It’s no secret that hotels have a somewhat contentious relationship with online travel agencies—having to compete with OTAs for online bookings can lead to lower profits for even the most popular hotels. But the reality is that OTAs are not going anywhere. Many travellers want to feel like they’re getting the best deal possible, and OTAs let them compare low prices and select sophisticated package deals. The numbers speak for themselves: OTAs account for approximately 60% of independent hotel bookings.
If OTAs are a mainstay in the industry, what can you do to make them a positive part of your distribution strategy? A combination of online traffic and offline efforts are needed to help you stay ahead. Here are some key strategies you can adopt to ensure that you’re optimizing both for OTAs and other booking methods.
Sync Your Online and Offline Efforts
When your online and offline marketing efforts are aligned, your chances of attracting guests are greatly increased. Keep in mind that not all customers will want to book online. Visitors to your website may feel more comfortable booking over the phone so be sure that your website provides contact details if a customer chooses to book offline. Ensuring that your website, social media accounts and travel agents are presenting customers with the same information will also help build trust in your brand, and ultimately help you avoid losing potential customers.
Learn How to Market Your Hotel on OTAs
Take the time to understand how each of the different OTAs work. Intermediaries charge commission, and this can be a major deterrent to many hotels. However, when utilized properly, OTAs can help increase visibility and drive occupancy during slower seasons. They also offer packaging options that allow customers to book their hotel, flight and car rental together, and can therefore attract customers who may not have booked at your hotel independently.
While there are pros and cons to using OTAs, they can be beneficial to your business when used in tandem with other marketing efforts.
Geo-Target Your Customized Offers
To encourage guests to book directly on your website instead of going through an OTA, you can use systems like Offerly, which geographically identifies the customer and makes them a customized offer based off of relevant deals close to their location. By encouraging customers to book directly (and not publishing customized deals to OTAs), Offerly helps hotels reduce their concerns about maintaining parity rate.
Customize Your Loyalty Program
Many hotels have loyalty programs, however they are often under-utilized and neglected. Loyalty programs need to keep up with changes to the guest experience. With sophisticated online booking engines (OBEs), customization can begin during the pre-booking stage. Loyal guests can be offered perks based off their previous preferences and other key data points.
If your guests feel valued, they’re far more likely to book through your website directly, and to express their brand loyalty to their networks. Keep in mind that even if guests book through OTAs, talking to them about your loyalty program can encourage direct bookings in the future.
Maximize Exposure on TripAdvisor
Reviews are valuable to your hotel image. TripAdvisor is one of the most popular travel websites, and a powerful tool customers can use to provide feedback to your hotel. Maximize your exposure by encouraging guests to leave a review, and be sure to take the time to thoughtfully respond to any feedback you receive regardless of whether or not it’s positive.
OTAs can provide a high volume of traffic and bookings. While OTAs may detract from direct online bookings, there are ways to positively incorporate them into your marketing efforts. Work to optimize your use of OTAs while creating additional strategies that promote bookings through other online and offline methods.