10 Ways to Increase Direct Hotel Bookings and Pay Less Commission

Increasing revenue is the primary goal of any business. Increasing direct and sustainable revenue is the ultimate reward! Of course, this is apart from building a brand and providing exceptional customer experience.

NB: This is an article from Hotelminder

For any hotelier, most revenue is directly related to room reservations, and direct website bookings are by far the most rewarding.

How? Well, for starters, no commission needs to be paid!

For instance, you get only 85 EUR for a 100 EUR reservation coming from an OTA charging 15% commission.

On the other hand, a 100 EUR reservation gets you the full amount if the reservation comes through your own website. Pretty straightforward, right?

Since OTAs have been increasing their market share, they now want to control almost every aspect of the user’s journey. To keep their share of users, OTAs want them to move away from the hotel website.

It has never been more important for hoteliers to try and maintain balance between OTA bookings and direct bookings.

The best way to do this is to leverage prices, special offers and policies, providing guests with an incentive to book directly – thereby giving a boost to direct reservations.

If you follow our 10 tips to increase direct bookings, you can increase revenue by a good margin!

1. Optimize Your Website

While a sound pricing strategy is good for any business, increasing direct bookings requires more efforts. A prospective guest’s journey starts from the website. Your efforts should too!

If you want to attract more visitors, you need to have a strong online presence. Your website should be easy to navigate, mobile-friendly, user-friendly and aesthetically appealing. Keep it simple! If you take a look at OTA websites, they are designed in a very logical yet simple way.

Your website should be able to convince bookers to reserve a room right away, on the website.

Consider design: build an appealing landing page and offer a seamless user experience to guide prospects to the booking page.

Don’t prioritize visual design over user flow, and make sure to present the best images of your property.

Additionally, the website should be optimized for search engines, especially Google’s algorithms.

Relevant and original content should be the core of your market strategy.

If possible, marketing should be personalized as per target audience, property type, specific goals and other aspects.

2. Incorporate the Best Booking Engine

Integrating a solid Booking Engine is clearly the best way to increase hotel reservations, making it instantaneous to book a room and receive an instant confirmation from the hotel Property Management System. This improves your credibility and sets the foundation for a better customer experience.

Choose a booking engine that’s mobile-optimized, simple and fast!

3. Simplify the Booking Process

Your direct booking process should be straightforward and simple. The last thing you want is for a guest to drop-out of the booking process due to unnecessary hurdles.

Keep testing the process until you’re sure no customer would abandon the reservation mid-way.

Choose some of the most stunning images of the property, reduce the amount of text, and make the overall design easier to digest. Until you feel the process is smooth, keep going over little hurdles again and again.

4. Compel Visitors to Book

Design can help you attract visitor attention. But you also need to tell guests WHY they need to book direct. It’s necessary to offer incentives to ditch the OTA habit and allow guests to book directly on the website.

5. Use Pop-ups and CTA(s)

Most potential guests visit hotel websites to view images, amenities and policies. With appealing and persuasive Calls-to-Action (CTAs) and pop-ups, you can alert them about cheaper rates.

CTAs and pop-ups are a great way to pass on the message.

In order to increase direct website bookings, your homepage pop-up should be bold, offering an incentive to book direct. However, you need to ensure the CTAs or pop-ups don’t act as a deterrent in the booking process. Visitors should be able to skip or close them easily.

It’s hard to alter traveller behaviour, but you can encourage visitors to return to the website. CTAs and pop-ups are the perfect way to inform potential guests about getting extra value with direct bookings.

6. Offer Best Price Guarantee

It’s important to reinforce the message that booking direct is in the interest of guests.

It’s amazing how much your conversion rate can go up by placing a reminder on booking widgets.

Make sure that your website is always the best (cheapest) place one can book online.
Have a strong and coherent pricing strategy with your website at the core.

Apart from Best Price Guarantee on the website, you could show OTA rates next to pricing, with a pricing comparison widget.

7. Communicate Direct Booking Benefits

You need to focus on what booking direct offers over big brands. If you give it some thought, plenty of incentives would be available to offer:

  • Discount (X% on pricing or discounted add-ons)
  • Special offers (late checkout, upgrades etc.)
  • Additional Facilities (Free Wi-Fi, airport transfers, breakfast etc.)
  • Loyalty Points (To be used on future bookings)
  • Packages (1 + 1 Night, Valentine’s Day Package etc.)

