You love that online travel agencies (OTAs) like booking.com and TripAdvisor bring business in, but you hate that you have to pay them commission. Why don’t people just book directly through you? Well, they might, if you take action. Here are some tips on how to encourage direct bookings:
1. Embrace the OTA
As odd as it may sound, making sure that your listings on OTAs are optimised can actually help with getting direct bookings. Usually your prospective guests will find you through an OTA, impress them enough that they will visit your site.
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2. Get your website right
One of the reasons people book through OTAs is because they are easy to use. Make sure that your website is equally easy. Get a few people who have never visited your site before to try to book a room. Make sure that they have all the information and photos that they need to make a decision and ask if they think that there is something you should change.
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3. Be mobile friendly
Have you visited your property’s website with your phone or tablet? Does it work? Does it look good? Can you book a room easily? If not, you need to fix this now. According to research done by Google in 2014, 67% of leisure travellers and 78% of business travellers used a mobile device at some time during their travel process. If that’s not enough incentive, the same study found that when people visited a site that wasn’t mobile friendly, 77% left the site.
Read more about optomising your hotel's website for mobile...
4. Keep your social media alive
In 2014 Google found that a whopping 83% of prospective travellers doing research online used social networking, video or photo sites for travel inspiration, and 26% of leisure travellers use social networking sites to actually plan their trip. Keep your social media up-to-date, use images whenever you can, express your property’s unique personality, offer special deals and competitions, and talk with your guests, not at them.
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5. Offer a better deal
In 2014 76% of leisure travellers and 70% of business travellers told Google that they had booked through a specific OTA because it offered “Lower prices/Better deals”. This needn’t be the case; there are plenty of incentives that you can offer guests for booking directly. After all, you’re not paying commission for these bookings, so you can afford to give a little discount or an extra freebie.
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6. Add some AdWords
Search for accommodation in your area on Google and you will probably find that an OTA’s site will appear far higher in the search results than your own website. With clever use of Google AdWords, however, you can dramatically boost the chances of your property being the first result a prospective visitor sees.
Read more about AdWords for hoteliers...
7. Remember that the proof is in the pudding
You can make all the changes, promises and prizes you like online, but if your service and property aren’t meeting guests’ expectations in real life, it’s not going to work. Happy customers are your best brand ambassadors. Considering how important all types of social referrals are, real people’s experiences are what will make or break your reputation.