The hotel direct booking war is on. And, hotel owners are in no mood to take a step behind. While it’s important to increase a hotel’s direct bookings, every hotelier must understand the need to innovate and bring customers through their website or applications.
A hotel’s brand presence on the platforms of Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) is equally important. But, in the recent years, hoteliers have been locked with OTAs and are battling for a larger share of direct hotel bookings. A more concerted effort is being made by most hoteliers as hotel brands are making the shift to focus on customer loyalty.
If you are wondering how to increase a hotel’s direct booking, then read on for 4 important tips that should help to improve the bottom-line revenue.
How to Increase a Hotel’s Direct Bookings
Increasing a hotel’s direct bookings is not an easy task particularly for small and mid-sized hotel owners. Here’s how you can strategize using 4 tactics.
1) Convert OTA Hotel Bookings into Direct Bookings
Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) are often the most-preferred choice when it comes to travelers seeking the best deals online. OTAs know the pulse of the users who book online, and have tailor-made websites and applications to suit the demands of the modern day traveler. While hoteliers often have to part with the larger commission rates for OTA bookings, one can’t ignore the popularity of the latter amongst travelers. So, how does one drive direct bookings in an already competitive market?
Create loyalty programs:
A little bit of imagination will help hoteliers in the long run. Think differently to understand what would make a consumer prefer to book on a hotel’s website or application. Hotels such the Hilton Worldwide adopted the loyalty program venture early on to lure guests with attractive features. For e.g. members of such programs can opt for keyless room entries – a feature not available for guests who book via OTAs.
Build on the Subscriber Database:
Now that you have the guests staying at your hotel premises albeit via the OTA, ensuring direct bookings is a tactic that needs to be used right here. Train the hotel staff to gently nudge guests into joining the subscriber database. Note down details such as email Ids and preferences. Update guests with the hotel’s events, special rates, and package deals via emails.
Encourage direct bookings by packaging it to be a premium benefit for loyalty program members. Email compelling *offers to guests who have stayed at the property before. Maintain the email frequency to drive direct bookings on your website.
*The rate-parity agreements between the hotels and OTAs are not applicable to individuals who have signed up for a hotel’s loyalty program.
2) Integrate Web Booking Engine for More Conversions
A web booking engine will help hoteliers increase a hotel’s direct bookings and generate more revenue. Such booking engines can be easily integrated with your existing website. These are software applications that assist travelers in making quick and easy bookings online. Such booking engines are also optimized for mobile devices considering the growing popularity of direct bookings that happen via mobiles.
You can do the following things with a web booking engine:
- Use innovative tactics to display call to action (CTA)
- Allow advance bookings for users
- Offer incentives – add special packages and services online
- Allow personalization during the booking process (let guests select amenities they need)
- Customize booking and cancellation policies, automate emails upon booking confirmations
- Simplify the booking procedure for end-users
- Increase conversions with a smartly designed mobile-optimized website
- Offer a personalized sign-in process for users
- Allow guests to book single or multiple rooms online
- Gain room inventory details in real-time
How do web engines work?
These are integrated with a hotel’s website and the selected property management system (PMS). It’s easy to perform all the actions mentioned above and do much more without the fear of errors during the process. Hoteliers who use web booking engines are known to witness an increase in direct bookings.
By allowing guests to book directly on your website through a simplified process, a hotel’s direct bookings can soar. A web booking engine is a must to increase a hotel’s direct bookings.
3) Offer the Best Available Rate
Smart travelers always browse the OTAs platforms to understand where the best bargains can be sought out and booked. Hotel owners who display the best available rate on their website have a bigger chance of ensuring direct bookings. Best available rates should never be higher than those displayed on external platforms. A price comparison pop-up on the site makes it easier to seal the deal when online users can view the best package within the hotel’s website. TripTease is one such platform that gives an immediate price comparison on websites thereby gaining the trust of the visitors online. Guests who have this information right on the hotel’s website will always feel encouraged to book directly with a hotel brand.
4) Use the Power of Social Media and Online Reviews
*More than 50% of travel brands who launched their business page on Facebook found that their bookings increased because of their online presence. As more and more hotel brands are joining the social media bandwagon, the key lies in maintaining a strong brand presence. A close watch on the online reputations also boosts direct hotel bookings.
*( info via Digital Visitor)
As per a survey, 80% of travelers will always book a trip influenced by a friend’s posting or a friend’s activity of liking a hotel’s business page. Use this to leverage the power of social media and increase a hotel’s direct bookings using the following tips:
*(info via Eye for Travel)
Design is the key element. Use the power of visual design to generate interest amongst your social media followers. Offer discounts, run contests, post attractive photographs and influence people to book directly online.
Create engaging videos that hold a user’s attention. Show amenities, talk about offers, share coupon codes or display testimonials.
Content is King:
Be a storyteller and tell stories via the blogs section. Use content and create posts that are shared online easily and boost the traffic to your social media pages.
It’s easy to convert Facebook fans into guests by integrating a Facebook Booking Engine with your Facebook page. For e.g. the use of such an engine will allow users to click and book directly via the hotel’s Facebook page.
Online reviews offer a great opportunity for hoteliers looking to drive direct bookings. *95% of respondents read reviews before proceeding to book online. Reviews whether on Facebook or sites such as TripAdvisor, often indicate what others have to say to the new user. Most importantly, how hotels respond to the opinions expressed online helps to create a favorable buzz. Respond amicably; add videos, links and text that drive users to book directly on your hotel’s website.
Connecting your hotel’s PMS with Review Express will help hotel brands gain maximum exposure on review sites. Review Express is used to send automated emails and collect guest feedback. Such tools publish reviews online as well as integrate it with the hotel’s selected PMS allowing staff to gather data about the guest preferences and expectations. Integration with Review Express allows hoteliers to collect reviews and respond immediately. A good online reputation speaks volumes about the hotel’s service and influences the minds of travelers to book directly on the hotel’s website.
Use these 4 tips to increase a hotel’s direct bookings and gain more revenue in the process. While OTAs continue to rule the market, direct bookings are surely gaining ground when the right tactics are employed.