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Hotels are increasingly facing the challenge of reducing their reliance on online travel agencies (OTAs) and encouraging more direct bookings. Why? One of the reasons is that OTAs charge commission fees that can significantly cut into hotels’ profits, making it difficult for them to stay competitive. But there are many more.
A study by Hotrec found that direct booking has increased to 55.2% in 2021 which is 8% more direct bookings since 2019 – making it essential for hotel marketers to ensure their booking engine is easy to manage to encourage more direct bookings.
Fortunately, there are a few strategies hotel marketers can use to checkmate OTAs and encourage more direct bookings. These strategies will help you boost direct bookings, reduce reliance on OTAs, and increase your hotel’s profitability.
What is the impact of OTAs on hotels?
OTAs foster price competition among hotels by allowing travellers to compare rates across different properties easily. Hotels are compelled to offer competitive prices and attractive deals to stay competitive, which can sometimes lead to reduced profit margins.
While OTAs provide hotels with bookings, they also come with a commission fee that hotels have to pay for each reservation. Over time, hotels may become heavily reliant on OTAs for their bookings, leading to a decrease in direct bookings and a higher cost of distribution.
Although OTAs increased visibility helps hotels reach a larger number of potential guests, including those who may not have been aware of the hotel otherwise but this can make it difficult for hotels to establish direct communication with guests and develop a loyal customer base.
What is the importance of Direct Bookings for hotels?
Hotel marketers are increasingly turning to direct bookings to reduce their reliance on online travel agencies (OTAs) and increase profitability. Direct bookings offer several advantages for hotels, including:
Increased control over pricing
No commission fees from OTAs
Access to valuable customer data that can be used for marketing purposes
Improved customer experience due to personalisation
Research by Hospitality Net found that more than half of all global hotel bookings are now made on mobile devices, which means hotels need to ensure their booking engine is optimised for mobile to maximise the benefits of direct bookings.
But, what can you do to increase your direct bookings and reduce your OTA dependency? Take note of these hotel marketing strategies:
Enhance your online presence on social media
Enhancing your hotel’s online presence involves building a community online where you get to showcase unique selling points and values, so potential guests can easily find their next holiday stay.
Your direct booking channels -a.k.a. hotel website and social media accounts- shouldn’t have the same information as your profile on the OTA, but on the contrary, have richer content, pictures and more that showcase the real value of the hotel and of making direct bookings.
For example, hotels can use social media to post high-quality videos to highlight their services, amenities, location, and history to show their unique value and attract potential guests. You can also post picturesque photos of the surrounding views of the hotel to entice the guests to book their stay.
Another tactic you can try is using formats of content that are not supported by the OTAs, such as virtual reality, preparing room tours, and videos showcasing your facilities (spa, pool, etc.), among others.
On the other hand, consider that nowadays a high percentage of bookings are made through mobile devices, which means it is key that all your content is optimised for this channel so guests can easily spot you.
Optimise website for direct bookings
To really incentivise direct bookings, you should make the booking experience as easy or easier than an OTA. How? By ensuring that the booking process is easy and intuitive, with not many forms or steps, and making sure that all payment options are secure and user-friendly.
On the other hand, you should optimise your website for SEO. This means, whenever a person is looking for the name of your hotel or hotels in a specific area, your website should rank for this. Even using paid ads will help you to reach the people that are already interested.
How to optimise your hotel website for search engine visibility? You should aim at optimising page titles and meta descriptions, using keywords strategically throughout the content, creating quality backlinks from other websites with high domain authority, and utilising structured data markup.
These initiatives can help search engines accurately understand the content on your website.
Strengthen guest relationships and loyalty
Finally, something most hotels overlook is the importance of guest loyalty to increase direct bookings. Remember, by turning your one-time visitors into returning guests, they will also become your ambassadors. And there is nothing more powerful than word of mouth that comes from a satisfied guest.
Therefore, prioritise guest satisfaction and service excellence to reduce the reliance on online travel agencies (OTAs) and encourage more direct bookings. This means, focusing on nurturing relationships with past customers by sending personalised post-stay follow-ups such as thank you emails or surveys to gain valuable feedback.
Don’t stop communicating after the booking is made but reach out to your guests with valuable information that can help them to take their stay to the next level, not just by offering services but by discussing local attractions, events, and more.
On the other hand, pay attention to both positive and negative feedback and use it to improve your services and address any issues promptly. Respond to guest reviews, demonstrating that you value their opinions and are committed to their satisfaction.
Additionally, hotels should offer a loyalty program that rewards guests for their continued patronage. Offer perks such as room upgrades, late check-outs, complimentary services, or exclusive discounts for direct bookings as an appreciation for their loyalty.
In short, with the right strategies, hotels can reduce their reliance on online travel agencies (OTAs) and increase profitability through direct bookings, leading not just to higher revenue but also to an enhanced brand reputation.