5 Ways to Increase Direct Bookings

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.

Provide incentive

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.

Consider re-marketing

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.

Is it Crystal Clear? How to Prevent and Manage Cancellations and No-Shows

It’s happened to every hotelier. The afternoon begins well, the transition between check-out and check-in is proceeding, rooms are being cleaned, last minute details arranged, special requests organized, and you’ve even personally handwritten a welcome note to leave on the desk of a high-profile guest. Then, the phone rings or the hours tick by. There’s been a late cancellation or no-show, and now you’re left scrambling to decide how long to wait, how to resell the newly available room, how to shuffle staffing schedules, and how to procure the no-show fee without incensing the absent guest. Hoteliers constantly navigate the balance between guest perception, staff needs, and a hotel’s bottom line, but that separation is heightened by cancellations, which innately pit the needs of the client against the needs of the hotel. Guests want freedom (google ‘hotel cancellation policies’ and you you’ll be met with blog after blog of how to avoid them), but hotels need security. While cancellations and no-shows are impossible to eliminate, two strategies can help prevent, manage, and alleviate the operational and financial disruptions they cause.

Establish Clear Policies

It’s important to have written policies for last minute cancellations, no-shows, and curtailments (when a guest cuts their stay short). These three situations are different and require distinct approaches. Each policy should be fair to the potential guest and hotel alike. Demanding full payment upfront would be considered unfair by most people, but it’s equally unfair for a guest to cancel at any moment. However, finding the middle ground between these two extremes can be difficult. So, what should you take into consideration when making these decisions? Your policies should fit your hotel. Consider the size of your property and your local market. How many rooms do you have? What are the consequences of cancellations on your operation? What policies do comparable hotels implement? While it’s not always recommended to model yourself on your neighbors, comparisons can help determine if your policies are too harsh or lenient.

Common Practices

Cancellation Window >> Most hotels set a deadline for when a guest can cancel their reservations without incurring a penalty. The most common deadline is 24 hours prior to check-in. However, you should make the decision that makes the most sense for your business. Some hotels set a 48 or 72-hour deadline, and during peak periods some hotels require guests cancel a week prior to their booked stay.

Deposits >> To take a deposit or not to take a deposit? It’s a contentious question. They have their merits and pitfalls. On the one hand, deposits ensure an earnest booking. A guest is unlikely to shrug off a reservation without proper notice if they’re already invested. On the other hand, deposits can deter potential guests. One extra moment of hesitation in the booking process can make the difference between a confirmation and a closed browser. For many, deposits make sense during peak times. When you’ve received a last-minute cancellation, how many times have you thought, ‘I could have sold that room ten times over!’?  But also, if your hotel relies on repeat and loyal guests, you may want to think carefully about their reactions before implementing a new rule for deposits. However, whether you take deposits upfront or not, it’s recommended to require a guest to give their credit card information upon booking and standard to charge a fee for no-shows or cancellations made after the deadline.

Confirmations >> Consider introducing a system that sends out reminders and confirmations a day or two before the cancellation deadline. This is often done through OTAs (Online Travel Agencies), but it’s worth ensuring you also have a system in place to remind guests who make reservations over the phone, by email, or through your website. A guest may forget to make a cancellation, and sending a reminder or confirmation makes it easy for guests to respond and can make the difference between having a no-show and reselling a room.

Tracking Cancellations >> Some hotels require guests to cancel via the medium through which the reservation was made; however, this tactic potentially dissuades guests from cancelling at all. It’s not recommended. It is, however, highly recommended that you establish an easy and effective system for tracking cancellations. If a guest calls or emails to make a cancellation and they’re not logged properly, a legitimate cancellation will inevitably turn into a no-show. Similarly, if a guest requests a later check-in time and it’s not recorded, you will be in the midst of dealing with the no-show and may have already resold the room when the guest arrives precisely when they said. A good system for tracking and logging ensures that you and your staff do not waste time dealing with unnecessary chaos.

