Increasing direct bookings is the priority and we certainly help thousands of businesses grow theirs. The next priority is to ensure you have a good mix of other booking sources so you don’t have all your eggs in one basket. Too many bookings from one source creates a risk to your business.
If almost all your bookings come in from Bookingcom or Expedia there’s a danger of a single source being too dominant and any business knows that securing future success requires a healthy spread of bookings.
What if you were to fall out with your single biggest source of bookings, do you have any alternatives? Perhaps they decide to implement something you disagree with, do you have another source as back-up? These are valid questions that could affect the sustainability of your business.
You also need to consider that each agent has their very own customer database and by working with a variety of them you maximise your exposure to potential new customers. If for example you only work with Expedia, you’ll only get Expedia customers and that will limit your business.
A good healthy business mix includes plenty of direct bookings alongside a diversified strategy with Bookingcom and Expedia, but make sure you have a plan to increase direct bookings.
Freetobook properties have always been able to offer their very own extras enabling customers to choose items that will make their stay special, whilst adding to to property’s revenue.
We have now added the ability for you to define nightly extras so that the extra cost is multiplied by the number of nights your customer stays. Nightly extras can be also booked for a specific number of nights rather than all nights.
Booking Extras can be found in Tab “Availability” and “Booking Extras” on the orange bar.
More great options included with freetobook’s booking extras include;
Ask your customer an associated question related to a booking extra.
Limit the extra to certain dates of stay.
Extras can also be offline only (not bookable by the customer), this is great if the extra is variable and you only want to add it to their bill during stay i.e. meals and drinks.
An extra can also be compulsory i.e. for a security deposit.
These functions and much more are included in freetobook’s free version which continues to grow and improve, all helping your direct bookings. Just what you would expect from a cutting edge family business.
Thousands of properties have already benefited from freetobook’s promo codes so we have made them even better. You can set up as many promo codes as you like to target more customer segments and drive up your direct bookings.
Now with the new upgrades you can also;
1) Restrict the promo codes to apply on certain nights of the week.
2) Create a promo code that’s an extra service or item rather than a rate discount.
3) Set a minimum stay duration for the promo code.
Promo codes are great at encouraging guests to book direct. So why not use them to increase direct bookings and entice bookers away from other online websites, thereby powering more direct commission free bookings.
You will find promo codes and special offers in the Tab “Specials” and “Promo Codes” on the orange bar.
We all love the feel of getting a great deal and the same goes for potential bookers on your website. The truth is Special Offers drive direct bookings, that’s why we make it super easy to create them in freetobook. Simply visit tab “Specials” and create a new offer, it’s live and available in seconds.
Here are 3 top tips to help you create a successful Special Offer.
1. Keep the Offer Active – Special Offers help differentiate you, help you stand out against the competition….. so try to keep an offer running all the time.
2.Give a good deal – The best offers give guests a great deal, but don’t worry if you don’t have a big budget even a small amount can make all the difference.
3.Better deals in low season – If you think you have periods where you are not selling then focus your offers on those dates eg. off-season, weekdays or other low demand dates.
On freetobook you can easily open and close your offers (in Close-Outs under the tab “Availability”), so why not set-up a couple now and just open/close them when you need them most. Remember, if you don’t need to have the offers open on peak dates…. just close the high dates out.
Are all your eggs in one Online Travel Agent’s (OTA) basket? We see a number of independent accommodation owners who rely on just one OTA. Business wisdom and common sense suggest that an over reliance on one source of sales is risky. Spreading your sales sources will give you a more reliable, robust and diversified stream of bookings.
So what are the risks of working with just one OTA? At some future point that company may decide to implement something you disagree with; it could be a policy about commission or some way that they deal with guest data, reviews or customer relations. There’s no way to say what the future holds but with only one source you will have to follow their rules without any backup relationships.
Each of the biggest three worldwide travel websites (and they keep growing), Expedia, TripAdvisor and Booking.com all have their own customer databases and their own advertising strategies. By working with more than one you both maximise your exposure and diversify sources of potential customers. Remember that some customers only ever book with Expedia and others only Booking.com so by working with both you get seen by them all.
