How small hotels can fight for bookings

 width=There is one thing that always ensures bookings – brand awareness. Big hotel chains have no issues with it. Everybody knows their names, as they have huge budgets dedicated to their employer branding and hundreds of people working on their visibility. But how can small hotels fight the big brands? What can you do as a smaller business owner to receive bookings? Let’s look at some of the best tools you can use as well as general concepts that can help in the process.

Online Travel Agencies and channel managers

First and most importantly, make sure you are connected to at least one Online Travel Agency. Working with booking platforms is the ideal solution for smaller hotels. While usually, the large brands are on the first pages of the search, all it takes is for a person to choose certain filters and your hotel can get all the visibility it needs. The main goal of those websites is not so much advertising hotel chains as it is giving travellers a choice by placing all of relevant hotels in one, easy to navigate place.

There are hundreds of OTA brands you can choose from, starting from the monopolists on the market – Booking.com and Expedia, to those dedicated to certain countries like Hotelgenio for Spain or Webjet for Australia. And if you are worried about the commission, there is actually a platform that does not use it – the Dutch website Bidroom.com. To learn more about the Online Travel Agencies read my ultimate OTA cheat sheet.

After you connect your hotel to an OTA, it is advised that you use a channel manager. This way you do not risk overbooking your property or confusing your guests by offering them rooms that are no longer available. There is a wide variety of options you can choose from, like Cloudbeds or Cubilis, so you will surely find one that best suits your needs.

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Online booking buttons

If you want more direct bookings, you have to make the online bookings available forÊ guests entering your website. It might seem obvious, but many hotels seem to forget that phone calls and emails are no longer the number one way of making reservations. Your guests want to make the booking quickly and without hassle, preferably on the same website you display your rooms on. They do not want to switch from one page to another in search for your contact details. It has to be as intuitive and easy as possible.

That is why you should think about adding booking buttons to your offer page. They will help make it more intuitive and ensure more direct bookings for your property. After all, the customers of the 21st century are searching for simplicity and comfort of above all else. A good widget is the SiteMinder’s Booking Button. It has a simple and clean design with many additional options you can choose from.

The website’s usability

If you want people to visit your website and actually stay on it, you have to make sure it is as clean and easy to navigate as possible. Its usability is one of the key factors that will make the guests stay on it and take your offer seriously. They need to be able to find any information they might need quickly.

According to the newest trends, the design of the website should be clean and transparent. You should avoid using distracting pictures and images, or inserting too much content onto one subpage. Instead, go for light backgrounds and easy-to-find subpages with just enough content to give your potential guests the necessary information. Remember to use pictures of your estate to give a better idea of what it looks like.

You can actually test your website for usability by asking a group of customers unfamiliar with it to go through it and try to get certain information, while also giving you the feedback on how easy or difficult it was and what they thought about it in general. It is a great way to find the flaws and fix them.

Also, don’t forget about translating your website into other languages. If your budget doesn’t allow you to work on many of them, find out where your guests usually come from, pick two or three languages, and focus on those.

Investing in social media marketing

Unlike big outdoor campaigns, social media marketing is cheaper, and if done right, it can be very beneficial. The Internet has become one of the most important mediums of communication with customers, and you should always keep that in mind. Having a dedicated Facebook page is the necessary minimum, especially to attract the millennials who are now becoming one of the biggest groups of active travellers.

Instagram is also a great tool to interact with your guests in a fun, easy-going manner. Firstly, it lets you show both your hotel as a whole, as well as the activities inside of it. It also gives you more credibility, as people can interact with you and have a glimpse at your work.

Too often, ignoring the social media can result in the losses in revenue. However, remember that it all depends on your target audience. If you primarily want to attract the business travellers, you might want to focus on Linkedin. Get to know your guests and customize your social media to fit their expectations.

Personalization

What can truly distinguish your hotel from the bigger chains is the connection you have with your guests. Smaller properties can navigate between their customers more easily and therefore make the contact very personal. It doesn’t mean that the travellers do not get to receive personal treatment from chains, but small hotels are the ones that can truly feel like home.

That is a weapon you can choose to compete with for bookings. Your guests do not have to pay to get better treatment – all of them get the better treatment. You can listen to their needs more attentively and craft their stay into something unforgettable. And in addition to providing accommodation, you can give them that extra something – experiences. You can organize a BBQ or pool championships, you can take your guests for a trip around the city, or make Saturdays into karaoke nights. The smaller size of the hotel actually makes it all easier for you. Of course, you are not obliged to do it, but you always have that opportunity when you want to attract travellers to your property.

Unique hotel design

Again, it is not an obligation, but many smaller hotels choose to compete by creating a unique design within its structures. They stand out from their competitors by actually being different, finding ways to be special. ÒDesign hotelsÓ are becoming increasingly popular. There are even websites dedicated to specifically to this subset.

Many of these properties are true pieces of art that seem more like galleries than accommodation providers. The spectacular interiors and splendid exteriors put them high on the list of anybody seeking luxury. By staying in such hotels, guests often feel special. Of course, you don’t have to change the entire design to receive bookings, but that is just one way to do it, especially if you are thinking about opening a new place.

Getting smaller?

Sometimes what people truly look for in a hotel is peace. They want to escape from busy city lives and find some tranquillity away from crowds. That is why we are observing a trend among travellers to choose smaller boutique hotels in the contrast to the big chains.

If you already own a boutique hotel, use it to your advantage. Advertise it as the secret escape, an oasis for the tired traveller to find shelter from the outside world. It is one way to differentiate your property from the others on the market and use your most prominent traits as your forte.

Loyalty programs

Apart from attracting new guests, you should remember about those who have already visited your property, especially if you know that they are frequent customers. Loyalty programs are very popular amongst travellers, so consider adding them to your customer care must-haves. The more you award loyalty, the bigger the chances of it growing even stronger. It is especially important since those are the guests that tend to book directly via hotels’ websites. Offering them discounts on room prices or other special benefits, such as welcome treats, spa entries or free breakfasts is easy to manage, inexpensive and yet very memorable for the guests. So remember that the next time a loyal customer comes to your property.

Those are a few simple steps to help you get more visibility and fight with the larger competitors. You may use all of them, or just a few, depending on your needs and capabilities.

About the author

Brought up in Poland, KlaudiaÊFere_czuk is a journalist and a blogger, with articles published in Business Hotel, MamStartup and more, as well as over 150 blog posts related to the hospitality industry and travel on her account. She focuses mostly on the travel market, with special regard to the Online Travel Agencies.

 

 

 

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