Hotel Direct Booking Strategy:

The 4 Domains of Success.

More Direct Bookings = Higher Revenue, Lower Costs

Introduction

Why driving more direct bookings is equal to driving more revenue?

The answer stands in the direct booking method I created, which is based on what I called “The 4 Domains of Success”:

In other words, if you want to get more direct bookings, each of these 4 domains needs to be properly handled. By doing so, naturally and automatically, it is simply impossible that your overall hotel revenue won’t skyrocket, too.

Meaning, of course, that your distribution costs (commissions) will also get lower and lower.

It’s a win-win-win situation or, if you prefer, a virtuous loop, as opposed to the more commonly known vicious loop. Think about it:

  • When you have high demand, you restrict more, for example with length of stays or strict cancellation policies, you close more channels, leaving open the ones that likely cost less, in terms of commissions, and so forth (virtuous loop).
  • When low demand, you tend to open to as many channels as possible to boost your exposure, no matter how expensive those channels are, highest flexibility in all your policies, both cancellation and guarantee, and, of course, you lower your prices (vicious loop).

You might say: “this is inevitable”.

True, but only when your hotel is being see as a commodity (poor Branding), you market to the wrong target, in the wrong moment, with the wrong approach (poor Marketing), you think you are in Parity rate, but you are not (poor Distribution) and, ultimately, you have poor visibility into how much appealing your rooms and rates are, not to those who convert into customers but, most importantly, to those who see you and run away (poor Revenue).

Skeptical?

I totally understand. And this is the reason behind this article, behind my method, behind my last 5 years that I spent studying, researching, creating, crafting and testing everything I could, to help hotels get more direct bookings.

What follows, supported by all my blog posts and articles, is an in-depth guide on why this method works. And why others don’t. Real-case studies and practical examples. Tools and, more importantly, strategies as opposed to standalone tactics.

Ok, let’s get started, shall we?

First, let’s get a look at the 4 domains I just mentioned and why and how they serve our direct-booking strategy.

Branding: Are You Being Seen as a Commodity?

One of the sentence that I tell my customers more and more often is: “It’s never about the price, it’s always about the value”.

Your brand, your hotel, the image of your hotel as it is perceived by your prospects is as much successful as how sticky your brand is. In simple words, when people look at your hotel for the first time, more likely through your website, your brand and your hotel must be sticky, something that gets impressed in your prospects’ mind and that doesn’t involve how much cheaper your rooms and rates are.

The ONE and ONLY rather than one among many.

When prospects see your hotel website for the first time, you have a few fractions of seconds to get sticky.

So, how can your brand get sticky? Only by tapping into your prospects’ emotions.

Think about it: what do we, hoteliers, sell? (I still and will always be considering myself an hotelier, having served in this industry my entire life).

We sell rooms, right? I guess, this is the main reason why, to these days, many hotels websites have a photo of rooms as the main picture in the homepage.

Hotel Website Homepage Showing Rooms

Logical, extremely logical, too logical.

You surely have heard at some point someone saying something like “you have X seconds to make a good first impression”, where X stands for 2, 3, 5, 7, 10… many different opinions on that.

Besides, we are anyway talking about a very little time span. Almost nothing. So, how can you impress your prospects in such little time? With a picture of the rooms??

Yes, rooms are what ultimately and logically prospects are looking for. But not what they get impressed by.

Not impressive = Not sticky = Commodity.

Unless you are in the Maldives and your hotel looks like this:

Hotel in the Maldives

Then yes, a picture like this helps for sure.

But, there’s a but.

Imagine yourself being a customer of this hotel in the Maldives, and you are considering it as option for your stay. This is the room that you are going to have and the view that you will be experiencing every day when you wake up.

What is that actually makes you book this hotel? Is that the room itself with its view? Or is it the feeling and the perception of how this room and this view will make you feel?

There it is! Tap into your prospects’ feelings and you have immediately boosted your chances to get the client.

I know I know, when your hotel looks like this, it’s easy, you might say.

True, but the principle remains the same.

Want to get more revenue? Be sticky.

Want to get more direct bookings? Be sticky.

Want to lower your distribution costs and commissions? Be sticky.

It’s not who you are and what you have to offer. It’s only how you are being perceived. And how you are being perceived has little to do with logic… It’s all about emotions.

People buy on emotions and use logic to justify what they buy.