Emergencies >> It’s good to be clear about when you’re willing to be flexible with your policies. Emergencies – like illnesses or a death in the family – are obvious examples. While they’re unpredictable and the sensitive nature means that many will need to be handled on a case-by-case basis, it’s worth taking time to consider how you will handle emergencies so as to ease their disruption to the guest and your business.

Communicate with Clarity

Once you’ve taken the time to establish clear policies, it’s essential to communicate them succinctly and effectively. Most bookings are made online, so ensure your policies are highly visible on your hotel’s website and all your OTA pages. Check in and out times should be clearly specified. Ensure your cancellation deadline and fees are noticeable as part of the booking process. All booking systems should include an ‘opt-in’ check box that requires a guest to agree to your policies before confirmation. It may also be worth dedicating a page on your website that outlines further details of your policies, including what penalties may be incurred for curtailment and the specifics of how fees will be collected. Guests should have no excuse for not knowing what they’re agreeing to. This doesn’t mean that they won’t have excuses. They will. A myriad of them. You’ve probably heard many already, but it will be more difficult for guests to escape fees if you can point to where and how they’ve been clearly communicated.

No one wants to deal with the aftermath of a late cancellation or no-show. Awkward conversations are inevitable. Arguments are possible. This is the reason you need clear policies. If someone disputes a fee or policy, explain to them why they exist. While you may be forced to confront the potential perception that you’re gouging, communicating why you chose your policies may help to ease tensions. The best way to make these uncomfortable conversations effective is to set policies that you’re confident enforcing. When guests are given clear and reasonable parameters, they are more likely to respect your business, and if they respect your business they are less likely to pull a no-show.

 

4 Considerations for Choosing the Right OTAs

Online travel agencies (OTAs) have taken the hospitality industry by storm. What began as a platform for selling excess inventory when demand was low, has grown to dominate the entire booking landscape. Today, the majority of reservations worldwide are made via these online platforms, which makes OTAs an essential component of all lodging operators’ distribution strategiesoften accounting for the majority of a property’s revenue.

While the cost to play the OTA game can be steep (commissions range from 10-30%), the benefits of exposure on these platforms are many. Not only does an OTA distribute your business to a wider audience than you would be otherwise capable, but it can also act to promote direct bookings on your website due to the billboard effect. And it’s worth noting that OTAs can aid international customers in understanding and booking with your property. Offering details in the appropriate language and currency helps open your doors to guests from all over the world.

When it comes to your OTA strategy, it’s a good idea to diversify. Don’t rely on 1 or 2 agencies; you want your property to be visible across multiple channels. But there are a lot of different platforms to choose from, so how do you know which OTAs to use? The right distribution channels will vary for each property, but here are a few things to consider when choosing the right OTA for you:

Cost

Obviously, one of the biggest concerns (and most important things to consider) is the cost of partnering with an OTA. There’s quite a bit of variability in the commissions charged by various OTA platforms, and some can be prohibitively high. When determining if an OTA is worth the cost, remember to account for the customer lifetime value (CLV) of guests brought in by the channel in question. If your landing high-spending, returning guests, steep commissions may ultimately be worth it.

Target Market

OTAs are not all the same. Just as individual lodging operators cater to different types of guests, OTAs have their own demographic sweet spots. For a productive partnership, ensure you choose an OTA that aligns with your target market. Platforms that cater to hostels (like Gomio and Hostelworld) are not the ideal distribution channel for boutique properties; and OTAs designed for vacation rentals (like Airbnb) would do little for a chain hotel. The same can be said for geographic region. While many of the major players (like Booking.com and Expedia) are prominent worldwide, others focus on a more specific region (like Ctrip).

Experience

The experience of an OTA should be considered when choosing the platforms on which to sell your inventory. How many bookings do they facilitate? How long has the OTA had a presence in your market of interest? Does the channel in question have a history of serving properties similar to your own? While you may choose to take a chance on a newcomer, it’s wise to prioritize reputable channels with a demonstrable history of success.

Functionality

Finally, ensure the platforms you choose have interfacing capabilities with your channel manager. Any changes to availability made over an OTA or on your property management system should update automatically. Avoid any situation that would require you to input inventory changes manually. It’s a waste of your time and could result in overbookings.

