With the past twelve months focussed almost entirely on the importance of capturing direct bookings, it seems imperative that accommodation providers review the potential opportunities presented by the new Meta Channels.
Namely Google Instant Booking and Trip Connect by TripAdvisor.
Driving direct to property bookings is not an easy task; merely gaining visibility on the first page of Google is becoming more of a myth. Many believe this isn’t of importance, however recent survey respondents indicate that 74 per cent of leisure and 77 per cent of business travellers rely on search engines when commencing their search.
It goes without saying that if you don’t list with one of the major OTAs, your property has very little chance of being found as independent hotels simply don’t have the budget to play the AdWords game. Enter, Google Instant Booking.
Recent surveys have also revealed that reviews are important to 80 per cent of respondents, closely followed by photos at 73 per cent. It is clear therefore that trip Connect will have the opportunity to flex some muscle to fulfil this requirement.
While many of the larger OTAs also display reviews, navigating their sites has become more difficult over the past 12 months, in their endeavours to be everything to everyone. Although their reviews may come with a greater verification, the sites themselves have become too confusing for many to use.
Compare a large OTA site with Google Instant Booking and the simplicity is often a welcome relief. Search, select, book. Who cares how many people booked the same room in the last five minutes or how many rooms are left? The consumer only cares about themselves and their own precious time.
Google also knows pretty much everything about you and has the ability to display exactly what you’re likely to go for, in line with your budget if it really wanted to.
So for the 77 per cent who start their search on a search engine, Google Instant Booking pretty much takes the pain out of the process. Add to this the ability to connect direct to the hotel and what more could you want. From ‘A’ to ‘B’ with no third-party involvement whatsoever. Similar synergies apply to Trip Connect and their extensive reviews, but Trip Connect doesn’t have the knowledge base that Google has, which could impede them over the long-term.
The planets are aligning to help the traveller connect direct with their hotel of choice, thanks to Google and TripAdvisor amongst others, but then what?
Life isn’t all about direct bookings. It’s about hard work, service, followed by retention, in that order, and retention doesn’t mean coaxing the departing guest back again next year. Seriously, how many people return to the same spot for their holidays year after year? Only a small percentage, so retention means leaving a lasting impression that will ensure your guests recommend you to their family and friends, that’s the true definition of retention in the accommodation industry.
Once the guest books with you, your service of this new or existing client must begin immediately. Learn to communicate with them in a personal way, automated blanket SMS just won’t cut it these days. Prior to arrival is just as important as during or after their stay, otherwise they may be tempted to save a dollar and book next door when the special pops up on their accommodation app.
However, if they’ve built the relationship with you, guilt comes into play and the dollar will be a minor consideration.
During their stay, make it simple for them to interact with you and share their experiences online with their friends. Simple QR codes in strategic positions around the hotel will make this simple for them at every touch point and if you send them a survey and they respond, thank them!
Address concerns and send them a link to share special promotions with their friends.
Do something quirky to make them smile. A happy face made out of the fruit in the bowl will work a treat and cost you nothing except some creativity.
If you don’t seize the opportunity that Meta Channels are presenting you with, they merely become a replacement for your existing OTAs so you need to maximise this opportunity from the outset and start planning your hard work, service and retention strategy now.
Written by Sylvia Johnston, Senior Executive at HiRUM Software Solutions.
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