I'm sure that as a hostel owner you have thought of ways you can improve direct bookings to your place. The fact is OTAs are an easy and convenient way for travelers to book their stay, especially when they are on the road for a long time and don’t have a lot of time to do research. I remember it clearly, so many times I booked my next hostel inside a bus on an overnight journey to my next destination. And OTAs were my best friend here.
I didn’t have loads of time to do research and I didn’t know enough about where I was going to even know what I was looking for. But one thing I did most of the time, was check out the hostel website when I was close to picking the place. And I’d always try to book directly, but it wouldn’t always work for two main reasons:
So even if guests find you through an OTA it’s highly possible that they will check out your website before making the booking. And that is your chance to hook them and make sure they complete the booking on your site.
So here are a few things you can do to encourage them to book directly on your site, even if they found you through a different system.
A lot of your booking comes from mobile. Having a mobile responsive website is no longer an option, but a must-have. And this is for any industry and any site out there. People are on their phones all the time, and that’s how they do a lot of their research and bookings.
Not only responsive, but your site must be easy to navigate. You don’t want your visitor to get frustrated because they cannot find the information they are looking for. There’s only one possible outcome here: They will leave the site.
So make sure it has a simple and clear structure, where people know exactly where to go to find what they need. And most importantly - where to go to make a booking.
There are a lot of booking plugins out there and you need to make sure you pick a good one. There’s no point having a great website if the guest cannot complete the booking there. And let’s face it, they might try once or twice, but people tend to be quite impatient nowadays. Eventually, they’ll move on to something easier.
Make sure you have only two to three steps in your booking process. If it’s taking too long or it’s too complicated to complete the booking, you might lose guests. Just a simple pick your date, pick your room, fill out your information process should be more than enough. Everything else can be offered/ informed after the booking is completed.
This is an investment worth making. Guests want to know where they are going and what to expect. Having good photos will not only look more attractive to potential guests, but also improve your credibility as a business.
It’s also important to note that the photos must reflect reality. It’ll only harm your reputation to put awesome pictures out there that are deceiving or no longer true. It will only make your guests feel like they’ve been fooled. This is like begging for bad reviews.
It always helps to give people extra encouragement for booking on your site. It doesn’t necessarily need to be cheaper than on OTA’s (even though it should never be more expensive), you can also offer perks. Good examples of perks when booking directly:
> Breakfast Included
> Discounts for Activities (Surf lessons, Yoga classes, Tours etc)
> Early Check-in or Late Check-out
There are other things you could offer, like free locks, towels or luggage storage. These are also good, but it might not be appealing for everyone if they don’t need that.
Content marketing is super hot right now! And there’s a reason for that. The online world has completely blown up and we are all consumers of content. All the time, information is out there and we are eager to consume it.
This is such a great way to give guests value and also improve your discoverability. If you have high quality posts and good rankings on search engines, readers may find your place when planning for their activities.
Don’t be shy here. Give your best tips, your top secret spots, let people know what they can do when they are there. The key to content marketing is without a doubt value. If you put good information out there, people will trust you. And if they trust you, they trust that they will have a great time there too.
And not only for SEO, but a blog is a great way to connect with your guests and let your place’s personality show!
I can’t stress this enough though, we are talking long game here. There’s no secret formula that will turn your bookings around overnight. And let’s be honest, quick results are never sustainable. What we’re talking about here is ongoing work.
You need to make your website user-friendly, mobile responsive and easy to navigate. But not only that, you need to make sure your site is updated. Added a new barbecue area that will make your hostel more social? Make sure that’s clearly stated in your site. That awesome tour of the city you used to offer is no longer available? Make sure you remove that information asap. Even small things can cause a disappointing feeling in your guests, and that’s not what you want them to feel when they stay with you!
A good website is necessary, but might not be enough to make them book directly. So give them reasons for that. Give them good deals or discounts that make direct booking more appealing. There’s no way to deny it, OTAs are extremely practical for guests, so a reason to move away from that is necessary.
And lastly, take the time to invest in content marketing. It’s an amazing way to build relationships and give out valuable information that will make their stay amazing. And isn’t that what hostels are about? Exchanging experiences and having a great time!