The last few years have seen major shifts within the hospitality industry.
NB: This is an article from Cendyn, one of our Expert Partners
Along with the uneven demand and staffing challenges caused by the pandemic, there was one significant upside – a shift in confidence that saw guests book directly through the hotel vs. relying on OTA websites to find the best deal.
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As the industry continues to recover, some of those booking perks disappeared, and there’s been another shift as many guests once again feel more comfortable booking their travel arrangements through OTA sites.
For hotels, the loss of direct bookings has an unfortunate two-fold effect – losing out on revenue due to high OTA commission fees as well as the inability to deliver a personalized guest experience due to the lack of known information about that guest. That said, with the right tools in place, hotels can win the battle for direct bookings, all it takes is the right tools and mindset. To help you get started, we’ve compiled some of our top tactics to get guests to bypass the OTA sites and book their dream vacation directly on your most important channel – your hotel website.
Ensure your website is set up for mobile users
It’s 2023 and responsive websites are no longer an option – they are a must. With more and more audiences booking their hotel stays on their phone, a lackluster mobile experience means that guests may not even be able to book directly on your website – even if they wanted to. Ensure your website design works seamlessly on every device, with prominent links and buttons to your booking engine (more on that in a bit).
Upgrade to an integrated booking engine
When it comes to hotel booking engines, not just any old version will do. To drive conversions on your website effectively, you need an integrated booking engine on your hotel website that is packed with features that convert lookers into bookers, including dynamic pricing rules, retargeting capabilities, and urgency messaging like time-bound marketing taglines and strike-through pricing.
Personalize the website experience
Your hotel website shouldn’t focus exclusively on the “book now” experience. Instead, each guest should be delivered a unique pathway through your website, based on their unique interests and the way they like to travel. There are multiple ways to tailor that experience, including but not limited to adaptable blog content, intent-driven offers and other personalized perks. With an advanced content management system (CMS), you can harness the power of your user data to deliver a tailored experience that is bound to drive clicks and conversions directly on your website, increasing direct bookings.
Build smart SEM campaigns
Before many guests even visit the OTA site, their guest journey begins with a simple online search. With the right search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns, you can drive visitors directly to your website by bidding on targeted terms for your brand, hotel, location, and even major selling points like your hotel restaurant, rooftop pool, and so on. That said, be sure to bid for your own key terms (especially exact match, so your ads show up first) before turning to non-brand terms and phrases. This will ensure your hotels are at the top of the search list every time.
Elevate your ad spend by investing in landing pages
Creating compelling ads that lead people to generic landing pages is a surefire way to make them lose interest and leave your website. Ideally, any ad from SEM and Paid Social posts (such as on Facebook and Instagram) to your display banners should all mirror the experience that happens when a potential guest taps the ‘Learn More’ or ‘Book Now’ button. If your landing page post-click has a completely different look, tone, and low-to-no relevance based on the ad – the result is spiked bounce rates and fewer conversions. The solution is taking the time to create relevant, visually-rich landing pages for high-value terms and campaigns. Custom landing pages also facilitate more precise reporting, allowing you to analyze and update the content based on specific audiences to increase conversions and upsells.
Optimize conversions with rate matching technology
It’s hard to keep up with the constantly changing rates offered across third-party channels and OTA sites; but with the right tech in place, you can gain the upper hand and deliver the best rates to your guests. Innovative solutions like Cendyn’s Rate Match®, can integrate with your booking engine to modify your rates to match or beat OTA price violations in real time– using rules you set up in advance. By optimizing your rate matching technology, you’re giving your guests the confidence that they are getting the best possible rate when they book direct.