ONLINE travel agencies (OTAs) can get your property’s name in front of a huge market of travellers, drive last minute bookings and fill rooms that might otherwise go empty.
But this increased exposure comes at a cost, and most independent hotel and resort owners are battling with an over-reliance on OTAs that is detrimental to their bottom line.
There’s no denying the appeal platforms such as Expedia, Airbnb and TripAdvisor offer online travel shoppers, so it’s safe to say they are here to stay.
So how can you strike the right balance, wrestle power away from the OTAs and reduce commission costs?
Here’s how ROI.com.au is helping our partners fight back against the OTA juggernauts.
In this article, we will cover:
- The design of your website
- How your website appears on mobile devices
- Re-enagaging your website visitors
- Overall marketing messages
- Email marketing
- Social media
- Google AdWords
1. Make your user experience unbeatable
The UX strategy is surprisingly simple – drive more bookings made directly through your website by creating the best possible user experience for your guests.
How do you achieve that?
By providing a detailed yet easy-to-read room descriptions, impressive visual content, compelling calls to action and a straight-forward, intuitive booking process.
Your website should offer extra services the OTAs cannot, such as change of booking options, special packages, gift vouchers and more.
Remember: Travellers need compelling reasons to ignore the OTAs and book direct through your hotel’s website.
2. Is your website mobile friendly?
We all know how the digital world is quickly turning mobile. That includes your next customers.
Can they preview rooms from a small screen? Can they check out your facilities and make and change bookings? Remember: The big OTAs make it very easy for mobile users.
If you’re not sure how your website stacks up on mobile devices, use the Google Mobile Friendly Test.
3. Use remarketing to reach the people closest to booking your rooms
This is something the OTAs excel at. When you’ve looked at a few properties on a site such as TripAdvisor, they will follow you around the internet with targeted messages to remind you to book.
It’s called remarketing or retargeting and it’s available through Facebook along with any website affiliated with Google.
We recommend beginning with a small budget that is less than the commission you pay for one room booked through an OTA.
4. Focus your marketing on what already works
One of the best ways you can learn about your guests is to go onto hotel review sites and see the good and bad things your guests are saying about your hotel.
Base all your marketing around the good feedback and take on board the negative comments and fix any problems.
Much of the OTA’s success over the past decade has been built on understanding their guests and exactly what they want and need from a hotel.
5. Use email marketing to re-engage previous guests
The travel industry is one area where email marketing has the potential to dominate.
Why? Because the smart phone era has brought people closer than ever to their inboxes.
Travel and holidays is also a topic that has a natural appeal to subscribers, meaning your emails are less likely to be ignored.
The key is to personalise your messages.
Travelers can easily be turned to visitors when the picture you paint of your property closely fits their vision of their next trip away, and the best way to do this is through knowing your customer, knowing what they like, and knowing how to communicate with them.
Say that you have a list of subscribers in your database….
You already have far more information about your past guests than OTA’s could possibly have access to. You know their names, which rooms they prefer, if they have ever used the spa, or how often they dined in the restaurant.
6. Use social media to win fans over
When it comes to social media, it pays to ‘fish where the fish are,’ and right now they are on Facebook.
What’s often missed within the hotel/resort industry is the fact that businesses can control exactly who sees their promotions…. Through Facebook targeted advertising.
This makes ‘growing Likes’ less effective compared to launching an advert campaign seen only by people looking to book accommodation in your area.
For example, if your resort is in a popular seaside town, you can launch a campaign aimed at people who live in a nearby metropolitan area who also enjoy holidaying in your town.
You can also build your own ‘custom audiences’ with Facebook. This includes reaching out to be people who have recently visited your website, or people who have previously booked with you.
Social media also presents an opportunity to respond to negative feedback or comments.
People often use platforms such as social media to vent their frustrations. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you respond to the comment. Think of it as an opportunity for you to ratify the situation which potential guests usually see as a positive.
Choose the right Google keywords to bid on
You might find that guests searching “Hotels in Sydney” convert less compared to guests searching “Hotels near Sydney Harbor” and that keyword should therefore receive fewer allocated marketing dollars.
The benefit of using more specific ‘long tail’ keywords is that there are fewer advertisers bidding on them, keeping the cost-per-click lower than on broad keywords.
Don’t forget to target your brand keywords too!
While general keywords are important to capture guests who may not know your property, bidding on brand keywords is essential for capturing guests who do know your hotel or resort.
OTAs and sometimes even competitors bid on your brand name in hopes of generating bookings on their sites.
Failing to bid on your own brand name might result in fewer direct bookings and lower bid prices for your competitors.
Outsourced your digital strategy
Interested in a digital marketing strategies that helps you fight back against the online giants?
Talk to Us Online or give us a call on 1300 650 274.