5 Tips On How Your Hotel Can Beat Online Travel Agents (OTAs)
With the sudden up rise in online travel agents (OTAs) they have quickly become the “norm” when it comes to booking hotel rooms. They have certainly allowed for people to shop around much more quickly than ever before as it allows them to compare rates of many hotels in just one click. It is no wonder why the likes of booking.com, Expedia and Laterooms have gained so much popularity.
We are seeing the same model appear in not just the hotel industry but many others including the food industry with the likes of Just Eat and Hungry House. It is now becoming rarer to see customers deal directly with the actual companies, restaurants and hotels.
The quickness and convenience of these systems ultimately can pay the price in terms of giving additional value to their end users. Many people are unaware of the real benefits of booking directly with the service itself.
Here are 5 tips on how your hotel can beat the online travel agents.
1. Play Them At Their Own Marketing Games
Top of the list by far is to adopt the same marketing strategies that the OTAs use. There is a reason why these companies invest a lot of money into their marketing. This allows them to be the biggest and have the furthest reach, claiming the majority of the marketplace and throwing their weight around. I am not saying invest in the same levels they are, what I am saying is start biting back and gradually clawing back small percentages of their current share. Taking back 1-2% of bookings from OTAs and replacing this with direct, commision free bookings – it’s a no brainer!
So how do hotels do this?….. They invest in modern digital marketing.
In order for your direct revenue to grow, you have to put your hotel in front of the “eyeballs” looking to book hotel rooms. So where are these people? After taking this approach for over 10 years, I have found it to be roughly 80% from organic and paid search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. 8% from re-targeted display adverts on 3rd party websites. 5% from interest based targeted adverts on social media networks and 7% from re-targeted adverts on Facebook. I can imagine the OTAs to have similar results, albeit on much larger marketing budgets.
If the “big guys” are doing this, you have to be doing this also! Start bringing targeted web traffic to your direct booking engine instead of theirs! You got to be in it to win it!
You can see how I took a hotel client of mine from 18% direct revenue to 39% revenue in just over 2 years. Saving this hotel lots in commission fees.
2. Give customers a reason to book directly with your hotel
I know it sounds obvious but most consumers are a sucker for a bargain, so entice them with added value that can’t be found elsewhere. Many of my hotel clients offer a direct booking discount. This discount is easily offset by what the average OTA would normally charge them in commision, thus giving them some room to pass any savings directly back to their customer…..happy days! Using techniques like direct promo codes on your hotel’s booking engine where they will receive a further 5% discount on what any OTA is offering is enough to make them jump ship of their beloved OTA and come directly to you.
I have also seen things like additional free extras work well for my clients, for example, “Book Directly With Us & Receive A Free Complimentary Cooked Breakfast”. Something that costs the hotel very little but can mean the difference between a potential customer booking directly or booking through an OTA.
3. Exclusive Direct Special Offers
Bring even more value when booking direct by offering exclusive direct booking offers that are not available anywhere else. Advertise this fact on your website!
4. Keep them coming back directly
They say it’s easier to sell to someone who has already bought from you. I completely agree with this. Start leveraging your existing customers (and their spend) by rewarding customers to book again and again. The best way of doing this is by offering them some sort of a loyalty/reward scheme. I have done this in the past with clients using approaches like loyalty cards that will allow your customers to collect stamps which will enable them to stay for free after 4 previous bookings.
5. Say Thank You
It’s nice to be nice. So let’s take it up a notch. Why not say thanks to all your customers who have booked directly by giving them a complimentary gift bag on arrival? This doesn’t need to break the bank. Small gift bags full of useful goodies like hotel branded notepads, pens, chocolate, coffee flasks etc… Stop giving crazy amounts of commision to the OTAs and re-invest back in your direct customers!
If you are a hotelier looking to grow your direct revenue and stop throwing away money on OTA commision fees, get in touch with Eclipse Digital to discuss further.