Online travel agencies aren’t going anywhere - let’s get that particular fact out of the way immediately. That means savvy hoteliers will continue to pay commission for the new bookings generated by sites such as Booking.com.
But that’s not a bad thing. You see, if you’re running one of the latest channel managers for hotels, you’ll benefit from a set of tools that make online distribution a cinch.
Such tools provide you with something rather invaluable: more time to work on your direct booking strategy. And, with that in mind, here’s four direct booking strategies you should be working into your 2019 hotel marketing plan:
1. Ensure your website is mobile-friendly
How often do you encounter websites that don’t work properly on your smartphone? You have to pinch to zoom and read text and, nine times out of ten, you’ll hit the wrong link as you try and navigate the site.
In a 2017 survey by Google, 89% of people confirmed they’re more likely to recommend a brand after a positive mobile browsing experience. How compatible is your hotel’s website with smaller screens? If it’s a frustrating experience, make 2019 the year you go fully mobile-first with your web presence.
2. Reach out to existing guests
The guest email addresses you collect could hold the key to a significant uplift in return bookings.
With an email marketing platform such as Mailchimp or Campaign Monitor, you can finally make use of those email addresses in 2019 by sending tempting offers to stay with you again. And, if your PMS allows you to filter and export specific sets of customers (by business or leisure and demographical data, for instance), you can send highly relevant emails to people who are most likely to engage with them.
Oh, and the good, old-fashioned telephone and snail mail aren’t bad ways to reconnect with old guests, either!
3. Build a rate strategy from past performance
Providing you have a PMS that offers deep analytical data on your guests’ past staying habits, you should be able to create a rate strategy for 2019 that’s influenced by past performance.
Look for your most popular rates by booking channel and try and identify those which were most often booked directly. You clearly got something right, whether it was the inclusion of some free extras for booking direct or the name you chose for the package.
The more you study last year’s performance, the more you’ll be able to spot direct booking trends that will help inform the hotel’s rate strategy for 2019.
4. Find something unique about your hotel - and promote the hell out of it
Every independent hotel is unique. For some, that uniqueness is obvious (the presence of giraffes as dinner guests, for instance), while for others, it’s a little more subtle - but equally compelling.
Whether your property is supposedly haunted by a ghost, once played host to a celebrity or played a minor supporting role in an episode of Dr Who, make a big noise about it next year.
Booking via OTAs is a relatively soulless experience, simply because every hotel is listed in a near-identical fashion. When people reach your hotel’s own website, they want to be drawn into your world, and one of the best ways to achieve that level of engagement is to highlight the one thing that makes your property unique.
Don’t be shy - shout loud and proud about whatever it is that makes your hotel special and have some fun with it; create a special menu or stay package based on the unique element.
You have the time to undertake the direct booking strategies above, even if it feels like the clock is forever ticking against you.
The trick lies in making your direct booking strategy a vital task that’s present on every day’s to-do list. Find the time, and you’ll find more guests who are willing to come straight to your website rather than book via OTAs. It’s that simple.