It’s no secret that online travel agencies (OTAs) hold a vast market share and are instrumental in increasing your hotel’s exposure to a wide travel audience. Still, hoteliers have many other opportunities to increase direct bookings through their websites. With the right tools and technology, hospitality professionals can create the best booking experience, enabling guests to book at the best rate with right value packages. The following are 9 ways to drive more of your audience to book direct for your hotel.
Use a Booking Engine
If you want to increase direct bookings at your hotel, you should be using an attractive, user-friendly booking engine. Your booking engine should:
- Limit the reservation process to two or three steps
- Provides security
- Include a booking confirmation
- Have a rate checker that allows people to compare prices right from the booking engine
In addition, the data gained from your booking engine – such as rate comparisons and bounce rates – can allow you to adjust offerings and remain competitive. An example of a Cloudbeds integrated booking engine is Carberry Tower. Check out how they are using this tool to help drive more direct online bookings to their hotel. Similarly, MadHouse Prague incorporated a booking engine onto their site through their Cloudbeds PMS and the property has seen a 30 percent increase in direct bookings since doing so.
Utilize the Data from Your Property Management System (PMS)
The data stored within your PMS can be the key to unlocking new and repeat business alike. Your PMS not only provides the numbers you need to evaluate your business’ performance, but it can also tell you a lot about your guest demographics as well. For example, your PMS data can help you answer questions like: who are your typical guests? Do you get a lot of repeat guests? What time of year do people tend to visit most?
Using your PMS to help analyze your guest data will give you deeper insight that can help you direct your marketing efforts more strategically, which leads us to point #2.
Implement Targeted Marketing and Communications
With the guest data from your PMS, you can now identify your most profitable customer segments and create targeted communications and marketing materials that you can further personalize to each guest. Whether it’s a pre-stay email, post-stay survey, or campaign-specific targeted emails, your PMS data can help increase guest engagement, inspire repeat business, and drive more direct bookings to your hotel.
Personalize Services and Special Deals
It’s easy to see how guest data can help you personalize your services. Guest profiles within your PMS can contain detailed information, such as birthdays, anniversaries and special requests. You can use this information to build guest relationships and offer personalized services and special discounts and deals.
For instance, say one of your guests recently visited your property for an anniversary trip and they noted that they have a gluten allergy. Imagine the guest’s reaction if you send him or her a note informing that your restaurant has recently expanded its gluten-free options and offering a discount on a room for their approaching anniversary. This sort of personalized service has the potential to create lasting customer loyalty to you and your brand, not to mention encourage repeat visits and direct bookings.
Get Help from Useful Integrations
There are a number of integrations out there that can help your property capture more direct bookings. For example, Cloudbeds connects to a number of integrations that aid in targeting your ideal travel audience. Customers can add integrations like Hoperator, which serves as a complete guest relations and marketing automation platform, to help deliver personalized communications and increase guest engagement, direct bookings, and revenue.
Other integrations include Cartstack, which can be used to create automated reservation recovery campaigns. Through Cartstack’s integration with Cloudbeds, you can recover up to 15 percent or more of your lost bookings using a combination of on-site messages and segmented email campaigns.
Create and Maintain a Compelling, User-friendly Website
Your website plays a crucial role in increasing direct bookings for your property. Your site experience needs to be visually attractive, easy to navigate, use high-quality images, and tell a story that invites customers in and gets them to book with you.
With more and more website traffic being generated from mobile devices and tablets, it’s vital for your website to be compatible with all devices. If a potential customer can’t book from the device they’re using, it’s unlikely they’ll switch to a desktop to complete their booking. Additionally, your website should be optimized for SEO to help drive organic traffic to your site via search engines. Make sure your content includes keywords for the market you’re trying to attract to the booking sites.
Lastly, incorporating positive guest reviews onto your website via an integration like Reputize, gives you the ability to collect real-time feedback and gives potential customers more confidence to complete a direct online booking with you.
Keep Active on Social Media
Social media is a great tool to help increase direct booking at your property. By creating content that attracts your targeted travel audience you can increase website traffic and drive more direct bookings. Content and promotions introduced on your social profiles include:
- Special offers
- Engaging blog posts
- Unique property features
- Local events
- Special guest-packages
- Holiday specials and events
You can even connect your booking engine to your Facebook page so you can make sure you’re capturing leads and direct bookings wherever potential guests are looking at your property.
Create a Loyalty Program
Repeat guests want to feel special, and loyalty members programs are a great way to help guests dedicate themselves to your brand experience. By offering special deals and discounts to returning customers you create an effective way to encourage repeat visits that are booked directly through your property. Loyalty programs are great for incentivizing business travelers and returning guests to book multiple stays in exchange for rewards. Rewards and offers can include free nights, complimentary services, or lower rates.
Leverage the Billboard Effect and Use Online Travel Agencies for Increased Visibility
The global reach and large market share provided by online travel agencies (OTAs) can’t be denied. While it may seem counter-intuitive to use OTAs to increase direct bookings, their extensive advertising and marketing budgets can help get your property in front of a wide audience. Cornell University released a notoriously controversial study that notes the “Billboard Effect” of OTAs and explains how being listed on several OTAs gives your property greater exposure and in-turn actually increase direct bookings.
Smaller, niche OTAs can also connect your ideal travel audience. The more OTAs you list on the more your traffic will increase, with experts recommending your property be listed on at least five sites to send more traffic your way. For help getting the most out of your hotel distribution strategy, check out Cloudbeds’ Big Book of OTA’s.
Reducing the amount of dependency on OTAs and increasing direct booking revenue can create a higher bottom line for your property. Still, keep in mind that the best reservation is the one that pays the property the most in value (Total RevPAR) and was acquired through the least amount of expense and means (Cost of Acquisition or CaC). Sometimes the commission costs paid to OTAs are actually less than costs incurred on an individual marketing campaign. Remember to track these costs as you test different ways to drive direct bookings.
In the end, by utilizing technology like Cloudbeds property management system, you can easily connect to your ideal travel audience and start building brand loyalty and attracting repeat guests that will book directly with your property.