Online travel agents (OTAs) and hoteliers seem to exist in a perpetual love-hate relationship. While the likes of Booking.com and Expedia may open up unattainable markets for hoteliers, they can also greatly erode the bottom line, making it difficult to increase hotel business and revenue.
This is especially true for independent properties, that do not have the bargaining power of leading brands and often pay the highest commission rates. Abundant marketing budgets and top-notch technology keep propelling OTAs further, leaving even seasoned marketers grasping for answers.
Do you feel like you are up against a global army of OTA specialists? Are you unsure of how to increase your hotel’s business? We are here to offer you solutions and help take charge of your distribution channels.
Only The Best
Here is the be-all and end-all of your distribution strategy: You must offer the best rate with the best terms and conditions on your own website. This really is the foundation to help you increase hotel revenue and profit.
One of the most damaging misconceptions is that OTAs can offer a more favourable deal than individual hotel websites. Hoteliers need to tackle consumer beliefs to gain back control.
Major hospitality chains have recognised the importance of breaking down this perception and have devised extensive communication campaigns with one simple message: book direct to get the best deal.
Individual hotels must follow suit in order to earn their customers’ trust and to give a compelling reason for direct bookings.
Package It Up
In reality though, due to tough parity agreements, some hoteliers are backed into a corner and unable to offer exclusive rates to their bookers. To tackle this issue, you can boost the value of purchases with added benefits.
Complimentary breakfast, free WIFI and loyalty points are the most common incentives, but you can get creative to match your own business. If you run a rural manor house, perhaps you offer complimentary clay shooting; as a downtown corporate hub, your guests may appreciate free laundry.
If your property boasts a range of room types, consider withholding the higher categories from the online travel sites. This exclusivity will give an edge to your own booking engine and put you back into control.
Create unique experiences: theme overnight packages around the latest movie release or an upcoming festival. Not only you are offering an exciting deal, but telling a compelling story that can generate publicity.
Work your in-house reservations team. Offer a personal touch, hassle free change of bookings, the most favourable terms & conditions. All of these approaches will set you apart and portray you as a caring business and not a worldwide sales machine.
Tell Your Story
Online travel agents have developed smart booking platforms where transactions can be completed within seconds. However, have you ever opened 10 different profiles on Booking.com but actually unable to tell the hotels apart? This is where branding pays dividends. While these distribution centers follow a cookie-cutter approach, your own website can be a genuine representation of your brand.
Knowing your audience is fundamental in how you market a hotel business. Speak to them on your website and in every communication. As soon as visitors open your site, you have the chance to capture their attention and engage them. Reflecting your identity, your bespoke website is an extension of the experience guests can expect upon check-in. Breathtaking full-screen imagery, unique typography, intricate details: all elements are thoughtfully designed to tell your story.
But beauty is only half the picture. Your team is a powerhouse of data. Beyond the standard questions of room size, bed type, facilities, your guests are constantly looking for information. They want to know where to store their bicycle, which room offers the best view of the setting sun, what is the easiest route to a nearby attraction. No third party site allows for this type of material, but you can step up by answering questions your customers haven’t even thought of.
Use Killer Technology
Did you know that most travellers use at least three different screens a day? In this era of mobile technology, your website must provide a seamless experience—no matter what device is used.
Responsive website design does just that: ensuring that content, images and structure remain the same on all platforms. OTAs are leading the way with cutting-edge websites and mobile applications. If you need to pick one thing to future-proof your business, invest in a responsive website.
Mobile usage has now overtaken desktops and it shows no signs of stopping. Your responsive website will treat visitors to a much-improved experience—resulting in happier users, lower bounce rates and higher conversion figures.
Bid On Your Brand
What can be more frustrating than seeing your hotel’s name hijacked on the top of a search engine? Online travel agencies routinely bid for your brand name using pay-per-click ads (PPC), essentially snatching those customers away who are ready to make a purchase. How do you increase your hotel business when OTAs dominate search engines?
Since paid ads now cover as many as five spots in the prime section of search engines, hoteliers must be ready to go to war over brand PPC.
While it may initially seem counterintuitive, the only way to offset the erosive efforts of online agents is to bid on your own brand name. On a more positive note, brand PPC generates quality traffic, click through rates are much better than using generic terms and return on your investment is almost guaranteed.
Although it is impossible to match the marketing power of major distributors, independent hotels can fine-tune their ads contrary to the mass production of OTA ad copies. These PPC adverts can lead your customers to landing pages with specific messages and call-to-action, greatly improving conversion rates and increasing hotel revenue.
By Judith Pasztor Duffy, Marketing Consultant at Aró Digital Strategy
About the Author
Judith Pasztor Duffy is a digital marketing consultant – her key areas of expertise include complex marketing strategies, digital concepts and social media campaigns. A journalism graduate, Judith has worked in an in-house marketing capacity with several high-end hotels in Ireland and the United Arab Emirates. On agency side, she has championed industry-leading digital strategy for luxury brands.
Judith loves to explore beautiful hotels with a history and always on the lookout for her next travel destination.
About Aró Digital Strategy
Aró Digital Strategy is a creative web design and digital marketing agency with over 20 years of experience, specialising in delivering technology solutions, sleekly designed website interfaces and digital strategies to the hotel and luxury brand industry.
As a hotel digital marketing agency, Aró Digital Strategy has made a difference to over 300 businesses online through efforts in SEO, email marketing, pay-per-click advertising, visitor engagement and conversion analysis.
Find out more at www.aro.ie