 

Deciding on a combination of distribution channels that compliment your property is an important job. You need to sort through a lot of available platforms to find the ones whose cost, target market, experience and functionality meet your needs. And it doesn’t end there. While OTAs expose your brand to a massive audience of potential customers, they also do the same for your competitors. If you want to get noticed on an OTA, you need to manage your profile in a way that maximizes exposure.

 

 

 

11 Practical Ways to Increase Direct Bookings

In an OTA-dominated online hotel market, every property strives for more direct bookings. While OTAs and traditional travel agents are effective for increasing occupancy and exposure, direct bookings boast the lowest cost of acquisition and are better for a hotel’s bottom line.

Here are 11 practical ways lodging operators can tip the scales in favor of direct bookings…

  1. Use Your Data to Identify Customer Segments and Your USP

Data is essential to driving direct bookings. A hotel’s data can help answer two fundamental questions: who are your guests and why do they choose your property? Identifying your property’s most profitable customer segments and unique selling points (USP) is key to driving relevant marketing and sales efforts that generate direct bookings. For more information on this topic, read our blog post about how to use PMS data to drive bookings.

  1. Maintain a Compelling and User-Friendly Website

A hotel’s own website is another crucial component of any direct booking strategy. To keep customers on your site, convey the genuine story or experience of staying at your property. Use your property’s customer segments and USPs to guide content. A simple, attractive design, quality images, captivating copy, online bookings, and user friendliness are key elements of a successful website that turns lookers into bookers.

It’s also very important to ensure that your website functions well across devices. It should be easy to navigate with clear calls to action and should load fast on both desktop and mobile. Nothing puts visitors off faster than a slow, confusing site.

Use Google Analytics to track visitor metrics such as time on site and conversions to help identify pages that need improving. Google also offers a helpful Mobile Friendly Test for websites.

  1. Offer Online Bookings

Most travelers turn to online channels to research and book travel nowadays, so providing direct online bookings on your website is a no-brainer. The easier it is to book, the more customers will convert. This means an online booking widget or “book now” button that is displayed prominently on all pages of your website, a simple booking process ideally limited to 2 or 3 steps, security signals that assure customers the process is secure, mobile-optimized booking forms, and automatic booking confirmation. Approximately half of travelers who book travel online do so using a mobile device, so user-friendliness across devices is crucial for increasing conversions.

Lodging operators should also ensure that their direct online booking engine is commission free and integrated with their property management system.

  1. Add Value

Offering value-added packages or booking add-ons through your website that are not available on OTAs can help encourage customers to book direct, but be careful not to overwhelm them with too many choices (too many choices make booking decisions more difficult and can actually block the path to purchase). Consider offering perks for booking direct (like free parking or a complimentary drink at the bar) and advertise the benefits of booking direct on your website.

  1. Offer Discounts to Limited Audiences

While OTA rate parity agreements prevent properties from offering lower rates on their own website, lodging operators can offer discounts to limited audiences such as email subscribers, social media followers and loyalty program members. Offering special deals to these groups is an effective way to stimulate direct bookings — after all, who doesn’t like exclusive discounts? Special rates can be accessed via a discount code that can be entered into a hotel’s direct online booking form or redeemed over the phone.

  1. Take Advantage of Social Media

In addition to enticing social media followers with special offers, hotels can and should drum up interest and website click-throughs by posting engaging content on their social media channels. Share blog posts, photos and videos about your destination and property, and link back to relevant pages on your website whenever possible — like your blog, local events listing page, attractions and activities page, special packages, etc. Keep your customer segments and USPs in mind when creating social media posts for optimal engagement.

  1. Make and Share Videos

There are over four billion video views EVERY day on YouTube! People love videos. Video is a major source of travel inspiration so it makes a lot of sense for hotels to include video in their marketing efforts. Adding videos to a property’s website helps to engage visitors and increase time on site. Posting videos on YouTube and other social media channels does wonders for engagement (and reach) there too — just be sure to link back to your website (where your “book now” button awaits!).

