There is a lot of pressure on hotel owners to ensure they are being seen by travellers – if they aren’t, bookings will go to their competitors and properties will start losing revenue.This is one of the reasons why online travel agencies (OTAs) such as Expedia have become so popular. They ensure hotels come up at the push of a button when people search for parameters such as price or location – and they create a sense of urgency because customers can see how many other people are looking at the same rooms. However, there is an increasing trend to move away from the OTAs and for hotel marketers to invest in their own Hotel booking engine. Here’s why – and how you could also reap the rewards.
Booking engines can boost confidence Although having a presence on an OTA can give a sense of prestige, direct booking engines can also build confidence because they are a sign that the hotel can manage independently and that it is technologically savvy enough to complete the whole bookings process. There is also the point that travellers will be more exposed to the hotel’s branding if they book a stay on its own website, where all the logos and colours are the same throughout. On an OTA, guests might even forget the name of the hotel they booked with because they only see the branding of that site.Hotel owners can save money Studies have shown that OTAs can charge commission of anywhere between 15 and 30 per cent, which can represent a huge portion of a hotel marketer’s budget. This might eat into the money for other potentially rewarding channels, such as magazine advertising. By having a direct booking engine, hoteliers cut out the middle man and save money on commission – all they will have to fork out is the initial cost for installation and perhaps a little more for maintenance, which could save significant sums in the long run.Data on guests can be collected Some hotel marketers who use OTAs have discovered that they end up finding out very little about their guests, with not even their email addresses getting through to the property.This means nothing can be gleaned about the purpose for their stay and their preferences, which is useful data for future marketing.
It also rules out the possibility that guests can be targeted again for future stays – and this can result on lost revenue.If hotels use direct booking engines, they can collect all the data they like (without annoying the guests, of course) and run analytics programmes on the results to glean ideas for their next marketing campaign.Extras can be added at the booking stage with an OTA, hotels are restricted to advertising rooms at certain rates and with only certain extras, such as an optional breakfast. However, with a direct booking engine, marketers can make the most of promoting upgrades and other added extras that guests might be tempted to treat themselves to once they have decided on a hotel and got to the checkout. This can really add up in the long term and become a valuable channel for extra revenue. Reap the rewards by emulating the OTAs to ensure your direct booking engine looks as professional as the OTAs customers have become accustomed to using, you can emulate some of their techniques. Keep your rates clear and simple and don’t hide any charges that will be applied at the checkout, as this can result in abandoned bookings.
Provide reviews, maps and information on facilities – and make sure there are clear links straight to your booking engine on every appropriate page.Acquiring bookings directly could be easier than you think – so ask yourself if you really need that middle man.