The Direct Booking Movement
The Current Status
With most of the dominant listed OTA's shifting to a commission based, online booking only model, holiday rental owners selling their rooms online may be concerned about lower occupancy, profits, lack of control, limited guest information and poor communication with guests.
Although listing your hotel with OTA's provides excellent exposure for your rental, ( your outlet is only one of thousands being promoted) by encouraging guests to cut out the middleman and book with you directly means potential customers can get a better deal, it places you in front of the client, and you get to keep the full payment with no commission, booking fees or subscription charges being deducted.
The question is how do you get holidaymakers to book with you directly considering the huge marketing budgets and aggressive marketing campaigns used by OTA's booking sites? It’s not impossible, as proven by Premier Inn who reported that in 2021 89% of their bookings where direct.
Whether a single property owner or a manager of several properties, here we outline several simple strategies that you can implement to encourage guests to book with you direct., so take a look and don't get left behind, here's guidance on how to sell your rooms direct off your website!
Your Hotel Website Needs a Strong Online Presence
Let's look at the actions hoteliers can take to start the direct booking process.
Create a brand strategy that works both on and offline.
Build a stunning website thats easy to use.
Operate your own online guest booking channel
Drive traffic through search engines like Google and Bing
Establish a direct channel of cummunication with existing and new customers
Create a Brand Strategy
To become a fully independent listing site and stand out, you need to turn your holiday let business into a memorable and recognisable brand.
One way to promote your brand to guests is to create your own property business logo and incorporate your property name. This should feature on your website, emails, welcome book and photos. As a special memento, you could leave useful branded merchandise that guests can take home. Pens, notepads, a torch, postcard or trolley token keyring. Everybody loves a freebie!
Once you have agreed on the basics of your image, style, colour etc make sure everything to do with the hotel is branded with your image. Carry your brand message throughout your business even down to your staff clothing.
Build a Stunning Website
Our guess is you want to attract, engage and satisfy more paying guests into your hospitality outlet, enjoy hassle-free bookings, pay no commission fees, get paid on time, and ensure your guests have a great time encouraging them to return the following year, are we right?
In cooperation with our partners, our products and web services are carefully crafted to help owners increase their online visibility, take the guessing out of bookings, the worry out of wondering whether guests will book or not, get you paid on time and automate your workflows. If your current website is not producing results and causing you hassle then ask yourself this question what is the point of having a website and what can you do to make it work for the business!
Owning a website is not enough in todays competitive landscape. A website must perform and produce measurable value, it therefore requires a lot of attention to detail and planning before you spend on the website alone or you begin to do something productive with it and customers find you and start visiting your website.
An alluring and effective commission-free booking engine allows potential customers to not only browse and stay on your website but also allows them to book directly through the website itself, thereby boosting direct bookings. Hence you have the chance to ease and increase sales of direct hotel bookings through a direct room booking manager.
The most important task is to strengthen your online presence. A long time ago, when booking a place to stay, a guest’s first impression of the hotel wasn’t made until they walked through the door and into the lobby. This, of course, was during the dark ages days of dial-up Internet and having an online presence wasn’t as crucial as it is today. Today, first impressions start the second a potential booker loads the business website of the hotel they are interested in reserving. You might say, the booking experience is a doorway to their stay.
Much like creating the ultimate hospitality experience for your guests, when it comes to designing your hotel website, there are a number of vital elements to include. In order to make sure you don’t miss a thing, the best advice is to engage the services of a local professional web designer in your area who offers the vast amount of knowledge, web design, Internet presence, SEO, Compliance required today to ensure your business gets found by search engines. how to make a great website for your hotel
A website with strong online presence offers the perfect opportunity to wow travellers and convince them that yours is the right rental for them. A website gives you the platform to offer the best priced value, show bigger, better images, more information, virtual tours, videos, share your knowledge of the destination and promote your local area. When people go on holiday they don’t just focus on the accommodation, they are buying into the local experience.
A website isn’t a ‘set it and forget it’ project, especially if you’re relying on it for your business. Updating your website with fresh content consistently can bring your SEO ranking up with Google. Of course, there’s a good chance that your hotel isn’t going to grow thirty rooms overnight or dramatically change in ways that you can continuously update the website but this is why you should look into starting a blog. You could cover topics like: the latest travel destinations, showcase the location of your hotel or create a list of top things to do and see when visiting your hotel. Not sure how to get going? Read through this insightful guide on blogging for business.