  1. Offer a Loyalty Program

Customer loyalty programs aren’t just for big chain hotels; they are relevant to any property that wants to encourage repeat business. Loyalty programs incentivize guests to book direct to earn and redeem points and to receive special perks or discounts. Some property management systems like WebRezPro offer integrated loyalty program functionality, and solutions like Preferred Patron and Stash Hotel Rewards specialize in simplifying guest rewards management for independent properties.

For more information on the subject, read our blog post about how to design a loyalty program that is relevant to today’s guests.

  1. Remarketing

No matter how awesome your website is and how easy your online bookings are, there will always be website visitors that abandon the booking process part-way through. One way to bring them back is with remarketing. If you’ve never considered remarketing before it is worth putting some thought into; remarketing allows you to re-engage customers that are already at the edge of converting — after all, you almost had them! By adding special code to your website, you can track website visitors who abandon bookings and then show them customized ads online or on social media after they leave your site to bring them back. It might sound complicated, but it’s not. Google AdWords and Facebook’s Custom Audiences are two good places to start.

  1. Include Social Proof on Your Website

User-generated content (UGC) is the most trusted form of marketing — it’s word of mouth in digital form. Reviews in particular help convert lookers into bookers, so including guest reviews on your website helps keep customers on your site to book direct. Other forms of social proof, like social media follower counts and trust symbols like TripAdvisor badges and rating widgets, work well to convert customers while they are on your site.

  1. Be Accessible

OTAs have become so popular among travel bookers because they make it so easy to book. If properties make it just as easy to book direct, more travelers will do so. In addition to an easy-to-use direct online booking process (that is also mobile friendly), lodging operators should make sure contact details are prominently displayed on all pages of the property’s website and booking process, inviting customers to reach out to the property via the method they prefer — whether that’s email, phone or text messaging.

 

While OTAs will always play an important role in online distribution, reducing dependency on OTAs and increasing direct revenue will result in a healthier bottom line for hotels. The effort is worth it!

Peak Season Prep: An Independent Hotelier’s Checklist

As we head into summer in the Northern Hemisphere, many properties around the world are gearing up for peak season. Preparing for a wave of summer vacationers (or winter adventurers in the Southern Hemisphere) can both excite and intimidate lodging providers. On one hand, occupancy and revenue are up (yay!), on the other, the pressure is on to maintain top service levels with less time and more stress (eek!).

High season is a crucial time to make a good impression on guests; welcoming a sea of new and repeat customers provides an ideal opportunity to earn a big bunch of loyal fans. It’s important for everything to go smoothly during a property’s busiest time, especially when the competition is also heating up.

For everything to go as planned, there needs to be a plan! Here are our suggestions for preparing for your peak season…

  • Spruce Up Your Property

Evaluate your property through the critical eyes of a guest; take a good look at the guestrooms, lobby, dining area and outdoor space and fix or replace anything showing obvious signs of wear and tear. Do room curtains need washing or mending? Do bathtubs or showers need re-grouting? Are all the coffee pots and TV remotes working? Is the patio furniture in good shape? Are exterior walls in need of a splash of fresh paint? Even minor improvements, such as hanging flower baskets, can make a world of difference.

  • Review Data for Optimal Pricing & Distribution

Review last year’s occupancy and revenue data to help you price your rooms and packages right and to optimize availability across distribution channels. It’s also important to take nearby competition into consideration, as well as other factors that impact pricing and availability (like major annual events), to ensure your property is priced competitively.

You might like to consider restrictions like minimum and maximum length of stay and closed to arrival too. If managed correctly, these strategies can be effective for increasing RevPAR during high demand periods. For tips on when and how to use length-of-stay strategies, check out this eCornell Blog post.

To optimize distribution, review which channels most of your bookings came from during last year’s peak season. Have you added any new channels since then? Use your data to help work out your optimal distribution strategy across channels. For example, if direct bookings soar for summer stays, consider reducing OTA inventory as appropriate and save on those commission fees!

Automated revenue management systems (RMS) are designed to simplify the complex task of yield management — and integrating your RMS with your PMS saves even more time.

