The Ultimate Guide to Hotel Direct Bookings

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Nov 4, 2021 | Technology & Innovation | Reading Time: 13 minutes

As we see a resurgence of the tourism and hospitality industry worldwide, it’s natural to ask ourselves: What should be the steps to grow my business successfully? Although there is not only one answer to this, part of it necessarily involves increasing the share of hotel direct bookings in your company’s revenue.

But what are hotel direct bookings? What is the difference between indirect bookings? Which are the direct booking channels? And how can you increase the contribution of hotel direct bookings to your revenue?

That’s what our Ultimate Guide to Hotel Direct Bookings proposes to answer. In it, you will see:

What are hotel direct bookings?
Direct bookings vs. indirect bookings
The role of direct bookings within a distribution strategy
Direct booking channels
The importance of the digital experience in direct bookings
The importance of good service to increase direct bookings

Ready for all this content? So enjoy the reading!


Your hotel website can be your main source for direct bookings. Learn how to improve your website performance and generate more booking with the tips from the experts:

ebook cover hotel website


What are hotel direct bookings?

Hotel direct bookings are nothing more than those made by guests directly with the means of accommodation — that is, the hotel or inn. They can be done by phone, email, social networks, WhatsApp, and, mainly, through your hotel’s website, using or not booking engines.

Direct bookings vs. indirect bookings

Part of creating an effective distribution strategy is finding your customers wherever they are. Three of the most significant sources of bookings for hotels and other properties are online travel agencies (OTAs), metasearch sites, and your hotel’s website.

Each booking source has its advantages and challenges, so it’s essential to know the differences when creating your distribution strategy. Creating a dynamic mix of channels thou adjust to your hotel’s needs is crucial for developing a successful initiative.


Having problems finding guests or creating demand? In this episode of Hotel Cast, we chat with Pablo Torres, Hospitality Expert, about new travel demands and best practices in revenue management. Listen here:


Direct bookings

Direct bookings allow the hotel to carry out the transaction directly with customers. The advantages of direct sales are twofold: the hotel does not pay commission to third parties and maintains a direct relationship with the customer.

However, these reservations are not entirely free. First, you must have an online booking engine on your website to receive your bookings and process payments, even if it does not charge commission.

Second, you need to invest in marketing efforts to attract tourists and stay competitive in your market.

Benefits

  • Provide a direct relationship with your guests
  • More upsell opportunities before arrival
  • There is no commission paid to OTAs or other distributors, meaning more revenue and profit for your hotel
  • Loyalty programs can lower the total cost by increasing the lifetime value of each guest.

Challenges

  • Require digital marketing skills to keep costs down compared to other channels

OTAs

Online travel agencies (OTAs), such as Expedia and Booking, are widely used by tourists worldwide. Most OTA bookings come with a commission fee.

That means guests create their reservations and process payments through the OTA website, which maintains a negotiated commission per reservation before distributing the remaining payment amount to the hotels. Commission rates for some channels can reach 15% per booking.

Benefits

  • Easy access to tourists from all over the world
  • Access to niche markets through region-specific OTAs
  • Visibility for tourists who might not have known your hotel before the search (also known as the billboard effect, in which customers access an OTA for research but end up booking directly)
  • Marketing promotions and inventory allocation give you control over the percentage of OTA sales in your distribution mix.

Challenges

  • High commission rates for the most famous OTAs that keep increasing annually
  • Access to little information about guests who book your hotel on an OTA
  • Less control over the guest experience as your first point of contact is with OTA

Metasearch

Metasearch sites such as Kayak, TripAdvisor, and Trivago allow consumers to compare prices from multiple websites. On these sites, hotels bid for ad placement, and you only pay when a customer clicks on it. On the other hand, Google announced the launch of its free links for bookings in Google Hotel Search in 2021.

Metasearch differs from OTAs by working with a model that does not charge commission. Instead, you pay a cost-per-click (CPC). You can set a budget for how much you’d like to bid for each click and adjust bids to optimize your overall strategy.

Benefits

  • Visibility of your hotel during the search carried out by tourists
  • The CPC model balances the field of action by leading tourists to book directly on your website, giving you priority in the relationship
  • The CPC model also facilitates demand escalation as needed
  • You just pay for performance.

