Updated: Jul 16
Now is the time to switch to direct bookings?
The reality of the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on travel inevitably poses issues for all players in the tourism industry. As restrictions begin to loosen around the world, hotel brands may be starting to see some glimmers of hope.
The introduction of deconfinement plans and relaxed travel restrictions are clearly impacting hotel booking patterns and trends. The situation is different in each market and evolving rapidly, sometimes daily. In this unprecedented situation, there is a clear need for relevant industry and market information to be able to make the best decisions for your hotel brand.
As restrictions have begun to loosen around the world, hotel brands may be starting to see some glimmers of hope. Managers of properties which were forced to close during the COVID-19 outbreak have now opened their doors or are planning to do so soon.
Hospitality as we know it has been transformed and may not be the same as before and so hospitality owners must look for ways to reinvent the experiences they offer and the way they engage with guests. Let's have a look at the most effective hotel strategies to optimize direct booking conversions prior to and during reopening:
Current Booking Method
Many hospitality owners have been drawn in and subscribed to the services of major holiday booking agencies. It's easy to understand why the owners engage with major travel agencies for marketing, booking and selling rooms off the Internet.
The current method has evolved over many years and appears to be generally accepted and established method vigorously promoting the current trend, the all inclusive package holiday!
In the main the method obviously has its merits and is an easy option mass market booking system that offers a high booking success rate but is it a secure way forward for small property owners who run, Apartments - B&B's - boutique hotels - vacation rentals in 2021 or does the system pose a hidden threat to the owners of these outlets?
The Corvid-19 pandemic has not helped the situation causing havoc amongst the major travel agency players, (the very source of all inclusive mass holiday bookings), in the travel industry particularly hard resulting in unprecedented impact on hospitality outlets and tourist Industry.
Hospitality owners using the current mass market booking system are enduring a massive reality check in consequence and are fighting to save their businesses as bookings have virtually dried up with little respite in sight.
It could also be said that the Corvid-19 pandemic has clearly exposed the major players systems frailty whom on their part were taken by surprise at the speed of the disease spread and offered no alternative back-up to at least soften the impact on its client owner hospitality customer base!
The question is with the impact of Corvid - 19 will the hospitality market ever be the same again and what actions can hospitality owners take to avoid being caught up in this vulnerable situation for future bookings.
If a S.W.O.T analysis,( Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) were to be applied to the current method of obtaining bookings some alarming facts may be identified placing the current method under question! for example.
Commission rates are set at scale, can be extremely high and carry conditions that take control of a business, it controls cash flows, retains guest data, therefore potentially it could pose an underlying threat to the future development and viability to the small hospitality business owner.
The cold fact is a hospitality business stands alone in an overcrowded system passively waiting for someone to come along and click on the travel agents image to book a holiday, from an individual marketing perspective there's nothing pro-active or secure about generating bookings utilising this method.
Why would any hospitality business owner rely on one or two sources for holiday bookings? it makes no business sense at all and poses a serious threat to the future of the business if, as can be seen now travel agents are under extreme pressure themselves and failing to deliver!
The question is, are owners of small hospitality outlets concerned, if so, what can they do about it and where can they find a solution to alleviate some of the concerns they may already be feeling about their current booking system and the way it controls their business for income and bookings?
Future Booking Method
With Wix Hotels direct booking system any hotel brand should be able to compete and capture their fair share of online bookings while reducing dependency on major online holiday travel agencies.
Travelers expect simple yet personalized shopping experiences, and hotel brands should be able to provide them, no matter their size or resources. Wix Hotels online direct booking engine provides the resource for an improved direct online booking experience and will strengthen the relationship between hotel brands and their guests, commission free.
What is Wix Hotels and What does it do?
Wix Hotels is an all-in-one online Booking System Application that will revolutionise a hospitality business. It gives small hospitality properties - B&B's - boutique hotels - vacation rentals control of booking and reservations management. Guests make reservations - directly off an owners website without linking and leaving to book through a third party and here's the good news owners get to retain 100% of the revenue earnings.
Initial booking fees go directly into owners bank accounts resulting in improved cash-flows, no more credit arrangements or waiting endless days for payments. It also alleviates the current uncertainty surrounding the travel industry at the moment and gives owners more control over their business and its future!
The overriding benefit of Wix Direct Online Booking is it gives back to owners control of their business, they will no longer wonder where the next booking materialises or wait endless days for payments, it even gathers much needed valuable consumer data allowing owners marketing efforts to be pro-active in communicating with their guests.
With overall consumer data in the hands of the owners building customer relationships becomes a reality, owners can inform clients directly of developments, special offers, current news and much more.
What challenges does Wix hotels present?
Wix hotels may not be suitable for every small hospitality outlet, because it depends on the owners attitude, booking demands and whether or not they can embrace change and learn about how the benefits Wix hotels booking and management system adds value to their business.
There is also the question of transition from the current method to the Wix dynamic method, well there's good news here as well, its called channel manager powered by HotelRunner (attracts a commission).
All owners booking channels are synced, meaning you can integrate in parallel your current system effortlessly and manage all bookings through Wix Hotels online channel manager, they sync all reservations from over 80 booking channels in one seamless transition, it even imports reservations from Airbnb, Homeaway & Google calendars.
The challenge is to build on your current system while developing the Wix hotels system over a season to then go it alone, at the very least owners will have gained consumer data to action for the following season.
