Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), like Expedia and Booking.com are responsible for a large portion of online hotel room reservations but at the same time demand 10 to 15 percent in commission fees. Independent hotels are particularly OTA-dependent – on average, 76 percent of independent hotel bookings are made through OTAs. Morgan Stanley Research estimated that the global hotel industry saw revenues of $570 billion last year – independent hotels took home about $11 billion whereas OTAs generated $16 billion dollars from commissions. However, more direct booking simply means higher profitability. Thus, the question is – how to increase the hotel direct booking? Follow the following tips and boost your revenues.
Use online travel agencies (OTAs) to display the property
Many customers discover your hotel through an online travel agency, but they visit your website, to make a reservation directly with you. The properties that are registered in OTAs (Online Travel Agencies), increase their direct reservations by up to 26%.
Online travel agencies (OTAs) are heavily used for an initial search – according to Tripadvisor, 57% of people surveyed around the world used an OTA (Online Travel Agency) to help plan their travels, however, not all have reserved the hotel through the platforms. Google claims that 52% of travelers visit the hotel’s website after seeing the property on an OTA (Online Travel Agency). Hoteliers should use online travel agencies to make their property known online, but need to ensure that a prospective visitor can book on their site, this can be achieved by placing only a small part of the inventory on the platform.
Market your online services as much as possible
OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) are the second and third leading advertisers on Google. One of the biggest differences between Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) and hotels is the amount each one spends annually on marketing. For example, Priceline spent about $ 2.8 million in marketing last year, while Marriott’s estimated annual marketing budget is about $ 100 million. According to Morgan Stanley Research, Priceline and Expedia spent together more than $ 5.7 million on direct advertising, while the five largest hotel brands (Hilton, Marriott, IHG, Choice and Accor) spent a total of 5,3 million dollars.
A great marketing option for independent hotels is content marketing. Content marketing is producing compelling content such as instruction guides, photo galleries and videos that inspire guests to book directly with on the property’s website. However, this is a constant job and takes a lot of time. It may require hiring someone, or the need to outsource the work, handing this task to professionals who create and publish relevant and compelling content. The right content, and the positive comments from positive guests boost the hotel’s direct booking.
Reward the Direct Bookers
The main reason guests visit the hotel’s website, and they end up booking in OTAs (Online Travel Agencies), is because they believe that OTAs offer better rates. Hotels enter rateparity contract with OTAs. Rate parity is agreeing to publicly sell the inventory for not less than what the hotelier sells it for on certain OTAs. Unfortunately, according to RateGain, 65% -98% of four-star hotels offer their rooms cheaper on these platforms, than on the website itself. This can be a problem because cheaper rates should always be on the hotel’s website; Although this parity rate agreement does not generally include the hotel’s marketing database.
The hotel marketing database includes social network followers, e-mail subscribers, and members of customer loyalty programs. Marketing for this segment can increase direct hotel bookings. Offering the same rate as OTA (Online Travel Agencies) may not lead to a direct booking and the hotel owner is not allowed to offer a lower rate. However, hotel owners can offer more – adding incentives such as free upgrades, free breakfast or special packages available only on the hotel’s website, these deals will encourage customers to book directly.
Improve user experience
Once the potential customer enters the hotel website, it is crucial for the site itself, — whether mobile or desktop — to be engaging and user-friendly. The site has to be intuitive, enriched with interesting digital content and real-time rate information. The customer service should be available every 24 hours to clarify questions from visitors. The site must include information about the property and visitors need to have access to this information at any time during their visit to the site. Improving the user experience is a major advantage of hotels compared to OTAs (Online Travel Agencies).
Develope Lead Asset – Customer Loyalty
To maintain customer loyalty and encourage direct booking, hotels should delight and suprise guests to build a lasting relationship. Even when a guest does not book directly, giving them a memorable experience may be enough to convince them to book directly next time. Hotels should take advantage of the commission they are paying to Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) to convert a visitor who arrives through the platform into a loyal customer. Site managers should respond to customers online reviews and comments; responding to negative and less positive assessments with a positive attitude.
On the OTA websites (Online Travel Agencies), you should talk about incentives and added value such as discounts. It is advisable to provide return links, which when necessary, take customers back to the hotel’s website, as visitors visiting the site can share their email address and thereby become direct customers. The personal comment from the owner or manager of the hotel is something that the guests value, thereby improving the perception of the brand. Hotels should also educate their employees on how to turn a visitor into a direct customer by using customer loyalty trainings. The staff should know all the latest offers and promotions so that they can easily explain the benefits of booking directly to customers. Moreover, the check-in team should be instructed to collect the email addresses of guests who book via Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) for direct marketing purposes in the future.