In the highly competitive hospitality industry, it can be difficult for independent hotels to retain control of their brand. Expedia, Priceline, and the other large OTAs are now firmly entrenched and responsible for a large percentage of most hotels’ bookings, and many hotel owners are finding it difficult to steer guests back to their branded website to book their stays. If you’re trying to figure out how to increase direct bookings through your hotel website, here’s a hint: start with your hotel website design. While you will need to enact a full press, multichannel interactive marketing campaign to turn the tide on direct bookings, there are 5 changes you can make to your hotel website design that will make it more effective at encouraging guests to directly book their stay:
- Optimize your hotel website for mobile
Travelers today rely on smartphones for when they are searching for travel inspiration and information. Google’s recent Travelers’ Road to Decision study found that only 23% of travelers who encountered a mobile site that wasn’t optimized enough actually pushed through. If your hotel website isn’t optimized to deliver perfect performance on mobile devices, you’re never going to convince guests to directly book through your site.
Switch to a responsive hotel web design to ensure that your guests will enjoy flawless performance when they book through your website, no matter what device they use.
- Allow guests to request room extras and special preferences when they book direct
Think of any personal requests you can provide that will entice guests away from the impersonal OTA booking process. Provide guests with the ability to indicate any special preferences, such as bed size, floor, room views, late check-out times, etc. To avoid disappointing guests, make sure it is clear that you will do your best to honor requests but cannot guarantee availability.
- Make the booking process simple
Make it as easy as possible for guests to book their stay through your hotel website. Prominently feature a link to your booking engine on every page so no one ever has to search through your site to reserve a room. You can also provide a shortened booking form for returning guests and members of your Rewards program by auto-filling as much of the form as possible.
- Offer your lowest rate on your hotel website, with a Best Rate Guarantee
One of the ways that the OTAs generate so many reservations is by enticing guests with the promise of deep discounts and lowered room rates. In order to compete, you need to make sure guests are confident that they won’t find a better deal anywhere other than your site.
Make sure you match any discounted rates offered by any of the OTAs and prominently feature a “Best Rate Guarantee” on your hotel website. Pledge to match the price if guests can find a better rate on your rooms within 24 hours of their stay, plus an additional discount. You’ll get the best results by making the additional discount a significant one (at least 25%) so guests are convinced you will provide the best price to avoid bearing the cost of the heavy discount.
Be sure to provide a list of rate exclusions, such as for package or group rates, senior discounts, auction sites, etc. This allows you to still gain the benefits of working with these groups while attracting back the wider body of guests that do not qualify for these programs.
- Skip the “Promo Code” box
Including a “Promo Code” box has become a mainstay in today’s discount obsessed culture, but it may be doing you more harm than good. When you include a space for a promo code in your reservation engine, you interrupt the booking process and put someone who was almost your guest back into play.
Instead of finishing the booking process, guests who see an empty promo code box will leave your website and go back out onto the web in search of a discount. Once guests leave your website, they may end up abandoning their almost-completed reservation at your hotel to stay at a competitor’s establishment.
If you feel you must put a promo code box, have it auto-fill with a “direct” promo code for 5% off for direct booking. You can get more mileage from this strategy with a pop-up window that announces the promo code discount will be automatically applied when reservations are placed through your site.
For more website design tips for hotels and complete support for your hotel interactive marketing strategies, turn to Travel Tech Strategies. As a dedicated hotel marketing agency, we have the resources and expertise to create a comprehensive interactive marketing strategy that includes responsive hotel web design, social marketing strategies, email marketing, SEO content creation services, and more to help your hotel increase direct bookings and regain control of your brand.
Contact Travel Tech Strategies today at 954-779-2801 for more hotel website design tips along with comprehensive hotel marketing strategies to increase direct bookings and build your brand!
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