Online travel agencies (OTAs) are here to stay. And that’s okay; when used well, they can be an extremely valuable marketing tool. But no matter how successful your partnerships with OTAs are, you should never neglect opportunities to boost direct bookings. With the lowest cost of acquisition (no hefty commissions required), these reservations are just too valuable to dismiss. And with that in mind, here are a few suggestions for maximizing direct bookings at your property:
Maintain rate parity
Cost is the most significant factor affecting the channel on which a customer chooses to complete a reservation. Rate parity agreements likely prohibit you from undercutting OTA rates, so the best you can do is ensure you’re not charging more on your own website. Once cost is consistent between your site and OTAs, other incentives and practices can be used to win bookings.
Offer discounts to limited audiences
Being forced to offer your best rates on OTAs is a frustrating situation to be in, but there are ways around it. While you can’t post discounted rates directly on your website, you are permitted to advertise discounts to limited audiences. This means groups of people like your followers on social media or email subscribers. Consider hosting regular campaigns on these platforms with discount codes to be redeemed at the time of booking. And actively encourage users to follow your pages and sign-up for emails. Calls-To-Action on your website like “Add your name to our email list for access to special offers” should do a lot to encourage participation.
Discounted inventory is not the only option for encouraging direct bookings. Anything that adds value to a reservation can help persuade a guest to book direct. What sort of things should you throw in to sweeten the pot? Every property has something different to offer, but guests are always happy with things like free WiFi, gift cards, mobile check-in and access to amenities. Some hotels have even found success by making a charitable donation for every direct reservation. So don’t be afraid to get creative! Just be sure to find something that suits your clientele and company culture.
Maintain a user-friendly website
There is an expectation nowadays for online experiences to be easy, efficient, and fast. And users have very little patience for websites that don’t fit that bill. If you want guests to follow through on a direct booking, a great deal of attention needs to be paid to the design of your website. An integrated booking engine is a must, and your content should be compelling, easy-to-navigate and mobile-optimized. If guests don’t have a seamless user experience, they won’t hesitate to abandon your website for their favorite OTA. Looking for a website redesign? Contact our design staff today.
Even with a flawless website, there will be guests who abandon the booking process. While they might not commit to a reservation, these potential customers will have shown a keen interest in your property, and you’ll still have an opportunity to capitalize on that interest. Re-marketing allows you to identify those “almost” customers and target them with online or social media ads in order to win them back. Interested? Check out Google Adwords and Facebook’s Custom Audiences. Both offer simple re-marketing solutions.
Every hotelier dreams of a reservation calendar dominated by direct bookings. Without the substantial commissions charged by OTAs, they’re the most valuable type of reservation, and should be pursued. While you’ll likely always rely on OTAs for bookings, make sure you’re doing everything you can—from updating your marketing practices to adjusting your web design—to encourage customers to book direct.