There’s no denying that indirect or off-site bookings are a crucial part of the current hospitality landscape—OTAs alone account for 58% of independent hotels’ online bookings. Indirect bookings can allow your hotel to reach a wider audience, but you’ll have to deal with higher conversion costs and less control over the customer experience.
How can you take full advantage of off-site bookings? We offer four strategies to help you capitalize on a challenging but necessary revenue stream.
1. Online Travel Agencies (OTA)
OTAs are a popular channel for indirect bookings, and they likely represent a major part of your overall bookings. Optimizing for them can be difficult as you have little say over how the booking process works and how information is delivered. Getting the most out of this channel is about understanding what’s under your control.
- Catch users’ attention: Ensure that your listings on OTA websites include high quality visuals and clear, accurate information about your property.
- Maintain strong, consistent communication: Respond to complaints and other feedback on OTA sites in a timely manner to build and reinforce relationships with your customers.
- Get help from brand ambassadors: Encourage superstar guests to write reviews on these sites, which will help build your hotel’s reputation.
2. The Billboard Effect
The billboard effect is a phenomenon in hospitality where customers use third-party resources like OTAs and traditional travel agencies to gather information, but ultimately make their bookings on your hotel website. You can make the process seamless by focusing on your site’s customer experience.
- Provide up-to-date information: Review your services and packages pages for any outdated information, and make sure that your contact details are correct.
- Make it easy for guests: Check for any broken links that might disrupt the booking process.
- Improve conversions: Create attractive, relevant offers that are triggered based on a visitor’s interactions with your site.
3. Data Collection
One of the major downsides of off-site bookings is your limited access to customer data—OTAs and other third-party resources are restricted by best practices and laws around personal information. This means your hotel’s information gathering efforts need to be able to compensate for this issue.
- Encourage customer involvement: Create loyalty programs and send incentivized surveys to gain information directly from your customers.
- Use your property management system: Set up guest profiles to monitor your existing patrons’ preferences, booking history and more.
4. Global Distribution Systems (GDS)
Travel agents use global distribution systems to gather listing information and make bookings for clients. The system itself is relatively old, causing it to be overshadowed by more modern booking approaches. But GDS is still an important channel, one that accounted for 19–20% of hotel reservations in 2015. Getting strong returns from GDS relies on how you work with travel agents.
- Develop a relationship: Spend some time talking to travel agents. You can discuss what customers are looking for in their travel experiences and how your hotel can accommodate those expectations, making it easier for agents to recommend your property.
- Partner up with agents: Incorporate your property into their listings to create more booking opportunities. These bookings often come with higher acquisition costs, but can bring quality guests who are willing to spend more.
Indirect bookings aren’t ideal, but they make up a large portion of overall hotel bookings. Seeking out ways to convert customers from these channels requires time and effort, but your investment will pay off in the long run.
Feature Photo: kudla / Shutterstock.com