In early January, I blogged about the evolution of guest booking methods…call centers, travel agents, web booking & OTA’s on desktops and now mobile bookings. You’ve read the stats…hotel bookings from mobile devices increased over 100% in 2013…and the trend is accelerating. Guess who is facilitating this trend…OTA’s like Expedia, HipMunk and HotelTonight. What does this mean? It means that your hotel will be paying 15% – 25% commissions for an ever-increasing number of reservations…and that means net ADR and margin take an ever-increasing hit.
Why are OTA’s winning this war? Because OTA’s have fantastic, easy to use smartphone apps that actually add value to a traveler’s experience. In addition to making it easy to book travel, these apps do LOTS of helpful tasks such as providing late flight notifications, directions to hotels and integration into a traveler’s calendar. Beyond that, companies have comprehensive strategies on gaining a footprint on the traveler’s mobile device. Does your hotel?
What can you do to earn more direct bookings from the ever-increasing channel of mobile bookings? Offer your frequent guests an app..one that has the following attributes:.
Begin SIMPLE, don’t require a download. Offer an integrated mobile web experience, no downloads, just a simple link for guests to access a mobile web page to check in or out from.
Must Be Useful to the Guest Before and During Their Stay: Hotel apps in the past have been little more than marketing platforms with pretty hotel pictures and a link to a mobile booking engine. Blah. The app needs to follow the success of the OTA and airline apps where they provide real useful value to the guest. Allow viewing of hotel bills. Allow mobile check in and check out. Allow service requests. All in addition to enabling mobile booking.
Promote it: In email reservation confirmations promote the app and include a link to download. On your website or as guests sign onto the hotel WiFi…promote it.
Give incentives for booking through your app: I’ve heard more than one General Manager say something to the effect of “I’d pay a guest $20 cash if they’d book directly with me rather than go through an OTA…I’d be ahead”. Offer an upgrade (if available), free continental breakfast, increased loyalty points or some other benefit.
Remember as a hotel you can still control the check in and out experience, which are THE two great touch points to obtain more guest details and up sell revenues. If hotels don’t have a solid strategy for gaining valuable “real estate” on your frequent guest’s smartphones, the OTA’s say a big huge THANK YOU.