It’s all very well working with an OTA to help you get bookings for your hotel, but what about direct bookings? Of course, OTA services are extremely beneficial, but you can get more hotel guests and increase your revenues by putting forth an effort towards attracting direct bookings. It’s entirely possible to do so with without violating your OTA agreements, and direct bookings will help you:
- Enhance your brand image
- Build a base of loyal customers
- Reduce the commissions you pay to OTAs
There are a variety of ways to increase direct bookings while working in parallel with your OTAs. Here are 5 of them:
1. Offer Special Discounts and Add-ons to a Targeted Audience
OTA agreements prevent hotels from offering cheaper deals publicly, but they say nothing about offering deals and discounts to selected customer groups. For example, offer your Facebook fans savings with a discount code that they can use to book a room via a designated landing page. As long as the deal is not “public” you are perfectly within your rights to do this.
You can also leverage your past guests through a loyalty program, allowing you to offer special deals in order to keep them coming back and booking with your hotel again in the future. In addition to discounts for booking a room, you can also offer other types of benefits, such as gift cards, discounted meals, free drinks, free Wi-Fi, etc. With options like these, your guests will surely book directly with your hotel in the future.
2. A Compelling Website
To gain a significant number of direct bookings you MUST have a good website as an essential part of your hotel marketing strategy. This may be obvious, but your site is like a store window ... don’t underestimate its importance.
Poor graphics, bad grammar, and spelling mistakes will put people off very quickly. In the worst case scenario, customers may think that your website is a scam site. Remember that a company is often judged by the level of its communications.
Your designers should create the best user experience to encourage bookings. Design does not just mean the “look and feel” of your site. It also refers to the visual hierarchy, the ease of navigation, and the simplicity of accessing information. But maybe the most important aspect of your site’s user experience is on the booking page – it must be clear, simple, and require as few clicks as possible, or else you will find visitors “bouncing” away to more user-friendly sites.
On your booking page, you must also offer the most widely-used payment methods for your target audience and be integrated with a reputable online payment solution such as Direct Pay Online.
Check out this blog post for more detail about hotel website design best practices.
3. Digital Marketing Efforts
Get your hotel’s site and brand out there in front of your target audience by employing effective digital marketing techniques such as SEO, PPC, and writing blog posts.
Quality content is one of the most fundamental parts of SEO. Google bases rank partly on the relevance and quality of content for the users, so write for your potential guests, and your rank in the SERPs will follow. You should also focus on the following:
- Meta tags and descriptions
- Title tags
- H2 tags
- Keyword usage
- Internal and external links
Read more about SEO tips for hotels in this blog post.
PPC means “pay-per-click”. You can set up PPC campaigns in Google Adwords. Basically, you create ads and bid on the keyword you want the ad to appear for. If your advert is clicked, you pay for that click. In the simplest terms, the higher your bid, the more likely your ad is to appear and get clicked.
Your blog is an excellent place to publish new, fresh content on a regular basis. Not only is this a way to provide your audience with useful and insightful posts to read, but it is great for SEO, as well. Optimize your blog posts for search engines with relevant keywords and internal links to drive more organic traffic to your website.
4. Use your Front Desk as a Point of Contact
In addition to your website, use your front desk to full advantage. When your concierge has face-to-face interaction with customers, he/she should give them a reason to use your website instead of an OTA for future bookings – like a 10 percent discount off their next stay if they sign up for your loyalty program and book directly from your website.
5. Participate in Conversations on Review Sites
Review sites give you an opportunity to draw customers to your own site, rather than to an OTA to book.
Respond positively to every comment users post – good or bad. It is important to engage with your guests and show them that you care and appreciate their feedback. When potential guests see your professional and positive attitude towards guest feedback, they will be more comfortable booking with your hotel.
You can also use guest reviews as a place for offering incentives for direct bookings. For example, if someone comments on how nice your spa was, you could respond by thanking the customer for their feedback and informing them (and everyone who reads the comment thread) of a new spa package you're currently offering with bookings through your website. You could take it one step further and add an extra incentive, like the first 5 bookings get a special gift, too.
Increasing your hotel’s number of direct bookings is as easy as 1, 2, 3 (4, 5). With these effective methods, you can gain a much higher rate of direct bookings while still enjoying the essential services offered by OTAs, and watch your revenues significantly increase.