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6 ways to encourage guests to book direct

Last Updated: July 20, 2023|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , |4.8 min read|

Right now, there is a guest imagining their future stay at your hotel. They’ve scrolled your socials, browsed your website, and checked reviews. But when they are ready to pull the trigger, will they use an OTA or your booking engine?

Something special happens when guests book directly with your hotel instead of an OTA. Yes, you get a bigger slice of the revenue pie — essential guest data that gives you a competitive advantage in the booking landscape. But you’re also strengthening the connection you have with your guests when they choose to book with you.

Increasing direct bookings requires a thoughtful, omnichannel approach to your marketing strategy. Here are 6 ways to attract guests to book direct.

What you will see here

  1. Optimize for mobile bookings
  2. Ensure your website is user-friendly
  3. Connect with guests via the voice channel
  4. Personalize your email marketing
  5. Leverage user-generated content (UGC)
  6. Capitalize on guest loyalty

Improve your direct booking strategy with an omnichannel approach

Optimize for mobile bookings

Are you glued to your phone? So are your guests. 83% of travelers conduct research on a mobile device before finalizing their trip. This means there’s a good chance they’ll book on their mobile device after completing their research. OTAs have emphasized mobile bookings, so you need to make sure your mobile experience is up to par.

Your website should work just as well on mobile as it does on desktop. It should load quickly and present CTAs that are clear and easy to read. Keep navigation intuitive and be particular about your ad placement‌ — ads can take up a lot more space on mobile than they do on desktop. Those precious payment buttons should always be easy to find and shouldn’t require the user to hop between desktop and mobile to access them.

Ensure your website is user-friendly

A poor user experience can turn guests away. The booking process should be simple, so if navigating your website is complicated, guests may lose patience and hop to an OTA for convenient booking. With intentional investment in the user experience, you could increase conversion rates by 400%.

And just in case guests don’t book on their first visit to your website, deploy exit pop-ups to capture their data. These pop-up banners can scoop up their name and email address, so you can target them with emails to return to your website and complete their booking.

Connect with guests via the voice channel

Your call center shouldn’t only focus on inbound requests. Outbound calls can re-ignite your connection with guests. If a guest didn’t book on the first call, place an outbound call to follow up. You’re closing the gap to book direct. It’s about showing guests that their business is important to you — their travel goals are important to you — and you’re making an effort to ensure their booking journey is seamless.

With highly-trained reservations agents, they’ll know exactly how to keep that rapport going with prospective bookers so that they get excited about all your property has to offer and come back to complete their booking.

Personalize your email marketing

You can’t expect guests to get excited about booking a stay with your hotel if your messaging isn’t relevant to their travel plans. And guests will notice — as much as 71% of customers expect some level of personalization when communicating with you.

Use segmentation to group guests into groups based on their interests and activity, and target them with relevant messaging. For example, maybe you have some leisure travelers that haven’t booked in a while. Try sending them a “We miss you” campaign, packed with deals they’d love, like spa discounts or restaurant specials. Capitalize on guest preferences and tailor your messaging. It will make booking direct irresistible, and they won’t wait to come back and stay with you again.

Leverage user-generated content (UGC)

In addition to positive hotel reviews, prospective guests often go searching for evidence of pleasant stay experiences from past guests. The photo your hotel was tagged in on Instagram — the TikTok featuring your ocean-view suite — that’s all user-generated content (UGC). Future bookers see that content, so why not leverage the good publicity?

UGC is one way to inspire trust with new guests if they see someone else enjoyed their stay at your property. Consider reposting tagged photos to your social media or adding fresh images to your website featuring guests taking advantage of hotel amenities. It’s an easy way to spark interest and encourage guests to book direct.

Capitalize on guest loyalty

Guest loyalty is not underrated. You’ve already established a relationship with repeat guests, so all the more reason to maximize that relationship. Some hotels have booked 54% of their room nights from loyalty program members.

Whether your hotel has a loyalty program or not, there’re plenty of opportunities to target repeat guests. Tap into your positive reviews and find those guests in your database. Use that data to send those guests personalized deals and specials for being loyal bookers! Guests will remember that, increasing the likelihood they’ll book direct for their next stay.

Improve your direct booking strategy with an omnichannel approach

If you really want guests to book direct, you’ve got to communicate with them on every channel — voice, web, email, and text. You’re trying to stand out in a landscape of OTAs, all vying for the attention of eager bookers, so that communication needs to be personalized and it needs to resonate.

Try applying these direct booking tactics in your business operations. And don’t be afraid to experiment with how you attract guests — and then follow the data to see what messaging resonates the most.

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