10 Simple but Effective Direct Booking Tactics for Your Hotel Website
June 8, 2023
Online travel agencies, like Expedia and Booking.com, charge commissions as high as 15-30% per booking, which have a nasty way of eating into your hotel’s direct booking revenue. OTA commissions can be a necessary evil for keeping occupancy rates high, but there are ways to minimize their impact. Building a strategy to increase direct bookings can produce up to 30% more revenue, because you aren’t shelling out part of your sale to a third party. If you want to recapture these sales, you must understand how to utilize direct booking tactics on your website in order to compete with OTAs.
OTAs compete on price, but more importantly, they offer a user-friendly booking experience. OTAs allow travelers to book their flights, hotels, car rentals and more, all in one place. In order to steal back OTA bookings, you must compete on convenience.
To help travelers make informed booking decisions, offer them unique perks, add-ons, and experiences that are exclusively available through your hotel.
To help you narrow down your most compelling offer, we’ve compiled a list of actionable tips and strategies to increase direct bookings on your hotel website.
Direct Booking Incentives
Direct booking incentives are rewards or benefits that you offer guests who book directly through your hotel’s website. Direct booking incentives are an effective strategy for reducing OTA commissions, because they offer benefits travelers couldn’t find elsewhere.
A survey by Software Advice and Google found that 75% of travelers are more likely to make direct bookings with incentives like room upgrades and room service promotions.
Examples of Direct Booking Incentives:
Price Match Guarantee: Offer to match or beat the rates offered by OTAs like Expedia, ensuring guests that they are getting the best deal by booking directly through your hotel’s website.
Extra Night Free: When you offer a free night or other price promotion, you create a sense of urgency and exclusivity for guests who book directly with you. It also encourages guests to book longer stays, and allows you to compete on price without lowering your nightly rate.
Early Check-In or Late Check-Out: Offer guests who book directly the option to check in early or check out late, based on availability.
Exclusive Packages: Offer unique packages that are only available to guests who book direct, such as spa packages or dining experiences.
Best Room Selection: Guarantee the best room selection to guests who book directly through the hotel’s website, rather than reserving less-desirable rooms for those who book through OTAs.
No Hidden Fees: Be transparent about all fees and charges, ensuring that there are no hidden fees when guests book directly through the hotel’s website.
Personalized Service: Offer personalized service to guests who book directly through the hotel’s website, such as a welcome gift or a handwritten note upon arrival.
Flexibility: Offer more flexible cancellation policies and allow for modifications to the reservation for guests who book directly through the hotel’s website.
Strategies to Promote Direct Booking Incentives
It’s not enough to simply have direct booking incentives in place. Your hotel must actively promote them to potential guests to maximize their impact. Without proper promotion, guests may not be aware of the incentives, or may not understand their value, and as a result, you’ll continue to lose bookings to online travel agencies.
To put it in perspective: Expedia Group spent $6.1 billion on marketing in 2022, while Booking Holdings (Booking.com) spent $6 billion. OTAs are not staying quiet on their offerings, and neither should you.
Below you’ll find ten different strategies to help you recapture online bookings, along with tactics and examples of how to put each strategy into action.
1. Benefits Nudges and Popovers
Benefits nudges are small messages that appear on your website and promote the benefits of booking directly with your hotel. For example, a benefit nudge may appear to website visitors while they’re browsing your rooms and rates. The nudge would contain a summary of the benefits of booking through your hotel website, followed by a short CTA like “Book Now!”
Popovers are larger messages that appear when a potential guest is about to leave your website. Similar to benefits nudges, a popover will promote direct booking incentives, however it is crucial to create a sense of urgency and exclusivity in order to keep visitors on your site.
As you can see in the example below, the popover includes copy that entices visitors to become an “A-List Insider” and unlock exclusive benefits.
2. Comparative Advertising
Comparative advertising involves directly comparing your hotel’s products or services to those of your competitors in order to highlight your unique selling points and competitive advantages.
