Why do hoteliers become hoteliers? Because they truly love delivering a great guest experience.
That much is clear from this week's Siteminder study, which found that 78% of hoteliers would say they love working in hospitality and are passionate about guest satisfaction.
The statistic is impressive when you consider just how negative industry news can feel sometimes. Day after day, we see story after story telling us how much harder things are for hoteliers than they used to be.
The direct booking debate often emphasises conflict and antagonism between hotels and OTAs, rather than focusing on the real love and passion that drives hoteliers to build meaningful relationships with their guests.
When asked to describe what motivates them, the hoteliers interviewed by Siteminder kept returning to the joy they find in those personal customer relationships. Many of them spoke about the little things they like to do to make every guest's stay special. Hoteliers don't just want a direct booking relationship for the money it saves, or to get one over on the OTAs. They, and we, truly believe that a close relationship between hotelier and guest is where the magic of the hospitality industry lies.
Think about those 'little things' you do for your guests as little ways of reminding them that Direct is Best. We're not doing our job right if we're not empowering hotels to own that 'direct booking' message for themselves. So, we've put our heads together and come up with three top tips for hoteliers looking to engage their guests and educate them about direct bookings. Enjoy, and make sure you let us know what you'd add to the list!
Tip #1: Get creative - very, very creative - with your freebies
Free gifts for guests do not have to be expensive. They do not have to be luxury. The most important thing is that they're a little expression of your hotel's character that your guest will remember long after they've checked out.
Our all-time favourite example of this is the hotelier who gives a pineapple to every one of his guests who books direct. Yep, a pineapple. Expensive? No. Luxury? No. Memorable? Very.
Our advice to you is, find your pineapple. Find your Power Socks*. Find that little something that stands out amongst your offers of 'free wifi' and 'late checkout'.
*Power Socks (noun): socks imbued with special powers to help hoteliers stand tall and negotiate better deals with their OTAs...
Tip #2: Show 'em what they're missing
You know that feeling when you treat yourself to something at the shops, only to find next week that it's been put on sale for half the price? Pretty gutting, right?
Now think of the feeling you get when you find an amazing deal for a tiny price. Satisfied, savvy, relieved - it's a pretty good cocktail of emotions.
If you're offering better value direct, you want to get your guests to feel the emotional reward of that. Say you're offering a free drink to guests who book direct. Why not have two sets of beer mats or cocktail napkins in the bar - one set for direct bookers, and one for everyone else.
The set for direct guests could read
"We really appreciate you booking direct - have this drink on us!"
Those guests who booked through an OTA, meanwhile, would look down at their napkin to see...
"Book direct and next time this drink will be on the house!"
Tying your online marketing efforts into your in-hotel perks is a great way of sparking conversations that lead to great education opportunities for you and your guests.
Tip #3: And speaking of conversations...
Sometimes, it's easy to forget that the best way to get a message across is still that age-old, tried and tested method: talking. But that doesn't mean accosting guests with your 'direct booking pitch' as soon as they walk into the lobby.
It's about finding common ground with people from all over the world and providing a personal connection in a travel marketplace that's dizzyingly impersonal online.
Siteminder asked hoteliers to describe what motivated them. One responded, "being there for our guests. I have long chats with them, especially after they have had a long hard day and need to talk. I listen."
Another, "I have spent 30 years planting trees and bringing back the wildlife [around my hotel]. I love sharing that with my guests."
One simply said, "I love meeting new people. It greatly enhances my quality of life."
You don't need us to tell you that talking to your guests is important. You're doing it every single day. And no matter how your guest comes to you - direct or otherwise - you want it to be those conversations and your service that they remember.
People love to feel important, and to feel wanted. Let your guests know how much your interactions with them matter to you - even the very smallest. After all, it's not going to be the faceless online travel agent that they remember when they look back on their holiday or business trip. It's going to be the hotelier who took the time to learn the name of their son's teddy bear, or the concierge who heard what their wife's favourite flowers were and made sure there was a fresh bunch in the room the next day.
Little steps make a big difference. The online travel agents don't have a presence in your hotel - you do. Make the most of it with personal touches the guest couldn't get from anyone else.
At Triptease, we believe that Direct is Best. If you'd like to know how our Direct Booking Platform can help to bring your personal touch online, get in touch with us here.