With consumer expectations rising by the day, it’s no surprise the book direct channel (your hotel’s website) is becoming more popular with tech savvy holidayers (aka the majority!) We have become used to increasingly personalised experiences when it comes to parting with our money in exchange for a product or service. When booking a hotel, we approach it no differently – in fact, our expectations potentially rise again, because a holiday (large, small, workation, staycation, vacation, whatever) is generally a larger expense. Therefore we want more. Consumers know that shopping around for the best deal is the smartest thing to do before clicking ‘pay’. They also, evidently, want a more personal and direct relationship with the hotel, especially if they know they will be rewarded for taking this route.
Direct bookings are 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. They nurture the potential of loyalty. It looks as though direct bookings are currently 12.5% more profitable than those derived from OTAs.
Phocuswright predicted that 2022 would be the year direct bookings would grow to a 50% share. This recent article from Hotel Tech Report shows that US hotel websites now generate 50% more bookings on average than the OTA channel with loyalty campaigns strengthening or stabilizing the growth of a hotel’s own website. As well as this, Siteminder reported the sustained growth of direct bookings for hotels globally in 2021.
The book direct channel (a hotel’s own website) was the second top revenue maker for both Irish and UK hotels in 2021. As we mentioned, this only highlights the need that guests have to have more control over, and a direct relationship with, the hotel itself. This is great news! It does however mean it’s more important than ever to continue providing a safe, secure, absolutely brilliant booking experience from beginning to end.
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:
- Mobile first
- 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
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.
The advice for hoteliers across the board is to continue being as flexible and agile as you can be. As well as this, having a simple to use, beautifully crafted website paired with a fully capable booking engine is the key to maintaining, and growing, your direct bookings in 2022.