Why are hotels so eager to encourage direct bookings? The most common answer is to avoid OTA fees, but that’s not the whole story. Direct bookings also enable the hotel to deliver a personalized booking experience, collect guest data and cultivate long-term loyalty. Said differently, they cut out the middle man so that hotels and guests can form direct relationships. Ultimately, those relationships are the most valuable asset a hotel has over the long term, which is why driving direct bookings has become a top priority for many hotels. Use these strategies to gain some ground in the ongoing booking war.
Build a Better Website
Booking direct must be easier than any other option. This requires a mobile-friendly website that is informative, inviting and intuitive to use. The same must be true of your booking engine so that the guest journey is seamless from beginning to end. Improved SEO helps drive traffic to your website, and a bold pop-up when guests first arrive can help reinforce direct bookings. It’s important to remember that consumers are used to incredibly sophisticated websites and apps these days—just think of Facebook, Uber and Airbnb. In order to stay competitive, the user experience has to be a priority.
Highlight Good Reviews
Real customer reviews offer a powerful endorsement. A potential guest who is on the fence may be excited to book direct after learning what an incredible experience another guest had. Use customer reviews strategically throughout your site, particularly next to CTA buttons and links. Similarly, engaging with both positive and negative reviewers online helps to prove you care about customer relationships. Over time, being branded as a hotel that listens helps to encourage direct contact.
Guests are much more likely to book direct if they feel like it gives them an advantage or an opportunity. Giving away freebies and perks—such as a free drink or a coupon for breakfast—can help to promote direct bookings without destroying profit margins. Setting up a loyalty program to reward repeated direct bookings has a similar effect.
Stress the Best Price
Online booking engines exist because guests want to find the lowest rates available. If you always offer the very lowest rate on direct bookings only, guests have a natural incentive to cut out the OTAs. Make sure to emphasize the “best price” message in your marketing, and make it a prominent feature of your website. A major barrier to booking is removed once guests realize they are guaranteed a great deal by going direct. Meta-search engines can be a great ally when it comes to price comparison. Websites like Trivago provide information about information—in this case hotel room rates. The rates on various OTAs are displayed next to the direct booking rate. Seeing these figures side by side reinforces that booking direct is the cheapest option available anywhere online.
Create Your Own Alternatives
Booking direct doesn’t have to feel like it. For instance, some guests prefer to do as much as possible through Facebook, so focus on targeting guests effectively on this massively popular platform. By doing this—and linking to your own booking engine—you can bypass the OTAs and create your own direct funnel from Facebook to your website.
Convert OTA Bookings
Even if a booking comes from an OTA, a hotel learns a lot about a guest over the duration of a stay. Request, collect and record as much guest data as possible, then use that data to connect with guests post-stay and encourage a repeat visit through a direct booking.
Put yourself in your guests’ shoes. What would compel you to book direct as opposed to using an OTA? Booking directly with a hotel needs to feel like the very best option available. Once that is clear, why would anyone book any other way?
RoomKeyPMS connects every part of a hotel on to one data-driven platform. If you want to improve the guest experience online, in-person, pre-arrival and post-stay, our technology is an absolute asset. Contact our team for a demonstration.