Do you know how much you pay in commission fees for bookings through online travel agencies (OTAs) and third parties? If your answer is “too much”, then this is the article for you.
Commission charged by OTAs stand anywhere between 15% and 30%. Even at the lower end of this, if you secure a booking for a 100 EUR reservation, the OTA commission fee will cost you 15 EUR, leaving you with 85 EUR in your pocket. Not only are you doing yourself a disservice, but it’s estimated that almost 66.7% of guests prefer to book directly with hotels and not on third party hotel booking platforms and sites.
So, how can you increase direct hotel bookings? We have 5 simple steps to save you money on OTA commission fees and third party hidden charges, to boost your direct hotel reservations.
Step 1: Integrate a booking engine on your hotel website
Integrating a booking engine on your website is the best way to get direct bookings rolling. Many smaller hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs do not have their own official websites and/or booking engines, so this is a great way to stand out from your competition. If you already have your booking engine set-up, you want to check that it’s optimized for the best customer experience.
Your hotel website booking engine should allow you to:
- Ensure that your inventory is updated in real-time across different websites/OTAs: This immediately reduces your risk of overbooking and saves you time on admin.
- Communicate directly with your website visitors and guests.
- Personalize your interactions with your website visitors e.g. sending personalized messages.
- Create promotional offers for returning guests with ease.
The aim of your booking engine is to engage your website visitors effectively and make the booking process simple and straightforward. Here are some of our top booking engine recommendations:
Step 2: Optimize and leverage your hotel website to increase your direct bookings
Your hotel website is the hub that you want your potential guests to visit to book with you directly. Having a focused strategy for your hotel website is a step in the right direction. You must lead potential guests to take action and book directly, without being too pushy. Here is a simple checklist to ensure that you are converting your website visitors into hotel guests.
Your hotel website should:
- Be easy to navigate. You want visitors to be able to find the information they need quickly. Make sure that you display key information such as location, contact details and hotel amenities clearly.
- Include your COVID19 protocols: your customers want to be reassured that you’ve got their safety in hand. In a study conducted by PWC, 85% of individuals said they will make their travel decisions and reservations based on communications they receive from hotels about safety, but 40% currently feel that the communications they have received or are currently receiving is not up to scratch. Make sure to have a section on your website that makes these protocols clear. Include photos of your staff in masks and other PPE, and make sure that you list reliable sources such as the WHO and CDC as references for your measures.
- Be adapted for desktop and mobile. In 2018, hotel bookings made via mobile exceeded the number made via desktop: the split now lies at 51% of hotel reservations being made on mobile vs. 49% of room bookings being made on desktop. Also consider that 32% of hotel bookings are abandoned on mobile due to slow loading speed and 30% will abandon a transaction due to poor mobile responsiveness. This could negatively impact your direct booking conversion rates by around 10%.
- Have special offers for direct bookings. Around 45% of travellers consider offers and perks important while booking. Offer and ensure “Best Rate Guarantee” if a guest makes a hotel reservation with you directly. Display how your direct booking price compares to those on OTAs, and add perks such as afternoon tea on arrival or a free or reduced pass to your leisure facilities.
- Include CTAs (calls to action), that trigger visitors to book directly. You want your website visitors to enjoy what they see and then be immediately led to the next step. Have “Book Now” buttons that are highlighted and link directly to your booking engine.
- Include links to your social platforms: while your website is the hub of your business, your social platforms allow your visitors to explore what others are enjoying at your place, get a better feel of what you’re about through visuals and videos, and join the conversation with your community of followers and those that recommend you. Be sure to link your Instagram, Facebook, TWISPER and TikTok profiles if you have them.
Step 3: Optimize and leverage your SEO, rankings on metasearch engines and social platforms for direct booking
You cannot get people to book directly with you if they can’t find you. Make sure that you are making the most of different channels to appeal to the biggest audience you can.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is key here. This is essentially the process by which you improve your rankings on search engines. When your audience searches for you, you want them to land on your website, booking platform, or social media platform.
Here are some tips for improving your SEO:
- Use Metasearch Engine Optimization: A metasearch engine or website lets travellers compare hotel room rates from various online travel agencies (OTAs) and other booking sites all in one place. A potential guest can use these sites to find room prices from multiple booking options at the same time. According to Trivago, around 50% of all online bookers use metasearch to find their ideal hotel. Promote your direct booking rates on these platforms and encourage potential guests to visit your hotel’s own website, this will immediately impact your direct bookings.
- Be present on social platforms: Social media and social platforms add credibility and authenticity to your hotel’s online presence. Remember that those visiting your profile want to see your business’ photos and credible customer feedback to form a connection with your place and trigger them to visit. According to a recent study, 76% of travellers post their vacation photos and recommendations regularly – make sure they can easily find your hotel’s social media accounts to tag you.
- Claim your business listings: Platforms like TWISPER, Yelp or Tripadvisor allow your potential hotel guests to search for hotels in their desired area. Make sure that you claim your listings and create profiles on these platforms to get maximum exposure and improve your ranking. On TWISPER they can not only find your place easily but also see the recommendations and experiences of their own friends. This distinguishes TWISPER from other platforms and leverages the fact that 72% of millennials say that their family and friends are their number one trusted source when making a decision. On top of that, they can share their experiences and see how many people liked it. You as a business manager select the best recommendations and highlight them in your profile.
