The distribution landscape has become significantly more complex over the past few years, with technological advancements and more price-sensitive, tech-savvy travellers. To be competitive in today’s industry, lodging businesses must diversify and optimize their distribution strategy. In this guest blog, written by our partner Cloudbeds, we explore the key concepts to maximize your online visibility and drive more online bookings. The blog will discuss key channels and optimization strategies to help lodging operators increase their online presence and drive more bookings and be more profitable.
Today, there are hundreds of online travel agencies (OTAs), metasearch platforms, and direct channels – with travellers, on average, looking at 25 travel-related websites before making a purchase decision.
To avoid being overlooked, properties must ensure they’re active on as many channels as possible to reach their target audience. It’s no longer possible to be active on just one or two global OTAs; lodging operators must balance various direct and third-party channels to reach travellers, control costs, and drive bookings.
In this section, we look at the key distribution channels properties should be active on, along with tips to optimize each channel to drive more visibility.
Your hotel website is the closest extension of your brand and should be used to build trust and credibility and drive direct bookings.
You could have the most visually appealing website in the world, but if it’s not easy to navigate, with clear descriptions and CTAs, it will not perform as expected. Ensure that it’s easy for visitors to find information about your property, including room types, amenities, and additional services and offerings. Consider implementing a chatbot to answer questions fast, streamlining the path to conversion, and optimizing for mobile – so that they can easily book no matter where a traveller is searching.
Make it simple for travellers to book directly on your website with an integrated booking engine and payment processor. Your booking engine should seamlessly integrate with your website and provide an easy way for travellers to pay. We recommend including a rate shopper tool within your booking engine so that users can compare rates across channels without ever leaving your site (ensure that you maintain rate parity across distribution channels). Lastly, don’t forget to incorporate upsells into your booking engine. Providing add-ons can persuade travellers to book direct and helps you increase revenue.
Online travel agencies offer access to millions of travellers across different demographics and help users discover properties they never would’ve found through organic search efforts alone.
Different OTAs cater to different audiences, making it essential to be on various channels. In The Big Book of OTAs, Cloudbeds found that properties connected to 6 channels saw an average revenue increase of 26.8% compared to just one. The optimal OTA channel mix includes a selection of global, regional (to your country and target audiences country), and niche OTAs. This way, you can attract different segments of guests year around and control commission fees by working with both big and small OTAs
Did you know your OTA listings can help you increase direct bookings? The Billboard Effect is a phenomenon that found properties listed on various OTAs experience a boost in direct bookings due to their visibility across sites. This is attributed to travellers starting their search on OTAs and moving to direct channels once they’ve narrowed their list.
To capitalize on the Billboard Effect, ensure you’re listed on multiple channels and have high-quality images, information, and reviews consistently across sites. The more credibility you can build on OTAs, the more likely a traveller will seek out your website to book directly.
Metasearch platforms like Google Hotel Ads, Trivago, and Tripadvisor give lodging operators access to high-intent travel shoppers. By optimizing your presence on these sites, you can push travellers to your website to book direct.
If you’re listed on OTAs, chances are you’re already on metasearch platforms. Ensure that you create, claim, and update your listing across sites. As with OTAs, your property information must be consistent across all metasearch platforms. Compare your listings with other properties in your area to ensure your content stands out from competitors, and update the information regularly.
To stand out on metasearch sites and drive bookings towards your website, you should consider advertising. The higher your link is on the page, the more clicks it generates and the more bookings you’ll receive. Metasearch platforms are one of the best advertising channels as ads are only displayed if your property has availability on a traveller’s searched dates. So you don’t pay for clicks when your rooms aren’t available.
A Google Business Profile is a free profile offered by Google. It’s displayed across Google’s search results, including Google Search, Google Hotel Search, and Google Maps, to help travellers discover properties. It is an extension of your website and a tool to help your property rank on organic search results.
Ensure you’ve claimed your Business Profile and checked that it’s showing up in search results (try Googling your property in incognito). To optimize your profile for the best results, choose accurate and relevant categories, use high-quality images that showcase your rooms and amenities, and include important keywords and search phrases to help travellers find you.
When you show up on Google, one of the first things travelers look at is the number of reviews and your overall score. The frequency of reviews matters – search engines consider the number, quality, and age of reviews in organic results, so it’s essential to keep a steady flow of reviews coming in. Most guests won’t leave a review unless asked (unless they’re extremely happy or unhappy) – but studies show 68% of customers will leave one if asked. So don’t miss out.
Lastly, look for distribution channels that can help you attract different guest segments. Many travel agents, corporate bookers, and travel retailers use GDSs and bed banks to build customer relationships and book rooms, making them great channels to build connections and sell more inventory.
A GDS is a fantastic channel as it gives you access and visibility to thousands of travel agents and corporate bookers – an audience that can be difficult to penetrate. GDS clientele is usually corporate, making them higher-paying clients with longer average stays.
Bed banks were once reserved mostly for large properties and hotel chains but have recently become more popular with smaller properties. Bed banks provide exposure to travelers worldwide and act as an intermediary, so you won’t have to maintain relationships with multiple companies; instead, the bed bank is your main point of contact.
It can feel incredibly daunting to manage all of these channels at once. Thankfully, technology has allowed lodging businesses of all sizes to diversify their distribution mix to increase visibility and drive more bookings. An integrated, cloud-based system with tools like a PMS, channel manager, and booking engine makes it easy to share your inventory across channels without the fear of overbookings.
When shopping for software, look for a system with zero-added commissions or fees to minimize costs, real-time connectivity for top performance, and revenue management functionality to help track market and competitor data and optimize rates for maximum profitability.
Want to learn more? Book a demo of RoomPriceGenie and learn how hoteliers like you are using it to drive revenue through better pricing. Reach out today. We’d love to connect.