It’s simply incredible how well OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) have their affairs in order. Their websites are organised to cater to their customers’ every need. Simply excellent! I myself had the privilege of experiencing this when I booked my own vacation last month. If only hotels applied a few of the tricks and functions used by booking sites to their own websites! It would certainly lead to more rooms being booked against better prices. In my experience, hotel owners are currently not making use of opportunities that would allow them to turn a much better profit.
We are once again allowed to go on holiday - even though there are limitations and guidelines (which we take to heart, of course!). Our family is going to Tuscany this summer. By car, which means we have quite a drive ahead of us. We are making two stops along the way in order to break up the journey, and so I went looking for suitable hotels in logical areas for breaks. These are the Black Forest, in Germany, and Northern Italy. It felt safest to have these hotels booked in advance.
Too good to pass up
Even though I am closely acquainted with the hotel sector and with online marketing techniques and channels because of my work, I was once again impressed by Booking.com. Each search almost automatically leads to that website, and they always have suitable offers available. Moreover, you can filter for interesting hotel features: family-friendly, breakfast included, room layout, the availability of a playground, and so on. I made my selection of features and was immediately made an offer that was too good to pass up, handed to me on a silver platter. Once again, Booking.com proved to be ideally suited to quickly find a hotel in a region that I am entirely unfamiliar with.
I would have liked to book directly with the hotel
Being no stranger to the world of hotel bookings, I then went to the hotel’s own website. Perhaps booking directly with the hotel was cheaper, after all! But their website turned out to be somewhat outdated and provided only a phone number. I called, but my call wasn’t answered. I was eager to book the room, but couldn’t do so on the hotel website.
That left me with no choice but to return to Booking.com. By booking there, I could cancel my reservation at no extra cost until a few days before our scheduled arrival. The entire process was entirely straightforward and made me feel secure. A few days afterwards, I saw a few ads of other hotels in the region and one of them looked even nicer. The rates were also lower, so I cancelled my reservation at the first hotel and looked up the website of the second hotel, but it didn’t offer me the option of booking online either. I had no choice but to resort to Booking.com once again.
Positive booking experience
A missed opportunity for these hotels. Sure, we’re still staying at that second hotel, they’re not missing out on business - but if I had been able to book directly with them, then I would likely have done so. That means that they wouldn’t have to pay a fee to Booking.com, which in turn provides the hotel with a better profit margin.
I understand, however, that an independent hotel owner is mostly concerned with hospitality. Hotel owners aren’t website builders. However, we provide a plug-and-play Smart Booking Module that is easily installed to your website, against a low monthly fee. This module allows you to offer a positive booking experience to your customer that is comparable to the OTA, which are, after all, hugely successful for a reason.
There is often much to be gained for hotels when it comes to online distribution - where is your product made available to customers? By making clever use of the large booking websites, it is possible to reach a much larger audience than you would be able to independently. But having your own, direct channel available for customers is practically indispensable to the success of your hotel. Moreover, it allows you to offer a booking experience to your customers that is entirely in line with the hospitality of your hotel. This allows you to influence the traveller’s journey even before the moment of check-in.
Direct reservation and immediate confirmation
This also means that you don’t have to make use of request forms on your website. That type of e-commerce is outdated by at least a decade. Guests often don’t bother filling them out anymore. They want to be able to make a reservation with a few clicks and receive confirmation immediately. Our booking module fully automates that process. Convenient for guests, but also for hotel owners: registering a reservation no longer requires any work on their part!
As an independent hotel, it is neither necessary nor realistic to enter into competition with the large players in the field, who have distilled the process of e-commerce to perfection over the course of many years. But having a booking engine does allow you to exceed the expectations of your guests.
The effect of having your own booking module becomes all the more powerful if you highlight the advantages of booking directly with your hotel. For instance, you can offer extra services, such as free Wi-Fi or parking. Alternatively, you could include a price checker that compares direct booking rates with the rates on OTAs.
Like my girlfriend and children, I greatly look forward to our holiday, including to the stop-over hotels. On our way back, we will stay in a directly booked hotel in Germany. A friendly receptionist answered my call. She answered all my questions and even offered us a room upgrade. In this way, everyone was satisfied: I received friendly service and the hotel was pleased with my direct reservation.
For more than 16 years, SmartHOTEL has been helping hoteliers navigate the exciting world of online distribution. From our office based in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, our team serves independent hotels, hostels and chains worldwide by providing channel management and tailored online distribution solutions. A lot has changed over the last years, but our goal remains the same: simply connect hotels to the world. For any questions regarding our services, please contact us at email@example.com or call +31 (0)182 75 11 18.