Step 4: Optimize and leverage online recommendations to boost direct bookings
Have you heard of Social Proof? It’s a very simple concept which states that people will follow the actions of the masses, and especially those of their friends and those within their social network. 92% of individuals trust recommendations from friends over any other form of advertising and 80% consider them extremely important before making the final reservation. You want to be able to capture people’s interest by showcasing your best side in an authentic and positive way.
Social Proof is a huge factor in influencing the decisions of those looking to book rooms at your hotel. They want to see that if they choose to stay at your place, they will enjoy their time there, and what better way to do that than seeing the recommendations of former guests, industry figures or magazines? It’s crucial for you to leverage Social Proof in order to boost your direct bookings.
3 easy steps to leverage recommendations for Social Proof with TWISPER:
TWISPER is the first platform with only positive recommendations and gives you the tools to leverage these recommendations to create loyal customers and attract new ones. Our community includes top trusted partners such as National Geographic Traveler and Easyjet Traveller Magazine who have thousands of fans following their recommendations for hotels and leisure.
- Don’t forget your previous guests: Take into consideration that in general the cost of sales to loyal and repeat customers are as little as 30% of the cost of acquiring a new customer. Plus, these guests are likely to spend up to 70% more at the time of booking as they opt for pricier rooms or other perks and services. Make sure that you retain your customers both on-site and off-site. Even if guests come to you via a third party, it’s not to say that you cannot entice them to stay with you again and book directly. Simply offer them a discount code or special offer if they book with you directly next time and remember to ask them to write a great recommendation for you.
- Highlight top experiences and recommendations of those who have visited your place on your social networks and on your website as this will encourage direct bookings. We’ve said it before – your customers are basically doing free marketing for you, leverage it as much as you can!
- Thank your customers for their recommendations: It’s simple customer engagement. Think about it, if your customers are taking the time to recommend your hotel to their friends and network, shouldn’t you also take the time to thank them for it and show them that you value their feedback and opinion? Thus, remember to respond to online reviews, comments and shares on social platforms or listings sites. On TWISPER, you can automate this task with an automated and customizable Thank You Message which is sent to all guests who recommend you. Plus, TWISPER has a 0% commission Booking Button, which links users from our 2+ million strong community directly to your preferred booking platform.
Step 5: Enhance customer experience through your online presence
Enhancing your customer experience online is a great way to get more customers as 86% of customers will spend more at your hotel if you offer them a great customer experience.
Here are some ideas to get you started on offering great customer experiences online:
- Offer virtual tours and have plenty of great visuals: Virtual tours have become all the rage during the pandemic and are shown to boost travel confidence. They allow your website visitors to dream of what you have to offer and will get them to convert to paying guests much faster. Photos are also a great way to attract visitors and pull them into the story and special features of your hotel. Make sure that your pictures are airy, bright and inviting. You want your customers to feel that staying with you will be a breath of fresh air and a change to their daily routine.
- Appeal to your local audience: although people are travelling less internationally, around 25% of individuals are wanting to stay in hotels closer to home, and staycations are marked as a top trend for 2021. Add content to your website that highlights it as an “escape” from the everyday and consider adding local recommendations that are less touristic and more focused on “hidden gems” in your location.
- Personalize your interactions: Today’s guests want to be treated as individuals, and often expect it. Many hotels are going the extra mile to personally greet their guests, and email marketing tools such as Mailchimp and Zoho have made personalized messages easy to achieve. If we go beyond adding your guest’s name to email introductions, data gathered from email marketing tools and Cookies can provide insight into past buying habits, giving you the opportunity to tailor your offers and promotions.
- Add a live chatbot to your website. If your customers have queries, you want to able to catch them before they look elsewhere.
- Follow-up on booking abandonment: if your potential guest that fills in their details, selects their room and then doesn’t complete their reservation, make sure that you have a booking engine that will capture and keep those details so that you can follow up. Write to them or call them, find out their pain points, why did they not complete their order and is there anything you can do to support their decision? Maybe offer them a better rate or a discount.
What are the takeaways?
In the current climate, securing direct and commission-free bookings is of top priority. There are simple ways to do this to get the most traffic to your direct booking platform:
- Make sure you have your own booking engine and that it can be easily found on your website and through your social media channels.
- Ensure that your website is top notch. All information about your hotel (this includes your social media accounts) must be easy to find, the website should be adapted for mobile devices and visitors should be encouraged to book directly with you through clear CTAs (calls to action).
- Now that you have a great website, do everything you can so that as many people as possible can find it. Think about improving your SEO, use Metasearch Engine Optimization and be active on social media.
- Leverage recommendations from previous guests. They are basically doing the marketing for you so provide social platforms where they can tag you and recommend you. Once they’ve recommended your hotel, don’t forget to highlight these recommendations and thank them for it.
- Last but not least, work on your digital customer experience. Personalization is key here no matter whether we’re talking about your interaction with customers, your marketing efforts or follow-ups on people that did not end up booking with you!
TWISPER is on a mission to bring fairness and positivity back to the hospitality industry. During this unprecedented time, we hope to cast light on the grit, resilience and determination that are an inherent part of the industry. We know that these qualities will lead to recovery and restoration as we look to the future. Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Instagram to get the latest industry news and TWISPER announcements.