A common challenge that many independent hotels continually face is capturing direct bookings and preventing OTAs from not only taking away that potential revenue but also that relationship with the guest. There’s no question that competitive pricing offered by OTAs has made it much more difficult for independent hotels to drive direct bookings on their website. One study, however, has shown that 53% of rates are cheaper on a hotel’s website when compared to OTAs. Contrary to this study, travelers still have the assumption that prices are much lower on third party sites and, therefore, immediately search on Expedia or Booking.com to make their reservations. According to Tnooz, of the 1,000 travelers surveyed, 75% of them between the ages of 18 to 64 believe that the best hotel rates are found on a third party site. This is probably the case because of how these OTAs market themselves as having the best prices guaranteed. Travelers who tend to book with OTAs are accustomed to the simplicity of the booking process and prefer the familiarity of the company name. To recapture these traveler consumers, an effective marketing strategy needs to be put in place that incorporates these three marketing tactics. The key here is to provide enough value to the consumer that would not allow the online visitors the option of booking elsewhere. Give users what they want at first glance and take the guessing work out of whether your hotel offers the best rate or not. Having a robust online presence that appeals to users is just one part of the equation. Even more importantly, is the need to provide guests confidence they are making the right choice when it comes to booking directly with you over an OTA. Here are three marketing tactics to implement immediately if you want to encourage travelers to book direct.
Promote Best Rate Guarantee
Many consumers are unaware that hotels either offer the same price as the OTAs or lower for the same room and dates. Yet, many consumers still think that they are getting a better deal on an OTA than if they were to book directly on the hotel’s website. As a hotelier, it is up to you to promote that booking direct is the best option. Reassure users that they are receiving the best rate guarantee when they book direct with you. Make it clear that if they found a cheaper rate on a third party site, you would match that rate and even add more incentives to encourage them further to book on your hotel’s website. Find a booking engine that has the automated capability of pulling up rates from other OTA sites to compare to the price you have available on your website. This will prevent users from bouncing off your site to check rates on third party sites like an OTA or a metasearch engine like Trivago.
Another thing it does is leave users reassured that your hotel is indeed promoting the best rate guaranteed on your hotel’s website. Making rates apparent on your site allows users to stay on your site longer and make a decision without having to search up prices on other sites. If an OTA does offer lower rates than your site, then find a booking engine that is capable of automatically matching the OTA’s more economical price. To highlight that your hotel provides the best rate, then prominently display that next to the booking widget.
Capture Direct Bookings with Exclusive Perks
To further entice consumers to book directly on your site, then why not offer perks that would only be exclusive to those who book direct? An easy way to this is by promoting a special that offers something more than just a cheaper rate. Take advantage as an independent hotel offering specials to guests. Promoting a special provides value that no third party site can offer. Specials or perks you can give the guests to encourage them to book direct can be something like adding complimentary WiFi, a complimentary room upgrade, free breakfast for 2, late check-in/out, or free shuttle service to or from the airport. Once you’ve developed a special that guests care about, then prominently highlight that on your website. Here’s an excellent example from Dude Rancher Lodge’s website, a hotel located in Billings, Montana. Notice the promotion is next to the booking widget that reminds the user that booking direct is the way to go, not only because the hotel will match a lower rate listed on an OTA site, but the special also offers free breakfast for 2. Be sure to promote your specials on all your social media channels as well to further get the word out. Also, use paid advertising like Google Ads or/and Facebook ads to make your special even more visible to travel consumers. There will be times when a consumer may find lower rates than your hotel site. Still, an effective way to recapture the user’s attention to book direct on your website is by offering added value through specials like the ones I’ve mentioned here.
Simplify the Booking Journey
Simplifying the booking journey for users is a must-do tactic to get travelers to book on your site instead of going to an OTA to make their reservations. Independent hotel sites have a leg up when it comes to a simple booking process over OTAs. This is because when booking on an OTA, you immediately notice there are plenty of options to book from airfare, transportation, hotel, and vacation packages. This overload of information can be disruptive to consumers merely wanting to book a hotel. As an independent hotel, use that as an advantage to make the booking process on your site quick, easy, and user-friendly on all devices. Go through your site’s booking process and see if your website is easy to navigate. Do you find that your site has way too much unnecessary information? For example, do you have a lot of “fluff” in your description of the rooms? If so, be sure to remove that redundant “fluff” and give users a shorter, more accurate description of your rooms and give more time and effort in providing value within your content. Don’t scare your users away with a complicated booking process that will make them abandon the shopping. Instead, research a booking engine that describes the room and amenities in a straightforward matter and provides high-quality photos. Every consumer will appreciate the convenience you’ve provided when booking on your site.
Follow these three marketing tactics to get users to want to book direct with you and take them out of the mindset that third party sites always offer better rates.