The Challenges of Channels— How to Boost Your Direct Bookings

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One of the features RMS Cloud offers is “Channel Management” — a way to manage and update all of your Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) details without hiring a third-party manager.  We provide this advantage because, whether you love them or not, OTAs like Booking.com, Travelocity and Expedia have carved an important place in the hospitality food chain, and a whole lot of savvy globe trotters zip to those sites the moment travel plans are underway.  They definitely fill a niche and offer features that are valuable for travelers, but at the end of the day, the bookings you gain through them cost you — literally.   You pay a commission every time someone books a room, campground site, spa appointment and more through those channels, and as the costs add up, it affects your bottom line.

Guess what?  You have the power to lessen the frequency of those fees.  And it’s a pretty obvious solution: Boost your direct booking numbers.  We know, it’s not as easy as it sounds.  You can’t simply snap your fingers and change the booking habits of millions of people.  But with a few incentives and marketing strategies in tow, you can tempt, cajole and win over enough to make a difference.  Here’s how.

PLACE INCENTIVE-ADVERTISING ON CHANNEL SITES

A lot of OTAs, such as TripAdvisor, have advertisement space right on their results pages.  That prime spot can be a gift for hospitality businesses.  Tempt prospective guests with clickable promotional ads offering incentives like “Free Wi-Fi When You Book Now” or “Spring Specials Available Only at YOUR HOSPITALITY WEBSITE.”  Give them a reason to click through to your site and you’ll see results. 

OFFER TO MATCH ONLINE PRICES

One of the reasons so many guests flock to travel sites is because they assume that’s where they’ll find the best prices.  OTAs masterfully use that perception to their advantage by adding result-page blurbs, such as “Only 4 Left at This Price!” or simply “Sale!”  That grabs viewers’ attention and often times, drives them to click through right then and there.  If you have a lowest-rate or price-match guarantee for direct reservations, you can reclaim those bookings.  And to cement that triumph, tie in an additional reward to make it even more irresistible (see incentive ideas above).  

PUT CUSTOMER LOYALTY PROGRAMS TO WORK

Customer loyalty programs are an unbeatable strategy when it comes to retaining a solid guest base.  But even if you have a program in place, it doesn’t guarantee those customers will book directly through your business.  Fortunately, you can easily rectify that through the power of rewards.  Motivate your program members with exclusive incentives for booking direct.  Consider double reward points, a room upgrade after a certain number of book-direct reservations and more.  Showing members that loyalty works both ways is always a winning proposition.  

HIGHLIGHT CUSTOMER SERVICE ADVANTAGES TO BOOKING DIRECT

OTAs provide more than adequate customer service in general, but the fact is — their assistance is limited by the simple fact that they don’t have intimate knowledge of your facility.  Your hospitality staff, however, does.  Let your potential guests know how advantageous booking direct can be to their customer experience, where friendliness and authority go hand in hand as your team addresses their needs with the utmost confidence.  This is particularly useful when it comes to distinctive inquiries, such as pet-friendly policies and accommodations; details on dietary menu items; requests for early/late check-ins; or proximity to local attractions.  OTAs simply don’t have access to the subtleties of your business — make the most of that.

Does your hospitality business see a good deal of direct bookings?  Are you satisfied with the percentage or would you like more?  Let us know your thoughts.