“OTAs get 15-30% of the booking and own the customer data. Hotel owners need strategies to resist!”
When my wife and I took over the Meadowlark Motel from my parents (after 45 years of ownership) we immediately contracted online travel agency (OTA) services to jumpstart reservations. But after the first year or two, we started realizing how expensive OTA reservations are to the business. Facing yet more monthly giant bills for commissions is just drudgery. You feel like you are working for them instead of yourself. So we became determined to build more motel direct bookings to bypass the OTAs. We succeeded greatly in just 2 years. From 75% OTAs to 43% OTAS. Our goal is 90% Direct Bookings. Yay! Below is a little overview of the strategies we used.
Motel direct bookings refer to the process of reserving a motel room directly with the motel, rather than going through a third-party booking platform like Expedia or Booking.com. With a direct booking, a guest contacts the motel either by phone, email, or the motel’s website and makes a reservation for a specific room or set of rooms or type of room.
There are several benefits for a motel to have direct bookings:
- Lower commission fees: When a motel uses third-party booking platforms like Expedia or Booking.com, they have to pay commission fees for each booking made through those platforms. By having more direct bookings, the motel can reduce these commission fees and keep more revenue.
- Better control over pricing and promotions: With direct bookings, the motel has complete control over the pricing and promotions offered to customers. This allows them to be more flexible and offer more competitive rates and promotions to customers.
- Access to customer data: Direct bookings allow motels to collect and analyze customer data, such as booking patterns and preferences. This information can help motels improve their services and tailor their offerings to better meet customer needs.
- Improved customer service: By handling bookings directly, motels can offer more personalized and efficient customer service. They can respond to customer inquiries and requests more quickly and efficiently, and can also offer more personalized recommendations and assistance.
- Increased brand awareness: Direct bookings can also help increase brand awareness and loyalty. When customers book directly with a motel, they are more likely to remember the motel’s name and recommend it to others, which can help the motel attract more business over time.
Reducing dependency on Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) for room bookings can be a challenging task for motels, but there are several strategies they can use to achieve this goal.
Strategies for Reducing Dependencies on OTAs.
Improve Direct Booking Options on Website.
Motels should focus on improving their own website to offer an easy-to-use and secure booking process. This includes:
- Improve website design: A well-designed website with easy-to-use navigation can make a big difference in encouraging customers to book directly. The website should be visually appealing and mobile-friendly, with a clean and uncluttered layout.
- Provide detailed information: The motel’s website should provide detailed information about the rooms, amenities, location, and policies. High-quality photos and virtual tours of the rooms and property can also be helpful.
- Offer competitive rates: The motel should offer rates that are at least as competitive as those offered by OTAs and may even offer special discounts for direct bookings.
- Provide booking incentives: The motel can offer additional incentives to encourage customers to book directly, such as free breakfast, early check-in or late check-out, or a complimentary upgrade.
- Simplify the booking process: The booking process should be quick and easy, with clear instructions and minimal steps required to complete the reservation. Offering a one-click booking option or the ability to save guest information for future bookings can also be helpful.
- Provide secure payment options: The website should offer secure payment options that protect guests’ personal and financial information, such as SSL encryption or PCI compliance.
- Encourage customer reviews: Including customer reviews on the website can help build trust and encourage direct bookings. The motel should respond promptly to any negative reviews and take steps to address any issues raised by guests.
Offer a Loyalty Program
Offering a loyalty program can incentivize customers to book directly with the motel, as they can earn points or rewards that can be redeemed for future stays or other benefits. By providing valuable rewards and benefits to loyal guests, motels can create a positive and long-lasting relationship with their customers. The steps involved to build a loyalty program include:
- Define the program: The motel should define the loyalty program, including the rewards or benefits that customers can earn, such as points, free nights, upgrades, or other perks.
- Determine eligibility: The motel should determine who is eligible for the loyalty program, such as all customers or only those who book directly through the motel’s website or by phone.
- Set up a rewards system: The motel should set up a system for tracking and rewarding loyalty program members, such as a point-based system that allows customers to accumulate points for each stay or purchase, which can then be redeemed for rewards.
- Promote the program: The motel should promote the loyalty program on their website, social media channels, and other marketing materials, highlighting the benefits and rewards that members can earn.
- Communicate with members: The motel should communicate regularly with loyalty program members, such as sending email newsletters, special offers, and exclusive deals.
- Monitor and improve the program: The motel should monitor the effectiveness of the loyalty program, tracking customer engagement and satisfaction, and making improvements or adjustments as needed.
Overall, offering a loyalty program can help motels to build a base of repeat customers who are more likely to book directly and recommend the motel to others.
Provide Memorable Tourism Experiences
Memorable tourism experiences can help motels increase direct bookings by creating a positive and lasting impression on customers, increasing the likelihood of repeat business and referrals. Here are some ways memorable tourism experiences can help motels increase direct bookings:
- Positive reviews: Memorable tourism experiences can lead to positive reviews on review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp, which can help to increase visibility and credibility for the motel. Positive reviews can also encourage potential customers to book directly with the motel.
