How To Increase Direct Hotel Bookings In The New Travel Landscape
All hotels need to be considering how to increase Direct Hotel Bookings in the new travel landscape. The COVID 19 virus isn’t looking to go away anytime soon.
But with health protocol measures in place, and more and more people becoming vaccinated, Domestic Tourism and Domestic Business Tourism continue to stand out as the first tourism recovery areas in the Philippines.
There is also a new type of tourist already emerging. People who are able to work online are looking to escape their city confines. They are browsing for extended stay options in tourism destinations that will afford them more freedom and access to open spaces.
However, even within Domestic Tourism and Domestic Business Tourism, the customer demographic has changed. So, the industry needs to think about how to increase direct hotel bookings, and adapt and connect with these customers now?
Here are our recommendations for how to increase direct hotel bookings:-
Recognize and adapt to the changing Tourism Market.
Hotels need to respond to the changing tourism market, understand who their new customers are, what they are seeking, and where to connect with them.
They also need to consider their future customers; those who want to travel but who are restricted by travel bans right now.
In the last 13 months there have been many articles from tourism and search engine experts, who are monitoring browsing trends in order to help the industry match what potential customers are searching for. Hotels and their Marketing teams only need to take a few moments to search Google to find a wealth of information about predicted tourism changes.
Larger hospitality companies, particularly OTA’s, have carried out surveys with their members to discover how their travel journeys may change as a result of the global pandemic.
One survey by Hostelworld discovered that their customers still intended to book with Backpacker Resorts but planned to upgrade their accommodation to private rooms, rather than the traditional shared dorms.
Key takeaways from the Hostelworld survey were:-
- Travelers would likely shorten their usual length of stay, to be able to afford a Private Room
- The health protocols in place to protect them would have an impact on the lively social scene of hostels, which was often one of their main reasons for staying in a hostel.
- And most importantly, a large number of those surveyed were concerned that Hostel Employees may not be well-trained in carrying out the required protocols and health & hygiene measures.
The lessons Hostels can take from this survey are the need to prepare for a greater demand for private rooms, and adapt and manage the hostel social activities in line with the New Normal. But their greatest focus should be promoting how they are managing guest safety, with cleaning and sanitizing schedules and procedures etc.
They need to eradicate the perception held by some Hostel Customers that cheap and relaxed = less well-trained or professional staff.
Read More About The Survey Findings Here.
To narrow down your new Customer Demographic, you should be checking your website data analysis, Google Analytics and your social media Insights. If there is a notable change in the viewer demographics, you need to respond to this, assessing what those travelers might need to see or read in order to channel them in to a direct booking.
For the three main travel markets we’re seeing we can assume that they are seeking clear health security and protocols, hygienic and screened hotels or accommodation, booking surety, flexible re-booking options, destinations with things to do, good internet connections and “instaworthy” locations.
Hotels need to undertake a Digital Audit – NOW!
Once you have determined what your travel markets and demographics are it is vital that you have all the potential touch points optimized to secure direct hotel bookings. You cannot afford to neglect any channel. This includes not just the hotel website, but OTA’s, Social Media Channels, Review Sites and Destination Sites, Influencers and travel bloggers and vloggers.
One of the key lessons industry experts learned from the first lock down in 2020 was that travelers were dissatisfied with the time it took for the big, and even small OTA’s to handle cancellations and process refunds. Some are still waiting on their refunds!
In comparison travelers who made direct hotel bookings reported quicker responses, more flexible re-booking options and faster refunds.
Hotels need to capitalize on this change in traveler perceptions about the big OTA’s and, to do that, the hotel website and social media platforms need to be in tip top condition, highlighting the benefits and bonuses of direct hotel bookings. This can include ‘added benefits’ or incentives for booking direct with the hotel (Travel Ease is Key below)
You should start with a Digital Audit on your hotel website and social media channels; there’s no point going all out on a marketing campaign if you have a poorly performing website, or inactive and out of date Facebook Page.
A Digital Audit should cover a number of areas:-
- Quality, including Search Engine Ranking, Mobile Compatibility, loading speed, translation
- Search Engine Optimization, including key word ranking and image Alt Descriptions
- Competitor Analysis
- Target Market Analysis
- Accurate Hotel Information
- Easy User Interface
- Instant Booking Function
- Visible Booking and Re-Booking Policy
- Accurate Room Information and images
- Accurate Facility Information and images
- Local destination information
- Hotel Policies
- Social Media Pages and Integration, including Messenger/WhatsApp chatbox
- Google Analytics
- Google My Business optimization
- Company Branding
- Review Sites
- Destination Guide Sites
If you are not sure where to start on a Digital Audit, or how to undertake one without a biased approach, check out MY RANGGO Consultancy’s Digital Audit Plans which are attractively priced and are there to help.
For those hotels using a PMS system, ensure you make use of all its functions. Particularly Pop-ups for advertising special rates, flexible booking terms, long-stay deals, and your Health protocols. These pop-ups can act as a link to pages on your website, where the full details are available.
