If there’s one question hoteliers ask themselves every day, it’s: “how can I increase direct bookings?”.
And that’s understandable because ‘beating’ the online travel agents (OTAs) feels like an impossible task…
…until you realise that it isn’t really a battle.
Seriously - in order to gain more direct bookings as a hotelier, you need to view this industry as a level playing field, because in the digital age, that’s exactly what it is.
In today’s blog, we’re going to look at four things you can do today to increase direct bookings at your hotel (and none of the tips below involves getting into a backstreet brawl with an OTA):
1. Get into digital marketing
Isn’t all marketing in the digital age, er… digital?
In fact, the hospitality industry remains one of the few that still relies on old-fashioned methods of brand promotion thanks to the prevalence of printed brochures and direct mail campaigns.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that stuff, but it needs to run alongside a concerted digital marketing effort if you’re to be found online.
Here are a few ways you can up your digital marketing game, relatively easily:
- optimise your website for keywords relating to the type of hotel you run, its various services and location (this is known as ‘SEO’ - speak to your web people if you’re unsure how to approach it);
- start a blog and write regularly about the hotel, its events and topics that relate to the area in which it’s situated;
- use your social media presence - don’t just let it sit there unloved; a post or two a day advertising your latest rates or showing off photos of your rooms and grounds will work wonders;
- give Google Adwords a try - it isn’t the money pit some will tell you it is.
The above list is certainly non-exhaustive, but it’s a start, and if you make good on your promise to keep on top of each task, you’ll gradually start to see results in terms of increased visitors to your website and - all being well - increase direct bookings.
2. Respond to - and share - guest reviews
Ah - reviews. Well, we were going to mention this sooner or later, weren’t we?
Guest reviews can make or break hotels - but not in the way you’re perhaps thinking.
Receive a bad review? Respond to it; demonstrate that you’re listening and care deeply about your business and the service you provide guests.
Receive a great review? Share it! Tell the world via social media and a testimonials page on your website.
By proactively dealing with guest reviews, you’ll become the master of them, and the more active you are with such guest correspondence, the more chance you have of diverting people to your own website rather than an OTA.
3. Give guests a reason to part with their money
Getting people to your hotel website is only half the battle. Once they arrive, they need to be given a compelling reason to book direct.
Try creating bespoke packages that are only applicable to people who are willing to book direct. Avoid rate parity issues by retaining the same OTA rate but instead include something on top that is of high value to the guest but relatively low cost to you (a breakfast upgrade, for example).
If you avoid the opportunity to give potential guests a good deal immediately, they’ll quickly head elsewhere.
4. Implement a killer online booking system and payment gateway
Potential guests need two things to convince them that booking direct is the thing to do:
- Ease of booking.
Number 1 simply means you need a great online booking system that enables people to make bookings in just a few short steps. Number 2 requires a recognisable payment gateway (e.g. PayPal) and a crystal-clear booking policy. Both will be bolstered considerably with a PMS that connects directly to your website's hotel booking systems.
Make your deposit, cancellation and no-show policy ultra-clear and ensure guests are forced to agree to your terms before booking.
The more transparent your booking process, the more people will use it - it’s that simple.
Have we missed anything?
If you’re an independent hotelier and have experienced a significant uplift in direct bookings, tell us your experiences below. It doesn’t hurt to share your successes with the world once in a while!
Welcome Anywhere has over 30 years of experience in helping independent hoteliers deliver guests an unforgettable experience with its simple property management system that controls your daily activities. The best part - it’s all cloud hosted! We develop scalable solutions for your property such as PMS, a Booking Engine and Channel Manager. Our team has a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry and we serve you to better serve your guests.
Call us today at + 44 (0) 33 0100 1090, or email us at email@example.com. We will be happy to walk you through Welcome Anywhere’s all-in-one solution for your property management needs.