Hosted by TripTease in February, the Direct Booking Summit is the first event of its kind devoted to helping hoteliers increase the number of direct bookings they receive.
The fact direct booking now has its own summit is a clear indication of how big a challenge it is for hoteliers (particularly independents) to drive bookings through their own websites as opposed to the commission-based alternatives.
The good news? If you’re an independent hotelier, there are five things you can do in 2019 to maximise your direct bookings - and they’re easier than you might think!
1. A blatantly-obvious online booking button
We’ve offered this tip so many times in the past, but there’s no harm in reiterating it.
When you have a new website designed for your hotel, it’s easy to get lost in everything but the most important element - the call-to-action (CTA).
For a hotel, that’s the ‘book now’ button. If yours can’t be found immediately (i.e. without scrolling, or pinching to zoom on your phone [see tip 5]), you’re missing out on direct bookings - simple.
2. Nail the user experience
A beautiful website isn’t necessarily a functional website or one that’s a pleasure to use.
Given the visual nature of this industry, we’ve seen far too many hotel websites where there has been too much time spent on the design, leaving the user experience to chance.
You need beautiful, original imagery and video if you’re to engage potential guests, but you also need to make it easy for them to navigate. Here’s our user experience golden rules:
- Make it easy to book (see tip 1)
- Put all of the important information within the upper-third of each page
- Create a simple, clear menu
That’s it. Easy, right?
3. Make security a priority
Understandably, there’s a lot of nervousness about data protection and cybercrime these days, and your hotel website needs to give its visitors the confidence to hang around.
You can do this by investing in a PCI-compliant online booking system for their credit card payments, and by ensuring that you have an ‘https’ security certificate for the website. The latter displays the little padlock icon in most browsers and is an industry-standard form of security.
These little things will add credibility to your brand and encourage people to hang around long enough to book.
4. Rate parity
If you’re advertising rates higher or lower on your website compared to the OTAs, you’ll be both breaking their rules and confusing guests.
Sound odd? Not really. Guests want transparent pricing, and finding multiple prices for the same room at the same hotel across multiple websites including your own doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Why are they different?
If you have price parity across all of your online channels, the choice of booking method for the guest will usually come down to whichever website they land on when they’re at the buying stage of the customer journey. If yours keeps them engaged and makes it easy to book, why would they head back to an OTA?
5. Mobile compatibility
Test your hotel website on your mobile phone.
Most of the people who visit your website will do so on their smartphone. And that means everything should auto-adjust to fit any screen size, while keeping that all important CTA (re-read tip 1!) front-and-centre.
Whats the experience like? Painful?
You’re missing out on direct bookings!
You’ll never achieve 100% direct bookings for your hotel. If you do, we’d love to hear from you.
But you won’t - sorry.
That doesn’t matter, though, because by using our tips above, you’ll significantly increase the portion that originate from your own website and in turn establish a brand that people want to return to again and again.