interior rooms, and amenities that are most relevant. Quality images should take precedence on your hotel website and digital assets (hotel profiles, and social media accounts). And you’ll want to add these to your booking engine. Make it as easy as possible to get a feel for your hotel and then actively encourage them to take action by either contacting you for more information, calling you or actually booking.
4. Include a booking engine into your website. In the age of digitalisation, an online booking system on your hotels website is ESSENTIAL. When potential guests find your website, they need to be able to search easily for room type, rates, and dates. Your booking engine has to be in an obvious position - on the main page of your website or under a menu header that is intuitive. Something like Book a Stay, Reserve Now, or Check Availability works. Also, it’s good to analyse your site to find out how many clicks it takes to go from browsing to booking and make this as a small number as possible. Design a seamless and straightforward direct booking process.
5. Reward your guests for booking direct. By having a strong direct booking message on your website and including incentives for guests to book directly with you, you can increase your direct booking numbers.Make sure that your website offers a discount to people who book directly or surprise them with a gift in-room on arrival – a small basket of local products, fresh flowers, a gift voucher. Other ideas include a free taxi service which be much appreciated by guests, a free dry cleaning or laundry service, early check-in or a late breakfast, an upgrade of room where it’s available. You can also use these ideas if your guest is returning to your hotel, they would expect you to recognise they are loyal guests and appreciate and reward you for being treated as such.
6. Make the most of your e-mail database. Successful e-mail marketing for hotels begins the second your guest has booked with your hotel, and it subsequently nurtures your relationship with them after they check out. Welcoming, personable - useful emails are appreciated by guests. It’s the opportunity for your hotel to build a good relationship with your guests—which converts into positive reviews and repeat bookings.
7. Feature positive reviews from guests. If your hotel website clearly demonstrates that you have satisfied your guests, it’s a great way to convert any undecided potential guests. Featuring positive reviews and other guest-generated content, such as photos, will help guests feel at ease in booking a stay with you through your direct booking channels. These are just a few ideas to help you improve your direct bookings. If you would like assistance with marketing your hotel, or assistance with increasing direct bookings long term, please get in touch with us.