You already know this: increasing hotel bookings can be quite a challenge.
Maybe you’ve already tried a number of things like social media ads and partnerships with OTAs but you didn’t see the results you hoped for.
Luckily there are many more effective approaches you can take to drive reservations.
Below you’ll find a list of nine effective, tech-driven steps you can take to increase hotel bookings. They’re great for the guest experience, boost business, and don’t add any extra burden on your team’s shoulders.
But before we explore each one in detail, let's cover a little background on the topic of hotel bookings.
What Are the Essential Tools for Increasing Hotel Bookings?
Reservations come from a wide variety of sources. First, we need to distinguish between direct and third-party bookings.
As the name implies, direct bookings come from your hotel website. They have the lowest cost of acquisition because you don’t pay commission on them. You also get to be the traveler’s main point of contact throughout the whole guest journey. This makes direct bookings the most valuable and profitable for your hotel. All you need to process them is a hotel website with a booking engine.
Third-party bookings come from online travel agencies (OTAs), travel agents, global distribution systems (GDS) and metasearch sites (e.g. TripAdvisor, Kayak). While some of these channels charge up to 20% commission on every booking they still have their merit. They increase your property’s visibility and can help you fill your rooms better than just your website could. To work with third-party providers, you’ll need a channel manager and a central reservation system (CRS).
If made to choose, most hoteliers would opt to prioritize driving more direct bookings because they have more direct control over their efforts and can. Let’s now explore 9 steps that hoteliers can take to increase these more valuable types of bookings.
How To Drive More Bookings at Your Hotel
Whether it’s with packages, optimized rates or a revamped website, there are plenty of ways to get more reservations and drive more revenue. Let’s take a look at some of them.
1. Leverage local SEO
Classic search engine optimization (SEO) is already a great way to boost traffic and therefore bookings. But for the best results, it’s time to make the most of local SEO as well. If you do, you have a better chance of appearing in the search results when people use queries like ‘hotel in Your City’.
It also increases the likelihood of your property featuring in Google’s map pack. That’s a form at the top of the results page which features the algorithm’s top three options for the searcher. Landing your hotel there will skyrocket the number of views your site gets.
For that to happen, follow a few simple steps.
- Complete your Google My Business account with up-to-date information
- Ensure your company name, address and phone number (also referred to as your NAP) are consistent across your entire online presence
- Use local keywords throughout your website (e.g. your city’s name, nearby landmarks…)
- Create content about your surrounding area (e.g. top sights or things to do in your neighborhood)
- Ask guests to review their stay on Google
This will show Google that your business is relevant to the area and deserves to be highlighted.
2. Work on Getting More Guest Reviews
Reviews aren’t just important for your local SEO. They also play a massive role in building trust and winning over new guests. According to data from TrustYou, travelers are 3.9 times more likely to choose hotels with better scores. On top of that, 76% of bookers are willing to pay higher rates for top-rate properties.
But just getting a few five-star responses and resting on your laurels won’t quite cut it. New reviews must come in regularly to increase your chance of appearing among the top results. That’s true on Google, TripAdvisor or OTAs. If you don’t stay on top of this, your competitors will and as a result, they’ll outrank you.
Yes, asking every guest for feedback can be time-consuming. And sometimes the right moment for the question never seems to come up. That’s why it’s best to take this off your team’s plate and automate this step instead.
For example, Canary Check Out lets you send a message requesting feedback to every departing guest. Anyone who enters a five-star review is asked to share it on their favorite review site. If guests award four stars or less, the system routes their comments internally, so your team can follow up.
3. Adjust Your Rates & Positioning
Especially as we’re heading into a period of economic uncertainty, pricing can be a critical factor in booking decisions. Analyze your market regularly to see what other properties are offering. Keep an especially close eye on your direct competitors to understand how and when they adjust their rates.
