Today we address the eternal struggle that hoteliers face regarding OTAs. In a 2019’s article on digital marketing strategies, Guestcentric estimated that 70% of hotel reservations were made through the giant OTAs, namely Booking.com and Expedia, and that this was largely due to the huge investment made by these companies on digital marketing, unthinkable for any hotel, enabling them to monopolize the relationship with the customer.
From 2019 until today, we have been witnessing a paradigm shift, leveraged by a period of pandemic in which hoteliers realized that perhaps managing a hotel was not just about looking at the operation and leaving sales in the hands of these giants, starting to redeem part of these sales for themselves, by increasingly investing on digital marketing.
Digital Marketing at the service of the hotel industry, as mentioned in previous articles, includes a range of actions aimed at optimizing online presence and increasing direct sales. Among the strategies we will highlight these 3, today:
1. Website and Booking Engine Optimization.
According to the same Guestcentric article, users spend an average of 6 minutes on the hotel’s website before making their reservation. In order to convert these users into customers, the website must be visually attractive, easy to read, optimized for mobile devices, facilitate user navigation, in addition to presenting a simple, intuitive and secure Booking engine, which allows the user to make a reservation in a maximum of 3 steps.
2. Differentiation of the website offer.
Ensuring that direct booking benefits those at the decision stage is crucial in this struggle against OTAs. Differentiating the offer with exclusive “travel perks” on the website can be done through discounts for direct booking, breakfast offer or the creation of personalized packages that respond to the needs of customers and that they will only find on the website.
3. Online Positioning.
Did you know that 60% of travellers start their research for accommodation on search engines, according to Google? Being at the top of these lists brings benefits and, therefore, SEO and SEM efforts are valued and generate results.
It is precisely on this online positioning strategy that we are going to focus to talk about a relatively recent tool that, in parallel with other actions, can “turn the game around” in favour of hotels.
In addition to a website optimized for organic searches and a serious, strategic and structured investment in digital marketing campaigns for search engines, such as Google Ads, the optimization of the unit profile in Google My Business and the investment on the recent Google Travel Ads are essential actions for any hotel.
The watchword is to appear – and we must appear first, facilitating the redirection of users to our website – which, being optimized and offering differentiated offers, will do the rest of the work until conversion. So, how valuable is it to show up in that little box on the top right of search engines with all the hotel’s information optimized? Location on Google Maps, contacts, general information about the establishment and the points of interest that are around it – this is valuable information, which guarantees traffic and generates reservations.
Besides this, and for some time now, you may have noticed that under this description of your hotel on Google My Business Listing, there are several links for booking your establishment and, we dare to guess, none of them is the direct link to your website. Correct?
Now, Google’s latest tool for Hospitality is precisely the provision of these direct links on the search page results. They show the price of the night and, and with just one click, take the user to the reservation stage. But they don’t exist just for you, in fact, all OTAs from this world and the next, are already selling YOUR hotel there, attracting the customer to their own websites and reducing your chances of being able to entice the user to visit your website through search results listing.
Now this is where you should be too. By placing the direct link to your website, you are competing with OTAs on the platform with more visibility at the time of decision of those looking for accommodation. And in terms of investment, you have two options:
– Free Booking Links: which will not make you appear in the first places of this listing
– Hotel Ads: of course, having the direct link to your featured website is not offered by Google free of charge, but you can choose to pay only for each conversion obtained through this link. That is, you pay Google a fixed commission for each booking made through this link. For those who are reticent about this type of investment, the best is to start looking at the commissions you pay OTAs to do the same job, and you’ll definitely see where the gain is.
Google shows us case studies with 25% increases in direct sales using this tool. But there is something very important to bear in mind: it is not enough to use this tool if the hoteliers do not do their homework. Presenting a direct link amongst a competitors list when the price you offer on your site is not better than what the OTAs present is basically useless, and the same issue arises with the availability of dates.
So, like all digital marketing tools, we can optimize all online channels, generate traffic to them, have the best websites, the most optimized Booking engines for sale, but if no one thinks about the revenue, pricing, partners and competitors, all the effort is in vain. The hotel industry must be designed to obtain results, it is not enough to fill hotels without knowing how and then get stuck in the problem of the operation, without thinking about the next steps.
To learn more about Google Travel Ads: https://travel.google/partners/hotels
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