One of the biggest changes that the hotel industry has seen in the first half of 2016 is the number of hotel chains that are aggressively promoting direct bookings. Hotels like Accor, Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, Choice and Wyndham have given a huge facelift to their loyalty programmes over the last year and are driving direct bookings.
But does direct booking truly help a hotel? Isn’t it better to be present in numerous booking sites and depend on OTA’s? Well the numbers speak for themselves; Hilton Hotels launched a campaign called ‘Stop Clicking Around’ to promote direct bookings on their website and in the first quarter of 2016 alone, their revenue grew from $2.6 billion last year to $2.75 billion this quarter. That says it all.
Ok so this may work for the bigger chains, but what about the independent and smaller hotels? How do they compete?
It truly isn’t rocket science; by implementing a few changes in their marketing and business plans, independent hotels can also drive direct bookings:
1. Create a strong online presence – your clients and prospective clients should not have to look hard to find you online, because frankly they really don’t have the time. Ensure your website has the right SEO’s and key words so that it pops up on the search engines.
2. Create a user friendly website so that once on your page, users don’t need to spend a crazy amount of time figuring out how to book.
3. Ensure that your website is mobile friendly because majority of online booking is now done via the smartphone.
4. Get the right pricing – check that the hotel rates correlate with the demand patterns and have a smart revenue management plan in place.
5. Promote your brand online via social media, banner ads, blogs etc. Organic clicks can increase by 27% when brand ads are present.
6. Offer an incentive to guests to book directly with the hotel – special discounts, free Wi-Fi, and complimentary breakfast. Get creative; this can even be an opportunity to upsell another point of sale at the hotel.
7. Capture the guests data and interact with them via social media, concierge apps etc. Communicate with them if they haven’t completed their booking. Acknowledge that you are listening to them and their feedback.
8. Implement a cost effective distribution system. A system like Hotelogix can help hotels manage their pricing depending on the demand and forecast, it can integrate bookings directly on their website and FB page with a single point dashboard. This would truly be an extremely handy tool in driving direct bookings.
The steps mentioned above are cost effective and easy to implement. If independent hotels consider adapting to the above mentioned changes then they can divert a lot of their bookings directly to their website and thus increase the hotels revenues.
—"What your independent hotel can learn from a group property’s booking strategy?",