Changing Consumer Perception to Support International Local Hotel Businesses
As a hotelier in the industry, regardless of whether you are an independent owner, part of an emerging portfolio of regional brands, or a larger flagged property, increasing direct bookings through your website is a huge initiative to keep more profits and not pay large commissions to the industry OTA’s. Many of the industries seasoned managers and marketing directors look to SoCap to be able to provide direction on how to increase the conversion of traffic to your site to book direct as well as the effectiveness of the myriad of marketing channels they have exposure and distribution on.
Regardless of the outlet, driving more direct bookings saves many owners 12-20% of commissions they would pay out to OTA’s and puts those profits back in the organization to utilize internally. As such, being able to convert more prospective guests to book directly for your property and keep the profits is a priority and critical for many marketing departments.
Since the online travel agencies have grown so quickly and rapidly to serve the tourism industry, they have become the default for many consumers. Unknowingly, consumers are not aware of how much commission the OTA’s keep for themselves. With the following five high-level concepts and strategies for your hotel to explore standing up to reframe how by booking direct guests are able to support their local business ecosystem and community.
+ Educate – Bring Awareness to Supporting Local
First, the general public is generally unaware of the fact that OTAs take such a large percentage of bookings. As such, it is the independent hotel’s responsibility to assist in educating how booking direct helps local businesses. Informing potential consumers about how the additional profits made from direct bookings are reinvested into the hotel experience and the surrounding local community is also a good idea. Our research shows that hotels that provide additional funding for local community efforts, environmental health and betterment of the guest experience resonates with many consumers. There’s nothing wrong with remaining a profitable business, but in hospitality, showing how a portion of those funds is used to better the consumer’s experience is more likely to convert guests by building transparency and trust.
+ Transparency – Show as well as tell
The more clear and transparent your hotel or brand is able to be, the more quickly you will build trust with consumers. In the booking process, showing directly on your website how much booking direct saves and supporting local is able to save the guest is certainly one attractive offer. Pricing another 3-5% below the OTA’s to ensure you’re still in parody is crucial.
Alternatively, creating transparency around where those resources are able to be reinvested into enhancing their guest experience is another method to engage and change customer behavior. If guests are able to see that they are able to get better amenities, upgrades, more inclusive/exclusive content, activities, or experiences if they book directly through the website, the incentive to book directly will likely increase.
Bring those experiences to life and illustrate exactly how you are investing back into their experience and your property for life through video, storytelling of other guests, staff, and on-property signage that illustrates how these dollars are put into these initiatives. Small ways in which some of those funds can enhance the experience, but otherwise would’ve gone to commissions, is a compelling reason for guests to change their fine behaviors and support your entire business and community ecosystem, instead of the larger OTA’s.
+ Incentivize – Reward & Reinforce Consumer Behavior
Create a program that aligns with your organization’s values, mission, vision or other local impacts that your staff likes to get involved in. Amongst your ownership or leadership group decide what resources you could dedicate per night to these efforts if people decided to book directly, instead of through OTA’s. Something as small as $5 – $10 per night per room can add up fast and show where those additional resources are able to be dedicated to multiple initiatives.This will help you emotionally engage the audience and is an even more powerful way to captivate them to book directly through your website.
Show a running total of how much has been reinvested in saving the turtles, supporting local agriculture, the meals you’ve been able to create or the stories of staff that have been able to advance and take care of their families and communities in short stories or even infographics is a powerful way to translate this story in a meaningful way to guests. Reinforce these initiatives on property as well asthat behavior. Create talking points with your staff and encourage guests to share these anecdotes with their friends on social media.
+ Collaborate – Unify to Create Lasting Impact
While increasing your hotel’s direct bookings will certainly support your top line, profitability and satisfy both your guests and investors alike, it doesn’t stop there. Gaining a critical mass of consumers to understand the implications of supporting local businesses and communities through booking direct, versus the easy and convenient known path of using OTA’s is going to take achieving a critical consumer mass. This is done through education and numbers. As such, it is important that you share these principles with other hotels in your area.
The more international independent hotel owners, brands and resorts are able to implement these strategies to bring awareness to consumers, the more likely we are to change guest behavior at scale. Conversely, unifying together to obtain group buying power as the larger flag properties have done will be another approach to achieve the economies of scale needed. Bring this initiative up with your DMO or association and feel free to get SoCap involved as part of this larger initiative as well.
+ Increased Customer Data – Leverage & Personalize Guests Experiences
The silent and often unspoken assets about direct bookings is the marketer’s ability to assist a boutique hotel or resort in leveraging customer data for future revenues. Beyond the obvious, there are smaller and often more profitable ways to use customer data and emails without compromising their personal privacy or information. Upselling on property experiences, such as spas, wellness experiences, private tastings, or other amenities, that your property might offer, is one way to keep in the customer experience and get personalized data.
Reaching out following a booking to secure information that will enhance their experience and is another way to build a more robust customer profile. With that data, everyone from your front desk and Valet to your staff and housekeepers are able to greet, personalize, and enrich the interaction and engagement that they have with your valuable patrons in a way that makes it clear you are detail and customer service oriented. These micro-moments go a long way and help to create a remarkable experience that guests are able to remember for a lifetime and share with friends and colleagues for years to come.
Our goal at SoCap is to empower and enable hospitality to be more accessible to guests. Empowering guests and educating them about the implications of booking direct and how that has a larger ripple effect to support your business and local community is an important value of ours. If your marketing team would like the expertise of SoCap’s team to effectively these strategies within your site and larger online experience, reach out to us for a conversation about how we can support you.