Hotel booking websites, including the likes of Expedia, Hotels.com, Trivago and others, have been in the news recently regarding misleading advertising claims, hidden costs and their sales techniques. In total, six websites have been given until September to change how they operate, thanks to action from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
At the same time, there’s a sense in the industry that the balance of power has tilted in recent months away from online travel agencies, and in favour of direct bookings for hotels, B&Bs and self-catering holiday accommodation.
Leading chains including Marriott and Hilton have broadcast direct-booking TV and online adverts, offering loyalty programme members lower room rates than they’d find from a third party booking site.
Equally, Mark Okerstrom, the CEO of Expedia, has said that customers are starting to favour independent establishments over well-known hotel brands.
Traditionally, the online booking giants have demanded commission of up to 15% from big hotel chains because of their marketing clout. But are hotels now taking back a degree of control?
What else affects the ability to push direct bookings?
In 2019, there are a few key trends which are set to enhance hoteliers’ ability to boost direct bookings. These include:
- The shift to using mobile devices to complete hotel bookings
- The increasing importance of guest reviews plus other user-generated content
- Direct bookings enabled via meta search, in which search queries are sent to a number of search engines and aggregated or categorise.
- Clearly, other trends will also play their part, as expectations rise and the landscape shifts.
What can I do as a hotelier to boost direct bookings?
How to get direct bookings: nine things to consider
1. Your website needs to be mobile-friendly
Research has shown that mobile bookers tend to spend more, and be more frequent travellers. Therefore, your hotel website needs to be flawlessly mobile-friendly.
2. Optimise the power of guest reviews and user-generated content
Research shows that consumers read an average of seven reviews before they trust a business enough to spend money. Feature your best reviews prominently, alongside content such as guest-generated photos, and give direct bookers that final push of confidence to confirm their stay.
3. Reward direct bookings and customer loyalty
Think vouchers or other perks when someone books directly, or when they recommend your establishment to someone else.
4. Incomplete bookings? Find out why
For bookings abandoned halfway through, use online pop-up surveys to find out why.
5. Harness the power of social media
Enable direct bookings directly from your social media platforms, e.g. via Facebook integration.
6. Make direct booking simple and seamless
Keep everything fast and straightforward, with clear calls-to-action.
7. Promote what makes you unique
Is it the generous breakfast buffet? The view from the rooms? Your proximity to the city centre? Make your best and most unique selling points stand out.
8. Know your market
What are your closest competitors charging? Use this information to inform your own rates.
9. Get listed on a meta search engine
Finally, get yourself listed on a meta search engine, and then use this to promote your rates directly.