How Can Independent Hotels Encourage Guests to Book Direct?

February 20th, 2018 innquest.com Hospitality Trends, Marketing

It’s a topic that doesn’t want to go away, nor should it from the hotelier’s perspective. Not a day goes by without a blog, social media site or online content website not chiming in with something being written about booking direct. You can add us to that list now too. Guests booking direct with your independent hotel matters; it impacts your ability to engage, follow up and drive bottom line profitability by reducing OTA commissions and more. Today, your independent hotel needs more than a modern forward-thinking design, more than great landscaping or a captivating lobby. Today’s savvy hotelier must be strategic and committed to executing a long-term plan that gets their guests booking direct. Here are three ideas we see being utilized by independent hoteliers to gain control of their booking challenges and grow their direct bookings business.

Pre, During & Post Stay Engagement

A hotel PMS & hotel CRM are a powerful combination that enables you to better engage, gain insight and retain guests throughout the travel cycle. Integrating every digital touch-point pre, during and post stay can help you deliver the right message at the right time, all through automation. A CRM tool like Guestfolio plugs into roomMaster to measure your effectiveness, so that you make more informed business decisions along the way. This type of tool also comes with an integrated TripAdvisor feature, to allow your guests to feedback directly to you and immediately to TripAdvisor. According to Guestfolio by Cendyn, their CRM tool can increase review volume by 125%, and their confirmation emails have a 32% click through rate. Any hotelier can take advantage of a free demo to quickly see and learn how this combination can be so effective for their daily operation and guest engagement.

Direct Online Booking Engine

Many independent hoteliers are utilizing their own custom direct online booking tool. However, there are just as many who are not, and this segment of hoteliers is relying on OTA’s to engage with their guests. Without their own online direct booking tool, hoteliers are losing control of guest engagement and giving up revenue on OTA commissions of anywhere from 15% – 30% on a booking. Even the big brands are fighting back against OTA’s to claim back direct bookings. According to TravelMedia Group, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts tripled their share of direct bookings year-over-year in 2017 from 2.85% to 9.61% and Hilton is up over 17% in direct booking market share. An online booking engine like WebBook is designed on current technology and offers customized themes, picture galleries and complete branding customization. The booking engine is mobile responsive offering a seamless approach for all screen sizes and device types your guests use to book reservations. Because tools like this are hosted solutions, the provider takes care of the technology, updates and security for you. We recommend that all hoteliers be sure any tool like this is PCI Compliant as well, as secure end-to-end encryption protects your guests credit card data with no effort required from you. Because tools like this can be very customizable, hoteliers can take advantage of features like, display personalized messages at key times to increase the chances of the customer booking direct while at the same time manage tracking parity to maintain good relationships with their OTA partners.

 Reward Loyalty

According to Cornell’s Center for Hospitality Research, one of the most respected institutions in the hospitality industry, their study on loyalty programs for independent hotels delivered some very compelling data that should be considered. When enrolled in a rewards or loyalty program, their hotel guests spending changed and in one example; average revenue per night was up 4%, total nights per year was up 3.9 nights, total stays per year was up 1.46 stays and total revenue per year of these guests was up $404.94/year, that’s 57%. A simple way to add a loyalty tool into your hotel is with branded gift cards. Whether you create a custom-designed gift card, or you select standard designs, a gift card from your hotel helps present a professional image and really shows guests you value their return business. A fully integrated PMS gift card solution with roomMaster delivers a cost-effective way to promote your business that’s better, easy to set up and more affordable than most loyalty programs. Whether you are a single property, have multiple sales outlets, or are part of a chain or brand, you can configure gift cards to be accepted at one, some, or all of your locations. Unlike most systems in which the purchase price of the gift card is held by the card processor until the card is redeemed, this solution is free of transaction fees and when you sell a gift card the money stays with you! Even better, there are no terminal fees or equipment you need to buy! You can process gift cards on any computer using roomMaster.

Today, the bottom line is that any independent hotel  needs loyal customers, and these three practices will help bring back guests into booking direct.