It has become more common over the last few years for hoteliers to shy away from online travel agencies (OTAs) when it comes to promoting their property to cut costs and boost direct bookings. This strategy can be very successful for large chains, but smaller and independent hotels may find themselves in a bit of a rut because their marketing strategy lacks je ne sais quoi. These hoteliers may find it difficult to differentiate themselves from their rivals, meaning they don’t stand out to prospective clients. They struggle to find their unique selling point because their hands are tied when it comes to small marketing budgets. Why are smaller hotels dropping OTAs? Common complaints range from sky-high commission rates, to losing control over the hotel’s image or brand.
Disagreements can also be more complex than quibbles over price, as the problem may stem from the hotelier unwittingly agreeing to unfavourable terms when they originally signed a contract. It is quite common for these contracts to contain clauses that state the hotelier may not directly target customers that have been identified by the OTA in marketing promotions. They can even contain subsections that say the OTA is entitled to offer discounts that can’t be offered by the hotelier themselves. This means the hotel is unable to contact groups of prospective clients, making it hard when OTAs offer things like loyalty programmes or discounted rates that small hotels can’t match. The solution to this may not be clear, as cancelling the contract with the OTA may lead to a drop in conversions and some hoteliers lack the experience and resourced to continue alone.
So what can hoteliers do to resolve the issue? Any content marketing strategy that is used must be able to differentiate the business from rivals and highlight its unique selling point. Here is a brief guide to help you achieve this goal, without incurring heavy costs. Own your speciality Your hotel needs to appear in the most relevant advertising channels, to attract the right clientele. For example, if you own a boutique hotel, try to get listed on websites that specialise in your kind of property.Keep your website relevant You must ensure that you update your website regularly and that it is available to view across all platforms. The design and tone must reflect the personality of your hotel, meaning you need to stay away from generic content or stock images. Professional photos have been proven to increase direct bookings significantly. Be original Tell the story of your hotel, as this will captivate prospective clients, Talk about its secret nooks and crannies, its history and its future. Personalise the experience You want potential customers to have an experience unlike any other when they use your website. This can be done easily by creating partnerships with businesses and attractions in the local area. Coming up with special offers for sights, restaurants, cafes and tours will help customers see the bigger picture when booking. Offer clear packages Use your hotel booking engine to offer promotions that are not available through OTAs.
By doing this, you are separating yourself and making sure clients know they can still get a good deal by booking directly with you, rather than through a third party. Also, reward customers for loyalty by creating special offers just for them. Utilise hotel social media , Social media has become one of the most important tools for advertisers, as it increases a business’ online presence and opens up new communication channels. You can transmit the hotel’s personality through these platforms, allowing prospective guests an insight into what the service will be like if they stay with you. It’s also a driver of brand awareness and can help with retention.