Hotel Marketing Podcast Episode 225 – Stop Including OTAs in your Hotel’s OTA Strategy
Today we will dig into one of our favorite topics, the OTAs… More specifically how you can leverage the OTAs to drive direct bookings over the long term. Jeremy Razook recently penned a great article on TravelBoom named “The #1 OTA Strategy for Hotels Doesn’t Include OTAs” at travelboommarketing.com/blog/ota-strategy-for-hotels/.
The premise is pretty straightforward, OTAs don’t have to be the cornerstone of your booking strategy. Sure there’s a place, but not at the expense of a direct booking.
1: Only use the OTAs at the right times
To start with, OTAs can be a great new business strategy. Their reach far exceeds your own brand’s and they are able to engage guests much earlier in the conversion funnel.
Don’t approach OTAs the same way year-round. If your peak season is in the summer and your off-season is in the winter, modify your OTA inventory to reflect that. If you know you’re going to sell your high-end units during peak months, don’t put them on the OTAs. Instead, push your lowest-priced inventory as a way to sustain visibility but also draw the consumer to your own website where they can select other room types.
2: Create a data mining strategy to “acquire” your existing OTA guests
When an OTA guest checks in, your primary goal should be to get their email address. Make sure that you have the ability to communicate with them and foster an ongoing relationship from the moment they arrive at your hotel through the post-stay survey. When an OTA guest checks out, your primary goal is to ensure that the guest never appears as an OTA booking again.
The OTAs are going to be hammering your guests before and after their stay. You would be very well served to step up your game, onboard your OTA guests to your property, and convert them to direct bookings.
3: Don’t let the OTAs steal your guests
OTAs do a great job of being the worst of all business buzzwords… omnipresent. TripAdvisor, Google Hotel Ads, and even your brand searches. Your hotel should also be omnipresent to the guest as they progress down the funnel.
4: Deliver what the OTAs can’t
Luckily for you, the OTAs are not in the inventory business. You are the one who ultimately owns the property and the experience. Therefore, deliver what the OTAs can’t.
- ALWAYS offer the lowest rate
- Offer on-site benefits when booking direct such as early check-in and late checkout
- Everyone likes to be treated like a VIP. A free snack bag, room upgrade, or any number of benefits can make a direct booking more compelling for a guest.
- Create a loyalty program to encourage your guests to book direct next time. Better yet, allow them to apply their current, OTA-booked, stay toward their rewards.
5: Ask your guests to book direct
This may sound overly simple, but people do what you ask them to do IF you actually take the time to ask them. This is no different from nudging potential guests to book direct.
- Before: Website promotions and call center scripts
- During: On-site signage, staff talking points, welcome emails/texts
- After: Post stay thank you messages and surveys, anniversary messages
Statista- “Online travel platforms lower prices for consumers”
60 Seconds To Success:
In episode 225 of the Hotel Marketing Podcast, we review how to reduce your reliance on OTAs. One of the most important things you can do in order to make that happen is to create a solid strategy to convert OTA guests into direct guests on their next visit. The best way to do this… wait for it… ASK THEM! Most guests are not vested in booking directly to help you. They booked with the OTA because it was more convenient and what they were aware of. Your job is to make them aware that booking direct is better. Create an aggressive strategy where you reach out before the stay, after the stay, and at a certain time beyond that (such as booking anniversary). Tell them why they should book direct and then specifically ask them to book direct next time.