While online travel agencies (OTA’s) are an important ingredient in your advertising mix and great for generating bookings for your hotel, you need to strike the right balance between getting customers from OTA’s and directly through your website.
Because direct bookings are commission free, you’ll benefit from getting more reservations this way. Aim to generate no more than 30% of your bookings through OTA’s to avoid losing too much profit.
The best way to increase your direct bookings is to take a long hard look at your website and your marketing strategy to see where you can improve to convert more browsers into bookers.
It’s not enough to just have an online booking system — you need to shout about it. Make some noise, or you’ll find yourself sat around waiting for visitors to come to you, when really, you need to make yourself known to them.
When people visit your site they should know right away that they can book online, that you’re taking bookings, and how exactly to get to the booking page. It’s incredibly frustrating when you arrive at a website and have to click through 100 pages to find what you’re looking for — 25% of customers will leave a website if they can’t easily navigate their way around, so it’s important to make sure they don’t get lost!
Because customers will arrive at different pages on your site, you need to have a ‘Book Online Now’ link on every one of your pages — in the main menu banner is a good place.
Visiting a website shouldn’t feel like a wild goose chase. If a customer can’t find what they’re looking for within a few seconds, they’ll move on to your competitors, so fixing this should be top priority.
OTA’s may seem like a necessary evil, but they can actually help drive direct bookings! OTA’s are popular for initial research, but this doesn’t have to mean booking through them too. A study by Google found that 52% of travellers will visit a hotel website after seeing it on an OTA.
This is your chance to start engaging, keeping the customer on your site. Use OTA’s to increase awareness and promote your brand, but make sure that once people land on your website they stay there to book! How do you do that? On to our next point…
Once someone reaches your website, you need to keep them there. Let’s look at a few ways you can do this:
How can your hotel make the customer’s life better? What do you think he cares about the most?
You’ll find that not all customers are impressed by 5 star ratings or a great sea view. Most care more about how your hotel’s features will benefit them, which is why you should list these benefits on your home page.
Instead of simply stating the following:
Tell the customer exactly how these features can make their life better:
Just start by thinking about your visitor’s needs and how you can meet them, then go from there.
Unfortunately, offering the same rate as your OTA isn’t enough to bring in more customers, and although you can’t offer your rooms at a lower rate than your OTA, you can offer an incentive for customers who book directly through your website.
Match the rate your rooms are sold at with your OTA, but throw in some extras for those who book through your website — include a breakfast, a bottle of wine, free upgrades, late check out — all of these things could attract customers to book direct rather than with an OTA.
Think about creating exclusive packages or deals only available to those who book via your website. Think along the lines of spa deals, free parking or tickets to a local attraction.
While your room rate matches that of your OTA, there’s added perceived value for the customer. Your loyal and repeat guests will learn over time that the best offers and deals are only available on your website and you can use a mix of marketing methods to make these offers known to a wider audience.
Remember, while OTA’s are important to your overall strategy, you shouldn’t lean too heavily on them as you can make more profit by increasing direct bookings — which shouldn’t be too hard if you make the effort to improve your website and show your customers they can benefit by booking directly with you.