Can coronavirus help drive direct bookings?

As people lose faith with resellers, now there is opportunity for businesses to capitalise on the trend to buy direct...

I’m sure that there aren’t many people out there that haven’t used a third-party website to book a hotel room or flight before, but there are indications to suggest that there may be a few less people using them post COVID-19 pandemic.

This presents renewed opportunity for businesses to capture direct bookings, capitalising on feelings of dissatisfaction from those booking through online agents, You see, the platform's processes for handling refunds or moving dates was just not as fluid and adaptable as dealing with the business who owns the product. We’ve heard many stories of people spending hours on the phone, wading through copious amounts of terms and conditions, crashing websites only to be told that no refunds were available and that they can only credit the transaction.

There are many people now having had that experience, who would rather book direct with the hotel or airline in question, should anything on this scale ever happen again.  So, how do you capitalise?

Now is the time to position yourself for more direct bookings:

  1. Create and display clear and concise terms and conditions. You can keep the non-refundable best available room rate, just make it obvious on your website and booking engine
  2. Highlight how booking direct gives people direct access to your team and the ability to speak to a real person in case of any issues
  3. Ensure you have the appropriate phone and staff coverage to enable this to happen. Upgrade any back-office facilities and streamline processes where possible
  4. Review the benefits you can offer customers for booking direct – room upgrades, welcome drinks, complimentary spa access and other loyalty rewards need to be fully exploited!
  5. Update your website and booking engine if you need to, to simplify the booking process as much as possible. OTAs win because they're convenient, offer choice and are extremely streamlined, so you need to be too
  6. Get your business ranking and listed. If you want to compete with an OTA, it's a hard task, but for the time being people will be actively seeking to book direct. Making sure your business is discoverable and showing up in the right place at the right time is completely essential. 

Get your team involved and see what other creative ideas that you can come up with. The additional benefit of encouraging direct bookings means that you hold the data in your CMS or PMS, allowing you to review your customers behaviour and what offers and messaging drives additional bookings.

Use the time available now to position your hotel to take more direct bookings and reduce the commission levels that you are paying to OTAs.

apt marketing & pr is a boutique strategic communications agency, with a specialism in tourism, hotel & destination marketing. Contact us on 01242 250692.

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