Why owning guest relationships is vital

Everybody is talking about direct bookings – this year, more than ever!

Local and international trends indicate that industry marketers are taking on the OTAs.

Apart from the obvious benefit of lower commissions generated by direct bookings, the majority of small-to-medium operators fail to understand the biggest benefit – owning the customer relationship.

We all know that OTAs are a necessary evil as they have huge budgets and an incredible amount of brand awareness via saturated TV campaigns and high-reach digital marketing endeavors.

We also know the information requirements for making a booking, but why do OTAs only provide you with basic details? Sometimes not even a guest email address…

Have you ever considered why this level of information about your customer, who has booked through them into your hotel, is so limited?

The answer is that they want to own the relationship. They want to own the data.

But what does this mean and what can they do with the information?

Through strategic digital marketing, information such as email addresses, mobile phone numbers and IP locations can be used to create profiles and identify trends to further refine an OTA’s digital marketing effort, and identify new potential customers.

When you generate a direct booking, not only are you not paying commissions to a third-party but you are gaining access to vital details that can be used to cross-sell, up-sell and ultimately nurture a relationship with the customer that will gain repeat business and vital word-of-mouth referrals.

Let’s take their email address as an example: This allows you to send them a pre-stay email with special offers on dining, in-house services or partnered packages. An email address also allows you to request a review post-stay that you can use on your social media platforms and website. Above all, you can include them on future marketing efforts to generate repeat business.

One of the strongest pieces of information an operator can have about their guest is the reason for their travel. This is often overlooked by the OTA as they are playing the numbers game and focusing on sales volume.

To a small-to-medium-sized independent operator, this information is like gold dust as it opens the door to customising the experience for that guest through value-adds that will ensure a good review and ultimately a positive experience.

If you know the person is travelling for a relaxing weekend away, you could offer a discount spa package, late checkout and a glass of wine on arrival.

If the person is a business traveller, you could offer free wifi, a dining discount or a discount on dry cleaning service. For a millennial traveller craving an authentic experience, you could look at mobile check-in or discounted transfers. This can be achieved through a pre-stay email.

With all roads leading to a one-to-one communication path in digital advertising, knowing your customer is becoming more and more critical. By generating more direct bookings, you can not only build a relationship with a guest but also create guest profiles that open the door to more precise marketing efforts – just like the big guys are doing.

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