Even though what I am about to say may hurt your ego, there is only one thing that matters: in business, people don’t care about you, people don’t care about me, people don’t care about anyone. People simply care about themselves.

So, the only way to get connected with your prospects, is to get emotionally connected with them. Emotionally.

How?

By finding and living your Purpose. Your authentic purpose.

The great thing about having purpose is that it doesn’t really matter whether you are the biggest or the best. What matters is that you have an authentic purpose that you can connect genuinely with the guest.

And if you connect genuinely and resonate with the guest, I promise you, you are going have some deep, deep loyalty and have a memorable story to tell.

Together with your Communication and Marketing strategy, you are then going to “use” your purpose to be seen and perceived as the ONE and only rather than one among many. Sticky, remember?

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

Check this one:

Tap Into Your Prospects Emotions With Your Why

What is that “Making People Happier”? What does it serve?

This is the very first thing visitors seen when they land on this hotel’s website. It’s the hotel’s WHY. It’s the why they do what they do. their purpose, their mission.

A teeny-tiny sentence that immediately taps into a different level of experience in the prospect’s feelings. A higher, deeper emotional layer and BOOM! This hotel is immediately being perceived as different.

Don’t get confused though. It’d be easy to think of it as a sort of philosophical quote, placed somewhere on the site, being enough to do the magic.

This is no tactic. This is purpose. This hotel really lives its purpose. So does the whole staff. This is what it means having an authentic purpose and make the most of it.

Marketing: You are targeting only 3% of your potential customers!

What does 3% refer to? 3% represents the average of people who visit your website and already are in their booking phase, meaning ready to book.

This means that there are other phases, that of course differ from the booking phase, which come before that.

This is something that is not only related to the hotel industry, it’s cross-market and cross-industry.

So where does the remaining 97% stand?

In principle there are 4 stages and like I said, the booking phase is the last one, the one where we want our prospects to end up to, of course.

Booking Phases

Unawareness

Starting from the bottom of the pyramid, which represents the highest number of people, there is the UNAWARENESS phase. People who are not even thinking about travelling, nor booking a hotel, so they are very far away from buying something.

The problem is, you might think that this phase includes people we don’t want to market to, because they are not ready to buy, right? And more likely, this way of thinking, is related to the fact that, every single marketing message that we send out to the crowd, is nothing but a sales message. In other words, no matter how you actually shape your message, the content of that message is something that clearly says: “BOOK NOW, BOOK NOW, BOOK NOW”, ”BUY MY STUFF, BUY MY STUFF, BUY MY STUFF”.

Ain’t that right? The thing here is that 60% of your potential customers fall into this phase. The vast majority of them, and we do not market to them. Or we do, but with a wrong message.

Think about newsletters for example: 99.9% of the newsletter that I receive from hotels, are nothing but special offers, promotions, special packages. I mean, the specific of the content might change over the time of course, but the essence remains exactly the same: hotels asking people to book and buy, buy and book.

Now, try to think of this kind of newsletter message for example, that you send to people who are in this UNAWARENESS phase. Do you think they might relate to your message in any sort of way? Of course not.

“Yes but if send out my newsletter to the crowd, I might intercept someone who is in the booking phase and therefore will book my hotel”. This is what I heard many times.

Yes, and when it comes to newsletter, whether you send out a newsletter to 10 people or 10000, cost-wise there is basically no difference.

The problem is, first, you are bothering someone with something that (s)he is not interested into.

“Well yeah, then they simply delete my newsletter and I will keep on sending other newsletter until (s)he is finally into his booking phase”.

Well, that’s a huge and firm NO. Because those will more likely opt-out from your mailing list way before getting to that point.

Secondly, if you are running Ad campaigns on Google or Facebook, well they come at a cost. So in this case, targeting 10 people or 10000 people, makes a huge difference, cost-wise.

Dreaming

The second step of the pyramid is, surprise surprise, the AWARENESS phase, representing 20% of your potential customers. Again, this pyramid, the way I am showing it to you, is cross-industry, but ok, let’s try to decline it to the Hotellerie.

People in this pool are people who are aware of the fact that they will be travelling. Probably not even sure where exactly and when. But they want to go on holiday if it’s leisure market, or they know they need to attend an event or a meeting if it’s business market.

