Now that most hotels are fully responsive” in website and booking engine terms, the drive is on to attract more profitable, direct bookers.  Some believe that the creation of a lovely new website, featuring lots of large “wanna be there” images, a responsive booking engine and a couple of widgets on the Home page, guaranteeing Best Available Rate, is a case of “job done”.  Is it?

A new website with beautiful, high resolution images may well deliver an increase in visitor traffic but more bookings won’t necessarily follow.  The all-important Home page, the shop window – the key landing page –  must be geared for bookers as much as lookers. Simply having a couple of bland widgets steering people towards booking direct isn’t going to do the trick.  For the best outcome, widgets, quick booking boxes and promotion add-ons need to be geared to wield influence when it comes to conversion of lookers to bookers.  They should facilitate simple booking, with critical information easy to find.

Take, for example, the quick book box. Some websites squeeze it in at the very bottom of the Home page, often 2 or 3 screens down, instead of placing it in a prominent position near or at the top of the page.  In usage terms, when a visitor completes the query box, the link should lead straight to what is available.  All too often instead, they are taken to the front page of the booking engine where they have to repeat the initial query process.  Hotels please note – it is called a quick book box for a reason.  It should bypass the availability calendar and deliver the visitor straight to room and rate options.  Why retain a step in a booking process that is supposed to be quicker?

Consider too, the all-important “Best rate guaranteed”, usually found in the form of a button featured prominently on a Home page.  What information is assuring visitors that they are indeed, getting the best guaranteed rate?  It may be more useful to consider the inclusion of a qualifying statement: “Best rate guaranteed – if you find a cheaper rate anywhere else, we will…”. The quality of promise will do the convincing.

Similarly, a Book Direct button should incentivize the looker.  For example, a visitor on a Home page sees a “Book Direct and Save Money”.  The immediate thought is how?  Tricky when there is no visible answer.  Book Direct buttons work best when they have a carrot to dangle. “Book Direct and enjoy VIP Status” or “Book Direct and get a further 10% off your booking” or similar.

Many websites have just a price comparison box.  Comparing rates with key OTAs is one way to show visitors that they are getting the best rate but hotels need to consider if this: If rates are in parity the impact on the shopper is one of reassurance –  nothing will be lost if they opt to book elsewhere.  For the hotel to have the best chance of securing the booking, consideration should be given to the addition of other calls to book.

Aside from the choice of widgets, a hotel can promote special offers “in its store window” by creating a spot on the home page.  This can, (and should), be done on a variety of pages where the offer would be a relevant option.  Analytics, from both PMS and Google, have a key role to play in this instance.  As well as providing tracking stats, they provide data on guest types and their buying preferences.  Armed with this information, a hotel can effectively advertise special offers that will have maximum appeal and can be booked within one click from the Home page or any other page that they are featured on.

Links too are important. They should work for a hotel. Nowadays it is common practice to link to Trip Advisor to let guests read about how good you are.  Two key considerations should be made when considering external links.  One is to ensure that your reputation has and is being managed, so that nothing off putting will be discovered.  Secondly is to ensure that any links open in a different window.  Even better, is the use of an API interface to draw your key data from TripAdvisor to display on your own site, thus minimizing the risk of losing the visitor.  There is no point in gifting a potential booker to another site, especially one where they will easily find alternative hotels.

Finally, why hand business over to an OTA like  Visitors do shop around and often land on a hotel’s website from an OTA site.  Where an incentive is attached to the Best Rate Guarantee or Book Direct widgets, it can swing a booking vote in the hotel website’s favour.  Sadly, there are some hotels that throw this opportunity away by featuring a direct booking link to the OTA site right underneath their own booking button!  Who stands to benefit the most from that?  Unlikely the hotel.

Worryingly, a quick survey highlights a significant number of hotels seemingly lacking the understanding or expertise to ensure their websites are as effective at selling as they are attractive.   Sales and marketing opportunities do not sit at the top of the list for many web designers. The result is a failure to maximize on the opportunities created by the tools.

At GlobRes part of our support level involves helping and advising hotels as we know the best practices.   “As our team has grown and developed, so has our knowledge bank.  We offer a choice of services to complement our range of mainstay products.  Some of our services, like X-Direct, available to select hotels, even offer additional routes to market via exclusive channels.” says Silvia Keller, GlobRes’ CCO.  “We have a high level of in house marketing expertise and extensive knowledge about links and variables that combine to drive reservations to the booking engine.  We are happy to share and to give recommendations to customers in terms of best practice, but careful also not to intrude into the sales and marketing function of a customer without invitation.”

The company’s team of System Distribution Advisors work with hotels to implement the purchased software solutions and train staff in their use.  Ongoing, they monitor hotel performance and results, frequently stepping in to offer recommendations and advice. “Many companies charge extra for such marketing advice,” says Silvia.  “We see it as part of the service.  If a hotel lacks time or the right expertise within its team it should be open for assistance.  There is minimal value in using one tool to drive more profitable, direct bookings.  The most effective way to drive direct bookings is to use a combination of widgets and variable links to draw the customer to the booking page”.

Conclusion?  A good-looking website, using sales tools effectively, will deliver a noticeable increase in direct bookings.  If anyone would like to chat further, please feel free to give us a call.