(ARTICLE UPDATED in December, 2020)
Editor’s Note: Originally published in October 2019, this post has been completely updated and refurbished for comprehensiveness, accuracy and relevance.
If you are a hotelier,
Wouldn’t you want more direct hotel bookings through your website without relying too much on the OTA giants that devour a handsome amount of your earnings?
In the world today, people generally resort to three types of hotel bookings: booking through the Metasearch engines or travel agents, the hotel websites (hotel direct bookings), and the OTAs (Online Travel Agencies).
What is Direct Hotel Booking?
Standing as a centerpiece of hotel marketing for several years, hotel bookings is a direct way of engaging with the guests, preferably through the hotel website to market your property to the guests without depending on intermediaries or third party sites. When guests book hotels directly, the latter gains access to some relevant information. This allows the hotel to fashion the stay as per the guests’ needs and personalize the overall guest experience.
Thus, while the direct bookings improve the online marketing of your hotel, they, at the same time, help save on commissions that the OTAs are unhesitatingly going to put their hands on.
What is OTA Hotel Booking?
OTA for hotels means something they can hate or love, but can’t just ignore!
Popularly known as the Online Travel Agencies, these are third-party booking platforms, such as Booking.com, Expedia.com, Priceline.com, etc. They significantly help streamline the travelers’ hotel shopping experience. With an OTA’s easy-to-search database and top slots on the search engine, it becomes easier to access relevant information on a single platform.
Direct Hotel Bookings Vs the OTAs: Hedge Your Bets!
We have already seen that direct booking is a boon for the hoteliers. But let us not negate the fact that even the OTAs are here to stay. Since their inception in the mid-’90s, OTAs have been gaining an increasingly greater market share, capturing about 39% of US digital bookings.
52% of Millennials prefer to book OTA hotels.
Thus, as the reality goes, OTAs still have a hold over approximately two-thirds of all online bookings. In other words, the OTAs act as a one-stop-solution for customers’ travel shopping for comparing prices, and possibly everything a traveler would want to know before booking a hotel.
Again, to cut a long story short, the OTAs provide a solid and highly enriching digital experience. Besides, they come with certain high-end features giving them the upper hand over direct booking hotels.
However, the market continues to evolve and gets enriched with a few more options, even if an OTA is the first choice to pop up in your mind. With the changing scene in 2020, hotels have been taught to strike a balance between getting direct bookings and receiving reservations from their online distribution channels.
All in all, Travel Daily mentions the possibility of 52% of the OTA visitors clicking on the hotel website for more information about the property and amenities. This, in turn, can lure them to book directly through the website.
Well, if your hotel has a website, chances are that you have already started to think about the process of driving more direct hotel bookings through it.
The perks of a direct booking hotel are that it saves the property from the travail of paying a hefty commission to the OTAs and secures for itself an escape from the clutches of the OTA bookings which have the tremendous potential to reduce the direct bookings to almost nothing in the future. Almost like making it fade into oblivion! To illustrate this better, a well-known example includes one of the major OTA giants, Booking.com. On average, Booking.com charges a commission of about 15%.
But this isn’t an easy process! Let us break your bubble by stating the commonly known fact-There is no shortcut to success. Hence to secure more of these direct bookings, hoteliers will be required to establish definite or sturdy control over the booking process to lure more customers to book directly with the property for an extremely gratifying customer experience. In other words, there is a need to revise some of the hotel reservation strategies.
To encourage potential visitors to book with you and to drive direct hotel bookings, you need to optimize your website for a seamless user experience. Here are some of the ways to drive bookings directly through your very own website and save on OTA commissions:
How To Increase Hotel Direct Bookings
1. Pimp Your Website
Guess what? The first impression matters! It may not be the last impression, yet it makes a whole lot of difference in regulating the customer’s decision on whether or not to book your property for their stay. Hence make sure to primp your website a bit and invest heavily in the design and content provided on it, This can play a phenomenal role in influencing the decision of the prospective customers.
To achieve this, adopt a more homely and intimate approach.
Update your website with high-resolution images, correct information (location, contact, amenities), and best prices/deals on your website. In short, the approach should be out and out holistic.
