Before we explore the ways that’ll help you get more direct bookings, it is better to look at some facts as some of you may not be still convinced that direct bookings can get you more profits in the long run:
- Overall, while working with OTAs, you pay 15-30% of your rates as commission to Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) and property listing sites.
- You can deliver a better guest experience when they book direct, but with OTAs, because of the high commissions you have to pay, you should forsake either a part of your profit or the quality of your services.
- With direct bookings, you have the chance to provide your guests with personalised experiences, hence you can get better reviews and reputation.
- More direct bookings allow you to grow as a brand, and travellers will get to know you under your brand’s name. By contrast, on OTAs, you’re just a serviced accommodation, a hotel, a guesthouse, a B&B, or a holiday home among thousands of others.
If we were to talk about this topic more, we could go on and on for hours. But what we’re going to focus on in this article are the solutions that’ll help you attract more direct bookings. However, if you’re still not convinced, you may take a look at this blog post as it sheds more light on this matter.
An SEO-friendly, Direct Booking Website
In the Internet era, people are constantly looking for ways to meet their requirements online. So, if you don’t have a direct booking website, it’s almost impossible to get any direct bookings.
Therefore, the first step is to have your website up and running, but that’s not all. The domain authority of OTAs is astounding, and to surpass them in Search Engine Result Pages, you have to enhance your website’s SEO and optimise its content all the time.
You can manage this part of your business through 2 main ways. First of all, you can use a PMS (Property Management Software) that offers a direct booking website as one of its main features. If this is one of the factors you keep into consideration, before picking your PMS, take a look at some websites they have already provided their other customers with.
But if you use a PMS that doesn’t offer such a service, and you’re satisfied with it, you can create a website by yourself. If this is your choice, you can either do this your way, which needs a lot of practice and knowledge, or you can hire a professional to do that for you.
It all depends on your budget. If you can ask for help from an expert, well that’ll work best for you. But, if you choose to design a website by yourself and work on its different aspects, make sure you gather all the necessary information. There’s a whole bunch of tips on improving your website regarding SEO aspects. You can start from this one.
Integrate Your Website With a Booking Engine
Without a booking engine integrated with your direct booking website, there’s no way you can get direct bookings through it, no matter how much money you’ve put into it. A booking engine enables your guests to see the rates and availability of your short term rentals in real-time and place a direct booking seamlessly with a few clicks.
So, this is another point you have to pay great attention to before choosing the right PMS. If you want to use the direct booking website offered by your PMS, there isn’t a problem because their booking engine must already be on their website package. But, if you still want your well-optimised website, your PMS must give you an iFrame or a WordPress plugin that can be used on your website; when your visitors tap the search button on your website, they get redirected to the booking engine and can place their booking.
Therefore, it is necessary to first think about how you’re going to set up your website, and then based on your decision, make sure your PMS meets your needs.
Also, a booking engine helps you to handle the payments and allows you to offer deals based on your booking regulations and different payment options.
Improve Your Short Term Rentals’ Online Reputation
Whether your potential guests came through a channel, your website, or just found you online, after taking a look at the photos of your property, the second thing they carefully scan is your rental’s reviews. For instance, if you can collect your guests’ real email addresses, after a couple of days, you can send them an email asking them to leave you a review provided that they were satisfied with their stay.
It is wise to remind them to share their experience with others because there’s always a chance that after they get back home and become busy with their everyday life, they’ll forget to leave you a review. Also, here’s a guide that will help you make up for lost Airbnb reviews in case your guests don’t get a chance to write an Airbnb guest review.
Offer Vouchers and Discounts for Direct Bookings
Vouchers are like gifts that help you build a strong customer relationship, as well as holding on to revenue. So, using vouchers is a win-win strategy for both guests and hosts.
When you’re using a direct booking website, especially during low seasons or the initial steps of your business, various types of vouchers help you attract more customers. Moreover, vouchers will increase the chance of the continuity of direct booking flow through your website.
In addition to all, the recent pandemic has been an absolutely unusual time, which has brought up many challenges for people in the hospitality industry. Depending on your marketing strategies, you can use promotions or offer your loyal customers a discount while reassuring them about the precautions you’re taking during COVID-19 days.
Work on Marketing Strategies to Gain Guest Loyalty
Last but not least, always keep an eye on gaining your guests’ loyalty. Even if your first-time guests came through an OTA or channel, you can always turn them to repeat guests and earn their loyalty.
Some guests scan OTAs and after finding your rental, land on your website and book directly with you. If they’ve already done this, your job is easier as you only have to offer them better rates on your website and an enriched guests experience during their stay. However, if they’ve come through a channel, be sure to make them aware of the much better rates your offer on your website, alongside the marketing campaigns, discounts and vouchers.
Just like a first date, you have to win their heart during their first stay in your short term rental. To reach this goal, you can ask for their feedback and adopt guest loyalty strategies like email marketing. To read more about these strategies, just tap this link.
Finally, Balance Your OTA Strategy
Even though it’s any property manager’s dream to get rid of the OTAs’ commissions, you still can’t fully let go of booking channels. As mentioned before, many travellers, after finding you on an OTA, come directly to your website since these websites can bring you a lot of exposure. But, it is important to work on strategies to convert all of these guests to direct ones by giving them a quality, top-class service.