Challenges

  • You are competing in an open auction, which usually rewards larger budgets
  • Fluctuating CPC bids based on market demand means you must closely monitor your performance to avoid overspending.

The role of direct bookings within a distribution strategy

Websites like Booking and Expedia are additional distribution channels, but you should always focus on direct bookings. It may seem like an impossible mission, but just so you know, in Europe, the number of direct bookings is growing year by year. Some of the strategies to increase hotel direct bookings are:

  • Instant replies
  • Real-time assistance
  • Straightforward negotiation
  • Special offers
  • Sell ​​experiences
  • Attract traffic to your website

In this post, we explain in more detail how to do that with those 6 simple strategies.

Another way of boosting your hotel direct bookings is to invest in Revenue Management. Revenue Management in the Hotel Industry or RM is a methodology that puts together a set of techniques that aim to maximize the revenue of a business. Adapted to the hotel industry, the RM balances a specific hotel’s occupancy rate and profit.

Hotel competition is more aggressive now than ever. That’s why Revenue Management strategies are essential for hotels to get ahead of the competition and profit all year long. Some of the good practices of revenue management in the hotel industry that provides relevant benefits are:

  •     Upsell
  •     Dynamic rate
  •     Customer service automation
  •     Reputation/social proof

Learn more about Revenue Management strategies to boost your hotel direct bookings in this article.

hotel-direct-bookings - Travelers on reception

Direct booking channels

The modern traveler likes to find their next travel destination by searching online. From social media to Google search, everything plays a vital role in shaping their decision.

Let’s see the most critical channels for hotel direct bookings:

Hotel Website

Often, your website is the first impression you leave on your potential guests. And you can only make an excellent first impression and connect with your target audience if you know who they are. Your images, pictures, videos, and every other piece of content have to be aligned to culminate in a fantastic user experience.

In addition, it can be interesting to have tools that increase your website’s productivity and conversion potential. One of them is the chatbot, which will help potential guests get information when there is no one to answer them in real-time. Ideally, choose a solution geared towards the hospitality industry, such as Asksuite’s Chatbot.

Organic Traffic

Consumer use of metasearch channels, which primarily route bookings to OTA sites, has also been growing since 2017. Therefore, it is crucial to pay attention to off-page search engine optimization and local SEO. Hotels need to effectively use local SEO so that potential guests can quickly find them on online maps or by location.

If you want to attract those travelers to your hotel, you should start improving the visibility of your business on these search engines.

You need to remember that from your blog posts to your website pages, everything should create a perfectly seamless experience for your targeted audience. That means the content should be written in a way that clarifies their understanding and helps them make quicker decisions.

Social Media

Social Media can be your hotel’s best ally or worst enemy. It all depends on how you use it. Many travelers use social media as the main platform to check out hotels when they travel to a specific country or city.

Two of the leading social media used by travelers and hotels are Facebook and Instagram. Let’s take a closer look at each and how they can help your hotel business.

Instagram

Instagram is a great channel to explore, and it helps you put your brand on the radar and in the minds of potential customers. The hotel industry is very visual, so this platform is perfect to showcase your hotel, interact and tell stories that appeal to your audience. The use of hashtags can also bring visitors to your profile.

With the Asksuite solution, your hotel will be able to provide quick responses to potential guests using Instagram Messaging. That includes automated quotes with our AI and booking engine integration and getting leads from Instagram Messaging Ads.


Do you know the best strategies to promote your hotel on Instagram? In this new LIVE episode of Hotel Cast Tv, we invite two world-class experts, Calvin Tilokee and Regitse Cecilie Rosenvinge-Thürmer to talk about the best practices on Instagram for Hotels.

Watch the webinar here


Facebook

Facebook has over 1.9 billion daily active users, making it one of the most used social networks globally. That pretty much explains the importance of using this platform as an online marketing channel.

Facebook is an online channel with many benefits. For instance, it provides more opportunities to express your brand’s message and allows you to give a personalized experience that is valuable to online hospitality marketing.

