Five tips from Expedia on how hotels can convert OTA traffic into bookings in 2013NewsBy Viewpoints | March 14, 2013Share This article was originally published on NB: This is a viewpoint from Josh Saunders, director of market management for the US mountain region for Expedia Inc's Lodging Partner Services group.Hotel managers can learn to make the most of the shared opportunities in converting customers that come through an online travel agency by reading the following tips.Take better photos (and videos) of your property.It is important to invest appropriately in one’s online brochure. Make sure to have plenty of pictures. This helps create more bookings and capture higher ADR.Simple things like doubling a hotel's online pictures can result in 4.5% take-up and $3.50 higher ADR, while providing a full property description (as opposed to a partial one) can result in a 5% take-up and $3 higher ADR.Professional photos are used during travel shopping by almost 50% of US online travel shoppers, and 25% of US online travel shoppers view professional videos during travel shopping, according to PhoCusWright’s “Consumer Travel Report (4th edition).”Protect against the pressure to offer last-minute discounts Work with your market manager to utilize market insight and help build your maximum profitability strategy.Ask for reports from your market managers about how the hotel is performing compared to its competitive set.When developing packages, market managers will be aware of decreased air capacity into a destination and the accompanying increase in airfare that is likely. Armed with that information, smart hoteliers can input package path rates that will offer a compelling option that meets the traveler’s total budget requirements.For example, a manager might recommend increasing inventory in the package path for some of his or her hotel partners that wanted to minimize the pressure to offer last minute discounts.This a great way to build base and protect a hotel’s retail rate, while sharing the discount with an airline partner. Building that base is key as it can help the property achieve a higher ADR and avoid fire sale prices to move rooms last minute.Expedia recently conducted a study in some sample markets, including Manhattan, Vegas, Orlando and Miami, and found that hotels that have higher than average participation in packages also have a higher gross ADR during all booking window periods than those that do not participate much in the package path.Ask your customers to comment on their stay through online sites.Expedia is seeing that engagement through our social media channels correlates with a propensity to book. In one study, we saw that customers who visited Expedia.com and the Expedia.com Facebook page were 107% more likely to book.The most actionable advice relates to Traveler Opinions/Reviews. Whenever possible, hotels should encourage guests to comment on their stay on any of the numerous review sites available.Data from Expedia’s global hotel transactions in September 2011 suggests that doubling a hotel’s number of reviews results in a 3% higher take-up, as well as a $2 higher ADR.Grab your share of the international traveler pie.International travelers are a great source of incremental demand.In descending order, Canada, Japan, Australia, Mexico, and the United Kingdom are the fastest growing countries by actual production different from last year in terms of US travel based on Expedia bookings.Beyond the incremental nature of the international traveler, there are several reasons why the international traveler is even more valuable to hotel partners. First, they have 31 days longer average booking windows.Additionally, the stays themselves are 40% longer than their domestic counterparts. Hotels also can expect a $7 Average Daily Rate (ADR) increase and should rest easier knowing that these long distance travelers are 66% less likely to cancel their reservations.Be aware of the growth of mobile bookings.Mobile continues to grow and have an impact on the way customers purchase their hotels rooms.This year US leisure/unmanaged business travelers are forecast to book nearly $8 billion via mobile devices, according to a PhoCusWright report.On an anecdotal level, Expedia’s investments in mobile platforms already are showing a strong return on investment (ROI) with the company’s travel app achieving more than 10 million downloads in 180 countries to date and averaging more than four million users each month and a 68% average monthly growth in bookings.Hotel owners will find there is additional revenue to be generated by upselling to higher room categories and offering additional services such as breakfast to generate additional incremental revenue.According to Expedia’s data, most smartphone hotel bookings are made within a ten mile radius of the user’s current location.Expedia’s research found that 81% of the mobile bookings from within a 10-mile radius were for one room night.When shoppers were 50-plus miles away, a majority of mobile bookings were for more than one night, with as much as 29% of mobile bookings being for stays of four or more nights.NB: This is a viewpoint from Josh Saunders, director of market management for the US mountain region for Expedia Inc's Lodging Partner Services group, which serves the more than 145,000 hotels offered across all the Expedia, Inc. worldwide retail brands and affiliates.Successful manager image from Shutterstock. 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