Travel marketing: 5 ways to drive more of your hotel guests to book direct.

A recent L2 study reported that hotels paid $2.5 billion to Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) like Travelocity and Expedia.

That’s an average of $40-$120 a booking, compared to the $2-$6 it costs you when your guests book direct.

But what if you could keep more of those booking fees for your hotel property?

To figure out how to beat the OTAs at their own game, Michelle Wohl, writing for the Revinate blog, says you have to understand how people use them.

OTAs are usually a traveler’s first stop. They use them like the yellow pages, browsing for price and availability. But they don’t usually book on that first visit.

During that initial browsing, they may look at a few profiles, reviews and even click through to a hotel’s website for more information.

Wohl says this is the ideal time to start a social media relationship with them, and drive them to a direct booking. She offers several ways to convert travelers to your direct channel:

  • Make sure your potential guests have direct access to your website from review sites like TripAdvisor.
  • Investing in services like TripAdvisor’s Business Listings will lead to more direct reservations because it can guide customers to your social channels if your website is highly integrated with your social channels.
  • Customers who start interacting with your social channels are looking for something, so give it to them.
  • For instance, they might like you on Facebook because they want to see if you give out any fan-based promotions. Giving them a friends’ rate or making booking easy from your social pages
  • Steal a page from the OTAs (literally) by pulling in real-time user reviews from TripAdvisor. This gives the traveler assurance that your property is the right choice. Just make sure you list both good and bad reviews, so the traveler can trust the information.
  • Mobile is the new “walk in” business for hotels. Google reports that mobile hotel books have grew by 3,000% between 2010 and 2011.
  • Travelers report that they book on their mobile phones because they’re afraid of delays in the reservation system. So make sure your mobile experience is simple and fast.
  • In addition to matching the rates offered by the OTAs, your hotel needs to offer additional value to close bookings over the phone, like a low-cost upgrade to a better room.

What are you doing to convert more travelers to book direct with your hotel? Tell us about your experiences.

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