2. Well-Integrated Booking Engine
Source: TheCloudbedsHaving a website is not an easy process. It surely requires you to spend well on the website alone before you even begin to do something productive with it. Customers will start visiting your website.
An alluring and effective commission-free booking engine allows the customers to not only browse your website but also allows them to book through the website itself, thereby boosting direct bookings. Hence you have the chance to ease and increase direct hotel bookings through a direct booking manager.
3. Nothing Extravagant, Just a Simple Booking Box
Making things simple is the key to success in the hospitality industry. Considering the fast-paced world that we live in today, everybody is looking for ways to save more time. Keeping that simple, day-to-day fact in mind, use it proactively concerning your hotel direct booking strategies.
To back this up, get your Website to have a ‘Book Now’ or ‘Booking Box’ sort of feature which allows the customers to begin the booking process right away! In short, bring in more CTAs (call-to-action) to highlight the overall grandeur of the website and the simplicity of the booking process.
4. Google-Map Matters!
While technology has its downsides, it certainly comes across as a boon, especially for the hospitality industry. Nowadays, with Google Maps, the location of your hotel can easily be made available to the guests. It allows them to get into your website too while booking hotel online. How easy! Again, it is a long-term solution, as the dependence on the G-Maps is likely to increase with each passing day.
5. A High-Performance SEO
This is because a high listing is instrumental in driving more traffic to your website which is very likely to culminate into greater bookings. This is an absolute plus for your hotel booking strategy. Again, SEO also provides other services like optimization through keywords and relevant links to reap its maximum benefits!
Hotel Direct Booking: The 2020 Expert Guide
6. WebChat/Chatbot/Live Chat
Having a WebChat feature on your hotel website will allow winning the trust of the customers who are still unsure about booking with you. This feature on your website can surely work wonders! Hotels direct the chatbots or live agents to reach out and solve the visitors’ queries rapidly without them having to wait forever to receive a response.
So many hotels lose out on their bookings because they did not invest in or think about bringing a WebChat feature within their fold. This leads the guests to drop out and switch to booking with the competitors who might be just more prompt than you in responding to the guests’ queries.
Also, the best part about WebChat is that it can help collect enough information about a guest at the pre-booking stage which, in turn, helps in customizing the guest experience at every touchpoint.
Find out more about enhancing the pre-arrival experience for hotel guests here!
7. Price Trust Signals
Trust Signals like “Best Rate Guaranteed,” “Look Nowhere Else,” etc. can act as indicators to assure the customers that your site provides the best rate which, in turn, can help increase direct hotel bookings.
For instance, Marriott’s Look No Further, Best Rate Guarantee can allow you to submit the best rate guarantee claim if you find a lower rate for the same hotel on a non-Marriott site by booking directly. In that case, Marriott will help match the rate and in addition, provide an extra 25% discount or 5,000 Reward Points.
If somebody asks you, “how to win a direct booking at your hotel?” and if the answer does not include the word “advertisement,” you might as well not answer it then.
That being said, advertisements are a great way of boosting your online presence. Invest and run ads just about everywhere as it is an age-old and perennial marketing strategy. Thanks to the advent of Facebook and Instagram for cheaper advertisements.
Courteous treatment will make
a customer a walking advertisement.
9. Freebies As Confetti
Personalization can never go wrong. One way of luring your customers to get more direct bookings is by offering them incentives or freebies, more like mini-treats.
For instance, you can offer them a free breakfast or spa/sauna service if they book a hotel directly. Even a loyalty program will be immensely helpful in increasing the proportion of direct hotel bookings.
Furthermore, if you have a honeymoon couple booking with you, you can take this opportunity to upsell by offering them a couple suite at a discounted rate followed by an option of providing a romantic candlelight dinner under the star-studded sky. So, personalize the guest experience whenever and wherever possible because “personalization” is more than a mere buzzword.
10. Showcase Fresh Reviews
Reviews play a major role in determining the booking decision. Get your Website to showcase the fresh or recent positive reviews which are more like trophies or badges of honor for your hotel. For this, it is extremely recommended to embed a review widget on your website that acts as a testimonial or social proof.
