How To Promote Direct Hotel Bookings

Sandra L. Pouncy

As time progresses, direct bookings are becoming an integral part of every hotel’s distribution mix. After all, paying hefty commissions for third-party bookings isn’t the most desirable way to handle business. Even if you’re saving 10% in commission, that’s still a 10% increase in revenue. Hoteliers across the globe understand this and are now focusing on how to get more direct hotel bookings for their business. 

However, before we proceed further, let’s be clear that booking sites and agencies aren’t a total loss. These platforms offer multiple benefits for the price paid, including marketing and exposure to global markets. Small-size B&Bs and independent hotels that cannot afford to market their brands at such a massive bandwidth are sure to benefit from this option. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t mean that one must not be proactive in encouraging direct hotel bookings.  

As rewarding as it sounds, consistently pooling in direct business is one of the biggest challenges for hoteliers. However, when done right, creating a fair balance between direct and OTA bookings is achievable as well as profitable. This article dives into the importance of direct hotel bookings and shares expert tips to achieve the best results.

What’s All The Hype About Direct Bookings?

A 2021 GlobalData Survey shows an evolved travellers’ approach towards hotel bookings post-COVID-19: It shows 39% of tourists are now interested in booking directly, whereas only 17% prefer to contact OTAs.

This major shift in customer preferences has increased every hotel owner’s chances to attract more sales and maximize revenue!

Direct Bookings: Overview & Benefits

Every hotel distribution strategy consists of multiple channels to pool travel and leisure customers, including Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), metasearch engines, and hotel websites. The most profitable of the three is direct hotel bookings i.e. wherein guests directly reach out to the hotels for all accommodation-related queries and make a reservation. 

Tourists nowadays seek the most flexibility possible, and direct booking channels’ flexible terms, the scope for last-minute changes, and instant refunds are winning their hearts. But are direct customers more profitable for hoteliers too? Yes, it’s a classic win-win situation. Here’s how:

Zero Third-Party Commissions:

First-hand transactions with customers help your business save any excessive commission paid to third parties and agencies. On average, OTA platforms charge about 10-30% in commission per booking, affecting the business’s profitability by a margin.

In contrast, a direct sale closed organically or through seasonal offers and discounts, still involves a lower customer acquisition cost.

Establish A Personal Relationship With Your Customers:

It goes without saying — learning to increase direct hotel bookings also helps hoteliers build stronger customer relationships. When dealing via OTAs, hotels aren’t allowed to communicate with their customers directly due to certain legal clauses. In fact, in most contracts, the OTAs are solely allowed to store customer data which prohibits the hoteliers from having any direct access to the guests. 

In contrast, direct hotel bookings can help you understand your clientele’s booking preferences and personalized interests. Furthermore, it allows you to keep a record of customer data for future bookings too. You can also send pre-arrival greetings via WhatsApp or mail which consists of upselling opportunities even before the guests arrive.

Unlock the Billboard Effect:

Here’s a problem that’s quite prevalent in the hospitality industry: extravagant hotel fares. Most of the time, a customer won’t indulge in direct hotel bookings via the website because hotels offer the same rooms at lower prices through OTAs.

However, hotels can witness an upsurge in the number of rooms booked directly through their website when it aligns their direct pricing with the OTA offers. This phenomenon is popularly known as the billboard effect.

Expert Tips To Increase Direct Hotel Bookings

The influence of online channels has only begun rising in today’s age. With a powerful customer acquisition strategy and best-in-class hotel booking engine, transitioning from third-party sales to direct bookings isn’t very difficult. With that in mind, let us explore some of the best tips and hacks to skyrocket your direct booking numbers.

1. Maintain An Optimized Website:

The #1 secret of how to get more direct hotel bookings is through an official, highly optimized website for your business. Here’s the thing — solely depending on the exposure that online travel agencies and third parties offer isn’t wise, as the competition on these platforms is only increasing by the day.

The key to attracting more organic traffic and sales opportunities is by creating an impactful digital presence, and having a well-built website tops this list. 

Read more about the impact of digitized guest experiences on the hospitality industry here

Here are the key pointers you must consider while building or revamping your hotel website –

  • Make it visually appealing and user-friendly.
  • Go the extra mile by enabling your prospects to take a “virtual tour” of your hotel property through the website.
  • Invest in optimizing your hotel website for search engines, as it increases your Google rankings and helps attract more visitors.
  • Welcome direct hotel bookings from international clients by enabling multi-language and currency transaction features.
  • Last but not least, make sure that your website is mobile-friendly as phone-based bookings are rapidly increasing with time.

