The Billboard Effect
By now, we’re all familiar with The Billboard Effect. It’s the phenomena where guests who discover your hotel via an online travel agency (OTA) visit your website. Many end up booking directly with you. Properties who list inventory on OTAs increase their direct reservations by up to 26%.
It seems counter-intuitive, but you will increase direct reservations by listing inventory on OTAs. It’s smart to list at least a small segment of your inventory on OTAs to enjoy this dynamic, even if you don’t want to use OTAs as the primary source of your reservations.
But it can be a complicated and time-consuming project.
Listing inventory on OTAs is not exactly a user-friendly procedure. Instead, find a channel manager. A channel manager can help you push your vacant inventory to many different OTAs at once. It keeps them all up-to-date with your current vacancy status. This helps prevent overbookings while giving your OTA marketing the largest possible reach.
The more OTAs where you list your inventory, the more direct traffic you will get. Choose a channel manager that can be integrated with many options. Favor those with niche marketplaces that suit your property best.
Rate parity is when you agree to publicly sell your inventory for no less than what you sell it for on certain OTAs. It can be a bummer, because your cheapest rates should always be on your website. It is how some OTAs remove the incentive for guests to book directly with you.
But there is a way to get around this. Most rate-parity agreements do not apply to guests who are part of your brand’s marketing database. This includes social media followers, email subscribers, and customer loyalty program members.*
You can send private, compelling offers to these individuals. If you do so with enough frequency, this can be a huge driver of direct bookings.
*Encourage guests to join your loyalty program
Not every property has a loyalty program. But maybe they should.
Most guests like going places where they have had a great time in the past. Business travelers return to the same convenient hotels where they get a nice stay for an affordable price. Loyalty programs incentivize guests to choose the same property over and over again.
If you start a loyalty program, you can leverage it to get more repeat business. This also gives you a segment of your marketing database that work as “super-guests”. They are more likely to respond well to your new deals and content. They are more likely to respond well to content you share on social media. This can garner that content the views, likes, and shares it needs to gain a wider audience.