In fact, this phase is also called the DREAMING PHASE, because people in here are dreaming of going somewhere, but haven’t planned anything yet. By far, this is the most interesting phase you can deal with because, think about it, when you dream about something but you are unsure of what this something exactly means, you are way more open to suggestions and inspiration as compared to other people.

When you are dreaming, your emotional state gets easily affected by everything that is being thrown to you. Because in this phase, you are emotionally very sensitive, very alert.

And guess what, again, people buy on emotions, and use logic to justify what they buy.

This is the reason why successful marketers are successful, because this is where they mostly focus their attention on, by helping people dream. They inspire these people by clearing out doubts and directing them to where they want these people to end up to, step by step.

Facebook campaigns for example play a huge role in this phase. Think about, when you are on Facebook and you scroll down along the posts of your friends, every now and then you are displayed with some sponsored ads.

First, those ads do not look any different as compared to other friends’ posts and therefore we tend to give them attention.

They don’t look like ads, they look like any other friends’ posts.

Secondly, those ads are specifically targeted to you, because more likely in the recent past you ended up visiting certain pages, liking certain pages, having conversation with certain people, or have already shopped products or services that are related to the ad you are looking at.

This is how targeting works, and by applying a proper targeting, along with proper copywriting, allows you to reach out to an enormous amount of people that barely no one in the Hotellerie is dealing with.

Facebook, specifically, has the most advanced targeting tool. And it’s simply impressive and shocking how we, hoteliers, are wasting this opportunity.

Furthermore, no Online Travel Agency in the world would ever target this market, because this is not their job, they are not selling your hotel, they sell millions of hotels and destination. In other words, they can’t be specific.

Hence, people in this awareness phase represent a blue ocean of non-competition, as opposed to the red ocean of competition.

Back to the point though, do you think that a “Stay 3 Nights and get X% OFF” is a good message to send to these people?

Once again, huge and firm NO. This is not inspiring, this doesn’t make them dream, it just makes some noise and users in this phase want and need clear directions.

Planning

Third phase, the PLANNING stage, where people are in their “Information Gathering Mode”. They know where they want to go, when exactly and are just scanning the different options.

Here is where OTAs and 3rd party channels play a big role and most times they have an easy game, because they are more competitive as compared to the majority of hotels’ websites and booking engines.

Here is where basically we, as hoteliers, shift the attention from marketing to revenue & distribution. In other words, from attracting to converting.

It doesn’t mean that marketing is out of the game, but now the situation becomes a bit more serious and we cannot simply focus on attracting leads. Instead, we need to think of what we have been offering to prospects in terms of value proposition, so that when users are finally ready to book, we have more chances to win the deal.

(Direct) Booking

Finally, the booking phase. Or as I like to refer to, direct booking phase.

3% is the amount of users who are ready to listen to your “BOOK-NOW” message. 3% only.

Ready to Book

Are you seeing now the equation More Revenue = More Direct Bookings?

By targeting the right individuals, at the right moment, with the right message, not only do you get to relate with your prospects in a way more effective way, but you also have infinite way more chances to get a direct reservation.

It’s like asking a complete stranger to marry you…

For the remaining 97% of potential customers, if you keep sending out “BOOK-NOW” messages, it’s like walking into a bar and asking a complete stranger to marry you.

Marketing is like dating

Ain’t that crazy? You would like to establish a rapport with the other person first, right? And this is how marketing works, believe me, there is no difference.

Marketing is about 2 things only:

  • Getting people’s attention.
  • Getting people’s curiosity.

Period.

Every single step that you take, think about whether what you are communicating relates to either these 2 points.

For example

Let’s assume I am you, running your hotel business. And you are your potential customer (so my potential customer) in the middle of your juicy dreaming phase.

You are dreaming about your next vacation, you don’t know when, you don’t know where. But you have budget and, hey, you worked like crazy in the last year, you deserve it, you want it, you dream it.

You are considering my town as a possible destination for your trip. You’ve never been here, you don’t know anything about the city, so you start looking around in the internet, with the intention of having a general understanding as to whether my destination is worth you time and money. At the end of the day, it’s your vacation and you money, so you want to make the most of it, right?

Google, Social Media, OTAs and then, at some point, you end up visiting my website.

Option 1

In no time, I start bombarding you with those well-known sense-of-urgency and sense-of-scarcity messages, like Book Now and Get X% OFFOnly 1 Room Left… and so on and so forth.

