Online Booking Engine

7 Strategies to Increase Direct Bookings for Your Hotel

Are you ready to increase the number of direct bookings you get and reduce how much you depend on third-party booking sites? This blog post will cover the 7 proven strategies for increasing direct hotel bookings. 

Strategies for Increasing Direct Hotel Bookings

For today’s hotel owners, learning how to lock in direct hotel bookings is crucial, especially with how quickly things are moving in the hospitality world. With 39% of travelers now more likely to use direct reference booking over online travel agencies, hotels are increasingly adopting seamless direct hotel booking processes. This not only generates more revenue but also enhances the business benefits and fosters a stronger level of trust and connection with guests.

To achieve this, innovative tools like chatbots and conversational AI are utilized to maintain active interactions with guests and streamline hotel operations. Over the next few years, 64% of businesses believe that chatbots will enable them to provide more personalized support, making the development of AI-powered solutions a high priority for boosting the booking process.

Additionally, an increasing number of hotels are turning to metasearch engines to augment direct booking numbers. Recent reviews show that about 12% of US users have made reservations through platforms like TripAdvisor. These websites allow hotels to display their prices alongside those offered by OTAs, effectively redirecting potential guests back to the hotel’s page to finalize their bookings. This strategy not only increases booking scope and visibility but is also essential for remaining competitive in the digital marketplace.

What is Direct Bookings?

Are you wondering what direct booking means? These are reservations made bypassing online travel agencies or third-party intermediaries. Usually, this happens in the hotel’s online sales channels, such as the website, email, sales team, social media, or messengers like WhatsApp or Messenger. Direct bookings have many advantages for hotels. 

Firstly, the hotel pays no commission to the OTA, which means it gets more profit per booking. Secondly, direct bookings give the hotel control over guest data, allowing pre-stay communication, post-stay follow-ups, and direct targeted marketing. Altogether, a good direct booking strategy represents a powerful tool in reducing customer acquisition costs, increasing occupancy, and increasing profitability. 

When brand loyalty and direct customer relationships are enhanced, hotels gain an advantage in a fierce competition landscape. Although direct hotel booking apps provide more benefits, hotel managers should remember that all bookings are equally important. Even if there are commissions to pay for the OTA, this revenue could be missed. A distribution strategy balanced by providing access to various channels, including OTA, meta search, and the website, is important.

The Role of Technology in Direct Bookings

Hotel bookings have long been a battleground between OTAs and direct booking websites, with the emerging situation and the high commissions charged by third-party sources pushing hotels towards embracing modern technology. This includes more sophisticated website builders and online booking engines, which give hotels more control over the booking process.

According to a recent Skift Research Report, 64% of hotels worldwide are using booking engines and 45% are integrating website builders and direct booking tools, which account for 60% of the global room supply. This indicates a strong demand for technology that streamlines the booking system and reduces dependency on third-party intermediaries. The adoption of these technologies not only simplifies the booking process for guests but also ensures that hotels can maintain a competitive edge in the global market.

Why are Direct Bookings Important for Guests? 

Direct bookings for guests involve additional benefits such as flexibility with possible changes or cancellations and access to exclusive deals. Some exclusive deals may include lower rates, room upgrades, free amenities, and rewards. 

Additionally, direct hotel booking softwares are typically accompanied by a better customer service experience as guests communicate directly with hotel representatives. Below is a list of six reasons why direct bookings are invaluable:

Top Booking Channels

You need to understand and make the most of the three main booking channels to achieve maximum direct bookings for your hotel. These three crucial players are online travel agencies, metasearch engines, and your direct hotel site.

Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)

Most travelers prefer booking through OTAs. Among the leading companies that claim substantial compensation for themselves are Expedia, Airbnb, Booking.com, and others. This distribution channel implies an opportunity to simultaneously present work to the world, but such dependence is unacceptable. 

These are commission fees, up to 30% of the booking price. Your guests will book a room and pay it on the OTA’s website. The broker will retain a commission the parties have agreed on, and the remaining sum will be sent to your property. Despite the magnitude of the commission, the visibility and outreach brought by the OTAs can be a potential source of revenue forcibly missed. 

To maintain a relatively balanced approach, many properties use channel managers. They encompass spreading your inventory across all OTAs and direct channels based on your rate and room availability conditions.

