Your hotel has endured the COVID shutdowns. You’ve spent months strategizing and planning while your hotel rooms sat empty, but the time is going to come when people will once again leave their homes with bags packed to spend the night in a bed other than their own.
And when that time comes, the beds you want them to be sleeping in are yours.
Even in the best of times, the game of increasing bookings can seem to be a three-dimensional chess match involving OTAs and commissions and cancellations and commissions and constantly shifting occupancy numbers—and did we mention commissions?
Today, however, the stakes are immeasurably higher, as profit margins are non-existent, and any commission paid comes directly out of an already bleeding bottom line. What you need, as you work through the process of reopening along with the rest of the economy, are a few ways to increase new bookings without breaking the bank. The best first step in that direction is to look away from the commissions of OTAs and focus on increasing direct bookings instead.
Here are 3 strategies to cost-effectively increase your hotel bookings in the midst of a pandemic.
Unsurprisingly, you’ll find pages of current research telling you that the priority for consumers in everything from grocery shopping to filling their car with gas, or any non-singular activity, really, is safety.
Research from Longwoods Internationalshows that “Travelers are more likely to support tourism businesses which demonstrate a clear, thorough cleaning and hygiene plan (43%), which test staff and require the use of PPE by staff (34%), and those that have controls on social distancing at the business (34%).”
So, the first step in increasing those booking numbers is to have all your COVID-prevention ducks in a row. Different locations and different business categories may be operating under significantly different directives as the stages of reopening progress, so you’ll want to check the specific government guidelines in your region.
Keep and maintain a sufficient supply of special cleaning equipment, sanitizers, masks, and gloves. Arrange for the ability to temperature-check all incoming guests. Be prepared for a variety of maintenance tasks, including more frequent air conditioning service to help prevent infection spread.
Make a plan for proper social distancing throughout your facility.
Customers have become used to, and are going to continue to expect, contactless service everywhere from check-in to room service and other dining options for some time. And there are a variety of solutions, like those from OneDine, that can help not only reduce unnecessary contact, but actually improve the customer experience at the same time.
Reward direct booking
Over the past few years, consumers have become accustomed to certain conveniences associated with booking through OTAs such as Hotels.com, Expedia, Trip Advisor, and more. Many of them offer free cancellations, which can throw a curveball right into the forehead of your best occupancy forecasts.
In fact, according to a 2016 report, cancellations on Booking.com are 104% higher than those booked on a hotel website. On Expedia, this is 31% more.
One of the best ways to increase direct booking is to offer incentives to those who do so, and the most obvious incentive is to offer lower rates to guests who book directly through you. For those who may be skeptical that your rate is lower, you can offer a price match guarantee to sweeten the pot.
You can also offer discounts on add-ons, late checkouts, free upgrades, loyalty points, and more—the possibilities are endless. Be creative. Give guests a wide and vast array of good reasons to book through you instead of that OTA, and make sure these offers are prominently featured on your website. Hit them with bold (and also easily closed-out-of) pop-ups and calls to action informing them of your great deals.
After all, the best incentives in the world are useless if nobody knows about them.
Speaking of getting the word out, one of the most effective (and cost effective) ways of getting the word out is via social media.
The best proof that your hotel is a great place to stay is the word of past guests, and that’s where social media shines. In fact, more than 80% of travellers consider hotel reviews to be extremely important. You need to make that social proof readily available on your website and on your own social media accounts.
It’s also important to respond to online reviews. Thank users for positive reviews, and address poor experiences by acknowledging the customer’s problem, requesting their contact information, and taking the conversation offline. Then, take proactive measures to make things right.
71 percent of customers say they’re more likely to recommend a business that gave them a positive service experience via social media. Pay attention. And respond. The benefits to you will be well worth the effort.
Increasing your hotel bookings during a pandemic may seem nearly impossible, but by making targeted efforts and embracing the contactless experience, you’ll be able to attract new clientele—whatever the current climate may be.