“Approximately, 72% of new customers won’t make a booking without doing some form of research, which often includes reading other reviews. 15% of customers don’t trust businesses that don’t have reviews, while only 6% of people say they don’t trust customer reviews.”
These are extremely advantageous in driving more traffic to your website and helping to influence a prospective customer’s decision by helping to know more about your reputation in the industry.
11. Optimize Your Social Media Presence
Having a Facebook or Instagram page is extremely beneficial as it allows people to reach out to you and book with you. So make yourself available 24/7. Again, it is a great way of answering customers’ questions, engaging with your target audience, and helping them discover the benefits of increasing direct booking at hotels. In other words, be responsive online.
12. Astounding and Fast Mobile Website
Data from Criteo’s Summer Travel Report notes that worldwide, OTAs capture most of the mobile bookings. In terms of last-minute bookings, the report revealed that the hotels received just over 70% of last-minute bookings via mobile devices.
An impressive mobile website is what the visitors would come across while locating your property on Google Maps. A website should be so crafted and optimized that it tells a unique story. So use it as a medium to highlight your strengths. Opt for a user-friendly hotel website that is responsive even to smart devices. Also, get your website to focus on the amenities offered and the location. Remember, your website can also help leverage digital marketing for your property and business. Hence make it as informative as possible with what’s going on or what’s happening in and around, restaurant recommendations, places of sightseeing nearby, and so on.
And while you are at it, concentrate on making the booking engine easier and simpler even for mobile users for boosting direct hotel bookings.
13. Showcase Your Rooms and Hotel’s Personality
Rooms are windows to the hotel’s soul! So make sure to showcase your rooms in the best way possible by highlighting the amenities offered, view, cleanliness factor, etc. to lure the customers to book their experience with you.
In 2020, cleanliness has become an important word for the hospitality industry. As per a popular source, the Guest room cleanliness score in 2020 has been higher, and had in fact, reached an all-time high rating of 8.53 (on a 10-point scale).
Furthermore, even with the capacity restrictions and limitations of services due to the global outbreak, make sure that you are upfront about it all. The best way to do so is through the hotel website: your immediate point of contact with the guests. A page dedicated entirely to the COVID-19 protocols and safety guidelines will work wonders in updating the guests about what precautions your property is taking to provide them with a safe stay.
14. Promo Codes
It is extremely advisable to give out promo codes on booking directly with your property that can be used on the website by the guests for repeat and consistent business. Again, this will help in securing customer loyalty.
Some Useful Tips to Drive More Customers To Your Hotel
• Be honest with what you are. Nobody wants false promises! One way of driving more customers and yet keeping your honesty intact is by targeting the right kind of audience.
For instance, if you are a resort, your target customers will be families or groups. Similarly, if you are a hostel, your target customers will be solo travelers looking for budget and pocket-friendly accommodations.
• Speed up the load time of your website. Honestly, nobody likes a tortoise-like, lollygagging website that simply takes an eternity to load.
• Showcase your hotel as positively and honestly as possible by highlighting a good amount of social proof on your website in the form of updated stats, customer reviews, case studies, testimonials, ratings, etc. to earn the trust of the customers. This can win a lot of direct hotel bookings for you.
• Pictures alone will not yield magic. Invest in videos as well. One way of doing this is by taking a video tour of the entire hotel and flashing it on your hotel website.
• Do not click pictures of just about anything and everything in your hotel. Be selective as you have to up your marketing level. While you don’t have to put up a façade and pretend that your property is something which it isn’t, be tactful in choosing the kind of images that will go on the website and influence a customer’s booking decision.
For instance, instead of focusing on breakfast, get a picture that actually shows people enjoying that breakfast. Pictures surely have a story to tell. Enhance the visual appeal!
Also, if you don’t offer a jacuzzi or hot tub, kindly refrain from advertising that on your website. False advertising is like a flat tire. It will not take you anywhere!
• Personalization is the key. You can always use emails to fulfill this goal for you. Suppose, if a customer came across your website and abandoned it after browsing it, ping them over the email to ask what they had been looking for. A common way of handling this abandonment smartly would be: “How Can We Help?” “We Know What You Are Looking For!” “Are We Parting Ways Just Like That?” “Is it Me That You’re Looking For?” However, personalize it and transform it into a bit of an eye-candy so that it appears unique, customized, and well-crafted. If need be, hire a creative person to do the deed.