Option 2

I give you the chance to get to know me, my hotel, my stuff and, more importantly, my destination because, ultimately, the destination is what would make you visit and stay at my hotel.

I give you, for example, a link to a mobile-friendly insider guide of my town, with walking tours and itineraries that list all main points of interests, with pictures, descriptions and my special and local tips for each of them. This way, you don’t have to look to much around to get to know how to spend you time here and what to see.

Walking Itinerary

It’s my freebie to you. No matter whether you decide to stay at my hotel.

Reciprocity

You see the point? Am I standing out from other competitors? Am I respecting your timings by not pushing any sales, knowing that it’s not the right moment yet?

People love to buy, but hate being sold to.

Furthermore, when the time comes, meaning that you finally enter the planning and decision phase, will I have better chances to get to host you?

It’s called Reciprocity, the principle according to which when you get something, likely for free (like my walking itinerary above), you feel somehow the urge of giving something back, like reserve my hotel, likely directly through my website/booking engine.

Don’t think about it logically, it’s part of our DNA as human beings and, by far, one of the coolest marketing weapons you can make use of.

Now, step back into your hotelier’s shoes. Do you know that you don’t even need to spend a dime to create itineraries like these?

Check this out, it’s a step-by-step guide on how to create as many itineraries as you want, in minutes, for FREE, with Google Maps.

Start Retargeting… NOW!

I really mean it. Start now.

Retargeting, especially Facebook retargeting, is simply the best, easiest, most efficient and cost-effective way to boost your direct bookings.

What is retargeting?

In few words, I am a potential customer of yours who happened to see your website for the first time.

The odds that I will leave the page before making any reservation are extremely high. Remember the 3% of the pyramid?

However, you have installed a Facebook pixel on your website. Without getting to techy, it’s essentially a piece of code that tracks me, as a user who have seen your site, by installing a tiny cookie in my browser.

When leaving your site and forgetting about your hotel for a while, or likely forever, at some point I will open my Facebook page, just to see what my friends have to share.

I’m scrolling down through my friends’ posts and… there you are: your beautiful Facebook ad pops up in my newsfeed, offering me a benefit, like a discount, if I book direct on your website.

Facebook Retargeting for Hotels

This is retargeting. There are many different retargeting techniques, though social media retargeting is commonly recognised being the best.

 

Distribution: Let’s Get It Fixed.

Distribution is about how else you have been offering your rooms and rates, throughout 3rd party channels, as compared to your website and booking engine.

In very simple words, Parity Rate.

Even if:

  • You have no FIT agreements with wholesalers and tour operator
  • You spend half of your time checking and double checking your own rates in the internet
  • You have a powerful rate shopping tool
  • You have a channel manager
  • You greatly reduced the number of OTAs you have been working with
  • You are 200% sure that you have no disparity issues….

…the odds that you have been experiencing some disparity-rate issues are extremely high, not to say 100% guaranteed.

There was a time where publishing hotel rates over the internet was relatively easy: you feed OTAs with rates and availability, manually via extranet or via channel manager, and that’s basically it. What you see is what you get.

Hotel Distribution has become a real chaos though, especially in the last 4-5 years.

And not only due to those uncontracted players like Amoma (that doesn’t exist anymore), Otel.com, BestDeal.com, Hoteling, etc.

Some time back OTAINSIGHT published a document that pretty much sums up what the hotel distribution has become nowadays:

Hotel Distribution

 

Point being, this very map got outdated in a matter of few weeks. As a matter of fact, in a way or another and just as an example, Contracted Online Travel Agencies (Booking.com, Expedia, etc.) do pull FIT/negotiated rates from wholesalers and bed banks.

Think about Booking.basic, for example.

Let’s face it, it’s a jungle. And the worst thing is that, the worse it becomes, the higher the odds of having more and more hoteliers giving up on the idea of putting the effort, the energy and the strategy to get more direct bookings, accepting that, in the end, OTAs will always win.

Needless to say that I hope and believe that is not going to be the case anymore. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing what I have been doing.

But even though I have always been passionate about hotel distribution, marketing and revenue, I also had my AHA moment, that moment when you say “OK, this is what I want to be working on for the rest of my life”.

That moment actually lasted 2-3 hours. And it happened by accident, with Expedia.

