The hotel industry is very big business…

and the Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) know it.

 

Online Travel Agencies include the likes of Booking, Expedia and Kayak as well as flash sale sites such as Secret Escapes. They provide platforms for hotels and holiday providers to list their properties and offer price comparison tools, allowing consumers to choose the best deal on the market.

 

For a small hotel, the exposure offered by OTAs can be attractive however, with commission charges reaching anything from 10-25% of sales, are OTAs cutting in to your bottom line?

Encouraging guests to book direct via your website is now more important than ever, cutting out the middle man and ensuring that hotels optimise their revenue.

To help, we have outlined 5 steps to help hoteliers engage with their customers and increase their direct bookings:

1) Fully optimise your website 

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Your website is your shop window to the world and a responsive, user-friendly site is paramount to encourage people to book direct. With over half of all website traffic coming from mobile, a fully optimised website that works on all devices is crucial and an old site puts you at risk from losing traffic and ultimately potential bookings. We love The Vicarage’s countryside luxury look on mobile and The Lime Tree’s blend of image and design-led elements.

 

2) Invest in a paid campaign 

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In such a competitive industry, one way to get ahead of the game is to start a Google PPC campaign. After all, the OTAs are already doing it… A PPC campaign will help you gain relevant traffic through paid ads and a well-structured campaign can allow you to increase exposure to the consumer market. For those who want to track your ROI, enable goals and conversions through your campaign to help track your click-to-booking conversion rate and evaluate the performance of the campaign.

 

3) Make booking easy

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Clear calls to action are vital to encourage people to book or enquire. Whether in your top-line navigation or with a “sticky” button that follows you around the site, it is important to make the booking process as simple as possible for your future guests. Sites like http://www.l-hotelmarrakech.com/ and https://www.rockliffehall.com/ have cleanly integrated their booking engines without disrupting the overall look and feel of their sites. Remember that when you chose a 3rd party booking provider, price isn’t everything. Some may offer competitive rates but have a lengthy process that damages your user experience. So, research the market and invest in a provider that offers a well-designed booking widget or iframe that works best for your hotel.

 

4) Offer you guests more 

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A key tactic to steer your guests away from the OTAs is to offer them something more. Whilst you cannot compete on the prices you have contractually agreed with the OTAs, explore what you can give guests that will encourage them to reserve a room through your website. Whether it be a bottle on arrival, a room upgrade or a complimentary breakfast, get creative with the packages and services you can offer, display them clearly on your site and measure your ROI.

 

5) Entice people in

A well-designed, responsive site goes together with beautiful imagery. If your objective is to boost your direct bookings, then investing in attractive, high-res imagery is crucial to encourage visitors to book with you and not the highly polished OTAs. If your website is your fist touch-point with your consumers then make sure it accurately represents what you have to offer. The Watersmeet’s shots of Woolacombe beach in the sun have us captivated.