- Word-of-mouth referrals: Memorable tourism experiences can lead to word-of-mouth referrals from satisfied customers to friends and family, which can help to increase awareness and bookings for the motel.
- Repeat business: Memorable tourism experiences can encourage customers to return to the motel for future trips, which can help to increase loyalty and repeat business. Repeat business is more likely to be direct bookings, as customers are already familiar with the motel’s services and may prefer to book directly.
- Brand loyalty: Memorable tourism experiences can lead to brand loyalty, as customers associate positive experiences with the motel’s brand. This can help to increase the likelihood of direct bookings and reduce dependence on OTAs.
- Unique selling proposition: Memorable tourism experiences can be used as a unique selling proposition for the motel, setting it apart from competitors and encouraging customers to book directly.
Creating memorable tourism experiences involves triggering emotions that leave a lasting impression on guests. Here are some emotions that can create memorable experiences and how a motel can trigger those emotions:
- Delight: A motel can trigger delight by offering unexpected and pleasant surprises, such as a complimentary room upgrade, a welcome drink, or a personalized note from the staff.
- Excitement: A motel can trigger excitement by offering unique and thrilling experiences, such as an adventure tour, a hot air balloon ride, or a zip-lining activity.
- Relaxation: A motel can trigger relaxation by offering a peaceful and serene environment, such as a spa, yoga classes, or a meditation garden.
- Comfort: A motel can trigger comfort by offering amenities and services that make guests feel at home, such as a comfortable bed, a cozy fireplace, or a kitchenette with cooking facilities.
- Connection: A motel can trigger a sense of connection by offering opportunities for guests to interact with other guests and staff, such as a communal dining area, a game room, or a guided tour.
- Nostalgia: A motel can trigger nostalgia by offering a retro-themed decor, such as vintage furniture, classic appliances, or old-fashioned signage.
Use Social Media
Motels should actively promote themselves on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This helps to increase brand awareness and attract direct bookings from customers who may not have been aware of the motel before.
- Develop a social media strategy: Develop a social media strategy that aligns with the motel’s overall marketing plan. Identify the target audience and develop a content calendar that includes engaging and relevant content, such as photos and videos of the motel’s rooms, amenities, and local attractions.
- Use multiple social media channels: Use multiple social media channels, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, to reach a wider audience. Each platform can be used to showcase different aspects of the motel and provide different types of content.
- Offer exclusive social media promotions: Offer exclusive promotions, discounts, or packages to social media followers to incentivize them to book directly with the motel. These promotions can be advertised exclusively on social media channels.
- Respond to customer inquiries and reviews: Respond to customer inquiries and reviews on social media channels in a timely and professional manner. This shows that the motel is responsive to customers and cares about their experience.
- Use targeted ads: Use targeted social media ads to reach potential customers who fit the motel’s target audience. Ads can be targeted by demographics, interests, location, and other criteria.
- Partner with local businesses: Partner with local businesses or attractions and promote them on social media channels. This can help to increase the motel’s visibility and attract potential customers.
- Use social media influencers: Partner with social media influencers who align with the motel’s brand and values. Influencers can promote the motel to their followers, increasing visibility and attracting potential customers.
Use Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO can help motels increase direct bookings by improving the visibility of the motel’s website on search engines, such as Google. Especially with a long-tail keyword strategy. To use SEO to increase direct bookings, a motel can take the following steps:
- Conduct keyword research: Conduct keyword research to identify relevant and high-traffic keywords related to the motel’s location, amenities, and target audience. Use these keywords throughout the website content, including page titles, meta descriptions, and headings.
- Optimize website content: Optimize website content to ensure it is relevant, informative, and engaging. Include photos and descriptions of the motel’s rooms, amenities, and local attractions, as well as information on rates, availability, and booking options.
- Use local SEO: Use local SEO techniques to target customers in the motel’s local area. This includes creating a Google My Business profile, optimizing for local keywords, and getting listed in local directories and review sites.
Motels can use email marketing to increase direct bookings by building relationships with customers and encouraging them to book directly through targeted and personalized email campaigns. Here are some steps to use email marketing to increase direct bookings:
- Build a quality email list: Build a quality email list of previous guests, website visitors who have subscribed to the motel’s newsletter, and potential customers who have shown interest in the motel’s services.
- Segment the email list: Segment the email list based on customer preferences, interests, and past booking behavior to send targeted and personalized emails.
- Create a welcome email: Create a welcome email that thanks new subscribers for signing up and provides an incentive for booking directly, such as a discount or a free upgrade.
- Send personalized offers and promotions: Send personalized offers and promotions to the email list, such as exclusive discounts, package deals, or loyalty rewards, to incentivize customers to book directly.
- Provide useful and informative content: Provide useful and informative content in the email, such as local events, attractions, and travel tips, to engage customers and keep them informed.
- Use eye-catching design: Use eye-catching design and compelling visuals in the email to capture the attention of customers and encourage them to take action.
- Monitor and analyze email performance: Monitor the performance of email campaigns, tracking open rates, click-through rates, and bookings. Analyze data to identify areas for improvement and make adjustments as needed.
