OTAs offer average travelers the convenience of securing the hotel that best suits their needs at your expense. Every customer that comes through an OTA costs you up to 20% in commission. As it becomes increasingly difficult to head off the likes of Expedia, Travelocity, and Trivago when consumers begin their search, there are still several ways that you can reverse the trend and encourage your consumers to book directly with your hotel.
After all, with too many bookings from OTAs, RevPAR suffers, and it's more challenging to maintain a competitive ADR. Here are a few ideas that you can implement to make sure that you move to stem the tide.
Offer exclusive incentives to add value
While OTAs may simplify the process of finding the perfect hotel for a traveler, every customer who enters one of those sites wants to know the same thing: Why does your hotel offer the best value for me?
The simplest way to answer that question for most travellers is to highlight your value proposition, and show that booking direct is better. Your guests will gravitate towards booking directly if you can make them feel special.
Be creative here, because you'll want to encourage a lasting, positive association with your brand. You have a fair amount of freedom as anything that you offer to promote direct bookings still puts you ahead of the margin realized when guests book through an OTA.
To maximize what you spend on encouraging direct bookings, you might consider a seasonal approach that changes based on historical traffic to your property. For example, if you typically sell out of your highest-priced units at peak times during the summer, then don't list them on an OTA. List lower-priced units to attract the consumer's attention so that they'll be drawn to your site to book.
Even if guests come to your property by way of an OTA, these incentives encourage visitors to make a better choice in the future by booking directly with you. These are a few ideas that consistently work to promote direct bookings.
- Best Rate Guarantee: For those using OTAs to find the best deal, there is nothing more comforting than a best rate guarantee to ensure that they have indeed secured the best price for their stay and optimized their value. Offer a price match, at the minimum, or offer to do better than that. Even with offering a price match and a 10% bonus, you're still way ahead of what you'd be paying to an OTA as commission.
The primary stipulation is that guests must use your website or reservation service to book direct. Plaster this messaging everywhere to ensure that your guests know that they have to look no further than your site. Use aggressive marketing techniques to mention the guarantee in prominent places: social media profiles, websites, marketing materials, or any other place that your guests might visit.
- Late Check-out: This perk may take a little more effort to organize as you'll need to make sure that it works with your operations. If you can manage to extend check-out time by one extra hour, you'll be able to offer a pretty substantial bonus to guests who choose to book directly. As you consider the best way to add late check-out bonuses, you may want to extend your direct bookings or reduce check-out times for OTA bookings.
- Develop a Rewards Program: Loyalty programs are popular for several reasons, and encouraging direct bookings is one of the main attractions. The other is the ability to mine data from your guests through their registration and grow your database. This data can give you valuable feedback and the ability to tailor the experience for your guest. If your PMS can create membership levels, this is an attractive proposition for your guests.
- Offer On-property Incentives: Add value through exclusive perks available on the property. Offering a free cookie or beverage upon arrival at check-in can go a long way in promoting hospitality. It can even become central to your brand identity.
Some other ideas may include free Wi-Fi access, free breakfast, a ticket to a local attraction, or the option to take advantage of express check-in on a mobile app. Consider offering discounts or food and beverage credits for restaurants on the property or opportunities to enhance the experience through a property-specific app, like the ability to book a room on a particular floor or add-on additional services that aren't available through an OTA.
This way, you can encourage direct booking at the same time that you increase incremental revenue. This strategy works for travellers who are looking for the best value rather than merely the cheapest rate.
After your guests leave, you'll also want to take advantage of post-stay marketing to encourage them to book directly with your hotel on future visits. Ensure that you collect sufficient contact information when guests check-in and maintain contact via a regular email newsletter.
Take advantage of the opportunity to send your guests (including OTA guests) an email to find out how you can improve their experience for their next stay. With their contact info, another routinely successful strategy is to send a special message a few days in advance of the anniversary of their last visit and offer incentives to return.
Some of these strategies are easier to implement than others, but they all work to convert guests from OTAs. By clearly communicating the added value that comes from booking direct, you'll encourage your guests to sidestep the OTA and increase your revenue.
OTAs are great at reaching potential customers beyond your typical brand awareness, and they are valuable. However, with these strategies, you stand a decent chance of converting OTA guests to in-house guests. As long as you treat them right once they stay on your property, you should be able to count on direct bookings for future visits.