A hotel website is a crucial sales and marketing tool. The website design and the amount of thought given to promotion strategy determines the level of traffic, and whether visitors will have sufficient incentive to click the “Book Now” button. The booking form is the last stage of the online booking cycle, and the last chance to turn a looker into a booker.
Guests should always be able to get the best deal directly from the hotel. If you are allowing third parties to set cheaper rates, you are training your guests to look elsewhere for better deals. You should monitor OTA channels through metasearch engines like Trivago and Google Hotel Price ads to ensure that your rooms are not being sold at deep discounts. If your OTA rate is similar to your cheapest direct rate, consider adding more restrictive policies than on your own site. A flexible rate direct for the same price as a non-refundable rate on OTA is better value. A hotel should always show the best rate in their own website.
When possible, we recommend setting your OTA prices to be slightly above brand.com rates. If this is not possible due to contractual or other constraints, you must offer guests a reason to pay your slightly higher rate. That reason could be to gain the benefits of a loyal program.
Loyalty programs are becoming an increasingly important factor in determining booking behaviour. A study carried out by Market Metrix found that the desirability of a hotel’s loyalty program ranked fourth in the deciding factors that influence guests when booking a hotel. Loyalty programs can provide compelling incentives to book directly with a hotel. Privileges given to program members can include discounts, point rewards, free upgrades, additional free amenities or anything else the hotel/loyalty programs is in a position to provide.
At most destinations, guests will leave the hotel to dine, shop, and see the local sites. A loyalty program that offers discounts and privileges from outside businesses will provide an extra incentive to book direct with the hotel. Even if they must pay a slightly higher rate than booking through an OTA, the discounts and other benefits from the hotel and outside businesses they will enjoy from booking direct will result in a net saving.
Loyalty programs are have proven to be an effective marketing tool for large hotel chains, where points accrued in one destination can be redeemed in another. This is of limited utility for small-chain or independent hotels, unless points earned at one establishment can be used at a wholly unrelated hotel in a different destination. Loyalty program networks can provide the benefits of a large-chain program to independent hotels buy creating a “virtual hotel chain”. Members of such programs can earn and redeem points at participating hotels only if they book their room directly on the hotel website.
Attracting traffic to a hotel website and providing incentives to book directly instead of through an OTA is a daunting challenge. To learn more about direct booking marketing strategies and independent hotel loyalty programs, please send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org