2. Invest In A Pocket-Friendly Booking Engine:

While optimizing your website for visitors to browse is imperative, it is equally necessary to make their booking journey uninterrupted and seamless. This is where booking engines come into the picture.

Booking engines remain active around the clock, making it easier for hoteliers to increase direct hotel bookings outside of business hours, or even in different time zones. This automation feature takes the basic-level workload off your staff and allows them to focus on more important tasks, such as providing exceptional customer service.

This integration also allows your website visitors to check out real-time information about hotel room prices and availability. To be precise, the customers can check out any selling packages, suite upgrades, or active seasonal offers/discounts at one go via the engine. In addition to that, it allows you to set up different prices as per booking preferences (per night, per person, or stay), raising the bar higher for flexibility.

The biggest challenge with integrating these engines, however, is how pocket-heavy it usually becomes. InnQuest, an industry-leading hotel management software comes with an integrated booking engine to increase direct sales while saving OTA commissions — all at a budget-friendly cost.

3. Leverage The Power Of Social Media:

This goes without saying, social media is the future of advertising and promotions – both organic and paid. Hoteliers can easily connect with promising customers through social media platforms, and boost bookings and revenue — all while raising brand awareness through their marketing efforts.

Facebook, of all spaces, tops this list by offering the largest potential reach on the web. One out of every two people admits to being inspired to travel by coming across their friends’ Facebook posts. Facebook pages consist of all relevant business information and cross-references to the official website for direct hotel booking and other social media platforms. 

Speaking of other platforms, Instagram is the most trending platform for avid travellers, backpackers, and tourists, which comprise the main target audience for hotel owners. By publishing relevant content and using local hashtags, you can easily attract those demographics and promote your business globally without spending a fortune.

4. Personalize The Guest Experience:

Next, the closer you get to your customers, the higher the chances of them making a direct reservation with you in the future. The best way to unlock this is through personalized communication and services, which go a long way in enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty. 

Is personalization worth the effort? Obviously. As the market becomes saturated with more options, guests tend to prefer accommodation partners that go the extra mile for their satisfaction. A recent Epsilon Travel Survey report revealed that 87% of tourists put their money on travel brands that promise a highly personalized customer experience.

Wondering what’s the first step to start offering personalized services? Build a detailed customer database and enhance guest engagement with InnQuest’s most reliable, best-in-class cloud hotel CRM. Integrate every digital touch-point – pre, during and post stay and deliver the right message at the right time – all through automation.

5. Manage Your Hotel’s Online Reputation:

How frequently do you monitor your hotel property’s online reviews and ratings? 

In a recent survey, it was found that 94% of consumers abandoned their potential transaction with a business due to negative ratings. The consequences of irreversible reputational damage are many – financial loss, declining customer trust, tainted brand image, etc.

On the other hand, maintaining a positive online reputation will boost your revenue substantially via direct hotel bookings and turn customers into loyal brand evangelists. Satisfied clients usually praise the businesses in reviews and comments, and the social proof further encourages more prospects to convert. As a bonus, it also improves your business’s search engine rankings and attracts the best hospitality industry talents.

6. Introduce Loyalty Programs:

Returning customers are the best kind. Encouraging your past clients to visit again or rebook your services can effectively drive more direct sales and increase customer loyalty.

You can start an email marketing campaign to promote loyalty programs and re-engage with previous clients by sharing compelling discounts and offers. It can range anywhere from discounted suite upgrades to exclusive pool access — basically any strong incentive that persuades them to choose your hotel for their next visit.

7. Go Big on Metasearch Engines:

Our final advice on how to get more direct hotel bookings is, of course, to build a powerful presence on meta-search engines. A 2019 Trivago report had shown that 50% of online hotel bookers prefer to explore their options of meta search engines — and these figures are only going upwards. 

Why is it so popular? Essentially, by encouraging travellers to compare a hotel’s price listed on various OTAs, metasearch engines help them in making a well-informed hotel reservation. Here’s a pro tip: always make sure to advertise your actual website rates on the metasearch engines. In three out of five cases, the visitors are compelled to visit the hotelier’s official website to initiate a direct booking request. 

Wrapping Up

Even though direct hotel bookings are currently trending, the rookie mistake of ignoring your OTAs amidst this shift can be detrimental to your business. For every guest you’re acquiring via an online travel agency, persuading them to book directly on their next visit by offering a top-notch customer experience also plays a vital role. It may take a considerable amount of effort to create an exceptional impression but it is sure to go a long way.

About InnQuest

At InnQuest, we understand the importance of the challenges faced by businesses in the hospitality industry. Our goal is not only to help manage your businesses more efficiently but also to provide ongoing support to engender growth and expansion. Book a demonstration of our award-winning hotel management software here.

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