Back in February 2016, hotel giant Hilton launched their ‘Stop Clicking Around’ campaign, their largest ever, which aimed at reclaiming its market share from third-party distribution channels. It was a shot fired at the likes of Expedia and Booking.com, and a well-planned attempt to collect revenue that would otherwise go to OTAs and other third party sites.
With commissions ranging anywhere between 10% for chains to as high as 30% for independent hotels, hoteliers have always been wary about OTAs. Whilst these sites help achieve higher occupancy with their global exposure and marketing strength, they can end up putting a massive dent in the hotel’s profitability.
Major brands are serious about continuing with campaigns like ‘Stop Clicking Around’ since they are seeing a resulting shift in the choice of booking medium. Last year, Hilton saw 9 million new members and 56% of occupancy was driven by loyalty program members. The hotel giant also found digital channels very effective, with a major chunk of bookings coming in from web direct bookings (30% of total bookings in Oct-Dec’16 came from their website)
For Hilton, focusing on building direct customer relationships, improving loyalty, and launching new brands will always be top priorities, at least for this year (2017)
Deanna Ting, Hospitality Editor at Skift
Other major chains like Marriott, Hyatt, InterContinental and Choice are also making it clear that they want to put their foot down and win back their share from OTAs.
With international brands waging a war on OTAs, why should independent hotels shell out hefty commissions, when they too can win guests directly with a few smart moves?
How will independent hotels get there? Try the 4-way approach that can help your independent hotel compete with OTAs,
1. Win them with clarity
A good place to start when trying to win your guests, would be by taking some lessons out of OTA sites themselves. A closer look at the messaging and structure used by Booking.com throws up great ideas,
1.Clear ratings – stars, text and numbers
2.Clear discount messages
3.Thumbs up symbols to reassure the looker
4.Real time update of number of people looking at the property to create a sense of urgency
5.Use of catchphrases like free cancellation, best price guarantee, last booking was made at, you just got the best price
Keep these in mind when creating or revamping your hotel’s website. Treat the below as your cornerstones,
1.Showcase the booking console at your website’s Homepage
2.A creative call-to-action
3.Distribute content optimally throughout a single web page
4.Easy navigation on the website
5.Geo- based targeting
6.Optimizing your site’s design
7.Simple yet effective content
2. Get your hotel website noticed
A key component of any OTAs success is the website’s optimization. Your hotel maybe selling at the best rates but if guests are unable to find it, then it leads to nothing. Once they arrive at your page, they’re not going to stick around forever waiting for your webpage to load. OTAs take their brand websites very seriously and it’s about time that independent hotels displayed the same commitment to their hotel websites.
The journey to a great website involves catering to two aspects : Optimizing for traffic and Optimizing for conversion.
When optimizing for traffic, SEO plays a vital role. Modern Google algorithms scout websites for relevant information and fresh content, so hotels need to ensure that pages are filled with quality content and updated regularly. Update social media channel regularly to improve engagement and ranking. Why not check 3 tips to rank higher for more on this.
Next step is to convert website visitors into bookers. Ensure that your website loading time doesn’t go beyond 3s. A reliable booking engine integrated with your hotel website enhances the booking experience for guests, improving chances of conversion by multiple folds. Allow guests to access the rates in a single click, make payments process easy and secure through payment gateways, display customized discounts/offers and more. Integrated solutions like Hotelogix and GuestCentric bring a power-packed combination that help increase sales, access analytics and ultimately provide better web-booking experience that can be accessed from anywhere at anytime.
3. Provide a deal they cannot refuse
Guests visiting your hotel website should be confident that they are getting the best deal out there with you. Optimize on the strength of direct bookings by offering free drinks, spa packages, box of chocolates or a bottle of wine, when they book directly with you.
Also lay special focus on bespoke packages which are available exclusively on your website. These can be honeymoon packages, local sightseeing tours, etc.
When guests notice that they are getting more value by booking directly through the website versus OTAs, they will repeat the practice next time they are looking to take a break or travel. Not only this, they might recommend to friends and families – creating more business opportunities.
4. What are other guests saying?
Don’t limit guest testimonials, 3rd party certifications, online review links to subpages or footers. Displaying them prominently is crucial since this builds a sense of assurance that they are making a good decision, a common trick used by OTAs very often.
When communicating with the guests, try figuring out willing parties who would be comfortable sharing a good testimonial. You can also drive this effort through automated review collection, through Hotelogix PMS. Once you have recorded them (whether text or videos), display them directly on your website or your social media channels, keep them short and crisp to improve viewership.
When you have established a strong a direct booking strategy to enhance your hotel’s brand image and build a loyal customer base along the way, it helps you take better control of your business.
As a hotelier, your primary objective would be to increase your yield. While, we just discussed how direct bookings can help you get there, to believe that the journey can be completed without support from OTAs would be impractical. Any hotel owner, be it a chain or independent, must look at increasing their overall occupancy & profitability by achieving the right balance between direct & indirect booking channels.
Come April 26th, join us for a Webinar co powered by Hotelogix & GuestCentric, where we will discuss how to Increase Yield Through the power of Direct Bookings.