Direct More Bookings – How to Harness Direct Bookings for Hotels
Direct! Direct! Direct! This is the revenue mantra made all the more important by the current Corona situation where all costs need to be managed. However, one must not forget the importance of third parties who drive business to the hotel as well.
Hotels who work towards driving direct bookings enjoy a myriad of benefits including reduced cost of sales and being able to control the online guest experience.
In this article, I will cover a few strategies that can guide hotels in growing direct bookings.
How to grow direct bookings via the hotel’s brand website
- Have a mobile-responsive hotel website
Most people have smart phones. In line with this, having a dynamic and mobile-optimised website is an essential business tool.
Highlight all the hotel facilities on the homepage so as to give the guest a quick and clear glimpse of the property. You could also highlight your unique selling points, or your scenic attractions to draw the visitors to book with you.
- Integrate a booking engine to your website
Once you have a running and responsive website, publicize the link to encourage potential guests to visit the website to know more about your property. Your website should be designed to sell an experience to the client in advance of arrival which will ultimately convert lookers into bookers.
To ensure the sales process is concluded online, incorporate a robust booking engine. Allowing your guest to quickly book a room and receive an instant confirmation will significantly boost your direct sales.
Typically a brand website should be the cheapest source of bookings for the hotel. Aiming to grow the percentage of business received directly from the site should be a key performance criteria.
Tip: A booking engine needs to be managed. Is the pricing structure reflective of what is on the ground? How many rates appear? Are there special offers with fences to encourage online sales? Are descriptions and images clear? Are extras that can be booked online? Is a guest able to book and pay for the stay?
- Website Optimization for good ranking on Search Engines
Guests always explore hotel options on search engines (and travel advisory sites) before they book their stay. To be among the top ranked hotels in your city or location, you need to deliberately undertake search engine optimization (SEO) for your website. There are also paid advertising options which can done if budget allows.
Apart from the SEO, ensure that your website’s speed is good and steady. No booker will be impressed by a website that keeps trying to load. A delay can easily make potential bookers leave and switch to your competitor’s site, which will ultimately reduce your direct conversion rates.
Tip: Have you set up Google Analytics for the brand website?
- Use Pop-ups and Calls-to-Action (CTAs)
Pop-ups and CTAs are of great help in alerting the website visitors of the various special offers that you have as well as the importance of booking directly.
An attractive and visible BOOK NOW button leading to the booking engine is a key CTA that can prompt website visitors to book the hotel.
Tip: Ensure your CTAs are updated frequently. Do the pop-ups appear on every page or just the homepage? CTAs should be strategically positioned on the homepage and appear on internal pages as required.
- Offer the Best Rate Guarantee (BRG)
It is important to put more emphasis on the fact that booking direct is in the best interest of the guest. Ensure that there is a visible Best Rate Guarantee tag on the website. This will give the guest the confidence to book on the brand site.
Tip: Incorporate a price comparison tool on the website which displays OTAs rates versus your direct rates.
- Highlight your reviews, ratings and rankings on the website
Most guests do an extensive online review before deciding where to stay. Displaying reviews on your website demonstrates confidence in the management about the hotel and provides proof for your visitors about quality service and that the hotel is well known and trusted.
Tip: The whole hotel team should be made aware that reviews affect overall financial performance. It is the responsibility of each team member to deliver on the brand promise and drive great reviews.
- Integrate a live chat widget
When visitors land on the brand website they may have several queries. Being able to answer these queries should be answered instantly would be a good way to develop a relationship with the guests. Incorporating a chat widget enables the hotel to provide quick replies to the visitors and facilitate decision making on whether they want to book the hotel or not.
Tip: Have a resource such as Front Office manage the chat to ensure quick responses as this department operates 24/7. If this is not possible, setup an automated response system giving a timeline by when the matter will be attended to.
Other Ways of Growing Direct Bookings
In addition to the website, there are other strategies that a hotel can apply to help drive direct bookings.
- Use Social Media as a Booking and Promotion Tool
Social Media Marketing is one of the best ways of drawing traffic to your website, as well as increasing visibility for your property. It is very important to keep your social media profiles alive and updated using images and videos to inspire, while also expressing your property’s unique selling points.
Incorporate the booking engine into your social media to ensure the hotel is bookable on all key platforms.
Tip: Consider paid advertising that is geo-located and focused on your market segments. A Social media marketing plan has to be part of the marketing budget including what posts will be done on which media and the anticipated ROI. Create a marketing KPI and assign a dedicated resource to manage Social media.
- Grow your Presence on Metasearch Engine
A report by Trivago states that over 50% of travelers use metasearch to find their ideal hotel.
Listing your hotel metasearch engines make you more visible in the online market. It not only helps you get more online bookings but also increases your brand value globally.
Besides, you can also run ad campaigns on the metasearch engines like TripAdvisor, Trivago, and Google to drive bookings.
- Management of online reviews
Research has shown that 80% of bookers consider reviews to be essential before making the final booking. Good reviews can positively affect a traveler’s booking choice. Therefore, it is important to strategically promote positive guest reviews on your website.
You could also share your positive reviews on your social platforms to build a strong brand reputation.
Tip: Reviews can make or break your property. Respond to reviews in a timely manner and sensitize the whole team on their impact on reviews.
- Implement an exciting Loyalty Program
Loyalty programs make repeat guests feel special and appreciated.
Offering exclusive deals and discounts to repeat customers is a powerful way to boost repeat visits that are booked directly either through your website or the hotel’s reservations contact using a special code or voucher.
Tip: It is easier to capture a repeat guest. Creating loyalty should be a brand pillar.
- Embrace targeted marketing
When guests stay in a hotel, their data is filled in the hotel Property Management System under their profile. From this data you are able to know your customer segments and build up marketing campaigns that are relevant to your clients.
In addition, the guest experience can be enhanced by sending them pre-arrival, post-stay, or some other targeted emails, thereby driving the number of repeat guests.
Tip: Ensure that guest contact information is loaded in the CRM database following GDPR rules. This will enable you to share any updates and special offers, and keep the hotel top of mind for the guest whenever they are travelling to your destination.
Your Direct Bookings Strategy is the way to go! We would be delighted to support development of your direct strategies. Contact us for more information.
By Fridah Kariuki | Revenue Manager | Barefoot Consultancy Ltd