Many hotels now have relationships with online travel agents (OTAs) in order to maximise their sales and fill their rooms. These can be beneficial, but also expensive. If you’re relying too heavily upon them, it might eat heavily into your bottom line and reduce your budget to spend on other things.
The ultimate goal is to drive bookings directly to your own website, which results in you taking 100 per cent of the profit. But how can you achieve this while still keeping that OTA option open? Fortunately, there are lots of techniques you can employ to drive direct bookings. Google found that 52 per cent of travellers visit your hotel’s website after spotting you on an OTA, so all you need to do is persuade them to stay – and whip out their plastic.
Here are some ideas:Perfect your website It may sound obvious, but a website with rubbish photos, spelling errors and formatting issues is going to put off would-be guests instantly. They might even think you’re a scam site and at best, assume your property is only going to be of the same standard. You need to treat it like a shop window and ensure it is the best it can possibly be. Offer added value Due to parity agreements, you won’t be allowed to undercut the rates offered by OTAs. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t provide packages with better value or that are specially tailored to specific groups. For example, if your hotel is situated in a theatre district, present a deal that includes a one or two-night stay and tickets to a top new show. You could also theme package deals for hikers, beauty lovers or anyone else within your target audience.
Adding on late check-out, free parking or complimentary wine is another good choice to tempt travellers. Display trustworthiness Trust is incredibly important online, particularly when people are going to be parting with large sums of money. Guests need to know your hotel’s website is secure and that their booking will be ready when they get there, so offer guarantees and place reassuring text prominently. Also, show that you accept an array of payment methods and offer reputable payment solutions on your online booking engine, as this will help to prevent abandonment.
Use SEO If you want direct bookings on your website, you have to drive people there in the first place. That means making the most of modern marketing techniques, one of the most popular of which is search engine optimisation (SEO). It’s easier than it sounds and we’ve covered it in detail in our archives, so do take a look if you want an in-depth guide. It basically relies on creating quality content for your websites and tailoring things like title tags, meta descriptions and internal links towards what people are looking for on search engines. Doing this can really make a difference in the quality traffic you lure in – and then hopefully convert into guests.Target the ones that got away Booking abandonment is really common in the travel industry for a variety of reasons, but you can capture the ones that got away using email re-engagement and retargeting. You might have seen sites like Amazon do this and it can be really effective in persuading people to come back and make that reservation – all you’ll need is some data collection software.You can also target guests who used an OTA to book with you by collecting their information when they check in and then offering them a discount if they book directly next time.
As you can see, it’s easy to implement these techniques, so why not give some of them a try?