Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) such as Booking.com and Expedia have had a near-monopoly on hotel bookings for years because these systems allow people to shop around for hotels more efficiently than ever before. These platforms allow potential guests to compare hotel rates in just a few clicks, view hotel rooms and get information in a centralised location - making the process of booking quick and simple. It also doesn’t help hotels that OTAs invest heavily in Search Engine Optimisation and have quickly risen through the search engine ranks.
These sites are easy to find and easy to use, but this booking convenience comes at a cost. In fact, hotels can end up paying up to 30% commission on each booking that is made through an OTA. After the year that was 2020, with most hotels having to close their doors for a large period of time, this is a hit they can no longer take - and it is time for hotels to fight the OTAs in any way they can.
Hotel Website Design has to be taken seriously
Your website is the face of your hotel and is the place you store all the content regarding your property and services. This is the first thing people will see when they search for your business - and for this reason, it is important that you provide users with an engaging, informative, intuitive and easy to use site - that drives the user to action.
Below, we outline 5 website design tips to help you gain more direct bookings and beat the OTAs at their own game.
5 Website Design Tips for Hotels to Beat the OTAs in 2021:
1 - Content Separation
We'll talk more about content below but one challenge we see with almost every hotel is that they fail to separate content assets between what they should be posting on their own platforms such as their website or mobile apps and what should be posted on OTA websites. Why is this a challenge? By posting the same content on a hotel's own website (images, text or even videos), the hotel is potentially cannibalising it's own opportunity to convert a visitor to a direct booking.
We know that 52% of bookers will visit the official hotel website before potentially booking on a OTA website and this presents an opportunity that hotels simply fail to take advantage of. We've written about this in detail previously, but to summarise, if a potential room booker visits both the hotel website and the OTA website for that same hotel AND they see exactly the same content on both websites, more often than not it will be easier for them to book through the OTA and in doing so, essentially cost the hotel commission anywhere between 12 - 30% of the booking value.
By separating content - and perhaps keeping the best content for the hotel's own website, they increase the chances of receiving a greater number of direct bookings.
2. Quality Imagery and Photography
Images are a powerful tool for brand identity and with over one billion Instagram users worldwide, it is clear that imagery and beautiful photography sells. As hotels are selling an “image” they need to project this image through their website in a professional, aesthetically pleasing manner. The images you present to your audience should provide insight into the experience they will have staying on your property. With this in mind, you need to invest in professional photography and display these images throughout your website. Make sure to showcase every aspect of your hotel through imagery, including exterior shots, interior shots, guest-rooms, and related hotel facilities including the common areas and the lobby.
There are also numerous immersive visual experiences you can provide potential guests including 360 degree views of your property. This kind of content allows visitors to control their point of view and take a virtual tour of your space. Videos are also a great way to showcase your hotel and the experience your hotel provides, and offering video content goes a long way in building trust with your audience - and also keeps them on your site for longer periods of time.
Through professional photography and videography, you are able to convey the experience that your hotel offers, keep users on your site and ultimately drive them to take action and make a booking.
3. Content is King
People travel for the experience and to gain memories and connections far beyond what they would ever find at home. In order to encourage visitors to book with your hotel, share the story behind your property, highlight what inspired the hotel, emphasize the individuals behind the brand, focus on the experiences offered by your hotel and make sure to highlight the local community and what adventures await in the surrounding areas.
By creating rich content that describes the hotel and local community experience, you keep your users glued to their screens as they feel enticed to become a part of your hotel's story. Not only is this kind of content important as it provides users with information and builds brand trust, it also helps your SEO efforts. By creating consistent and quality content on your website, from your home page and about us page through to your blogs, you gain the trust of the search engines which in turn helps your rise up the search result ranks.
It’s all well and good to have a website and social media presence, but what good is your online presence without any engagement? Micro-interactions are moments online that are triggered and provide a single purpose - that is to engage with the audience or entertain the user. These are small, hardly noticeable interactions that occur online, but they have the power to enhance an experience and create a personality for your brand.
An example of a micro-interaction that we all know and love is the “reaction” feature on Facebook posts and messages. This is something we are all used to, and something we hardly notice, but without this engagement, Facebook would not be what it is today.
When it comes to micro-interactions on your website, this can range from subtle functionality such as share buttons on blog posts to a drop down menu panel, CTA buttons that change colour when you hover over them, or images that move when you scroll over them. Essentially these are subtle engagements that help the user interact with your website and make them feel connected to the entire experience. This kind of hands on engagement helps user retention by immersing visitors in a personable and interactive way that they will remember in the booking phase of their travels.
5. Direct Online Bookings via Data and Nurturing
OTAs are essentially search engines with booking capabilities, and in order to cut out the middleman you need to look at your website the same way. Once a user reaches your site, you need to entice them to make a booking with you and this is done by offering an easy to use online booking engine. Getting visitors to your website with SEO and digital marketing is one thing - but you need to drive them to action.
One major challenge that hotel's have is the fact that guests only become publicly visible once they have made a booking on the website. In other words, if they are simply browsing for prices, most hotel's won't have the technology to understand who that user is. Tools such as HubSpot can provide clearer insights as to who is browsing your hotel website even if they haven't made a booking, which in turn allows you to nurture a guest during the browsing (or research) process using tools such as social media and email marketing. Of course, for this your website also needs to have multiple data capture opportunities not just at the booking level.
Before we summarise the article, here's a video that outlines how hotels can beat the OTAs at their own game:
Your hotel website need to:
- Be unique in terms of content
- Be visually appealing with strong imagery, photography and videography
- Be filled with helpful, quality content
- Be interactive and engaging
- Offer multiple ways to collect data
- Offer a place to make direct online bookings
As we head into the new normal, it is important for hotels to adapt to the current climate, stand up once more, innovate through technology and change the game by taking on the OTAs.
Since 2005, Nexa has worked with independent hotels and large groups providing an extensive range of digital marketing products, services and expertise.
Our work includes website creation, management and optimisation, email and social media solutions, performance management, campaigns management and overall digital marketing strategy creation and implementation. Nexa hotel and hospitality clients include Hilton Worldwide, Oberoi Hotels & Resorts, Viceroy Hotels & Resorts, One & Only Hotels and Resorts, Jumeirah Group, Premier Inn and Wyndham.
For more information on how we can help your hotel achieve more with hotel digital marketing opportunities and grow direct revenue, please complete the form on this page.