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Hotel Direct Bookings: A Detailed Guide

December 27, 2023

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As a hotelier, you would wish to drive direct bookings sooner, wresting back some control from online travel agencies (OTAs).

While the OTAs are a great source of revenue, reducing your reliance on these platforms will help your hotel gain exposure to potential guests and establish your hotel brand.

So, are you driving hotel direct bookings and winning the battle against OTAs?

Let’s look at how direct booking works in the hotel industry and how it can be leveraged to generate profitability.

Let’s get started.

What is a Hotel Direct Booking?

A hotel direct booking refers to a reservation made directly with a hotel, bypassing third-party platforms like online travel agencies (OTAs) or booking websites.

In a direct booking, guests interact directly with the hotel’s official website, mobile app, or reservation desk to secure accommodations. This approach offers advantages such as potential cost savings, better terms flexibility, and direct communication with the hotel staff.

Hotels often encourage direct bookings to avoid commission fees charged by intermediaries and to build stronger relationships with guests. Moreover, direct bookings may include exclusive perks, loyalty program benefits, or special promotions that enhance the hotel experience of guests.

Direct Booking versus Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)

Direct booking refers to reserving accommodations directly through a hotel’s official channels, such as its website, app, or reservation desk, without involving third-party intermediaries. Online travel agencies (OTAs) refer to hotel booking via platforms like Expedia, Booking.com, and Airbnb, acting as intermediaries between travelers and hotels, earning commissions for each reservation.

Opportunities for alternative revenue

While OTAs may allow you to target hotel customers, direct booking can highlight your services and facilities at different stages of a hotel guest journey.

OTAs can enhance hotel visibility but often reduce revenue due to commission fees. Direct bookings increase hotel profitability, enabling personalized services and loyalty programs.

Visibility and comparison

Visibility and reach are essential to reaching your target market. Hotel customer retention is often an issue for small-sized hotels due to relatively lower budgets than medium and large-sized hotels. Hence, OTAs might work well for them.

Moreover, many leisure or business travelers search for hotel comparisons, which these OTAs usually offer, providing users with a wide range of options in one place.

However, direct bookings allow you to develop a distinguished image via hotel branding, allowing for personalized experiences and loyalty programs.

Building relationships

Direct booking hotels facilitate more robust relationships with brands as guests engage directly, enabling personalized communication, loyalty programs, and tailored services.

While offering convenience, OTAs limit direct interaction, potentially diluting brand connections. Direct booking is generally more effective for building long-term relationships and brand loyalty.

Why do Travelers go for Hotel Direct Bookings?

Travelers choose hotel direct bookings for cost savings, flexible terms, and exclusive perks. Direct booking offers a personalized experience, loyalty rewards, and direct communication with the hotel. This approach often provides a value-added experience compared to third-party platforms.

Let’s explore some key factors that drive guests to book directly.

Pricing Transparency

Direct bookings offer base room rates, avoiding hidden fees and ensuring transparency, which appeals to travelers seeking the best prices.

Exclusive Discounts and Promotions

Hotels often offer exclusive discounts and promotions through their direct channels, offering travelers cost savings and added value.

Loyalty Programs

Direct bookings contribute to hotel loyalty programs, enabling travelers to gather points, enjoy benefits, and enjoy a long-term relationship with the hotel brand.

Personalized Services

Booking hotels directly allows guests to communicate preferences and special requests, allowing hotels to offer personalized services that enhance their overall experience.

Flexible Booking Conditions

Direct bookings often come with more flexible cancellation policies and booking conditions, allowing travelers to adjust their plans if needed.

Avoiding Middleman Fees

By booking directly, travelers can avoid commission fees charged by third-party platforms, resulting in potential cost savings and a more direct financial relationship with the hotel.

Challenges to Hotel Direct Booking

When you start as a small-sized hotel, you don’t care where the bookings come from, as you need to increase sales to earn revenue. But as your hotel chain grows,  you become considerate about the bookings coming from third-party bookings, as they are more expensive.

Here are some common challenges to hotel direct booking:

  • Hotels face intense competition in attracting direct bookings. Standing out in a crowded market requires strategic marketing and differentiation to capture the traveler’s preference.
  • Establishing and maintaining customer trust is essential for hotels to encourage guests to book directly, emphasizing reliability, quality, and transparency in their offerings.
  • Keeping up with evolving technology is a challenge, and the pervasive influence of OTAs makes it essential for hotels to leverage innovative tools to compete effectively and drive direct bookings.

7 Tips to Increase Your Hotel Direct Bookings

Hotel direct bookings help hoteliers increase hotel occupancy, reduce customer acquisition costs, and improve profitability. Direct hotel bookings give you direct access to guests and allow you to follow up with hesitant guests to secure conversion.

Your offering must reflect your unique selling proposition to get more direct bookings. Here’s how to increase and improve hotel direct bookings:

1. Website Optimization for Direct Bookings

A user-friendly website encourages direct bookings. It enhances the overall user experience, facilitates seamless navigation, and ensures that potential guests can easily find information, make reservations, and engage with the site, increasing the likelihood of conversion.

