It’s official; we no longer work in the ‘hotel business’ but the ‘accommodations business’ whereby we must diligently consider the activities of any home sharing brand as having a direct impact on our occupancy percentages and nightly rates.
While many would say, with some reasonable evidence as support, that alternate lodging providers have little to no negative impact on traditional hotels, I am far more bearish. When the gloves are off, customers will opt for the cheapest and most convenient option, brand be damned.
As such, you must take the necessary steps in both operations and sales to stand up against any and all direct competitors, be they the hotel next door or the home-shared apartment two blocks over. While there are numerous improvements you can make to your physical operations to help insulate your property, for today’s purposes, let’s focus on your top-of-funnel marketing tools, more specifically the booking engine which is critical to get guests to experience your brand in full.
Not only does booking direct means no cuts given to external channels, but they can also allow you to upsell, upgrade and package to thereby capture the most possible revenue from each customer.
This is critical nowadays because each incremental spend will ensure a better experience for the guest and an increased likeliness of positive word of mouth and loyalty – two near-priceless qualities to have when demand dips. Aside from any rich media that you add to your booking engine to give it a visual storytelling makeover, let’s examine some of the inner workings of packaging, upgrading to suites and selecting an individual room to see how they can help your top line.
Packaging reinforces revenue and brand proposition
While most of your guestrooms won’t be able to compete with home sharing in terms of providing apartments with full kitchens embedded in neighborhoods not zoned for short-term rentals, a core advantage for hotels is that we have staff. Yes, we have people who excel at service delivery and ensuring that guests’ needs are handled for them.
So, while your lower tier double queen may look somewhat boring when compared against a newly remodeled loft on Airbnb Plus, where you can fight back is through offering guests fantastic deals for add-on services, amenities or activities to make their time with you exceptional. Free breakfast is perhaps the simplest of these, but you can expand this out to include a full gourmet getaway, spa vouchers, in-room arrival gifts, VIP access or offsite experiences through third parties.
The key here is often that your user interface is cluttered and cumbersome, so your add-ons can’t be fully appreciated nor is the true value being conveyed. To this latter point, for guests to properly window shop and be enticed by your bundles, they need to be shown how much they are saving.
Again, modern booking software can come to the rescue by resuscitating the look and feel of your reservation portal so that users don’t get a headache squinting to read all the details and so they can actually have some fun browsing through all the options you’ve built into the system. An important caveat here is that in order for you to amp up your booking engine with lots of packages and extras, you have to first create those extras – a task that’s far more encompassing than just revenue management.
Selecting individual rooms and upgrading to suites
Where I foresee booking engines making big gains in the coming year is both in their ability to effectively convince customers into upgrading their initial purchases so you can better fill your premium tier product as well as in facilitating individual room selections (for an incremental fee if you so desire) under the guise of an attribute-based sales (ABS) model.
Coupled with your excellent service, your suites and villas will undoubtedly give guests a far better experience over some alternate lodging. But what’s lacking is an effective means by which to tell your inventory’s story via ABS. Sometimes for this, we’re just as guilty as the OTAs by displaying our cheapest rooms at the top of the search results page, subconsciously priming customers to select exactly those and not consider much else.
To circumvent any PMS integration issues, you might also recruit your email marketing providers to send out pre-arrival messages to inform guests about the wealth of other possibilities that go above and beyond your cheapest room. These can always be connected to private landing pages on your website or direct guests to call a hotline to let your reservations team do the upselling.