Make sure you post quality content consistently. If you have a Facebook profile, don’t forget to mention it on your website and in your emails.

Email Marketing

Email is a central channel for hotels and should be included in your marketing strategy to attract guests and increase direct bookings even with so many different communication channels. Through email, you can promote offers to a selected audience and strengthen your relationship with frequent guests.

Another advantage of including emails in your strategy is that you can access essential data of your potential guests. And this data is what can help you to strategize your entire business.

Ads

Working with Ads might seem very difficult for non-marketers. Or even a waste of money when not done correctly. But the truth is that Ads can help you achieve excellent results.

The three most common platforms hoteliers use to advertise are Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and Instagram Ads. One thing you should have in mind is that Facebook and Instagram are now jointly owned. In other words, the ads that run on Facebook can also be run on Instagram.

WhatsApp

WhatsApp is one of the leading means of communication, with more than 2 billion people in over 180 countries using the app. Therefore, it has significant relevance as a sales and communication channel in the hospitality industry.

Some hotels just use WhatsApp to send the price alone, and this often scares the customer. The price alone will not make the traveler close with you. You need a good strategy for quotes.

Some good customer service practices through WhatsApp are:

  •     Quote Presentation
  •     Service Organization
  •     Lead Generation (potential guests)

Using these practices, you are sure to increase your direct bookings through WhatsApp.

Read more on these articles about hotel direct bookings channels and WhatsApp Business for hotels.


👉 The main communication channel in the world can be the best sales channel for your hotel
In this complete guide, we will show you how to boost direct bookings through WhatsApp [Complete WhatsApp Business Guide to Generate Direct Bookings]


The importance of the digital experience in direct bookings

Currently, it is almost impossible to decouple any buying experience from digital media. Therefore, it is necessary to create the best possible digital experience when it comes to direct bookings.

In this topic, we’ve listed a few points you should pay attention to is creating a memorable booking experience for your guests:

Mobile-first website

Since web traffic is predominantly mobile nowadays, mobile-first should be the approach. But it’s not just traffic that dominates mobile. Actual bookings should match that traffic.

Yet, to most independent hotels, that does not seem to be the case. That typically comes from a terrible booking experience due to either a poor booking engine or a poor integration with the hotel website.

Integrated customizable booking engine

The best website is only as good as its conversion, which heavily depends on your hotel’s booking engine.

The booking engine should be customizable. That means you should be able to not only adjust the look and feel to match your hotel’s website but to only ask for necessary information for your hotel (e.g., If you don’t need the address then don’t ask for it. You’ll see your conversion rates grow).

Also, the booking engine should reside within your hotel’s domain (this can be done, and your booking engine should support this!). The vendor’s domain should not appear anywhere.

Live chat

The huge advantage of live chat is that your agents can handle multiple conversations simultaneously. It is much more effective, and your guests receive their answers much quicker than by phone.

Add to that artificial intelligence, and you take the booking experience to the next level, freeing up your agents to dedicate even more of their attention to the guest, providing better customer service and a better booking experience. And, of course, it gives them more time to upsell premium products and services.

Reviews and FAQ

Reviews highlight your hotel’s strengths and weaknesses. And they do the same for your competitors. That is something you would like to incorporate into your content marketing.

Also, build content around questions and feedback you receive, which is also known as FAQ (frequently asked questions). It will help with your SEO and ultimately help you increase direct bookings.

The importance of good service to increase direct bookings

Another foundation for enhancing hotel direct bookings is offering world-class customer service. Even though there are different sizes for hotels, different ways to operate them, and different categories, the truth is travelers today have high expectations.

When travelers compare your service, they don’t compare it only with other hotels, but with any kind of business, they’ve been in contact with.

If you are not sure how to start or where you could improve the experience you offer, we listed helpful tips to help you convert more direct bookings.

Be available on the main digital channels

We’ve mentioned before that it is crucial to be available on the main digital channels as travelers tend to contact hotels directly on their channel of choice. That means sending hotel DMs on social media, for instance.

Nothing frustrates a customer more than:

  •     Sending a message and being asked to call or send an email instead
  •     Getting in touch by any channel (email, social media, chat) and having to wait for a long time for an answer
  •     If any of these situations happen, the most likely result is that they will give up on you and move to another hotel.