With an optimized website, you dont need to pay a commission to third-party OTAs or other marketplaces, resulting in more revenue and profits.

Your hotel website must include high-quality images and videos to showcase all your rooms and amenities and provide insight into your hotel experience, encouraging visitors to book rooms.

Tips for optimizing the booking process:

  • Streamlined online reservation system
  • Clear call-to-action buttons
  • Mobile responsiveness
  • Visual calendar for date selection
  • Transparent pricing information

Moreover, SEO optimization can boost a hotel’s online visibility, making it easier for potential guests to discover the official website.

Higher search engine rankings increase organic traffic, driving more visitors to the site and potentially leading to increased direct bookings as the hotel’s online presence becomes more prominent.

For example, the website of Grand Central Hotel Dubai includes a sleek CTA with a form to fill out and check for room availability. Also, this website includes a user-friendly menu and navigation.

Grand Central Hotel Dubai

Source: Grand Central Hotel Dubai

2. Participate in Local Events and Tradeshows

Participating in hospitality industry trade shows offers hotels a unique platform to showcase their offerings to a targeted audience. These events attract travel professionals, potential partners, and guests actively seeking accommodation options.

Local events and tradeshows are key to hospitality marketing to create brand awareness, build relationships, and highlight exclusive direct booking benefits by engaging with attendees.

Direct interaction at tradeshows allows hotels to convey unique selling points, promotions, and loyalty programs, encouraging attendees to consider direct bookings.

This personal connection establishes trust and awareness, making the hotel a preferred choice when attendees plan their trips, translating into increased direct bookings.

For example, the Hawai’i Hotel & Restaurant Show is being conducted for the hospitality industry to effectively connect restaurant, hotel, and hospitality industry members with existing businesses to support their every need.

Hawai’i Hotel & Restaurant Show

Source: Hawai’i Hotel & Restaurant Show

3. Promotional Campaigns and Incentives

Promotional campaigns on direct bookings, such as exclusive discounts, special packages, or added-value amenities, allow hotels to incentivize guests and bypass third-party platforms.

These promotions can highlight cost savings, loyalty program benefits, or unique experiences, helping potential guests to make direct bookings.

Here’s why promotional campaigns and incentives are effective:

  • Exclusive discounts attract budget-conscious travelers.
  • Special perks for loyal customers increase repeat business.
  • Offering upgraded accommodations enhances the guest experience.
  • Early check-in or late Check-out adds convenience.
  • Freebies like breakfast or Wi-Fi provide added value.
  • Exclusive access or priority status for certain bookings.
  • Bundled offerings for a comprehensive and attractive deal.
  • Extended stay discounts encourage longer bookings with reduced rates.
  • Advance purchase discounts are available for guests who book well in advance.

Timely promotions, such as limited-time offers or seasonal discounts, create a sense of urgency. By effectively communicating these incentives through marketing channels, hotels can attract more direct bookings.

For example, you can advertise flash sales or limited-time offers to see if conversion rates increase.

For example, All Accor Hotel Singapore offers ‘Advance Saver Rate’ and ‘Special Discount’ on online booking through the website.

All Accor Hotel Singapore

Source: Accor

4. Personalize Guest Experience

Personalization is a brand-new and valid tactic to fight for customer mindshare and dollars. By leveraging technology, you can offer personalization without becoming time-consuming.

A truly customized guest experience starts with guest data. Hotel Property Management Systems (PMS) store valuable guest data, enabling personalized services. Hotels can anticipate needs, tailor promotions, and offer packages by analyzing guest profiles and preferences.

Customized welcome amenities, room preferences, and targeted communications enhance the guest experience.

PMS integration with other systems allows seamless coordination across departments, ensuring a unified and personalized approach from booking to check-out, leading to increased guest satisfaction.

With the hospitality industry going contactless, – here are 6 tips on leveraging your tech to offer a personalized hotel guest experience:

  • Access to individual preferences for tailored experiences
  • Seamless coordination between departments for a unified approach
  • Personalized offers based on guest history and behavior
  • Faster and more personalized check-in processes
  • Notifying staff of special requests or requirements in real-time
  • Tailoring loyalty rewards and benefits to individual guest behaviors
  • Comprehensive insights for anticipating and fulfilling guest needs
  • Using feedback to refine and enhance personalized services continually
  • Immediate access to guest information for on-the-spot personalization
  • Overall improvement in guest satisfaction through tailored experiences

Moreover, an online chatbot is a great way to facilitate personalized communication with your guests when they need information, request room service or maintenance, or even ask for recommendations nearby.

5. Implement Digital Marketing Campaigns

Travelers are searching more online. A well-developed digital marketing strategy can help hotels showcase their offerings, build their brand, and drive revenue. It can also help hoteliers to boost hotel bookings.

With nearly 61.4% of the world’s population on social media and 5.3 billion internet users worldwide, you’ll need to define your ultimate digital marketing goals.

