Hotels today are facing challenges from many corners. Although more people are traveling than ever, services such as Airbnb and VRBO are slowly but surely leaching market share from hotels. On top of that, OTA websites such as Booking.com and Expedia are charging sizeable commission rates to distribute hotel rooms, while at the same time reducing hotels’ ability to retain loyal guests.
Hotels have been doing everything they can to fight back, and exhorting travelers to book direct is one of the strategies they’ve been using. Getting guests to book direct, however, has been challenging, largely because the primary element travelers look for when they want to book a hotel is price point — and OTAs can help them easily find the best prices around.
According to a Phocuswright study, between 61 and 75 percent of travelers across a variety of markets regularly use an OTA website to shop for hotels and flights. Needless to say, it’s clear why hoteliers are so keen to convert OTA guests to direct bookings.
One method hotels can use to get more direct bookings is messaging. There are several reasons for this. We’ve outlined them here.
Collect guest contact information
Some OTAs do not pass on guest contact information to the hotel after a booking has been made. This makes it difficult for hotels to reach out to the guest with follow-up emails and marketing communications. With messaging, however, hotels can capture guest contact information — whether email addresses, phone numbers, or both — and record it in the PMS for future use.
Establish a relationship with the guest
A stay at a hotel isn’t just about having a roof over one’s head. It’s also about having an experience. Communicating with the guest on a personal, one-on-one level increases their emotional attachment to the brand. On top of that, it helps the brand understand their guests better and tailor the experience to their individual preferences. When a brand can show the guest that it’s paying attention to their needs and is willing to cater to them, that will endear them to their guests and increase the likelihood that they will return next time they travel.
Prompt guests to sign up for loyalty programs
Getting guests to join your loyalty program is sure to help with your direct booking efforts. However, getting them to do so without being pushy can be a challenge. Messaging can take a bit of the pressure off. Hoteliers can use messaging to prompt the guest to sign up for their loyalty program after they’ve concluded a conversation with the guest.
Send marketing emails
Post-stay messaging is a key part of capturing guest loyalty and setting the stage for repeat visits. In fact, consumers who receive emails spend, on average, 138 percent more than consumers who don’t. But without guest contact information, it is all but impossible for hotels to reach out to guests after they have left the property. On-site messaging enables the hotel to capture the guest’s contact information and send them post-stay emails and marketing offers.
Have you tried using messaging to boost direct bookings at your hotel? Let us know in the comments, or on social media: LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.