In the vast sea of resort and destination online booking, OTAs reign supreme. So what’s your strategy to increase direct bookings, and how do you set yourself apart?
Perfect booking machines
OTAs (Online Travel Agencies), such as booking.com and Expedia, play an important role in the sales mix of destinations and mountain resorts. They reach the unreachable customer and offer unprecedented global visibility with their almost limitless marketing budgets which, by the way, are funded by the hotels and resorts. They are colossal booking machines attracting over 200 million users each month and generating billions of dollars of Gross Merchant Value each year.
How to respond?
So, what type of relationship should destinations seek to develop with their OTA superpowers? This is where many resorts get it wrong. Some submit without a fight, accepting commission fees of up to 30% and neglecting their own direct booking channels. Meanwhile, others choose a more combative position, limiting their use of OTA’s or boycotting them altogether resulting in a loss of revenue and dimensioned brand exposure. Both approaches leave destinations less profitable and put their profitability and future at risk. But there is another way.
The pilot fish approach
Resorts, destinations, local lodgings, activities, and transportation suppliers can all benefit by forming mutualistic relationships with their OTA partners, much like the pilot fish that follow sharks and benefit from their protection and feed off their prey.
But how does this work in practice?
It starts by understanding the opportunity that OTAs present for resorts to grow their own direct booking sales. It’s not uncommon for travelers to visit online travel agencies (OTAs) to initially search for and compare hotel options, and then proceed to visit individual hotel websites to gather more detailed information before making their booking decision.
This process of “cross-shopping” between OTAs and hotel websites is a common practice among travelers who want to ensure they are making an informed choice before making a reservation. It emphasizes the importance for both OTAs and hotels to provide accurate and appealing information on their respective platforms to attract and retain potential customers.
Riding the wave
This wave of OTA-generated traffic is where smart suppliers, resorts, and destinations can make their move. By working with a direct booking expert, such as SPOTLIO, you can learn how to hook these OTA-generated shoppers and convert them into direct bookers. How? We´re glad you asked. For 10 years, SPOTLIO has been developing digital tools and solutions that do just that. Our proven solutions and techniques have been working for leading global brands such as Whistler Blackcomb, Vail, SkiBig3, Cranmore, and many others.
Here are 10 of our top tips to win more direct booking customers.
- Offer special incentives for direct bookers
Resorts and destinations often find themselves restricted when it comes to undercutting OTAs on room prices so, you need to get creative. Offer direct bookers a complimentary glass of champagne, free parking, free half-day bike rental, a short lesson, or a free room upgrade when possible. Be personal, accommodating, and flexible with unique room/lodge options, be dog friendly, and offer a positive cancelation policy. These things can often be enough to seal the deal.
- Seduce customers with a website full of local, insider knowledge
Inspiring customers is a key point in the customer journey and the one area where resorts and destinations should win hands down thanks to their local knowledge. So play this card strongly with a well-designed resort website that shows all that the destination has to offer. Keep your images up to date and make sure links to the direct booking pages are highly visible, seducing, and promise unbeatable insider deals.
- Match the quality of the OTA booking experience
In the past OTAs outclassed destinations by offering customers a far superior booking experience. But, as Spotlio and our customers have proven, it is now possible to compete with the OTAs and offer customers the same frictionless booking experience when booking direct with the hotel or resort. Spotlio’s Commerce solution has years of experience and know-how behind its design. It uses only the latest technology that maximizes conversion rates and reduces customer bounce rates.
- Create a sense of urgency
FOMO (fear of missing out) is a strong emotional response that can often be the trigger to taking positive action. Creating urgency based on availability data such as ‘only 3 rooms available for this date’ or ‘5 of these rooms have been purchased in the last 2 hours’ are an effective way to provoke positive action in your customers.
- Include persuasive social proofing
Inspire shoppers and make them feel more at ease by including customer reviews, and other customer-generated content such as photos and videos. This increases the likelihood of them staying on your site and booking direct. There are great third-party plugins available such as TrustYou that can offer some starting content for your own reputation management.
- Make the most of upselling opportunities
Increase average cart values by giving customers the chance to purchase various products such as lift tickets, rentals, and activities, hassle-free and all in one place. Offer special packages and bundles to maximize each visit. Spotlio’s Commerce Platform is fully compatible with all of your Inntopia product inventory and offers a single-page booking experience which has proven to increase average cart values.
- Reward customer loyalty
Keeping a guest is far less expensive than trying to find a new one. So, offer your customers a loyalty program that rewards repeat business. This is a great way to keep the customer engaged with your brand by making them feel like a resort insider. Also, as OTAs move to set up their own loyalty programs and membership deals it’s essential that resorts are not seen to be falling behind. Spotlio’s Direct Booking System is highly flexible and can integrate with almost any loyalty program.
- Mobile first booking pages
If you are not looking at mobile commerce then you are looking in the wrong direction. Mobile is where more and more customers are deciding to do business. So, this often-overlooked channel needs to be up and running and ready to serve Millenials and Gen Zs with fast loading, user-friendly direct booking.
- Promote the fact that you are the official reservation center
Are you the official reservation center for your resort or destination? If so, shout it from the rooftop. Shoppers are more likely to trust information and lowest pricing opportunities coming directly from you as the main source. Be sure to also make your reservation center phone number prominent, giving those shoppers who may want to call easy access to do so. And, for those not ready to pull the trigger, make sure you offer the ability to save an itinerary or quote that they can access and share with others.
- Offer price parity and live price comparisons
For many customers, the main factor that determines where they book is price. So, for these customers it is important that you offer a price parity guarantee and live price comparisons so that they no longer feel the need to shop around.
TripTease can provide this data and be integrated into Spotlio’s direct booking pages.
Because of the superior marketing power of OTAs, destinations need to be more imaginative. The challenge is to convince OTA-generated website visitors to stay on your site and book directly. By following these tips you give them more reasons to stay and fewer reasons to leave thus increasing the chance of visitors booking directly.
How can Spotlio help you achieve this goal?
Spotlio’s Commerce Platform lets your customers enjoy super fast search results as well as a frictionless, intuitive booking experience. Commerce is designed specifically for mountain destinations and already trusted by leading destinations such as Steamboat, Copper Mountain, Telluride Tourism Boar, and many others. It can also be integrated into your resort app to supercharge your mobile booking sales offering a truly seamless experience between web and mobile.
If you would like to find out more about exploiting OTA traffic, book a free demo with one of the SPOTLIO experts.
Spotlio is a trailblazing force in destination digital technology, offering tailor-made solutions — from apps to e-commerce, and almost everything in between — that redefine the way travelers interact with resorts, parks, and attractions. With a decade-long legacy of excellence, Spotlio empowers clients with innovative white label digital solutions and pricing services, fostering connections and enhancing experiences on a global scale.