This should be a no-brainer by now. A full responsive website experience is what the market demands now and Google are pushing this point too. Time and time again I see hotel websites and booking engines that are not optimised for mobile devices. If your current website or booking engine is not mobile optimised, it is costing you valuable business every day.
2. The Billboard Effect
By now, we’re all familiar with The Billboard Effect. It’s the phenomena where guests who discover your hotel via an online travel agency (OTA) visit your website. Many end up booking directly with you.
Properties who list inventory on OTAs increase their direct reservations by up to 26%. Listing inventory on OTAs is not exactly a user-friendly procedure. Instead, find a channel manager. A channel manager can help you push your vacant inventory to many different OTAs at once. Favour those with niche marketplaces that suit your property best.
3. Turn OTA bookings into direct bookings
Once OTA guests do stay with you, it is up to you to make sure that you get their email details and encourage them to join your loyal subscriber database. A great way to encourage them to book direct is to then email them special direct booking rates only available to past guests.
4. Targeted discounts
Rate parity is when you agree to publicly sell your inventory for no less than what you sell it for on certain OTAs. It can be a bummer, because your cheapest rates should always be on your website. It is how some OTAs remove the incentive for guests to book directly with you. But there is a way to get around this. Most rate-parity agreements do not apply to guests who are part of your brand’s marketing database. This includes social media followers, email subscribers, and customer loyalty program members. You can send private, compelling offers to these individuals. If you do so with enough frequency, this can be a huge driver of direct bookings.
5. Content marketing
Content marketing is when you produce compelling content, such as how-to-guides and photo galleries, that inspires guests to book with you.
It can take a lot of time and is hard to do well. But in spite of how tricky this can be, it’s important to tackle for many reasons:
Compelling content is what drives new traffic from search engines. Without it, your SEO strategy will not work.
Content marketing is a great way to get email addresses. You can produce, say, a local tourist guide, or a gallery of high-resolution photography. Then put them behind a content-gate. (A content-gate requires a viewer to share their email address with you before they can view your content). In this way, you can bolster your email marketing list, which you can now use for targeted discounts to get around rate parity.
Content marketing is also what keeps people sticking around on social media. Cute photos of your dog may interest your Facebook followers a bit. But they will be much more interested in, say, a photo-journal of the construction of the new wing of your property, or your new spa. Your Pinterest followers may find memes you found on Facebook funny. But they’ll be more interested in exploring original, inspiring photos from your property.
It may take hiring someone, or even a small team, whose job is to do nothing but produce and share new, compelling content. But it is a great way to increase direct reservations.
6. User-driven design
Your website is a conversion engine that has one goal – to turn website visitors into paid hotel guests and sell your brand.
There a re a lot of run-of-the-mill templates out there that most companies use. This isn’t good enough. When you send guests to your website, make sure they enter an environment that inspires them. Make sure it is easy for them to book. Make sure that your website doesn’t overwhelm your visitor, make it clear and simple. Photos inspire them the quickest, so make sure your beautiful imagery connects with them. Make your website for your guest, not for you. You’ll turn it into the conversion engine it needs to be to give you more direct reservations.
7. Encourage visitors to join your mailing list
Even if they don’t book immediately and they are just checking you out, ask them to sign up for exclusive special offers as per point 3.
At the least, have an on page subscribe offer that is super quick and easy for people to sign up to. You can take this a step further by having a pop-up window invite them to subscribe. This can increase sign up rate by 20 times as we have witnessed in some instances.
Another key part of gaining more subscribers, is to incentivise the process, go into the draw to win something or gain access to exclusive offers, or even discount rates.
Then be sure to send out regular emails to these people because they subscribed wanting you to send them info.
8. Respond to online reviews and comments
One of the best opportunities you have to find new guests is to join conversations already taking place about your property. From OTAs like Expedia, to online directories like Yelp, guests from all over the world are talking about you.
More than that, your future guests are likely to visit each of these places when researching your property. The average guest visits 38 different websites when planning a trip. One of them may be your website. The rest? OTAs, directories, online community forums, and other places where guests talk about your hotel.
The nice part about this is that you too have the freedom to hop on in and voice your opinion. Respond with good energy to negative reviews and low ratings. But more importantly, talk about the great things guests can see back on your website. These include discounts, photos, guides, etc. Provide links back to your website when possible.
Set up Google Alerts to email you whenever someone mentions your hotel’s name online. This will help you keep up-to-tabs with the buzz about your property. Be sure to inspect your property listings on OTAs and directories, and respond to reviews when you can. A personal comment from the owner or manager looks good to guests, improving your brand’s perception. Also, those same guests are more likely to visit your website, share their email address, and become a direct customer.
Hey, this takes work, no doubt. But that’s why so many hoteliers fail at increasing their direct revenue! The difficulty of this leaves a huge window open for those willing to put in the work. There are twenty properties in your area. But 19 of them are too busy to deal with all this “online nonsense”. Guess which hotel will benefit from it? That’s right, you – the one who sits down and makes an effort. It can be done, and you can do it. We are here to help support you in any way we can, just give us a call.