There are ways to increase your direct bookings without compromising your relationship with OTAs. Russell Logan, Head of Sales, Europe explores.
Offer Discounts to a Targeted Audience
Your OTA agreements may prevent you from making deals public, but you can offer discounts to a selected audience such as your Facebook fans or email list. It’s a great way to engage with your loyal customers and reward them for showing an interest in your property.
Create Attractive Packages Using Add-On Services
Rate parity only applies to offers for the exact room advertised on the OTA. You can add other services with the same room to make packages that are fantastic value for money and attractive to customers. Common add-ons include airport transfers, shuttle service to events or a tourist spot and drink discounts. You could even offer gift vouchers for in-hotel services. There is plenty of scope to get creative here!
Have an Exciting Loyalty Programme
People who’ve stayed with you should automatically be on a list to receive discounts and offers from you. Create packages from them based on their interests shown in previous visits. Gift vouchers are another way to make customers feel valued and important.
Take Advantage of Face-To-Face Interaction
At the time of check-in and check-out, give reasons to your guests to use your website to book. If they’ve booked through an OTA, offer them a 10 per cent discount off their next stay if they book direct through your website. To cultivate trust, the front desk should also have a sign that prominently guarantees that the hotel’s website will offer the lowest rate.
Ensure a Good Design and User Experience on Your Website
A website is your most important marketing channel, but often it is also the most ignored tool. It is critical to develop a website that optimizes user experience on all devices. Hotels must make it as clear and hassle-free as possible to book from them, or potential customers will seek out an easier solution. Make sure the call to action button is clear and prominently displayed along with contact details of your accommodation. Use a booking engine that seamlessly merges with your website design, is powerful and targeted to increase conversions.
Harvest Online Review Sites
Many times when customers use OTAs, they are attracted to properties in the same price range that have good reviews. These customers are likely to visit your website for more information. This is your opportunity to make sure they book via your website rather than the OTA.
In order to draw users from sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, it is important to comment on all posts – engage with your audience. Invest in a tool like STAAH’s ReviewMinder to monitor and maximise the potential of online reviews. For example, if someone comments on how nice the spa was, a hotel could respond by thanking the customer for their feedback and informing them of a new spa package they’re currently offering with bookings through their website. This shows customers you care and are willing to take steps to provide them with more value.
Don’t Underestimate the Power of OTAs
There are many ways to encourage customers to book direct, but hoteliers shouldn’t consider OTAs as the enemy. Quite the contrary, embracing your OTA market manager can afford you tremendous benefits. So while OTAs will help you increase your reach and fill empty rooms, when balanced with direct bookings it will ensure optimal sales across all channels and improved REVPAR.
Russell Logan has more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality and tourism business and is currently the Head of Sales at STAAH Europe Ltd.