Benefits:

  • Brand exposure: By posting on OTAs, you can increase your potential audience, including various job and social groups worldwide; without OTAs, these people would not have found out about your hotel for a long time. 
  • Niche markets: Specialized OTAs like Ctrip for Asia or products like Mr & Mrs Smith for boutique hotels open access to various market segments. 
  • Billboard effect: Some guests book rooms directly on the hotel’s website after searching for the hotel and comparing prices on OTAs; this phenomenon is called the “billboard effect.” 
  • Flexible distribution niche mix of abilities: OTAs often offer marketing opportunities or the ability to temporally sell many rooms for hotels, enabling you to determine the volume of guest information obtained through them.

Challenges:

  • High Commissions: Popular OTAs charge significant commission fees, which can affect your revenue. These commissions tend to increase yearly, making it a costly distribution channel.
  • Limited Guest Data: When guests book using an OTA, you can only access a fraction of their sensitive data and preferences. Without enough details to personalize their experience, it might be difficult to attract them with advertisements.
  • Diminished Guest Experience: Using the OTA as a platform influences the organisation’s first touchpoint with guests. Customers’ first impressions can be skewed, and their overall experience may be unfavorable.
  • Rate Parity: Maintaining consistent rates across all OTA platforms and direct channels can be complex, requiring constant monitoring and adjustments to avoid rate disparities.

Metasearch engines

You can optimize direct bookings in your hotel using metasearch engines such as Kayak, TripAdvisor, and Trivago. They allow the traveler to compare prices with different online travel agencies, and hotel websites can make a booking if the accommodation pays for ad placements. 

One fundamental difference between booking with metasearch engines and OTAs is that the former uses a cost-per-click model instead of commissions. A hotel places a bid for an ad and pays when a prospective guest clicks the ad to be redirected to your hotel website to finish the booking.

Benefits of Metasearch Engines:

  • Targeted Audience: Metasearch engine users are typically active trip planners with a higher intent to book, making them a valuable demographic.
  • Direct Booking Facilitation: The CPC model levels the playing field by leading travelers directly to your website, allowing you to own the guest relationship from the initial inquiry.
  • Scalability: The CPC model makes it easy to scale demand as needed by adjusting your advertising budget and bids.
  • Pay-for-Performance: You only pay when a potential guest engages with your advertisement, ensuring a more cost-effective approach.

Challenges of Metasearch Engines:

  • Competitive Bidding: You’ll compete in an open auction environment, which often favors larger budgets and can drive up costs.
  • Fluctuating Costs: CPC bids can fluctuate based on market demand, requiring constant monitoring and adjustments to avoid overspending.

Hotel Website

As a hotelier, you most likely dream of more direct bookings through your website. If the reservation is made through your website and not via an online travel agency that charges a huge commission, then the entire reservation revenue becomes yours. The most important thing that cannot be mentioned is a direct relationship with a client from the purchase until the check-out.

However, getting those direct bookings is not free. You need an online booking engine on your website to enable guests to book rooms and pay online in a user-friendly manner. And you have to engage in marketing and fill your site with content so travelers can find you among all the other hotel websites.

Benefits

  • Get that one-on-one connection with guests from the beginning. They will have such a great time.
  • More opportunities to upsell, such as room upgrades, to welcome one’s guests before they even arrive
  • No commission means a larger chunk of the ticket price in-house
  • Booking directly is the start of a long-term relationship. If guests book directly the first time, they are more likely to come back the next time
  • Access to the guest data for pre-stay communication and interesting things to say for several weeks after they leave

Challenges

  • Digital marketing requires skill, and hotel marketing experts ensure that rooms are sold through this channel, which remains the lowest-cost channel.

7 Proven Ways to Boost Direct Bookings for Your Hotel

So, we have covered what makes direct booking so incredibly lucrative. But how about an actionable guide on how to get more direct bookings for your property? Mind you, even a slight improvement relentlessly adds up over time, so do not discard the effort if you are not getting off to a great start with this. Every new 1% of extra direct sales is your little victory. Keep it up, and you will be able to get rid of OTAs that deplete your sales with hefty commission bit by bit.

