Written by: Galina Kulakova
Have you ever wondered why your hotel’s website has so much traffic, but a number of direct bookings are significantly lower? Why do your clients tend to book on OTA websites instead of yours? In this article, we will bring this question to light.
The behavior of travelers has changed over the years. In fact, it keeps changing. Around 50 years ago it was very hard to find a way to acquire customers without the help of tour operators, for many larger hotels – impossible. Now the rules of the game have changed, but still, there are various advantages in the partnership with OTAs, and many hotels prioritize their strategy towards this collaboration.
However, in the recent years, the “marriage” of the hotels with OTAs became rather one-sided with OTA business growing more powerful. Booking.com along with other online channels captures large shares and charge commissions that are far too high to be beneficial to independent hotels. Often, the hotels make less profit despite having a higher income, which results in hotels starting to wave the flag for freedom, realizing the benefits of increasing direct bookings.
The answer is – customer orientation.
Let’s see the examples of customer orientation of Booking.com – a sales leader.
“9 out of 10 European independent hotels (87%) say Booking.com is top producing online travel agency”
Booking.com used marketing concept of ‘customer orientation’ with great skill, boosting customer satisfaction. How, you might ask? Booking.com always sides with the client. By supporting the user and protecting his interests in any conflict situation with hotels, OTA wins customers over and gains their loyalty.
Here are some examples of actions of Booking.com that pose “situations of conflict”.
Problem. Not only does Booking.com guarantees the best price to travellers, but it also offers to match its price to users if they find a cheaper one, even if it is at expense of your hotel. Because, when that happens, it often charges the difference to the hotel.
Solution. You can avoid it by controlling this condition in your contract with Booking.com. Also, If you are offering a better price than OTA, make sure to promote it, as it will help you boost direct bookings.
Problem. Sometimes, Booking.com tries to persuade the hoteliers to not charge the penalties for non-reimbursable booking cancellations or cancellations outside the date limit. If the hotel accepts, Booking.com wins over the client, demonstrating total customer orientation.
Solution. If you are making exceptions, make sure that your clients know whom to thank and better yet, favour those customers who book direct.
Problem. The transparency of Booking.com is an attractive characteristic for the users – they can be sure that every voice will be heard. An even if transparency is completely fine, the channel does not allow the hoteliers answer the comments, which creates a conflict situation, as only the point of view of a client is presented.
Solution. Create your own channels for clients to express their feedback – be it on your website or on your social media profiles. Be transparent and be honest, and make sure to enter each conversation possible. Your guests will appreciate it, their loyalty will be with you and direct booking is more likely to be their next choice.
Problem. Booking.com offers complementary transport services; prior their buyers arrive at their destination and after. And did you realize that they also offer travel guides and information of interest to users? That means that most, if not all, of the information the traveller needs is concentrated in one place – its website.
Solution. Inbound Marketing, this methodology combines SEO strategies, content marketing, social media marketing, email marketing and more to ensure that users have all the information they need to plan the trip they wish to make. And if you also facilitate access to some of the transport services, much better. You could even guarantee some up-selling.
Problem. Booking.com has the “privileged” title of ‘B.Pro’ client for those who book frequently through its website. By providing special treatment to this type of clients, you once again increase user loyalty to Booking.com.
Solution. As mentioned previously, favour your clients, direct ones, create lasting bonds with them by providing special treatment and exceptional service. That is, you need your own loyalty programme.
“According to Kalibri Labs' analysis, bookings via official hotel websites are showing 9% higher profitability than bookings made through OTAs.”
Your clients will be ready to book directly if you provide them with the advantages they receive when book with OTAs. Now you know them and can start building your online marketing strategy. Be as exclusive as you can, differentiate your offer from OTAs’ by adding the value of personalized services.