Online travel agents (OTAs) have become an ubiquitous part of everyday life these days, with many travellers making them their first port of call if they want to reserve a hotel room or flight.
However, although they can be useful for hoteliers, these middle men do take a cut of the commission from every booking and often charge a fee to secure a place with them as standard.This can significantly affect hotels’ bottom lines, meaning the ultimate aim for most is to get their guests to cut out OTAs entirely and go straight to their website for a direct booking.But how can you persuade travellers to move away from the OTA model, especially when they market themselves as offering the best rates and lure people in with simplicity and brand-name familiarity?You need an effective marketing strategy, so here are some tricks that might help to encourage direct bookings.
1. Tell guests you have the best ratesContrary to popular belief, it can actually be cheaper for travellers to book direct through a hotel’s own website, so you need to ensure this continues to be the case – and that you are promoting the fact.It’s possible to use a booking engine that automatically finds rates from OTA sites and compares them with the ones on your site, allowing you to make changes if they are looking too high. Of course, you will have to adhere to rate parity agreements if you are registered with the OTAs, but this technique will at least allow you to match them.In addition, ensure your pages prominently display your rates so that would-be guests don’t have to go hunting around for them and aren’t tempted to wander off to the OTAs.
2. Offer better valueIf you are finding yourself restricted by rate parity agreements, then there are still ways around them that will persuade people to book direct. One excellent way is to offer better value as opposed to simply better prices, by adding perks that aren’t available through the OTAs.For example, you can promote package offerings that appeal to specific audiences, like theatregoers or outdoor pursuits enthusiasts. A recent study by Software Advice found that 48 per cent of respondents would be convinced to book a hotel room directly if they were offered a free room upgrade, while 43 per cent would go for it if offered free in-room dining.Free food and drinks vouchers were also popular incentives, as were complimentary shuttle buses, proving that you don’t need to spend a lot to encourage travellers to come straight to you (just don’t forget to promote your perks on social media, your website and paid ads).
3. Make booking really simpleIf you are losing direct bookings, you may need to go back to basics and ensure your hotel website design is up to scratch: quick and intuitive no matter what device is being used to view it. Keep descriptions concise and don’t offer too many options, or you could put people off.Anything that’s inconvenient for the would-be guest could cause them to use OTAs, so go through everything with a fine toothcomb to ensure you aren’t making schoolboy errors.
For a revolutionary booking engine solution that could help boost your direct reservations, try the industry-leading tool Booking Direct from World Hotel Marketing.