Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) such as Travelocity and Hotwire can be your hotel’s most effective marketing tool but also its biggest competition. While OTAs do wonders for filling rooms that might have stayed vacant otherwise, they often take business that might have booked directly from hotels in the first place (and saved you the hefty OTA fee).
Rate parity clauses are among the biggest road blocks to avoiding this problem. These statements forbid hotels from publicly advertising rates that are lower than what OTAs advertise. This can mislead customers to think they won’t ever get a better deal if they book directly through your website or front desk.
Thankfully, hotel operators do have a few tricks they can use to change this misconception. Here’s three strategies our experts suggest for encouraging customers to book direct.
Offer Special Deals to a Limited Audience
In most cases, OTA agreements only apply to rates you advertise in very public (on your website for example). These requirements do not, however, apply to offers distributed to a very limited audience.
For example, you could send a deal to your Facebook followers with savings greater than what they can find anywhere else. You can also send deals to an email or snail mail list of customers that signed up for your loyalty program. Don’t limit yourself to discounts either. You can offer gift cards, tickets to a local event or coupons for a free meal in the hotel restaurant.
Finally, offer travelers a discount straight from the front desk. If a customer calls you with questions about amenities, offer them a discount on room rates if they book right then (if they don’t already express interest in booking at that moment, that is).
Package Add-Ons to Encourage Bookings
Packaging services and other perks is another great way to offer discounts to customers while still following parity agreements. The price for the package might be greater than the OTA offer, but the extra perks make your deal more worthwhile and result in a larger overall savings.
Some ideas for add-ons include free wifi, parking, breakfast and event tickets. For example, a ski resort could offer the room at the regular full price but include a free pair of lift tickets.
Make Your Website User Friendly to Keep Visitors on the Page
Many times when someone is shopping for a room on a OTA site, they will navigate to the hotel’s website to learn more about the amenities. This is your chance to really grab their attention and keep them there.
The most obvious way is to make sure your “Book now!” call to actions are extremely visible, easy to use, and time saving. Make sure these are synched with hotel management systems as Clerk does that instantly log these bookings in your system and prompt a confirmation email to the customer.
Next, you’ll want to make sure that your “add-ons” packages are obvious on every page (especially the amenities page) and that you have other call to actions, such as “follow us on social media for discounts.”
Finally, make sure you have high quality photos – lots and lots of them – that are taken by a professional. Some customers expect that if they book through an OTA they will get the “less desirable rooms.” So if your website shows them what your best rooms look like, they might choose instead to go for quality.
What tricks have you learned for enticing customers to book direct? Join the conversation with a comment here.