In my previous post, I wrote about Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) and their significant influence on the hotel business when it comes to reservations. I mentioned that as much as we refuse to work with them, we still need their marketing, and we need to admit that they work very well with reservations. The fact is that OTAs have enormously good marketing and can be seen at every step on the internet.
However, we can all agree that there is nothing better than direct hotel reservations.
Firstly, let me tell you about the benefits of direct reservations:
#1. You save money
Having a perfect plan for direct bookings will help you follow the tips that I will share today and ultimately increase your income because you will pay less commission to OTAs.
#2. More loyal guests
Direct reservations tend to attract more regular guests who, according to Triptease, are more likely to spend more money on your hotel.
#3. Greater database
When a guest books a room through direct booking, most of the time, you will have their email address, and with their permission, you can add it to your database for future deals. Direct bookings make it easier to communicate with your guests, get to know them better, and offer better service than expected.
Now, let me share with you ten powerful techniques on how to start earning more from direct reservations.
1. The most important thing is to have a website
You will not have direct bookings if you do not have a website.
In today’s digital age, having a website is essential for any business, including hotels. A website is an online presence that can provide potential guests with information about the hotel, its rooms, amenities, location, and pricing. It’s also a platform where guests can easily make direct bookings. Without a website, a hotel will likely miss out on potential guests who prefer to research and book accommodations online.
You must also have a unique brand that makes you recognizable. Ensure that your website has the power to tell a story that guests can experience.
The website should be simple yet functional, and contain all the necessary information that guests need, including:
- Types of rooms available for reservation
- Included amenities and their prices
- Contact information for the hotel
- Directions to the hotel
- Maps of local surroundings
- Blog with things to do in the area
If you already have a website, you should always aim to improve and update it.
2. How to make your website more easily found?
Creating a website is only the first step. Make sure it is discoverable by search engines.
Google offers an excellent opportunity to register your website for free. When you create a Google My Business account, you can also add your website.
When guests search on Google for hotels in your area, your hotel website will appear in the search results. They can visit it and even book a room from there.
To be among the top of Google’s list, you can also pay for advertising. However, in my opinion, you don’t need to do that. You can achieve similar results without spending any money through SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
Basic SEO on your website will help you rank for your branded keywords, which should be enough to start. You can also hire an SEO professional or Digital Marketing Agency to help you rank for additional keywords that can attract more visitors to your website.
In the next section, I will tell you how to increase traffic to your website.
3. Optimize your website for more visitors
The easiest way to make your website more sophisticated is to write a blog.
You don’t need to be a writer or professional blogger to do that. Be creative with words and facts, and you will have an excellent post for the blog.
Make it simple but functional, and what I mentioned earlier: offer value! The guest will appreciate that.
A blog can be from a different nature.
Here are some ideas you can write about:
- Tourist attractions in your city
- Events in your area
- Things to do in your town
- Characteristic food in your surroundings
- Secret Places
- Best beaches for family etc.
There are so many opportunities and so different topics for writing a blog, especially if your hotel is in tourist destination or even better in a city with a rich history, all you need is a little creativity and a bit of research.
What do you get with writing blog?
When someone comes for the first time in your city or your area, he will want to know more about the town where he is going to stay. Whether it’s a place of relaxation or traveling for business, he/she will always check which activities the city offers or where they can have a romantic dinner.
Blogging in this creative way can make your blog post to appear higher in searches, which leads to more potential customers.
Reviews, Testimonials are crucial for your website.
They improve your social proof and must be placed on a visible location on your website. These are the people’s experiences that tell the story of your property and location. Don’t hide the bad reviews, people want to know that too if you have an excellent response to negative reviews than there is nothing to worry about.
The Photos on your website must be professional and High Resolution.
Photos are what can sell a room in one way or another.
Many times today, photography is a significant part of the sale of rooms, as well as the overall image of your hotel. Take one step further and offer a 360 tour of your hotel. This is currently one of the best forms of passive marketing. When people visit your website, they will have the opportunity to take a virtual ride through your hotel in addition to viewing pictures. This will give your guests a better idea of what you offer and what to expect when they arrive.
Amenities are also an essential part of selling rooms. It is crucial that you offer what is advertised on your website when guests arrive at your hotel. There is no excuse for providing false services online.
In addition to the everyday amenities that you offer guests, I advise you to provide more than usual.
Here are some ideas for extra amenities:
- Free welcome drink (coffee, tea, water, juice)
- Free pool access
- Free spa access
- Discounted spa services
- Free access to the hotel fitness center
- Early check-in
- Late check-out
- Room upgrade
You can offer lots of amenities that can make every guest experience unforgettable, and the most important thing is to make them return to your hotel again.
4. Make your website mobile friendly
It’s imperative that your site is customized for mobile use.
Nowadays, young people are increasingly using their phones as an essential tool for communication and socialization.
