As the hospitality industry and digital marketing continue to develop and intersect with new technology, the relationship between hotels, OTAs and metasearch engines too continues to evolve. But the basic strategy remains the same – rather than competing, all platforms should complement each other.
OTAs traditionally invest 30-40% of their revenues on marketing budgets which helps them dominate search related marketing channels, like Google AdWords. This gives them wide visibility – something which your hotel can make use of through the billboard effect. It helps your guests discover your hotel through an OTA, and then visit your website directly.
Hotels that have featured on OTAs have clinched the additional benefit of getting bookings over and above direct reservations. The more you distribute your rooms and amenities across channels, the more bookings you will attract and the more your hotel will grow.
Not just the billboard effect, the reverse billboard effect too holds immense opportunity. Our research indicates that a good website also grows your OTA business. Since your competition is the hotel next door, optimizing all channels – direct (website), online (OTAs) and offline – is the key.
Developing and executing an efficient distribution strategy is the first step. Here are some steps that you can follow –
- Improve your OTA and TripAdvisor ranking
A better OTA ranking drives traffic to the website and a good Trip Advisor ranking helps you get more OTA business. Positive reviews go a long way in helping you get better ranking. Not just TripAdvisor, user generated feedback on OTAs influences booking behaviour as well. It makes sense – travellers want to hear from each other. Another step that’ll help is updating content on a regular basis. A lot of OTAs let visitors filter search with parameters such as ‘free Wi-Fi’. If you offer such a feature, make sure that you are included on the relevant filter.
- Is your homepage optimized to convert billboard visitors to reservations?
Guests may come, but will they book? Your website should still be appealing and photos and video-driven. A user friendly booking engine is paramount. The website should offer greater value and convenience than the OTAs which cause the billboard effect. If not, these websites visitors will simply move away to a different website. Don’t forget the importance of content marketing either—through promotions, blogs, or newsletters. Also ensure that you display positive reviews on the site.
- Retarget non-converting visitors
Remarketing or retargeting is a simple method of reminding your visitors of something which they already want, and that you can offer. Tailor your offers and promotions according to the personal preferences of the visitor, which can be displayed across various channels like Facebook and Google.
- Tell a story
The best way to sell rooms is by tugging at the heartstrings and evoking emotions. What’s your hotel’s story? Make sure your website has an environment that makes visitors picture themselves relaxing by the pool side, or unwinding at the bar—something that resonates with them.
- Tie it up with technology
No strategy is complete unless you invest in the right technology to seamlessly integrate all these components together. Software solutions designed for hotels will help you update pricing in real time according to demand, seamlessly manage all OTAs at once, and maximise your bookings. You will want to include a direct online booking engine which integrates with the website, and a channel manager.
Having a great presence on OTAs and TripAdvisor will help you be seen everywhere. Do not alienate any one channel – develop them all and keep a healthy mix.