Most OTAs will be caught unaware, and won’t be able to list these inclusions on the OTA listing page.

Direct booking benefits need to be obvious, and should be displayed in areas of the website that can’t be missed.

You need to highlight the value of booking direct and spread the message across.

8. Grow Your Presence on Metasearch Engines

According to Trivago, over 50% travellers use metasearch engines to find the ideal hotel. In coming years, this trend will go up. With metasearch engines, travellers can conduct informed searches about hotel reservations. They can compare prices listed on several OTAs and platforms, including the hotel’s official website.

Getting yourself listed on metasearch engines and keeping a check on pricing gives you a chance to encourage travellers to book directly on the website. Don’t forget to promote your rates directly! Also, factor in the cost of metasearch in your strategy.

9. Think Landing Pages

The war among brands is intensely fought on Google’s search results pages. In case you’re paying for Google Ads, and assuming OTAs wouldn’t be bidding for your name, you’ve already lost the battle. Getting traffic through ads is only the first step in the process. While making your website more conducive to direct bookings, you need to focus on the homepage. If people are visiting the website directly from Google, it’s better to build customized landing pages built around specific needs.

For instance, the search ‘hotel in Dublin with a pool’ helps identify the guest’s specific need. Won’t it just make more sense to link the ad with a landing page that shows the swimming pool and other related facilities? It’s not only persuasive, but also makes the booking decision easier for the guest.

Before taking this route, you need to consider how much traffic you want to deliver to each page. Intent is the key factor for every Google search. Someone looking for ‘hotel in Dublin with a pool’ is obviously interested in a hotel in Dublin with a swimming pool. You just need to be able to give it to your guest without much delay.

10. Reward Loyalty and Direct Bookings

Last but not the least, your entire content strategy needs to focus on letting guests know about the benefits of booking directly. Don’t hesitate to offer small perks, vouchers, upgrades or other rewards. Increasing direct bookings works hand-in-hand with increasing loyalty.

Have an exciting Loyalty Programme to drive your customers through. Offer OTA guests 5 or 10% off when they book directly on your website next time.

According to a Phocuswright Report, direct room reservations were twice as likely to be repeat guests as compared to OTA bookings.

The Importance of Social Proof

Try to make the most of online review sites. Do not forget to display the popular ones and their reviews on your website. It should be just enough to encourage people to book.

Most importantly, your direct booking strategy should complement your social media strategy.

Bring Social Proof onto the Site

Over 80% of travellers consider hotel reviews to be extremely important. Positive reviews can have a direct impact on room reservations.

It’s important to strategically position positive reviews on the website. Genuine reviews should be visible on all pages until a visitor has completed the booking process.

You may even want to go a step further. The post-booking and post-stay experience give you an opportunity to build more credibility.

Follow-up on those reviews, and respond to them personally. Other visitors would realize that you’re a brand that cares for the guests and stays in touch to improve guests’ experience. New visitors would already expect a better stay!

Use Social Media as a Promotion Tool

In 2014, Google figured that 83% of travellers researching online used social networking for decision-making. For travel inspiration, photo and video sites played an important role. About 26% of leisure travellers use social networking to plan their trips.

As such, it’s important to keep your social media profiles alive and updated. You need to use images and videos to inspire, while also expressing your property’s personality.

Social media is also a great platform to offer deals and promotions. Most importantly, talk to prospects on various platforms. Interact and engage!

You should also integrate your booking engine with your Facebook page. Your special offers should be shown in a strategic way in marketing emails. Employee’s email signatures could be a good place to promote them.

Conclusion

Keep testing! Keep analysing! Set a 3-month trial period. Ask the bookers you lost to OTAs why they didn’t book directly. You could also use remarketing via retargeting ads and leverage Google Ads to increase bookings.

It’s not easy or quick to educate potential guests about cheaper direct bookings or influence search patterns. However, it’s still a good opportunity to attract more customers. Though traveller reliance on OTAs won’t change much, small and independent hotels can take charge with aggressive content and messaging campaigns.

With a comprehensive and an integrated approach, hoteliers are likely to gain more direct website bookings over time.

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