Why do OTAs dominate hotel bookings more than hotels themselves? One huge contributing factor is price. Guests associate lower cost with OTAs but according to an October 2017 Hospitality Net article, 50% of OTA users will visit the official hotel website before making their booking decision.
This begs the question: Is your hotel giving guests a reason to stay?
This means a reason to stay physically at your hotel and also, stay on your online hotel booking website rather than go back to their OTA of choice. Every property wants to increase hotel bookings. Here are key strategies to accomplish that goal.
Concentrate on Guest Experience and Personalization
The savvier consumers become, the higher the demand on marketers to produce customized guest experiences and relevant content to shine above the competition.
Investing and maintaining a customer relationship management (CRM) tool is critical for hotel management and marketers because of the insights into behavior, preferences, email open rates, and guest folio. Having the ability to segment lists based on guest motivations (romantic getaway, girls weekend, family travel, etc.) and insight into booking history allows marketers to create targeted messaging.
Get to know your valued guests’ needs and wants. Highlight how your property provides what they are looking for when securing accommodations for their next stay. Continue this messaging throughout every touchpoint you have with the guest.
Optimize for Mobile Website Bookings
As technology has evolved, we have phones that don’t just make calls, but also can be used for text messaging, as a camera, for video, and to gain access to the Internet, notes, alarms, and apps. With the endless technological options, there are a growing number of options and opportunities for more efficiency when it comes to online hotel booking.
Travelers now expect the capability of booking entire trips straight from their mobile device. Not surprisingly, one online travel survey confirms that 95% of U.S. adults prefer to research travel destinations online.
Now, more than ever, is a time to audit your website and ensure it is properly optimized for the user’s mobile experience. Is your mobile site easy to navigate? Does it have the same functionality as the desktop version? Are pictures rendering correctly? These technical aspects all factor into a guest’s first impression of your hotel and likelihood of staying and booking through your site. Failure to address the mobile experience could end up being costly for your brand.
Invest in Paid Social Campaigns
The competition among social media channels (especially Facebook and Instagram) for travel and hotel brands, specifically, is so high that hotels must dedicate budget to promote their campaigns. You can invest in social with a low or minimal budget, as long as you flesh out a strategy with specific metrics to measure.
Get together with your team and decide how to best promote your hotel through imagery and messaging. This brainstorming doesn’t only need to involve your hotel marketing team, but every person that has an interaction with guests to hear what people are saying about your hotel.
According to a July 2017 report, 71.4% of millennials say they use user-generated content for travel planning, and that’s not the only audience who seek the recommendations of others to make choices. Looking at OTAs and the content they heavily rely on, you’ll notice a majority of it is provided by guests. How can you use UGC to your advantage?
Create a Reputation Management Solution
The statistics about the importance of online reviews are endless. Two important ones from Bright Local, 85% of consumers trust online reviews, as much as personal recommendations and 68% of consumers left a local business review when asked.
Do you have an appointed team to handle your online reviews? Do you have a proactive method for gathering these reviews from advocates of your brand? These are two important pieces to a cohesive marketing strategy that will help increase online hotel bookings.
People are trusting reviews before they buy, so the more positive reviews you have, the more likely people are going to book your hotel.
Speak to Your Guests Like People Not Customers
Rather than thinking of your messaging as a “marketing strategy,” think of it as a personal connection with each of your guests. When you customize the message to share value, it will be appreciated and responded to more regularly.
People can tell when they’re being sold to, which is the opposite of the way marketing should be. This doesn’t mean each email shouldn’t have a strong CTA, but think about the message you want to share more than what you want that guest to do.
How can your offer, promotion, and/or information help the person you’re speaking to? How will it fill a need they have? Authenticity is essential at every stage of the guest experience and should not be limited to only in-person guest interactions. Think of how what you’re saying resonates (or doesn’t resonate) with guests.