Direct hotel bookings are reservations that a guest makes directly with a property. A direct booking is made with the hotel itself, rather than via a third-party such as an online travel agent, meta-search site, a managed travel service, or similar.
The term ‘direct bookings’ typically refers to stays that are still booked online, usually via a hotel’s website. The most direct a guest can book is via walk-in or phone reservation, but depending on your property type and location you may not receive many of those.
As a hotel, your technology is essential to increasing direct bookings. If you’re an independent hotel, you’re competing against multi-million-dollar tech companies. Technology can help level the playing field by making it clear that by booking directly your guests receive the best rate, the most reliable booking, and may even have additional perks you choose to include.
Your hotel’s booking engine is truly essential to increasing direct bookings. Your booking engine is the end destination of every direct online reservation. There are several ways it can help (or hinder!) your hotel’s ability to obtain direct bookings. Your booking engine is the last stop before a direct reservation, but it doesn’t have to be the last stop in your direct strategy. When a guest books via a third party, you can use technology to win them back to a direct guest next time.
In this article, we’ll go over how your booking engine can help you increase direct reservations, as well as strategies to revamp your guest experience to encourage direct bookings down the line.
Make it easy to add, manage, and display rate plans
An essential strategy to increasing direct hotel bookings is showing multiple rates in your booking engine aside from the basic direct rate. Make it incredibly clear the additional value a guest receives when booking with you instead of an intermediary. Your hotel booking engine should directly integrate with your property management system in order to sell specialized rate plans that encourage this.
In the example above, this hotel is showing the value of booking directly with two options: saving money or getting a premium add-on that’s not available on third-party channels. Most travel shoppers will check multiple sites before making a choice. Create memorable rate options in your hotel booking engine software so they come back to you for the final decision.
Re-engage past guests
Let’s say a guest did not book directly. They found you via an online travel agent and selected what they assumed would be the best rate. Next time, get a direct hotel booking from this guest by using a guest messaging system.
A guest messaging solution lets you create engaging email campaigns with your past guests. Encourage direct hotel bookings by gathering guests’ emails and sending out strategic emails that remind them about the value of booking directly the next time.
Some examples of this include:
- Automatically email post-departure with a prompt for feedback
- Sending a special “repeat guest” direct deal on the anniversary of their last stay
- Creating a sense of urgency with exclusive “flash deals” they can’t get anywhere else
A key feature of a modern booking engine is the ability to integrate into Google’s metasearch function. Your Google Business listing (example on the right) is the panel of information about your property that displays whenever a traveler searches for your name.
Most travel planning starts on Google, and integrating your booking engine means you can advertise against OTAs right on Google. What’s more, Google will flag this as the “Official Site,” lending your rate extra credibility and trust.
Metasearch marketing also lets you appear in the Sponsored portion of this listing. This is only possible with the right hotel booking engine software that allows this integration.
These are just two ways your booking engine specifically can increase direct bookings, for more read our article on how your online booking engine can increase upsells and revenue per available guest.
Create unique and memorable digital experiences
Hotels should be marketing their property based on experience, not just the lowest rate. Attentive, personalized service while guests at your property will turn them into repeat guests. But the reality is that delivering that level of service at scale is difficult.
That’s where technology can step up! A mobile app is a great way to engage guests in ways they wouldn’t expect. Create a memorable experience by letting them skip the desk, unlock their door, order room service, and plan their trip, all from their mobile device.
A hotel mobile app also serves as a direct booking source once the guest leaves. Embed your hotel’s booking engine on the app and encourage guests to book through the app with relevant deals.
A technology suite for more direct hotel bookings
There are lots of strategic ways to increase direct bookings, but the overall message you need to convey to customers is that they will get the best deal and the best experience if they come straight to the source and skip the intermediary.
Flashy “book direct!” promises on your website are important, but the underlying hotel technology you choose is what will take you to the next level. Leverage a suite of technology, including a booking engine, messaging platform, and mobile app that increases direct booking.