Perhaps the most famous example of comparative advertising is the “Get a Mac” campaign from the early 2000s, which pitted Mac vs. PC. These commercials highlighted the unique selling points of Mac, such as its sleek design, ease of use, and reliability, and positioned it as the superior choice compared to PC.
This advertising strategy can easily be recreated on your hotel website, with the help of a few tools:
Rate Parity (Rate Comparison)
Rate comparison tools can be a powerful way to position your hotel competitively and increase direct bookings. By displaying real-time rates from different booking channels (such as online travel agencies and other booking sites) on your hotel website, you give travelers the ability to easily compare prices and options.
When travelers see that your hotel website offers the best rate, they are less likely to continue searching on other sites. This not only helps to minimize the chance of losing potential bookings, but it also helps to build trust with travelers who are looking for the best deal.
One effective way to utilize rate comparison tools is to place a pop-up on your checkout page that shows travelers they’ve received the best price for their booking.
Direct Booking Benefit Comparison
By displaying a pop-up on their website that showcases the direct booking benefits offered by other hotels, potential guests can easily compare the benefits of booking directly on your website versus booking through a third-party website.
These benefits could include things like free breakfast, complimentary Wi-Fi, free parking, late check-out, and more. By comparing these benefits, travelers can see the value in booking directly with your hotel rather than going through a third-party website.
This not only ensures your potential guest feels confident they’ve received the best deal but also adds an extra level of convenience to the guest experience at your hotel. By highlighting the benefits of booking directly on your website, you are providing an easy way for guests to see why booking with you is the best option.
3. Content Marketing
Creating valuable and engaging content should be a key part of any hotel marketing strategy, and is crucial for driving traffic to your hotel website. In fact, a study by Demand Metric found that content marketing can generate three times more leads than traditional marketing methods, and costs 62% less. Lucrative channels for marketing your direct booking incentives include email newsletters, social media, and blogs.
By offering incentives such as exclusive discounts, free room upgrades, or loyalty program points in exchange for signing up for your email newsletter, you can entice potential guests to provide their contact information and enter your sales funnel.
Once a traveler signs up for your email newsletter, you have the opportunity to build brand recognition and cultivate a relationship with them. By providing valuable content, such as information about local events or personalized recommendations based on their interests, you can establish a connection with the traveler and keep your brand top-of-mind.
As you continue to engage with the traveler through email newsletters, the chances of them booking directly with you instead of through an online travel agency (OTA) increase.
For several years, social media has allowed hotels to expand their reach and establish more intimate connections with potential guests – and it only continues to grow in importance.
Promoting direct booking incentives on social media is a fantastic way to connect with younger generations of travelers who are increasingly using social media to research and plan their trips. In fact, MMGY has found that 40% of travelers above the age of 30 prefer to research travel on TikTok over Google.
This marks a significant shift for hotel marketing, as generations young and old become more reliant on social media for their travel experiences. This begs the question: how can your hotel use social media to promote direct bookings in 2023?
- Short-form video: TikTok changed the game for social media marketing, ushering in a new focus on short-form video. As stated by Forbes, “the best marketing strategy in 2023 will be one with integrated video” and MMGY reports that 34% of travelers were influenced by TikTok in 2022.
- User-generated content: One of the most reliable means of developing credibility with prospective guests is through user-generated content (UGC). User-generated content refers to content created by hotel guests, as opposed to professional marketing content. Motivating users to share videos of their experience, including their stay, meals, amenities, and other aspects, can be highly beneficial for promoting your direct booking incentives.
- Influencer campaigns: By partnering with influencers who share your brand’s values, you can create authentic content that resonates with their followers. This can help you reach new audiences and increase brand awareness across different social media platforms.
- Paid Ads: Paid ads provide more predictable results compared to organic posts, making them an ideal approach for direct booking promotions and deals. Paid ads allow for targeted audiences, increased reach, measurable results, and customizable budgets. For the best results, leverage the strategies above (Short-form video, UGC, and Influencer campaigns) in your paid social media campaigns.