As many as 87% of Millennials say they do not leave their phones away from them, and 86% say that many websites do not have good mobile functionality.
It’s important to note that 64% of Millennials book hotel rooms from their mobile phones.
Given that Millennials are a group that frequently stays in hotels and make up a significant portion of the world population, it’s essential that we and our websites adapt to their needs.
Millennials comprise almost a quarter of the total population in the US. This is a large enough number to motivate us to adapt to their needs, especially when it comes to hotels and services.
However, it’s worth noting that Millennials are also a generation of avid travelers, and they are present everywhere when it comes to tourism. While Baby Boomers may be better guests, they don’t necessarily spend as much.
5. Make your Brand visible for more direct Hotel reservations
Every independent hotel has its own unique name, and for those frequent travelers, this can save time and money.
Those who often travel and stay in hotels already know whom they are looking for to book a room directly.
To stand out from your competition and be recognizable to those who might come to your place for the first time is, therefore, of great importance that the hotel’s name makes the brand.
#What does it mean to make your hotel brand available for direct reservations?
To find the answer to this question, we need to put ourselves in the guests’ shoes.
It is increasingly known that direct bookings from your website can bring discounts and various benefits to guests.
So what do they do? They search for the best properties on online travel agencies, and when they find a property that fits, they search for the brand name on search engines to try to find your website.
Your goal is to be on the first page of the search.
And that’s what you will achieve with Search Engine Optimization. All you need is basic optimization done for your brand name keyword + location.
If you have a unique keyword for your brand, your website will undoubtedly appear in the top results of a Google search.
#Advanced SEO optimization for your website:
If you decide to do advanced SEO on your website, here’s an example of how it will work for you:
For instance, if you have a hotel with a pool or spa, and there is no such hotel in your area, your website will appear on the first page if the guest searches for “hotel with a pool+ location.”
So your keyword will be: hotel with a pool, hotel with a spa, or if you have other amenities that are different from your competition – work on that, on that unique keyword. Just to step aside from your competition, and you’ll see the profit right away.
6. Use Social Media Booking Buttons
We are always surrounded by social networks. Of course, the social proof that they have on people is quite significant. Use the booking social media buttons for your advantage.
Social networks help with business through their high level of marketing. Because of their frequent presence among both young and older individuals, it’s beneficial to have your business on them.
A few years ago, Facebook introduced a “Book Now” and “Call Now” button. You can easily create one for your Facebook Business Page.
7. Loyalty Program, but little different
The Loyalty program can be profitable, but for the big chains of hotels. About Independent Hotels is acceptable only if you make it different, in one word- unique.
Why is a Loyalty Program Important?
The very name tells us: Loyal guests, loyal service.
To ensure that guests become regular visitors to your hotel, create a unique loyalty program.
Guests are already accustomed to the usual loyalty programs, such as collecting points or nights to earn rewards like a free fourth night.
Consider offering VIP access to your hotel’s facilities, such as the bar or restaurant, or a VIP spa treatment to make guests feel special and appreciated.
Be direct: every guest who is a member of your hotel’s loyalty program should receive a 10% discount on their room rate.
8. Offer a better price on your website
Having a website means no fees to be paid to the Online Travel Agencies
If you want to increase your direct hotel reservations, you must stop offering all the deals you have previously offered to OTAs. This includes offers such as early booking discounts, loyalty discounts for OTA customers, and any other discounts you offer on OTAs.
Once you have done that, it’s time to offer discounts on your own website or lower prices with more benefits than you offer on OTAs.
9. Let your guests be your marketing tool
There is no better marketing than a kind word spoken by a guest.
Nowadays, there is no better free marketing than letting the client advertise you on social networks.
Encourage him to take a photo in your hotel, or use your hashtag.
When guests log in to the hotel’s free Wi-Fi, send them a message reminding them to take a photo at your hotel and post it on social media. Emphasize that you would be infinitely grateful for such a gesture on their part.
If possible, create a part of the room with perfect lighting for perfect photography, with your hotel’s logo or name subtly visible in the background.
If this is not possible in the room, create a photo-friendly area in the lobby or find the perfect location in your hotel that would be the best place for guests to take pictures.
10. Always Be updated with new features
In this fast changing culture, the basics of hospitality are the same. But that doesn’t mean not to visit a hospitality events.
To attract more direct reservations, there are several ways to entice guests to book with you:
- Keep your offers fresh and up-to-date.
- Stand out from your competition.
- Stay informed about new trends and developments in the hotel industry.
Take cues from big hotel chains.
Many of them have moved away from relying on online travel agencies (OTAs) to book rooms due to the high commissions. Instead, they have developed methods to attract more direct bookings through their own websites, which has been successful.
For example, Marriott offers guests incentives to book directly through their website, and https://www3.hilton.com/en/index.htmlHilton has a campaign called “Stop Clicking Around” with various attractive offers for guests to choose from.