Use this information to revisit your own pricing tactics and find ways to make your offers more attractive. That doesn’t always mean lowering your rates, although it may be necessary to maintain your positioning and avoid outpricing yourself. Instead, you can also look at ways to justify higher rates by adding value through inclusions like free parking, complimentary late check-out or free breakfast.
4. Offer value-packed bundles or special offers during the low season
The off-season is always a more competitive time since there’s less business to go around. Still, there’s no point in racing competitors to the bottom with excessive discounts.
Again, adding value by bundling services is the better option. Packages like ‘stay for three pay for two’ usually do well for slow shoulder dates. Options with free upgrades, F&B experiences and spa services can also act as a draw.
Come up with a few different deals for your various guest segments to test what performs well. That way you can find what works best for your target audience and boost conversions. On top of that, having some unique offers sets you apart from the competition and can help you attract the right guests.
5. Optimize your website for direct bookings
The best rates and offers won’t help if you don’t present them attractively on your website. To start, a clear layout is essential. Welcome visitors to your site with an impactful leader image and a captivating heading.
Make sure key information is easy to access. The fewer clicks it takes to find details and book a room, the better. Of course, you don’t want to just present your property with dry facts. Revise your website copy to engage and draw in your readers. Complement it all with professional photos that present your property in the best light.
Guests who are ready to book should easily be able to find your ‘book now’ button. You get bonus points if it leads to a user-friendly booking engine that makes reserving rooms a breeze.
Finally, you can further increase conversions by adding a chatbot to your website. It can answer your guest’s most common questions immediately in any language. And if it integrates with your booking engine, you can even let guests reserve rooms via the chat.
6. Capture more guest information
Being able to communicate directly with your guests is crucial if you want to drive more revenue and gain bookings. Their email addresses and preferences are the most important data points to gather. They allow you to request reviews and send travelers personalized offers during or after their stay.
Combined, these two approaches help you create better guest experiences and improve your review score. Having your guests’ email addresses also gives you the chance to run email marketing campaigns and drive direct bookings.
Unfortunately, acquiring travelers’ email addresses can be a chore, especially if they’re booking via third parties. You’ve probably experienced yourself that OTAs don’t readily share this information. That means a lot of missed opportunities for you. However, today tools like Canary Check-In can help you request such information from guests during arrival and immediately add it to their profile.
7. Create a loyalty program
Your regular guests are the most valuable for your business. Getting them to return brings lower acquisition costs than winning over a new customer. On top of that, repeat guests usually spend more in-house than new clients. This explains why Bain & Company found that as little as a 5%-increase in customer retention can lead to a profit boost of at least 25%. Consequently, it’s more than worth it to invest in driving repeat business.
One way to do that is to create a loyalty program that rewards your regulars with special perks. That could be a simple discount they can’t get elsewhere or convenient service add-ons like late check-out or early check-in for their next stay.
8. Advertise mobile contactless solutions
Covid changed consumer attitudes toward mobile services. These options are now in higher demand than ever. Consider what you can implement at your hotel to adapt to this new preference.
Popular solutions your guests will appreciate include:
Once you implement a new solution, tell potential guests about it on your website, social media and OTA profiles. This shows how seriously you take their concerns and expectations and that they’ll have a great experience because you offer these options.
9. Form partnerships with local businesses
While this may take longer to put into practice, it has some long-reaching benefits. If done right, it can help generate more bookings and make your business an integral part of your local community.
Look around you for local tour operators and guides, restaurants, shops, and other organizations you could work with. Feel free to get creative here and possibly even put together signature offers around your new partnerships. This can bring you referral business or even draw guests who are looking for a hotel that offers this specific experience.
While it’ll always take work to increase your hotel bookings, the boost in revenue and profitability is well worth it. For the best results, apply as many of the above points as you can.
Even if you can’t implement them all at once, it’s important to get started. Every little bit helps and you’ll soon start reaping the rewards. Keep up the work and the positive effects will only increase in the long run.