Direct bookings are the “Holy Grail” for every single hotelier around the globe. Often elusive, direct bookings have a significant impact on a property’s financial performance but leave hoteliers waging an uphill battle to profitability every single day, no matter the season, the type of hotel, or its location. To ensure success in a marketplace, hotels must think outside-of-the-box in regards to revenue management strategies to make properties stand out from the competition—especially online. Unfortunately, most hoteliers continue to follow the old-school playbook every day, every month, and every year, hoping for a different result.
Automation—using technology that a hotel may already have—can help boost a property’s bottom line. Hotels can leverage the power of central reservation systems (CRS) to improve direct booking conversion rates and boost RevPAR.
A CRS is the hub connecting all of a hotel’s distribution channels to the property management system (PMS). An effective CRS gives a property access to all distribution channels through a single platform, making it quick and easy to manage inventory, pricing, the property’s website, etc. A good CRS grows as the hotel grows. Whether a property gets a huge influx of reservations at one time because of a special event or because it grows more popular over time, the CRS should adjust its performance accordingly to ensure that it is as productive as possible. A CRS can make it much easier for a property to handle complex reservation requests with no extra hassle.
But, there is one additional, lesser-known benefit of using a CRS—by using a sophisticated, integrated CRS with built-in tools specifically designed to boost revenues, a property can increase direct booking conversation rates immediately–all without resorting to discounting.
OTA Rate-Comparison Pop-Ups
The first CRS tool that a property should leverage to boost revenues is OTA rate-comparison pop-ups. The largest generation of travelers (i.e., Millennials) are primarily looking for a great travel experience, BUT they also prioritize value, as many travel for longer periods of time than prior generations. Unfortunately, most consumers still believe that OTA room rates are lower than when booking directly, making it unlikely that a Millennial will book directly without double-checking the rates offered by the OTAs and metasearch engines first.
A hotel’s CRS can enable OTA rate-comparison pop-ups, which will show viewers the rates on the top OTAs and metasearch engines in real-time, so soon-to-be guests will be comfortable and assured that they are getting the best rate.
Persuasive Messaging and Tagging
Persuasive messaging and tagging features show a potential guest that others are looking at or booking rooms at that exact moment, and that the property is almost completely booked. The combination of social proof and scarcity—two psychological triggers—is a powerful one.
Secret and Locked Deals
Marketing secret and locked deals helps hotels to use the psychological trigger of reciprocity—in this case, giving a potential guest something special (access to lower rates), in exchange for an email address and permission to be added to a hotel’s email marketing list. Secret rates make potential guests feel like VIPs, again making it more likely that they will book again with the hotel.
In addition, by adding these potential guests to your marketing list, it gives hotels the opportunity to reach out to them regularly with sales messaging designed to create repeat customers.
Abandoned Cart Recovery Strategy
Like in the retail industry, this feature encourages guests who are about to abandon the reservation to complete the booking, using a customized pop-up message.
Competitor’s Rate Checker
When competing for guests with one or many direct competitors in a market, a competitor rate checker feature makes it easy for a property’s revenue management team to monitor the rates of competitors in real-time from the main online distribution portal; this enables rate changes on the fly and an increase in occupancy if a property’s rates continue to beat competitor rates.
Metasearch Management Tool
Metasearch channels are the OTA equivalent of the OTA rate-comparison pop-up feature—they allow potential guests to see all the available rates on all of the OTA sites and, therefore, feel more comfortable knowing that they got the best rate possible. Managing, monitoring, and updating rates on the OTAs plus the metasearch engines can become overwhelming; after all, revenue managers are already spending a significant amount of time looking at data, making calculations, and updating rates across all these channels.
Having a metasearch management tool integrated into a hotel’s CRS allows the revenue management team to manage, monitor, and connect with the top metasearch engines, all from one easy-to-use platform. Rates and availability are pulled from the booking engine and sent to the metasearch platform, with all clicks directed to the booking engine on the property’s website.
Most hoteliers and revenue managers focus on two opportunities during the consumer booking cycle to boost revenue: when the guest chooses their room type and when they have checked-in and may be potential consumers of the hotel’s services or on-site food and beverage. Upselling is a huge revenue booster and a hotel’s CRS should integrate functions that automate upselling for every customer who moves from looking to booking via the brand.com booking engine.
Instead of just offering a room upgrade, an alternative offers tool can automatically suggest special promotions for guests who choose to stay for additional nights and/or can offer bundle packages during the room selection phase of the booking cycle, among many other upselling options designed according to the hotel’s business goals and amenities.
Flexible Date Calendar
When booking a flight, travelers often have access to tools to compare rates and determine which days are most affordable. Today, many consumers, especially digital nomads and business travelers, have the flexibility to choose their travel dates to decrease their overall spend instead of making decisions based on pre-set dates of travel.
Until recently, there was no tool that allowed travelers the same flexibility when booking a hotel stay. Now, sophisticated CRS tools can show potential guests room rates for a specific date range on a calendar, making it easy for them to find and book the least expensive stay possible—no extra clicks required.
About the Author
Mark Lewis-Brown is the CEO and president at Vertical Booking USA.
Read part one of “Boosting a Hotel’s Direct Booking Conversion Rate Without Giving Away Rooms” here.