It's perhaps the travel industry's best kept secret but booking a hotel room direct can often work out cheaper than booking through an agent. In fact, even in cases where an agent’s rate is less than the direct price, most hotels will happily match it if asked. The problem is that consumers simply don’t know this is the case – we found out that 72% of people would book direct if they knew they were getting the best deal.
The key to winning these customers from the OTAs then, is for hotels to show exactly how consumers stand to benefit by booking direct. Here’s how some of the world’s top hotels are hoping to challenge consumer booking habits.
The old favourite: the price match guarantee
One way hotels can encourage their guests to book directly is to advertise their price match guarantee. Hotels can state this on their website, but also in newsletters and on print or online adverts. Our Price Match widget can also help – if a lower rate is available via a third party it will direct potential guests to call the hotel so they can match the lower rate.
Holiday Inn Express has just introduced its 'Lowest Price Promise’ which promises guests the best rate when they book direct – a particular selling point now that the brand's app allows customers to actually make a reservation on their phone. Mercure Hotels offers not only a price match guarantee but an additional 10% off on top of the lower rate, whereas Hyatt’s guarantee includes 20% off the lower rate.
Points win prizes
Many hotel chains, such as Marriott, offer a reward point system on top of the best rate guarantee, appealing in particular to business travellers who tend to use the same hotels. Guests can use the points on room nights at Marriott hotels or with several shopping and travel partners if preferred.
The Hilton HHonors program allows loyal customers to earn points every time they stay in a Hilton hotel or travel with selected airlines or rail services. These can be redeemed for free hotel nights, concerts and live performances as well as in a number of partner shops.
When price is not the deciding factor, it's the little bonuses that can turn a one-off booking into a repeat customer.
A study conducted by Software Advice last year found that a free room upgrade is the most appealing incentive (for 48% of participants). That doesn’t need to be an upgrade from entry-level room to master suite; instead, consider upgrading a garden view to a sea view. The second-most popular incentive was found to be complimentary food or drink so perhaps arrange for some drinks and snacks to await guests on their arrival.
The Corinthia London offers a number of perks for those who book on their website, including room upgrades (subject to availability), free Wi-Fi and a book now pay later option. They also enter all guests who book through the site into a monthly draw to win back the value of their stay.
Above all, hotels must advertise these perks and not assume that travellers will go hunting for them. Mentioning them in social media posts, AdWord campaigns and newsletters will vastly increase the likelihood of guests booking direct.
Email marketing can also come into play here, particularly if you already have details on a guest from a previous stay. Knowing a guest's likes and dislikes will help you to target them with the best incentive for them and this in turn will make them feel like a unique, valued customer.
Interested in how we can help you increase your direct bookings? Contact us now.