Question for Our Hotel Marketing Expert Panel

What marketing strategies can accommodation providers use to increase direct bookings? What % of total bookings should direct bookings represent? What is the minimum that hoteliers should aim for?

Industry Expert Panel

Our Industry Expert Panel exists out of professionals within the hospitality & travel Industry. They have comprehensive and detailed knowledge, experience in practice or management and are forward-thinking. They are answering questions about the state of the industry. They share their insights on topics like revenue management, marketing, operations, technology and discuss the latest trends.

Daphne Beers
Daphne BeersOwner, Your-Q Hospitality Academy

“There are a few things that accommodation providers can do easily:

  • Encourage loyalty & booking direct. Answering reviews with offers included or incentives for booking direct on their next stay can help.
  • Ensure that you have a smooth, hassle-free booking path online. Clear and complete information, flawless IBE and automated payment (two-way authentication).
  • Engage with your returning guests. They are your brand ambassadors. Proactively ask them to book direct when they have return visits and explain what is in it for them. Make sure that brand loyalty and the related guest benefits make a difference. If this is done the right way, they will share it with others too.
  • Price matching ( I know it is difficult with the big OTA’s playing funny games) or incentivise booking direct a bit higher rate than on OTA’s. I know some chains had the lowest price promise. What you offer if they find lower rates, is up to you as a hotelier.
  • Social media campaigns where you explain the “why” of booking direct

And I have a few more forward-thinking ideas – but the industry might not be ready to adapt ;-)

1) Partner up with other service providers, so your guests can book their complete trip. This is currently the big advantage they find on OTA websites. They can book flights, cars, transfers and everything else they might need during their stay. If you can embed a similar offer online, you show you go the extra mile for your guests and make booking easy!

2) The other reason OTA’s are preferred is that potential guests can easily compare competitive offers and different accommodation providers, in terms of rate but also in terms of facilities, service, location etc. So if they have access anyway to this information, why not provide it openly on your own branded website? If you believe in your product, service, brand promise and added value for your guests, you will not be afraid to help your ideal guest to compare with other hotels and then make the decision (and maybe include an affiliate booking fee for competitors if they book elsewhere, this can create a huge extra revenue stream).”

Adele Gutman
Adele GutmanCulture and Guest Experience Expert, Hospitality Reputation Marketing Podcast

“The optimal mix is different for each hotel based on size, location, and type of business. It also depends on how new the business is. A third-party partner may be your best friend as you launch or anytime that volume is a key focus. However, as you establish your reputation and become more focused on rates and optimizing profitability, your dependency on third parties should diminish with each passing month. While I believe there is no wrong mix as long as it is working for you, there should be a constant effort made towards continuous improvement from wherever you are now, to increased independence.

What would I recommend to promote direct bookings?

  • Always give your own website and direct business the best packages and offers. I have a message for big brands. Even as a “member”, I often find cheaper rates on OTAs apps for the same dates and conditions. The revenue manager may feel like a genius giving a mobile-only rate to the OTAs, but what is that costing you? You can create offers for third parties when needed but try to give your direct channels the same deal with an enhancement so you always have an edge.
  • Be a great experience, not a commodity. Polite and professional service won’t inspire loyalty. If you want guests to love you, and only want to stay with you, you have to love your guests and make them feel great, not just good, about staying with you.
  • Make it a priority to convert 3rd Party bookings to direct relationships. Start by sending your own pre-stay email with pre-registration to all guests including the guests booked through OTA’s.”

Tamie Matthews
Tamie MatthewsRevenue, Sales & Marketing Consultant, RevenYou

“Increasing direct bookings takes hard work and requires more than a small discount or value-add on your booking engine. If you wish to shift customers away from a commissionable booking channel, you must have an action plan in place. The discount for direct is lovely but you have to first consider how people are going to find that discount to then book it.

At RevenYou, we find hotels that are actively working on moving customers from OTAs to direct can expect to lower OTA business to anywhere from 20-40%. But, you do need to be doing the following:
1. Your website. It must be easily found and user friendly. The information provided on the website must go beyond what the OTA is offering. The experience must be seamless and customer-centric. How many clicks does it take to book on an OTA versus how many clicks on your own website?
2. Google Analytics. Monitor and make appropriate changes. Your website is your shop window and you need to ensure that it is performing for you.
3. Sales Funnel. To ensure a constant stream of customers to your website, we need a funnel. Where are we finding these customers and how are we moving them across to our website?
4. Social media. We need to be building a relationship with our past, present and future customers and social media is one option. Start posting regularly and interacting with your customers.
5. Experiential travel. OTAs specialise in room-only rates. Our websites and booking engines have the functionality to do so much more. Start collaborating within your local community and build packages that, whilst they may not sell in the 100s, do attract publicity, play into your SEO and increase reach on social media. Customers will start planning a trip on the OTAs and then head to your website where they will find so many more options.
6. Sales calls. Picking up the phone and calling past, present and future users to entice them into the hotel. Take the time to build a relationship with customers.
7. EDMs. Regular newsletters can entice past customers back with a wide array of amazing packages, details on events and updates on the local area. Customers don’t come back unless they have a reason and you must provide that reason regularly.
8. Phone. Training the people to answer your phone and sell is equally important. Far too often we focus on digital and forget that the person answering our phone must be equally well trained in how to sell.
9. Paid Advertising. Once you have completed all of the above actions, then consider paid advertising.
Direct bookings are not free. The above does cost money and you must constantly be reviewing your ROI on sales and marketing spend to ensure you are getting value for money.”

