Direct bookings are the lifeblood of any small hotel or B&B, especially considering they operate on tighter budgets and have less rooms with which to produce revenue.
The constant battle of trying to increase the amount of direct bookings while also needing to rely on online travel agents to capture attention and drive traffic is difficult to master. The commission fee paid to online travel agents (OTAs) is a bitter pill, but often necessary if properties want to operate at a satisfactory occupancy level. There’s also larger brands to contend with that can steal away potential customers.
However, there are some simple and effective ways to boost your chances of capturing direct bookings.
Here’s a foolproof plan you can quickly implement at your B&B business:
1. Set up an online booking engine
An online booking engine is strictly necessary to drive direct bookings. Most travellers today prefer to book their stays online rather than calling or walking in. This means you will lose a significant number of bookings without a competent online booking engine.
An online booking engine also allows you the opportunity to offer other incentives, extras, and promotions to guests at the time of reservation.
2 Optimise your website and go mobile
A user-friendly B&B website is a no-brainer. Slow loading pages, hard-to-read text, a lack of images etc. are a nightmare for travellers looking for information. If the impression of your website is poor, people will judge your property by association, no matter how beautiful it is in real life.
An important functionality for your website is its ability to respond to mobile devices. Travellers are increasingly using their smartphone to make purchases and bookings online. You don’t want to miss out on this traffic because your website is inoperable on mobile.
Mobile is becoming more popular and nowadays many people are using apps to purchase travel and communicate with their accommodation provider. It’s definitely something small hotels should consider.
3. Prioritise a fantastic photo gallery
If travellers are to be inspired to travel to your destination and book at your B&B or hotel, then amazing imagery is one thing that is likely to sway them. Organise professional images into a gallery on your website showing off the best features of your property and the surrounding area. Kickstart the imagination of guests and get them to picture themselves at your property.
It’s also a good idea to post the same photos on an Instagram page and keep it regularly updated. With the right images and hashtags, you can garner a large following on the platform and create a lot more awareness for your accommodation.
4. Engage with travellers on social media and accept bookings via Facebook
The high volume of users on Facebook makes it the perfect place to share your property’s story, updates, deals, and any other relevant information. Travellers will always visit business social media pages to reference when they research. The more familiar people are with you, the more they’ll trust you.
To this end, you should also integrate your Facebook page with your online booking engine so you can take bookings directly from there. This will help capture people that might otherwise have slipped through the cracks.
5. Encourage feedback and loyalty to gain more direct bookings
When someone stays at your property, send them an email after departure thanking them for their stay and invite them to review your B&B or hotel. The more positive reviews you can gain on sites like TripAdvisor the better chance you have of travellers booking with you. People place a lot of stock in the opinions of their peers so recommendations are extremely valuable.
If guests have enjoyed their stay, do your best to encourage them to come back to your property again soon. Offer rewards or discounts for repeat stays to incentivise return stays.
The more regulars you have the less variables there needs to be in your direct booking strategy.
6. Don’t be afraid to be aggressive in your advertising
By this we don’t mean you should shout, demand, or beg your customers to book direct. However, you can try a number of tactics to give travellers the extra nudge they need, including:
- Retargeting so you can capture bookings that weren’t completed on the first visit to your website
- Incentives and extras offered exclusively through your hotel website
- Focus on the unique selling points of your property over larger brands such as your location and proximity to key attractions
- Use pop-ups or calls-to-action to remind visitors of the benefits of booking direct while they browse your website
7. Ensure your property has strong search engine optimisation
Ranking highly in Google search results is vital if you want travellers to be landing on your website and converting to direct bookings.
Keywords and content are two great ways to achieve this. By understanding the keywords people use when they search, you can implement them throughout your website in page headings and menus etc. as well as the content you publish.
Content needs to be fresh, accurate, and useful. Providing relevant information that travellers will not only search for but be engaged by is valued highly by Google. Consider creating a hotel blog and posting consistently.