Operate Your Own Booking Channel
Add a booking engine and channel manager to your website to diversify your audience reach and increase your chances of new bookings, you should add your property to as many listing sites (OTA's) as you can. A channel manager allows connectivety acces to over 400 booking channels worldwide and provides booking managers the ability to automatically update rates, availability and bookings across hese booking channels simultaneously (such as Airbnb, HomeAway or Booking.com), all from a single platform.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could seamlessly manage the availability, pricing, and distribution of your property to millions of local and international travellers?
Well you can, forget manual updates, the Little Hoteliers channel manager allows hoteliers to control all online travel agents (OTA's) in a single platform and calendar with just one log-in. Little Hotelier seamlessly connects your availability and pricing to leading booking platforms like Airbnb, Booking.com and Expedia etc.
Properties using Little Hotelier’s channel manager experience up to 46% more bookings.To diversify your audience reach and increase your chances of new bookings, you should add your property to as many listing sites as you can.
Initially it's important that you adjust the balance between listing sites (OTA's) and direct booking!
The OTA giants are not going away any time soon, fair to say that they must be acklowledged for the services they provide the holiday booker and should not be ignored but worked with in co-operation.
Online booking software like Little Hotelier integrates the OTA's within their channel mangemnet sytems, therefore complimenting both methods of guest booking.
Hoteliers also have an army of weapons that OTA's can't access: the possibility to offer gifts or discounts on services for a particular stay (airport transfer, meals, spa, late-check out, etc.) or offers on local attractions are endless… These small gestures towards satisfying customers combined with a more digitized interactive website and its design are non-negligible arguments to improve direct guest booking.
Establish a direct communication channel
Research shows that the cost of acquiring a new customer is anywhere from 5 to 20 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. Email marketing is one of the most productive and cost-effective ways to grow your business.
Four out of five marketers said they’d rather give up social media than email marketing, according to a report by Litmus. That’s because email marketing is a business’s best tool.
Content marketing is the way to go with your e-mail campaigns. Content marketing is a type of marketing strategy that involves creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and engaging content in order to attract a targeted audience and encourage them to book.
As the customer mindset has changed over the years, marketing strategies have also evolved. With the internet at our fingertips, people have become better informed about the quality and value of the things they spend their money on. They’ve also become more demanding; they want their issues resolved fast, and they want the right products to do it.
Many customers see straight through pushy sales pitches and disruptive online ads, but they can be persuaded with informative and genuinely helpful content. That’s where content marketing comes in. Good content - such as blog posts, informational videos, new developments, special offers and more - are used to nurture buyers into making a booking, gently guiding them toward the right solution for their needs.
How to achieve a more user friendly approach.
To encourage potential visitors to book with you and to drive direct hotel bookings, you need to optimize your website for a seamless user experience. Here are some of the ways to drive bookings directly through your very own website and save on OTA commissions:
The key element to direct online booking is the hotel website, therefore owners should develop a marketing and design strategy and update the website with high-resolution images, correct information (location, contact, amenities), and best prices/deals on the website. In short, the approach should be out and out an holistic approach.
Make direct online booking easy.
Making things simple and secure is the key to success in the hospitality industry. Considering the fast-paced world that we live in today, everybody is looking for ways to save more time. Keeping that simple, day-to-day fact in mind, use it proactively concerning your hotel direct booking strategies.
To back this up, get your Website to have a ‘Book Now’ or ‘Booking Box’ feature which allows the customers to begin the booking process right away! In short, bring in more CTA's (call-to-action) to highlight the overall grandeur of the website and the simplicity of the booking process.
Drive Traffic Through Search Engines.
Although a well designed user friendly classy website may be the answer to online booking results its the SEO (search engine optimization) that creates the visibilty you need for holiday bookers to find you.
SEO is your number one priority to showcase that beautiful well designed user friendly website to create hi visibility online for selling your hotel rooms into the equation for selling more rooms through your direct online booking engine.
To achieve hi ranking on the Internet with search engines platforms like Google, Bing etc, it would be wise to develop an SEO plan that will enable your website to perform as a spectacular and attractive option for holiday bookers.
This is because a high rank listing is instrumental in driving more traffic to your website which is very likely to culminate into a greater number of bookings. This is an absolute plus for your hotel booking strategy. Again, SEO also provides other services like optimization through keywords, details about your competitirs listing, where you rank against them in search results and relevant links to reap maximum benefits!
Manage and promote your website on mobile.
Data from Criteo’s Summer Travel Report notes that worldwide, OTA's capture most of the mobile bookings. In terms of last-minute bookings, the report revealed that the hotels received just over 70% of last-minute bookings via mobile devices.
