Have you ever had a returning guest book via Booking.com or another OTA? Why did this happen?
We know that being on the OTAs is a necessary evil. They are a great source of global free advertising, especially since you only pay when a booking comes in. In fact, I have created training material on how to work with OTAs, which you can check out here.
OTAs are a great way to initially get people through the door, but when your customers return, they should be booking with you directly. Don’t you agree?
This is where the problem arises: The public does not understand the rates of commission we have to pay the OTAs. Why would they? No one tells them! It’s our job as independent hospitality owners to let them know. The only way we are going to win the war on high commission costs is by making the public aware.
The more direct bookings we have, the less people will book via OTA websites. Ultimately, this means that the OTAs will start to lower their commission rates. This is something we need to be addressing now.
So how can you educate your guests?
Here are my Top 5 tips.
1. Tell them
Simple! Drop it into conversation whilst they are staying at your property. Get people talking about it. Explain how they could have saved money by booking directly. If you have a guesthouse and have a “social” area, the guests will talk, trust me.
2. Put it into your in-room entertainment guide
Guests do read info booklets. Let them know that if they are booking an independent property, booking it directly can save the owners between 15% and 30%. This savings can then be passed on to the guests.
3. At checkout
What’s your procedure for when a guest leaves, besides saying goodbye? Do you give them a business card? Do you give them a leaflet and ask them to pass it on to friends who might also like to stay at your property? Try this:
- Get some business cards printed that say, “Next time you stay with us, book directly to get the best rate!”
- Hand them out with your guest bill. Perhaps give out a few out and ask them to pass them around to their friends.
4. Follow-up email
The best time to send a follow-up email to get a review is right after a guest leaves. This would also be a good time to mention that the next time they book with you or any other independent property, they can get a better rate by booking directly.
5. Let them know straight after they make their booking
Here’s a trick that I use at The Grainary, and I find that it works well. When I send out the booking confirmation email, it contains the check-in times. Our check-in time is actually 1 pm, but on all the OTAs we list check-in time as 3 pm. When we send out a booking confirmation email, it says, in bold letters, the following:
“If you booked with us directly, your check-in time is 1 pm. If you booked via Booking.com, Expedia or one of the online travel agents, your check-in time is 3 pm.”
This gets into the guest’s head. No one likes to feel like they are missing out, when a guest knows that there are benefits to booking directly, they will want to have them. Our phone number appears in the next sentence, this works wonders because now it is easy for someone to call and ask how they can go about booking directly with us.
This alone has resulted in people cancelling their Booking.com reservation and re-booking with us directly! We didn’t get punished and we didn’t call the customer. They contacted us!
Everyone complains about the OTAs and the rates of commission we have to pay. The best way to tackle this is to educate the people making the booking. For another good example of a hospitality doing this right, check out the story of “The Crown Spa” and how they improved their direct bookings.
So, what are you going to do? Comment below!