News + Insights
Recession proof your hotel bookings
Read Time (6 minutes)
How to build a winning direct strategy and ensure your digital experience improves revenue opportunity - even in a challenging market
As inflation begins to bite into people’s purses, hotels need to become even more resilient and adaptable to market conditions to remain competitive and profitable. Guest experience has to remain at the core of the hospitality offering, with resources invested in the digital customer journey as much as the onsite physical spaces and service.
At Journey Hospitality, we continually invest in research and development to remain at the cutting edge of digital marketing, ecommerce and hotel retailing - optimising the performance of digital touchpoints for hotels.
As we look forward, we share the key areas of development hotels should be considering to extend their digital offering, add value to guests, and generate direct bookings.
In the last few years, we’ve seen direct booking pace significantly pick up; today, over one in four travellers plan to book directly with the venue. Hotels massively benefit from consumers' desire to book directly with the supplier: Kalibri Labs analysis found direct bookings are 12.5% more profitable than those from OTAs. However, this has not come without its challenges - driving direct bookings mean it’s essential that a hotel’s online user journey is seamless, making it easy for guests to purchase.
Key website requirements in hospitality
More direct bookings mean less commission paid out, and greater customer engagement as a direct relationship allows you to offer more to your guests before, during and after their stay.
The guest experience starts on your website; it’s the first window into the hotel experience your guests will receive. Start by nailing these four aspects of your website:
- Plan your information architecture properly: ensure every webpage has a purpose. Question why that page exists and what you’re expecting the visitor to do. This allows you to set measurable goals for every page. The clearer the purpose, the greater the value of that page to the visitor.
TIP: if you don’t know why that page exists, your customers won’t either. Get rid of it.
- Calls to Action (CTAs): give clear instructions to the visitor about what they should do next. It could be as simple as ‘Learn More’, ‘Book Now’ or ‘Add to Cart’. A clear request for action drives higher conversion.
TIP: ensure every page has the right level of information to support the customer in their decision-making.
- Simple user journeys: make your website experience as seamless as possible. Visitors should find it easy to navigate your website and make purchases quickly and simply. A straightforward user journey boosts your conversion rate.
TIP: reduce the number of clicks and steps in your booking journey. The easier it is to buy, the more people will.
- Make it mobile: over 79% of web traffic now comes from mobile devices. If your website doesn’t look good or doesn’t provide an intuitive experience on a smartphone, you will undoubtedly lose bookings and revenue.
TIP: when designing your website, have your mobile to hand. Preferably test on both iPhones (the dominant device) and an Android system.
The website features that make a real difference
Once you are past the basics, there is much more you can do to refine the guest’s online experience, while bringing greater performance and efficiency to the website.
- Balance of form and function: Today there is a critical balance between experiential commerce and conversion. People buy with their eyes therefore you need to create an immersive web experience that offers a breadth of rich imagery and video of your property. With 87% of travellers keen to learn about local culture, it’s important to include content on your local surroundings. Help solve visitor queries with useful information (eg the in-house coffee on offer, the type of in-room coffee machine type, and a list of nearby coffee shops).
- Improve conversion: Take the complexity out of bookings by making sure everything is bookable with live availability. Visitors need to see what is available when they are booking. With our onejourney® solution, you can fully integrate all booking engines to provide a one-shopping-cart experience - much like consumers are used to on sites such as Amazon or Selfridges.
- Site speed: Visitors need quick access to information. If pages take time to load, you are losing out on valuable bookings. Believe it or not, you can control the speed of your site to a great extent. With good architecture and page optimisation, your visitors can enjoy intuitive scrolling, animation, and video - even when their internet connectivity is restricted.
Optimising investment in digital marketing
There are three components to consider when you approach your digital marketing strategy:
1) What are the overall commercial goals and revenue strategy (eg occupancy levels, distribution split goals etc)?
2) How well does the website convert to the booking engine? How quickly do visitors move to the booking stage?
3) How well does your booking engine convert planners to bookers? How easy is it for people to make online reservations - both simple requests and complex ones?
It’s essential you are transparent with your business model to make the most of your digital marketing spend. Knowing your goals and business targets for direct bookings will help with understanding key web performance to tailor campaigns to the needs of your business and guest demographics.
Digital marketing today requires a multichannel approach utilising a range of tactics including brand, retargeting, PPC, social, and video display. For example, we regularly see 10-15 second videos successful at driving engagement with a hotel.
Your ultimate aim should be to understand the attribution that each channel plays towards securing revenue and guest numbers. Employing a range of channels ensures you are maximising visibility and your budget. While you may not see direct attribution to channels, switching them off altogether could have an adverse effect. At Journey Hospitality, we see sales massively affected when Paid Social is switched off.
Preparing to be recession-proof
4. Utilising space and optimising inventory
There’s nothing that can be done to prevent a recession; there’s no magic wand that will keep the booking and revenues coming - but it is essential to keep on top of your direct sales and have your distribution channels ready for every visitor.
There are some actions you can take now to be in the best position to take on the ever-changing market:
1. Audit your channels: understand how all your marketing drivers (website, booking engine, google ads, social media, emails) are performing and identify the quick wins.
2. Optimise the website: prioritise the booking experience. Digital marketing should amplify your presence, but making sure your direct sales channel has rate parity and provides an engaging booking experience will secure reservations.
3. Make your hotel easily shoppable: integrate all your hotel amenities into one shopping basket with onejourney®. Present all your products in a single booking experience so visitors can add rooms, F&B, spa, or golf as they go.
During economically challenging markets like a recession, businesses continuing to invest in marketing are the ones who succeed. Today’s consumers are looking for more experiential retailing experiences - and hotels need to embrace this. Remember, the more intuitive and seamless the digital booking experience, the easier it is to win guests and make more revenue.