Whether you run a hotel, serviced apartment, or an Airbnb business, you should consider direct booking as an ultimate way to increase profits. For doing so, you must plan some direct booking strategies that guarantee revenue growth plus a great guest experience.
Direct booking doesn’t mean ignoring the third-party booking platforms. In contrast, making a proper balance between receiving bookings from OTAs and your direct booking website must become part of your business strategy. But you need to compete with OTAs and attract guests to your booking platform 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 consideration 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 advertisement is a great digital marketing strategy to increase your online presence and reach your potential guests, as the results are shown on top of the page specified by the ‘Ad’ prefix. Likewise, Google Hotel Ads display your room types and availability on Google search and Google Maps, and also redirect guests to your booking website.
- Hotel Metasearch Engines and Google Free Booking Links: with the new announcement of Google about launching free booking links on Google Hotel Ads, you have an amazing opportunity to 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 Programs for Repeat Guests
As a vacation rental operator, especially one who is busy running ten lets or more, you know how hard it is to attract guests and convince them to book with you. Therefore, keeping guests who have chosen you and making long-lasting relationships with them is super beneficial.
Offering loyalty programs (better for larger hotel chains) or special perks (best for independent hotels) is an effective direct booking strategy. Applying those, you show them you respect and care about their needs leading to gaining your guests’ complete trust at the end.
3. Provide Comparisons on Your Website
When your potential guests land on your website, they most probably don’t book right away, and they switch between other booking sites to compare the prices. To make them spend more time on your site, you can provide a possible comparison with multiple OTAs and other properties in your town or neighbourhood.
It might seem to showcase your competitors, but also you increase the chance of getting a direct booking by keeping visitors on your website for a longer time and gain the chance to convince them to click on the booking button.
4. Get Direct Bookings from Social Media
Social media has a great capacity to enhance your brand awareness as well as helping you to implement your direct booking strategies.
In fact, guests always want the simplest and shortest booking process, and social media platforms can facilitate that. Employ a booking engine that integrates with your social media accounts easily and allows your guests to book directly through, for example, your hotel’s Facebook page.
5. Consider Guest Engagement as an Important Direct Booking Strategy
If you want to fill the gaps in your booking calendar, you should engage guests while they are on your website or going through the booking process. The key is to put yourself in guests’ shoes and find the essentials of making them better involved.
One way is to give them all the information they need to know about your property and make important information visible and accessible on your website. Guests don’t like to keep contacting you to ask regular questions, so it is recommended to stay as clear as possible on descriptions and what you declare on the website.
However, you should always stay tuned regarding your guests’ queries and respond to them ASAP. You may prefer to put in charge a full-time employee to handle questions or use a Chatbot for immediate response; whatever you do, engaging with guests should become your 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. The guests coming from OTAs can finally become your direct guests and bring even more value.
But how you can convert them to direct bookers? First and foremost, it would be a good direct booking strategy to offer them top-class services and make their stay unforgettable. The next step could be giving information about benefits they can achieve, such as discounts on food and beverage bills, on their subsequent stays by booking directly with you.
Post-stay targeting is also a remarkable tactic to build relationships with guests and update them about new offers and special services, usually through emails.
7. Take Care of Abandoned Bookings
Last but not least, it is crucial to evaluate your work and see if all the costs and efforts pay off. And one practical way is to handle abandoned bookings and figure out why guests dropped out booking in some stages.
Receiving high traffic flows but a few numbers of bookings is frustrating, and abandoned bookings are even worse and a nightmare for hoteliers. 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 an adequate 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 straightly.
Each rental business is unique and uses different ways to stand on top of the hospitality industry. As a short-term rental owner, what successful strategies have you taken to drive more direct bookings? Please share them with us in the comments.