Every property owner and manager tries their hardest to make sure the details are all taken care of. In a world of constant change, it can be easy to let some things slide through the cracks. But, some cracks are larger than others and they may cost you customers and revenue. Here are some of the most common mistakes we see hoteliers make all the time, and really it could mean the difference between getting the booking and not.
Making Your Booking Process Difficult
First and foremost, your website should make it as easy as possible for a traveler to book a room with you. The booking process is often more complex than just a website visitor clicking ‘book now’. Pricing, availability, and room types all factor into a traveler’s decision to book at your property.
I’ve seen countless examples of hotels who use antiquated methods to show rates and who don’t have widgets to display availability. For example, if a guest wants to book and your website makes them email you to check for rates and availability, you’re providing a poor user experience. In today’s day and age, people are accustomed to ordering and booking things online. Instant confirmation is a must, and if they have to wait, it’s one more reason for that guest to book on an online travel agency or move on to a competitor.
During the booking process, after a guest has clicked book now, you want to make sure that all the information they may want or need is available. This includes room types, rates, availability, photos, descriptions, policies and more. You want to give people no reason to navigate to a different page or switch to a different website because of a bad user-experience.
Cloudbeds offers a booking solution called mybookings which allows you to optimize your booking process. Potential guests see all the information they need to choose the best option for them.
Hiding Important Information
Your website is one of your property’s most important marketing platforms and should be treated as such. Before guests get to the booking process which we mentioned above, you’ll want to provide them with the most important information first. Your main navigation should include something along the lines of Rooms and Amenities, Deals/Packages/Promotions, Rates, Book Now, and Photos. Secondary navigation can include Points of Interest, Contact, About, Map, Blog, Guides, and other content. You want the most needed information up front and ready to go. I also suggest including a frequently asked questions section to avoid unnecessary phone calls and emails, but this can be linked to in the footer or secondary navigation.
Each page, especially your homepage, should have big, beautiful pictures of your property. Your guest should have a clear sense of what your property looks like and what you offer after clicking through a few pages on your website. Because websites have become so well-tuned across the board, people have come to expect information to be easy to find.
Basic web design is easier than ever before, and to get a sense of what your property website should like look, I suggest looking at other popular websites. See what other local hotels use for their navigation, as well as how large hotels like Marriott or Hilton design their sites.
Your Direct Booking Rates are Higher
More often than not, guests will check multiple sources before booking. Based on your rate parity agreements, your prices are probably similar across many different channels. In any case, there are instances where properties have higher direct booking rates and lower rates on OTAs, which is fundamentally wrong. Your direct booking rate should almost always be lower than your OTA rates when possible. Rate parity agreements often prohibit properties to list lower rates on their websites than on OTAs. In those cases, you should aggressively market deals to your direct marketing lists via email or retargeting ads, which can get you around rate parity restrictions.
In any case, you should never earn a lower profit on your direct bookings than from your OTA listings. Even if your prices are the same on OTAs and your website, you’ll earn more profit from the direct booking because you won’t be paying commission. When your direct rates are higher than OTAs, it only gives guests one more reason to book indirectly.
In short, your website should always be the absolute best place for guests to book a room.
Not Watching Your Competition
No matter where your property is located, there’s likely competition. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not watching your competition for seasonal price changes, special offers, amenities, events, etc. Most people choose a property based on a combination of price, amenities, location, etc. and we suggest taking a broad look at what you offer to come up with a pricing strategy that’s competitive against your neighbors.
While you and your competition shouldn’t compete solely on price, if you and another similar property have vastly different prices, something is likely off. Use your competition to determine if your pricing is lucrative, or if you may have underpriced or overpriced your rooms. It’s also likely that your rates are lucrative and that your competition is missing the mark.
When displaying your rates, it’s also a good idea to keep your pricing strategy private. I have seen many properties who list their yearly rates in a table on their website. While it might be helpful for potential guests to see your low-season and off-season rates, you’re releasing your entire pricing strategy to every competitor looking at your page, making it easy for them to undercut your sales. Also, if you only base your rates off seasonality rather than a combination of availability, you’re missing out on revenue possibilities.
In contrast, if your competitors list their rates as a table, then use that to determine their pricing strategy and plan accordingly. While you shouldn’t obsess over what other properties are doing, keeping an eye on their pricing strategy, occupancy, and events they’re holding will help you make strategic decisions. If, for example, they’re offering a spring break deal that is enticing, consider mimicking or improving it to attract more guests.
Keeping an eye on changing travel hospitality industry trends can be a full-time task. Thankfully, new tools, like a booking engine, are designed to make your life easier. Take a look at some of the most important aspects of your website and booking process to ensure that you’re not putting yourself at a disadvantage.