How to Drive Customers to Book Direct
Hotels should have direct access to their website from all review sites and OTAs, focus on mobile and consider rate parity to funnel bookings to direct channels and protect hotels' reputation.
The commissions paid to Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) are often viewed as just “the cost of doing business” in the hospitality industry. According to a recent L2 report, hotels forfeited $2.5 Billion to OTAs in 2010 which begs the question- are there ways to limit this expense? In the Facebook Factor I talked about how fans and advocates are more likely to book directly with hotels. This can reduce the influence of review sites and the commissions paid to OTAs such as Travelocity and Expedia. How can savvy hotels increase this phenomenon? How can hoteliers use social media and enhanced technology to incentivize customers to book directly? In a slowly rebounding economy the cost savings between direct bookings ($2 to $6) and OTA bookings ($40 to $120) can mean the difference between thriving and simply surviving.
Driving Direct Bookings
Consider why OTAs are so popular….they allow unparalleled browsing of properties by price point, location, user reviews, ratings, etc. Customers use OTAs like the yellow pages of hotels- if your property is not listed customers are less likely to know that you exist. An OTA or review site is usually the first stop when a traveler is considering a trip. Travelers often do not book during that first visit to Hotels.com, TripAdvisor, or Travelocity. They browse to learn about pricing and availability before they move forward with booking both a hotel and transportation. During an initial browsing session customers may view a few profiles, read reviews, and click through to a hotel’s website for more information. This is the ideal time to start a social media relationship with that customer and hopefully drive a direct booking. Consider some ways to convert travelers to your direct channel.