It was 4 years ago. I was supporting one hotel because of some parity issues with Expedia. This hotel was feeding Expedia with rates and availability via CRS.

So they got in contact with me asking for support. I checked everything, the CRS, the extranet of Expedia, the xml file which is the technical file that practically triggers rates and availability from the CRS to Expedia. Everything was just fine.

So I reached out to the Expedia Market Manager of that specific hotel. Unfortunately the Market Manager was on her annual leave. But I couldn’t wait for her to be back. Neither could the hotel. So I escalated my requests which soon got picked up by a programmer of Expedia, a tech guy. Lucky me and unlucky him, I am tech guy too :).

For whatever reason, he thought that I was a new colleague of him! That I was working for Expedia. It may be because, when I write emails, I usually don’t put my signature. Just my name, but no signature, no logo, no links and stuff. So maybe, the layout of my email looked like an internal email to him and that’s maybe why he got confused.

Besides the reason, he started sending me information that I was simply not supposed to get to know. Mostly technical information that I was perfectly able to understand, because I’m programmer too, to a certain extend.

And the funniest part is that we both got super excited about the discussion, because we were both extremely quick at responding to each other.

I remember after his first email, I was literally speechless, staring at my monitor reading and re-reading that email, without fully realising what I was looking at.

Shocked

It took me 10 more seconds to recover, after which I started my reply, asking more and more questions. I even turned off my office phone, just staring at my monitor waiting for him to answer my questions.

And he did, very quickly.

So, long story short, we went on this way for like 3 hours. In those 3 hours we exchanged like 5 or 6 emails.

At some point thought, after 3 hours, someone at Expedia realised that I was actually not a colleague of them, so this lady jumped into the most interesting business conversation I had ever had, stopping him from giving me more information, and telling me the truth, that they were thinking I was a colleague of them.

UPSI, too late though, because I basically got what I was looking for.

This was my AHA moment, where I fully realised what was actually going on, how these guys. And I perfectly remember me thinking that driving more direct bookings by simply having a responsive website, mobile friendly, being in parity, having a good booking engine… everything became useless.

Using a way less politically correct term… BS!

Not, of course, because they were wrong things to invest time and energy on, but because we, hoteliers, were (and still are) left out of a way bigger picture that we can possibly imagine, re what the hotel distribution was becoming and now has become.

So what was that about?

In very few words: when users make a search and certain conditions are met, there is an algorithm that essentially cuts off the rates of the hotel, in a way that you, hotel, will never be able to detect.

What kind of conditions?

Of any sort of type and the combination of them. For example, the algorithm cuts off the rates if the search comes from the US and via TripAdvisor.

The funniest part though, was when detecting the algorithm being activated, asking Expedia to turn it off and having the Market Manager replying with “Oh, sorry, that was a technical bug, now it’s fixed” 🙂

I swear, I LOVED and still LOVE the feeling of them pretending me being stupid.

Distribution is worth more than half your direct booking strategy.

Let me say that again: Distribution is more than half your direct booking strategy.

Distribution is the starting point of any online strategy of any hotel. Even before marketing. Even before Revenue.

Here’s why.

Let’s assume you decide to run Paid Campaigns on Google or Facebook, aiming at getting more reservations and direct booking revenue.

You have a great CTR (click-through rate), meaning your ads are grabbing the right attention. The data in your Analytics are showing great results in terms of traffic and engagement.

However, direct bookings struggles at flowing in. It’s as if, when the (direct) booking phase comes, prospects decide to book somewhere else.

In fact, booking direct is a matter of choice. Online Travel Agencies vs Direct Booking Channel. Either or.

Why?

Distribution, 100% that’s the reason.

We are used to think that the less healthy our hotel distribution is, the more commissions we pay.

Which is true, yet partially true. In fact, not only we pay more commissions as a consequence of less direct bookings, but also, we pay greater marketing budgets, running paid campaigns that bring customers and booking to the OTAs.

For instance, what’s the deal to run brand-protection campaigns on Google, bidding on keywords [hotel name], with the intention of getting more direct traffic, therefore more direct bookings, when ultimately Booking and Expedia, or any other channel, offer customers a better deal?

That’s why sometimes we fall into the belief that Direct Bookings is not always a topic worth battling for, as we might believe that ultimately direct cost more. Which is true, under the conditions we’ve just seen.

