A recent report by D-EDGE highlighted the rise of direct bookings in November 2020. For short stay businesses online revenue from OTAs in Europe is still dominant at 63% but direct bookings continue to climb with 17% growth from 2017 to 2019 and it is evident they have been taking market share from the OTAs.
The trend accelerated during 2020, possibly explained by the fact OTAs reduced their advertising and marketing budgets, boosting organic results for hotels and other accommodation in search engines such as Google.
The push to encourage guests to ‘Book Direct’ stems from efforts to both reduce commissions paid to third-parties and to forge stronger bonds with guests.
Now is the time to act for accommodation businesses to take advantage of this rise in direct bookings.
Here is exactly how to do it!
Run a “bid on brand” Google Ads campaign
The first step to direct bookings is to set up your Google Ads account to drive sales to your website directly via your booking engine on your website. This form of advertising is to attract people who are actually searching for your exact accommodation.
As you probably know, OTAs will likely be running campaigns against your brand name and appear organically above you in the search results.
Creating your own ad campaign means you can appear higher and spell out the benefits of a direct booking.
Google ads have three headline sections and here is what you should be putting I each one.
- Headline 1: 30 characters – something appealing for guests.
- Headline 2: Include your official property website and make it clear this is how they book direct with you.
- Headline 3 – Book direct, best rates (limited availability, award winning, etc)
Google Tag Manager gives you conversion ID + conversion label. You can copy and paste this ID into booking engines and your Google Ads campaign will automatically track what happens on your website/booking engine.
Track Google search results in your area and match it with the best OTA
Deciding on which websites to list your property on is a big decision because different platforms have different strengths depending on the geographic region and property offering.
Do five generic searches on Google for things like accommodation near me and local places to stay. Tally up the results and make a note of which platforms appear the most – and highest.
At the bottom of every search – Google will tell you related searches. These are the most common searches that people are putting on alongside the ones you searched for – again, do the same.
Finally do five similar searches but this time for niches that your property accommodates e.g. dog friendly, child friendly etc.
Collate all your search results into a spreadsheet and make sure that you are directly listed on the google pages and platforms that appear in the highest 20% of all your searches.
Focus on getting more contractor bookings
Contractor bookings are on the rise and very different to leisure or holiday bookings. Because they are business-related they often look for specific features, search on OTAS and then phone accommodation businesses to book directly.
Here are the five considerations of a quality contractor booking
- Managers booking on behalf of guests, teams and groups of 6 or more contractors for a project.
- Block booking. As a rule of thumb international bookings often involve staying over weekends, UK contractors typically book Monday to Friday.
- Lead time. Projects often have a long lead time and bookings are planned weeks in advance.
- Detailed questions. If you receive a phone call for a group stay and they ask lots of questions, this is a tell-tale sign of a profitable long-term business booking from a large company. These are the kinds of good, secure, long-term bookings you want especially at off-peak seasons (or during lockdowns, for key workers).
- Long term relationships. For contractors, reviews are important but not as important as for travel/leisure guests. They are more concerned with the long-term relationship and functional, reliable accommodation where guests are looked after.
The most effective way to get business bookings is to be visible so they find you. Make sure you are listed in the right places – Booking.com, Airbnb and all the standard OTAs – in your location.
Contractors look for key features – so make these features prominent in your OTA listing:
- Separate beds and number of beds exactly
- Highlight functional and clean bathrooms
- Self-service, key drop off and collection is often appreciated when contractors work different shifts.
- Self-catering options so they can cook for themselves.
- Location and time to nearby work sites (30 mins max from site)
- Explain parking arrangements for your property
- Exact location and address
- Make sure you are cheaper than your nearest hotel chain – usually 15-20% cheaper.
Create a user-friendly website optimised for search
Your website, your content and its booking system all play a crucial role to increase your direct bookings and attracting your ideal guests.
Your brand website should have the following features;
- Be visually attractive, easy-to-navigate and above all user-friendly from desktop and mobile.
- Properly optimised for Google and other search engines to attract maximum visitors.
- Offering multi-language and multi-currency features
- Open to explore your property through ‘virtual tours’ or picture galleries
- Offering a ‘Best Rate Guarantee’ to compete with OTA best prices.
- Linked to a direct booking engine so you can take bookings and guests can view availability for rooms through your website.
Your booking engine should have a customer database. That way, when a repeat guest makes a booking, you can search for them and reserve their favourite room and remember their special requests to delight them.