The hotel industry has undergone dramatic change in recent years when it comes to how guests book their rooms, with an increased amount of bookings coming through online travel agencies.
Websites such as Bookings.com and Hotels.com offer a variety of hotels to choose from in a particular vicinity as well as the option to refine particular search preferences. If you would like a 4* hotel within a specific price range, you can search for it and the websites will find the best deal for you.
At the same time, bookings made directly to establishments through their own websites are beginning to decline when compared to the rise in online travel agencies. Interestingly enough, it is not just the actual bookings of a hotel that people are using such websites for, as it seems that potential guests are also choosing to make general reservations through them.
However, as the hotels that are featured on sites such as Booking.com are managed by the establishments themselves, it mustn’t be believed that online travel agencies actually outsell hotels and increase their total number of sales. After all, the hotel itself has a say in the prices that it is sold for.
Why is it, then, that consumers are choosing to use online travel agencies over direct hotels? Of course the reasons for travel will play a part on the way in which potential guests will search and book rooms, depending on the options they require.
A recent report which was produced by Google named The 2014 Traveler’s Road to Decision (watch it here) looked at the difference between those who were travelling for business purposes and those who were doing so for personal reasons, and the reasons they had for booking through online travel agencies or apps, rather than directly through the hotel itself.
The report showed that 50 per cent of business travellers use online travel agencies compared to 33 per cent who were travelling for leisure purposes. Factors that were highlighted for choosing this included lower prices which personal travellers deemed more important than business travellers at 76 per cent compared to 70 per cent, respectively.
Loyalty rewards were seemingly more of an incentive for business travellers at 42 per cent, which is perhaps not a surprise given the amount of travelling they will have to do in comparison to those doing so for personal reasons, of which 25 per cent cited that as a reason.
The ability to offer more options and better tools when searching for a hotel was another important factor with 53 per cent of business travellers and 32 per cent of personal travellers appreciating this.
While this is certainly a great insight into what it is that online travel agencies are doing to gain customers, it is important that this information is then put into practice so that hotels can begin to increase their direct bookings.
First of all, to gain new customers, it is important for hotels to be aware of what their clientele is looking for. What is it that they want and how can you create a relationship with them to ensure that they will want to book a room through your actual website rather than an online travel agent?
As many online agents offer reviews from previous customers, which will help to build trust in the hotel brand, a great way to start as a hotel is by ensuring you have a social media presence, not only as proof that you are a real, operating hotel, but so that potential guests can also see your interactions with other customers and their experiences.
Word of mouth and recommendations play such a huge part in consumers’ decisions, so it is imperative that, in the first instance, you ensure that your hotel performs well for guests so that they will be more inclined to head online and comment/review the establishment, further generating interest.
Another reason that OTAs perform so well is because their websites are very well optimized and marketed. It is so important to have an online marketing strategy in place if you want your website to rank highly on search engines and to drive more traffic to their site, in turn seeing more revenue.