  • Streamline Online Reservations

Dealing with reservations from multiple channels manually might suffice during quiet times, but it’s a risky practice during busy months. Without automated and centralized reservation management, properties are especially prone to accidental overbooking and data entry errors, resulting in lost room nights and unhappy customers.

To avoid this, and to reduce your administrative load, automate online reservation management by integrating your online channels (OTA and GDS channels, as well as your website’s own booking engine) with your property management system (PMS). Connecting your PMS to your online booking channels allows the PMS to send live rates and availability to online booking channels and to capture bookings coming from those channels automatically.

Your direct online booking engine (the one on your property’s own website) should also be user friendly, allow the sale of packages and special rates, be mobile optimized, and commission free.

Automating online booking management is key for busy properties, especially during periods of high occupancy.

  • Strengthen Customer Relationships

In addition to reviewing occupancy and revenue data, it’s also important to review guest profile data in your PMS or customer relationship management system (CRM) to get a picture of who your guests are. Guest data can provide such insights as where guests are coming from (are they weekend nearcationers or international vacationers?), how far in advance they book, what types of travellers they are (families, Baby Boomers, corporate eventers…), and their preferred ancillary services.

Once you know who your guests are, you can strengthen customer relationships through tailoring services and content marketing more effectively.

Creating seasonal packages and offers based on the interests and stay history of guests is a great way to add value and helps you stand out from your competitors.

Use your data to create segmented email lists for targeted email marketing campaigns too. CRM and guest communication systems like Guestfolio and Constant Contact make managing segmented email campaigns easy, and can be integrated with your PMS.

  • Gear Your Website for Summer

Fresh, relevant content is key for search engine optimization (SEO) and customer engagement, so shake the dust off your website to reflect your property’s summer vibe. Swap any cozy winter images for photos of your property’s best summer features (like the sparkling pool) and make sure all content is up to date, including rate and package information. Descriptions, images, videos, event calendars, local information and blog posts should all promote the seasonal appeal of your property and location.

  • Integrate Social Media in Your Summer Marketing Plan

Travelers use and are influenced by social media at an astounding rate, so any independent hotelier’s marketing strategy should incorporate social media.

Once website content is freshened up, share it on your social networks to help expand visibility and engage with prospective guests. Create social media posts about your property and location, and link back to relevant content on your website whenever appropriate — to the local events listing page, attractions and activities, special packages, blog posts, etc.

Peak season is a great time to ramp up your blogging efforts. Although time is short during the summer rush, it pays to produce regular blog posts when your online audience is larger. Blog content is personal, engaging, and provides good fuel for social media posts too.

To encourage online engagement and user-generated content, make sure guests are aware of your social media presence. Include social media buttons on your website and in guest email communications, and add your social media handles to printed materials like front desk signage and in-room welcome packages.

If you need some guidance on your social media strategy, check out our recent blog post on the subject.

  • Review Your Review-Management Process

The peak season is a prime opportunity to boost review volume with more guests to ask for feedback and more eyes on your reviews. Don’t forget to respond appropriately to any negative comments that slip through and act on feedback. Read our blog post about managing online reviews for tips on how to gather, monitor and respond to reviews.

  • Prepare Your Team

Smooth operation hinges on hotel staff. When preparing your team for periods of high occupancy, open communication is key. Regularly communicating goals and KPIs with your whole team, and discussing how every staff member plays a role in the property’ success provides clear direction and breeds a sense of ownership.

When occupancy levels are high, tricky situations are bound to arise, such as the inability to facilitate requested room changes and delays in tending to housekeeping requests. Reviewing policies and procedures and even role playing difficult situations can help boost staff confidence in dealing with various requests and complaints. Encourage staff members to bring up concerns during regular staff meetings or privately so that any issues can be nipped in the bud fast.

It’s also important for all staff members to have the tools they need to perform their jobs effectively, from vacuum cleaners to property management systems. Modern PMS improve efficiency and inter-department communication through integration and automation.

Last but not least, motivate yourself and your staff for the hard work ahead! Pizza nights, time off, and positive feedback are some ways you can show appreciation.

