Imagine you’re booking a hotel room for a weekend away with your family. Who do you look to book with first? Do you go to an online travel agent, such as Expedia or Booking.com, or do you go to the hotel website directly?
The age-old battle between hotels and online travel agents over who can claim the most guest bookings rages on. According to research, 76% of bookings are made via OTAs, with travellers 57% more likely to book through an OTA now than before COVID-19. Worryingly, this can mean enormous losses for hotels in the long run, with the typical OTA commission of between 15-35% claimed for each booking made through their platform.
However, hotels are beginning to fight back. Since 2015, hotels have seen great improvements in the number of direct bookings made through online hotel websites, which tells a promising story that puts hotels back in the limelight and in control of their own booking successes.
A recent Google survey shows that search demand for UK travel in 2021 has increased by 270% compared to 2020, meaning that now is the perfect time to take action. Hotels can’t afford to lose out on vital revenue made from direct bookings online, and we’re here to help!
Here are some of the best ways to kickstart your online reservation bookings, as well as some successful examples from our clients and other leading UK hotels.
- Don’t rely on price parity alone
Guests love a bonus. If all you can offer is the same as an Online Travel Agent, it can be hard to argue why you stand out as the better choice.
Make it a no-brainer; why would someone book your hotel anywhere else but on your website?
Take a look at your current offerings, a deep dive into your hotel’s booking analytics, or even ask your guests through customer review surveys.
What current or historical offers have been the most successful? Which offers are less successful? Use this to direct you to the offering that will provide your guests with the most value.
The more value your guest can see in your offering – beyond just the monetary – the more likely they will be to want to book direct with you.
Go above the bare minimum! Consider offering more than just price parity, with a variety of offers for booking direct as seen with our clients Elysia Park.
- Be compelling
When you’re brainstorming ideas of what to offer your guests, you need to give your guests something to get excited about. When was the last time you got excited about free WiFi in your hotel room? Think creatively!
If your hotel has a spa, consider featuring some additional perks for a free spa treatment with each direct booking. If your hotel has a restaurant, consider offering a discount on dining at the hotel when they book directly with you online.
It may seem like small gestures, but little things can go a long way. Find out what some of our hotel marketing clients offered to encourage more direct bookings.
- Create better propositions
Think like your guest. What would be the tipping point to persuade you to book direct with a hotel online, rather than settling with an OTA like Booking.com? We mentioned a few propositions above such as spa treatments and discounts in the hotel restaurant, but you can stretch this much, much further. Use your imagination!
To help you get started, here are a few successful perks that we have seen massive successes with for our clients:
- Free room upgrades when you book direct (if available)
- Entry drinks / VIP access when booking direct online
- Exclusive direct rates when you sign up to an email list or regular newsletter
Our clients at 115 The Strand offer a wide range of perks for booking directly through their website, including breakfast upgrades and room rate discounts.
- Communicate this effectively
Now that you have your amazing offers, you want to make sure that these are easily found and noticeable. Otherwise, your hard work will be in vain!
Make sure to signpost your new propositions in a smart, clear way onto the site. There’s a vast array of pop-up menus you can use online for free (such as this one from Hubspot, or for something a little more sophisticated, we can design a new one from scratch for you.)
Consider choosing a pop-up exit capture to showcase your direct booking propositions, like our clients at The Hari London
Create brand around your offer. For instance, our client Firmdale Hotels offers a ‘Stay 4 Pay 3’ scheme for guests who book direct to one of a selection of their hotels. This allows their guests to stay for 4 nights, but only pay for a 3 night stay when booking directly online through the Firmdale website. The more you can engrain a catchy phrase to associate with your proposition into your guests’ minds, the better.
Design an optimised landing page. This can be especially helpful when placed as a hyperlinked banner on your homepage, on your Offers pages, and even as a pop-up exit capture menu (such as the example below from The Hari). This will ensure that your guest will always be able to find your propositions within one to two clicks, without being overly ‘salesy’ or pushy.
This example from Macdonald Resorts, with hotels based in both the UK and Spain, clearly showcases their perks to encourage guests to book direct.
While this is not the be-all-and-end-all of your hotel’s digital marketing efforts, this is a great way to get the ball rolling and drive more guests to book with your hotel directly through your own website.
From carefully planning out your offers, making them compelling to your future guests, and showcasing this effectively across your site, you can not only expect more guests to book directly with you but continue to return without the need to involve the OTAs too.
Finding the Balance Between OTAs and Direct Bookings [Pebble Design]
OTAs Post-Covid-19 [HospitalityNet]
Changing Consumer Demand in Travel [Google]
Smaller Hotels With Big Ambitions [UP Hotel Agency]