Direct bookings are reservations made directly through the hotel without using a third party intermediary such as an Online Tourism Agency (OTA) or metasearch engine.
- More profitable for hotels compared to using third party reservation sites because there are no commissions paid to third parties, so the cost of acquisition decreases.
- Allows for upselling opportunities which generates further revenue.
- Allows hoteliers to control the customer experience online by creating a direct relationship with guests and providing personalised support. This is key for any hospitality business.
The first step in the direct booking starts with research. Leverage paid media and SEO to ensure that your website is listed for all of your target guests’ key search terms.
Pique your guests’ interest with an enticing offer.
A customer will then look for more information about your hotel. So make sure this can be found on your site and that it looks great.
Guests’ will then want to see proof that your hotel is the best decision for them. Collect reviews from your guests and display them on your website. Do this through Trip Advisor, Google My Business and other third party sites. You can also share customer photos on social media.
Now that you have persuaded your guests that your hotel is the place for them, make sure that it’s easy for them to book. Integrate booking optimisation systems like Shiji or SynXis Sabre to make the booking process as seamless as possible.
Optimise your website to rank higher
Follow the guidance on search engine optimisation, including things like:
- Listing on Google My Business with a Direct link to your website
- Create an FAQ page to answer frequent customer queries
- Ensure your site speed is up to scratch (find out why that matters here)
Invest in a solid content strategy and repurpose your content to signal freshness to search engines
Reward guests who book directly
Give people a reason to book directly with you. Make sure your prices are the best rate and make that clear. You can also reward returning guests with loyalty points, discounts, or free gifts like parking or welcome baskets.
Enable booking from social media
Engage with your audience and post content regularly. And then maximise that content by integrating your booking engine with your socials so that fans can book directly from there.
When working with influencers or partner brands, ensure they are linking directly to your websites with any special discount codes.
Optimise your website content
Ensure you have the core pages that guests will look at: rooms and amenities, special deals, about your stay, policies. Make sure your images are of the highest quality. And add different languages and currencies according to your target market.
Engage your customers
Offer the same brilliant customer experience that you do in person at your hotel. Look at investing in AI chatbots so that you can answer queries instantly 24 hours a day. A study by Statista revealed that 64% of businesses believe that chatbots will allow them to provide a more customised support experience for their customers. However, do be careful that you keep the experience human (take a look at our article on how to balance human connection and AI here).
One integration that we love at Propeller for AI chatbots is Gorgias – a customer support platform that connects all of our clients’ customer service channels into one dashboard. Their AI offering provides automated responses on chat as well as tools to blanket reply to customers on Facebook and Instagram.
Another way to engage your customers is through personalisation based on customer preferences and information (read more about that here).
Turn anonymous visitors into qualified leads
Capture customer data without using third party cookies by using creative lead magnets that will appeal to your guests. Some ideas include packing lists, family travel checklists, local language cheat sheets, or local places to visit. You can also programme your chatbot to capture data early on in the conversation.
Optimise your hotel reviews
Make sure you are collecting reviews using trusted sources like Trip Advisor or Google My Business. Also encourage people to share their experiences on socials. And then make sure you display all of this user generated content on your website. Double the strategy up with a repeat guest incentive like a discount off their next stay, or a free bottle of wine at their next visit.
Create compelling CTAs on your website
Ensure your UX is up to scratch across your whole site, particularly with your calls to action. Make sure the ‘book now’ button is easy to find on every page and use relevant pop-ups to offer special deals. Take a look at our guide to best practice UX design for more tips.
Use a high converting booking engine, one that:
By that, we mean one that completes the reservation process in just 2-3 steps and confirms the booking instantly.
Retarget abandoned bookings
Implement an automated email follow-up sequence to convert interested customers. And going back to the point on personalisation, make sure you tailor your sales and marketing campaigns based on customer preferences.
Whilst it is advisable for most hotels to appear on third party intermediary sites and metasearch engines, it is vital that they invest in efforts to maximise their direct bookings. Not only does it save acquisition spend and distribution costs, it also ensures that the customer experience is on par with the real-life experience that a hotel guest would have. Hotels have much more control over how they are presented and interact with guests on their own website than they would on a third party site.
By following these steps, hotels can enhance their chances of both being found directly and being booked directly.
At Propeller, we are specialists in digital marketing for hotels, working with the likes of The Parkgate Hotel, Épi, and Porto Montenegro. With 20 years of experience across independent hotels, boutiques and national hotel groups, we offer everything from the initial digital strategy to the full website build and beyond.
If you’d like to discuss your strategy, get in touch.