For most hotels, online travel agents are a necessary evil. Like it or not, they’re the first port of call for most travellers researching their breaks online, and if your property is not listed you’re going to miss out on a huge amount of exposure.
But with cheaper acquisition costs and greater control over your relationship with your guests at stake, that doesn’t mean you should simply give up and not even try to fight against their dominance. Are you doing everything you can to boost the volume of bookings made directly through your property’s website? These tips will help you get started.
1. Put The Advantages Of Booking Direct Front And Centre
If you want to ensure more of your guests book direct, you’ve got to tell them exactly why they should.
Whether your book direct incentive is a free continental breakfast, complimentary parking or late check out, don’t leave travellers in any doubt about whether they should look elsewhere for better deals. Make sure that these selling points are displayed prominently across your homepage, ads and booking abandonment pages to get the message across loud and clear.
Even the smallest of perks can be all it takes to win over those unsure about booking direct – but if you don’t shout it from the rooftops at every opportunity, your guests are never going to know.
2. Protect Your Hotel’s Periods of High Demand
What dates of the year is your hotel in most demand – school holidays, public holidays, popular wedding dates? To maximise your bottom line, it’s important to amp up your drive for direct bookings during these high demand times. One of the best ways to do this is to block listing your property’s best selling room types during these dates on the online travel agents. That way, guests looking to book during these high demand periods will have to book direct if they want to find the most popular room types.
Once you’re getting a steady flow of guests to fill your rooms during these busy periods, restrict bookings you can receive through the OTAs completely so that you can only accept direct bookings. Don’t forget, you will need to add these restrictions months ahead of time to ensure high demand dates don’t start to fill up with OTA bookings.
3. Get Serious About Booking Abandonment
Booking abandonment tools help you reengage guests who have started to plan their breaks and were seriously considering your property as an option, only to get distracted or have a change of heart at the last hurdle. Often, they only need a small nudge in the right direction to remind them to book!
Simple but powerful tactics to avoid booking abandonment include:
- Displaying a message when guests close a reservation form
- An email reminder after a certain period of time
- A reminder email with enticing voucher or offer
Employing some of these strategies will give guests who are undecided an extra push to book soon, and book direct.
4. Optimise For Mobile
Whether your guests are browsing Booking.com or Expedia from their smartphones, the OTAs work perfectly on mobile. Can you confidently say the same about your hotel’s website?
Some businesses in the travel industry are seeing as much as 50% of their website traffic coming from mobile devices, so it’s crucial that yours represents your hotel well and includes all your most important content, including your best images.
Think again about your website design. How does it perform across devices? Have you tested it?
5. Perfect Your Content
As you know by now, content is king. On your hotel’s website, it’s the very thing that does your selling for you, by bringing to life your property’s best features and getting your guests ready to book. Ensure that yours is frequently updated. Not only to keep guests informed of changes in your hotel and local area, but also to satisfy Google’s demand for fresh, relevant content.
Delve into your website analytics and identify the pages with the highest bounce rates. Do they really do what they’re designed to do? Does the content flow and lead to a compelling call to action? Does the page contain high quality, eye catching imagery?
Lastly, don’t forget to revisit your rate plan descriptions. Although small, these snippets of text have the big job of cinching the sale and they should be as clear and concise as possible. This isn’t the place to repeat general information about your hotel that is included on your main site content, so do a little editing work if needed. Ensure that the title includes the most important information, so guests browsing on mobile can view it straight away without having to tap elsewhere.
Wrestling bookings away from the OTAs is no easy task. But with some small changes you can begin to readdress the power imbalance. What is your hotel doing to drive more direct bookings? Let us know in the comments below!