By Jean Francois Mourier
OTAs are a great source of revenue for hotels but because of the HUGE commission rates, they make the cost of acquisition too high to sustain over the long term. Unfortunately though, it can be very difficult for hotels to direct business to their own website. But that’s no longer the case; here are five changes that you can make to your pricing strategy to boost your direct bookings today:
Offer free upgrades to guests that book direct For most consumers, rates are the most important factor when booking a stay at a hotel, so it goes without saying that hotels should be offering the same rates through their own website (that they are offering through the OTAs) – otherwise, consumers are more likely to book what is cheaper, even if it is only $2 or $3. Because of rate parity clauses, you aren’t able to offer a better base rate online but you are able to offer free upgrades to customers who book direct. At the end of the day, offering upgrades to guests who book direct is a win/win situation for you AND your guests.
Have strong online visual appeal The hotel industry is a very competitive one so your hotel’s website must be clean, beautiful, professional and easy-to-use. If it isn’t, your potential guests are likely to book with one of your competitors because they may question the quality of your rooms and amenities. They may think: “If you can’t be bothered to offer a great website, how will I know that your room will be up to the standards that I expect?”
In terms of website design, a clean and modern layout typically works best unless you are a rustic or Victorian style property. Regardless of the design, your website must be professionally designed as designers have a better understanding of SEO (a must for getting your share of the traffic from potential customers doing a Google search for hotels in your destination), creating an ideal user experience and what information should/should not be communicated on your site. Similarly, if you offer a mobile app, it must also be easy to navigate and esthetically appealing.
While it is important for your website content to excite your potential guests, one of the most important elements of a visually appealing website is high-quality photos and videos, as they provide a simple, clear indication of a guest’s experience will be if they stay at your property. Always use professional images, as a professional photographer will know which lighting, angles, framing and staging will make the best impression on your potential guests.
Simplicity & ease of use is very important in your booking engine You can’t expect to secure bookings if you’re making the process difficult for your guests. When it comes to the booking path, make it easy and intuitive for your guests to navigate your website and booking engine. It’s best to keep your booking process to a maximum of three to five steps: first is to search availability, second is to click to purchase, third is to enter personal info (keep required info to a minimum), the fourth is to enter payment info, and fifth is to confirm the details before approving the reservation.
As well, think about how you can make it easier for all customers – especially those who would prefer to book via mobile – to book. TripBarometer’s 2014 study shows that only 45% of hotels accept mobile bookings so if you only have a website, consider launching a mobile app or, at least, making your website mobile compatible.
Offer many payment options & quote rates in multiple currencies Your hotel will most likely welcome guests from all over the world, making it important that you accept as many types of payment through your site as possible and that you can offer the ability to display the room rate in multiple currencies. In general, we recommend offering all credit cards, Paypal, Google Checkout and other online payment options. If you aren’t offering the same or more methods of payments as the OTAs, you will lose out on direct bookings.
Entice with incentives As enticing as room upgrades are, some guests prefer other value-adds as an incentive to book direct. Incentives can include room upgrades, free breakfast or free parking; in fact, it can be anything you think your customers would be excited to receive and which doesn’t cost you a large amount to provide.
Be sure to display incentives prominently on every page of your website to catch the consumer’s attention and encourage them to complete their booking on your site, instead of on the OTAs.
Another option is to create a loyalty club, which offers members (who can sign up for free via the site) the value-adds for free if they book directly through your site. Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott, said that 65% of transient room nights for Marriott came from Marriott Rewards members in May 2016.
There you have it, five ways to boost your property’s direct bookings today. So, what are you waiting for? Update your payment strategy today and significantly decrease your cost of acquisition. Your GM will thank you!