Here are 7 proven strategies to drive more guests to book directly on your hotel’s website:

1. Use a commission-free booking engine

Firstly, you need a high-quality, commission-free booking platform built into your site. It would help if you also aimed for it to be mobile-friendly since mobile users do much of their travel planning and booking on these devices nowadays. That number can be a significant part of some hotels, up to 70%! So the user should land on your website and be two or three clicks away from making a reservation without any problems. Adding when they can see and confirm that your prices are the best can also be important to maximize your conversion rate.

2. Create an eye-catching, user-friendly website

Your website is the first impression many potential guests get of your hotel, and you’ve got to nail it. Use the eCommerce layout best practices – this means tons of high-quality room and amenity photos/videos, a modern overall look and feel, and a ton of high-contrast, bold “Book Now” calls-to-action. Also, having FAQ sections help answer common questions that might help get customers over that final reservation hump.

3. Utilize a variety of rate plans

How do we attract different travel segments and increase direct bookings? Flexible rate options can help. Include the following ones in your revenue management practices:

  • Earlybird rates. Many guests like planning long beforehand. It is a good practice to provide them with a discount.
  • Flexible/refundable rates. Some people need more flexibility. Offer a full refund for booking cancellations within a month/2 weeks/24 hours before the check-in.
  • Non-refundable rates. A rate at a discount for bargain hunters who are ready to pay once and for all.

The more options you give, the more travel categories and budgets you can capture. It is vital that a guest can choose an option that entirely meets his preferences. Another excellent tip is to split inventory. Create a merchandised offering from several room types. It can include upgraded views, restaurants, SPA access, and extras. Lifecycle personalization appeals to many travelers and has a good chance of helping capture a lot of direct booking revenue and loyalty.

4. Include upsells and add-ons during the booking process

This is a great strategy – allowing guests to fully customize and enhance their stay right from the get-go. Integrating add-on options like parking, transportation, spa packages, tours, etc., into your booking engine makes the direct hotel booking process much more enticing. Guests can build their perfect stay experience rather than just booking a standard room. The personalization sets you apart from OTAs and drives incremental revenue.

5. Leverage digital marketing

The whole deal gets a little trickier when driving direct bookings. With direct bookings, you can’t ride the marketing momentum of the OTAs; instead, you have to promote your hotel in various digital channels. The first step here is using your property management data to identify which kind of guests are most likely to book directly. Once you’ve found your targets, you can consider: 

  • Metasearch engines to reach high-intent travelers 
  • Search engine marketing and retargeting to increase visibility 
  • Social media marketing on Facebook, Instagram, etc., to cover your niche 
  • SEO to lift your website rankings 
  • Email marketing to keep in touch with past guests 

6. Give guests channels to communicate with you

During the research journey, guests often have numerous questions about amenities, location, room types, and the like. Making it easy for them to find answers to those questions quickly helps you build trust and make your direct booking option more enticing. You can integrate Guest messaging apps with your website, which is an excellent investment. 

These platforms allow guests to message you through chatbots, Facebook Messenger, etc.; you can handle everything from one unified inbox. You can even set up AI chatbots or predefined responses to provide guests with information while you sleep. Having a communication channel with potential guests suggests you take the guest from the beginning. That will always inspire more confidence in booking with you directly than the more hands-off approach of the OTAs.

7. Create a sense of urgency 

The message that creates a sense of urgency or scarcity can sometimes be effective as nudges to convert travelers. This could mean limited-time flash sales, promotional discount codes sent via your abandonment emails, or banners in the decision phase saying, “Only X rooms left at this price!” 

You don’t want to overdo it; that can be a turnoff. However, if used judiciously, these tactics can sometimes give that final helpful push to get someone to book directly rather than continue their search. It’s usually most effective for driving last-minute bookings when filling rooms quickly.

Conclusion

Driving direct hotel bookings is essential to ensure your hotel derives maximum profitability and creates a strong relationship with your guests in a highly competitive landscape. However, you may utilize the strategies in this article to push more customers to book directly through your hotel’s website or booking channels. 

Nonetheless, remember that providing guests with exclusive deals, enhancing your online visibility, launching focused marketing efforts, and rendering impeccable customer service are critical to getting them interested in booking through your hotel rather than a third-party source.

Remember that OneClick IT Consultancy is here to help you with unmatched guidance and support. Using our unique solutions and industry knowledge, your hotel will be able to outperform the competition and fulfil its ultimate capacity. Together, we can boost your hotel’s digital visibility, increase sales, and build relationships with valued guests.

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