Inventory and channel management is an important part of your business, especially in today’s age of savvy consumers looking for the best rate. By now, we all know that using the GDS or putting inventory on Online Travel Agents’ (OTA) websites is a smart move for most hoteliers. It can be hard to keep that in mind when we see the commission rates come through.
So, how do we keep our commissions low while maximizing our inventory? We focus on encouraging direct bookings. Through direct hotel bookings, you can still use other channels for promotional purposes but retain the cost of commissions.
How can you encourage guests to book your hotel directly? We’ve outlined a few opportunities below to secure a direct booking:
Did you know that 52% of travelers visit your hotel’s website after seeing your listing on an OTA? At least, that’s according to Google and we know that Google knows Internet search behaviors. You have the guest in the perfect position, they’re on your site, they’re interested in your property, and they’re most likely thinking of booking! Now, use your website’s Call To Actions to your advantage - such as prominently displaying your book now or reservation page, make your contact information readily available, and ensure your rates match what other sites are advertising. For many travelers, it comes down to a numbers game and we’d hate to see you miss that reservation and pay out that commission because your rates were slightly higher.
We know what your next thought is: Rate parity. We understand that you cannot advertise lower rates than what the OTAs can offer and that the OTAs cannot offer a lower rate than you. But, what you can offer is better amenities for guests that book on your website. On your accommodations section, write out the benefits of booking directly with you. Maybe they get free Wi-Fi, a free upgrade upon check-in, or complimentary breakfast. Technically the room rate is the exact same but by booking with you, the guest gets additional benefits. You may also want to create a loyalty program where guests can enjoy discounts from booking direct or work up to a free night's stay.
Your website is a big portion of your hotel’s marketing efforts but making sure the other components of your marketing program are effective is important too. One major advantage for the OTAs is their budget for marketing. Which is another reason why using the OTAs is a good idea as they advertise your property for you and get your name in front of prospects.
But for your hotel’s marketing efforts, you’ll want to invest in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, email marketing, and social media marketing.
Through SEO, you can help draw potential guests to your website when they’re still in the planning stage and get them familiar with your brand. Getting guests onto your email list is a good idea as you can send them special offers or promotions that aren’t publicly advertised on your site and say the offer must be booked direct. It’s a cost-effective way to get return business. Finally, integrate your social media with your website. Make it easy for guests to find your pages and connect with you and share special discounts on your Facebook or Google+ pages to reward them for following you. Promoting your own offers and rates on social media will help direct guests to book directly with you.
Booking Engine Audit
When’s the last time you tried to make a reservation directly on your site? Something we often overlook is our own booking engine and the reservation process. Audit your booking engine on your desktop and mobile device to see if there are any issues that could prevent a guest from booking directly with you and booking with an easy to use platform like an OTA.
Front Desk Staff
Your front desk staff is crucial to your hotel. They have a big impact on the experience the guest is about to have at your property and are generally the last impression the guest will have of your hotel. Front desk personnel have the chance to develop a relationship with the guest and through that relationship they can remind guests about booking directly for their next reservation or collect an email address to receive special promotions or discounts.
Your staff can also help secure the direct booking before the guest even steps foot on the property. When a guest calls the hotel about rates ensure the staff member has access to the Internet to review and compare rates or in some cases match the rate. Offer incentives and allow your staff to offer room upgrades or extra amenities if they can take the reservation directly. You may also want to offer guests that booked through an OTA a discount or percentage off their next stay if they book direct.
Do you have any tips for encouraging direct bookings? Share them below in our comments section!