6 Secrets to OTA success

Secrets to OTA successLearn the 6 secrets to OTA success

Knowing the secrets of success with the Online Travel Agents OTAs can boost your direct bookings. Their web coverage is so massive that any single property will find it hard to get noticed without them. In reality the chances are that any potential customer visiting your website has already checked out your listing on the OTAs, so take a moment to learn how to leverage that coverage to your advantage.

channel manager and internet booking engine
get connected to the world

The big OTAs like Booking.com and Expedia are experts at online promotion and sales, they act a bit like a supermarket, giving customers significant choice, relevant information to help compare and an opportunity to buy simply and quickly. They have mastered the art of great online marketing, continually optimising their websites and spending billions on advertising to generate millions of bookers. Ranking high on search engines and also listing on the most popular websites like TripAdvisor make it almost certain that anyone searching for accommodation online will come across them.

The great news is that although customers visit OTAs during their search for accommodation most still choose to book direct. Take your OTA presence seriously by investing time and care to ensure it works for you. Do not be fooled into just a switching it on and letting it run, you have to drive it in the right direction.

1. Look Special: Ensure you are “attractive” on the OTA websites by having great images and plenty of them. These images must “connect” with customers on an emotional level….can they see themselves in those images? Highlight your strengths, you will be compared. By standing out you increase your chances of getting booked.

2. Know Your Targets: Understand what types of customer are finding you on the OTAs – why not ask them when you see them? Then grab the attention of those customers with the right content, your business customers may want to see free wi-fi, car parking, proximity to their destination etc. Enhance your own website to attract these customers.

3. Make Improvements: Refresh and fine tune your presence on each OTA, learning and improving all the time – nothing is static on the internet! Simplify the process of managing OTAs by using a channel manager, then spend the time you save by getting more from the connection…. put an end to tedious rate and availability updating, rather spend the time saved to add real value.

Book Direct for the best price
Book Direct for the best price

4. Drive Direct Bookings: You must have a great website, invest in fantastic images and rich content – go the extra mile.  Place your online booking process at the heart of your website, it’s got to be so easy to find and book.  Customers want it to be simple don’t confuse them or appear to offer less. Extract the maximum value from all customers, capture repeat business or referrals direct.

5. Returning Customers: Once a customer comes to you via an OTA make sure you get to know them, offer them a loyalty discount so they come back via a direct booking next time. Add the customer to your mailing list or social media channels and engage them directly.

Together for accommodation owners6. Create your own Mini OTA: When you can’t beat them make your own. Why not join up with other properties in your area to work together. You could create a website for customers to book accommodation in your location and compete with the chains and save commission using your mini OTA.

Smaller independent properties have limitations on their time and marketing budgets so it’s critical you make the most of them. The biggest advantage owner run and managed businesses have is the direct contact with their guests, it’s not something the chain hotels and OTAs can replicate.

Freetobook is a Internet Booking Engine and channel manager with many added services and connections to the world’s biggest sales systems like TripAdvisor TripConnect, Booking.com, Expedia, HostelWorld and many others. Using freetobook can greatly improve your worldwide distribution and add bookings to your bottom line : find out more about freetobook on our home page.

To find out more about what the freetobook channel manager can do for you, click the link below.freetobook channel manager

 

Reply to reviews for a 21% booking boost

Say something back to your customers

TripAdvisor research* finds that accommodation owners that respond to their reviews benefit with more booking enquiries, they say 21% more likely.

Ever been an ignored customer at a coffee bar or restaurant, seen but just not important enough to respond to? Well that’s how it looks when a customer reads your reviews and finds no responses. They have to assume you don’t care as much as the properties that do take the time to respond.

Perhaps you are extremely busy or don’t need the bookings, so just like the coffee bar,  ignored customers will go and find somewhere they believe does care. According to TripAdvisor’s research it’s exactly what happens, they say up to 21% more bookings go to properties that take the time to respond.

When you do answer reviews (both the good and bad) it *shows* …..bang ! right there and then in front of them – this accommodation is engaged, caring, listening. Displaying this level of engagement is of course

Review sharing widget for hotels

quite different from just *saying* it on your website or in emails.  If you really want customers to believe it then you have to find ways of *showing* it. The ability to respond to reviews is a marketing gift so use it to show how engaged you are.

You might not love TripAdvisor but can you afford to ignore them ? They undoubtedly have a vested interest in getting you, the property owner, to engage with their site (respond to reviews) but even with this in mind we still agree that reviews count.

At freetobook we have been developing review and feedback technology for years, you can already tweet, facebook or place your freetobook reviews on your website and of course you can respond to them. Our customers can make full use of these and many more functions in their “Home” tab by clicking “Reviews” on the orange bar. If you are not yet a customer, what are you waiting for? Join up today for free, no risk and let us show you what you are missing at freetobook.