Booking direct is a combination of multiple ingredients. Yet this is the domain where we either increase of decrease our chances to get the direct booking by 50%, at least. The remaining 50% is on other domains.

You manage to deal with all the 4 domains, 100% chances of winning. Guaranteed.

Revenue: What’s Under The Surface?

Once your distribution is heathy, meaning the parity rate is respected across different channels, now it’s time to get deeply into the revenue aspect that supports our direct-booking strategy.

And this, is my baby. Here is where I started 3 years ago when I created RevANALYTICS.

As you perceive from the name, it’s about data-tracking, but not just the tracking that any web marketer is running. The, let’s say, “regular” tracking is super interesting and helpful for marketers and for you to answer the question “how to drive more traffic”.

RevANALYTICS is both for eCommerce and Revenue Managers.

And more specifically, is the bridge between eCommerce and Revenue and it is being conceived to answer the question, “how to better convert the traffic that I already have”.

RevANALYTICS is a set of analytical dashboards and reports that track data from your booking engine and take into account a bunch of revenue-related KPIs such as the Length of Stay, the combination of adults and children, the booking window which is the time that elapses between the booking date and the arrival date, the efficiency of your rooms and rates, and much more.

The reason why I created RevANALYTICS is actually quite simple.

Since I started working Revenue Management and Distribution back in 2007, there were 2 things that I was struggling the most with:

  1. First, I used to spend a lot of time with forecast and pick up report. As you know, they take into account the production data only. In other words, they compute how many rooms you get for each and every day. And my main concern was: “even if 2 dates that drive the same number of rooms, how can I know that the number of requests for these 2 dates are the same or not?” Because if the dates have different number of requests, in my opinion the efficiency is different.
  2. Secondly, we all agree that conversion rate is the most important KPI to assess whether we are performing well or not through our booking engine. But ok, I can see my conversion rate, but what is that drives that value? How can I get deeper into details to understand what exactly is performing and what not. To make it simple: I might a conversion rate of 5%, but how can I know where I am loosing performance? With the traditional way of tracking data, it was simply not possible to get this information.

So, I had this idea in my mind for many years and I wanted to create something like RevANALYTICS but the problem was, I didn’t know how to do that.

And more importantly, to create custom tracking systems you need to know how to program. I was not a programmer though. Yes, I was already familiar with HTML and CSS stuff, but didn’t know any JavaScript, the programming language that is basically needed for all tracking codes.

I soooo much wanted to have that in place though, that I said “Ok, let’s try, step-by-step, I’ll learn whatever I have to learn and somehow I’ll figure that out”. And that’s basically what happened.

So, let me show you why I do intend RevANALYTICS as a bridge connecting your Revenue Management and eCommerce Areas.

To do that, let’s have a look at this very basic report. It’s a simplified version of what you can have in RevANALYTICS, but for now it’s important that you understand the fundamentals of what I am talking about and how you can make use of this information, to boost more revenue and direct bookings.

Rooms & Rates: hotel revenue management and ecommerce

In this report I have listed a bunch of rates, here on the left. I just list the rate code to save some space, so DR is daily rate (or best available rate), a couple of Special Offers, a couple of Advance Purchase Rates and a Package Rate.

On the right, how these rates have been performing. Very simple.

By looking into this production report and if I asked you what’s the rate that performs best? It’d be easy to say DR: highest number of bookings, revenue, room nights.

Rooms & Rates Performance

We might tend to think that DR is performing well, whilst other rates are not so attractive, right?

Now look at this. Without changing any figure, what if I add another metric, like the Rate Views. In simple words, how many times has each rate been seen? How many times did users see each of these rates, regardless of them completing the reservation?

Rate Views

With this information, our assumption, in terms of rate efficiency, is quite the opposite as compared to what we said before.

By efficiency I mean the ratio between the number of bookings and the number of views.

So which rate do you now think is the most efficient?

Well, rather than manually compute it, we can simply add the respective conversion rate. And here it is. Conversion rate that is the result of bookings divided by the number of views.

Rate View Conversion Rate

AH is the most efficient rate, whilst DR is the least performing one.

This is a good input as to where we might be putting our hands on, in order to drive more bookings. So, let’s continue with the example.