Make sure you have a page on your website dedicated to your COVID response measures and alterations to policies. Take as much fear of the Pandemic away as possible; explain sanitization rules and health protocols. Make a direct hotel booking with you feel clear and safe!
And you need to carry your messages over to your social media channels. There are approximately:
48 million active social media users from the Philippines *.
42.1 million Filipino’s are on Facebook *
13 million Filipino’s are on Twitter * * Source: Expert Gov
8.5 million Filipino’s have an Instagram Account**
80% of Filipino Instagram Account holders are aged 18-44** ** Source 2017 Omnicoreagency.com
For Hotels and Tour Operators, it is not enough to rely purely on traditional ways of marketing. You need to overhaul and develop an Online Marketing Action Plan for recovery, and be as active on Social Media, as you are in your other areas of marketing.
- 90% of information absorbed by our brain is visual information, making Social Media perfect for grabbing people’s attention.
- 70% of travelers with smartphones say that they have done travel research on their smartphone
- The numbers of people using “near me” in their search browser has increased 34 times over since 2011, and 80% of such searches are made on a Mobile Phone, whilst in transit or nearby [Think Google].
For tips on using Social Media for Marketing visit our Selfie Culture in the Philippines Part 3 – Marketing to the Selfie Generation, if you’re not doing it already!
Other avenues for Marketing include updating or creating a Business LinkedIn Account, and updating and optimizing your Google My Business Account.
For more reasons why Google My Business is key in marketing and direct hotel bookings, and how to optimize your account read Why You Need To Perfect Your Restaurants ‘Near Me’ Ranking
For tips on maximizing a Business LinkedIn Account, and why, click here
Travel Ease is Key, from the booking, arrival, stay and departure
There are lots of avenues for information about destinations and how they’re handling tourism in the face of COVID-19. Much is disjointed or out of date, causing confusion to potential travelers and making their vacation planning time consuming and frustrating.
Buck that trend by having clear destination and tourism arrival protocol information on a page on your website and making sure it remains up to date.
Undertake a Digital Content overhaul. Then add fresh content to your website; how to get to…., what to do in… etc. Maximize long-tail keyword searches being used by potential customers e.g. “What Are The Travel Requirements To Visit El Nido?”
Fresh and accurate content captures customers looking for that information and can put your website at top of the search list.
Competition is fierce in destinations that have already re-opened to tourism. With low tourism numbers, you need to package your hotel as the best place for a direct hotel booking. Beyond giving clear and consistent messages about re-booking policies, and health and hygiene protocols and commitments, look to provide value and ease of travel.
Work with other local providers and clinics to create a complete travel bundle, across all potential travel routes, with everything taken care of. From travel permits, RT-PCR testing and transfers from start to end point, as well as room booking.
Capitalize on those looking to take an extended break from the city by creating a Business Center in your hotel, and promoting your fast internet speeds and back-up generators. Offer attractive long-stay rates and discounts on food and beverages.
Make sure you are offering Value Added stays, which leads us on to…..
The destination is also key, so tailor your product to the new Tourism Customer
Identify every aspect of your destination and hotel, and what attracts a traveler to it. If it’s tours and activities connect with local tour providers, or create your own tours with local guides, and offer these on your websites as a pre-book option. Market your attractions and your destinations attractions.
One of the things that Go Discover Travels did, when launching their OTA, GoPalawan.travel in 2011 was to connect not just with hotels but Tour and Transfer Operators. GoPalawan was the first online travel agency to do this in Palawan.
By working with transfer and tour providers, supporting them to understand the needs, demands and expectations of travelers the OTA helped to open up the destination and a new tourism market flourished. Not just with international travelers but also Domestic Travelers who typically only had 3 days/4 nights holiday leave and a desire to visit both Puerto Princesa and El Nido. This required more flexible transfer schedules, and tour and transfer operators structuring pick up/drop off times and locations with each other, to help their customers maximize their time in two destinations.
Don’t just stop at the established Tours and Activities that can already be found in your destination. Remember you need to tailor to the new customer. Industry Experts have been predicting since 2020 that the new Tourism Customer wants experiential, “instaworthy”, bucket list, FOMO-inspiring experiences. They want to reconnect with nature, to learn about the destination and the communities which live there. And some are looking to minimize their impact on the destination too.
Hotels aligning themselves with sustainable tourism principles can be offering opportunities to local communities, whilst also enhancing their guest’s stays. Employ local community members to act as a guide to the destination for private tours around the area, offer traditional weaving classes, local cuisine cooking classes, cocktail classes, local dialect classes or local history talks.
If you want to carry out a Sustainability Audit check out our free, downloadable workbook here
Ultimately, it is vital that Hoteliers carefully review their direct hotel booking channels, marketing activities, their customer connection points and ensure that they are pursuing an integrated marketing strategy that covers all potential touch points.
Helen Atanacio will be a Keynote Speaker at the eRevMax webinar: Hotel Distribution Strategies For Travel Rebound In The Philippines.
A FREE event on 22 April, Thursday at 3:00 PM Philippine time. Register here https://lnkd.in/eBKWvKU