What is Direct Booking?
Direct bookings are reservations made at a hotel without the using any 3rd party broker to facilitate the booking. An example of a direct booking would be a guest making a reservation from the hotel website. According to TripTease, two-thirds of guests prefer to book direct with hotels.
What is an OTA
Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), such as Booking.com, Airbnb, and Expedia, are websites which market and sell hotel rooms to prospective guests. OTAs can be a great source of bookings and allow a hotel to easily reach a worldwide audience. However, they are not without their drawbacks, OTA commission fees can be 15% of a booking, limited information is provided to the hotel on the guest, the hotel has no control over the guest experience during the booking process, and the hotel's identity is often absent on these booking sites.
Steps to Improve Hotel Direct Bookings
Developing a direct booking revenue strategy should involve investment into each of these categories to ensure the proper attention and commitment is allocated to each. Direct bookings help to reduce the reliance on OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) as a source of revenue, they help strengthen brand identity with the guest as they originated from the hotel’s website. Direct bookings can also be more profitable source of revenue due to being commission-free.
Hotel Website DesignA well-designed website, both technically and visually is critical to a smooth booking experience, in a previous post we discussed the technical aspects of the best practices for hotel websites. 50% of website visitors are using their mobile device, so that means the hotel website needs to be optimized to support this experience for the guest. Website speed is also very important, 25% of visitors will abandon the website if it takes longer then 4 seconds to load, and 50% will abandon the website if it takes longer then 10 seconds to load. High quality professionally taken photos of your property, rooms, amenities, and lifestyle are a must. Have a "book now" button visible to allow website visitors to easily book their stay.
Direct Booking SoftwareDirect booking software allows a guest to view available rooms, rates, and complete the booking process directly from the hotel website. Modern direct booking software should provide seamless booking experience for the guest. The software should provide a clean user interface, mobile support, great image quality, commissions-free bookings, quick booking process. The direct booking software is ultimately an extension of the hotel website so it should follow a similar philosophy.
Online PresenceMaintaining an active online presence is essential in 2021 to increasing direct bookings. Social media platforms like Instagram, tiktok, and facebook are immensely powerful tools that should be utilized frequently. Engagement on these platforms should be authentic and true to the hotels brand. Actively creating high quality resources and providing information on the local community, events, amenities, and interest that would be appealing to the hotel’s clientele. Content can also take the form of written guides, videos, reviews, or sharing past guests experiences. Press and editorial engagement is a powerful medium to amplify your brand. Having 3rd party travel writers and content creators provide the world with a new perspective on your property will help establish brand creditability.
Branding IdentityCultivating a unique hotel brand is an important step to distinguish your hotel from the competition. If you have been relying on OTAs for the majority of your bookings, then the reality is your guests likely never experienced the hotel's brand as OTAs strip all of that away so they can sell your hotel or your competitors hotel. The time is now to begin investing in developing your brand and online identity and sharing it with the world, the challenge is you will likely have to do it yourself in the beginning.
Return GuestsLast but not least, past guests are your most important asset that is so often underutilized or completely forgotten. The cost to attract a new guest to your hotel is significantly higher than that of a return guest. If a guest leaves with having a delightful experience, they are more likely to recommend your property to multiple people. This will be amplified significantly more when combined with the above strategies, being active on social media, high quality digital content, and maintaining an editorial presence, delighted past guests will be far more inclined to share these on their own social platforms. An important aspect of staying in touch with past guests is a well-maintained hotel CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. Keeping updated information on past guests will allow you to actively engage with guests about seasonal updates, a birthday wish from the hotel staff, or discounted rates for loyalty, or events in the area.