- Ihsan Infiyaz
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Third-party hotel bookings or online travel agency (OTA) bookings are a fantastic channel for obtaining guests signups. But it’s just one channel of revenue for hotels. ANOTHER great channel of revenue is of course, to increase direct hotel bookings instead of relying solely on third-party platforms and services.
Here are 8 strategies to consider when working on increasing your direct hotel bookings, and thereby adding a revenue stream to your hotel’s or property’s bottom line.
A booking engine
Having a booking engine on your hotel’s website is without a doubt a crucial element. A booking engine is a piece of software that allows visitors on your website to easily book a stay with you, without you having to pay a commission to a third-party like Booking.com to facilitate those reservations.
The sales funnel
Having a booking engine on the website is crucial. However, what also needs to be taken into account is the user experience of the website. A website is said to be the only employee that works 24 hours a day 7 days a week. This means, that by having a badly designed user experience, your hotel would be losing out on advertising funds, when visitors enter through to only quickly leave your site.
Additionally, a mobile-friendly responsive website is incredibly important as you don’t want to drive away probably the majority of users, with a booking engine that is hardly adaptable to mobile screens, and mobile user experience.
If the website’s experience isn’t good, it could mean a goodbye at the door.
Discounts. Get selling.
Part and parcel of a good sales strategy is having timely discounts that appeal to a customer’s sense of a good deal. From “early-bird discounts”, to “multiple night discounts”, and “flash deals”. Get creative with customer acquisition and give them more reasons to book directly with you.
The Best Price Guarantee strategy
You want to ideally have the ultimate best price on your website. The guaranteed best price. Some hotels would offer the best price on third-party booking websites, while for customers looking to book directly, it would more expensive. This could be a bad strategy! Ultimately, the third-party booking site/agency, will take a commission as well.
To acquire and retain customers, allow them to book directly, but give them a million better reasons to book direct than to book through a third-party.
The Customer Loyalty scheme
Acquiring customers is costly. And retaining those customers you acquired can be very much cheaper.
That means, if it costs you $100 (of ad spend for example) to acquire a single paying guest/customer, if you retain that customer, and he or she comes back to stay with you just because of the service they received or of some other benefit you’re offering, well, that would be terrific!
With every booking afterwards, retaining that customer could be so much more cheaper than trying to acquire another new customer by re-advertising.
One tactical move is the Customer Loyalty scheme that many thousands of businesses use. For example, Emirates – the infamous commercial flights company – has a customer loyalty scheme called the Skywards Miles and Tier Miles.
The more you fly on Emirates or flydubai flights, you earn these “Miles” which you can then spend on perhaps an upgrade, a reward flight, etc…
A hotels loyalty scheme can for example advertise “late check-outs”, or anticipate their likes and dislikes, etc, to make more personalised decisions like for example, how they would like their food and drinks prepared, or what times/days they’d like a cup of coffee in bed.., etc.
Data driven loyalty schemes can set gold standards when servicing a particular customer. Thereby increasing customer retention, and perhaps forecasting the decrease in marketing costs.
Another strategy of customer retention is email marketing, where emails are sent to specific segments of customers that appeal to their likes and dislikes.
Email marketing isn’t about bulk mailing thousands of uninterested people. Rather that would be spamming, and can get your server, domain blacklisted.
Email marketing is about building relationships. Start with the reader in mind. Who is the reader? What are their interests, etc... Example newsletters a hotel could send could be:
Neighbourhood sights – User focus: Tourists, Holidayers, Local families
Recent/Upcoming events – User focus: Tourists, Corporate guests
At the end of the day, the emails have to engage with their specific reader segments. So catering to each segment with what they want to hear, will increase the importance and desirability of your hotel’s emails. Resulting in increased customer retention, increased brand significance, and thereby expecting/forecasting the increase in direct hotel bookings.
Read up on strategies for developing your hotel’s email marketing list.
Publishing great blog articles
One method of getting found on search engines like Google, Bing, and so on, is the publishing of well-thought out, and well-written blog posts.
Simply copying and pasting content from other blogs can be very bad, as it can cause your site to become less important when plagiarised content is routinely published.
Rather publishing star pieces of content by terrific writers in that space is what a hotel should be going after. But what can a hotel write about?
A hotel’s location may lend the answer to that question. Neighbouring the hotel, there could be nature walks, theme parks, markets, trade-shows, basically sights and cities happening in that geography. So when hotels write unique content about these sights and cities, it can lead to getting found on search engines.
If people are reading such articles about a specific neighbourhood, what we can understand is that these readers are interested in that particular location. So either they could be looking to move to that location, or understandably they could be tourists, or business visitors looking to be in the area sometime soon.
If it was tourists to tour the sights and cities, or business visitors to visit trade shows, now hey, that’s opportunity to get left, right, and center in front of these highly potential guests/customers.
So publishing such articles out there on your hotel’s website, can result in effectively obtaining targeted traffic, leading to direct hotel bookings.
Here are 10 great topics to write about on your hotels blog.
In the hospitality and business industries, that touch of speaking to a human than to a robot can be great.
When potential guests visit your hotel’s website, you want to make that site instantly “feel” more human friendly. To do this, adding a live chat option to your site, can allow prospective guests/customers to be served instantly, before they get drawn away to a competitors website. Which may be offering that desirable live chat feature. Oh yes, that definitely has happened.
What’s more, a study by SalesForce found that in the UK, 41% of consumers preferred live chat as their medium of support.
That, is a big number.
Here’s how you can implement live on your hotel’s website.
In a nutshell, attracting, and obtaining (acquiring) goal-centric visitors to your hotel’s website, can increase the number of signups, and decrease the number of bounces.
A bounce is where we may see non-interested visitors enter the website and leave without much activity. And you don’t want this. You want highly interested visitors to come to the hotel’s website, and actually convert to guests somewhere along the line.
You want to increase direct hotel bookings at the end of the day, alongside other goals like increasing brand engagement, and brand value.
So utilizing this set of tactics can help achieve those hotel bookings directly through your hotel’s website, rather than relying, and commissioning a third-party like Booking.com and other sites to do it for you.
Are third-party booking platforms and OTAs important? No doubt they are important. They’re also a channel of revenue and customer acquisition. But they don’t have to be the only customer acquisition, and revenue stream for your hotel, which could result in them being a monopoly against you than for you.
So make the tactical choice; use these 8 sure-fire ways to increase direct hotel bookings!