I recently spoke to a group of hoteliers at a digital marketing event in London and shared a number of best practices for driving more direct bookings through one’s vanity website. Following my presentation, the other speakers and I participated in an hour-long roundtable discussion, spending 15 minutes at each table of hoteliers.
This was a great opportunity to dive into more strategic and tactical discussions and to hear some of the challenges and successes of individual hoteliers. I found these discussions enlightening, especially when it came to the continued struggle hoteliers face with their “frenemies,” the OTAs.
OTAs have long been a pain point for hoteliers – and especially independents – as they often rely on them for a large portion of their bookings – particularly in Europe. According to Phocuswright, approximately three-quarters (75%) of online hotel bookings for independent hotels in Europe are made through an OTA or other intermediary.
75% is a big number, and that’s why it was no surprise that my main takeaway from the event was the defeatist attitude I felt from the attendees toward the OTAs. This was driven home by questions like, “what’s the point in having a brand if the OTAs are going to get all the bookings? and “are the OTAs here to stay?”
How to take bookings back from the OTAs
Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet to get those 75% of bookings from OTAs to your own direct channels, and no, the OTA’s aren’t going anywhere. However, there are strategies and tactics hoteliers can employ to start shifting the ratio of direct vs. third party bookings back into your favor.
OTAs and third-party travel websites focus the majority of their efforts on marketing and selling hotel rooms. They aren’t focused on selling the ancillary services – restaurants, spa services, meeting facilities or other unique experiences and amenities that many hotels offer on-site. This is where your opportunity lies. Competing with the OTAs is all about finding (and marketing) the extra advantages your hotel offers to guests and cross-promoting them online along with your hotel.
Ask yourself this: “What do we offer that we can use as a hook to attract more guests?
Start with your hotel’s restaurant
In a study Leonardo conducted to better understand the images travel shoppers viewed most, we found that Guest Rooms were by far the most viewed. Makes sense, right? But interestingly, the second most viewed was restaurant photos. Travelers have two primary needs when away from home:
- They need a place to sleep
- They need a place to eat
Which leads me to one of the suggestions I offered during my roundtable discussions – leverage the restaurant many European hotels have on-site. In many cases, a hotel’s restaurant is a good driver of revenue and also plays a central role in the hotel’s story and identity. But it is often underutilized when it comes to marketing the hotel.