• While your Website should enamor the users at first glance, it is also required to be user-friendly so that it is easy for the customers to navigate and find the relevant information with much ease.• Simplicity rules! Make the booking process a seamlessly simple and easy one to prevent enabling the customers from getting frustrated with a complicated booking process, through a downright tedious booking engine.
Benefits of Direct Hotel Bookings
a. Amplify the Guest Experience: By allowing the hotels to know you better by booking direct, they will try their best to accommodate your stay or special occasion in the best way possible. In other words, they can arrange a tailor-made stay for you.
b. Save on Commissions: When you book a hotel room through an OTA, hotels have to pay some 25% to 30% commission to the OTAs for every booking. But in the case of direct bookings, hotels can give you a discount by actually saving on that commission.
c. Easy Cancellations and Date Change: Sometimes, you might just have to either postpone or cancel your reservation for some reason. Booking directly with a hotel provides great flexibility and for genuine reasons, they can even wave off cancellation fees.
d. Free Perks: Some hotels have a way of winning the guests’ hearts. If you book directly, some hotels roll out special privileges to you for doing so. They can either provide you a discount or perks like free breakfast, free Wi-Fi, free lounge access, etc.
e. Earn Loyalty Program Points: If you book directly with a hotel, you have the chance of winning loyalty program points that have their benefits for your future stays.
f. Guaranteed Quality Service: Hotels tend to pay special attention to the guests who have booked directly with them. In case, if a situation or issue crops up mid-stay, hotels are generally attentive to this and prioritize the direct reservations.
Q. What is a direct booking hotel?
A. A direct booking hotel is the one that reserves your travel plans directly for you with no intermediary or third party involved. With easy online bookings and mobile reservations, hotels make it easier for their guests to book their travel experience with them nowadays.
Q. Why do hotels want you to book direct?
A. Since direct hotel bookings are between you and the hotel with no third-party involved, it makes it easier for the hotels to know you better and to work on their guest relationship management. Again, it provides them enough information to know you better and to personalize your stay as per your needs. This also allows flexibility for both sides when it comes to booking or canceling a reservation.
Q. Is it better to book through the hotel website?
A. Yes, of course. If you book through the hotel website, you will be able to explore a whole lot of options and enjoy certain perks that probably are not given out to the OTA bookers. Or, are only made available to them after paying a certain amount. The hotel website gives you enough information about the amenities and things that can help upgrade your stay and enhance your overall experience.
Q. Do you get a better room if you book direct with a hotel?
A. There are higher chances of you getting a better room when you book directly with a property. Hotels generally tend to save some of their best rooms for those who book directly with them. Again, as per the loyalty program rates, a lot of loyalty members or repeat customers are given the best rooms at discounted prices. If you’re lucky, you can also get a free upgrade for booking directly. So it is all at the property’s discretion.
Q. Is it better to book directly with the hotel or Expedia?
A. Although Expedia is used extensively to book a hotel due to cheaper hotel rates, it is because they buy hotel rooms in bulk and are on the hook to sell them. So, to answer your question, direct hotel bookings come with a lot of perks and its benefits probably outweigh what you think you are saving on booking with the OTAs. Again, if your loyalty lies towards a particular brand, it is always a wise idea to book directly with them.
• • •
We Know What You’re Looking For!
Your hotel website is the final or culminating point of all your marketing efforts and campaigns. Hence a next-generation website to drive instant bookings is the need of the hour. With GuestTouch, get websites designed and optimized for modern hoteliers to increase occupancy and revenue. Our refreshingly simple and best-in-class designed websites are the perfect solution for hotels of all sizes:
• Attractive designs with conversion at its very core to drive sales
• Offering best-optimized experience on all devices: mobiles, desktops, and tablets to ease the booking process.
• Endowed with AI-powered WebChat for higher engagement with the visitors and increasing the rate of conversion.
• Increasing visibility on search results.
• Showcasing a great deal of social proof with a one-of-a-kind review widget to boost conversions.
And so much more.
For more tips, insights, and hospitality industry content, get in touch with us!