NB: This is an article by Spring Engage
Finding a hotel room online has never been easier. In fact, 60% of all hotel bookings are now done digitally and the online travel database continues to grow (failteireland).
Getting caught in the middle of the booking battle between OTA and hotel is the new reality for travelers. There is no doubt that booking giants such as Expedia and Booking.com are great at consolidating travel information and displaying seemingly low prices, however, the main issue for hoteliers is that these websites have a primary purpose of booking hotel rooms, not pleasing travelers.
As travelers become more time sensitive with their travel planning, OTA’s become the convenient choice for speedy booking but many are forgetting the hidden perks of booking directly with hotels.
BENEFITS OF BOOKING DIRECT
When guests choose to come directly to a hotel’s website to search and book, they are looking for a more personal experience. Independent properties should take advantage of the expertise of a hotel representative who can provide more flexibility in terms of a room choice, reservation changes, and price negotiations. The hotel agent knows the facility inside and out to provide the best recommendations for local restaurants and attractions, and accommodations for the guest. Marketing the perks of booking direct to travelers is not a new concept, but one that many hotels can still continue to build out on their websites.
The key is capturing visitors attention quickly when they hit the website by marketing the perks of booking direct that are most relevant to them. By understanding visitors intent from the first site visit, many marketers have been able to engage visitors to build the value of booking direct versus third parties.
INDEPENDENT HOTELS FIGHT BACK
There is now a significant challenge for independent hotels who are not only competing with big brand names but OTA’s as well for direct bookings. By designing marketing campaigns around unique incentives for booking direct, these hotels show that catering to travelers needs is the first step to winning back loyal customers.
- The Castle Hotel & Spa in Tarrytown, New York
Repeat guests who previously booked through an OTA will receive 15% off their next stay when booking direct.
- Kelvin Hotel in Glascow, Scotland
Guests who book direct can expect guaranteed cheapest rates, complimentary full scottish breakfast, Kelvin Hotel loyalty card to collect free night stays, complimentary goody bag, and additional seasonal/holiday offers.
- Hotel Arts in Calgary, Canada
Booking direct includes flexible change policies, customized reservation services and free cancellation up to 24 hours before your stay. Other offers include an additional 10% off their stay and a Hotel Arts Extra Program membership. Exclusive members can expect complimentary water and turndown service, courtesy room upgrades, in room treats, and complimentary dishes at the award winning onsite restaurant.
- The Langham in London, England
Langham guarantees the best rate booking direct; if a guest discovers a rate that is lower than theirs they will honor the rate for the nights plus 25% additional discount. Additional benefits include complimentary wifi, 15% off London attractions, personalized room packages, tailored offers such as breakfast or massage, access to the 1865 Loyalty Program, and frequent flyer benefits.
Larger, branded hotels, like Marriott and Hilton, show their efforts towards driving back direct bookings in their latest campaigns as well.
- Hilton’s exclusive HHonors deals
10 percent off published rate & members can earn points that will go towards free Wifi, complimentary room nights, digital room keys and the opportunity to select their room ahead of check-in. Members additionally can redeem HHonors points for a chance at exclusive experiences such as concerts and weekend getaways.
- Marriott Rewards
If a member finds a lower rate someplace else, they’ll then match the rate and offer an additional 25 percent discount. Marriott Rewards members benefits include complimentary Wifi, mobile check-in and the opportunity to earn points for free room nights.
While these are just a few top examples, many independent and branded hotels still have reservations to successfully put together strategies to combat the threat of third party bookings. Without the million dollar marketing budgets of large brands, many have trouble marketing the programs they do have in place. The key to successfully deploying a direct booking strategy is increasing website personalization to ensure visitors are gaining access to direct booking rewards when it means the most. With site personalization, when a website visitor comes directly from an OTA or third party, hotels have the opportunity to give them a unique and targeted experience that encourages them to book direct.