Moriya Rockman
Moriya RockmanChief of Marketing, Smiling House Luxury Global

“To increase your direct bookings, we need to be busy with brand awareness. Guests are everywhere, and not only actively searching through the OTA’s. The smart guests that are experience-driven, are constantly searching for content.

Therefore I’m recommending to become an ambassador and a destination expert for your area. By giving content about the destination and its hidden gems, while offering your accommodation/hospitality experience, one can gain more direct bookings for interested travellers. In today’s world, all of us want to have a sustainable independent business; the aim should be 40-50% direct bookings. This should be based on advertising, social media, content-sharing and of course word of mouth and returning clients.”

Reshan Jayamanne
Reshan JayamanneDigital Marketing & Sales Strategist, Bnb Optimized

“In an ideal world, you want all your bookings to flow through direct bookings channels. This way, you are saving on agent & OTA commissions. However, if you are struggling with direct bookings, then using agents and OTA’s is a viable option.

As much as hospitality consultants & marketing gurus may complain about agent fees and OTA’s commissions, you need to look at it from a different business perspective as an owner or manager. Let’s take a step back.

You see, every business has what we call a CAC (customer acquisition cost). Simply put, it’s the cost of acquiring a client. You’re paying for this cost either in TIME or MONEY. If you have more time, less money, then use OTA’s and agents to bring in those customers. Your 3-15% commission fee to an agent or OTA is your CAC. If you have more money than time, then advertise with a strategy to attract direct bookings. Whatever the average cost was in ad spend to convert 1 direct booking is your CAC.

There’s no set percentage in my mind. If you can attract bookings via agents/OTA’s you need an on-site strategy to grab that client’s data for future marketing AND a way to increase the AOV (average order value) of the client along with methods to maximize the LTV (lifetime value). When you have all of this in place, you can afford to pay more than your competitors to afford a customer. This means that an increased customer acquisition cost due to rising cost on Facebook, Google or OTA’s won’t hurt your business. This will soon leave you as the #1 choice in your prospect’s mind while your competitors wonder how you did it.

In terms of marketing strategies, I would urge you to be an expert in your area. Use tools like to find what people are searching for in your area and answer those topics with simple landing pages that either prompt prospects to get on your mailing list with a coupon of sorts or book their trip right now. You need to install Google Tag Manager on this page, load all your advertising pixels for retargeting marketing campaigns, and track button clicks through Google Analytics to understand how well your content performs. This is a powerful FREE organic strategy anyone can do.”

Nicole Sideris
Nicole SiderisFounder & Prinicipal Consultant, X Hospitality

“To increase direct bookings, hotels should leverage OTA bookings. An OTA booking should not only be seen by the hotel as a cost of business, but as an opportunity to convert direct. This is easily achieved by owning the guest by the time they check-in through their email and mobile. Hotels can contact guests directly and offer them a code to book again with a discount. Many of the properties I work with have “BOOKDIRECT&SAVE” as their wi-fi password.”

Luminita Mardale
Luminita MardaleDirector of Marketing and Business Development, Vienna House

“Increasing direct bookings as an accommodation provider is extremely important as online travel agents take more in commission each year. The power to drive guests and returning guests to your website or call you direct is where you can get the biggest slice of the revenue pie.

  • Optimize your website and make sure that it performs well. Make sure that you have a mobile responsive website – as the majority of people are using now their phones for booking.
  • Photos of your accommodation – great photos lead to more bookings, but not modified pictures, use real pictures.
  • Video – property and surrounding area all in a 30-second video
  • SEO – Search Engine Optimization – the better your SEO for your website, the better you rank in Google, and the more direct bookings you get.
  • Deals – Incentivize the user to book direct and promote repeat customers by promoting a deal when they do. This can be done in many ways but simple methods are ones such as “get 5% off when you book direct”.
  • Use Digital Marketing
  • Promoting your business online: Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Instagram, LinkedIn
  • A simple method of improving your direct bookings is to connect with local businesses in your area.”