One of the main goals of every hotelier is to increase hotel direct bookings one way or another. Not only are direct bookings profitable, but they offer relationship-building opportunities and can make it easier to earn repeat business.
But even if you have a plan in place and see regular direct booking success, there may still be some gaps to fill. So whether you’re just starting out or need to revamp your current strategy, keep reading for expert tips, as well as scientific and anecdotal evidence, for how to increase hotel direct bookings.
Discover how to increase hotel direct bookings with these 5 tips and strategies:
We interviewed several experts in the hotel booking sphere to bring you the best advice on how to increase hotel direct bookings. The tips below range from long-term strategies to straightforward actions you can take today.
1. Polish your website(s).
If your hotel's website is where the direct booking is taking place, it goes without saying that it needs to be user-friendly, right? That's where hotel website design comes in. While every website is unique, there are a few necessities that will help boost the user experience and, in turn, increase direct bookings. These include:
- A streamlined checkout process. Reduce unnecessary steps in your conversion process so that visitors can quickly and easily book with you.
- Clear navigation. Make it easy for visitors to find the information they need.
- Contact information. Consider a live chat, hotel chatbots, or a texting function to help answer questions quickly.
- Copy and media that showcase your benefits. Prioritise high-quality images and video, clear messaging, and engaging content.
- Great technical SEO. Fast load times, compressed images, search-engine optimised text, and proper security all put your website in front of more potential customers (more on this later).
- Responsive design. Your design should easily accommodate a variety of screen sizes and devices, including a fully-optimised mobile experience.
Additionally, make sure you're utilising a hotel booking engine that best fits the needs of you and your customers.
2. Prioritise loyalty.
Jennifer Hill leads Client Solutions at Kalibri Labs and has over 15 years of experience in direct hotel revenue/distribution. In a recent interview with Cvent, Hill said it's easier to increase hotel direct bookings with existing clients than to start over with new leads.
“Focus on your most loyal members,” Hill says, “particularly if you are a branded hotel. Loyalty member rates (discounts accessed by loyalty members logged into your website) are growing in contribution and keeping pace in most markets and in most chain scales (especially upscale and upper midscale) with OTA bookings. This is a critical guest base for most hotels.”
Capitalise on these existing relationships with direct booking campaigns, offers, and reminders.
3. Use incentives.
In an International Hellenic University direct bookings study, one conclusion formed was that some hotels would be wise to include a welcome message that incentivises direct bookings for customers who land on their site. But they have to do it the right way.
"The Hotel studied does not need to promote its lower direct prices as this eventually has a negative impact on users’ mind in terms of the Hotel's quality and trustworthiness. Instead of this, the Hotel should raise travellers’ awareness by giving them an impression that when booking through its official hotel website, they will be given additional benefits during their stay which will lure them and make their stay more special."
This can include nearly anything your hotel already has to offer. Examples “such as spa vouchers, free transfers or even complimentary meals" are all great options. "In this way, more users will be attracted and become willing to book directly."
We also spoke with Halee Whiting, president of hotel sales service company Hospitality with a Flair, about some of the recent tactics she and her team have used to increase bookings. One of our favorites? Creating pet-friendly/road trip packages.
"Domestic road trip travel is a huge trend for this year. Increasing the ease of booking and adding inclusions like special things for Fido or attraction discounts is huge!”
The key here is to think outside the box and offer unique opportunities and promotions that stand out from the competition.
4. Utilise SEO.
“Improving your hotel SEO is an investment that pays off in dividends," says hotel marketing expert Jennifer Zajac. "Ads require continuous budget and testing. With organic search, people come to YOU and they already want what you have!”
Wondering how? Zajac has a two-point plan:
- Own your brand name. "Check if your tourism board and other local partners have a place where they're linking to hotels — get on it! Claim and complete your Google My Business listing. Push back on any OTA you work with that still bids on your name in Google Ads."
- Target long-tail keywords with high conversion intent. "These are more specific phrases (usually 4+ words) that tend to be less difficult to rank for. Create useful, relevant content on your website that focuses on what people are actually looking for. Look for destination or hotel-related keywords with a decent amount of monthly search volume but relatively low competition. Focus on satisfying what the searcher wants – what attractions are open, where can they get a good outdoor brunch, do you offer small weddings, etc."
In short: Clean up your brand’s Google profile and start working on your rankings. For more on this topic, check out our full guide to hotel SEO.
5. Track your progress.
You can't make changes to your direct booking process if you don't know the changes that need to be made. For example, maybe your direct booking numbers are low because your website takes too long to load. Or maybe a cumulative layout shift (CLS) issue is causing potential customers to accidentally navigate away from the booking page. You'd be surprised at how many things can go wrong (and how often hotels don't even know it's happening).
Use Google Analytics and other analytics tools to track things like time on page, bounce rate, abandonment rate, traffic source, and so on in order to fully understand what is and isn't working — and, more importantly, how to fix it.
Increase hotel direct bookings with just a few simple strategies!
In addition to cleaning up your relationships with OTAs, updating your online marketing materials, strategy, and incentives will help exponentially. Even if you only take one tip away from this guide, you’ll be well on your way to improving those numbers in no time.
Up next, take a deep dive into hotel digital marketing and how even the smallest tweaks can make a massive difference.