The following guest blog post is written by our friend, Sam Peters, who discusses how hotels can alleviate dependence on OTAs and generate more direct bookings.
Big travel booking websites such as Expedia, Hotels.com, and HotWire are all great online platforms to market a hotel. However, inclusion into these platforms means your hotel needs to hand over a portion of the money for each booking.
Would it be nice to bypass these channels and keep more in your pocket?
You can continue to use these services to keep your quota but it’s definitely worthwhile to begin exploring other online options that allows your hospitality business to get straight through to the customer.
The following are three different ways to do so:
1. Leverage Search Engine OptimizationSearch engine optimization (SEO) is a collection of tactics and strategies to gain higher placement on the search engine results. The main tactics include link building, keyword optimization, social media participation, and blogging.
One very powerful form of SEO is to go after the reviews.
For example, Sheraton Hotels operates out of Tampa and are one of the first business to appear in the search engines because they have nearly 300 reviews. In fact, besides the major travel site listings, they are the ONLY actual hotel website from the list which means they’re front runners in the area.
People seeking your business are very likely to type “reviews” after their search query, such as 29 Prime reviews, because it will allow them to see what others have to say about the business. Sites like Yelp and Google+ Business will become a portal for soliciting feedback about the business; increasing your review count will allow the business to rise to the top.
Seek the aid of SEO professionals. Pricing will vary depending on the strategies to be implemented but it’s a worthwhile investment if you wish to cut back on travel booking websites and keep a larger cut of your customers’ stay.
2. Participate on Social Media, LocallySocial media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn provide a free channel to reach individuals seeking accommodation. Additionally, it gives you the ability to tailor content and your market message to those in your area which encourages followers to inquire about more information.
For example, the Sakura Hotel and Café in Tokyo spends a great deal of their time regularly updating their Facebook fan page with pictures and videos of those visiting their location. They also write and share blog posts of cool events and places around the area for those considering a stay. Their commitment to their area and providing helpful information to guest has helped them rank toward the top of the list when seeking a hotel in Tokyo.
Join the major social media platforms, create a complete profile, and begin sharing with the community.
· Write posts about popular destinations, eateries, and relaxation spots in the area
· Share discount codes
· Interview guests about their stay
There really is not limit to what you can do with social media; get out there, connect, and you’ll begin building a solid foundation of new and repeat customers in a timely fashion.
3. Implement a Referral EngineWord-of-mouth marketing can be one of the most powerful forms of gaining new and repeat business because the recommendations come from trusted sources.
For example, the app HotelTonight was able to quickly take off in popularity because it implemented a referral engine which gave users credit toward hotels for each new person they referred and had booked a hotel. The use of this strategy grew the userbase by thousands in a ready fashion.
Your business can begin implementing this strategy on a shoe-string budget such as through the clever use of business cards with referral codes that customers, leaving, could hand to friends and family.
The business could also use certain keywords that tip the receptionist to the referral.
There are technological options, too, such as using affiliate marketplaces which will allow you to use referral codes and cookies to track visitors to your website and pay those that promote your site.