By Helena Murphy on January 26, 2016 at 10:00 AM
There are giants in the hospitality world that dominate the landscape of hotel online bookings. Love them or hate them, they bring a lot of business in; they’re expensive, but no one can compete with their marketing budgets and the online exposure that they command. But are direct bookings a thing of the past? Well, only if you let them, and there are a few ways to increase your most valuable channel.
Online travel agents (OTAs) aren’t going anywhere fast. It’s not so much a case of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them,’ more of a case of choosing your battles, leveling the playing field and competing with them, rather than trying to beat them - where you can.
Lowest price is always a winner, however with the various agreements you may have with some of your OTAs – right or wrong, that’s not always something you can depend on. So if you can’t reduce costs what can you do? The answer lies in adding value to your customers.
You can incentivize direct bookings through adding value to those who do book directly. This does not have to be some enormous grand gesture that is going to destroy your bottom line, this can be something that is manageable, deliverable, and at the end of the day, for a client, worth booking directly.
Our clients use Frontdesk Anywhere’s work order or add-on functionalities to add small extras to a guests booking as a subtle, but powerful ‘thanks very much,’ for booking directly. This can be something as humble as a free bottle of wine on arrival - who doesn’t like free wine? - or a free shuttle from the airport, both of which you can manage and monitor using Frontdesk Anywhere. Think of the percentage in commission you are saving from your guests not using a channel, and think about what you could offer for that cost or less.
Plus you get the added bonus of increased brand affinity...then when your guest arrives, it’s down to you.
What is your Internet booking engine saying?
It’s amazing how many people complain about their direct bookings, or lack of, but pay no attention to the usability or functionality of their Internet booking engine. If your direct bookings are down, this is your first port of call.
Put yourself in the shoes of your guests - you’re looking for simplicity, speed, nice pictures and when it comes down to it, you’re looking for a trustworthy place to spend your money. This might seem like a big hill to climb, but if you have a good software provider, they should already have these things covered.
Frontdesk Anywhere Property Management System (FDA PMS) comes with a commission free online booking engine and as part of the package; it’s mobile responsive, fully customizable and one of the best on the market. See it in action:
In short, Frontdesk Anywhere's Internet booking engine looks like your site and can be embedded directly within your site, which builds trust with your guest. If you decide to add credit card processing to your account, you can also take deposits, payment authorization and offer the same level of service as larger brands.
Now, your booking engine and your added value incentives can’t tick all the boxes on their own, and a massive part of your strategy for getting more direct bookers is the way that you market yourself. You have to get guests visiting your site in the first place and your traffic statistics can flatter you. If you’re getting thousands of hits on your accommodation site every month, but 99.99% of those are looking to book theatre tickets, chances are you won’t have much luck. So it’s about driving traffic yes, but it has to be the right traffic.
Not everyone wants to (or can afford to) work with a marketing company on a monthly basis. It takes funds and commitment, and in some cases a little patience, but be wary of those companies who offer ‘cheap,’ marketing. Trust me; you always get what you pay for. So if you’re one of the companies that fall into this category, there are a few great things you can do to drive the right traffic to your site, and we recommend you start with those two articles (SEO = Search Engine Optimization, the strategy you can adopt to rank better in online searchs):
Now you have your added value incentives and your amazing online booking platform ready to accept the worlds direct bookers, you can start to look to the functionality of your property management system to drive some decent traffic to your website. Frontdesk Anywhere PMS has a fast and flexible report base allowing you to export specific guest information and build marketing campaigns around it. Automated emails pre and post stay also enable you to engage with your guests, receive feedback and build loyalty.
Are direct bookings dead? Nope.
Told you so.