3 Ways Independent European Hotels Can Increase Direct Bookings
Reliance on online booking agencies (OTAs) increasingly affects the bottom line of small, independent European hotels. The room rate offered via an OTA's advertised rate is less than a direct booking rate. As well as absorbing this loss, the hotel also pays a commission to the OTA for every booking (ranging from 18 percent to 25 percent). So, how can the hotelier increase direct bookings and sidestep an OTA?
The task here is to suggest ways independent European hoteliers can entice potential clients to book directly with their hotels. So, the first click from the OTA to your hotel website must bring you to an appealing, dynamic and easy-to-use site.
1. Hire a webmaster.
The chance to increase direct bookings will only be effective if hotels have a well-maintained and smartphone-friendly website. This advice is not only obvious; it's mission critical! When travelers choose a hotel on an OTA, the next thing they do is visit the hotel's site. The challenge is to ensure that the potential customer does not return to the OTA to complete the room reservation. Enthusiastic, active web managers can maintain and update your web space. You can then concentrate on the day-to-day business of running a hotel.
Web techs can interact with any platforms or software that are used by your hotel to keep the website up-to-date. They can make sure the special offers constantly change. And they can use the business smarts of any hotel platform that you use. Keeping track of conversions to your site is essential -- that is, which offerings made the most converts. Maybe it was your easy-to-use smartphone app for check-in and out. Or maybe it was the pop-up ad offering a "free night for booking now" that made a potential client switch to direct booking.
2. Subscribe to a hotel network platform.
One solid way to have your webmasters stay on top of the latest innovations for direct booking: Join a network of small hoteliers such as The Hotels Network. This platform claims to offer state-of-the-art software and marketing for every hotel. Just click on its site to test drive services for conversion to direct booking. It boasts a rousing 32 percent conversion rate upon using its service.
The offering of predictive analytics sounds imposing, but it's not really. Predictive analytics simply uses an algorithm to sift through tons of data. These data can help with the success of your business. You might need to know what a customer likes in a hotel choice. Or you might need to know if a guest returns directly to your website to book a room.
The Hotels Network tools also allow you to add a comparison of hotel prices directly to your own website. And it can suggest tips to assure customers that they are signing up for exactly what they want. They may request two queen-sized beds (chocolates and a teddy bear on the pillow). Or they may want a first-floor entrance to the room and pool. Then these guests' requirements can be saved for their next visit to your hotel site. Web techs can monitor these and relay both positive and negative gains for an increase in direct bookings.
Another offering is to display the reviews of your hotel that are presented on major OTA platforms (TripAdvisor, Booking, Expedia, etc.). The Hotels Network tools allow hotels to automatically display these positive and reassuring reviews directly on your site. Specific review elements of your hotel (location, food, service) are tailored to each web space visitor. Sometimes it's a review by language or type of customers, such as family or business. You choose, and your web gurus can add these to your web presence.
3. Leverage social media
Let's dig deeper into what else can be offered on your hotel website. TravelClick can suggest travel rewards programs to attract return customers. Check out this site for a demonstration of what it says will "turn shoppers into bookers." The reward could be displayed in a pop-up ad. "Leaving so soon? Book now and get a 10 percent discount on our summer rates." Or "Five people have booked in the last 30 minutes."
Another enticement might be an appealing take on a familiar social media platform. One hotel offers guest access to personalized social media stations. Indeed, I chose this hotel from an OTA and then opened the hotel site to book. What drew me to book directly was its offering to log on to my personal social media station by using a digital fingerprint. I enjoyed the novelty of posting my adventures at the hotel and its surroundings. My posts looked very professional (instead of my usual smartphone attempts). And the hotel got a big free ad that went out to all of my followers and their followers.
These suggestions for conversion from OTAs to direct booking are not a miracle cure. They are a start for the financial wellness of the independent hotelier. Celebrate the competition with the OTAs. Embrace your ability to directly reach prospective customers without million dollar TV ads and OTA fees. Grab your fair share of the booking revenue now!