By Chris McGuire | April 12th, 2019
At 2019’s HSMAI ROC & DOC conference, 80 DAYS’ Chris McGuire hosted a series of roundtable discussions about the challenges and opportunities for hotels to drive direct bookings. The discussions involved not only staff from hotels’ marketing and revenue teams, but also from suppliers, consultants and metasearch channels.
Below we’ve recapped some of the interesting discussion points raised on the day.
1. Why Book Direct? No, seriously… why Book Direct?
The first interesting topic to come up was whether a direct booking was truly more valuable than that of a booking by other means. One participant raised a valid point that when you add up the cost of your own advertising, the website, the booking engine, the staff and consultants, etc., sometimes booking direct can prove less cost effective.
While that certainly can be the case it doesn’t have to be, and running effective marketing campaigns certainly can yield stronger returns than paying high commissions.
The point also sparked discussion about the lifetime value of customers and, as an even softer metric, the emotional connectivity with customers who have a direct relationship with your business. Both can be more challenging to quantify, which is why they are often overlooked.
2. Standing out & saying “no”
A topic was raised earlier in the day by Michael Levie, COO of CitizenM, that hotels can often do more to better understand what makes them stand out and who it is precisely that they are looking to engage with. Often that means making difficult decisions and turning away “the wrong customers”, which can feel unnatural to hoteliers.
This was an idea we explored further in our roundtables – a key challenge to encouraging direct bookings is a lack of clarity on who you are targeting, and what you are offering them.
Understanding who your ideal customers are can then lead to producing better content, better targeting, less wasted advertising spend, better pricing, and so on. Definitely not to be skipped over!
3. The future is … voice?
Throughout the day, voice search was mentioned several times as one of the emerging trends, and we were keen to explore this further in our discussions.
While it’s certainly true that voice search is taking off though, the consensus seemed to be that this was not a primary focus for the hotel industry (yet!) and that there was a lot more that could be improved in other areas that would likely have a greater impact. For example…
4. The present is metasearch!
With a lot of developments in the metasearch space – from Google’s new hotels platform, to TripAdvisor’s Sponsored Placements facility – metasearch is a great opportunity for hotels to drive super-qualified traffic into your direct booking channel.
The discussion groups highlighted this is not without its challenges though – hotels often seem to struggle with accessing metasearch channels and showing their best rates direct (something 80 DAYS’ metasearch service can help with!)
5. Big Data vs. Smart Data
Another big topic of the day was “Big Data”, and the push for hoteliers to make more data-led decisions rather than relying on instinct.
However, breaking off into smaller groups the discussion often turned to how overwhelming the amount of data already available was. One participant put in extremely well: “We don’t need Big Data, we need Smart Data”
6. To discount or to incentivise?
Last but by no means least there was some debate around whether making booking direct cheaper was a viable strategy, with some hoteliers reporting that they consciously undercut OTAs on rate, while others warned against this practice.
Some participants suggested that added incentives – be that, offering F&B credit, breakfast inclusive or even the idea of giving cashback on direct bookings – could help with channel shift from OTAs should there be an imbalance in production.
HSMAI ROC 2019 was a great event, both in being able to learn more from hoteliers and industry leaders, as well as have the opportunity to share some of 80 DAYS’ own experience.
If you are facing challenges with encouraging direct bookings, or would like to learn more about the opportunities to grow direct bookings, please do get in touch »