Encouraging your guests to book directly: The A-Z Quick Guide

How do you encourage guests to book directly? You can offer all the discounts and give away free nights, but what they are looking for are the perks.

Perks are the extra special reasons why guests should book directly to you.

You may be reading this thinking, “I can’t afford to buy that guest a bottle of Prosecco,” but remember, when they book directly, you are saving between 15% and 20% on commission. For a £400 booking, you'll pay £60 to the OTAS. A bottle of Prosecco costs around £20.

That’s a £40 profit! Open your mind and read the list. Then, let me know what incentives you offer.

A: Airport Shuttle 

A godsend for young families and business travellers alike, the free airport shuttle is a classic benefit that's not be sniffed. (Note: Only applicable to people based within 10 to 15 miles of an airport).

B: Bicycles for every guest

 Bike tours and excursions are on the rise with price-savvy guests looking for cheap ways to get around on vacation. 

C: Champagne

How about a bottle of champagne for guests who book a certain number of dates?

D: Do the guests' laundry

A free dry-cleaning and laundry service will enchant even the most impassive of direct bookers.

E: Early check-in

Fairly standard but perennially popular. If you have the capacity to give guests the option, then make sure you're advertising it.

F: Fitness Classes

Free gym access is a real pull, but fitness classes combined with the experience factor is becoming indispensable to many travellers. (Note: If you don’t have a gym on-site, reach out to a local fitness facility and see if you could work out a really good rate).

G: Gift voucher

Gift vouchers to spend in the hotel are a great way to spark upsell conversations and bring in some ancillary revenue. 

H: Homemade Cookies

A direct booking benefit doesn't have to be big and costly. A free homemade brownie is something you're never going to get from an OTA and sometimes that thoughtful touch is all you need. A client of mine (Jayne from Summerfield Farm in Whitby) does this, and they go down a treat. 

J: Join the preferred program

Draw in those loyalty Magpies by advertising your program alongside your best available rate.

K: Kids toys/books/games

Taking children on holiday is hassle enough. Show parents you'll do your best to make their lives easier with kid-friendly toys, books, and games in their room or special area. 

L: Late Checkout

Obviously, this is not for everyone and could only really be done on dates where you didn’t have a mass changeover, but it's something to bear in mind.

M: Midweek discounts

It can be tricky to fill rooms outside of weekends. We've seen hotels discount their spa, restaurant and gym services from Monday to Thursday, offering browsers a cheap getaway full of extra treats while filling your otherwise empty rooms.

N: No booking, resort, or hidden fees

Remove their doubts with an assurance that the price they see really is the price they're going to get.

P: Priority check-in

For any guest who books with you directly, you should be tailoring your check-in times to prioritise those who book directly. For example, 1 pm for any guest who has booked directly and 2 pm for any guest who has booked in via an OTA.

R: Room upgrade where available

I recommend you use this the most!

S: Spa Discount

This would work well if you are lucky enough to have a spa.

T: Travel guide included

Tap into the experience marketplace with a free travel guide for your guests. I recently stayed at a B&B in Knaresborough and the owner had a map designed with local places they recommended. Better yet, he had struck up 10% deals for all of his guests if they chose to go. Great idea.

U: Unlock points to your loyal guests

The age of loyalty is far from over, and plenty of points-savvy travellers are out there looking for the deal with the highest return. V: Valet parking Classics exist for a reason.

W: Welcome Sweet

If you live in a coastal town, what is better than a stick of rock waiting for them in the room?

X: Xpress shuttle

Okay, we cheated a bit with this one! In our defence, there aren't too many benefits that begin with X. Wordplay aside, a complimentary shuttle bus is a great thing to have on offer, especially if you live out of town. If you don’t have the staff or time to do this, why not team up with a local taxi company?

Y: Year-round promotions for your guests

 It can be frustrating to be booking an off-season holiday and feel like you're missing out on everyone's seasonal promotions. Reassure guests that they'll get a special rate whenever they choose to book.

Z: Okay, I couldn’t come up with one for “Z”. Can you?

Email me and let me know at [email protected]! Next Up, Our Boost Hospitality Marketing training materials are all about working with small independent hospitality owners, helping them to increase their heads on beds, and understanding marketing in the hotel business with these 5 stages of the booking process.

This session is all about the 5 stages a guest goes through before booking at your hotel, cottage, or guesthouse.

Stage 1 is the planning process. This is when a potential guest starts his or her hotel search by going to Google or another search engine. Not many potential guests go straight to a hotel's website at this time. They don’t yet know where they want to stay, just which town or city where they want to be. The planning stage is about finding a potential property they want to book.

You can do this to ensure they find your property over anybody else’s.

If someone goes to Google and searches “hotel in [insert town or city]”, an OTA website, like Expedia, will come first up 9 times out of 10.

Competing with these sites is really hard. What you can do is go with the flow. Get your hotel listed on these websites to improve the booking process.

Your first step is to have a listing on all of the major OTAs. If you’re struggling to choose which ones to list with, go to Google and pretend you're a customer. Search for “hotel in [your town or city]” and find out the top 10 listings.

Those are the OTA websites where you need to be. Have a nice picture and a good description of each OTA, but make sure, first and foremost, that you have a listing there. Your name, property, and picture should be on those sites.

There are also people who start out searching for a niche, such as facilities that can accommodate disabled people, pet-friendly hotels, and hotels with car parking.

Make sure that you’re appealing to these people. Go to Google and search for your unique selling point (USP). So if your USP is pet-friendly lodging, make sure that you have clearly stated that on your website. It should be everywhere, including in your keywords and SEO.

Make sure your USP is crystal clear. That way, you'll have a better chance of appearing high in Google searches for that niche. This strategy leverages long-tail keywords. So if you can crack that, and if you appear on all of the OTAs, then you have a much better chance of a guest booking with you.


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