No doubt, OTAs are giving hotels a hard time these days. They constantly advertise their "Best price guarantee" to travel shoppers while continuing to increase the commissions they charge and the requirements hotels have to meet to see their property on top of search results. Hoteliers need an alternative to help them sell more rooms online but not remain empty-handed at the end of the day. Meta search is one option, though it only lowers the cost for obtaining a booking. What would really change the game for a hospitality business is invest in a powerful own website where to outperform all booking mediators by offering better deal, more services, unique customer experience and personal attention.
To cut the long story short - your website is the digital version of your hospitality. It should give your guests the feeling that they have found everything they have been looking for. And stay, and book, and come back for more.
Your website is your premium shop
The hotel's website is the online sales channel where you can achieve the sweet combination of minimal customer acquisition cost and maximum long-term engagement with your guests that equals recurring revenue.
Whatever you offer elsewhere, double it! Well, double is a bit too much. The point is, you should always keep the better deal for your direct customers and let them know that you do. As good as it sounds, it is hard to achieve with rate parity clauses and other restrictions. But looking on the bright side, if you succeed, you will be able to enter your I-don't-care-about-OTAs phase and finally keep all the money you deserve for your hard work. And if you doubt, it is doable, we've seen it first-hand.
Make it tastier!
If the images you supply to the OTA website are good, the ones on your own site should be breathtaking. Spice them up with a virtual tour. It is worth to have a professional photographer take shots of your property and the neighborhood. A qualitative web booking engine that lets you present each room with high-definition photos and rich-text description will also pay off. Try to find one that supports more languages as people feel more comfortable with their mother tongue when purchasing.
You could do so in several ways. First, offer more services for the same price circumventing the rate parity rule. Free dinner, parking, transfer or whatsoever. Then, let your guests book extra services along with their rooms. OTAs don't have this, only you do. Whatever the service, price or package, make sure you stress they are bookable nowhere else but on your own website.
Giftwrap your services!
Gift vouchers are gaining popularity as a good present for friends, relatives, even co-workers. It is a good idea to offer your services as a gift that can be given to others. Happy guests that spread the word about your business are good, but having them buy more from you to let someone else share the same experience is even better.
Cooperate with others!
Offer information about nearby activities and points of interest. Try to find other local businesses in your neighbourhood and work with them on joint offers, such as mutual discounts or incentives. You could help each other this way, while you keep your guests engaged. Just redirecting to other websites won't suffice, you better write your own content about the most interesting events and places around you and do your best to make them bookable on your website.
Add more value!
Meeting with guests face to face is not a reason to go offline, quite the opposite. Once guests arrive at your front door, keep giving them more reasons to return to your online property. Offer table bookings for your restaurant, for example. Or a special code for a discount from their next booking that goes with a purchase, online order or review. Maybe a live chat? Or Q&A section with the answers of frequently asked questions.
While you are on adding value, do it for yourself as well by opting for a booking engine that is commission-free.
Your guests would love to see others' reviews on your website but the impression made by a real conversation is stronger. If people can see you talking to your customers and truly engaging with them, they will see that you really care. It could be a feed from your Facebook or Twitter account or another conversation platform, like Disqus for example. Just find a way to build your online community and visualise your customer care.
Keep it simple!
Keep the navigation between pages as simple and the booking process as short and clear as possible. The customer must not get distracted while creating the booking. At the same time, the plenty of information you provide should be easy to find and read. Booking buttons and calls to action should be placed wherever appropriate without becoming intrusive.
With the increasingly dynamic environment of online travel sales, every booking matters and every direct reservation matters even more. OTAs keep reaching out to your revenue in various ways and you, hoteliers, have to resist. The always connected travellers are used to find everything on the Internet, the question is where they will find it. If you succeed to turn your website into a one-stop shop for potential guests, they will gladly stay an do business with you directly. To achieve this you need to deliver a well-balanced combination of useful information, bargain deals, unique experience and personal attention.
Want to share the knowledge with fellow hoteliers? Use the icons below or tell us your own success story and we will be glad to publicize it.