Most hotels have a website but find that when they put their hotel name into a search engine they often do not even appear on the first page of results, because of the dominance of booking agents.
Online booking agents are useful in making sure distressed room inventory is utilised, but all hotels would prefer to boost their direct bookings.
The key to this is getting found online in the first place, that means taking control of your online marketing to outmanoeuvre the agents. ReachLocal, a digital marketing firm, says this can reduce the cost of a booking from 20-30% to between 1% and 5%.
There are a number of ways to improve your marketing to drive up direct bookings:
Have a well-designed, smart website
Over 60% of customers that cannot find the information they are looking for on a website leave without taking further action. Get your website right and you will see a huge uplift in bookings and revenue. It has to: be well designed; explain your rates and facilities; have visible contact information throughout and be mobile friendly.
Content is king
Post fresh and authentic content to your website or social media pages weekly. This content will boost your organic rankings in search engines and be used to promote your hotel through other online channels.
Advertise on search engines
Search Engine Advertising (SEA) offers a way to improve your hotel’s position in search engine results. Companies bid to be linked with search terms and this determines where they appear in the listings, with position determined by a combination of bid value and quality score.
Contextual banner advertising
Appearing on other websites based on what the consumer has been looking at presents an opportunity to produce and publish creative material targeted only at those people looking for hotel rooms or venues.
The Hatton Collection, which has hotels and inns in the Cotswolds, Somerset and Jersey, combines Adwords, analysis and closely monitored online campaigns to drive up the proportion of direct bookings.
Peter Gilbert, chief financial officer at Hatton Collection Hotels said: “We achieved organic growth on our direct bookings, secured our own name online and drove down cost. Working with ReachLocal we maintained our room rates whilst reducing our cost per click from £1.22 to 33p in just two Adwords cycles.”
"In order to increase these direct bookings affordably, we underpinned our analytical approach with solid, simple processes that cut through the complexity of online marketing. That’s what it takes to make online marketing effective," added Paul Liascos, UK managing director of ReachLocal.