Most of the large hotel chains are listed through online travel agents (OTAs) like Bookings.com, Expedia, etc.,which provide a great source of business. However, there are some downsides to this channel. Besides cutting into room revenue, OTAs can also make it more difficult for hotels to get to know their guests and in turn, provide the type of personalized service that cultivates loyalty. More difficult, but not impossible! In this blog post, we’re discussing some key strategies hotels can employ to motivate OTA-guests to shift channels and maximize direct bookings.
Treat Your OTA Guests Well
Guests who originally booked through an OTA are ripe for converting to future direct bookers. In order to motivate them to make the switch, hotels need to create an exceptional guest experience. When it comes time to send the guest follow up, be sure to leverage data on the person’s personal preferences to personalize the message. You should also clearly convey the benefits and perks the guest will receive for booking directly.
When a customer has booked through an OTA, the goal once they’re on the property is to build a relationship so that the customer books direct next time they stay, effectively reducing the cost of customer acquisition (seeing as, according to Skift, OTAs take between 10 and 15 percent of room rates in commission from large branded chains).
One way that hotels can convert OTA bookers to direct bookers, is by offering the OTA-booker the option to sign-up for the loyalty program. According to Skift, this has been a successful tactic for hotel chain, Red Lion. Roughly three quarters of travelers who originally signed up for Red Lion’s Hello Rewards through a third party website later returned to book directly via Red Lion.
When Guests Land On Your Site…Keep Them There
A customer is actively looking to stay at your property, or in the area of your property. Your website comes up among the first listings in the search engine results, and she follows a link to your website. Now what? Besides making sure that your site’s usability and speed are top notch, hotels should also strike while the iron is hot in order to convert potential guests. That means showcasing an attention grabbing offer on your homepage to show visitors why booking through your site directly vs. an OTA is worth their while. For example: guaranteed lowest price for direct booking, or a value-add like free breakfast or discounted spa treatment.
Make Sure Your Loyalty Program Drives Loyalty
In 2017, Wyndham Worldwide Corp more than tripled its share of direct bookings to 9.61 percent, which some analysts attribute to the number three hotel chain’s $100 million revamp of its loyalty program. The changes Wyndham made include eliminating blackout dates and other restrictions that many other hotel chain loyalty programs favor.
Hilton, for example, has successfully increased the percentage of guests booking directly through the hotel website by offering preferred pricing to their loyalty program members when they book direct. As Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta explained of the decision to introduce preferred pricing to HHonors members who book direct, “The ultimate objective is … about having direct relationships with our customers. We want them to get the best value that they can get, get the best experience, and we obviously want to lower our distribution costs for both ourselves and our owners.” (Business Travel News)
OTAs are a necessary evil for hotel chains, but they don’t have to be the end all be all. The tips we discussed are designed to help hotels decrease their reliance on OTAs. If you’re interested in learning more about specific strategies your brand can leverage to motivate OTA-guests to shift channels and maximize direct bookings–contact us today for a consultation.