Direct bookings are any bookings that your hotel confirms with the guest directly through your website, over the phone, by email, or from a walk-in.
Getting direct bookings is ideal for hotels because you don’t have to pay commissions, unlike the reservations that come from OTA channels. It’s also easier to upsell and build relationships with guests who book directly.
The good news is there are simple tactics you can use to quickly see an increase in direct bookings for your hotel. Here we’ll share seven ways to drive more direct bookings at your property.
1. Optimize your website
You’ll need a mobile-friendly, conversion driven website to drive more direct bookings.
Your website is often your guests’ first impression of your hotel, so it needs to be fast, user-friendly, and up to date, while also featuring good-quality images of your hotel and facilities.
Plus, having eye-catching and strategically-placed calls to action (CTAs) on every page of your website will encourage visitors to make a reservation while on your site.
Finding a professional hotel website builder will take the pressure of building a conversion-focused website off of you and let you rely on an expert team to handle every aspect of creating your website, from design and security to speed and SEO.
Investing in good channel management software that integrates with your PMS and website booking engine ensures that your rates and availability are consistent and up-to-date in real-time with the rates you have listed on OTAs – all without you having to update your website manually.
2. Digital marketing
Hoteliers can use digital marketing tools and techniques to drive direct bookings. Some examples include:
- Google Free booking links: Google launched Free Booking Links in March 2021, allowing your website to be listed in Google Hotel Search for free.
- Online ad campaigns: Creating targeted online ad campaigns based on information in your PMS (for example, guest demographics that are most likely to book) is a great way to drive more traffic to your website and get more direct bookings. You can run ads and easily track conversions through Google, Facebook, Instagram and more.
- Social media: You can use social media to engage your audience, capture new audiences and build a loyal community.
3. Loyalty programs
Running loyalty programs is a great way to incentivize guests to keep booking directly.
Members-only discounts and promotions can work well for getting previous guests back on your property. Another tactic is sending email campaigns to your past guests with attractive offers and discounts.
Loyalty incentives show your guests that you value their business and they’ll be more likely to book directly with your hotel so that they can redeem the rewards.
4. The billboard effect
Have you heard of the billboard effect? This concept describes the act of getting more direct traffic and bookings from your website simply by being listed on OTAs.
A study from Cornell University’s Center of Hospitality Research showed that 75% of people who booked directly with a well-known hotel brand had visited an OTA first.
So, being listed on OTAs is beneficial to your business, even if your focus is getting more direct bookings. Here’s a list of the biggest OTAs that you can use to promote your room inventory.
5. Add a personal touch
Personalization shows your guests that you appreciate them.
Through your PMS, you can create guest profiles that includes personal information they’ve shared with you during the booking process, including:
- Food allergies
- Special requests
When a past guest has a birthday or anniversary coming up, you can send them an automated email congratulating them and offering a discounted stay at your hotel.
Similarly, if you have a new selection of vegan fare coming to your restaurant, you could send an email update to any guests who informed you they are vegan through special requests. These personal touches put booking directly with you ahead of OTAs.
6. Find a commission-free booking engine
Getting a commission-free hotel booking system that is simple to use encourages your website visitors to book directly with your hotel. If a booking system is complex, you’ll find that people will leave your website to book with easy-to-use online travel agencies.
Euromonitor has predicted that by 2024, a quarter of online bookings will be completed via mobile device. With that in mind, one of the most important things you should look for in your booking engine is responsiveness, which means it’s designed to work on mobile devices.
7. Respond to reviews
As a best practice, respond to reviews promptly and appropriately. 95% of travelers will read reviews before they book their trip. With more platforms, forums and directories emerging, reviews are everywhere!
You can expect a high proportion of your guests to read reviews before booking. Replying to reviews pleasantly and professionally helps build a great reputation for your hotel and gives readers extra encouragement to book their reservation on your website.
Driving direct bookings doesn’t have to be a struggle. If you follow the steps we’ve just covered, you should see an increase grow steadily over time.