We’ve blogged before about how to keep hotel staff happy and motivated — it might be a good read now in preparation for the busy season.

The peak season is a hectic and stressful time for the whole team, but it’s so important for operations to run smoothly. A little preparation can earn a lot of loyal guests — and pave the way to a more enjoyable summer for you and your customers alike.

5 Ways to Turn OTA Lookers into Direct Bookers

There’s no denying that OTAs pack a powerful punch when it comes to online bookings. OTAs like Booking.com and Expedia have a potent arsenal of cutting-edge technology and massive marketing budgets behind their very successful distribution strategies; they boast online omnipresence with global consumer reach and seamless online bookings. While lodging operators understandably begrudge OTA commissions eating into their bottom line, there are two sides to the coin — the flip side is that hoteliers have an opportunity to take advantage of the increased visibility that OTAs offer.

When I search for accommodation online, I often start my search on an OTA, but before making a decision, I always google the property’s own website. I do this because I want to get a better feel for the property beyond what’s presented in their OTA listing. This is known as the “billboard effect” — where a property’s OTA listing works much like a billboard; increasing a property’s exposure and even driving direct bookings.

But in order for the billboard effect to work, a property’s own website needs to offer customers a smooth path to booking.

#1. A well designed website.

A website that not only looks good but is easy to navigate and functions smoothly is key to impressing prospective guests and luring them to book direct. A property’s own website has the potential to give customers a much more distinctive and genuine online experience than an OTA.

Check out our post about optimizing your website for success, but in a nutshell, it comes down to successfully portraying the special experience of staying at your property through engaging imagery and content that communicates the unique features of your property, from special packages to property features to location.

And make sure your site offers just as good a user experience as the OTAs — with fast load times, intuitive navigation, mobile friendliness and easy online bookings (more on that next).

#2. Simple, secure, mobile-friendly online bookings.

OTAs are so successful with online bookings due to simple, trusted and mobile-friendly booking processes, and properties must follow suit on their own websites to avoid booking abandonment.  The fewer steps it takes to make a reservation, the better. Your online booking engine should reassure customers that the booking process is secure by displaying a secure payment badge when asking for credit card information, and should send automatic email confirmation to customers to assure them that their booking was a success. Your booking engine should also be able to display rates in different currencies.

#3. Best rate guarantee & benefits of booking direct.

While hoteliers can’t publicly advertise lower rates than those on OTAs (due to parity agreements), rates available through a property’s own website should match those offered on OTAs to support a best rate guarantee. Why shop anywhere else when the rate on your site is guaranteed the lowest?

Customers are more likely to book direct when the value of booking direct is apparent. Make sure the advantages of booking direct are advertised on your website — like preferred rooms, free breakfast, a drink at the bar or free parking — perks that are only available when booking direct. Value-added packages might cost more than discounted room rates advertised on OTAs, but the upgraded experience should offer more value than the discount offered through the OTA.

Rates lower than those on OTAs can be offered to limited audiences, like your Facebook fans, Twitter followers or newsletter subscribers, if they book direct. Invite customers to like your Facebook page or sign up to your newsletter to access special deals. Empower staff taking phone reservations to offer a lower rate.

#4. Convert OTA customers into future direct bookers.

Don’t give up on customers who have booked through an OTA — you’ll get ‘em next time. But in order to do so, it’s important to ask for their email address upon check-in or check-out. Tell guests that you would like to share special discounts for future stays or to pass to a friend. Alternatively, you could offer departing guests coupons for a 10 percent discount if they book direct next time.

If your property offers a loyalty program, invite guests to join to access points or perks when booking direct.

#5. Optimize your OTA listings.

While it might seem counterintuitive, it’s important to ensure your listings on OTAs are complete and high quality. Excluding quality content from OTA listings will not drive customers to your website; instead, customers are likely to skip the listing entirely to consider properties with more appealing listings.

Listings with great photos, complete descriptions and amenity lists, and competitive rates are much more likely to motivate a shopper to take note of your property and search for your website… which is where all the above tips come into play for turning that OTA looker into a direct booker!