Blogs are a valuable tool for hotels looking to promote their direct booking incentives and improve their search engine optimization (SEO). By creating high-quality blog content that highlights your direct booking incentives, you can engage with potential guests and increase your visibility in search engine results pages.
One of the main advantages of using a blog to promote your direct booking incentives is that it allows you to provide valuable information to potential guests in a more engaging format than a standard website page. For example, you could create a blog post that highlights the unique features of your hotel, such as its location or amenities, and offer direct booking incentives for guests who book through your website.
Another benefit of using blogs to promote your direct booking incentives is that they can help you establish your hotel as an authority in your niche. By providing helpful and informative content, you can position yourself as an expert in the hospitality industry and build trust with potential guests.
4. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
If you search for anything hotel or travel related on Google, you’ll no doubt see results for Booking.com, Trivago, or another large OTA in the top results. That’s why optimizing your website for search engines (SEO) is a crucial step in your direct booking strategy.
To increase the chances of potential customers finding your website over an OTA, you must optimize it to appear under relevant keywords. As mentioned above, blogs play a crucial role in this, as they allow you to incorporate targeted keywords and phrases.
However, optimizing your website for search engines requires more than just blogs. In order to improve your search engine ranking, we recommend hiring an SEO specialist to liaise with your web development team. Together, they can work to improve your website through the following process:
- Optimize page titles and meta descriptions: Ensure that your page titles and meta descriptions include your targeted keywords and accurately describe the content on your web pages.
- Publish high-quality content: Create high-quality and engaging content, such as blog posts, that includes relevant keywords and provides value to potential guests.
- Use alt tags for images: Use alt tags to describe images on your website using relevant keywords to improve accessibility and search engine visibility.
- Build backlinks: Build backlinks to your website from reputable sources, such as travel blogs or tourism websites, to improve your website’s authority and search engine ranking.
- Ensure website speed: Optimize your website speed to ensure that it loads quickly and provides a good user experience for visitors.
- Use structured data: Implement structured data on your website to help search engines better understand the content and improve your website’s visibility in search results.
5. Guest Reviews & Social Proof
According to Expedia Group’s findings, there is a 72% likelihood that customers will rate guests’ feedback higher than a hotel brand name. On top of this, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations – solidifying the importance of having guest reviews front and center on your hotel website.
In the case of online reviews, you can use competing OTAs to your advantage. OTAs are popular for hotel reviews, and with the help of a reviews widget, you can pull reviews from OTAs to be displayed on your site. With this widget installed on your site, guests will be shown reviews and rankings from sites like Tripadvisor or Facebook prior to checkout, thus increasing the chance of making a direct booking.
Additionally, social proof nudges can be used to induce FOMO (fear of missing out) and the bandwagon effect. The bandwagon effect is a well-known phenomenon where people are more likely to do something if they see others doing it as well. Including social proof nudges like “Join the thousands who have already booked directly with us” or “90% of our guests recommend booking directly with us” builds a sense of trust and encourages direct bookings.
Of course, not all reviews are positive, but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored. Responding to reviews, whether negative or positive, shows potential guests that your hotel is attentive and values feedback. According to TripAdvisor, properties that respond to more than 50% of their reviews receive 24% more bookings than those that respond to fewer reviews.
6. Seasonal Promotions and Contests
Seasonal promotions and contests can be a great way to incentivize guests to book directly with your hotel. For example, a Valentine’s Day promotion could offer guests a free bottle of champagne when they book a three-night stay directly through your website.
Follow the steps below to build an effective seasonal promotion or contest for your hotel:
- Determine your goals: Set clear objectives for your promotion or contest, such as increasing occupancy during a slow season, boosting revenue, or increasing brand awareness.
- Decide on the promotion or contest: Choose a promotion or contest type that aligns with your goals, such as discounted room rates, added-value packages, social media photo contests, or refer-a-friend programs.
- Create a landing page: Build a dedicated landing page on your hotel website that highlights the promotion or contest and provides all relevant details.
- Promote the offer through various channels: Spread the word about your promotion or contest through email marketing, social media, and paid advertising, and use persuasive messaging and visuals to encourage direct bookings.
