By Michael Kinloch, Director of Sales – Pacific, SiteMinder
Independent hoteliers need to devise strategies to gain more business, more efficiently, in order to out-pace and out-perform competitors. In particular, the digital experience is pivotal for today’s independent hotelier, as more travellers turn to mobile devices and online platforms, including social media and IBEs, to make bookings.
As travel brands and consumers continue to interact online as well as offline, here’s a look at 5 ways independent hotels can drive greater efficiencies.
1. Better website performance to drive conversion
Independent hotels need to optimise their website with clear call-to-actions and rich local content in order to maximise engagement with their website visitors. For instance, by using cloud technology to create a fully integrated booking experience on your website, you can:
- Create a clear path through the booking process with a minimum of clicks.
- Reach international travellers with offers in multiple languages and currencies.
- Make your deals and special promotions more visible on your website.
- Up-sell with value-added extras (breakfast, late check-out, etc).
Along with clear call-to-actions on your website, having high-quality, SEO-optimised content will improve your search engine rankings and strengthen your value proposition in the marketplace. By focusing on strengthening your web presence, you can increase your level of conversions and revenues through direct bookings.
2. Digital platforms across all devices
Travellers need to access data on the move, whether it is via smartphone, tablet, or laptop. And with mobile bookings expected to exceed one-third of all online bookings by 2018, it’s essential for independent hoteliers to maintain a strong digital presence across a variety of devices.
In a move to capture more of the lucrative mobile market, travel brands like TripAdvisor, Expedia and Booking.com have developed key strategies for mobile platforms. Independent hotels need to follow suit with custom apps that help target and bring in more direct customers. For example, Choice Hotels Book Now! app utilises smartphones’ built-in GPS capabilities to allow travellers to locate over 5,800 properties worldwide, book automatically using previously stored credit card information, and rack up rewards in the process.
To stay competitive in the transparent booking landscape, independent hotels need to review and re-optimise their pricing regularly. As a case in point, online retailer Amazon makes more than 2.5 million price changes every day in order to provide the most competitive pricing on the web.
Hotels must adopt the same mentality when it comes to pricing, by constantly monitoring competitors’ prices and adjusting their room prices accordingly to maximise revenue per room. Using a revenue management system (RMS) with dynamic pricing capabilities, you can track your competitors’ pricing and, within your specified parameters, adjust prices on your OTAs and meta-search engines automatically with your channel manager – helping you stay one step ahead of the competition.
4. Push pricing updates across all distribution channels
Airbnb is a prime example of a company that has solved the puzzle of predictive pricing for its customers who often have trouble correctly pricing their rooms. Integrating the basic question of “How do I price my room?” within their pricing algorithms, Airbnb’s pricing suggestions take into account a variety of factors including the type of room, the local neighbourhood (value), and nearby amenities. As their experiments revealed, users that chose to use the suggested prices got three times as many bookings as those who did not. Clearly, better pricing intelligence drives more bookings.
Using your channel manager as part of a cloud-based product suite, you can ensure that your best rates and current room availability are automatically updated in real-time across all your booking channels including OTAs, GDS, wholesalers, travel agents, and your own website – saving you time while you maximise your revenue per room.
5. Provide more incentives to book
Guests that frequent independent hotels will fall into the category of a one-time visit, a regular guest, or an advocate who provides positive word-of-mouth to drive more direct business. But regardless of which category they fall into, guests need incentives to stay again or recommend your hotel and its benefits when booking directly.
For example, complimentary free upgrades, free food and drinks, and redeemable vouchers for local restaurants in exchange for booking direct through your website are just a few incentives that will encourage return visits. Using your social media channels, you can convert more customers with special offers and booking buttons that lead them directly to your website.
When it comes to driving greater efficiencies, hoteliers must make use of all options available, both online and off. By offering more streamlined direct booking options on your website, mobile booking apps, along with competitive pricing and incentives – your hotel will be well-positioned to capture its share of the independent hotel market.