Online travel agencies (OTAs) have revolutionized hospitality. They can be great for drawing in new clients, but also have a serious downside: OTA bookings all too often don’t translate into long term customer loyalty.
However, more and more hotel managers are realizing the OTAs themselves aren’t to blame. By being proactive, hotels themselves can escape the cycle of OTA addiction, and turn those one off visitors into repeat clients. Here are four easy ways to make that happen.
1. Deliver a great experience
All hotels promise a great experience, but few actually deliver. Guests don’t just want a bed, they want to experience local culture, and be part of a bigger story. Your hotel should be part of providing a story that puts the customer right in the center. A great way to do this is deliver unexpected, exciting perks and freebies. Even something as simple as a complementary glass of bubbly on arrival, or a photo memory book on departure can go a long way towards making the guest feel special. Experiences like this can nudge guests to not only return, but to make the effort to book directly instead of via an OTA.
2. Customer service matters
Perhaps it sounds a little old fashioned nowadays, but customer service still matters. In fact, it can make or break a business. Employees should be encouraged to build positive relationships with guests. Offer the best of what you and your region have to offer. While this should be a basic practice for every hotel, so many establishments throw customer service out the window when it comes to OTA bookings. Clients who found the hotel through an OTA are often given the least impressive rooms, and bare bones services. They aren’t treated like real clients. It’s therefore no surprise so many hotels struggle to secure repeat visits from these guests. The solution is simple: treat every client like a VIP, no matter how they made their booking.
3. Collect email addresses
It takes just a few seconds, but can be the difference between a single visit and a loyal customer. Collect every guest’s email address if you can, especially if they made an OTA booking. Without email addresses, it’s almost impossible to market these people directly, and encourage them to return in the future. Email addresses can be collected either during check in or check out. It takes almost no effort, but is utterly crucial.
4. Provide an incentive to book directly
One huge advantage hotels have over OTAs is their ability to interact directly with clientele. This means your staff can actively encourage OTA bookers to book directly in the future. During check in or check out, offer guests some kind of benefit for booking directly in the future. Print out those benefits on pamphlets and posters. Make sure they’re seen. You may even consider emailing clients after they leave, offering both your gratitude for their business and an exclusive offer if they book directly next time.