According to data recently released by the TravelClick North American Distribution Review, online channels continue to lead hotel bookings. In the second quarter 2014, OTAs experienced the largest increase in bookings, up 12 percent over last year, followed by brand.com bookings with a 6.9 percent increase, and then the GDS channel with 2.9 percent. (Read the full article on the Lodging Magazine website.)
While we probably don’t need the data to tell us that online booking channels — OTAs, hotel websites and the GDS — are increasingly popular with travelers, the numbers contribute to hard evidence of the importance of utilizing these channels effectively for maximizing online revenue.
But improving your online revenue takes more than simply offering bookings on your website or signing up with an OTA like Booking.com or Expedia; it takes a coordinated approach where the various channels complement each other and work together.
Optimize Your Website and Online Booking Engine for Mobile
Let’s look at some more figures: data from HeBS Digital, a marketing consultancy, shows that one in eight bookings at independent hotels are made on mobile devices, and more than 42 percent of website visitors come from smartphones and tablets. So, in order to maximize online bookings — and bookings in general —properties should have a mobile-optimized website offering mobile-friendly online bookings to capture this significant (and growing) proportion of mobile bookers.
While large brands with plenty of resources frequently invest in both a mobile site and traditional website, for smaller, independent properties we recommend a website built with a responsive Web design approach. A single responsive website automatically customizes content for all three screens — desktop, tablet and mobile — providing an optimized user experience on each device without requiring you to manage separate sites.
A well-designed, mobile-friendly website that is easy to navigate and use inspires consumers to click (or tap) the “book now” button, whether they are using a desktop computer or a smartphone. Your mobile-optimized online booking engine should also be integrated with your Property Management System (PMS) for automatically centralized reservations.
Work With GDS and OTA Channels
We’ve blogged before about the benefits of working with GDS and OTA channels to expand your property’s global reach and increase online bookings. Choosing a major channel like Expedia or Booking.com is quite a safe bet, or consider taking advantage of the extensive connectivity of a channel manager like Siteminder. Think about who your ideal customers are and where they like to book.
To maximize your property’s exposure (and ultimately online revenue) through GDS and OTA channels, ensure that your listing features a full description, a complete amenities list and pretty pictures, make certain your rates and packages are competitive and current, and work with your OTA account manager to improve your listing’s performance and to stay on budget.
Then, take the logical next step: integrate your online distribution channels with your PMS. Direct integration between your PMS and your GDS and OTA channels will save you a lot of time managing your OTA reservations by centralizing and automating the process through your PMS. It also improves real-time accuracy of availability and rates, maximizing online revenue while greatly reducing the risk of double-booking. WebRezPro PMS offers integrations to 18 online distribution channels (and the list is growing).
Don’t Forget Social Media!
The traveling population has taken to social media like ducks to water and so most lodging operators now consider social media a key sales, marketing and customer service tool. Adding a booking widget to your property’s Facebook page can help turn your social media visitors into paying guests. Make sure your booking widget is integrated with your PMS.
To help entice your Facebook fans to click the “book now” button, actively engage with potential guests through your social media accounts by answering questions, posting eye-catching photos of your property, and responding promptly to any feedback from guests. (You can do this with the time you save by integrating all your online booking channels with your PMS!)