Customers also visit many websites during their research process so featuring on the big three means you have more chance of catching their eye. Again each of these booking sites will place a different emphasis on your property so you will appear in different positions and places on different searches and pages.
Having only one OTA is a bit like a farmer getting a giant contract from a major supermarket. The initial glow wears off when you have had to turn down all other distribution opportunities and tailor your processes to that single source, and then you realise that losing the contract would likely mean instant business failure. It’s a horrible question to ask but an important one, if your biggest OTA stopped working with you would your business survive?
Fortunately in the accommodation business you can spread your risk far more easily than some farmers can. You can share your availability across multiple channels and benefit from a bigger and more diverse spread of bookings whilst increasing your negotiating position. Then, if at some future date one OTA ever demands something you don’t want to give you can always move business to another.
A good healthy business mix includes plenty of direct bookings so your OTA policy should always go hand-in-hand with a strategy to increase direct bookings. In our next blog we cover ways to increase direct bookings, so you can make the most of the existing customers that have booked via the OTAs.
Our guest blog and interview is with Frederic Gonzalo, founder of Gonzo Marketing. With over 19 years of experience in the travel and tourism sphere, he is passionate about marketing and communications.
Frederic recently attended the EyeForTravel event in Miami as a speaker, panelist and participant to the2015 edition of Online Marketing Strategies in Travel.
Here Frederic generously shares his industry insights and expertise with freetobook. As he pointedly states, having no marketing budget is no excuse for not having a dynamic online presence!
What is the most important trend in online room booking?
It’s about going mobile. More than 51% of travelers now research their next destination, accommodation and transportation from a mobile device, whether it’s a smartphone or tablet. And more importantly, an increasing proportion of them are now booking via their mobile device: in fact, it is estimated that 25% of all online travel revenue in the US will come from mobile devices in 2015.
How can a property get more direct bookings?
1- Have a “best online rate” guarantee and feature it, big and bold, on your home page. People will shop around no matter what, but if they can have the confidence that by booking direct they will get the best deal, well… you got it!
2- Have a relationship marketing approach in place. This can be through a rewards program or simply by capturing emails from clients and visitors to your site and/or blog. Sending out regular newsletters and promotional offers to this base can ensure retention and direct booking through time.
3- Promote deals and best rates across your various social accounts. I see hotels mention a promo code for 10% off best rate… on their Twitter bio. Others do Facebook offers, or mail push to group databases. Think outside the box, and make sure you crossover information from newsletter to blog to social media.
Having no marketing dollars is not an excuse not to have a dynamic online presence.
The first step is to have a professional-looking website, and this can be done with various solutions that cost a fraction of what it used to 3-5 years ago.
Sending out emails? MailChimp is free up to 2,000 email addresses, and other providers offer similar low-cost solutions.
Social media? It’s not free, contrary to what many believe, because someone has to manage it, but you can have impact and reach on Facebook with minimal investments. It’s more a matter of having a strategy in place to begin with, then finding the resources (human and financial) to manage this new reality. Knowing 87% of travel decisions now begin with an online search, do we even really have a choice here?
15 key stats to consider:
TripAdvisor (42%) is the most downloaded mobile app amongst travelers, followed by Priceline (15%), Expedia (14%) and Orbitz (13%)
There are 139 reviews written every minute on TripAdvisor
You lose 25-60% of visitors with each click on the mobile path to purchase.
69% of travelers begin their search online…via a mobile device!
Average mobile users check their device 150 times per day!
Of the average six daily hours US adults spend on digital media, 3 hours is on mobile.
Twitter on Travel: in the past year, 60M tweets mentioned hotels, 21M tweets mentioned vacations
70% of followers have taken some action after seeing travel content on Twitter
70% of Instagram users have looked for a brand online
3/4 of consumers are frustrated when online content doesn’t relate to their interest
In 2016, 50% of total travel sales will involve more than one device
Ritz Carlton Hotel sees 18% conversions from email campaigns. Email is not dead, folks!
92% of visitors to a website will never return. Thus, remarketing is key!
Only 27% of hotels send automated emails prior to arrival (and after departing)
According to Google, 1/3 of people with a smartphone would give up sex instead of their phone. Sad.
