Beating the blues of online travel agencies OTA cost is becoming a very real problem, with estimates that the cost of doing the booking is now 20 percent of turnover .One of the advantages for the small accommodation providers is the ease of doing bookings, but the inherent problem with this is that a lot of providers became reliant on it..and like any addiction once its got you its to late.
Online bookings now account for 52 percent of bookings and that no is growing very fast at 10 percent per annum. It does give the small places un heralded exposure that they could not achieve by them selves and equals the playing field in a like for like situation. But with the rates for taking bookings becoming a high cost reality the benefits are coming under the microscope.
The early evolution of the OTA was to provide a last minute booking service so as to increase full occupancy ,this initial worked well and the culture of mutual existence worked well. During that time many OTA popped up creating a competive culture in the online travel world. But as things evolved that market has shrunk to only a few handful of players with many players been bought out and the marginal players closing. Today the market is basically consolidated into 2 players Bookings.com and Expedia and there associated banners .With them has come a increase in fees.
Recognising the cost the large players have now started to build in house booking systems with strong digital marketing and TV advertising to support there product. Building brand loyalty. They recognise that if they can reduce the booking cost they might as well offer that incentive to there customers which is a win win .
So what can you do to reduce your online travel agency expenses. The most important way now would be to drive sales direct to your website, and here are a few ideas to help you achieve this.
How can you increase direct bookings?
1. Make your website your most powerful weapon
In today’s digital world, a well-optimised website is half the battle won. There are several features that need to come together for a website to become “optimised”, like:
· It should be engaging, easy to navigate and user-friendly
· It should be search engine optimised to bring in online traffic
· It should take as little loading time as possible
2. Integrate a web booking engine into your website
This one is as obvious as it is self-explanatory. What better place for potential guests to make a booking than at the very place where they are getting a virtual fee of your property – your website.
Certain robust cloud property management systems (PMS) allow you the website-web booking engine integration from within the scope of the PMS. This ensures that the website visitors have real-time information of your inventory, room rates, etc. This is one of the easiest tips to increase hotel direct bookings.
3. Have a “Book now” button on your Facebook page
Social media is not a buzz word or a fad. It is real! Businesses across the globe have transformed the way they operate thanks to social media, and hospitality industry is no exception. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and the likes are all great platforms for potential guests to discover you and learn about you.
By integrating a booking engine into your brand’s Facebook page, you can really make hay while the proverbial sun shines!
The magic of social media platforms is that people have access to photographs, comments, opinions, experiences, etc. on your very page. And if they like what they see, they should have the option to book right away before they change their mind.
4. Improve your hotel’s reputation
Guest experience is sooner or later going to become your priority number one. We say this because the stats are all pointing in that direction.
Consider this, 98 percent of travellers read hotel reviews and of them 80 percent consider them extremely important before making the reservation. A property with a good online reputation stands a better chance at getting more hotel direct bookings.
A good way to improve your hotels reputation is to sign up with a review site that allows you to integrate it into your website, like TripAdvisor. This way, every time a guest leaves you a positive review on your website, it will appear on your TripAdvisor page and vice versa. This apart, you must also put in the effort to respond to reviews, no matter good or bad. This communicates a sense of responsibility and builds trust in potential guest.
Own up to your mistakes, in case of a negative review, and incentivise them to come back to you so you can undo that experience and make them happy! All these things speak volumes to the potential guest.
5. Everybody likes a discount, an offer or some perks
The best part about direct bookings is that you have complete control over it, unlike with OTAs. Give your website visitors an offer that will force them to make a hotel direct booking. Whether you choose to give your direct bookers a free spa coupon upon booking with you, or a 15 percent on their food and beverage bill, or even a 50 percent on their next stay with you – the options are plenty and the choice is entirely yours.
Whatever works best for you, for the season, with your target audience, is in your budget – throw in that offer. Publicise this offer so that more and more people come to check you out. It’s a win-win for everybody.
Direct booking is a boon for hotels across the globe and regardless of how big or small the hotel, everybody wants to cut down on OTA commissions.
6.Build a database of your customers and keep them informed.
Send news letters out on a periodical bases like 4 times a year and offer them your current special ,link with activity providers so they can enjoy savings and maybe help plan their holiday or stay.
7.Google ADD Words
Google add words can be a cheap way to advertise your place and put you at the top of the page. The most important thing is to make sure the message on your add reflects your accommodation so as to reduce click costs. Comparing click cost to booking costs can be a good addition to your marketing strategy.