It’s all too easy to blame OTAs for shrinking profits by pointing fingers at their costly commissions and frustrating policy of withholding customer contact information. But, in reality, the biggest battle you face isn’t so much against the OTAs, but rather the mindset of OTA customers.
The truth is, your profit margins are being squeezed because of the general public’s assumption that OTAs offer the cheapest rates! According to a Tnooz survey, 75 percent of travelers between the ages of 18-64 believe that they can find the best hotel prices on an OTA. It’s time to poke holes through this OTA myth and sway customer perception with the truth.
Here are 3 tips on how to convince your audience that booking direct is best:
1. Reinforce Best Price Guarantee
Consumers usually aren’t aware that your hotel offers the exact same price as OTAs for the same rooms. So, it’s up to you to continuously reinforce the message that booking direct is in their best interest. You’d be amazed how much your conversion rate can go up by simply placing a prominent reminder to consumers on your booking widgets that booking direct is better!
Unfortunately, it isn’t enough to simply have a Best Rate Guarantee on your website. That has very little impact on the average consumer (and often requires them to go through the hassle of completing a form just to take advantage of it). Today’s guests are all about convenience, so the smartest tactic is to build your BRG into your booking engine itself, where OTA rates are displayed next to your own rate, proving to the visitor that only booking direct gets them the best prices. This type of feature will also automatically match the OTA’s cheaper rate if they are out of parity.
2. Simpler Design and Booking Process
Because OTAs cover so many aspects of the travel experience – hotels, airfare, car rentals, activities, cruises and bundle packages – their websites are naturally complicated, cluttered and overrun with content. You can use that to your advantage by ensuring that your hotel website design is easy on the eyes and simple to navigate. Create a visually arresting story. Select only your most stunning images, cut down on unnecessary text and reformat current text so it is easier to digest.
Most importantly, don’t make it complicated to book a room with you. There are plenty of antiquated booking engines that are littered with small text, redundant buttons, complicated design and too many fields to fill out. All of these elements can frustrate a traveler and irritate them enough to give up, abandon their reservation and find a better hotel that is easier to book with.
3. Highlight Direct Booking Benefits
Go beyond the standard Best Rate Guarantee and showcase the perks that only guests who book direct can enjoy. Is it complimentary WiFi? A complimentary upgrade (if available)? More loyalty points? Free daily breakfast? It’s about highlighting the value of booking direct and getting that message across in as many channels as needed. The first place a traveler goes after seeing a hotel that interests them on an OTA site is to the hotel’s website itself. So, publish your direct booking benefits visibly and prominently on your homepage, add it to your retargeting ad copy, include it in every post-stay email and remind your followers of it occasionally on social media.