The rise in popularity of online travel agents has put accommodation providers in a difficult position. On one hand, their pervasive reach and high advertising budgets bring vital brand awareness for properties, and many guests prefer the familiarity of booking through well known OTA brands.
On the other hand, high commission fees make OTA bookings very expensive for hoteliers. Wherever you fall on the scale, these helpful tips can help you reduce your reliance on online travel agents and distribution partners by optimising your property’s online presence.
Provide a seamless booking process
No matter what type of property you operate or the types of guests who stay with you, success starts and ends at your booking engine. If you’re trying to reduce your reliance on online travel agents, you need to offer a seamless, effortless booking process through your direct website.
Guests visiting your website are there for a reason, so reward them with an exceptional user experience, from flicking through room types and promotions on your website, to selecting dates and entering their credit card details. Ensure information is easy to understand and promotions are current and bookable.
A booking engine with a grid layout that makes it easy to see date availability and varying daily rates as well as easily adjust the booking search will create an excellent first interaction with your property for guests.
Create a stunning, user-friendly website
You won’t even get a chance to impress potential guests with your fabulous booking engine if your website is confusing, outdated or dull. First impressions really matter in the online world, and research estimates average website bounce rates (when a visitor lands on your website then leaves before interacting with any content) can be as high as 60%. Reduce the number of people closing their browser to your website by making your website visually appealing and interesting.
High-quality videos, images and information will grab the attention of your visitors and prompt them to interact with more of your content. Website content management systems can be daunting and difficult, so opt for a website provider using easy, customisable templates (no coding required!) to take control of your website content management easier than ever before.
It could be worth introducing digital marketing strategies to give your website the best chance of being found by guests on Google. Search Engine Optimisation, Search Engine Marketing and Google Hotel Ads help to draw attention to your direct website on the Google search results page, encouraging guests to visit your website to book in favour of an online travel agent.
Offer direct incentives
Incentivise direct bookings with deals and value offerings exclusively available on your website. An excellent tool to help make your website visitors immediately aware of what you can offer that OTAs can’t is through an informative, bookable website pop-up.
Highlight your best deals, offer unique upgrades and include live, dynamic OTA price comparisons, all while adding guest email addresses to your property membership list. This allows you to then send promotional marketing material to guests who have subscribed (hint for the next step), encouraging them to book with you again!
Establish a basis of loyal guests
Guests who are loyal to you and your property will be more likely to book direct, allowing you to obtain a somewhat reliable income source without using OTAs. Encouraging guests to subscribe to your property membership list and sending them targeted, thoughtful promotional material periodically throughout the year can be a low-effort way to establish a relationship with your guests.
Think about what each guest needs and how you can meet or exceed their expectations to build up loyalty. You can also create unique promo codes for your frequently returning guests and enable them to access exclusive offers and extras only available on your website with the code you provide.
Maintain your property profiles on OTAs
While this may seem counterintuitive, some guests tend to use online travel agents as an initial search method when they begin looking for accommodation. It’s easy for guests to gain a quick overview and make comparisons between accommodation providers on OTAs before checking a property’s direct website for a cheaper price.
For this purpose, it’s important to ensure your property listing is kept up-to-date and your images and photographs are enticing to guests. In this way, you capture the guests’ attention before finally converting them into a booking using the steps above when they land on your website.
So do I need to use OTAs at all?
Reducing your reliance on online travel agents is great for decreasing high commission costs associated with bookings. However, maintaining a presence on at least a few major OTAs can be an effective way to gain awareness for your property.
Being selective about the OTAs you use and ensuring your profile, content, images and rates are kept up to date on OTA listings may prove beneficial for your property, without costing a fortune in booking commission fees.