Skip to main content
Stewart Moss, MD at High Level Software

Stewart Moss

Managing Director

Hotel visitors and holidaymakers are more mobile and online savvy today than ever before. Indeed, from our research we know, 37% of people are now using third-party online booking sites to book their accommodation, highlighting the increased demand for this type of booking platform.

However, despite the popularity of third-party booking sites and online travel agencies (OTAs), there is still an appetite amongst consumers to book directly with the hotel. In fact, three in five people who have visited a hotel in the past six months prefer to book via a hotel’s website directly.

This begs the question: how do hoteliers maximise the opportunity presented by both third-party sites and direct online bookings?

Booking aggregators are a ‘must-have’ for hoteliers

As a key part of the marketing mix, OTAs provide an effective way to boost a hotel’s visibility, especially amongst potential first-time guests and during quieter periods. What’s more, we know people seek convenient and efficient experiences when spending time in hospitality, so the same can be expected of hotel booking experiences.

Having every accommodation option available in one place provides potential guests with an easy booking experience, which encourages them to turn looking into booking.

That being said, it doesn’t mean using booking aggregators comes without challenges. Only half (53%) of those who have booked a hotel stay in the past six months say third-party websites are easy to use. What’s more, only 50% realise that by using these sites, the website takes a slice of the booking cost from hoteliers. Once consumers know this, 63% say they are more likely to book directly with a hotel.

The benefits of listing a hotel on booking aggregator sites make doing so essential, especially as competition is fierce and you want to be where your competitors are. So, what does this mean for hoteliers?

How hoteliers can make the booking process as guest-friendly as possible?

Encouraging potential guests to go directly to their website will not only drive bookings but can increase guest spend and revPAR, as well as build loyalty and encourage guests to return. The key to success here is to ensure that owned booking platforms are user-friendly, up-to-date, responsive and secure.

We know that 60% of hotel guests book through the hotel’s website, making it the most popular channel to book through. To make the most of this opportunity, ensuring guests can easily book and update their reservations online is key to providing a great experience. Sending friendly reminders in the run-up to a stay adds a light personal touch to the customer journey that guests will appreciate.

Having a user-friendly booking system can drive revPAR too. With the right booking tools, hotels can offer guests added extras at the time of booking, such as ordering room service on their first night, Champagne to the hotel room or booking a table at the on-site restaurant. Offering guests these options can help drive overall spending at a time when guests are in buying mode.

Once a good online booking system has been established, what happens next? Offering a blanket discount or incentive to re-book may be partially effective in enticing some guests to return and book directly. However, to maximise this opportunity, hoteliers should consider offering guests reasons to return that tap into their individual preferences and needs.

From looking to booking – how to incentivise guests to book direct

We know four in five (83%) of consumers say a discount on a future visit would encourage them to visit a hotel again but to ensure they take that next step and book, hoteliers would benefit from having a customer relationship management strategy in place to utilise all the valuable data they collect on their guests. This will ensure they are providing guests with offers and promotions that are personalised and encourage them to book directly with the hotel next time.

To create these hyper-personalised offers for customers, data is key. All aspects of the hotel’s tech stack should be fully integrated so that data can be stored in one central location, enabling hoteliers to have a 360-degree view of the hotel, including a full breakdown of the most and least successful aspects of the business.

Once a hotelier has a greater understanding of their business, as well as their guests’ needs and preferences, hotels can create a whole host of incentives which lead to bookings, such as generous bounce-back deals or triggered voucher codes, as well as hyper-personalised incentives to guests based on their spending habits during their last stay, encouraging them to return.

How social media can take direct bookings to the next level

Social media platforms are also becoming increasingly important sources of bookings and, while only small numbers have booked a hotel via Facebook (11%), Instagram (11%) and Twitter (9%) so far, many more would be interested in doing so. Including the option to enquire or book via social media is an easy way to drive direct bookings.

Therefore, being present, active and helpful on social media is a great way to engage guests as well as drive loyalty and improve guest sentiment. In addition, something as simple as adding a booking button to social media pages can help generate incremental bookings.

Hoteliers that list their hotels on third-party booking sites and OTAs will not only increase the general visibility of their venues but leveraging both can drive occupancy as well as increase overall profitability. Once the customer is booked in, leveraging technology to provide personal touches and rewards can incentivise future bookings and build customer loyalty.

Hoteliers that do this will ultimately gain an advantage, helping them grow more profitable direct sales, drive more spend per stay, enhance overall brand perception and raise overall traveller satisfaction.

Related Resources