Despite the sea of unknowns in which the hotel sector has been submerged since the beginning of the pandemic, during this year and a half, we have seen how direct sales were for many hotels the main source of income and a true pillar, even in the worst moments of crisis. The increase in direct bookings during the pandemic is due to many factors, including:
- The guest’s need to feel safe, a need that has led to greater interaction between the guest and the accommodation staff.
- The impossibility of the OTA’s to offer the necessary information, guarantees and a personalized treatment to the guest.
- The closure of many physical travel agencies.
- The stagnation of tour operators.
- Innovations and improvements in conditions by Google, including Google’s “Free Booking Links” (service launched on March 9, 2021, complementary to the Google Hotel Ads program).
- The development of new technological tools aimed at enhancing the hotel’s direct channel and increasing direct bookings (such as chatbots, booking engines with artificial intelligence, loyalty platforms, etc.).
There have been many changes during this time, but there is something that remains the same or even better and that is that the direct channel of a hotel is the most profitable channel.
Therefore, at Hotel’s Performance we consider, now more than ever, that investing in the direct channel should be a priority in any hotel’s post-pandemic recovery plan. We are going to tell you how to get the most out of it and thus increase direct bookings, today we start with the web:
Prepare your showcase, your website is your room
The web is the most powerful tool of any business, but nowadays it is not enough to have a website with an attractive design, the web has to offer an excellent user experience, since it is your most important communication channel. We know that having a good website is a challenge, but what is the use of having a fantastic room if your clients cannot see it as it is, fantastic?
Images – The first impression counts and a lot, or rather, the first visit to your site counts a lot, because if it is not impressive from the beginning, there will be no second chances and everything will have ended in a single visit. The images have to be the mirror of your hotel and reflect its beauty, so only high-quality, high-resolution images should be used.
It’s not always summer and it’s not always winter either! If your hotel is seasonal, invest in updating the images on a seasonal basis and always bear in mind that the content (texts) must adequately accompany the images.
Contents – Make your guests dream before arriving at the hotel! Another important aspect is to write attractive and useful texts for the user and at the same time write for SEO using keywords that help position your site in search engines.
Languages – Address your target in their language, invest in quality content personalized for each language.
Usability – In addition to being attractive, a site has to be functional so we should never focus only on one aspect or another, both are very important. Make the user find all the important information in a simple and intuitive way and make the booking engine always visible.
We sell rooms! – Lately we have seen an error that has become, let’s say, quite common and that is that many hotel web pages lack information about the rooms or the rooms have a position that is not adequate on the site. The user must be able to access the information of the rooms in a single click and from the Home page. A service or facility such as the SPA, entertainment, restaurant, pool, gym, etc. They should never take priority over the rooms, or impede or hinder their viewing. And of course, just mentioning the name of the rooms, their prices, the m² and whether or not they have views is not enough, we sell rooms that we want our guests to dream of.
Speed – One of the most important aspects is the loading speed of your site. Users are already used to websites loading fast and this is precisely the experience that must be provided. 60% of users abandon a web page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load and Google estimates that the optimal loading time for a website is 1.5 seconds. To optimize the loading speed of the site, we recommend, among others, to optimize the images and not abuse the multimedia content, to use a server with the necessary resources according to your needs and to carry out good programming.
Booking engine – We know that choosing a suitable booking engine is a complex decision, so we recommend paying maximum attention to this aspect, as it has a significant impact on the profitability of a hotel / chain. There are hundreds of booking engines on the market and in order to make the right decision, at Hotel’s Performance we believe that it is best to do an analysis of the specific needs of your establishment and assess the functionalities of various booking engines.
Define clear and real benefits for booking directly on your website
A bottle of water upon arrival of the client at the hotel is not a value that helps you differentiate yourself from the competition, nor an incentive for the client to book on your website, we work in Hospitality so offering a bottle of water, more that a benefit is an obligation on the part of any establishment. Nor is it worth mentioning only some generic benefits such as, “Free WiFi, “best price guaranteed “( without really having the best price or without having a price comparator integrated in the site) or free cancellation 24 hours before arrival (if it is the same condition that you offer in Booking .com or other OTAs, your clients will have already seen your hotel on the OTAs pages and they know that they will get the same with the advantage in addition to not having to register on your site as well). Here are some suggestions:
Optimization according to the device – Another “must” is to optimize the design of our website according to the different devices. More than 50% of travel and hotel searches and reservations are made through mobile phones and tablets, so responsive web design is mandatory.
Know your audience – Knowing your audience will help you target them in an appropriate way and thus increase your conversion rate. Having more information about your audience will allow you to create an optimal site that correctly communicates the values of your brand and satisfies the needs of your potential clients.
Analyze and test – Let us remember that we never know everything and we can always improve, for this it is necessary to carry out continuous analysis and testing, draw relevant conclusions and implement improvements. From Hotel’s Performance we recommend the implementation of advanced measurement tools and the performance of A / B and multivariable tests both on the site and in the booking engine to achieve our goal, which is to transform the largest number of users into customers.
By working on these main aspects of your website, you will be able to increase the conversion rate in your direct channel. Of course, apart from the improvements to be implemented on the web and its optimization there are many other equally important aspects such as the use of cutting-edge technology, the generation of quality traffic to your site, the implementation of loyalty strategies, etc. which we will talk about in future articles.