In an industry where marketing costs are rising faster than room revenues, increasing direct bookings represents one of the best (and perhaps only) ways for hotels to boost profit margins in a significant way.
NB This is a viewpoint by Adi Zellner, head of Wix Hotels.
But if you’re like most property owners, this may seem like an elusive dream.
Even Marriot, no small fry, has been trying to push direct bookings with its recent #ItPaystoBookDirect campaign. It, too, was tired of forking over as much as 30% of its revenues to online travel agencies (OTAs).
Brandishing enormous name recognition and reach, Marriott is able to upset the market, if only a bit, inspiring the rest of the hotel industry to look for alternatives.
It starts with your website.
If you’re looking to grow your direct bookings, start by creating a website that will work for you. You’ll need a site that allows direct booking, helps you manage your reservations, represents your business and impresses potential customers.
Here are five tips on how to take back control of your business, grow your profit margin and increase your direct bookings.
1. Create a Site Designed to Convert
To push reservations straight from your website, you need to have this goal in mind as you design your site. Visitors decide in the blink of an eye whether or not they’re interested in your site. What’s more, if they are impressed, but can’t quite figure out how to make that reservation, you risk losing them.
The Call to Action (“Book a Room!”) should be immediately obvious and it has to be quick and easy for clients to make their reservations. Fewer clicks and an intuitive user experience will mean a higher conversion rate.
You may also want to add a box explaining, “Why Book with Us”, listing the benefits of booking direct. Share these reasons loudly and clearly with your potential clients.
Everything about your website should be in line with the look and feel of your business. Being able to control your design and content is a huge advantage when it comes to securing reservations from your site.
Take advantage of this and create a site that you know wows your prospects at first glance.
2. Choose the Right Booking System
After designing that unique, beautiful site of yours, it’s time to decide which booking system you want to use.
There are several systems available which can be integrated into any website. When deciding which one to go with, consider costs as well as user interface. If you’re paying high commissions on every booking, the system may not be worth it.
A system that is easy for customers to use will ultimately bring you more reservations.
And the ideal booking system should not only integrate seamlessly with your site but also charge no commission
3. Track Everything in One Place
It’s natural to feel overwhelmed by the challenges of juggling reservations coming in from multiple channels, customer travel dates, payment information and the endless special requests for early check-in, an extra bed and the like.
The right booking system, however, will gather and organize all of this data for you.
The system you choose should track detailed information about each of your clients and store them centrally. Look for a system that provides an integrated Channel Manager where reservations from all your channels are combined and clearly displayed on one calendar.
4. Keep In Touch with Your Customers
Another great way to increase direct bookings is to reach out to past customers. Repeat clients who already familiar with your property are more likely to book direct. To push direct booking, you want to ensure you have ownership over all of your customers’ information.
Whether through social media, direct mail or e-newsletters, thank your customers for their visit with you and ask them for feedback on their stay. Then, follow up and encourage past customers to return with incentives such as a free breakfast or a bonus night’s stay with any booking.
Use your social media channels to stay in touch with your clients and let them know what’s new at your property. Be sure your Google+ profile is accurate and up-to-date so your property is displayed on Google Maps. To take advantage of your Facebook page to push direct bookings, add a “Book Now” button to your page that links straight to your website.
5. Update Your Website Regularly
An up-to-date website helps drive direct bookings. There are dozens of ways to keep your web content fresh, from updating images to writing quick blog posts highlighting special packages or holiday sales.
Keep your testimonial page stocked with your latest rave reviews or post a list of helpful travel tips aimed at your target market. Another great option is to offer dynamic pricing according to the season, day of the week or length of stay.
You can also provide site visitors with helpful information about the region. Offer insider suggestions about where to eat and what to do in the area, guaranteeing your guests a perfect vacation that goes beyond the walls of your property.
But remember, to start bringing in direct bookings the first step is to create a great website.
NB1 This is a guest article by Adi Zellner, head of Wix Hotels. It appears here as part of Tnooz's sponsored content initiative.
NB2Image by Shutterstock.