- 25th April 2019
Do you remember a time when the only option for booking a hotel room was to book directly with your hotel of choice or through a walk-in travel agent service at your local shopping centre?
Fast forward two decades and the growing prevalence of online travel agents has revolutionised how consumers search for, review, choose and book hotel rooms.
With travellers moving online to find hotels, bringing the entire hotel distribution market with them, today, hotels must strike a balance between enticing guests to book directly, whilst also maintaining a presence on an array of OTA’s. As the industry races into an irrevocably digital future, together, hotel websites and OTA’s account for the vast percentage of all room bookings, thus developing an effective distribution strategy is critical and must encompass revenue, sales, e-commerce, marketing, guest relationship management and technology. But, implementing it carefully is an even more important step to maximise return and drive continued growth.
Here, Guestline, the global leader in hotel cloud property management systems, distribution and digital marketing technologies and who have a reputation for offering award-winning solutions to hotels, highlights its step by step solution to driving that correct balance across your availability.
Step 1: Adopting the Right Technology to Tie it all in Together
Developing a pricing strategy and establishing distribution channels is an important part of your overall distribution strategy, but it’s not complete until you invest in the right technology to seamlessly tie all these components together. A hotel Property Management System (PMS) should effectively be the lifeblood of your property and together with the right partners will allow you to connect with your various distribution channels, update your rates based on market demands and consumer trends and maximise your bookings.
Step 2: Driving Direct Revenue to your Own Brand Website
No channel is more profitable than your own hotel website. Direct business comes with fewer third-party fees, the guest’s contact details, higher profit margins and ultimately supports a hotel’s bottom line, and there are several tactics and strategies that help drive more direct bookings for hotel properties. Increasingly, both small independents and large hoteliers are focusing on solutions, data and analytics to shift away from OTA’s and toward direct bookings. To achieve this, hoteliers are integrating their reservation management systems and booking engine with its PMS to ensure a seamless process for potential guests and allowing for the creation and promotion of last-minute offers that are more attractive (Best available rates) and targeted (family packages, romantic getaways, city breaks) than those available through third party channels.
Phelim Pekaar, CEO of p3 Hotels, providers of technology solutions to empower hotel groups to increase bookings and revenue directly through their brand websites, talks about their partnership with Guestline: “Our core product is a fully customised booking engine that best converts visitors to guests through a simple and appealing booking journey. Guestline Rezlynx PMS open API technology allows p3 to build and design a customisable and fully branded booking engine for hotels to drive their direct own brand web channel. The relationship between p3 and Guestline flows great. There’s a quick engagement within the tech team, and they have a clear understanding of our customers’ needs.”
Direct Booking Expert Bookassist partners with independent hotels and hotel groups to help them optimise their direct booking strategy. Head of Marketing Claire Sawier concludes that direct booking success is achieved by working with the best technology and the best online strategy partners. Integrated booking technology with web design, digital marketing and metasearch solutions, as well as streamlined internal integration with systems such as Guestline's Rezlynx PMS are all essential to building a strong online brand that delivers on profitability.
Step 3: Boost Revenue with Real Time Availability
Hotels must be able to effectively distribute their rooms to all agents in real-time. By partnering with a channel manager through your PMS, hotels can provide their live availability to every agent, regardless of location and time zone, allowing the sale of as many rooms as possible and securing those valuable last-minute bookings. This sophisticated two-way integration technology, builds a link between the hotel’s PMS, Revenue Management System and chosen OTA’s. When accommodation is then purchased, the hotel’s PMS updates itself, eliminating manual uploads and overbookings. Meanwhile, real time rates, availability and restrictions are automatically sent from the PMS to the hotel’s booking channels – maximising room inventory and revenue.
Step 4: Maximising the hotel-OTA partnership
Distribution through online travel agencies is often termed by hoteliers as the least profitable channel. But, at the same time, they offer brand recognition and incremental revenue and it has great utility when it comes to reaching out to first time customers given OTAs have a worldwide reach of traveller consumers that a hotel marketing team could only dream of! But the key is to leverage these partnerships with OTA’s and implement a successful direct booking strategy that will make sure once OTA bookers reach your hotel, they’re turned into direct bookers for their next trip.
An important tactic is to make sure that you’re the one communicating with the guest during their stay. By providing exceptional service at all touch points before, during and after the guest’s stay, exceeding expectations and making sure the guest feels valued, will make them more loyal and more likely to book directly on future stays. In this digital age, paying attention to data and automation can only compliment the human side of the experience. It’s the data that is going to give you the valuable insight into the wants and needs of the guest satisfaction and the overall customer experience. From obtaining client’s contact details for future marketing, encouraging feedback and online reviews, communicate benefits (and rewards!) of booking direct to follow up email campaign correspondence. Remember, OTA’s can’t compete with your ability to build relationships, wow customers and provide a memorable experience.
Distribution isn’t just about technology. It’s about using the right PMS technology as a basis and together with partners, building on it with sales, marketing, communication, call to action and conversion platforms. It’s about profiling your guests, keeping them engaged and satisfied and the need to adopt the right strategies that will put you ahead of the competition.