The COVID-19 Impact and Opportunity for Increased Direct Bookings

While many guests have benefitted over the years from booking through OTAs, there has been a rather big backlash about how these platforms have handled the COVID-19 pandemic. Guests have been denied refunds because the OTA is a reseller not a provider, been pushed from one place to another and even been advised they can reschedule bookings only to find the hotel has a different policy.

There are several ways in which hotels can drive more direct bookings to their website. Below is a summary of the ways in which hotels can achieve this.

Build a customer database

Many small hotel owners feel that it is difficult to retain control of their database because they may not always have access to their guests’ contact details before they arrive.

Making sure you capture guest emails once they are at your property is a quick-win initiative that is easy to implement. All you need is self-discipline to ask for their email address upon check-in or check-out.

Once you have these details, it is easy to send them your special offers and promotions. They can either use them for themselves, or refer a friend who will be in the area and may need a place to stay.

Optimise your profile

Here are a few tips on how to optimise your hotel’s profile;

Keep your website images current. Research shows that old-looking images can be associated with the property being seen as ‘dirty’. Also ensure that beds are made neatly in photos.

If you are a lower-priced hotel, your guests are more likely to check you out on review platforms and will read an average of four different reviews. Ensure you are encouraging guests to leave reviews at every opportunity.

Provide ample amenity descriptions on your website – this really makes a difference, especially when it comes to WiFi, parking and breakfast.

Enhance your direct offering

Rate parity rules make it difficult to incentivise direct bookings, but there are creative ways around this.

For example, you can:

Package your rooms to make them more appealing (you can add elements like free wifi, early check-in, free breakfast, and late checkout).

Offer a more personal experience (for example, let guests choose what’s in their minibar).

Lower your rates to Facebook fans and Twitter followers.

You should also be looking at your process for encouraging people back to the hotel after the first visit to make it at least a yearly occurrence. Capitalise on this as an opportunity to build your database and your direct bookings as fast as possible