Online travel agents have become big news in the hospitality industry over the past few years. Virtually everyone has heard of the likes of Booking.com and Trivago and for many travellers, they might be the first port of call when it comes to researching hotel rooms. These sites do have their uses: they allow smaller properties to extend their reach beyond their traditional markets and they can be a good source of traffic to your site.
However, they also command an ever-higher percentage of the bookings they achieve in commission and recent developments suggest their tactics are becoming more aggressive in freezing hotels out of transactions. For instance, some no longer share the email addresses of guests with the hotels they book to stay in, meaning there’s no chance of marketing to them in the future.
There’s also the growing problem of late cancellations – OTAs allow customers to reserve several rooms at a time with the promise of free cancellation. The would-be guest can then check which hotel is the cheapest the day before they travel and cancel the rest, leaving the property with an empty room that it’s too late to fill – and lost revenue. These issues are why many hotel owners and marketers are committing to efforts to increase the bookings that they achieve directly, allowing them to sidestep the middle man completely. But what can you do to ensure travellers come to you as opposed to the OTAs? Here are a few tips you can apply quickly and relatively easily.
Check your spending the first thing to do is to check just how much you’re spending if you are signed up with an OTA, as the precise sums can easily get away from you with a little bit taken here and there on a regular basis. Go through your accounts thoroughly and determine what’s going out of your budget to OTAs. Next, ask yourself if that is significantly more than you’re wanting to spend – and if it’s a lot more than you spend on marketing directly to your would-be guests. If that’s the case, you might want to ask yourself if you really need the OTA, or if you can scale down your expenditure there.
Design your website around your guests It’s possible to tweak your web design to better appeal to your would-be guests, which means they’re more likely to come directly to you. Once you have applied search engine marketing techniques to get them to your site in the first place, you need to engage them by appealing to what they’re looking for in a hotel. You can use the previous behaviour of other guests to do this.
For instance, if you find that people are staying with you because of the local shopping opportunities or a particular event, build content around it and show other web users you’re fit for this purpose. This should increase your click-throughs and hopefully your bookings. Capture email addresses at every opportunity email marketing may not be a new thing, but it is still vitally important when it comes to getting messages across to receptive would-be guests. That’s why you should take every chance to get hold of these essential scraps of information. Put newsletter sign-up bars on your website and host things like competitions on your social media that require email address input for entry.
Once you’ve got them, you can send out short-term campaign information, discount coupons and lively missives that build engagement with your brand and encourage bookings. Employ customer relationship marketing your past guests can easily become ambassadors for your brand if you allow them to. Always try to get previous visitors to leave reviews, as climbing higher up the rankings on review aggregator sites can really have a positive impact on your booking rates. Also, put personalisation tricks in place if you know a person has stayed with you before or even just landed on your website before. Appeal to their previous preferences and let them know you value their business. This will make them feel good and boost their likelihood of making a reservation with you. make it snappy people like OTAs because they can check prices and have a room reserved in no time at all, so you need to emulate this on your own site.
Consider removing the stage where visitors need to input their credit card details and putting it after they have confirmed their stay. Also, ensure there aren’t too many stages between making the decision to reserve a room and having it confirmed and paid for, as this can really irritate people and even cause them to abandon their booking. Having 24/7 booking capabilities your hotel could be viewed by anyone in the world at any time, so it’s no good only being able to take bookings during your time zone’s office hours.
Don’t let easy business go by not being available – put an automatic booking engine in place and capture it. You should ensure yours has features such as frequent updates of room inventories to prevent double bookings, as well as extras like the time of last booking to increase a sense of urgency for would-be guests.
Consider hiring direct marketing specialists, marketing can be a tricky business to master, so it could be wise to call in a specialist hospitality marketing agency if you’re struggling. Here at World Hotel Marketing, we can offer all the tools you need to get your name out there to as many travellers as possible, including booking engines. Do take a look at our website if you’re interested in our services and potentially working with us. It’s vital to maximise the percentage of direct and therefore commission-free bookings you achieve if you are to boost your bottom line – and doing so could be easier than you think.