8 Tips to Help Hotels Increase Direct Bookings in 2019
- Posted by Todd A. Vines
- On November 7, 2018
Online Travel Agents (OTAs) continue to gain market share.
By the end of 2020, OTAs are expected to have captured 41% of the US online digital booking market alone.
Despite the aggressive advance, hotel teams still have a wealth of weapons at their disposal in the battle for bookings.
Savvy hotel teams are adopting the features that make OTAs so appealing to the consumer – convenience, an intuitive interface, multimedia components – and enhancing their value proposition by offering preferred pricing, premium loyalty rewards and bonus amenities when booking direct.
Here are eight tactics that entice travelers to book direct.
Offer Better Prices Direct
While multiple factors influence the decision-making process, room rate remains the top driver.
Offering the best possible price when booking direct has become standard practice for most hotels, but not all are onboard yet.
Travelers are looking for the best overall value, and it’s only natural to seek bargains via booking sites. Rather than letting OTAs in on the action, work with your rooms team to adjust inventory and pricing, and guarantee direct booking is the most affordable option every time.
Make Booking Easy
Internet users loath friction.
Far too often, hotels fail to capture direct bookings simply because OTA sites offer a more user-friendly booking interface. Even after a given property has been selected, if that hotel’s direct booking process is slow, dated, buggy or unnecessarily complex, travelers will go running into the arms of a simpler OTA site.
Take 2019 to objectively evaluate your website’s booking process. Make sure it’s streamlined, that search simple, amenities and packages are outlined in a clear manner, and that the number of clicks necessary to complete a booking as low as possible. (Bonus tip, make sure you have an updated hotel FAQ page.)
Provide Better Loyalty Rewards
One of the biggest incentives travelers have to use OTAs again and again is the lure of loyalty reward points. Hotels.com, Orbitz, Expedia, Priceline and Travelocity all have programs, though most are only a few years old.
Get competitive by offering a reward system of your own for return guests. You can even snag OTA bookers back from their preferred platform by making it clear that if they book direct in the future, they too can take advantage of return-guest rewards.
Offer 360° Tours of Every Room
Booking sites specialize in offering a complete travel planning experience, but what they often lack is a complete view of the actual room a traveler is booking.
Generic, stock images on OTA sites can leave a traveler feeling apprehensive about exactly what kind of room they’re booking. Hotel teams have an opportunity to boast a “book direct” advantage and afford potential guests to “look” at individual rooms, not just as a photo gallery (which would be competitive enough) but with a 360-degree photoscape tour, allowing guests to feel as if they can walk around each room before booking.
Invite Room-by-Room Reviews
One increasingly popular trend is to allow each individual room or room category to have its own review page.
Previous guests can rate their experience and leave friendly tips for future guests. Travelers who are unfamiliar with the property or are considering a room type they haven’t booked before will appreciate the insight from their fellow travelers.
Allow Guests to Pick Their Exact Room
Take a page from the airline industry when it comes to providing a personalized and precisely planned travel experience.
Because seat location has proven to matter so much to travelers, airlines have long since begun allowing early-booking passengers to select their exact seat on a diagram of the plane. Consider offering a map of the hotel and guiding guests to a room selection based on criteria like bed number and suite type, then allow them to pick exactly which of the available rooms they want.
Offer a Premium Service Package
While you don’t have to lower the quality of your product for OTA guests, you can elevate the guest experience for those who book direct.
One tactic that is being used successfully by brands such as Ritz-Carlton is to offer a premium, personalized and convenient service level for guests who book via the hotel’s website. This might include more flexible cancellation or rescheduling terms, free access to the fastest Wi-Fi speeds, or priority service requests.
Make the Difference Known
Finally, don’t stealth update your site and be done. Spread the word far and wide. It’s a simple step, but one that gets overlooked far too often.
On every room description within the OTA sites, open with statements like “Better deals available through direct booking” or “Book directly to get X, Y and Z included in your package.” Announce updates on social media, write about them in your blog, and make it abundantly clear on your website landing page.
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