- Implement pop-ups on your website: Use pop-ups on your website, particularly on the check-out page, to draw attention to the seasonal deals and offer an additional incentive to book directly.
- Monitor and measure results: Track the success of your promotion or contest by monitoring website traffic, click-through rates, and direct bookings, and use this information to refine your approach for future campaigns.
7. Improve the Booking Experience
Remember: OTAs offer a convenient user experience, and in order to compete you must provide a frictionless booking experience on your own website.
To do so, consider hiring an experienced UX/UI designer to ensure your website’s booking process is as seamless as possible. According to statistics, up to 50% of bookings are abandoned on mobile devices due to a poorly optimized checkout process, while 13% of travelers have abandoned a booking because the checkout process took too long.
To improve the booking experience, consider implementing a “Save My Booking” feature. This will allow interested guests to save their booking and return to your website at a later time. Additionally, integrating a “Complete My Reservation” widget could also prove beneficial. This widget pops up when a guest has selected their dates but navigates away from the booking engine page.
You can even offer booking incentives, such as reduced room rates or food and beverage credits, to encourage guests to complete their reservation. By implementing these features and hiring experienced UX/UI designers, your hotel can offer a seamless booking process that keeps guests coming back.
8. Special Offer Notifications
Similar to benefits popovers and seasonal promotions, you can use special offer notifications to incentivize guests to book directly with your hotel. For example, your special offer can appear as a notification on your homepage.
The key thing here is to create a sense of urgency for your special offer. In this case, you can offer a 15% discount on any bookings made in the next 24 hours. This incentivizes potential guests to make a reservation immediately, rather than continuing their search and potentially booking through a third party.
9. Live Chat & Support
Having a live chat feature on your hotel’s website can be a game-changer. Live chat allows potential guests to quickly get answers to their questions, reducing friction in the booking process. Additionally, live chat agents can provide personalized service to guests, helping to build trust and encourage direct bookings.
10. Booking Abandonment Campaigns
If you want to increase your hotel’s direct bookings, it’s crucial to consider implementing booking abandonment campaigns in your email marketing strategy. Even if you have successfully driven traffic to your website, a significant portion of your potential guests may still abandon their booking due to factors such as a complicated checkout process or unexpected fees.
To ensure you don’t lose out on these potential bookings, it’s important to have a follow-up reminder campaign in place. By leveraging booking abandonment campaigns, you can send personalized and targeted emails to these potential guests, reminding them of their incomplete booking and offering incentives to encourage them to complete the process.
This approach can help you address the pain points that led to the abandonment in the first place, increasing the likelihood of conversion and ultimately leading to more direct bookings for your hotel.
If you’re not sure where to start, RezRecover is a tool that can help hoteliers recover lost bookings by sending booking abandonment recovery reminders. RezRecover includes an entire suite of tools designed that both re-engage interested travelers and stop booking abandonment before it happens – such as real-time notifications and exit intent offers.
Setting up the on-site campaigns and other marketing initiatives we’ve covered in this article can require a lot of effort. However, all this work can be wasted without a follow-up reminder campaign in place. RezRecover campaigns ensure that you recapture a good portion of the traffic you worked so hard to get. Moreover, these campaigns give hoteliers a chance to reiterate all of their direct booking incentives directly in the reminders, which helps to address any barriers that caused someone to leave in the first place.
Direct bookings are crucial for the success of any hotel. OTAs can be convenient, but the high commissions can eat into your hotel’s profits. By implementing the strategies, tactics, and tools covered in this article, your hotel can reduce its dependence on OTAs and increase direct bookings, resulting in higher revenue and a more sustainable business model.
Incentivizing guests to book directly with your hotel not only reduces lost revenue due to high OTA commissions, but also allows for a more personalized guest experience. By providing exclusive perks and discounts, optimizing your website for search engines, and running seasonal promotions or contests, your hotel can differentiate itself from the competition and attract more direct bookings. We hope these tips and insights will help your hotel succeed in the competitive hospitality industry!
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