The most important feature of a great hotel reservation system is enabling customers to make an efficient and friction-free booking, ideally while the hotel retains control of the guest and is not dependent on an intermediary.
For an independent hotel it is essential that the marketing strategies and channel mix are geared towards direct bookings
The direct channel:
•Has the lowest cost of acquisition
•Reduces business with the OTAs
•Allows you to retain control of your guests
•Increases revenue & profits
What tools enable a great book direct strategy?
1. Install a user-friendly, high converting booking engine
The best online booking engine
is a must-have for independent luxury hotels. Not all are created equal – does yours have these features?
- 7 days view for all room types
- 12 months availability
- Minimum number of steps to payment
- Special offers link directly to the engine
- Optimised for mobile devices
- Loyalty built-in
The direct booking process must be fast and simple so prospective guests can proceed to payment without any barriers.
2. Ensure your website is mobile-friendly
You need a well-designed website on which you can implement the booking engine
This needs to be optimised to attract the maximum number of visitors, engage them and funnel them to convert i.e. make a direct booking.
You might ask what gives a website great mobile user experience?
The ideal luxury hotel website focuses on the following features:
- Fast loading speed.
- Adjust automatically to device/browser (responsive)
- Retains all the functionality of your desktop site with clear call to action (CTA) buttons
- Menu items minimised in a burger menu
- Offer links are easily clickable buttons
- Easy navigation back to the home page.
- Ensure your visitors can find what they want with minimum scrolling.
3. Choose the best hotel channel manager
You will likely promote your hotel rooms through multiple online channels such as OTAs, GDS, meta search engines or direct channels on your website and social media pages.
Tracking these, ensuring you are getting the best yield from each and updating the PMS makes a channel manager an essential tool.
It acts as a connection between all online systems (including your booking engine) and the PMS.
Rates and availability only need to be uploaded once (into the PMS) – it then ensures that bookings are displayed and updated on all channels and your PMS simultaneously.
More than that a great system can also limit availability on certain channels and help with yield management.
4. Implement a meta-search integration
Meta search sites like TripAdvisor, Expedia and Trivago are undoubtedly popular among travellers and hotel guests and can act as both an environment to advertise your hotel and route browsers to your booking engine.
Be aware that some such as TripAdvisor are moving to a model where visitors can book directly on their site for a high commission.
Google Hotel Ads is an effective tool whereby you can display your own booking engine as an option in the knowledge panel at the right-hand side of the Google results page.
If you offer best rate on your own website your price it will clearly show as the cheapest in the list.
Integrations such as this can be beneficial in order to gain direct bookings but it is essential to implement the right strategy.
What are the key elements when implementing the best direct booking strategy?
Besides having your website, booking engine and marketing optimised, the most important element is to ensure that the best price is available on your website.
As a bare minimum you must have rate parity with the OTAs.
The ideal is to have a lower price and make sure you advertise this book direct advantage on your site and booking engine.
You must deliver a consistent message to your guests that if you book directly, you get the best price.
Another alternative is to limit your room types to the OTAs and offer a superior room for the same price only on your website. Most guests will check both the OTAs and a hotel’s own site; and will be delighted if they see a double room for €150 on booking.com and then a junior suite for the same price only available on your site.
You retain control of the guest and they are much more likely to book direct in the future.
A further strategy to encourage guests to book directly is by offering value adds and maintaining your room rate.
There are basically no boundaries when it comes to enticing guests with your hotel amenities.
You can provide a wide range of offers for direct bookers, such as free parking places, F&B vouchers, free welcome drinks or chocolate, room upgrades and free leisure facilities.
To be creative consider which offers could be included in your room rate, then think about which offers resonate emotionally for your guest segments.