Unlock your Direct Bookings
Part 1: The Current Business Landscape and Challenges Confronting Hotels
In 1989, when I joined the Industry Hotels had the following Booking modes
Travel Agents - B2B - Majority of Share
Corporates - Direct - Some Share
Direct Bookings via Telephone and Fax - Marginal
In 2023 what I observe is that Hotels have following Channels for Business
Travel Agents - B2B - Sizeable Share
Corporates - Direct Some Share and it is increasing
Direct Bookings via Websites Some Share
OTA - Sizeable Share
So what One observes is that in 34 Years the reliance on 3rd Party channels has not changed for the Hotels. The Sales teams are still out meeting with Agents and Corporates and Hotels are still using what I consider as a PUSH effort rather than driving in the Demand from the end consumers or Pulling it in.
Having interacted with Senior Management of both Chain and Stand alone hotels I've observed that the hotels, small and big both, find themselves entrenched in a conventional business paradigm. They heavily depend on walk-in clientele, tour operators, and third-party booking platforms. This reliance restricts their autonomy when it comes to pricing, establishing a unique brand identity, and cultivating lasting customer relationships.
While Hotels give huge emphasis on experiences while the guest is staying with them, most have not given it any thought that they have the power to share the Guest experience even before the Guest checks in. This can very well be done where nearly 100% of clients hang out, Digital Space.
Though every single Hotels has some sort of Online presence very few have actually given it any thought that this can be leveraged to achieve all 3 objectives, Awareness, Consideration or Engagement and conversions.
Part 2: Unleashing the Potential of Digital Marketing
Drawing from my eleven years of experience in the field of digital marketing, and having unlocked Direct to consumer for multiple Hotels, let me highlight the exceptional advantages that Digital Marketing can offer hotels aspiring to liberate themselves from these constraints:
Unrivaled Visibility: A Website in case of a Hotel is more than Just a Brochure, it is where the experience of what the guest can expect can be shared in an engaging manner. Furthermore by structuring the content in the right manner and through meticulous search engine optimization (SEO) strategies and carefully executed pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, hotels can ensure their website dominates search engine results. This heightened visibility forms the cornerstone of attracting discerning guests.
Precision Audience Targeting: A Hotel caters to many Segments and the needs and wants of each of these Segments is different. Where conventional marketing channels go very broad as you have little to no control of who is going to see or hear it, Digital Marketing empowers hotels to craft highly targeted advertising campaigns, custom-tailored to distinct demographics—whether it be corporate travelers, families seeking leisure, or tourists with specific preferences. This precision significantly augments the likelihood of engaging the ideal audience.
Tailored Guest Engagement: As per Law, each guest is required to share their contact details with the Hotel. This is DATA which is worth its weight in Gold, if hotels were to segment this Data based on likes and dislikes of the Guests they would have a database which is so powerful that it can help them engage these Guests and reach more audiences similar to the Ones who have stayed with them.
By leveraging email marketing and various social media platforms, hotels have the opportunity to forge lasting connections with past Guests. Personalised promotions, bespoke updates, and captivating content fortify guest loyalty and inspire repeat bookings.
Data-Driven Insight: Data has the power to help Hotels invaluable insights regarding guest preferences and behaviors. This data serves as a guiding light for refining pricing strategies, enhancing services, and finely tuning marketing endeavors.
Cost-Effective Brilliance: In the realm of marketing investments, Digital Marketing reigns supreme. Its superior return on investment (ROI) compared to conventional advertising is a blessing, particularly for boutique hotels operating under budgetary constraints.
Part 3: Strategies to Maximize Digital Marketing for Direct Bookings
Ideally I along with my team like to study each Hotels unique USPs before we craft any Strategy, having stayed in 1000+ Hotels globally, in some cases as the Mystery shopper in most cases as a Guest / Trip Leader I recognize the fact that most Hotels have some unique USP and if brought out the right way it can be a game changer. However for the sake of those who may want to traverse these waters alone, here is a generic blueprint for hotels, amalgamating my extensive expertise, to harness Digital Marketing for the optimization of direct bookings:
Invest in a Great Website: The success of any digital endeavor rests upon a compelling website. Don’t pinch pennies here and go for an Ordinary website. If you are a Brand unfortunately you have very limited choices if you stick with the Corporate Website.
