Whether you love them or not, Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) like booking.com, HotelsCombined, TripAdvisor and Expedia have carved an important place in the travel food chain, and most savvy globe trotters zip to those sites the moment travel plans are underway.

OTA’s promote themselves extensively with ever-increasing budgets and offer features that are valuable for travellers, but at the end of the day, the bookings you gain through them do cost you more. You pay a commission every time someone books a room, apartment, spa appointment etc through those channels, and these costs add up and ultimately do affect your bottom line.

While vacancies are more expensive, there are ways of reducing the costs of these necessary evils. The first is to cut out third-party channel managers. Many of the leading Property Management Software (PMS) have  Channel Management capability built-in so there’s no need to double-up. Using a third-party channel manager only adds a level of cost and complexity and can be a recipe for disaster. For instance, RMS allows you to manage and update all of your OTAs details through their PMS without hiring and paying for a third-party manager.

It’s worth remembering there is a flow-on effect of OTA’s with many travellers using them as a search tool only, ultimately choosing to visit your property website direct to book. Ensuring your details are up to date, photography is spot-on and room options are clear and easy to follow is paramount. Positive reviews on these sites also drive rankings so it’s a good idea to make it easy for guests to review your property. The RMS Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys can be automatically sent when a guest checks-out and can carry links to TripAdvisor and the like. Monitoring and responding to these reviews is also essential.

Once all the details are sorted, a few incentives and marketing strategies can be implemented to tempt, cajole and win over customers and further increase your direct bookings. Here’s how:

Place incentive-advertising on channel sites

OTA’s, such as TripAdvisor, have advertisement space on their results pages. These prime spots can be very successful in increasing awareness of your hotel and raising traffic to your website. You can tempt prospective guests with clickable promotional ads offering incentives like Free Wi-Fi, Breakfast upgrade or Spring specials available only on your website. Offer-based ads give travellers a reason to click through to your site.

Offer to match online prices

One of the reasons so many guests flock to travel sites is because they assume that’s where they’ll find the best prices. OTA’s masterfully use that perception to their advantage by adding result-page blurbs, such as ‘Only 4 left at this price!’ or simply ‘Sale!’  These grab viewers’ attention and drive them to click through, right then and there.  If you have a lowest-rate or price-match guarantee for direct reservations, you can reclaim those bookings.

Book Now Button

So, you’ve done everything you can to get travellers to visit your website – now what? Making the process as easy as possible is the next step. The RMS Book Now Button is fully integrated with the RMS distribution and property management features, OTA’s and GDS providers so room availability is automatically updated, in real-time and you can avoid double bookings – easy for you and your guests.

Customer service advantages to booking direct

OTA’s provide more than adequate customer service in general, but their assistance is limited by the simple fact that they don’t have intimate knowledge of your hotel. Your staff, however, do. When potential guests come directly to your website and make contact through chat, or make an enquiry by phone or email ensure your customer service is top-notch. OTA’s simply don’t have access to the subtleties of your business — so it’s important to take advantage of that.

There to help

If you find the whole distribution environment and channel management minefield a little daunting, RMS can guide you through. Arrange a demo to see how RMS can help your business. Simply visit www.rmscloud.com.au/HM