If you’re in the hotel industry, there's a good chance your property is working with online travel agencies (OTAs). These companies’ websites are often among the first places people check when looking for lodging. And while working with OTAs gives your property visibility, the 15-30% commission fees can cut into your profits.
“To have to pay an extra commission to the OTA is tough—it really cuts into our marketing budget,” said Missy LeBelle, General Manager of the High Point Inn in Door County, Wisconsin. “But we can’t not be out there on Expedia or Booking.com, because they can reach an audience that we could never reach on our own with our own marketing budget. It’s like a double-edged sword.”
Since OTAs are here to stay, try to use them to bolster your own direct bookings. One of Missy’s tips is to turn OTA customers into repeat customers by offering high-quality customer service. She estimates that High Point Inn has a 65-68% return guest rate.
Another way to turn OTA clients into direct-booking guests is to enhance your website. People may find your property through an OTA, but many will check your website before booking. This is your opportunity to encourage them to book direct. Make the most of this opportunity by ensuring your website provides a positive customer experience. Chances are that if they have a good booking experience on your site once, they are more likely to come back to your site to book direct again.
Not sure if your website offers a good customer experience? Take a test drive on your site as if you were a potential guest looking to learn about your property. Ask yourself these questions while navigating your site:
Does information load quickly—within 2–5 seconds?
Is your contact information accurate and easy to find?
Are the pictures of your property high quality (not pixelated or fuzzy)?
Is room information accurate, complete, and clear? Are there pictures of different room options?
Are you advertising your property’s amenities, membership program, or current deals?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, update your website accordingly. In addition, take some time to review your OTA profiles. Make sure your brand and information are consistent between these platforms, and put the same quality into your OTA profiles that you put into your own website.
Regularly check for reviews on your OTA profiles, and respond to both negative and positive ones. Most people trust reviews on OTAs, so keeping an eye on these reviews and responding as necessary is essential to boosting your property’s reputation online. It’s also an opportunity to display quality customer service by promptly addressing complaints.
When used cleverly, OTAs can drive more business to your website and help you gain repeat clients. Do you have any other tips and tricks for working with OTAs?
LeBelle, M. (2018, February 5). General Manager - High Point Inn. (P. K. Nelson, Interviewer)
Leonardo. (2017, March 23). Drive Direct Bookings with a Killer Website [Video Webinar]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhNVha-C1Zs