What does all this mean for the owners?
In general people like routine, may not actively research for applications on the market that enhance visibility, efficiency and profitability of a business.
What hospitality owners should be asking themselves is why some of the biggest high street names are finding market conditions very tough, why there're going into liquidation and what are the fundamental causes.
According to a recent survey by AdColony's, commissioned by mobile marketeer smartphones are the most popular device for shopping online, consumers search for a product then shop around for the best deals.
Results suggest that merchants and brands need to have their mobile strategies in place to appeal to holiday shoppers who rely heavily on their smartphones to make online purchases or for assistance in stores, Wix has developed a mobile app for that.
Insight conclusions from the survey suggest small business hospitality owners should address the situation now or face the inevitable negative impact on their business!
Looking forward owners must wise up and spend some quality time developing their own online presence, smartphone strategy, engage, communicate and delight their customers and give some serious thought to the scenarios that could impact upon the future of the business.
If owners continue to stay under the control of the major travel agencies, who not only control bookings (your business) cash flows, (whether you trade or not) owners future and to top it all they even hold all owners customer information as well they may face a bleak future!
There are more moving parts to starting and running a business than owning a website and slapping a “grand opening” banner on the front page. One very important aspect is the communication between the owners brand and the consumer, its difficult to do that working through a third party (Travel Agents).
Brand awareness is stronger than ever so owners must give their business a boost establish the brand and put customers first, keep attitude in check and stay empathetic with customers, it will serve them well!
What steps can hospitality owners take?
1. Reassure visitors. Notify guests of your hotel reopening plans
When the time comes, make sure guests know that you’re back in the game, open for business and your safety measures are in place. This welcome Layer is a great way to keep guests informed. It clearly delivers the property’s message about reopening as well as important updates on hotel operations. As an opening strategy aim your message at your repeaters, highly valued guests and your home market.
A welcome layer to discover offers
2. Focus on the domestic market, Promote Getaways, Staycations
As predicted within the industry, it looks like the domestic market may be the first to recover. With many international borders still closed as restrictions within countries start to loosen, people are first gaining mobility to move around within their own country. This makes it the perfect time for promotional specials for staycation, week end getaways or short stay offers to your local market and repeat customers.
A welcome layer to promote package weekend getaways to local visitors
3. Think local. Showcase your inhouse services
It may still be a while before restaurants can return to operating at full capacity. It would be a shame to not keep your kitchens going, so why not encourage your guests to stay and eat at your restaurant rather than eat out. Get online table bookings on the agenda and consider promoting pickup or delivery take-away service menu to local outsiders so customers can enjoy gourmet five-star meals in the comfort of their homes? Again, only show these messages to users located in your immediate area to have a greater impact.
Your hotel bar is also a source of additional income so encourage passers by to come in and enjoy a fancy cocktail or two and think about organising a social event, i.e. Greek night out.
4. Get creative in marketing! Become a source of inspiration
Unprecedented times call for creative solutions, in casually discussion with your staff, friends and guests come up with ideas to work your assets, offer services and experiences that will seduce visitors to direct book with your hospitality outlet.
Owners should even consider extending the season by attracting other groups who do not place a high dependency factor on sunshine, like walkers, sightseers, winter break staycations for the retired etc.
Unprecedented times call for new solutions. Now more than ever is the time to take charge and define a mindful direct booking strategy to adapt to the shifting market patterns and trends.
Key development actions
A. Notify your customers about your reopening strategy
B. Reassure guests about the safety precautions you have in place at your hotel
C. Draw there attention to the benefits of booking their holidays direct off your website
D. Think local markets and get creative with fresh ideas about promoting your hospitality outlet
E. Re-think and sync your social media marketing strategy
F. Consider extending the season to attract other user groups
Social media marketing?
A social media marketing strategy is more important now than ever before, so analyse your current plan and re-define a new one if necessary taking into account the shifts that are taking place in current booking trends, these are very uncertain times.
Social media marketing is the act of using social media platforms to promote a brand or product, build an audience, generate leads, and increase sales and website traffic.
A great place for inspiration is reading the Wix blog post on social media marketing small business, you'll get some great tips & tricks to get you started its both informative and intuitive.
Integrate your marketing, with all your other marketing channels making sure they work in harmony to promote your hospitality services with an aligned brand message across all content and assets.
Effective marketing is integrated marketing.
When integrated marketing is done well, your marketing platforms and campaigns are perfectly synced, your data flows seamlessly to enrich other apps in your stack, and your customers and prospects have the most unified view of your brand and service offers.
What worldwide trusted sources have to say about the pandemic
For additional news updates on the COVID-19 situation and changes in the hospitality industry, follow these reliable sources:
Current Updates about Covid - 19
Global Covid - 19 resources
Covid impact on the hospitality industry
(TECHTALK TRAVEL) https://www.techtalk.travel/post/corona-virus-collection-resources
Helpful resources for hoteliers
Today, it's more important than ever to communicate with guests and strengthen your direct booking channel be ready to capitalise on increased demand as soon as the markets start to recover.
To ignore the current trends and the uncertain situation is putting your business future at risk.
For further information or to discuss your challenges: https://www.michaeljfoxwebdesign.com/get-in-touch
Author Mike Fox.
Wix, Userway, michaeljfoxwebdesign, mobilemarketeer, who, hmsai, hn, techtalk.travel
A special HSMAI Report June 2020 hospitality post pandemic plans