Here are some key digital marketing campaigns you can implement to increase your direct hotel bookings:

  • Metasearch Engines: Utilize platforms like Google Hotel Ads to increase visibility, allowing users to compare prices and book directly.
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM): Employ paid advertising on search engines, like Google Ads, targeting specific keywords to drive traffic and promote direct bookings.
  • Social media marketing for the hotel: Leverage platforms like Facebook and Instagram for targeted campaigns, engaging content, and promotions to attract and convert potential guests.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Optimize website content and structure to improve organic search rankings, enhancing visibility and attracting more direct bookings.
  • Email Marketing: Utilize targeted email campaigns to promote exclusive deals, loyalty programs, and personalized offers, encouraging repeat business and direct bookings.

Either way, it’s not simply a case of doing a little here and there but creating a well-thought-out plan to help the hotel achieve its direct booking goals.

6. Partnerships and Collaborations

Partnerships and collaborations within the hospitality industry present many benefits for hotels seeking to increase direct bookings. By strategically aligning with other businesses, both within and outside the travel sector, hotels can tap into new markets, enhance their brand image, and create mutually beneficial relationships.

Here’s how you can leverage partnerships and collaborations to increase direct bookings:

  • Expanded market reach

Partnerships allow hotels to tap into the existing customer base of their collaborators. For instance, teaming up with airlines, tour operators, or event organizers enables hotels to reach a broader audience interested in travel and accommodations.

  • Cross-promotion opportunities:

Hotels can leverage their partners’ strengths to showcase a comprehensive and attractive package by bundling services or creating joint marketing campaigns.

  • Enhanced brand image

Partnering with reputable and complementary businesses can enhance a hotel’s brand image. Aligning with well-regarded airlines, travel agencies, or local attractions can positively influence how potential guests perceive the hotel.

  • Joint loyalty programs

Collaborating on loyalty programs with other businesses creates added value for guests. By offering cross-promotional loyalty rewards, hotels can encourage repeat business while incentivizing guests to book directly through the hotel’s channels to maximize benefits, thus enhancing brand loyalty.

  • Cost-effective marketing

Sharing marketing expenses with partners reduces the financial burden on individual businesses. This is particularly beneficial for smaller hotels with limited marketing budgets, allowing them to benefit from larger, joint campaigns that might be beyond their reach on their own.

  • Long-term relationships

As hotels collaborate with businesses over time, trust is built, and the synergy between partners strengthens. These enduring relationships contribute to the sustainability of marketing initiatives and provide a solid foundation for ongoing efforts to increase direct bookings.

Through expanded market reach, enhanced brand image, and the creation of unique and comprehensive offerings, hotels can position themselves as preferred choices for travelers seeking personalized and value-added experiences, increasing direct hotel bookings.

7. Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs, such as rewards, exclusive perks, and tiered benefits, incentivize guests to choose a hotel for repeat bookings, contributing to a consistent revenue stream.

By accumulating points or enjoying special privileges like room upgrades, free nights, or personalized services, guests feel motivated to remain loyal.

Here’s how you can leverage loyalty programs to increase direct bookings:

  • Exclusive discounts for members to enjoy special rates on direct bookings
  • Earn points for direct bookings, redeemable for rewards
  • Members get early access to promotions and room availability
  • Tailored promotions based on individual preferences
  • Loyalty status leads to complimentary room upgrades
  • Additional points for specific direct booking periods
  • Instant benefits for loyalty members during direct bookings

The psychological impact of accruing benefits creates a positive association, encouraging repeat business and reinforcing the guests, booking directly with the hotel.

For example, PAN Pacific Hotels Group offers a one-of-a-kind hotel loyalty program to get a wealth of benefits and rewards from day one to increase guest retention rates and direct bookings.

PAN Pacific Hotels Group

Source: PAN Pacific Hotels Group

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is it better to book hotels directly?

Booking hotels directly leads to cost savings by avoiding third-party fees, offering exclusive promotions, and allowing direct communication with the hotel for personalized services.

Additionally, loyalty programs and flexible terms can enhance the overall booking experience, making direct bookings a preferred choice for many travelers.

Do you get a better room if you book directly with the hotel?

Yes, sometimes booking directly with a hotel can get a better room. Hotels may prioritize direct bookings for room upgrades, providing added perks, and accommodating special requests.

Direct communication allows guests to convey preferences, enhancing the chances of receiving a room that meets their needs and expectations.

Is booking a hotel directly cheaper?

Booking a hotel directly can be cheaper as it avoids third-party fees with online travel agencies. Hotels may offer exclusive discounts, promotions, or loyalty program benefits, providing cost savings for guests who reserve accommodations directly through the hotel’s official channels.

Conclusion

As we conclude, it is clear that there is no one best way to increase hotel direct bookings, but together, proven tactics can help you achieve the goal.

From user-friendly website design to effective promotional campaigns, leveraging partnerships to personalized guest experiences, hotels can create compelling narratives to drive direct bookings.

Capitalizing on the advantages of exclusive discounts, online reservation systems, contactless solutions, and loyalty programs, hotels can increase direct bookings.

Connect via social media and digital platforms to get more guests than ever booking directly with you. Moreover, hoteliers can benefit from local SEO and trade shows to enhance their presence in the industry and specific locations.

With these tips, your direct booking numbers are sure to improve. The bottom line is that it will help you boost direct bookings and get independence from OTAs.

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