ravelers have access to a seemingly endless list of resources that can tell them the ins and outs of their travel destinations, activities, lodging options, flight prices, and more. In fact, travelers visit an average of 277 web pages before booking a trip.
Those research stops are all important touchpoints along the luxury traveler journey, but the most important one is yet to be determined – where do they go to finally hit the “Book Now” button? Recently, that answer has been an online travel agency (OTA), which offers travelers not only lodging, but flights, rental cars, attraction tickets, and even more. Two of the most popular OTAs, Expedia and Booking, account for around 60 percent of all travel bookings across the U.S. and Europe.
How can individual hotel and resort properties compete with these enormous one-stop shops? The answer: By focusing on what you have that they don’t – namely, direct bookings and guest loyalty. Here’s our list of tried-and-true ways that hoteliers can compete with (and even outperform) OTAs.
1. Curate Personalized Experiences
As an individual property, one of the key advantages you have over OTAs is the ability to offer personalized experiences. Unlike OTAs, where sheer size requires a one-size-fits-all model, your property can tailor its offerings to meet the unique preferences of your guests. This can include customized room amenities, special packages for celebrations, and even personalized concierge services. A focus on creating memorable, tailor-made experiences will attract travelers seeking a more personal touch that OTAs simply cannot replicate.
2. Incentivize Direct Bookings
Direct bookings bring more than just the opportunity to retain a larger share of the revenue. They’re also the perfect opportunity to build a direct relationship with guests. Individual properties can entice guests to book directly with exclusive perks such as discounted rates, free upgrades, late check-out, or loyalty program rewards. Direct booking also brings additional value, like more flexible cancellation policies and better customer support.
3. Invest in User-Friendly Websites
A slick, easy-to-use website is crucial for attracting and retaining potential guests. Invest in a responsive and easy-to-navigate website that provides comprehensive information about the property, including high-quality images, room details, and amenities. A seamless online booking experience is essential to encourage direct bookings, and user reviews and ratings should also be prominently displayed to build trust with potential guests.
4. Engage in Social Media Marketing
Social media platforms are an excellent way for hotels and resorts to connect with their target audience on a more casual basis and build a loyal following. By consistently sharing engaging content, stunning visuals, and stories about the property, you can create a community of loyal guests who will help bolster your brand story. You can also use social media to highlight unique features, promote special offers, and interact with guests directly, enhancing the guest experience and encouraging repeat visits.
5. Leverage Online Reputation Management
In a day and age where online reviews can make or break your property, digital reputation management is essential. Whether it’s a dedicated job or a group responsibility, your marketing team should actively monitor and review websites and respond promptly to both positive and negative feedback. Demonstrating a commitment to guest satisfaction and addressing concerns publicly shows potential guests that your property values their experience. Encouraging satisfied guests to leave positive reviews can also help boost a hotel’s reputation.
6. Offer Unique Packages and Promotions
To stand out from OTAs, brainstorm some unique packages and promotions that cater to specific niches or interests of your guests – honeymooners, adventure enthusiasts, spa lovers, or food connoisseurs, to name a few. By offering specialized experiences that align with your unique selling points, you can attract travelers seeking more than just a place to stay.
7. Implement a Robust Loyalty Program
Rewarding your guests for their continued business is a wonderful and effective way to build repeat business and encourage direct bookings. Consider offering perks like discounted rates, free nights, exclusive access to amenities, or even partnerships with local attractions. A well-designed loyalty program can foster a sense of belonging and encourage guests to return.
8. Focused Marketing
As we mentioned, OTAs are a one-stop shop. Because of their sheer size, there isn’t much room for individualization. That’s where individual property marketing can shine. For example, you can develop a targeted marketing campaign that highlights all of your cool, upgraded tech. Sustainability is another area that lends itself to an individual focus as it becomes increasingly important to travelers. Marketing these efforts individually allows you to share more details and catch a traveler’s attention far more effectively than when they’re quickly scanning through OTA listings.
9. Build Local Partnerships
Collaborating with local businesses and attractions can not only enhance the guest experience, but also create a unique selling point for individual hotels and resorts. Partnering with nearby restaurants, tour operators, or cultural attractions can lead to package deals and cross-promotional opportunities that attract travelers seeking a comprehensive local experience. The key to these perks, however, is booking directly with the property.
By focusing on personalized experiences, encouraging direct bookings, and leveraging technology and marketing strategies, your marketing team can create a compelling value proposition for travelers. Ultimately, however, the key to success lies in understanding what sets your property apart and shouting it from the rooftops.