Related blog articles from the past

Share your reviews online for direct bookings

10 Tips on managing good and bad reviews

Customer reviews a winning strategies

Review Express by TripAdvisor

* TripAdvisor press release Sep 3, 2014

3 Tips from TripAdvisor

Tips directly from TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor Tips
TripAdvisor Tips

You can stumble across myriad views and opinions about TripAdvisor but here is a blog based on on a recent article directly from TripAdvisor.

 

There is a difference between “TripAdvisor rating” and “TripAdvisor ranking”

Your “TripAdvisor rating” is based on reviews this rating is 1-5 with 5 being the highest. Your “TripAdvisor ranking” is formed from your rating when compared with other nearby properties.

Tips from TripAdvisor

1) How to increase your TripAdvisor ranking ?

TripAdvisor says “The better your ratings – and the more recent your reviews – the higher your property’s TripAdvisor ranking can potentially go.”

They are not giving away the exact method or algorithm of ranking (you can’t expect them to) however it is clear that you should get more reviews and make sure they are good reviews to rise up the rankings.

2) Embrace and respond to negative reviews

Don’t ignore or hide away from negative reviews. Research shows “84% of users agree that an appropriate management response to a bad review improves their impression of the hotel”

It is a good policy to respond to reviews (in an appropriate manner) as it shows that you value feedback and that you are trying to provide the best possible experience.

3) Do NOT offer incentives for reviews

TripAdvisor says “Incentives, like offering vouchers or upgrades in exchange for writing a review, actually violate TripAdvisor rules because special treatment or discounts can hinder the validity and accuracy of a guest’s reviews”

They will remove reviews they think have received an incented and penalties can be imposed on the ranking as well as not being eligible for their awards.

Freetobook is connected to TripAdvisor pay per click advertising see previous blog

 

TripAdvisor book now button
TripAdvisor Show Prices button can link to your property

How do the Changes at TripAdvisor affect accommodation ?

TripAdvisor is changing into a Rate Comparison and Booking website. How does this affect accommodation owners ?

Some accommodation providers could lose bookings from TripAdvisor as a result of these changes, others will gain. Here are a couple of videos to help you understand where you stand.

First Video about the changes, how they look to potential bookers

 Second Video about how you can deal with them

Another couple of blog articles might help you understand the changes. Official TripAdvisor is a Rate Comparison engine. And also 8 Things you need to know about TripAdvisor

 

 

 

 

TripAdvisor Goes Official (now a Price Comparison Website) Press release 5June2013

At freetobook we have been tweeting, facebooking and blogging about this change for months – Now its official from TripAdvisor themselves – they are a rate comparisson site with booking links. (8 Things You NEED to Know about the TripAdvisor Changes)

press release [start]

No More Pop-Ups Crop Up as Hotel Price Comparison Search Finally Goes Live

Applying radical common sense, TripAdvisor®, the world’s largest travel site*, announces the launch of its all-in-one Hotel Price Comparison search, now live

TripAdvisor Show Prices button
Video of TripAdvisor show prices and availability

worldwide.  TripAdvisor *is* the first to match real-time pricing and availability with the more than 100 million original reviews and opinions of TripAdvisor travellers.

“Our bad,” said Steve Kaufer, co-founder and CEO of TripAdvisor. “We want to help travellers plan and have the perfect trip, not drive them crazy with endless annoying pop-ups before they’ve booked it. We are excited to offer real-time hotel prices and availability in one convenient display.”

“I recently searched a popular New York hotel, hit the ‘See All’ pricing link and — expecting to wade through countless pop-ups — I went to grab a cup of coffee,” said one TripAdvisor “member.” “When I came back to sift through the results, there was only one display…one!  Can you believe it? A unified price comparison search is a dream come true!”

TripAdvisor now displays an easy-to-read layout of pricing and availability from multiple booking partners in one view. This means that travellers can apply a simple method for choosing top-rated hotels at a great price: research a hotel for their chosen dates of stay, compare options at a glance to select their favorite, and click through to the booking partners’ sites to complete the transaction.

“This was the most logical step in the evolution of TripAdvisor,” said Kaufer.  “Pairing our best-in-class user-generated content with pricing in one display gives a better experience to our travellers and even more qualified leads to our hotel booking partners.”

Book Direct for the best price
Book Direct for the best price

The new price comparison search display is now live for hotels in every country in the world and is available on all TripAdvisor sites and all mobile platforms.

press release [end]

See the freetobook view on this change with our Video and Blog article.

Click here to see the VIDEO

Click here to see the Freetobook view BLOG

Get the news first with freetobook, our online booking solutions empower you to make the most of the online world.

TripAdvisor is becoming a Booking Website

8 Things You NEED to Know about the TripAdvisor Changes

Are you up to speed with the changes at TripAdvisor? Not knowing could lose you bookings.

TripAdvisor is Changing into a Booking Website. If you don’t have online booking you can lose bookings that you used to get from TripAdvisor.

