One of the biggest challenges for hotels is attracting direct bookings. Online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia and Trivago are extremely popular, and they make it difficult for hotels to maximize their revenue. When a traveler makes their booking through one of these sites, hotels lose out on 25–30% of the final price, as well as the guest’s personal data. This means that they can’t customize their offering to the individual, and therefore risk disappointing their guests.
If they want to remain competitive and increase their bookings revenue stream, hotels need to encourage travelers to book directly with them. They can do this by revisiting their offerings, building a strong and trusted brand presence, and giving their guests excellent experiences.
Encourage guests to come to you
As a hotel leader, you place your guests at the center of all your decisions. As you explore how to get more direct bookings, keep this group as your North star. If they see that you’re making the effort to keep them happy and engaged, they’re much more likely to book with you directly.
Here are six ways to show them that you’re worth the investment.
1. Offer bonus amenities for direct bookings
One way you can increase your direct bookings is by using hotel amenities as an incentive for your guests. For instance, if someone books a room on your site, you can offer them a late checkout, waive a pet deposit or give them complimentary parking during their stay. And if you’re a PressReader partner, you could also extend their access to our 7,000+ newspapers and magazines beyond the duration of their stay.
You’ll need to advertise these deals to make sure people know about them. A dedicated email or targeted ads on social media can be great ways to feature these incentives and direct people to your site.
2. Develop in-depth loyalty programs
Building a loyal client base is an important step towards encouraging direct bookings. If your guests trust your brand and feel that you’re rewarding them, they’ll be more likely to return to your site when it comes time to book a new trip.
A well-designed loyalty program, one that has various tiers and perks for guests with multiple stays in the books, is a great way to keep those guests engaged and committed to your brand. This is also a good way to get insights on your guests and give them tailored experiences and offers based on where they’ve visited and how often they stay at your hotel.
3. Do more to increase your brand loyalty
Beyond a loyalty program, there are a lot of other things you can do to keep travelers connected with your brand. To start, you need to understand what it is that your guests are looking for. According to a recent Salesforce report, 66% of today’s customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations — and that includes hotels. If you want to stay ahead of your guest’s needs, research consumer trends, engage with past guests for feedback and use any existing data you have to make informed decisions.
Sustainability is another important area of concern for a lot of guests. In 2019, 71% of travelers claimed that hotels, airlines and cruise ships should offer consumers more sustainable travel choices that reduce the industry’s impact on the planet. By showcasing the work that you’re doing in this area, you’ll bring them onboard. Meet your customers where they are, speaking to them in their language, and they’ll be more interested in booking directly with you.
4. Improve your digital presence
OTAs were created as digital products first, and that means they have a much larger digital presence than most hotels that came to the online game later. To compete in this space, hotels need to invest in digital marketing efforts that attract new and existing guests. Craft appealing marketing campaigns, make your social media accounts unique and write impactful emails that reach people just as they’re thinking about traveling.
Consistency is key here. Once you’ve encouraged someone to click on an ad, the online booking experience should be just as modern and intuitive. Otherwise, travelers may be turned off and return to a familiar OTA.
5. Build an omni-channel experience
Communication with your guests should be a two-way street — and they’ll want to communicate with you through the channel of their choice. To enable this, you need to offer options including email, phone, a chat box on your app or even a messaging app embedded in their hotel room TV. Empowering guests to find the answers they need, when they need them, through your hospitality brand will make a strong impression. It’s something they’ll remember when they start thinking about their next trip.
6. Stay in touch
Your relationship with your guests should extend beyond their stay. Guests that have had a good experience at your hotel (and during the booking process) can turn into brand advocates and promoters, encouraging others to book directly with you. Whether it’s through your loyalty program or as a request for feedback, make sure to send timely notes to these individuals to keep them engaged.
That said, there is such a thing as too much when it comes to promotional emails. As you’re engaging with these guests, remember to practice moderation, keep your customer needs in mind and be diverse in the content you send. This, paired with all the other strategies we’ve listed above, will help you increase your direct bookings.
Want to learn about what other changes are happening in the hospitality sector? Download our latest The Inside edition: Rethink Normal.