Tips on increasing direct bookings
At STAY WYSE, we frequently hear youth travel accommodation operators talking about OTAs, hefty commissions and ways to increase direct bookings. The below article which appeared on E-Hoteliers, written by Melanie Ciria at E-marketing Associates, is written for the hotel industry but these tips have just as much application in the YTA market.
As online travel agencies continue to use their large marketing budgets to dominate the Google real estate, hotels will need to use a more creative marketing strategy to better connect with guests and encourage more direct bookings. Relying on OTAs, like Expedia and Priceline, to sell your rooms will not maximize your inventory nor will it generate a greater ROI than encouraging direct bookings.
An advantage of having a vanity site coupled with a multi-channel marketing strategy is that you, as the hotel, have the opportunity to build a relationship and brand loyalty with your guest. Hoteliers must understand that when guests book through an OTA or even brand, it becomes just another transactional purchase.
Guests who choose to book through an OTA are usually price driven, meaning they are solely on the hunt for the best rates available. Developing a successful marketing strategy requires establishing enough value for the consumer to book through your hotel directly.
To establish this value, your hotel’s marketing strategy must integrate a consistent multi-channel approach that will provide guests with a one-stop shop experience. According to Google, travel shoppers on average will visit 20 websites during the travel planning journey before deciding to book. That said, keep your brand messaging and hotel’s story consistent in all channels that your hotel can manage. Here are a few effective ways to get your new and returning guests constantly connected through your hotel’s story.
Integrate a multi-channel marketing approach
The saying, “be everywhere your guests are” essentially sums up what the multi-channel marketing approach is. A multi-channel approach allows your hotel to present its story to travel shoppers across various channels including your property’s vanity site, brand site, social media, blog, paid ads, review sites and email campaigns.
Once you integrate this approach into your marketing strategy be sure to keep the messaging consistent and aligned with what your guests are saying about you. If your hotel is a budget-friendly motel, don’t market it like it is ideal for a romantic getaway or if it was a luxury boutique hotel. Often times this is where bad reviews are generated. Your hotel’s story should be genuine and keep guests visually engaged and interested.
Remember, your property’s website is the hotel’s digital front door, so make it a priority to meet your guest expectations as soon they arrive at your hotel.
Be a local digital concierge
Guests love nothing more than convenience, so hotels need to create content that will help them easily get to where they need to go and give them the information they need quickly. Customer service does not start when you arrive at the hotel it starts when you step into the digital front door aka the hotel’s website. Guests will appreciate reading content that is speaking to them, and by that I mean creating content that is valuable and tied in with engaging visuals.
Be a local digital concierge for the guest by including a blog on your website featuring local events going on in the area, like street festivals, concerts, sporting events, theme parks and more. Share this blog on all your social media sites and begin conversing with your audience. If your hotel is located near a popular demand generator then you should think about adding an itinerary feature on your hotel’s website that would help guests plan out their trip without leaving your hotel’s website. By adding these features, you are adding more value for the potential guest even before booking with you.
Utilise video marketing
In this day and age, visual storytelling is the most powerful way to enhance the experience of online travel shoppers. Incorporate video into your hotel marketing strategy to increase conversion rates. In a Google statistic, there has been over 300% increase in video viewers between 2009 and 2014. Adding videos to your website tends to increase time spent on site.
Videos are inspirational for most viewers as they begin to imagine themselves relaxing poolside at the hotel and venturing off to the next adventure. That said, videos can be a very powerful marketing tool as it drives brand awareness and increases the likelihood of an online visitor booking direct with your hotel rather than through a third party.
All these marketing tips will not only connect guests through your hotel’s story but it will also capture incremental revenue that in turn will increase your bottom line. Remember, the best stories and memories happen at your property, so why not share ones that will inspire other travel consumers?