An impressive mobile website is what the visitors would come across while locating your property on Google Maps. A website should be so crafted and optimized that it tells a unique story. So use it as a medium to highlight your strengths. Opt for a user-friendly hotel website that is responsive even to smart devices. Also, get your website to focus on the amenities offered and the location. Remember, your website can also help leverage digital marketing for your property and business. Hence make it as informative as possible with what’s going on or what’s happening in and around, restaurant recommendations, places of sightseeing nearby, and so on.
What are the benefits of direct online room bookings?
What are the benefits to customers booking direct online?
A. Clients receive the best room rates:
Firstly, you’ll want to offer the best rate by booking direct. If holidaymakers can get it cheaper elsewhere then are unlikely to make a direct booking. Explain that guests don’t have to pay a listing site booking fee when booking direct. Which means your direct price can save guests £100’s compared to booking on a listing site.
B. Guest Benefits
Offer guests additional benefits that are only available when booking direct. This could be a discount, gifts upon arrival, shopping delivery, discounts at local businesses, a late check-out, free wifi and local calls, airport pickup & drop off etc. A small gesture can make a big difference.
C. Deal Direct with the Owner
Unlike listing sites and OTAs which usually restrict communication, when guests book direct they can speak directly with the owner/manager. Human interaction means guests questions can be answered by someone who really knows the property and area. Having this contact builds trust and reassures guests that yours is the rental to book.
D. Secure & Safe Transactions
It’s more secure. Given the rise in online scams that have seen many victims fall foul to bogus holiday rentals, travellers are wary when booking. Many listing sites hide the details of the owner so it’s impossible to do any research on them. When guests know who they are booking with they can do their own research, read reviews, and book securely online. It also keeps the client on the hoteliers website to do the booking transaction
What are the benefits to hoteliers selling rooms direct?
A. Save on OTA Commissions:
When you book a hotel room through an OTA, hotels have to pay some hefty commissions up to 25% to 30% for every booking. But in the case of direct bookings you keep all revenus generated.
B. Improved cash flows:
Because your guests book direct with you and not through an OTA (third party) room deposits are received into your bank account, residual payments are also placed in your bank account when due. The result is no more waiting for payments from OTA's or allowing credit periods. Direct online bookings place you in control of your business.
C. Guest Database:
Guests booking direct means you gather valuable information about your guests not the OTA's, name, e-mail ect, this data can be used to build your own customer database to keep your guests informed with e-mail campaigns about new developments, special offers, events, seasonal deals etc.
D. Cancellations and or Date Change Control:
Sometimes guests might have to either postpone or cancel your reservation for some reason. Booking directly with the hotel owners can easily manage the situation via the channel manager which provides great flexibility and for genuine reasons, they can even wave off cancellation fees. Your guest will enjoy peice of mind knowing you have their interest at heart.
E. Personalized Guest Services:
Direct online bookings are a real bonus for forward thinking hotel owners it opens up the opportunity to win over their guests with even more inducements or special privileges in recognition if guests book directly. The marketing opportunities are endless, why not consider early bird discounts, or perks like fast check-in, free breakfast, free Wi-Fi, free lounge access, late check-out, vouchers for organised trips, loyalty points for future trips, free hotel transfers, etc.
F. Direct Online Booking Benefits:
One of the biggest benefits booking direct contributes is the turn around of who controls your business. When direct bookings gather momentum control of the business returns to the hotel owner away from the OTA's as previous. Hotel owners can look forward to controling the very fabric of the business, its marketing, development and future.
The Decision to adopt online booking of course is yours!:
The above facts offer a compelling argument for the hotelier to change, however changing a business model is never easy but consider this as business owners around the world figure out what the business landscape could look like post pandemic, one thing is certain: many old habits/processes will have to change, in some cases, permanently.
Small businesses (SME's) are facing some of their biggest challenges in recent times, many will have to learn how to re-engage with their customers and adapt to new demands in the marketplace.
Owning a website with a strong online presence is a must for hoteliers in 2022 but it has to perform and produce results.
Remember your website is your number one salesperson working tirelesly 24/7, its the first point of contact for your business to any potential customer on the Internet, therefore it demands serious attention to ensure it promotes professionally all your services, marketing efforts and campaigns.
Web design has undergone a massive rethink over the past few years and now relates to market demands subsiquently the next-generation website is designed to drive room sales, traffic and be optimized for modern hoteliers to increase occupancy rates and revenue.
Don't get left behind, optimize and build a strong online presence now,