  1. TripAdvisor is now a booking website, you can check live rates and availability.
  2. TripAdvisor will soon be advertising on TV just like other booking websites.
  3. The TripAdvisor home page (Image Below) now asks for a destination and your travel DATES.
  4. If you are on TripAdvisor looking for somewhere to stay they will show you availability and rates from Booking.com, LateRooms, Expedia, your property etc….
  5. You can now advertise your own direct availability on TripAdvisor next to the OTAs(Video Below)
  6. If you don’t work with any of Booking.com, LateRooms, Expedia and you don’t advertise your own availability on TripAdvisor you will lose bookings you used to get from TripAdvisor.

What do you need to do to get your rates and availability on TripAdvisor ?

  1. You need an online booking system that can connect with TripAdvisor.
  2. Alternatively you need to work with an Online Travel Agent (OTA) like booking.com that will advertise your availability on TripAdvisor.

TripAdvisor Show Prices button

Here is a short video to show you how to add rates and availability to you TripAdvisor page using your booking system.

Click Here to see the Video

As TripAdvisor grows their booking strategy you can expect more and more links to the booking process. It is likely that more of the page space on TripAdvisor’s website will be devoted to directing the customer to rates and availability.

This is a copy of the TripAdvisor home page, as you can see its asking for a destination, arrival and departure dates so they can show you rates and availability.

TripAdvisor HomePage

TripAdvisor Pay Per Click advertising
TripAdvisor Pay Per Click advertising

 

 

Customer Reviews – Bite Sized Winning Strategies (2of10)

Customer Reviews – How to win at the reputation game.customer reviews bite sized winning strategies

Customers trust reviews above promotional material and nothing you can do will change this. Reviews are extremely important for your sales, over 75% of your customers will form an opinion of you based on browsing a set of reviews. Managing your online reputation is now a critical marketing activity, so arm yourself with some winning strategies.

1) Responding to reviews both positive and negative will show that you are looking at customer feedback and taking note. Customers want to know you care, what better way to show it than by responding positively to everyone that took the time to post a review. If a bad review is left without a response to it looks like you don’t care.

2) Get control of your own reviews, if your booking system sends out reviews you will quickly generate lots of reviews which you know are genuine. These are an asset and they will be the best way to counter or dilute bad reviews some of which may be beyond your control.

3) When you get your own reviews, a winning strategy is to send out a “thank you” to those great reviews asking if they would post it on Trip Advisor (give them the link). Making the most of great reviews is important.

4) Good: Have as high a rating as you can but remember very few properties will have a 100% score. Customers do not expect you to have perfect scores all the time and it may even look suspicious if you do. Accept you’ll have the odd bad review and be prepared to handle it.

5) Bad: It can be very personal and disheartening to see a bad review but the last thing you want to do is make it personal. No matter how untrue the review is respond in a constructive way and move on. We are not all perfect 100% of the time and before you know it the odd bad one will get buried in time.

6) Ugly: Never be tempted to reply in kind to an ugly review it only escalates and magnifies the negative side of the review. Customers know that ugly reviews are often more representative of the reviewer than of the service. It is critical to respond in a constructive way and keep the high ground.  Take some time out to consider your response or ask someone else to help, it helps take out the personal element.

You never win by attacking a reviewer, it always makes you look worse.

Reviews need to be monitored and managed. They are a wonderful source of information on how your business is performing in the eyes of our customers. Don’t just “manage” your reviews use them to genuinely improve and develop your business to exceed your customer’s expectations.

Read more detail on our blog : http://blog.freetobook.com/2012/03/managing-your-online-reputation/

(look out for next weeks bite sized winning strategy “How to win with laterooms and booking.com”)

 

 

Your Website-Bite Sized Winning Strategies (1of10)

Great websites a winning strategy.

10 Bite sized winning strategiesA winning website is a worthwhile investment. Like it or not your customers will form a view about you and your property based on what they see and how they interact with your website.

The first thing a potential customer will do is look for your website, on finding it they form a view about your property and service, you have a winning strategy if the third thing they do is make a booking.

What you need to do to create a winning website ?

  1. It’s now well established that customers select accommodation with their heart first and their head second. So make sure they fall in love with your website, it’s about an emotional connection. This means big impact, great looking photos and engaging text that is short and to the point.
  2. Understand what it is that your customers want and make sure they find it writ large on your home page. For a farm stay, a fabulous rural panorama or some cute animals, a seaside retreat might have a high impact photo of the beach/sea and a party town hotel some nightlife photos – it’s all pretty simple.
  3. OK, you know what they want and you have given it to them, now they want to book. To achieve maximum bookings make it easy to book. Your online booking button must feature prominently on your home page (“above the fold” – no need to scroll down to find it) and on every other page in a very similar position. You will lose bookings if you make it hard to find your booking button.
  4. Keep it simple, engaging, attractive and easy to navigate. Make a point of asking your customers what they think of your website, don’t be precious about the website it’s not for you it’s for your customers.
  5. Regular updates are critical to keep your website fresh and relevant, a handy way to do this is through a blog.
  6. A great website is a winning strategy….. a rubbish one will lose you bookings.

(look out for next weeks bite sized winning strategy “Customer feedback and Reviews”)