Let us accept it. All of our business could benefit from getting our guest to book direct on our hotel website . In this day with the OTA commission creeping higher and market demand putting a squeeze on rates, every bit of commission we can save contributes to the GOP.
This is good news. Now comes the bad.
As an independent hotel owner, you can not battle the might of the marketing funds of the OTA and big brand chains who put in millions of dollars in all sort of optimization; from SEO to Social media marketing. You cannot go head on with the big guys and expect to win. So in order to win the battle of getting your guest to book directly on your website, lets see how you can succeed
Before we begin, I do hope you have a hotel website that can accept guest booking. In case you don’t have a website or your hotel website does not allow you to make booking online but instead rely on webforms, our partners can assist you with developing one.
Now that is out of the way,
Its time to think like a guerrilla warrior and implement a nimble approach to getting your guest to book directly on your website with these tactics
I have put down tactics to help you with more direct bookings:
1) Collect Emails, Make a list and Communicate with your guest through email
Your hotel gets visitors through various channels and in your restaurant and other facilities. If you are not collecting their email address, you will not have any opportunity to communicate with them. As you may know even with every form of social media outlet, people still check their emails frequently. In fact I am pretty sure, some of you are reading this very post as a link from an email. If you already have a database of your guests with add them to a reputed email marketing provider. Before you add them, make sure you have their permission to add them to a list. For that you need to make it very clear that you are collecting their email address so that in future you will contact them for any marketing promotions you may run. That is called permission marketing or what the email marketing companies call double opt in. It helps to keep the list current and make sure you have people on the list who wish to hear from you.
Have special promotions for people on your list that excite your guest to book direct.
Some examples of promotions are
- Have a long weekend in a city hotel offer a “stay-cation package”
- Get free upgrade for your stay when you book
- Buy for 2 nights and get the 3rd night free
2) Do not compete with the big guys
Forget the classic loyalty programs, advertising on social media etc.
Be Helpful. As an independent operator, you have an opportunity to be a local area expert. Be a guide or like a concierge offering assistance to people visiting the city by participating in forums on Tripadvisor or start your own social media channel on Twitter or Facebook to talk about the city you are in. Establish yourself as a valuable support in an unknown city, a resource that people can come to in case of emergency. While it is a long term investment, it is something that will raise your visibility on the local circuit.
Be Unique. Offer exclusive experiences on your website to take advantage of travelers quest for experience. Curate 5 or 6 unique ones using your local connection. Try to appeal to a broad audience and keep the experience fresh. Every city has a list of things to do today. Go beyond the usual to offer things that travelers would usually not find and can find only on your website.
Be Generous. Reserve your best deals for guest booking on your website. In this world of instant gratification, an immediate discount works all the time. If that is not possible, see if you can offer Free Premium wifi, Complimentary beverage, Head and Shoulder massage or any other amenity that you feel would be valuable for your guest. This should be offered only for guest who book direct to your website.
3) Concentrate on Marketing Strategies
You are only as good as how much the world knows about your existence. One effective way to do that is to update your marketing plan to focus on what works. Public relations and social media should surely be part of your marketing plan and strategy.
Buy this guide : PR Toolkit for your hotel
Plan your activities in advance and take advantage of key opportunities that come up in your market or on the Internet. For every activity you plan, know in advance what are the key objectives that you plan to achieve out of that marketing activity. Use a Plan | Execute | Review cycle to make sure that your strategies are giving you the return on investment
4) Best Rate Guarantee on Direct booking
Or put another way, stop listening to your friendly OTA market manager.
Never accept to have a lower rate on any OTA. At best maintain parity across all channels. If required among all OTA have better rates at channels which charge you less commission so that you get better traction from those channels. Yes agreed OTA has an advantage of providing you bulk business however if you don’t have a long term vision to treat OTA as a very expensive channel, your efforts to get guest to book directly will suffer.
Be specially wary of some OTA who use “pump and dump” strategy where they pay up in advance but retain control on rates. In order to minimize their losses, the can and do employ tactics like coupons to reduce rates so that their rates feature on top on meta search engines like Trip advisor and Google hotel booking. Also avoid offering special deals to loyalty programs of OTA where their members get a special discount. If you have to sign up bulk deals, always sign up for their bundled offering where they use the room and club it with transport or sightseeing etc so that the end user does not see the individual breakup of the rates
5) Treat your “Guest like God” so that they book direct next time
After doing all the above, if your reputation as a hotel suffers and you are not able to take care of your guest, all that you do to bring them into the hotel will not work. Make sure you have a great team who is trained well to take care of your guest. Ensure that they are inducted into the philosophy of treating guest like god so that every guest who visits the hotel becomes raving fans and promote you in their social circuits. Make the stay memorable so that they return. In the quest to earn better do not short change your guest. Always under promise and over deliver and train your team to do that.
In concluding, Direct website bookings are by far the cheapest source of booking and you must do everything to get a fair share of your booking from this channels.
Ask yourself, are you consistently following these tactics. If yes what are the results. If no, do you think you could implement these. Let me know your thoughts in the comment box below.