We sat down with our Managing Director, Andrew Risely to hear his thoughts on today’s Direct Booking industry and any tips he may have for hoteliers.
What’s been the biggest and most beneficial trend in Direct Bookings over recent years?
For us, without a doubt the introduction of more bookable rate options. A direct booking engine that asks minimal questions, offers the best available rate, alongside other value added packages, has seen our client bookings increase by up to 40%.
Do you think Direct Bookings will eventually win the battle with OTA’s?
It’s a case of understanding the need for both direct bookings and OTAs in the market. Hotels can negotiate the best commission rates and not agree to pay the standard rate. Commission rates are declining and rate parity also seems to be waning, so hotels are pulling back some control of the market. OTAs do offer hotels a global reach which they otherwise might not be able to attain on their own. We recommend all our hotels offer loyalty rewards for returning guests, referral schemes and gently upselling to add to a customer’s experience. Adopting a practice of getting email addresses on arrival should not preclude attempts to obtain this beforehand. The advantage being this unlocks many upsell opportunities .
How important are the use of incentives to drive direct bookings?
It is proven that offering incentives such as a free room upgrade, free wi-fi etc. does offer your guest added value to book direct. The booking pattern is beginning to change and most cost-saving travellers are already savvy in knowing they can get a better deal when booking direct. The next step is to make booking direct become second nature for everyone.
What is the advantage to using price comparison tools on your website?
A price comparison tool showing real-time OTA prices in comparison to the direct price can be clear, transparent proof to bookers that there is a benefit to booking direct with the hotel whilst saving the guest time searching around. With the hotel then having direct contact with the guest, a more personal experience can be provided. Innovative tools can be used to build a digital relationship encouraging guests to sign up to your loyalty program, use a voucher to gain a special rate or opt in to your email marketing.
What are the considerations if we don’t capture payment details to simplify the booking process?
Step away from being hoteliers and step into the shoes of your potential booker. Are you more likely to complete a booking if all that was asked for was a name, email address and contact number? The answer is probably ‘yes’ – the quicker and simpler the process the more bookings will be converted.
- To utilise the marketing tools within their software. Property Management Systems hold such valuable data and there are free, cheap and built-in marketing features available which can boost bookings and strengthen guest loyalty.
- Do you really know your guests? Look closely at your marketing categories, do they accurately reflect the customers using your property? Spending Singles, Solo travellers and Baby Boomers all now form identifiable sectors of your target market. Communicating and upselling to your customers in a way that is compatible with modern lifestyle demands is imperative. Allowing our guests to request spa treatments or book dinner on arrival using their mobile device is appealing to many with busy lifestyles. On average guests are 7% more likely to open upsell emails about their holiday compared to general marketing clutter.
- A Direct Booking engine which is brand aligned is very important. Giving your guest the confidence they are booking directly with the hotel is vital to securing bookings.
- Removing barriers to booking is also necessary, particularly when we consider booking on a mobile or tablet. These devices due to their size do not make it easy to fill out lengthy forms. Mobile and tablet sites must be adaptive to aid this process and a simple change like removing the securing payment card capture can help convert bookings which could have been lost.