In a candid announcement a few months back Google let the world know that mobile friendliness has a deadline. From the 21st April onwards Google will actively favour mobile-friendly websites in mobile searches. If your website is mobile-friendly it is likely that you will rise in Google search results for mobiles as those that aren’t slip down the ranks.
In their words “Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.” The Google announcement can be found here
This makes total sense, Google is in the business of delivering high quality relevant searches to their customers. If a customer is using a mobile device they will want to see mobile-friendly websites above the websites that do not look good on mobile devices. As a useful guide Google has made free tool to check if your website is mobile-freindly click here to check your website.
Accommodation businesses should look to be mobile-friendly before the 21st April. There is help at hand with freetobook mobile website and mobile booking. Our mobile websites are continually updated for the latest mobile versions and they update when you change your details in your freetobook account.
If Google speaks we all have to listen and when the world’s search giant lets us know that it now labels websites as “mobile-friendly” the message is clear. (read Google announcement)
Labeling websites as mobile-friendly will help Google rank them higher for users on phones. The message from Google is loud and clear so any late arrivals need to get serious about mobile. Simply put there is now a penalty on Google for not having a mobile website.
Google says “Have you ever tapped on a Google Search result on your mobile phone, only to find yourself looking at a page where the text was too small, the links were tiny, and you had to scroll sideways to see all the content? This usually happens when the website has not been optimized to be viewed on a mobile phone. “
Frankly, it’s frustrating to visit a website with a phone and have to scroll to find things, read tiny print and wish that your fingers were the size of matchsticks as you try to click the correct link or back track from the wrong link.
Elegant, simple, mobile booking solutions have been part of freetobook from our birth. It’s easy and low cost to get your website and booking process mobile.
Mobile websites for accommodation providers need to designed specifically for accommodation, you need something that fits your business. All our mobile sites are automatically updated when you update your details in freetobook.
Just back from a quick trip down to Gatwick to see the Gatwick Guest House Association (GGHA). I was invited to give a short presentation on the Together service after a few of their proactive members thought the service may help their website generate more bookings.
Like many other associations they need to upgrade their website and in assessing the options it became obvious that a booking engine on the website would be a great benefit…and that’s where Together comes in. Freetobook are always happy to visit groups and explain face-to-face who we are, where we came from and what we do.
I was really impressed with the positive and proactive attitude of everyone at the meeting, I was made to me feel very welcome.
A big thank you to everyone and especially to Carmel at the Cumberland House for her warm hospitality…..the perfect host.
News is out that freetobook are working on a connection which will enable accommodation providers to connect their availability to Google Hotel Price Ads. All customers using freetobook with nightly rates will be able to participate including hotels, apartments, guest houses, inns, bed and breakfasts, hostels, campsites and many others using nightly rates.
In the past Google HPA was only available to big hotel chains, Online Travel Agents (OTAs) and digital marketing organisations. Here at freetobook we like to smash through barriers and open up the best marketing technology to everyone, making more distribution channels available on an optional basis to our customers across the world.
When completed your freetobook diary will be able to feed rates and availability to the whole of the Google network giving you fantastic global marketing access. This service is on an opt-in basis without any tie-ins so you are free to try it out and calculate your return on advertising investment. Bookings that you receive from the service will be direct bookings and you will be able to pay per click for advertising on the Google HPA service.
Google HPA is different from Google Ads. The main difference is that Google HPA can link to your availability and direct bookings can be made there and then. Customers on Google will be able to see which accommodation is available at what price and make a direct booking. Unlike Google Ads you do not bid on keywords with Google HPA the placing of the adverts will depend on Google and their bidding system.
Where will my Google HPA adverts show ? You will be able to show on Google Maps,
Google Local, Google+, and the new Google “three-pack” on AdWords. You can see some of the examples of where the adverts show in the pictures on this blog. All the best technology changes and improves and Google is a great example of this, so whilst we can say where the Google Hotel Price Ads show now we can also be sure that this will change and improve with time.
A short video with a flavour of the Google HPA service
Customers already using freetobook can pre-register for Google HPA in their TAB”Plus” under “Your Ads” on the orange bar.