Some days you may struggle to choose a subject to write about but today wasn't one of them.
It opened with an article in my inbox indicating that Expedia had quietly retired Venere from the OTA shelves. Venere was Expedia's equivalent of Priceline's Booking.com and apparently slid away in December.
This was then followed by two calls from clients looking for advice on their booking engine and how they could improve their direct sales. We've just restarted blogging on Tourism Matters again but if you look back to 2008 when we first started the theme was all about improving direct revenues and being wary, VERY wary, of the enticements of the third party online travel agents!
Some things haven't changed.
We ran a search for "Book Direct" in the Tourism Matters blog and found a screed of articles and advice on building direct business many of which remain highly relevant.
The Importance of January and February for online sales
The first ten to twelve weeks of the year can be the most lucrative of the year and the smart hotels are ensuring that they are stocking up on low cost DIRECT bookings from both new and established clients. As much as 40% of your online business can be generated in these early months and for the advanced bookings the good news is that the majority are not looking for cheap deals.
Clients such as The Oak Tree Inn at Balmaha have been pushing their January to March rooms with their annual online room sale offering Sunday through Thursday special rates for their direct online bookings. They are filling empty spaces and keeping costs down by not selling through the high costs OTAs.
Half Price Rooms
Five Star Weekend Breaks in Ayrshire
One of our five star clients in Ayrshire started using their own private "Flash Sales" to their closed mailing lists for the first time generating substantial business from a single mail shot via a limited time offer only open for six hours.
The offer price was only visible to their mailing list and didn't undermine the public rate visible on the site. So delighted with the results that they are planning a series of exclusives for quieter dates over the coming quarter.
With your booking engine you can easily create exclusive, added value offers that are not available through the third party sites.
The above two clients are both using Bookassist for their booking engine on their site but even if your engine doesn't have these functions it is essential that you ensure that your rates and availability are set to encourage direct bookings. There are so many easy ways to convert more direct business that it is almost criminal to just sit back and accept that you can't do anything about it. YOU may not close them down overnight but that's not the objective. You simply want to reduce your cost of sale by taking back more of YOUR direct custom.
So just in case you haven't given it any thought here's what we recommend you look at today!
- Maximum Availability on your own site - don't close out rooms unnecessarily
- Best Available Rate throughout the whole year - always, never cheaper elsewhere and ensure your site says Best Rate Guarantee or similar.
- Plan your seasonal rates and promotions - Valentines, Easter, Mothers Day, Autumn Offers and yes even Festive Packages. Create your packages now and get them up and bookable online as soon as you can.
- Plan exclusive offers to your mailing list and start filling those spaces with low cost direct offers.
If you're looking for a little more inspiration, we wrote a whole series of Best Book Direct articles more than four years ago for Advent! We are going to redo them but if you want assured that we have been consistent in our approach you could do worse than have a look. Still some great advice in here