Whether you run a hotel or an Airbnb business, you should consider direct booking as an ultimate way to increase profits. For this, you should first convert your (Airbnb) listings into a direct booking website with the help of your PMS. Then, you must plan some direct booking strategies that guarantee revenue growth plus a great guest experience.
Direct booking doesn’t mean you should ignore third-party booking platforms. Instead, strike a balance between receiving bookings from OTAs and your direct booking website as part of your business strategy. But, you need to compete with OTAs and attract guests to your website by implementing the right direct booking tactics.
If you have a website, you probably know some of the principles, such as the necessity of integrating with a booking engine and having a user-friendly website to receive more reservations. However, there are still some tips and tricks to consider to guarantee your success.
1. Enhance Your Digital Visibility
When planning your strategy to increase direct bookings, you should take into account various ways of driving traffic to your website. Following are some suggestions that can enhance your online presence:
- Paid Search and Google Hotel Ads: Paid advertising boosts your online presence by displaying results at the top of search pages with an ‘Ad’ prefix. Likewise, Google Hotel Ads display your room types and availability on Google search and Google Maps, redirecting guests to your website.
- Hotel Metasearch Engines and Google Free Booking Links: Google’s recent announcement about launching free booking links on Google Hotel Ads presents an incredible opportunity. You can connect with more travellers and get commission-free direct bookings. Other metasearch sites, such as Trivago and Kayak, also compare your hotel rates with various OTAs and increase your visibility.
- Social Networks: Keep your social media alive to get more traffic and direct bookings. By posting appealing pictures and descriptions of your properties and informing your audience about special offerings, you can easily convince them to book directly with you.
2. Create Loyalty Programmes for Repeat Guests
Attracting and convincing guests to book a vacation rental can be a challenging task for operators. Therefore, building long-lasting relationships with guests who have chosen your rental is highly beneficial.
Offering loyalty programmes (better for larger hotel chains) or special perks (best for independent hotels) is an effective direct booking strategy. By applying these practices, you demonstrate respect and care for your guests’ needs, ultimately gaining their complete trust.
3. Provide Comparisons on Your Website
Potential guests who visit your website may not book immediately and may switch between your website and other booking platforms to compare prices and services. Providing a comparison of rental accommodations in your neighbourhood can encourage potential guests to spend more time on your website.
Although it may seem counterintuitive to showcase your competitors, doing so increases the chance of getting a direct booking by keeping visitors on your website for a longer time. This also gives you the opportunity to convince them to click on the booking button.
4. Get Direct Bookings from Social Media
Social media can greatly enhance your brand awareness and help you implement your direct booking strategies.
In fact, guests always prefer the simplest and shortest booking process, and social media platforms can facilitate that. By employing a booking engine that integrates easily with your social media accounts, you can allow guests to book directly through, for example, your hotel’s Facebook page.
5. Consider Guest Engagement as an Important Direct Booking Strategy
To fill the gaps in your booking calendar, engage guests while they’re on your website or going through the booking process. The key is to put yourself in guests’ shoes and find ways to better involve them.
One way is to provide essential property details and make them easily accessible on your website to engage potential guests. Guests don’t like to keep contacting you to ask regular questions. So, it is recommended to stay as clear as possible in descriptions and what you declare on the website.
However, you should always stay attentive to your guests’ queries and respond to them as soon as possible. You may want to put a full-time employee in charge of handling questions or use a chatbot for immediate responses. Whatever you do, engaging with guests should become your top priority.
6. Don’t Ignore OTAs’ Impacts on Driving Direct Bookings
Online travel agencies are one of the best options to advertise rentals and increase brand awareness. Guests coming from OTAs can become your direct guests and bring even more value. But, how can you convert them to direct bookers?
First and foremost, offering them top-class services to make their stay unforgettable is a good direct booking strategy. The next step could be giving information about the benefits they can achieve by booking directly with you. This can include discounts on food and beverage bills or on their subsequent stays with you.
Post-stay targeting is also a remarkable tactic for building relationships with guests. For example, you can update them about new offers and special services through email.
7. Take Care of Abandoned Bookings
Last but not least, it is crucial to evaluate your work to ensure that all costs and efforts pay off. One practical way to achieve this is by analysing abandoned bookings and determining why guests dropped out at certain stages.
Receiving high traffic flows but only a few bookings can be frustrating for property managers, and abandoned bookings are even worse and a nightmare to deal with. Following are some assumptions on the reasons why guests might leave a booking incomplete.
- They need to research more.
- The room prices are too high.
- The booking process is complicated and too long.
- There are some technical and payment issues.
But how to combat abandoned reservations?
You can significantly prevent abandoned bookings from happening by:
- Making the reservation process simple and manageable with a two-click procedure by integrating with a seamless booking engine.
- Improving the guest experience by developing a functional website optimised for different devices like mobile phones.
- Checking your website and payment process regularly for possible issues.
- Preparing a safe and secure payment gateway.
- Making your properties appealing by giving guests convincing reasons to book with you.
Each rental business is unique and employs diverse methods to ensure the success of their operations. As a short-term rental owner/manager, what successful strategies have you used to drive more direct bookings? Please share them with us in the comments.