One of the main questions we get asked here at iHotelligence is “How can we drive more bookings direct to our own website?”
How can we drive business away from the OTA’s to ensure we are keeping our commission costs down? How can we drive loyalty to our own website and ensure our customers are returning to us?
This is something that is asked from large hotel chains down to small bed and breakfasts. And the answers are the same no matter what size your property is:
- Offer Your Guest The Best Value for Money
When a potential guest is searching for a night away, normally what drives their decision will be price and value for money. What properties need to do is offer preferential deals on their own website to show the guest that they will always get the best rate, the best room type, the best meal plan or the best cancellation policy when booking direct. One of the ways you can do this is by implementing a Price Check Widget on your booking engine. This will show the guest what rates you are offering direct vs what the OTA’s are offering. Seeing these figures in front of them, will encourage the guest to book directly with the property and in future ensure the guest checks the properties website before making any bookings.
- Offer Your Guest Rewards for Booking Direct
A great way to encourage guests to return to your website time and time again is to offer them a reward for doing so. A guest loyalty scheme is a fantastic tool that can be utilised to draw in more direct bookings. Some examples being used by properties at the moment are a points scheme, which will build up over time and you can then cash them out for various levels of gifts – from monetary vouchers to free night stay. You can also offer a discount at the time of booking to thank the guest for booking direct – be it a percentage discount or a fixed monetary value. Some properties do not want to give a discount on rate, so another good tool is to offer a complimentary upgrade where available if booking direct. This will give the customer more value for money and show them that you value their business. The main thing to note here is that it does not have to be a large over the top reward, but something to show the guest that you value their business and they will be rewarded on their return – Positive Reinforcement!
- Making Your Guest Feel Special
My colleague was recently at a property where they had a separate VIP Desk for guest check in’s when they booked direct. This was something that was very powerful in how it made them feel but it did not take a lot of additional effort or cost from the hotel side:
- No extra staff were required to man the VIP desk. The receptionist simply moved with from reception to the VIP area. A little bit of real estate in the foyer is all that’s required.
- Tea/coffee offered at check-in
- A small box of sweets given
- A quarter bottle of wine given
We understand that this may not be an approach that all properties could install but it can be something as simple as noting if there is a special occasion for one of your guests and offering them a token from the hotel i.e. if it is a birthday celebration, leave a small token and a note in the guests room and offer them a small discount next time they return and book direct with you as a birthday treat from the property. Going the extra mile for a guest can be the difference of gaining that loyalty or paying commission to the OTA’s