As a hotel owner, you want to fill your rooms without needlessly filling the pockets of a third party with money that could be hitting your ledger. Isn’t that right?
You want to build a direct relationship with your guests, so they become loyal customer and return to stay with you again. You want them to tell others about their experiences and leave glowing reviews for you – who made their stay so comfortable – rather than for the third-party agent or travel search-engine that simply facilitated their booking. Right again?
So, it’s vital to understand what makes hotel guests book direct.
We asked 1,108 adults, aged 16-75, in the UK between 10-12 November, 2021 in an online survey with market researchers Ipsos MORI, and their answers were clear.
Some 79% of responses were split across just three main topics: price, perks and peace of mind.
So, get these three correct and you’re instantly more attractive to almost four out of five (79%) of those who book hotels in the UK and say they’re willing to book directly.
For respondents who personally book a hotel directly, or say they would (which was 1,054 out of 1,108), offering lower prices than travel agents or travel search-engines was top for more than half (52%).
Not only was price the biggest driver (almost three and a half times greater than the second preference), it was the top answer across all age groups and income brackets.
“Whether travelling for work or pleasure, travellers often book flights and hotels through websites like Expedia or booking.com because prices are perceived to be much cheaper,” says David Wheatcroft, Head of European Hospitality.
“But, increasingly, smart hoteliers know that offering the same deal, or better, to their guests can see more money coming their way, instead of paying commission to third parties to fill rooms.”
With such commissions across the industry being as high as a quarter of the room’s price tag, even taking just half of that off the direct price still offers a sizeable uplift to your hotel’s bottom line.
“It only works if you tell your guests,” adds David. “So, make sure ‘what’s in it for them’ is clear and unmissable on your website.
“Making it obvious how potential guests can pay for their stay is also vital. If guests know, when they start looking, that they can pay with, say, Diners or using a digital wallet like Alipay, they’re more likely to complete the booking.”
He adds: “With a modern payments system, hotels can also better track sources of guest spending, from the bar and spa to parking and the gym. They can get their money quickly, support more international currencies and enjoy a full, top-down insightful view of the movement of money across every area of the business.
“And, whatever the size of your hotel, the right partners and software can help you achieve all of this, while also providing a real-time inventory of stock and room availability as guests come and go.”
Among UK adults who said they personally book hotels, the offer of additional perks and privileges – such as breakfast included or free parking – was the second-strongest driver likely to motivate them to book directly (15%).
“The worth of a value-add can be surprising,” says David. “A free breakfast doesn’t cost much when you already have the staff on shift, the food in stock and the space available in your restaurant, but it can make all the difference to a potential guest.
“A relatively low cost to you can suddenly amplify in value when it encourages a direct booking and gives you a chance to upsell and to build customer loyalty,” says David.
“A digital booking and integrated payments system can make it effortless, as additional perks can be included, promoted or discounted, as part of the original booking.
“And we all know making it simple for your guests and your staff is a clear, winning strategy,” adds David.
“It is only worth doing if you tell your potential guests. So, shout it all over your website and make it clear in your marketing.”
David Wheatcroft, Head of European Hospitality
Peace of mind (knowing the booking is confirmed) was the third-strongest answer for more than one in ten respondents (12%) who said they personally do, or would, book a hotel directly.
“Peace of mind, particularly when travelling, cannot be underplayed,” says David. “If you’re in unfamiliar territory or traveling on a tight schedule or budget, you cannot risk turning up and not knowing if the booking is being honoured.
“If something goes wrong, it’s also likely your hotel will be far more responsive than a travel agent or booking site, giving your customers the best experience and easiest access to support if things have gone awry.”
Instant booking confirmations, sharing your terms and conditions and being transparent about your cancellation policies can really put a guest at ease. All of this can be automated and simplified through a digital payment and booking system.
Loyalty rewards (e.g. points for free stays or being able to choose preferred pillows) (8%) and free room upgrades (7%) were the fourth- and fifth-strongest drivers, respectively.
But the single most important take-away, says David, is that “it is only worth doing if you tell your potential guests. So, shout it all over your website and make it clear in your marketing.”
We asked these same questions to 1,000 adults in Ireland and 1,098 adults in Poland.
On behalf of Elavon, the research was conducted on i:omnibus, Ipsos MORI’s online Omnibus.