Online Direct Is the Fastest-Growing Hotel Distribution Channel
Is that the most exciting statement you've seen today?!
Last week, market and consumer data specialists Statista obtained and released very interesting and exciting information in the realm of hotel bookings. It seems that online direct is officially the fastest-growing hotel distribution channel in Europe.
From 2017 to 2023, "online direct hotel bookings are forecast to grow by over 10% in Europe, whereas most other distribution channels, such as phone and walk-in are expected to see a decline."
Data also shows that the only other hotel distribution channel forecast for growth is online travel platforms (where a growth rate of 3.3% is predicted for the same time frame). Tripadvisor's revenue in the third quarter of this year was $459 million, up 51% year-over-year and exceeding Q3 of 2019 by $31 million. Expedia Group has also seen record profitability in Q3 of this year.
This news is very welcomed by hoteliers and it means that your book direct strategy is more important than ever, because every element of the user experience needs to be right in order for them to book directly with you.
There are so many benefits of a book direct strategy which include:
- More control over your terms and policies
- The ability to build loyalty between your hotel and its guests
- Personalising your brand, therefore differentiating yourself to competition
Direct bookings are also more favourable for your hotel because they reduce the commissions paid to third parties while helping you to form stronger, longer term ties with your guests.
It's good to remember that consumer expectations are also always rising. We have become used to increasingly personalised experiences when it comes to parting with our money in exchange for a product or service.
Consumers know that shopping around for the best deal is the smartest thing to do before clicking ‘pay’. They also want a more personal and direct relationship with the hotel, especially if they know they will be rewarded for taking this route.
When it comes to your offers, don’t just plan for key dates throughout the calendar year – try to also be reactive and keep your eyes open for ad hoc opportunities as the months progress. Be flexible in relation to your guests’ plans and needs – a third of global travellers desire the ability to freely cancel or modify a booking as a top-two priority, so flexibility is the name of the game.
You need a smart, high performing booking engine that is:
- Able to provide you with actionable data and reporting
- Able to allow you to share rates, availability and critical information from your PMS and Channel Manager to a wide variety of distribution channels, including direct website booking engines, OTAs, GDS
- Built with a variety of booking modules like ‘weddings’
- Built for conversion
- Able to recapture abandoned bookings
- Able to facilitate secure payments
- Built with search flexibility
- Built with no limits on the creation of tariffs, room types, special offers & discounts
Review your rate plans & offers – always highlighting flexibility
- Add wording such as “Fully Flexible”, “Pay at the Hotel”, “Free Cancellation” to your rate plan names and descriptions
- Use rate plan badges to highlight key selling points of a rateplan, eg. “Free Cancellation”, “Flexible Rate”
- Keep your USPs up to date and include selling points that appeal to guests such as “Book Direct for Best Rate”
- Add extra value to current packages e.g. late / early check-in, exclusive welcome gift to those who book direct, a discount with promo code
- Try not to over-complicate your packages as this can be confusing for guests!
- Promote book direct offers on your homepage clearly with a strong call to action on your action bar or action badges
‘Booking flexibility is now viewed as a requirement for successful trading for hotels and this will force a change in how hotels manage capacity, overbooking and pricing.’
Maintain online campaigns
Hotels who have maintained a brand presence throughout the pandemic maintained an advantage over the OTAs. It’s imperative to continue to protect your brand and positioning as restrictions continue to ease globally.
- Ensure you are running brand search campaigns and hotel ads
- Run display or discovery remarketing ads to capture website visitors with an exclusive book direct offer. Eg, “Book Direct for free Breakfast”
Remarketing & prospecting
You can further support your offer by running dedicated rooms remarketing and prospecting campaigns on Facebook & Instagram
Facebook Lead Ads are a great way to collate a refreshed database and increase newsletter subscriptions
Social proof your brand
‘Social Proofing’ occurs when we witness others do things which reinforces the message to us that something is worth doing.
- It’s much easier to sell a hotel with a 4 bubble rating on TripAdvisor and visible reviews across all online channels
- Encourage guests to leave a review with a post-stay email or at their last point of contact in the hotel
- Make sure you are monitoring and responding to reviews across all online channels including Trip Adviser and Google Reviews
Invest in your book direct tools and email marketing systems so you can improve communication, upselling and the overall customer journey. Some useful tools to consider include the likes of The Hotel’s Network, Guestjoy, Revinate or AskSuite.
Continue being as flexible and agile as you can be. Get yourself a simple-to-use, beautifully crafted website paired with a fully capable booking engine, great digital marketing support, and you'll be on the way to maintaining and growing your direct bookings in 2023.