5 Ways to Compete with OTAs: Increase Direct Hotel & Serviced Apartment Bookings
Our customers often ask “How do I increase direct hotel bookings to my website?” Beating the Online Travel Agents (OTAs) may seem like a formidable task, but there are things that you can do to secure that booking. To help you we have put together a 5 step guide for competing with OTAs in the hotel industry and to increase direct hotel bookings. Follow these steps and you will reap the benefits.
Step 1 - Get seen!
There are plenty of well-known digital marketing techniques for driving traffic to your website. Make sure you are doing as many of them as you can – as often as you can - so you can increase direct hotel bookings:
- Focus on quality content with strong Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), keywords, titles, meta tags and descriptions
- Make sure you advertise your best rates – including on your home page meta description - as this is what will come up on Google searches
- Regularly create and share new and relevant blogs with a strong call to action
- Use social media channels to drive traffic to your site
- Respond to online reviews and comments - even if they are negative
- Set up PPC campaigns in Google AdWords
- Create direct marketing campaigns – for example send tailored and targeted emails with special offers, booking anniversaries, special events etc…
- Create loyalty programs to keep guests coming back to your site time after time
- Get a Google business listing and make sure your business is verified by Google
Step 2 – Present a great website and tell a compelling story
When potential customers do arrive on your website directly rather than the OTA – or reach you via an OTA - make sure it counts - every time. Customers want to know what your story is - and what sets you apart from the competition:
Make sure your website follows an intuitive logical order with ‘book now’ buttons and other calls to action throughout (give us a call, get in touch etc.).
Make sure you have large, great quality and compelling photos that tell a story.
- Show them detailed photos of communal areas and various rooms and let them know exactly what they get for their money. Include short ‘snackable’ videos if you have them as this is a great way for people to ‘feel’ the experience.
- Point out nearby attractions that might be important as these are likely to be search terms used by potential guests looking for somewhere to stay.
- Remember to focus on the ‘experience’ - entice gourmet lovers with great images of fine dining from your restaurant, or perhaps a chilled cocktail from the bar on the terrace…
- Use text to back up your visual story and make sure it not only has perfect spelling and grammar but that it includes keywords and is well optimised.
- Most important of all make sure your website looks credible and trustworthy. Whatever you do – you don’t want to give them any excuse to go back to the OTA.
Step 3 – Give them a good deal! Confidence matters…
Make sure your shoppers are confident they won’t beat your room rate by going elsewhere. If your pricing strategy prevents you from having different rates on some OTA’s than if booking direct, there is nothing stopping you offering other extras such as a free drink on arrival, a bottle of bubbly or a box of chocolates in the room when they book direct with you.
Another great way to increase direct hotel bookings is to create bespoke packages which are only available on your website and not through the OTAs. Spa packages, romantic breaks and local event packages are all great ideas and should be used.
And remember, you can present some great offers to direct bookers for when they come back to book their next stay – or even recommend a friend! Once you have a direct customer, make sure they remain a loyal and returning direct customer – time and time again!
Step 4 - Make it easy to book and don’t trip your bookers up on the way
Make sure your booking engine is simple to use, as fast as any OTA in the hotel industry, and works across all devices – especially mobile. Make it super obvious where to click next, with the whole process being just three to four clicks maximum. Send guests a confirmation email thanking them for their booking, and “By the way, why not impress your loved one with a Bottle of Champagne on arrival or arrange an excursion during your stay.” Which could help you maximise any ad-ons not purchased during the booking process.
It’s good to also bear in mind that OTAs in the hotel industry are geared up to a huge range of operators with a wide range of offerings and a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Whilst ‘only 2 rooms left!’ may work for some hotels - it certainly doesn’t work for boutique style hotels which sell themselves on individually styled rooms… The same applies to many serviced apartment providers - as after all there is often only one room or apartment of that type! In this case your website will win hands down.
Step 5 – Share the good news – and reviews!
As curious creatures, we all like to know what other people are thinking and doing. Make sure your potential customers can read online reviews and testimonials. Awards and 3rd party certificates build confidence and should be prominent, not just stuck in the footer, especially if they are important ones. Including evidence that other people are booking gives them a sense of assurance that they are making and good decision as well as creating that all important sense of urgency. A trick we can all learn from the OTAs!
Follow these 5 steps and you will be well on your way to increasing your direct bookings. Even better, you will enhance your brand image and build a loyal customer base along the way. Best of all you take control of your own product and will reduce the commission you are paying to the OTAs in the hotel industry. What’s not to like about that!
Do you need help getting started with your hotel and want to increase your direct bookings? We have a Digital Marketing team, in house web designers AND a wonderful property management system to help you along the way.
Give us a call on - +44 (0)20 305 17 305
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