As an independent hotelier, your main aim is to make sure that your guests are happy. That is, after all, why you joined the hospitality game. But you do need to make a profit, too, and that requires keeping your rooms occupied and controlling costs.
For most hoteliers, online distribution is a crucial part of putting heads in beds. Online Travel Agents (OTAs) are an important part of the distribution puzzle, but can be costly for the hotelier. Direct bookings are therefore key to reducing the average cost per booking, with less dependency on OTAs.
Besides reducing costs, by driving bookings towards your hotel’s own website, you’ll own the relationship with your guests from the outset. This will allow you to provide a better and more personalised service both before and during your guests’ stay, which in turn increases customer loyalty.
Here are five easy steps that will therefore increase your direct bookings:
1. Go get yourself a modern, efficient and engaging website
A warm welcome for your guests starts with your website. Your website is your guests’ first impression of your property, so don’t let them be put off by blurry images and out-of-date content. To make yours more efficient and engaging, try this:
- Choose imagery and design that captures the essence of your property, be that cosy, modern, sophisticated, boutique or romantic
- Include plenty of high quality images that immediately show off not only your rooms but also the common areas, any outdoor space, your local surroundings and any points of interest. Convey your hotel’s top selling points
- Add relevant content to showcase the great experience your guests will have. Include information on things to see and do nearby such as museums, restaurants, leisure activities and places of interest. Build their excitement before they even arrive!
- Don’t underestimate the power of video. Conversion rates for hotel websites with video are nearly double that of those without, and experts estimate that by 2019, 90% of content will be video based. The likes of AirBnB, for example, use homepage videos to produce greater user engagement.
2. Make your website responsive
A responsive website adapts to whatever device it’s being viewed on but is still easy-to-use. It’s thought that 98% of consumers now move sequentially between different screens when booking trips. This means that they might start their research at work on their desktop computer, choose a hotel on their mobile phone on their commute home, and make the booking on their tablet from the comfort of their sofa later on that night.
What’s more, with 52% of travel research and 25% of trips booked on a mobile phone, you can’t afford not to give your users the positive experience they require across all platforms.
3. Install a booking engine on your website
It’s no good having a fancy-pants website if your guests can’t book and pay for their stay through your site. A booking engine allows people to book directly through your site. This will also help you to build a guest database and then send targeted offers to encourage repeat business.
People often share their travel experiences with their social networks, so making sure your site offers a positive booking process is crucial. All of this means:
- gaining guests at less cost to you
- attracting more potential revenue-generating guests
- reducing operational costs (assuming that some of those bookings would otherwise be made by phone).
4. Ensure price parity
You’ll need to make sure that your rates are the same across all of your distribution channels, including your own website. The best way to avoid potential problems due to rates being out of parity or out of date is to use a channel manager.
A good channel manager will enable you to not only manage rates and availability across all distribution channels, including your hotel’s website, but will also allow you to apply different rules and cancellation policies per channel.
5. Get your hotel out there with metasearch engines
So you’ve got your shiny new website, your booking engine is all set, and your rates are sorted… now how do you drive traffic?
That’s where metasearch engines come in. OTAs use them to strengthen their booking position, and you should make sure that your hotel’s website appears among the booking options too.
It can be complicated, with some metasearch engines using the likes of bidding to determine which booking options appear, but there are vendors out there that will help you get it right. Here at Derbysoft we offer tools that automate the process and simplify an otherwise complicated undertaking.
Is it worth doing? Put simply, yes: if the big guys are doing it – the OTAs – then you need to be doing it too. Discover more about DerbySoft’s soon-to-launch One service and how we can help drive more direct bookings your way!