2023 is without a doubt a big year for exploring the world. Even with tightening financial markets it currently remains a priority for prospective travellers.
However, consumer behaviours continue to change, and it is very important that, as a travel provider, you take those changes into account to ensure you take advantage of every opportunity to secure a booking.
A major change that is evident is the amount of time travellers spend researching and booking their travel. This has increased by up to 29 percent since 2019, depending on the country of origin. This increase is indicative of the savvy traveller’s tendency to research across multiple sites to make a purchase decision, irrespective of how they decide to book.
In fact, studies show that a prospective traveller is likely to visit the property’s own website up to 50 times while researching to seek information about the property.
Without a doubt, the most important factor in the success of your accommodation business is your ability to attract and retain paying guests. Bookings are paramount and all bookings are good, irrespective of the source. Direct bookings, however, are the ‘golden egg’ due to the increased revenue and future marketing opportunities that they provide.
Online bookings now supersede other avenues, 68 percent of all travel bookings in 2022 were made online. Given this information, it is clear how important it is to make the most of online booking opportunities from all sources. So, what does this mean for you, as an accommodation provider?
Firstly, take full advantage of the “Billboard Effect”
The prospective traveller will undoubtedly see your property advertised on many OTA sites. They have enormous buying power when it comes to Google advertising and will be the first sites listed in any travel accommodation search.
We have already established that during their research, savvy guests will turn to your website to learn more about your property and may do this many times over before booking. This is known as the ‘Billboard Effect’. This is a golden opportunity to convert the advertising power of the OTA to a direct booking by providing incentives that make booking direct more attractive.
To secure this guest as a direct booking you should ideally offer discounts and inclusions for booking direct by way of a pop-up on your website. These inclusions can be items such as breakfast, late check-outs, and room upgrades to name a few.
Interestingly, in a scenario where prices are identical on hotel websites and OTA’s, statistics indicate that 70 percent of respondents will book via the OTA (Hospitalitynet). This is due to OTA loyalty programs, such as Booking.com’s Genius program, which effectively reduces the cost of the booking below the advertised price and perceived ideas of security and ease of booking.
To compete with this, your website must be able to offer a better alternative in terms of price, inclusions, and booking terms, and an equally simple booking process.
It is also very important that your website is attractive, visible on Google, fast to load, contains accurate and relevant information, is easy to use, has great photos and videos, and has a very simple three-click booking process.
Secondly, maximise the advertising the OTAs provide to secure every booking
Even if you are not successful in converting the prospective guest to a Direct Booking, you want to ensure that they book your property on the OTA site. In many cases, given their dominance over Google Advertising, the OTA will be the first impression that a potential booker has of your property.
Make sure the OTA listing showcases your property in its best light, with high-quality images and relevant text. Ensure their listings highlight what makes your property unique, as you will be displayed against your competitors on the OTA sites. Your property should stand out to gain a competitive advantage.
Manage your OTA listings with an effective Channel Manager to ensure that availability remains up to date.
Additionally, Google Hotels does give you an opportunity to showcase your own property website on the first page of a Google search. Make sure your property is set up with this option.
Thirdly, don’t underestimate the power of reviews
Reviews matter to savvy researchers. They see them as an unbiased impression, even though this may not always be the case.
Encourage guests to review your property across Google Reviews and Trip Advisor. The OTAs will encourage reviews on their channels also. Make sure you monitor all reviews and answer them, whether positive or negative. Deal with negative reviews honestly and with empathy; never just ignore them. How you deal with a negative review gives guests an impression of how you may deal with an issue during their stay, so answer it carefully.
Likewise, make sure your social media portrays your property well, is engaging, and includes guest testimonials.
As consumer behaviors continue to morph with changes in the industry and the economy, it has never been more important to ensure that you take advantage of every opportunity for your property to make money. Understanding how much a prospective traveller will research clarifies why you need to extend your focus across all sites. Showcasing your property in its best light across all of these various sites is the best way to ensure a successful business moving forward.
Now is the time to set yourself up to convert every possible booking and ensure the strength of your business in a potentially unstable economy.
Sylvia is a Senior Executive at HiRUM Software Solutions, which has become one of the global leaders in hotel software, helping hotel and accommodation managers with a complete hotel software solution.