In simple words, AH, which is an advance purchase rate, is the most efficient rate. But in absolute numbers, this rate doesn’t drive many bookings, other than direct bookings. Why? Because most times, when people shop your hotel on the booking engine, this rate simply doesn’t come up. It’s not available. And it’s a pity because apparently this rate is much more appealing than other rates.

So, to drive more direct bookings, one thing that we could do based on these numbers, is to try to make AH more visible.

So, first, why AH is most times not visible? Think about it. AH is Advance Purchase Rate. Every Advance Purchase rate comes along with a Minimum Advance Booking Days, right? So the rate must be booked at least X number of days, prior the selected arrival date. You follow me?

Ok, so let’s check what’s the Minimum Advance Booking Days for AH. And for example we see it’s 28 days. So again, this rate is made visible when users select their arrival 28 or more days in the future.

Minimum Advance Booking Days

Here’s already quite a good indication as to where the problem is. Because, maybe, users tend to search rooms and rates less than 28 before the arrival date.

So what do you think is the metric that we would need to look at?

It’s the Booking Window. This metric tells us what’s the average time, in days, that elapses between the booking date and the selected arrival date, for all direct booking searches, not just reservations.

So we check the average BW for this hotel and we might see that the result is 20. 20 days average booking window.

Booking Window

Minimum Advance Booking Days for AH is 28.

Average Booking Window is 20 days.

That’s why, what seems to be the most appealing rate this hotel has, is not visible often times.

So how can drive more (direct) bookings?

Well, there are multiple options, but the easiest would be to make AH more visible by lowering the Minimum Advance Booking Days from 28 to 20 max, eventually even a little lower.

Here is the same example, with the exact same data pulled out from the RevANALYTICS dashboards.

RevANALYTICS Data

That’s why I call RevANALYTICS the bridge between Revenue and eCommerce. I strongly believe that Revenue and eCommerce are the 2 sides of the same coin and the 2 departments need to work as close as possible to create unique and combined strategies.

Investing a lot of time and energy in web marketing activities, creating content for the website, optimising the usability, running paid campaign on different channels, is certainly a good thing to do. However, when the (direct) booking time comes and therefore the chance to get the return of the investment, like I said, not only in terms on money but also in terms of time and energies, well, we need to put in the same amount of effort to ensure that what we ultimately have to offer, our rooms and rates, relate to what our prospect expects.

If you think this is just theory, I mentioned before the very first case it happened to me to make use of RevANALYTICS, a real example of how even just a tiny little piece of information helped one hotel shift back direct bookings worth € 43726 over 30 days, our last secret for today.

If you want to read the full story, here’s a blog post I wrote about it.

Increase Your Direct Booking Success

If you are still asking yourself whether driving direct bookings is still a relevant game hotels should be playing, consider that Booking, Expedia, Agoda, and all other OTAs exist just because of that: booking direct vs. booking non direct. It’s as simple as that.

OTAs are reach because of the commissions we pay.

Again, does it sound stupid and obvious? Well, the reacher they are, the more this “hotel direct booking” topic becomes a battle worth battling.

Direct is key. And a direct booking is always worth. No matter what.

A direct booking is always 70 to 80% cheaper than a non direct booking, even if you invest great budgets in paid campaigns on Google, Facebook, or MetaSearch Engines.

A direct booking boosts the life time value of your guest, because by “owning” the information of your guests, allows you to market to them for future stays and, again, at a cheaper cost.

A direct booking hotel is necessarily successful, because it means it’s a hotel that manage to perfectly calibrate the 4 direct booking domains of Marketing, Branding, Distribution and Revenue.

Go direct, and you’ll never be wrong.

Direct Bookings after Covid-19

Will direct bookings still be a relevant topic, after the emergency caused by the covid-19?

In this video interview I talked about just that.

In a nutshell, it will be, even more than now.

I strongly believe that it’s in the difficult moments that businesses, just like human beings, show up for who they really are.

Online Travel Agencies’ reputation was the main reason behind their success. Not their budget, not their sites.

And their reputation will strongly resent from how they managed the entire situation, especially how they dealt with all the booking cancellation requests from customers and guests, who couldn’t travel anymore.

Yet we, human beings, are also very good at forgetting. And like always, those who want to travel, will use the system that is more convenient, efficient and easiest to them.

Travel is a necessity, not a luxury. Guests will start travelling again and probably even more than before.