The ideal scenario is to offer relevant content or FAQ on your website and provide digital assistance so you can grab the online visitor on the spot. Many tools help you here, such as a LiveChat or a chatbot, or even both.

Capture potential guests’ information

Not all people who get in touch with your hotel make a booking. Many travelers contact you while they are still considering making future trips.

You can capture this information with or without technology. You can write down on an excel spreadsheet their basic information during a phone call, ask them to leave their contact number while watching them in the LiveChat.

Or you can have a chatbot in place on your website. They can capture the contact information when your potential customer asks for a room quote, for example. It’s easy and fast.

Then, your team can elaborate a strategy to contact those potential guests from different channels and create email campaigns or SMS campaigns to send them according to their preferences that you discover while providing customer service.

Combine human agents and technology

Another great way to provide excellent customer service is by combining human resources and technology. Simple and repetitive activities don’t bring value to tasks performed by a human agent. Automating these activities, including financial ones, can bring advantages to both clients and hotels.

Invest in the partnership between humans and machines and increase customer satisfaction and maximize hotel revenue.


🎥 What is the best way to combine human touch and technological efficiency to provide the ultimate customer experience in the hotel industry? In this episode of Hotel Cast Tv, we talk with Calvin Stovall and Christine Trippi to give you tips on how you can incorporate warmth and effectiveness into your hotel service.

Watch the webinar now


Be fast and efficient

If your potential guest has to wait for your answer, chances are they will try to contact another hotel instead. Answering travelers quickly and efficiently is essential to increase direct bookings, but many hotels still overlook this important aspect.

You can have an omnichannel platform, like Asksuite’s, that unifies your customer service in one screen. Using this tech, you will be able to follow the different requests in an easier and faster way, without the need to change tabs on your computer all the time to check for a new message.

You work smarter, and your customers get assistance faster. They won’t even have time to check out another hotel.

Be consistent

Standardization in service is a fundamental strategy to attract and retain travelers. It provides a sense of professionalism, and it’s the best way to guarantee the quality of your service in every channel.

When we analyze hotel service, unfortunately, we often find fragmentation and carelessness in support. Many hotels don’t even have a playbook or any kind of guidelines to give their associates in customer service, so they know the dos and don’ts.

Once again, you can also rely on technology to make your job (and your associates’ job) easier and standardized. If you use a chatbot, it will never answer incorrectly or say something that is not aligned with your brand!

Segment customers and assign the right agent

There are many types of customer service requests:

  •     Information
  •     Events
  •     Group packages
  •     Room quotes
  •     other

Make sure you assign the best team member to assist in that particular request. Assigning your best agent to a specific demand will provide a better service and increase the chances of sealing the deal.

Better prepared staff means more satisfied customers and more revenue.

Know your Guests

Providing a ‘wow’ experience to your guests must be your priority, and you can only accomplish that by knowing who your guests are.

Instead of trying to guess what your guests want, try to get to know them. That involves, for instance, collecting strategic information about them and creating Ideal Guest profiles. In other words, a profile that reflects the type of guest you want to attract to your business.


Having problems building your ideal guest profile? We’ve designed a template that will enable you to identify your Ideal Guest. Fill it out with the necessary information about your potential and existing guests and improve your communication:

Checklist Ideal Guest


Train your Commercial and Booking Team

Training your staff for delivering an outstanding guest experience should begin with the reservation and sales teams. Bookings should always be flexible. Booking agents and managers should have excellent interpersonal skills, but most of all, they need to be hospitable.

We are all about hosting, making customers feel good. We are all about welcoming guests and delivering that welcoming experience.

Learn more about excellent service for an outstanding guest experience in these three articles:

We hope this piece of content was helpful to you, and you could learn more about hotel direct bookings. With these tips, your direct booking numbers are sure to improve. Remember that strategies are not expenses. They are investments, as the results bring much more guests and profitability to your business.

If you want to know more about this topic, be sure to watch videos from our Asksuite Insights event, which took place between the 6th and 7th of October. Watch now!

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