4 tactics to increase direct bookings and decrease dependency on OTAs


Over the last five years, I've been asked one question more than any other from accommodation providers. "How do I get more online bookings through my website?" 

This is unsurprising really, given the emergence of OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) within that time frame. Originally OTAs charged around 5% commission, but with that number now up to 15-30% it means a reliance on them can turn into a huge beastly cost.  I love to take on a beast, so here goes...

These 4 tactics will help increase your direct bookings and decrease your dependency on OTAs:

1.  Invest in your own business.

By handing over your commission each month to an OTA, you are only paying for their marketing, not yours! So focus on your business. Start by putting together your own digital marketing plan with a budget for the next 6/12 months. Make sure your digital marketing plan covers the following areas:

Display Advertising
Email Marketing
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) 
Social Media Marketing
Blogger outreach
Video marketing
Local search marketing
Mobile marketing
Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC)

Investing in your own digital marketing will mean you can increase the number of customers that come directly to your website.

2. Tell your story.

Once you get customers to your website, you need to tell them your company's story. As humans, we want to connect with people, and stories help us do that.  Your website is your opportunity to tell your story.  

These questions should help you start thinking about what your story is:

  • What are you about and why are you here
  • What makes your accommodation different (your unique selling point)
  • What problem are you trying to fix 
  • Who your target market is

Check out 40 winks  - they've got a fab story. I just love this quote

Increase direct bookings - storytelling example 40 Winks

"Staying here is about much more than having a comfortable bed to sleep in or a place to dump your luggage. It is an immersive experience, an invitation to lose yourself in another more fabulous, more magical world."


3. Remove frustrations.

If a customer gets frustrated on your website, then you've lost the fight before it even starts. They'll move to or back to an OTA (or an alternative accommodation provider) that gives them the information they need. So, what frustrates customers?

  • Bad website navigation - put simply they can't find what they need (quickly).
  • Poor photography - if you're squinting to see a photo, you're off to a bad start.
  • Poor legibility - abrasive colours, excessive typos, or bad font choices will turn customers off.
  • Overcomplicated booking system - or even worse, no booking engine at all.
Get Direct Bookings - example Chichester Harbour Hotel

If you're looking for a great example of a website that's frustration free, check out Chichester Harbour Hotel it boosts a simple design, it's easy to navigate, has inspiring and beautiful photography, and a booking engine that you don't need a degree to figure out how to use!  


4. Price it right.

Increase Direct Bookings - best price guarantee example Hilton Hotels

To start off with make sure the best available prices online are also available on your website and booking engine. The Hilton group even displays this in their ads on google. They call it their best price guarantee.

You can also offer special offers to returning customers if they book through your booking engine.  These types of campaigns will improve your customers’ loyalty and improve your direct booking ratio.

There are plenty of other ways to increase your direct bookings, for more information contact us here at The Honey Badger about how we can help you increase your direct bookings.