The ultimate goal of every hotelier should be having their guests choosing to book through the hotel’s own high-performing booking engine.
This is the lowest cost acquisition channel and the best way to grow profit. The competition to have the best booking engine for independent hotels is fierce.
If you want to outsmart your competitors, you need to do everything to optimise all the relevant factors under your control.
1. Simplify the Booking Process
When a potential hotel guest is ready to book they need to know:
• Are there any rooms available on their preferred dates?
• What the rooms look like and what facilities they have?
• How much is it going to cost them?
The most efficient way for them to find answers and book a room is from right on your home page. On average for our clients, over 30% of direct bookings come from here.
A booking widget with prefilled check in and check out dates should be placed on the top right of the home page. This is also a good place to highlight your book direct advantages e.g. guaranteed 10% cheaper.
Your accommodation page should have up to date images or videos for each room type. There should be call to action (CTA) buttons for more information and to go straight to the booking engine page.
Booking CTAs can also be placed on other high converting pages such as special offers or gallery.
2. Focus on your target guest
You need to specify who your target audience is. There are some great ways to figure out your target guests such as your Google analytics data, your booking patterns over a period of time, your knowledge of your guests or an in-house survey.
You need to convince your potential guests that your high-end hotel provides them with benefits, comforts and convenience which they won't find anywhere else.
3. Present your independent hotel in a unique light with the best content
Well written, relevant and up-to-date content
is a must. This should include details of all the features of your hotel - rooms, restaurants and bars, your spa, your location and nearby attractions. A rolling 12-month content calendar is a great way of ensuring that you have a plan of what to publish during each coming month.
Researching your target guests and your competitors will lead to authentic content which resonates with guests who are looking for that elusive experience. Capture browsers attention with an attractive headline, grab their interest with your key benefits and get them to take action with a CTA button.
4. Special Offers
Special offers are a brilliant tool for driving direct bookings primarily because they are under your control. You can deliver discounts or value-adds to website bookers which are not available to the OTAs. They should be clearly presented on the home page as well as on a special offers landing page. Optimise the CTAs so that browsers are taken directly to the booking page thus maximising the chances of conversion.
5. Cultivate your email strategy
There will always be website visitors who are simply browsing, dreaming of a weekend away or planning a trip and comparing facilities and prices. They are also potential hotel guests.
Encourage them to subscribe to your hotel ezine, maybe with a sign-up incentive. Once they have opted in, you can email them your news, events and offers. Your subscribers are much more likely to book direct.
6. Enhance your traffic
Having a comprehensive, well-defined marketing funnel for your hotel will drive more traffic to the website. Measured in terms of the number of user sessions, this is probably the most important KPI for a book direct strategy.
A great way to increase organic sessions on your website is by running a blog. This also ties in to sharing your content on social channels including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.
Once your blog is set up it is important to regularly publish relevant, valuable content. You can add eye-catching CTA banners to the blogs so that readers are encouraged to go directly to your hotel booking system.
In this article we have looked at six of the most essential online activities for a great book direct strategy. Consideration must be given to attracting users to your site, engaging them and then converting them to make a booking. Using well positioned booking CTAs, persuasive content, email marketing and special offers will help to turn your hotel website into a direct booking machine.