Important to be listed on OTA sites?
Although Online Travel Agents made tourism distribution system more transparent and clear for both hotels and guests and hotels are now able to develop a more intelligent and dynamic pricing strategy, some do feel that with OTAs they are losing control. Therefore they aim to have 100% of their bookings be direct without having to pay commission. It might be a solution, but certainly not the most efficient or the fastest one.
Because in most cases guests are not brand loyal to and stay at the same hotel all the time, so you cannot rely on returning guests entirely.
Because being on indirect channels help hotels to reach into markets they don’t have the ability to serve or there are low-demand periods when it is good to have a well-known partner so you have an access to a larger pool of clients.
Per a Google survey, 60% of travellers will visit your hotel’s website after seeing you on an OTA page and if they are offered the right rates and deals they will possibly book directly (billboard effect)
Optimize your OTA presence
You can improve your OTA presence with the followings making your hotel more appealing and thus travellers will be more keen on visiting your website for more information:
- Have and use high quality, smartly designed, meaningful photos of the hotel by a professional photographer that evoke positive emotions in lookers and drive them to book.
- Transparently and honestly present the location, the rates and the design of your hotel. Don’t discourage your visitors with unclear and/or too complicated information.
- Strongly emphasize the hotel’s unique selling points that differentiate it from rivals. Most hotels use the same boring words and sentences in their descriptions, be more creative in showing your hotel’s exceptionality (and share your ideas with those OTAs where information about your hotel is not written by you.)
Optimize your direct channel
Travellers’ usual booking path starts with a search on an OTA, then they check interesting hotels’ website for more information. Nevertheless, if they find there completely different room types, images, rates (higher), booking conditions and cancellation policy (stricter) then they get frustrated and go back to the OTA. If you were in their shoes and could purchase the same rooms and packages for a lower price or could book on OTAs more easily and clearly, it is obvious that you would also choose that option. Don’t blame travellers, but rather examine your webpage and booking engine (if you use one) and make sure that it really pays to book rooms directly on your hotel’s own site.
Best price guarantee on the website:
When users land on your website: make the message obvious; displaying “Best price guarantee” on the hotel’s webpage motivates lookers to stop searching for lower rates on OTA sites. Remember, your website prices also deserve “the best price” label – besides rate parity as well – since prices are not lower anywhere else.
Is it important to make it possible for your bookers to reserve in more languages? Booking.com is available in more than 40 languages because they know that when customers are ready to spend money they want to understand every single detail about the purchase. And they will definitely feel more comfortable to click on “Book it” if they have the texts in their native language. Check the top languages of your website visitors and ensure everything is translated into those languages.
Be informative but use friendly language throughout your website. For instance: “48 hour cancellation policy” turned into” Free cancellation up to 48 hours before arrival” sounds much better.
Other book direct incentive:
Even big hotel chains campaign for “Book direct” to minimize commissions and increase revenue. Incentives e.g.: early check-in, late check-out, welcome drink etc. convince travellers to book direct, they cost you almost nothing but they are enough to motivate guests to reserve on the hotel’s website rather than on an OTA site.
It is useful for hotels to be on OTA sites because of the billboard effect, however, rates and deals should be planned smartly. 2 out of 3 travellers searching on OTA pages google hotels and if they find the hotel’s own website and see that there are the same rates plus an excellent direct booking experience (with RESnWEB) with possibility to reserve add-on services beforehand (e.g. massage, room amenities) and incentives are also offered then there is strong possibility that they will choose direct booking instead of heading back to OTAs (equals: less commission for you to pay.)
Guests arriving from OTA sites try to find the same room types, packages to compare the rates and conditions. Help them with room type/name parity, text parity etc. to be able to identify them on your website. Then you can list the reasons why it is better to book on your webpage. Keep it simple. Remember when visitors arrive on your site they are looking for answers. The faster you deliver answers, the better they will convert.
Protect your brand:
One of the essential firsts to do as a hotelier to trademark your hotel’s name, and file the registration with Google so you can avoid online travel agencies’ brand-jacking it in paid advertisements.
It may seem hard to find the balance between direct bookings and online travel agencies, however, it is fundamental to do so. Figure out OTA sites’ functioning and examine your guests’ booking habits to come up with a strategy that can create a win-win situation. The number of both commissioned and direct bookings may increase simultaneously or it can happen that although there are more and more direct bookings, reservations via OTAs do not decrease. Should it be a problem? Not at all. At the end of the day you have managed to boost the occupancy and the revenue, and it’s win-win-win.
Would you like to define and create the ideal mix of your distribution channels? Read our next article.
- OTA sites are easy to handle and understand – make your hotel’s website in this respect the same or even better.
- Use OTAs to create a billboard effect – OTA customers will check the hotel’s website for more information.
- If commissioned bookings increase, however, travellers do visit your website but do not book directly there, examine the situation and optimize your website.
- Protect your brand to limit paid advertisements by OTAs stealing your potential guests who google your hotel’s name.
Based on Martin Soler: Finding the Balance Between OTAs and Direct Bookings