The ultimate goal of every hotel is to reduce OTA dependency and increase the number of direct bookings.
It might sound like an ambitious goal for some, but it’s achievable no matter the size or the type of hotel you run. But you need to have the determination and know what steps you should be taking to see the increase in direct hotel bookings.
With OTA commissions reaching close to 30%, every hotel booking that you generate directly can save you a significant amount of money.
So let’s look into the main things you should have in place to see an increase in direct hotel bookings.
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Five ways to increase direct hotel bookings:
1. Have a well-optimised, strategic hotel website in place
To generate direct bookings, having a website for your hotel is an absolute must, and there are many reasons for it.
First of all, a website gives your hotel credibility. It shows people that the hotel exists and is a legit accommodation.
Secondly, if created based on a solid marketing strategy, the website will do all the sales for you. It will show visitors what are you offering, why your hotel is the best option for them and persuade them to make the reservation.
In addition, the hotel website is the place where you should put a booking engine and accept direct bookings. Otherwise, people will just go to OTAs and find a good deal there. You also want to make it very clear you have online customer support available to your guests at any point, so they feel it’s secure to make a direct booking rather than doing it through third-party websites.
There are a lot of elements that go into a great website. So I recommend diving deeper into this topic by reading the anatomy of an effective hotel website.
2. Start a loyalty program
Starting a loyalty program can be a great way to attract new guests, and build a base of regular guests.
It’s important to know that this is a long-term strategy to generate direct bookings, so you want to make sure your loyalty program will be continuingly appealing.
You can keep it as simple or as complex as you want, it all depends on the type of guests you want to attract.
For example, B&B hotels have a loyalty club where they ask for a yearly fee to join and get access to special discounts, rewards (such as free breakfasts and nights), and book rooms for an even cheaper price than stated on their website. Since they have hotels in multiple locations around Europe, their intention here is to create an international base of loyal guests, while promising that the joining fee is worth the investment if you are a frequent traveller and keep booking their hotel.
For more inspiration here, you can check out this good overview of some of the best loyalty programs.
3. Encourage bookings with special offers
Aside from loyalty programs, another thing to add to the mix is special offers. Depending on the location of your hotel, you can have different special offers to encourage bookings pre or post-season, or related to certain events, such as Christmas time.
You can also have smaller incentives, such as free breakfast if people book a certain number of nights or a complimentary gift for all direct bookings.
Of course, you also want to make sure that you always have the best deals on your website and not on OTAs. So it’s really important to manage the rates of your hotel at all times.
4. Make the booking process as easy as possible
To be able to “compete” with OTAs and direct guests from booking there to booking through your website, you need to understand why are they going to OTAs in the first place.
Research done in the USA showed that the main reasons are “simplicity, membership deals and security”.
We discussed briefly the membership deals and security above, so let’s focus on the simplicity now.
With technology advancing, we as customers have become quite spoiled when it comes to online shopping and booking. If there’s even a slight fraction, or some extra effort required from our side to finalise the purchase, there are high chances we will abandon it.
So that’s important to have in mind when setting up the entire booking process. We know people are going to OTAs because it’s easy to book, so you want to make your hotel booking system even easier than that. That means removing as much fraction as you can to provide a smooth, seamless booking experience for your guests.
Many good plugins and booking engines will do this heavy lifting for you, and in the upcoming articles, I will write an overview of those that we recommend using.
5. Run targeted ads
Ads can be a good way to get a boost in direct bookings, especially for newer hotels that are building their reputation and familiarity on the market. In addition, they are a really effective way to capture people who have a high intention to book the hotel in a specific location.
For example, let’s say I’m planning a trip to Thessaloniki, and I need to book a hotel. A quick Google search will give me the following results:
At the very top of the page are the advertised hotels and offers from travel companies. As you can see from the screenshot, Teight Hotel is doing a good job of building exposure with ads and showing up in the right searches.
But, to see a high conversion rate with ads, you need to set them up properly and make sure you are targeting the right audience. Otherwise, you risk your ad not being as visible or being shown to people who don’t have the intention to book.
Until next time,