Hostel and guesthouse marketers aim to attract as many direct bookings as possible. Direct bookings eliminate the middleman so both guests and accommodation sites benefit. Today, you can use Internet tools and tricks to help people find information about what you have to offer directly so you don’t have to pay agent fees.
Obviously, having your own website is the most important thing that you can do to maximize potential clients’ opportunities to find you. Don’t use a template website – spend the time and money to build a vibrant, dynamic site that features lots of photos, content, reviews and general information about your area. Get local restaurants and attractions to provide photos and content – you can use the submitted content to build a “To Do” page. Consider adding a blog to keep site visitors up-to-date about what’s going on in your area.
Translate your site into as many languages as possible. Don’t rely on an online translation service (Google Translate, etc) because they don’t really do the job. Foreign guests are much more likely to book with you if they think that you care enough about them to provide information in their language.
Offer special deals for guests who book direct. Most middleman sites (Airbnb, Trip Advisor, Booking.com, Expedia, etc) charge between 15 – 18 percent to facilitate a booking. Offer that as a discount for an enticing deal.
Or offer a different type of bonus – like a special Fair Go casino bonus – for visitors who book their accomodations directly with you.
On your website, make it clear that the best price can be found through a direct booking.
Brand your property well and use that brand on all of your communication and marketing materials. You need to choose a unique name for your property. Many potential customers look at OTA (Online Travel Agency) middleman sites to identify properties in the area, but then search for the property’s direct website to book directly. These customers are as interested in avoiding the middleman fees as you are, so make it easy for them to find you.
If you’re located near a beach – say a Lake Michigan beach – you can assume that many of the other properties that are near you have “Beach” in the name. Lake Michigan Beachfront, Lake Michigan Beachview, LakeBeach of Lake Michigan……—your challenge is to find a name that is unique enough so that you’ll stand out so when a searcher Googles your property’s name, s/he’ll zero in on your direct site. How about “The Michigan Mitten’s BeachMitt?”
Collect Email Addresses
Stay in touch with past clients by archiving their email addresses. Send out holiday greetings, information about special festivals or happenings in your area, special deals, etc. Even if those people aren’t coming back, they might recommend you if they are given frequent reminders of who you are.
It’s also a good idea to write a personal note to each guests. You can thank them for staying with you and, perhaps, offer a special deal for a 2nd-time stay to encourage a return visit.
Add chat widgets to your website so that people can have live chats with you to ask questions and close bookings. Whatsapp is a free chat that you can use with only a mobile phone number. You can also download the Drift (drift) widget and be ready to answer any question whenever they come in.
Find something that makes you unique and use that to stand out. Your prices are low? You offer luxuries? You are experts on your area’s history/nature/culture? You offer an experience? Show your specialness in every way that you can.
Not only is a picture worth 1000 words, but if you optimize those pictures, they’ll be worth a lot more. Image search is a great tool for rental properties to get more direct bookings. Many people search by image. Search engines now display images at the top of SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) which offers a great way for you to get your property found, along with traditional website content.
The more appealing your photos, the more clicks you’ll get for inquiries and bookings.
Most people who are searching for accommodations will look at a property’s reviews. Most Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) have their own reviews but there are a few other places that you can have guests post reviews. On Trip Advisor, for instance, the reviewer doesn’t need to have booked through Trip Advisor in order for him/her to review the property. Create a listing on Trip Advisor and then send your guests the link so that they can put up a review, regardless of where they booked.
A Google Business Page is another good place to collect reviews. Once you open a Google Business Page you can ask anyone, regardless of where they booked, to add a review.
Your property’s website has a backend – the keywords, phrases and descriptions that site visitors don’t see. The search engine’s algorithms do see that backend and if it’s configured correctly it can drive traffic to your site.
Make sure that your backend is updated with the right keywords and a good short description. This can push your SEO ranking up in the search engines.
Start a YouTube Channel for your brand. You’ll create a valuable backlink to your core site as well as indexable third party content. In addition, Google owns YouTube. YouTube videos gives you a great chance to come up on Page 1 in video search results, especially if you’re the only one with video content in your market. You can create a short slideshow of your property which will answer many of the questions that potential customers may have before they book. Finally, you can promote things to do and attractions for your area.
Everyone knows that social media is important but not many people know how to leverage social media for marketing. Some easy and free things to do on social media include:
- Create a board in Pinterest
- Create a Business Page in Facebook
- Post photos on Instagram
Social media can be used to effectively help potential guests reach out directly, rather than go through a middleman OTA.
Credit Card Payments
Set up an online payment facility like Paypal or Stripe. These sites enable you to accept credit card payments and make it easier for people to book directly. Since these sites are secure online payment sites they provide customers with peace of mind. Some credit cards offer free travel insurance which is another option that offers confidence.