Online Travel Agencies and booking channels such as Wotif.com, Booking.com and Webjet are necessary distribution partners in an age where an enormous number of consumers are using these platforms to book their trips.
However, with these channels increasing commission rates and including clauses in their agreements which require rate parity – where accommodation providers cannot advertise rates for less than what is on the OTA – other options for driving direct bookings are increasingly attractive.
Here are some ideas:
Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket – OTAs cost accommodation providers dearly in commissions every year. Thinking about your overall web presence, not just OTAs, can increase direct bookings and reduce payable commission. Having an internet booking engine (IBE) on your branded website and investing in social and mobile technologies to drive sales can give you greater control in your marketing efforts and communication. The key is to maximise and optimise your search, mobile, ad retargeting, email and voice channels to attract and retain guests.
Added-Value Packaging – Even if the price on your website for the same room is not lower, you can package the room with other added-value components such as free parking, tickets to a local event, free room upgrades or Wi-Fi to encourage customers to book direct and build loyalty.
Special Deals Offered to a Limited Audience – rate parity limitations only apply to rates that you advertise publicly or that anyone on the internet can see. People who sign up for your email list, who call you over the phone or are Facebook followers can be offered a promotion code for discounted rates for a certain time of the year. Incentive promotions such as Local Shopping Gift Cards being offered via eDM to customers for booking direct can also negate the OTA rate parity concerns.
Smart Website Design to Hook Direct Bookings – many OTA shoppers visit the accommodation provider’s website to learn more about what they’re about to book. Smart website design can keep them on your website to book. Firstly it must be as simple as possible to book so include “book now” buttons near the top of every relevant page, invite customers to “sign up to our email list for discounts,” and “enquire about discounts for repeat direct bookings.”