Marketing automation can help motels increase direct bookings by streamlining marketing efforts, improving customer engagement, and reducing the workload on marketing teams. Here are some ways marketing automation can help motels increase direct bookings:
- Lead nurturing: Marketing automation allows motels to send personalized, targeted messages to potential customers at various stages of the customer journey, from initial interest to post-stay follow-up. This helps to build relationships with customers and increase the likelihood of direct bookings.
- Email campaigns: Marketing automation can be used to create and send targeted email campaigns automatically, based on customer behavior, interests, and preferences. This helps to keep customers engaged and informed about special offers, promotions, and events that may encourage direct bookings.
- Website personalization: Marketing automation can be used to personalize website content, such as room rates, availability, and booking options, based on customer behavior and preferences. This makes it easier for customers to find the information they need and encourages them to book directly.
- Social media engagement: Marketing automation can be used to manage social media engagement, including posting content, responding to customer inquiries, and promoting special offers and promotions. This helps to build a community of loyal customers and increase the likelihood of direct bookings.
- Loyalty programs: Marketing automation can be used to manage and promote loyalty programs, including sending personalized rewards and promotions to loyal customers. This helps to encourage repeat business and increase the likelihood of direct bookings.
Advertising can be an effective way for motels to increase their visibility and attract more direct bookings. Here are some ways advertising can help motels create more direct bookings:
- Targeted advertising: Motels can use targeted advertising to reach potential guests who are more likely to book directly. For example, advertising on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram allows motels to target specific demographics and interests.
- Retargeting: Motels can use retargeting advertising to target guests who have previously visited their website or shown interest in their property. This can be done by using cookies or pixel tracking to show ads to visitors who have abandoned their booking or viewed specific pages on the motel’s website.
- Search engine advertising: Motels can use search engine advertising, such as Google Ads, to appear at the top of search results for relevant keywords. This increases visibility and makes it easier for potential guests to find and book directly.
- Display advertising: Motels can use display advertising, such as banner ads, to increase brand awareness and attract potential guests to their website.
- Local advertising: Motels can use local advertising, such as billboards or flyers, to attract guests who are already in the area and looking for accommodations.
- Special offers: Motels can use advertising to promote special offers and packages that are only available for direct bookings. This incentivizes guests to book directly and can increase the overall booking rate.
Leverage Local Partnerships
Partnering with local businesses and organizations can help motels to increase their visibility and attract direct bookings. For example, a motel could partner with a nearby restaurant or attraction to offer a package deal that includes a discounted room rate. To partner with local businesses and get more direct bookings, a motel can take the following steps:
- Identify potential partners: Identify local businesses that align with the motel’s brand and target audience, such as restaurants, tourist attractions, and event venues.
- Reach out to potential partners: Reach out to potential partners and propose a partnership that benefits both businesses. This can include cross-promotion, joint advertising, or package deals that combine the motel’s services with the partner’s services.
- Develop promotional materials: Develop promotional materials, such as flyers, brochures, or online ads, that showcase the partnership and the benefits of booking with the motel and partner businesses.
- Offer exclusive promotions: Offer exclusive promotions to customers who book directly with the motel and partner businesses. This can include discounts, freebies, or VIP treatment.
- Promote the partnership on social media: Promote the partnership on social media channels, showcasing the benefits of booking with the motel and partner businesses. Use hashtags and location tags to increase visibility.
- Monitor and evaluate the partnership: Monitor the effectiveness of the partnership, tracking customer engagement and satisfaction, and making adjustments as needed. Evaluate the partnership on a regular basis to ensure it continues to benefit both businesses.
Provide exceptional service
By providing exceptional customer service and going above and beyond to meet guests’ needs, motels can create loyal customers who are more likely to book directly in the future and recommend the motel to others. To develop exceptional service a motel can:
- Train staff: Train staff on customer service best practices, including how to greet guests, how to handle complaints, and how to anticipate and meet guest needs. Provide ongoing training and development to ensure staff is equipped with the skills and knowledge to deliver exceptional service.
- Personalize service: Personalize service by addressing guests by name, remembering their preferences, and offering personalized recommendations for local attractions and restaurants.
- Offer added amenities: Offer added amenities, such as complimentary breakfast, free parking, or free Wi-Fi, to enhance the guest experience and provide added value.
- Use guest feedback to improve service: Use guest feedback to identify areas for improvement and implement changes to enhance the guest experience. Respond to guest feedback promptly and professionally to show that the motel values their input.
- Provide exceptional cleanliness and hygiene: Provide exceptional cleanliness and hygiene, particularly in the current climate, by implementing rigorous cleaning protocols, providing hand sanitizing stations, and offering contactless check-in and check-out.
- Offer personalized communication: Offer personalized communication to guests, such as email or text message updates on their reservation and local events or promotions
Overall, the key is to create a compelling reason for customers to book directly with the motel, rather than through an OTA. By focusing on providing value, building loyalty, and offering exceptional service, motels can reduce their dependency on OTAs for room bookings.
If you don’t feel that you can manage all this yourself, feel free to reach out to us to discuss how we can help you.