Hotel businesses know that to compete in today’s travel market they need to be visible online. But what does an effective online distribution strategy look like in 2022?
Many small and independent hotels today still rely solely on booking channel distribution. According to WIHP, the hotel marketing specialist, OTAs can limit the control you have over distribution and cost. “If an OTA brings you 80% of your business it means your business value and margin is your growth minus the OTA commission.”
Hotels need to strike a balance between driving direct bookings and distributing with OTAs. With an online booking platform like RoomRaccoon integrated on your website, customers can securely book at any time from anywhere in the world. Hotels should not overlook the lucrative opportunity presented by digital marketing efforts. That's because they can reach a large audience through Google Hotel Ads, for example, and it's cheaper than OTA distribution.
RoomRaccoon spoke to WIHP for expert insight into the importance of digital marketing in the hotel industry. WIHP highlighted ways for hotels to increase direct bookings through their websites and major metasearch channels.
Why it's important for independent hotels to invest in digital marketing
Staying relevant in a competitive market
The accommodation industry is highly competitive and travellers today have many choices. When someone searches for accommodation in your location on an OTA, they are overwhelmed by the number of options. OTAs are a pivotal player in online distribution but you would be missing out on potential guests if you ignored metasearch engines entirely.
Improving the guest experience
WIHP: “Digital marketing is not only for you, but it is also for your customers.”
When travellers book on an OTA, they have a completely different experience compared to booking directly on your website. Through your website, you are able to provide a personalised guest experience with a tailored booking confirmation email and in-room extras that can be upsold. You also have more control over the information you collect from guests for re-marketing campaigns and post-stay promotions.
Increasing direct bookings
When hotels integrate marketing agents into their digital marketing strategy, they can see a huge increase in direct bookings. For example, Hotel Castelbrac experienced a 61.25% increase in direct bookings when it partnered with marketing agent WIHP.
5 Important Elements of a Successful Hotel Website According to WIHP
By implementing these five essential elements, you can start to see an increase in direct booking revenue right away.
1. Speed of your website
We live in an increasingly fast-paced world. Everyone, including millennials, wants things now. Online consumers are impatient with slow website loading times. In fact, one study showed that approximately one in four website visitors would abandon a website if a page took longer than four seconds to load! Basically, slow websites annoy people and create distrust. In turn, this means fewer direct bookings.
2. Mobile-friendliness of the website
Your website should be mobile optimised. This simply means that your website content is adjusted to ensure that visitors who access the site from mobile devices have an experience customised to their device. This is important because the largest travel generations today use their smartphones to make purchases and to compare prices online. This goes hand in hand with your hotel’s social media presence. After your website, guests are most likely to search for your Instagram page. That’s where they’ll find more information — including photos — about your hotel.
3. A Booking Engine linked to your website
If you want to increase your direct bookings then you’ll have to do away with your phone-based booking system. Think about it. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to invest time and effort into driving online leads to your website only to inform prospective customers to call you between certain hours for more information on your room availability.
In fact, it defeats the point of quick online booking gratification that travellers expect. They also want to be able to compare and make sure they aren’t missing any important details. It’s not just about booking a room, it’s about booking the right room at the right hotel.
With an online booking platform like RoomRaccoon integrated on your website, customers can securely book at any time from anywhere in the world.
4. Relevant and updated information on your rooms
As mentioned previously, your website is the place online bookers go to search for more information on your hotel, rooms and extra amenities. In fact, some online bookers shop around on OTAs like Booking.com or Expedia and then search for the hotel’s website for more information. This is known as the billboard effect.
To maximise the number of direct bookings on your website, it pays to invest in good content. High-quality pictures, exhaustive room descriptions and writing engaging copy that describes your hotel and rooms. Each of these assets should reflect your brand’s personality and tone of voice.
Take a look at this great example of a room description that perfectly describes what the room looks like, the views from the balcony, and in-room extras that guests can expect.
Source: O’Two Hotel using the RoomRaccoon booking engine
5. Track the purchase journey of each user
Your customer’s purchase journey is important to understand because it helps you to define your target audience and gain valuable insight and understanding regarding common customer pain points. It illustrates all the phases your customers come into contact with your brand.
Without this key information, you won’t be able to establish an effective digital marketing strategy. The good news is that with advanced online tracking like Google Analytics you can track where your customer come from and where they went after they arrived on your website and didn’t make a booking. All this information can be used to optimise your website to increase your direct bookings.
Is digital marketing cheaper than OTA distribution?
The commission you are required to pay a metasearch site is significantly lower than that of an OTA, and metasearch sites are equally as popular.
What are the 3 most popular meta-search channels for hotels?
- Google Hotel Ads
How does metasearch engines work?
Some metasearch engines, like TripAdvisor and Google, displays instant booking buttons that allow travellers to book directly from the metasearch results. This allows them to function in a similar way to OTAs.
This new strategy means you could potentially get more direct bookings because the button leads to your booking engine making it easier for travellers to book.
A hotel website is an incredibly powerful tool that can generate direct bookings, increase revenue, and reduce commission fees. Yet, it’s underutilised by small and independent hotels that usually lack the skills and time to focus on digital marketing efforts.
WIHP specialises in digital marketing for hotels and provides various solutions all dedicated to increasing direct bookings. WIHP is also a leader in metasearch distribution for hotels. Through their Metasearch Manager solution, they allow hotels from all over the world to distribute their official rates directly on the metasearch websites (Tripadvisor, Google Hotel Ads, Trivago, etc). Fully transparent, the solution allows you to track each booking provided by those channels and offer you the possibility to distribute your rates via commission or cost per click.
Click the link below to learn more about how WIHP can bring your RoomRaccoon booking engine to the top of distribution channels.