The rules of engagement with OTAs

It can prove a challenge for accommodation providers to strike the fine balance between direct bookings and the OTAs. Particularly in light of forecasts suggesting that the Priceline Group (the parent company of and Expedia will control 94% of all online hotel bookings between them by 2020. As a result, it has never been more important to invest in inspiring and capturing those all-important direct customers.

The good news is that recent research indicates that 88% of consumers prefer to buy directly from a brand, if given the option. So it follows that the most successful properties will be those that can maximise their relationships with those guests who come to them via third-party channels and encourage them to return.

The biggest potential hurdle is that OTAs own the relationship until the customer’s point of arrival, so finding a way to gather their email address and contact information will be key to any potential conversion. Check-in is therefore the first opportunity to develop a connection. After all, once they’re under your roof, it makes most sense for customers to be communicating with you above anyone else.

This welcome is also a great time to motivate guests to opt into your future marketing campaigns, which makes first impressions especially crucial. Ensuring your front desk team understand the long-term importance of engaging with customers – and can convey the benefits they’ll enjoy if they come straight to you in future – can be the first step to winning round future direct bookers.

Similarly, many guests are happy to offer feedback when they check out, which can be another chance to capture that all-important contact information alongside insights on their personal preferences which could help you tailor future correspondence and encourage them to stay with you again. This time, hopefully, as a direct client.

In developing Guestline’s suite of hospitality software solutions, plus the important network of technology partners, our aim is to enhance a property’s reach while helping owners maximise their revenue opportunities. These solutions include the ability to track and manage the profile of a customer and their booking history, plus the option to create and deliver relevant offers targeted at the customers’ booking patterns and history. This makes it even easier to segment your data and launch highly targeted offers to a select group of contacts, whether based on the room type or package they had previously booked or with a compelling value-add promotion or seasonal campaign.

However this information is gathered, staff need to be sure to handle this data with care – after all, if stored and used correctly, it really could prove a gold mine for your business. Remember too that it’s equally important that any data captured complies with the strict General Data Protection Regulations and that you’ve made it easy for subscribers to opt out of receiving subsequent emails.

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