It is no secret that direct bookings have become an important part of any hotel’s distribution strategy. Having direct access to your guests and improving brand loyalty make direct bookings a powerful tool for reducing customer acquisition costs and improving your profitability.
Let’s discuss some key strategies to increase direct sales at your hotel. Don’t get discouraged if you do not see results overnight as you try to increase direct bookings, because small improvements amplify over time. It is a win worth celebrating every time direct sales increase by just 1%! Over time, you will be able to use less and less commission-based sources for bookings such as online travel agencies, metasearch (which are aggregations of OTA sources), and other third-parties.
Take advantage of commission-free booking engines
Make sure that your own website booking engine is commission-free, as well as mobile-friendly, since mobile devices account for a significant share of travel research and bookings. Euromonitor estimates that one in four travel bookings will take place on mobile devices. A mobile-friendly channel will maintain your own competitiveness.
You should also limit the booking process to two or three steps. Some of the booking platforms for the larger corporate hotels include a rate comparison tool on your website so that consumers can compare prices right away. By showing them that you have the best rate, you will avoid them leaving your site to shop on online travel agencies, and you will also give them a reason to book.
Create a hotel website that is attractive and user-friendly
A visitor’s first impression of your hotel is often determined by your website. So it is important you make sure your site is updated regularly and that you use eye-catching images of your rooms. It’s also a good idea to simplify the booking section to further encourage people to book. Additionally, make sure your website has a bold and colourful call-to-action button such as “Book Now.”
Take advantage of digital marketing
A bit of difficulty can arise here when trying to boost direct sales. Hotel marketing campaigns will need to be run by you instead of online travel agencies. To identify those guest segments most likely to book directly, analyse your property management system data. Using this information, create targeted offers and messaging targeting each segment and test them to see what works. Continuous improvement is key to a successful marketing campaign. Also don’t be afraid to engage in Pay Per Click with your own hotel name with search engines. You will pay a lot less for the keyword than an OTA will (more relevance) and you might be leaving a lot of money on the table if you don’t do this!
Your past guests can be the best source for rebookings. Email marketing campaigns with discounts and offers are a great way to re-engage past customers. A loyalty program may also be something you want to consider launching if you don’t already have one.
Shelly and Ian at the Annan Hotel in Llandudno say: “We have decided we are not taking any deposits from our guests. We are operating free cancellation, even if it is last minute. The reason we can do that is because I have faith in my guests.”
Be consistent on social media
The world of social media can provide a great platform for promoting your brand and building relationships. So it’s important to take advantage of social media if you haven’t already. Here, you can truly express your hotel’s brand voice, engage directly with guests and potential guests, and engage with the online community. Sometimes just seeing your name come up in a social media feed is enough for the customer to have the nudge they need to book again!
It’s all about personalisation
One of the three pillars of great hotel customer service is personalisation. Travellers cite that it is one of the most important reasons for their positive experiences. Build your relationships with guests by receiving any special request information such as birthdays and anniversaries. Offering personalised services and customised experiences during their stay will leave a lasting impression.
Manage your online communication
It is important to monitor, maintain, and manage your hotel’s online reputation. The number one thing people look for when deciding whether or not to stay at a hotel is its online reviews, along with its photos. Your future business is heavily influenced by what past guests say about you. As part of your marketing strategy, understand where your property listings are and respond to reviews and feedback consistently.
Regularly check all the popular review services to see what people are saying about you, and respond to all comments good or bad with a positive approach. No business gives perfect service at all times, but acknowledging your occasional mistakes can show your commitment to openness, doing better and customer communications.
To conclude, reducing your hotel’s reliance on online travel agencies and third parties will increase profitability if done conscientiously The best bookings are those that pay the hotel the most value, and these are acquired through the lowest acquisition costs. Remember, a strategy that works for one hotel may not work for yours, so it’s time to think outside the box and get creative!