How optimising your direct booking strategy can reduce your top-line costs
Accommodation trends have shifted the way that properties operate. While the focus on reducing top-line costs remains a priority, properties are simultaneously trying to capture the gradual increase in consumer demand.
There’s no denying that OTAs can extend your reach and create booking opportunities. But by limiting your reliance on these external booking sites and optimising direct bookings, you can maximise your revenue, cut down on costs and create a positive customer experience.
Here is what you need to consider to optimise your direct booking strategy:
1. Plan and deliver a seamless guest journey
When focusing on direct bookings, it’s crucial to lay the foundations for a smooth guest journey. Identify your customer touchpoints (both physical and digital), and evaluate how you can adapt your strategy to create the best possible booking experience.
For those using an internet booking engine (IBE), think about how you can tailor the look and feel to match your brand so that you can enhance your guest’s overall experience. Modern IBEs should be guest-driven and responsive to their needs, with the ability to configure curated upsell links such as breakfast or bicycle hire at check-out.
2. Identify marketing opportunities
SMS and email marketing are cost-effective ways to enhance your brand presence, increase guest engagement and encourage direct bookings. By tapping into your PMS, you can use past guest data to create hyper-targeted messages.
Segment your database to only target domestic travellers and segment even further based on their preferences, such as traveller type (family, couple, group), location (ideal if you’re a multi-group with country-wide properties), length of stay and time of the year (for example, target families over school holidays).
In Sri Lanka, Chamindra Goonewardene, director of sales and marketing at Resplendent Ceylon expects to be completely reliant on domestic tourism for the remainder of the year. “That means understanding how best to leverage our repeat clients; with the airports closed, our domestic tourists will be travelling in-country which is a key marketing opportunity."
"For guests that have previously stayed with us, their preferences are stored in our PMS and CRM system, so we can offer a level of personalisation and curation that very few other hotels can match.”
3. Tactics to attract direct guest bookings
“Make sure people see you as more than just a bed on an OTA search engine,” says Aaron McFarlane, multi-park owner and RMS customer from Shelly Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park in New Zealand.
Aaron also recommends delivering your best price via your website to drive direct bookings. “We mark our OTA rates up using the derived tariffs so our IBE price is the best guests can find versus OTA rates. Often a guest will find us via the OTA, check out our website and then book directly once they see our pricing. If a guest finds a cheaper rate than your IBE, honour it. It’s better than paying commissions offshore and encourages them to book directly, now and in the future.”
Take advantage of this by embedding an IBE into your website and Facebook page so guests can easily find you.
4. Adjust your approach to complement booking behaviours
According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the growth in domestic tourism offers a prime opportunity for countries to start recovering from the financial and social impacts caused by COVID.
As a result of this global staycation boom, properties should be shifting their focus to target guests within their country to help accelerate recovery. A key way to drive bookings that will also save you money in the long run is to leverage your IBE.
Tripadvisor’s Spring Travel Index trends indicate that 55% of Australian domestic travellers are looking for short breaks of two to five nights, with many booking less than a week in advance.
Global travel technology company, Amadeus, noticed a similar trend. “Australian states and territories are all under different levels of restrictions and lockdowns which means travellers are waiting until the very last minute to make hotel reservations,” says Maria Taylor, head of hospitality APAC at Amadeus. Many travellers are making a point of checking their accommodation provider’s website to alleviate cleanliness concerns and understand what to expect when they arrive. Utilise this boost in website visitors by offering incentives to last-minute and short-term travellers, such as a direct booking discount, a promotional voucher or late checkout.
5. Highlight important messages across the guest journey
Use your website, social media, marketing comms and IBE to emphasise your cleaning protocols and safety measures. In the current climate, guests will be actively seeking out this information for peace of mind before they decide to book with you.
“As far as we know, we’re the only resort in the country to actually swab our lodges after they've been cleaned and that's been a big part of why people have booked with us, knowing that they've got that safety when they're here,” says Matt Way, resorts director at Gwel an Mor in Cornwall. “It’s helped drive revenue and boost occupancy and was a big part of our success over the summer.”
By adjusting and optimising your direct booking strategy, you’ll be able to reduce costly marketing expenses, whilst leveraging the new opportunities that are emerging. By having a customer-centric guest journey (incorporating an IBE), being consistent in your messages, using your PMS for valuable guest marketing and adjusting to new booking behaviours, you’ll go a long way to reducing your top-line costs.
Did you know?
Your IBE is a pinnacle touchpoint for post-pandemic success and will help your property navigate the road to recovery. A booking engine that combines the latest technology will help your guests make better-informed decisions whilst boosting your revenue at every opportunity. Find out more about RMS’ internet booking engine and its advanced, guest-focused features.