It is not an astonishing piece of news anymore that online bookings play a key role in the hospitality industry, bypassing the offline channel of bookings tremendously. The trend has definitely sharpened over the last few years, where 60% of all hotel bookings are now done digitally (failteireland). Having said that, Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) have become a dominant part of the industry now, playing a key role in generating tremendous business for the hotels. The hotel industry has been quite dependent on OTAs to upsurge their occupancy rates, though a lot of bookings come directly as well, through the hotel website.
Directly booking a hotel online, offers a plethora of benefits to both the parties involved; the traveler and the hotel.
The well-being of a hotel’s website has assumed paramount importance in this huge rush of direct bookings, with hoteliers investing a huge amount in the same to ensure a struggle-free booking process for travelers.
Hotels can easily get more direct bookings by taking care of the following aspects:
- Smart web design, making the user interface, easy and intuitive.
- Flashing details of various deals and packages clearly on the website
- Clear, vibrant images of the hotel rooms, dining area, swimming pool, etc. accelerates the decision-making process of booking.
- The ‘Book Now’ button should be featured bold and big on the website, so that there is no chance of giving it a miss by interested travelers. Giving customers the comfort to book instantaneously is an essential part of any good hotel website.
- A booking engine, integrated well with the website makes it possible for the travel customers to check rates and availability of the rooms for any specific date, and direct them to the booking page with ease.
- Travelers research and look for the best available rates before confirming a booking, and if your hotel website is offering the best deal, their hunt would usually stop there. Normally, hotels are required to maintain consistent rates across all booking platforms, irrespective of the arrangement where commission is paid to OTAs.
- A price check widget, well embedded in the hotel website offers guests an immediate comparison of the deals offered by other hotels in the vicinity as well as the rates for your hotel room through various third-party agents. These widgets enhance the experience of users by allowing them to stay on your hotel website to proceed to booking, avoiding website redirection
- In countries where rate parity is strictly adhered to, it is mandatory for hotels to stick to the pre-decided rates. However, in countries where rate parity is banned, hotels are in a better position to offer lucrative rates to guests (lower than OTAs) and entice them to book directly.
- Payment for any booking should be made extremely simple on the website, by offering an easy selection of Payments Gateways, (credit card, debit card, net banking, etc.) and by making all the options clearly visible.
- Well, it goes without saying that the hotel website must be mobile-friendly. A latest finding reveals that of all direct online bookings, 30% are made on mobile devices (tablets and smartphones), and it is increasing at a rate of 1% per quarter (Rezdy data).
- Make sure your website works devise agnostic and works seamlessly across all platforms, including mobile phones, tablets, laptops, etc. In case a page takes more time to load on any particular device, the visitor might lose patience and probably move to another website to find a better deal.
- Make sure that you have done your online reputation management well and there are a lot of positive reviews about your hotel (and the services) posted on your website and that all of them are duly responded to.
These few aspects, if taken care of, give benefits in abundance to the traveler and the hotel, giving a strong push to direct bookings.
Some key benefits to the hotels are listed below:
- Hotels usually pay anywhere between 15 to 30 per cent of a booking to OTAs as commission. However, when OTAs are not involved, i.e., when a traveler books his/ her stay directly with the hotel, the commission is nowhere in the picture. The entire booking amount in this case goes to the hotel kitty, thereby generating higher revenues (RevPAR) per room for them.
- Hotels acquire details of customers (guests) who book directly, helping them in establishing and maintaining direct relationship with them in future. This is done through various ways like updating them about various promotional offers, offering special discounts, providing personalized service, extra perks, etc.
Booking directly through a hotel website is much more profitable for the traveler as well; check out how:
- Best rooms available are offered to those who book directly, along with personalized room packages.
- Flexible check-in and check-out timings
- In case a traveler wishes to make any last minute changes to his/ her stay (for e.g. changing the date of stay, timings, etc.), the hotel offers flexible change policies for direct bookers, where their representatives are certainly more accommodating to such requests. Moreover, in case any trouble arises with the booking or if any clarity is required regarding the stay, one could again contact the hotel directly, resolve issues and demand a refund, if needed. This can be quite cumbersome if the booking is done through an OTA.
- Hotels usually run a variety of loyalty programs and a customer booking directly on a regular basis through the hotel website keeps earning some points through the program. Most of these programs have expanded redemption options beyond free rooms and upgrades, giving members the chance to trade points for gift certificates, concerts and events, airline tickets, etc.
- Personalized experience in the form of dedicated staff to care of the traveler’s needs, offering complimentary services, city tours, etc.
Given the wide ambit of advantages that direct bookings offer to both the parties involved, it makes perfect sense to focus on this strategy. However, hoteliers cannot ignore the role of OTAs in bringing the maximum business; hotels need to maintain their relations with OTAs to keep that going and at the same time work on increasing their direct bookings as well.
The hotels need to keep strengthening their direct booking mechanism from time to time, in order to deliver an unparalleled experience to the guests. The customers, both existing and potential, must be well educated about various perks of booking their accommodation directly with the hotel.
So, hoteliers; be smart, go direct and offer the best!!!