Independent property owners can now no longer ignore the need for an integrated online booking engine. With such a large proportion of business and leisure travel researched and booked online, if your property does not have an online presence then your cannot be found. Plus operators should be leveraging their property website by integrating an online booking engine to drive their own direct bookings and control a greater share of their business.
An online hotel booking engine enables guests to book directly through the website of the hotel, providing the operator with all the guests details, higher revenue and reduced commission costs.
Today in hospitality there is an ongoing conversation around the over reliance on OTAs (Online Travel Agents) and the dominance that they have over the distribution of online reservations. The OTAs offer a valuable service, as a key distribution partner for hotels, but at a cost – both in terms of the commission that hoteliers pay, but also that hotels are losing the ability to engage directly with a guest pre and post stay.
Even though the OTAs vastly outspend hotel operators in terms of marketing activity and brand awareness, customers will in addition to using the OTAs site, look at an individual hotels website to search for more or local information whilst making a shortlist of booking options.
As end consumers we all tend to have a “deal mentality” believing if we form a direct relationship and cut out “the middle man” we can get a better deal. A hotel website is the ideal platform to do this. It yields the lowest cost of customer acquisition because of the direct interaction and an integrated online booking engine provides a source of direct bookings that can replace having to rely on the OTAs.
By receiving a direct online reservation, there is the financial benefit from spending less on commission payments plus operators are able to own the direct on-going relationship to use for their own advantage.
As an independent operator it would be great of course to have the majority of bookings come direct without paying commission - but in todays marketplace it makes sense to balance direct business along with reservations from the third party OTA channels. You are able to manage and spread the risk by sourcing reservations from multiple channels, keep costs down and “turn the tap on” for OTA business when the time is right and the conditions dictate it.
If operators chose to turn off the reservations from OTAs based purely on cost considerations then there is the risk that a hotel could miss out on the product exposure offered by the OTA websites. Guests frequently use these sites for research purposes and an OTA is likely to have far better brand awareness compared to an independent property and subsequently a larger volume of visitor traffic. Awareness that provides access to potential guests that an operator would not normally get exposure to.
Independent hotel operators are becoming far more proactive in developing their own direct booking strategy, using a combination of marketing activity and online booking software.
Any reduction in the OTA commission costs will go directly to the bottom line as profit. Plus often the booking value of a direct reservation can be higher than that of an OTA booking.
Below we have listed what we at HappyBooking think are the advantages for your property and the benefits for your guests by championing a direct online bookings strategy:
25x benefits for independent operators:
- You receive direct bookings that are commission free.
- Online booking systems save you and your staff time when they replace manual procedures.
- Direct bookings help you to build and control your hotel’s brand as you interact and engage with your guests before, during and after their stay with you.
- It helps build customer loyalty towards your property as those that book direct often receive exclusive benefits not given to those that use an OTA.
- By integrating your product pages with your booking engine it means that customers won’t jump off your website in order to make a booking – so a greater opportunity to convert a visitor.
- Reduces your dependence on OTAs as a source of online reservations.
- You can design and execute your own booking and cancellation policy.
- An online booking engine linked to your website provides data for you to analyse and build insights on your guests; from how they book, the device they use, where they are from, etc.
- More control over how you manage the occupancy levels of your property.
- Most OTA sites provide an opportunity for you to show off your property but their marketing monies are spent on promoting their own OTA brand.
- OTA sites tend not to share customer data or allow you to contact the guest directly pre or post-stay.
- Integrated online booking systems allow you to check your reservations and availability wherever you are using any mobile device.
- You always know the status of your business, billings and rooms management by viewing the system.
- A direct booking provides a far cheaper customer acquisition cost with typical OTAs commission around 15% and 20%.
- As an operator you are far more in control of the guest relationship rather than having to go through a third party that provided the booking if you need to make contact.
- Direct bookers are less motivated purely by price, and are open to build loyalty through service and added value features.
- As an operator by controlling the booking system you also have the ability to offer upgrades and upselling to guests to drive incremental revenue.
- An operator can save time by automating admin tasks associated with a direct booking that can be used to then focus on improving the guest experience, examples would be:
- Automatically ensure that bookings can only be received when you have availability
- Get all the details required during the booking process so you don’t have to waste time asking for more information
- Send out an automated email to the booking party as a confirmation of the booking
- Automatically update your availability when the booking has been processed
- Also handles other direct bookings such as by email, phone and walk-in bookings as well
- You can offer a consistent guest experience by providing an own branded booking engine to match your hotel’s website look and feel.
- With a system like HappyBooking you can also manage bookings, revenue, and front desk functionality all within the same system. Click to take a tour.
- A responsive booking engine will deliver a great booking experience to your guest across all the different devices.
- Provides multilingual content and currencies across the booking engine experience.
- Reporting that helps you to analyse your property data with multiple report modules.
- A HappyBooking system that can integrate with multiple third-party systems from payment gateways to OTAs and channel managers.
- You can also create and manage promotional packages and deals in your property calendar.
And what are the advantages to your guests?
- Option to get more benefits by booking direct.
- Instant email notification and direct contact with the hotel.
- User-friendly booking engine.
- Can subscribe for newsletters and offers for the property provided to those guests that book direct.
- A hotel operator can provide a higher level of service if they are in control of all the customer touch points from reservation to the stay itself.
- The HappyBooking system can also integrate an automatic payment system to reduce manual workload and provides an easy and safe way to both book and pay for a reservation for the guest.
- When we developed HappyBooking a lot of effort was made to make it secure, so the system is backed-up every day on servers that we host and IT security continues to be a top priority.
HappyBooking have always focused on creating a user-friendly property management system based in the cloud that can help property owners improve their revenue performance with a direct booking engine, generate more profit by lowering commission costs and reducing admin time. So take a quick tour to see how it works - click here.
To help you find the time to improve your revenue management skills, of which managing the source of your bookings is one – HappyBooking have written together with John Kennedy a Basic Revenue Management Guidelines for operators that have hotels, hostels, apartments or meeting rooms.
You can download your free guide here.
HappyBooking is first and foremost a property management system. That means they help you with the boring admin and automate tedious tasks giving you more time to focus on your guests. On average HappyBooking customers can get back up to 10 hours per week – think what you could do with that extra time!
Our guest blogger is John Kennedy.
John is a hospitality consultant, dedicated to helping increase profits through marketing, revenue management and efficient operations. www.kennedyandersson.com
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