This is a question that I hear often from Hotel & Sales Directors especially ones that are investing in targeting new clients via OTA´s and online SEO as well as other means. Once the client has booked into the hotel, enjoyed a great experience and has left with the feeling that would like to come back, why do they go back to booking.com for their next stay with you?
The answer is a simple one………..booking.com makes it easy for the client. They save your credit card details, they provide free cancellation, have an app for your smartphone and they are the same price as your hotel owned website. Booking.com also target your brand keywords so your client, that you worked so hard to get, both in providing great service and in investment via commissions and adwords etc, when searching for your website encounters booking.com. The client also checks and compares between your site and booking´s. Most hotel web booking engines in the industry today are complicated to navigate and clients find it difficult to reserve exactly what they want. Again booking.com wins, but for how long?
As most of you who are reading this blog are aware, price guarantee has been quietly dropped by booking.com due to the various cases that are open in some european countries. This will allow hotels for the 1st time to incentivize on price, but is that enough? No, the major secret of booking.com´s strength is that they have a very visual and easy to use booking engine. However, this can also be overcome by choosing and implementing a booking engine that mirrors what booking.com does. Not only that, it can allow you to actively incentivize your web visitors whilst on your site. Now that is progress, but still only part of the story.
Hotels have always been lax about building databases, there is a heavy reliance on your PMS as well as your reservation and reception team to capture emails in order for you to send newsletters and promotions. If you checked your database now, I would hazard a guess that it is not as good as you believe, incorrect email addresses, duplicates, etc. However why not let technology give you a helping hand? How about that instead of giving your clients a code to connect to your free WIFI, you ask them to connect to via their Facebook, twitter or just sending you their email address? Now if there is 2 occupants in a room, you now get both their details. Clever! Airports have been successfully implementing this technology as well as shopping centers over the last couple of years, so why not hotels? It is a relatively cheap solution and another way for your clients to interact with you, but still not the complete solution.
As all hotel directors are aware, phones like the iphone and samsung galaxy have changed the way your clients view your hotel and app´s have become a key part of that evolution. 95% of smartphone users read the notifications they receive from the apps, so again, a hotel that wants to maintain a connection with their client they have worked hard to win, apps seem like a logical step forward. But how do we get our clients to download our app? Simple, internal promotions whilst at the hotel exclusive to the app, useful information (online concierge) and for all new and returning clients maybe a promotional code that is within the app? Another great way to incentivize your client to book directly with you.
So in summary, you get yourself a proactive booking engine that makes it easier for clients to book you and you incentivize customers that are just searching for prices on your web using promotions with very short time limits. You play with your price advantage and you start to build your client database using technology via WIFI, Social media and apps. Is this the magic potion to ensure that your repeat clients book directly with you? Some clients will always book with what is most confortable for them however you are achieving 2 things, 1)Connecting with your clients in a way to make it really easy to book with you using the technology they are using TODAY and 2)Building a comprehensive database of your clients which makes it easier and cheaper for you to interact with them in the future whilst providing you with a massive advantage over your competition that will continue to be dependent on reservations from booking.com.
Booking.com will not be around for ever (In future posts I will discuss what is happening in the market place and what booking.com is doing to vary their business model.) Make sure you give your hotel every opportunity of being around for a long time to come
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