What can the guest experience with you? The very first experience would start here and your website should be as unique as your Hotel. The look and feel here is as important as the Rooms and experiences you offer when the guest is with you. If you are in the Luxury Space, the UI should reflect it. The images and Videos should all be of Top quality. Also in my experience I have seen some Hotels pinch pennies is by not thinking of Core Web vitals like Page load speed, Invest in a Good Hosting. Your site should ideally open up in 3-4 seconds to ensure that even the impatient ones stay on to experience what your website has to offer.
Unlock Paid Social Media Advertising: 90% of Hotels I have audited (and I have audited 500+ Hotels) consider posting on Social channels being enough. Let me explain to you that the organic reach continues to decline and only 1 in 19 people connected to your Facebook Page sees the content (and that too if its engaging) In case of Instagram organic posting lacks call to action and over 90% of the times people just browse through it and probably 3-5% like that post / story. So expecting miraculous results from your Organic posting is not an option. Paid Marketing on the other hand is like steroids for your Brand, especially on platforms like Facebook and Instagram—it helps magnify reach and amplify engagement and puts your Hotel content in front of more people who are likely to make the buying decision / book with you.
SEO is still important: The skillful optimization of website content, punctuated with pertinent keywords, enhances organic search rankings and boosts organic traffic. Sometimes Optimising the Hotel services may prove to be difficult in this I have leveraged the Destination and ranked for the destination and through that driven traffic to the Hotel site.
Leverage the Power of Google My Business: At least here I see that a vast Majority of Hotels have claimed their profile but not many have given it any major thought. For you as a Hotel Google My Business can help drive a lot of Business if you maintain your profile right. This platform serves as the digital face of your hotel, disseminating vital information including location, contact details, rich visual content, reviews, and effortless direct booking links.
Strategic Collaboration with Online Travel Agencies (OTAs): While OTAs can be a valuable source of exposure, they must be employed judiciously. The ultimate objective is to transition bookings to your direct platforms by offering exclusive incentives, nurturing loyalty, and extending special perks. I have seen Hotels becoming very complacent and telling me that OTA’s are doing good for us so we don’t need to do Direct marketing. This is a disaster waiting to happen, what if tomorrow the OTA delists you? What then?
Email Marketing: The collection of guest emails and the art of email marketing, featuring tailored newsletters replete with exclusive offers and personalized content, will help you with 2 things, A) It would maintain a Top of Mind recall and B) It allows you to share your updates etc with people who are already connected with you. Never underestimate the power of Email Marketing.
Online Reputation Management: A vigilant approach to online reputation management is paramount. Encourage delighted guests to share their experiences on platforms such as Google and TripAdvisor, and handle negative feedback with unwavering professionalism and swift resolution. In a vast majority of cases the Guests who have given you a Negative feedback had expected a lot more from you, whether it was perception or over commitment from an OTA / Travel agent, you have to find out but the truth of the matter is you failed them, all it takes is professional resolution and in over 95% cases these people would give you a second chance.
Technology: Embrace cutting-edge technologies such as chatbots to elevate customer service and explore virtual reality for immersive online tours that offer prospective guests a tantalizing glimpse into your property. Virtual Reality is one of the best tools for Hotels to grow their brand and control the narrative. Not only does it standardise the experience and information flowing out it also ensures that your Guests know exactly what to expect. Using chatbots specially Whatsapp Chatbots can actually help you greatly improve your Direct bookings for both Room Sales and Food and Beverage.
Take away for you as a Hotelier from my perspective, which is based on over three decades in the hospitality industry and more than a decade as a digital marketing consultant, underscores that Digital Marketing, when coupled with the astute utilization of platforms which are right for you, would serve as the liberating key for the hotels. Not only would if help you with enhanced visibility, but also foster personalized communication, and delivers cost-effective marketing solutions.
A well crafted Marketing Strategy planned for a Year broken down into quarters and measured with Monthly targets would help you improve your Top and Bottom line in the Short run and also help you greatly build lasting relationships with those who matter. The Data that already rests with the Hotels can further be used to reach newer audiences most likely to convert and extend their patronage to your Hotels.
There are 2 Ways I can help you, You can either book a Session with me and let me craft a Strategy for you which your teams can then implement or you can outsource the entire Marketing to my company Skrrt marketing.
In as little as 90 Days we promise you an increased Top of the mind recall and increased footfalls and in 1 year we can help you have 15-20% of all your Bookings coming to you directly.