How to Win the Direct Bookings War?

Whether hotel operators or OTAs,  everyone is vying for guests to book with them – but over the years, it seems that OTAs have got a bigger share of the pie. If you are a hoteliers, you’ll agree that direct revenue is crucial to increase return on investment, and owning customer relationships.

But if you really want to make inroads in winning back market share and taking control of guest interactions, you need to wage an offensive and make radical changes.

I’m here to help youwith just that. Implement the following steps, and your chances of success will increase: 

Bookings-driven Design

What’s the biggest tool to get direct bookings? That’s right, your hotel website. It has one goal – to convert lookers into bookers. It’s not an art canvas to post photo galleries, or a Wikipedia page to give out information about your hotel. It’s your conversion engine – invest in the layout so that every bit of content, every photo inspires the visitor to book a stay.

The Hudson, New York, makes it too easy to book a stay.

It needs more than your average run of the mill. When your potential guests visit your website, make sure they enter an environment that motivates them. Then make sure that it is easy for them to book.

Include prominent call-to-action buttons on every page of your website. Use high resolution, large photos.

Design the website for your guests, not for yourself. Then it will become the conversion engine that gives you more direct bookings.

Gate them in!

We know rate parity won’t allow you to publicly sell your inventory for less than what you sell it for on some OTAs. It’s a big let down, because this way OTAs remove the incentive for guests to book directly with you.

But there are smart ways to get around this. Rate parity agreements do not apply to patrons who are a part of your hotel’s database. This includes email subscribers, loyalty program members, social media followers, etc. Why not send private, compelling offers to these individuals? Trust me, this can give your property a big impetus in direct bookings.

Blog posts are also great marketing avenues. Send timely blog posts to your patrons – remind them why it is such a great time to travel, and pitch them the relevant deals and offers.

Loyalty programs

Why do you think guests go to Disneyland year after year?

Because most families prefer going to places where they had a great time in the past. Business travellers especially, return to the same hotel if they have a convenient stay at an affordable price.

Why not incentivise these potential guests with loyalty programs?

The awesome thing is that you can leverage loyalty programs to get repeat bookings. This also results in a marketing database that gets you more engagement. They are likely to respond well to new deals and offers. They may even engage with the content you share on social media!

This brings me to my next point.

Content is King

I agree – content marketing is a big time investment, and the results are not easy to measure. But there’s no dearth of reasons to invest in it.

Compelling content drives new traffic from search engines. It’s an important part of your SEO strategy.

Content is what keeps people sticking around on your social media channels. Compelling content, such as how do guides and photo galleries inspire guests to book with you helps. Your hotel’s social media page should be a reflection of the brand itself, and provide updated information about the hotel.Further, engage audiences and set yourself apart.

,To engage audience, you can highlight special offers, destination specific tips, and upcoming local events.With so much content fighting for attention, yours should provide value to the target audience.

Consider hiring an agency, whose job is to churn out and share new, compelling content. With an increase in direct reservations, it’s worth the investment!

Manage online reviews 

What’s the best place to find new guests to increase your direct bookings? Join conversations already taking place about your hotel! From OTAs like Expedia to online directories like Yelp, there are many platforms where guests are already talking about you.

Make no mistake – even if future guests want to book directly with you, they’ll first check out channels such as TripAdvisor. The average guest visits a whopping 38 websites while planning a trip – and only one of them can be your website! The rest are OTAs, online review platforms and community forums.

So why not just hop in and voice your opinion? In one of my previous blogs I talked about how to effectively manage online reviews. Respond with good energy to positive reviews and low ratings. It’s not the reviews themselves, rather your response that will affect direct bookings.

Here’s a simple advice I offer to hoteliers – just set up Google Alerts to your email whenever someone mentions your property’s name online. This will help you keep updated on the buzz around your hotel. Respond to reviews on time.

A personal message from the manager greatly improves the brand’s perception.

Here’s a reply you may want to use for your own hotel –

Talk about the great things guests can check out on your website. Provide links whenever possible.

Mobile websites – duh!

It’s embarrassing to even bring this up. This should be a no brainer, but quite often I see hotel websites with booking engines which are not optimised for mobiles.

Come on folks, it’s not 2007 anymore. And it’s super easy to optimise your website and booking engine! Every day you wait you lose some of that direct revenue.Look no further than http://www.lemontreehotels.com/ for an example of amazing mobile website design.

Hey, this will all take investment, no doubt. But that’s the reason I see so many hoteliers failing to increase direct bookings! This leaves a huge window for you to put in work and reap the benefits. Most properties feel they are too busy to actively indulge in these “online gimmicks” – but guess who’s going to take its advantage? That’s right, you – the one who understands it’s importance and does the work.

It can be done. Try it.

If you know a hotelier or manager who’s looking towards winning the direct reservations war– share the blog with them!

Do check out my #AskAviArya show on YouTube, where I keep sharing my experience, advice and insights – https://goo.gl/qr7wjx



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