Educating Guests Away from the OTAs

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Joshua Meehan
Joshua Meehan
January 22, 2015
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A recent article posted on HotelSpeak highlighted Shrine Hotel’s new strategy for keeping potential guests on their website. They are experimenting with displaying their rates with the OTA offerings. The idea behind displaying this information is that it will keep the guest from leaving the site to compare OTA prices. Provided the property has rate parity most guests will choose to book direct. If successful, this strategy could help reduce a property’s OTA contributions. But, in the ongoing fight against commissions, are ideas like this enough?

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The real power of the OTAs comes from their ability to subjectively educate the consumer. They can out spend hotels on marketing and have convinced guests that they offer the cheapest rates for the same experience. Sure, hotels offer the same experience to every guest regardless of where they book, but ultimately paying these commissions over time will diminish the experience for every guest. The more money being paid to the OTAs means less to spend on improving and maintaining the property. In order to stay profitable the revenue lost to the OTAs will have to come from other areas of the hotel. This could mean the next order of linens will have a lowered thread count, switching to lower quality toiletries or even reducing staff and elimination services. Finding a way to convey how important direct bookings are to the overall guest experience is tricky, but it could be incredibly influential when it comes time to book.

The challenge in educating guests away from the OTAs is picking the right message. It needs to find a way to explain the disadvantages of booking through an OTA without directly disparaging them, violating agreements, sounding greedy or pleading for reservations. It is a tall order, but here is an example of what a message could look like:

Now that you have decided to stay with us, book with us!

Our goal is to provide every guest of “Our Hotel” the perfect getaway experience regardless of where they book. When you book directly with ‘Our Hotel”, your reservation provides us with more of the resources necessary to guarantee your perfect stay. If you can find a rate for one of our rooms published online that is lower than ours, simply call 1-888-555-5555 and we will gladly match or beat that price for you.

A message like this could be incorporated into your price match policy or on your website and booking engine.  This message also provides another way to highlight and sell specific amenities and services exclusive to your hotel. Do you think a message like this might help encourage more direct booking if so how would you word yours? This is just one of the ways to recapture share from OTAs.

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