Many hotel owners advertise their presence using online travel agencies (OTAs), but getting direct bookings through their own websites is really the holy grail of any marketing strategy. This is because it cuts out commissions payable to these middle men, but it also allows hotels to collect information on their guests that can then be used to target them for future stays.
However, since many people’s first port of call when looking for a hotel room is an OTA, how can marketers encourage them to change their ways and make more direct bookings?Here are a few tips that your hotel could use to encourage guests to make more use of your own website.
1. Perks to guests that book directIf a hotel uses an OTA, there is likely to be an agreement in place that they do not advertise rooms at lower rates than advertised on this online aggregator, so it’s not possible simply to undercut prices to attract customers. However, it is okay to offer better value under the same rate, for example, by providing free upgrades to luxury rooms if people book direct. Alternatively, special package deals to limited audiences are also exempt from parity agreements, so these are a good option for bringing in specific groups.For instance, hotels could offer specially priced spa breaks with cheaper rooms, or hiking holidays as a package if they are in a suitable location. Think outside the box and see if rates can be lowered by offering more with your rooms.
2. A great website Your website is your shop window to the world, so it’s essential that it looks professional, aesthetically pleasing and is easy to use. If it isn’t, would-be guests will simply go straight back to Google and continue their search.If your website looks shoddy, then travellers might sub-consciously assume that your rooms and amenities will be too, even if that is far from the truth. By failing to support them with a good web offering, you are letting your hotel down. For maximum results, optimise your site for SEO, use quality images and videos and don’t annoy people with things like music or animations across the whole page. Also, pay careful attention to spelling and grammar, as a past study by Global Lingo found that 59 per cent of people would not use a company that had mistakes on its website or marketing material, while 82 per cent would avoid a company that had not correctly translated its content.
3. A good booking engine Once you have enticed your would-be guests to admire your hotel so much that they click the button to make a booking, you don’t want to fall at the last hurdle by presenting them with a below-par hotel booking engine. Frustration at this stage will still mean abandonment in favour of your competitors, so keep it quick, easy to use and intuitive.Limit the number of steps necessary to secure the room and don’t make people fill in more forms than strictly necessary – don’t forget they may be using tablet screens rather than traditional keyboards.Offer plenty of payment options, including Paypal and all the major credit cards, and consider having a choice for guests to call you and pay over the phone, as this still appeals to some audiences including older people.
4. Rewarding loyalty programmesWhile our first tip applies more to first-time bookers, a good loyalty scheme will increase your chances of securing repeat bookings direct through your website, because it offers something the OTAs can’t provide.Ensure you advertise incentives that are really good value for money, such as a free evening meal for two after a certain number of stays, or a free night if you book again within a year.There are lots of other perks you can provide under this category, including late checkout, upgrades to sea view rooms, free luxury breakfasts, so have a brainstorming session and see what you can come up with that will attract repeat business.
5. Social media presence You’ll no doubt already be making the most of social media channels to boost brand engagement, but don’t forget to use them to show off your hotel’s website and advertise upcoming deals such as the package breaks we mentioned above. Simply providing a link for someone to click could lead them to your site and, if they are receptive and like what they see, result in an instant booking. It’s essential to make sure your hotel social media strategy and the content on your site work together for maximum results.
Don’t forget to consider channels you hadn’t necessarily thought of either, with Snapchat attracting a different audience to Facebook and therefore fresh potential. With just a little effort, you could attract people away from OTAs and straight to your hotel – and you’ll be reaping the rewards in no time.