The market is flooded with online travel agencies; it seems like a new service pops up at least once a quarter. Online travel agencies (OTAs) can be quite helpful when it comes to filling up unsold rooms and making it through the slow season, but generating more direct bookings brings a much more advantageous revenue stream. More direct bookings equal a healthier bottom line.
An effective hotel marketing strategy can help to develop greater interest in your property and prompt guests to book directly through you.
Identify Your Target
Having the right data is essential if you want to drive up your direct bookings. This data helps you to understand two very fundamental truths:
1. Who are your guests?
2. Why are your guests booking with you?
To utilize hotel internet marketing correctly, you need to clearly define your target audience and understand their reasons for staying with you. In other words, what is your unique selling point (USP)? Once you have your answers, you can develop strategies that will enable you to reach your goals.
There’s nothing more frustrating than visiting a website and not being able to navigate it. It’s like being in an unfamiliar city; you’re either wandering around lost, stuck in traffic going nowhere, or trying to ask directions from unfriendly residents!
When website visitors encounter these issues, they will press the back button as fast as they can, and they are unlikely to return. If potential guests can’t figure out how to find your hotel rates or how to book, they’re either going to go elsewhere or look to OTAs.
The first step to hotel internet marketing is to make sure that your website is both inviting and easy to navigate. Ensure that your site works on all devices. So many people book and order things using their smartphones now that it’s a vital step. Over one-third of guests book via mobile device; you cannot afford to lose out on this business.
You want to tell the story of your hotel, and the story of what it’s like to stay in your hotel. Easy, convenient, welcoming, accommodating, clean… all of this should be conveyed through your website.
Offering add-ons, or packages that add value, can be exceptionally helpful, especially if you’re offering them exclusively through your website. Work with local businesses to create deals and special packages. It may be a spa indulgence, a sports-lovers day out, a foodie’s culinary paradise… remember your target audience and build experiences that they will enjoy.
When you incorporate these types of value-adds into your hotel marketing strategy, you “reward” customers for booking directly through your website.
Offering discounts always bumps business, but if you offer special deals to select groups, you can make significant gains. Use your hotel internet marketing platform to offer limited discounts; everyone loves to feel like a VIP. For example, you could offer a reduced rate or add-on (e.g., free massage at your spa, two free entrees at your restaurant, complimentary room upgrade, etc.) to all social media followers or start a loyalty rewards program to keep your guests coming back.
Videos are priceless when it comes to encouraging guests to book. Travelers typically begin their vacation plans (and buying journey) with a dream, an image of the ideal destination and accommodations. Videos immediately, virtually, and viscerally attract visitors and help to increase the time they spend on your website. The longer they are onsite, the more likely they will be to book a room, or to refer your site to a friend or family member.
Guests are more internet savvy than ever before. They look up reviews before booking or ordering anything. User-generated content (UGC) includes reviews, ratings, guest photos, etc. Having UGC like guest reviews up on your site helps to encourage others to book through you. Having social proof, like a high social media follower count or rating widgets and TripAdvisor badges, increases trust with potential guests.
There are a number of ways that you can use the right hotel internet marketing to increase your bookings. Remember to try to think like a customer and ask yourself what you’d want to see.