Online Travel Agencies or OTAs such as Expedia, Priceline, and Hotels.com may seem to be doing hotels a favor at first sight. Guests book a room online through the OTA’s website, and the hotel now has a customer it did not have before. Good right? Not exactly. OTAs take an average of 20-25% commission on each room sold while also taking away the relationship between your hotel and the guest. Hotels could spend a lot less than the 20-25% commission taken from each room OTA books and put it into marketing efforts. These efforts will drive the customer to book directly with the hotel and bring the relationship back between the hotel and guest. Here are three ways hotels can recapture share from the OTAs.
Hotels must be competitive when it comes to their website. Websites should be easy to navigate, contain engaging content, and paint an accurate picture of the hotel. All photographs should be professional and accurately portray what the guest can expect when arriving at the hotel. Using a photo of the one Executive Suite at your hotel on the ‘Rooms’ page of the website, when standard rooms are not as beautiful, will give guests the wrong impression. Having this picture will immediately create a negative experience for them when they arrive at the hotel. Hotels must put their best foot forward without creating expectations they cannot live up to.
Having a great website does not just apply to desktops and tablets, but also mobile. Today, more people are using mobile phones for purchases, and this includes booking hotel rooms. If your hotel’s mobile site is not easy to navigate, you should correct this right away. Don’t lose a customer simply because it is easier for them to book on an OTAs site.
2. Online Marketing Strategy
When relying on OTAs, you are mainly relying on them to market your hotel. To recapture bookings, it will be necessary to develop an effective online marketing strategy. This should include Social Search Optimization (SSO), which incorporates social media to give your hotel a more significant presence on the web. Many hotels have a presence on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and Foursquare.
Hotels must have a presence on social media since there is talk about your hotel on these platforms, whether you are participating or not. When creating your online marketing strategy, decide which social media sites will provide value and drive traffic to your site.
3. Competitive Rates
A problem some hotels face is the fact that rooms are listed at a higher price on their websites compared to OTA sites. Why would a guest want to book the same room for a higher price? Don’t allow OTAs to book the guest because the price of a room is better on their site. Hotels must regularly monitor OTA’s websites to make sure rates remain competitive.
Though it is not always possible to offer a lower price than the OTA due to contracts, hotels can be sure to provide an equal rate. To add an incentive for booking directly, hotels can offer exclusive deals such as free breakfast or free Wi-Fi. This will add value for guests and encourage them to book through your website as opposed to an OTA.
Remember, when a customer reserves your hotel through an OTA, they are still choosing your hotel. Cut out the middle man and bring the relationship between your hotel and the guest back.