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How To Attract More Direct Bookings

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Posted by HiRUM Software Solutions - 25/10/2022
Hands typing onto a laptop booking direct with a hotel | HiRUM

 

For all the challenges that the pandemic created for the hospitality industry, one positive result has been a marked increase in direct bookings.

During 2020 and 2021, consumers found managing changes to bookings and negotiating cancellations a far easier process when dealing directly with the property than through a third party, and it appears this has created permanent change. In 2019 our records indicate on average only 11.8% of reservations were made booking direct. By comparison in 2021 this figure increased to 21.5%. In 2022, the share of direct remains around 19.3%, despite the relaxation of borders and the end of lockdowns.

Direct bookings remain the ‘golden egg’ for accommodation properties for many reasons. Their benefits are clear. Your cost of acquisition is greatly reduced compared with a 3rd party booking. These reduced costs naturally result in higher profits.

You gain control over the booking from the outset, both financially and strategically. You can market in a more effective manner to the guest before, during and after their stay. They become a more valuable part of your database for future campaigns and offers having already booked with you directly.

You develop a relationship with the guest right from the time of booking, hence ensuring that their guest experience is optimal. Encourage your guests to return year after year with personalised service and customised promotions. Generate great reviews online that attract additional bookings. Guest loyalty lowers the cost of customer acquisition further and creates a lifetime of value from your marketing efforts.

Importantly, you have less chance of losing the booking before it is completed. By booking directly with you, the guest is not exposed to your competitor’s offerings in the same way they are when they book through an OTA.

The larger volume of Direct Bookings means there is now more direct booking opportunities to vie for. If you haven’t seen a marked increase in your own direct results you need to revisit your tactics and consider why. Your channel manager and PMS should have an array of tools that will help you achieve more direct bookings, and you should ensure you make use of everything they have to offer.

There are a number of strategies that you should have in play to ensure you attract a high proportion of direct bookings.

1. Have a great Booking Engine

Having a good website is paramount but ensure it is easy to navigate, accurate, up to date and attractive. Optimise it regularly with relevant content but don’t overdo the images, making it slow to load.

Even more importantly, have an excellent booking platform which is simple to use. Three steps from look to book is a great rule of thumb. Your booking engine can make or break the deal when it comes to securing a direct booking.

A quality booking form should have as a minimum an OTA Rate Comparison Tool. This shows the current rates OTA’s are advertising to your guests. It gives the consumer the confidence that they are getting the best deal by booking direct with you, without the need to visit other websites to compare best pricing.

2. Diversify your online distribution.

Whilst OTA’s may have a higher commission impact on your booking, they also have huge buying power when it comes to securing a strong online presence. The negative is that your property is displayed alongside your competition on their site.

The positive however is that the ‘Billboard Effect’ means that if a consumer sees a property they like, they often check the property’s own website to see if they can get a better deal. Your goal, once they are on your site, is to ensure they stay there. Get that fish on the hook and keep it there. Reel it in safely and stop it from going back to the giant OTA pond. Your booking form ensures you successfully cook that fish.

Make sure your website is listed directly on Google Hotels. Whilst your property will display regardless, as the OTA’s will display it for you, surely it is better to ensure that consumers have the option to book direct on your booking form. Always ensure your booking form is visible wherever potential guests are looking.

3. Encourage good reviews

Don’t underestimate the importance of reviews and review sites. Look after your guests and encourage their positive reviews.

4. Market like a professional

Use social media effectively. Post online content regularly, both to your social media profiles in addition to your website.

Market to your database regularly. Customise offers and keep your guest relationships alive, encouraging them to share offers with their friends and family. Encourage direct bookings with packages offering additional benefits such as late check out or inclusions such as breakfast packs.

5. Analyse your business and use the data effectively

Effective property and channel management software should include extensive property analytics to assist with your business strategies. Make informed business decisions based on facts not guesswork.

Analytics should enable you to understand where your guests originate from and to geo-target your market accordingly to maximise the effectiveness of your campaigns.

Your software should also provide you with data that enables you to directly compare your competitor’s pricing and performance to ensure that you have the competitive advantage.

Your Channel Manager should have the ability to automatically yield the best price for you whilst you sleep. It should increase or decrease your pricing according to market demand and availability, without the need for you to constantly monitor your pricing. You shouldn’t have to pay additional for this feature either.

Every Direct Booking lowers your cost of acquisition, which results in a great deal of additional revenue in your pocket, providing you can find ways to increase your share. Take an honest look at your current software provider and the tools they offer to help you make smarter business choices. Pick up the phone and speak to them to ensure they have the technology readily available to give you the best opportunity of gaining the competitive advantage when it comes to securing direct bookings. One call is all it will take to change your bottom line in a good way.

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