It’s the perennial problem for hoteliers: how do you increase the number of direct bookings you receive?
The answer, as you’d suspect, isn’t straightforward. And this is for two reasons:
- Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) have grabbed the lion’s share of search traffic; and
- the modern guest journey is increasingly complex.
OTAs have far, far bigger SEO (search engine optimisation) and pay-per-click budgets than any independent hotel and, let’s be honest, even the big chains. That means the playing field is anything but level on Google. But, what about the modern guest journey? Well, think about the last time you booked a hotel; you’ll have flitted between several OTAs, TripAdvisor, the hotel’s own website and maybe even some travelling forums. The eventual booking you made might even have been the result of a chance encounter with a retargeted OTA advert on a completely unrelated website.
This begs the question: what can independent hoteliers do to encourage more guests to book direct?
You can start by trying these five simple tips!
1. Ensure your website works on mobile devices
During 2018, over 50% of all website traffic across the globe was generated via smartphones. That means the vast majority of people who visit your hotel website will do so from the palm of their hand.
If you’re making it tough for people to book a room via their phone, you’ll lose direct bookings to either the competition or expensive OTAs.
So, make sure your website works without fail on small screens and features a booking engine that’s linked to your hospitality software.
2. Ask OTA customers why they didn’t book direct
There’s nothing like a bit of audience research when it comes to online marketing, which is why it pays to ask OTA guests why they didn’t book direct.
Clearly, you don’t want to suggest there’s sour grapes for them having avoided that route, but a friendly chat during checkout to find out why they booked via Booking.com, for instance, may reveal an issue with your website or lack of visibility for people who were hunting it down.
3. Reward direct bookings
Rate parity isn’t something that should be ignored or gamed, but there’s nothing wrong with saying “thanks” to people who book direct by giving them an incentive for doing so.
A small percentage discount, complimentary bottle of wine or guaranteed room upgrade for their next stay are just some examples of low-cost loyalty strategies that are of high value to potential bookers.
Whatever you decide to offer, make it clear on your website about the benefits that come with booking direct.
4. Use social media as a booking channel
It’s true that we’re living in the pay-to-play era of social media marketing, but hoteliers can still use platforms such as Facebook and Twitter as booking channels.
Use those services to publish rich media (video or photos always work well) about your hotel and to publicise any offers you have on the table.
If you’ve got some marketing budget available, you can do a lot worse than run a targeted Facebook Ads campaign, too, in order to put those offers in front of an audience that’s most likely to contain potential future guests.
5. Keep on top of your guest review game
Online reviews, for as much as they’re feared by hoteliers, still play a key role during the guest booking process.
This is why it’s vitally important to keep on top of your online reputation. That means scouring review sites like TripAdvisor each day and replying to both positive and negative reviews.
The more vocal you are on review sites, the more potential guests will see that you care about the service you offer. And that will likely result in them hunting down your website for more information.
We’ve only skimmed the surface with our tips above, so stay tuned for more direct booking tips in future blogs.
CMS Hospitality holds over 30 years of experience in delivering hospitality software solutions. GuestCentrix offers the most complete solution in hotel property management software, whether you’re running a hotel, a resort or a hostel. Our highly experienced support and installations team holds a unique understanding of the hospitality industry and will aim to provide software that suits your property’s needs.
Call us today at (+61) 2 9440 9711, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be happy to guide you to the GuestCentrix solution that’s right for you.