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Hospitality Insights

Creating an Emotional Relationship with Guests

23 May 2014


What is the biggest advantage a hotel website has over an OTA?

I often get asked, “how can we get rid of OTAs and just generate direct bookings”. I think that is the nirvana for an independent hotel but it takes time and effort that many don’t have the finances nor the knowledge for. I do believe it is possible for hotels to have a healthy balance of business channels that allow them to feel in control of their own destiny rather than feeling at the mercy of a third party.

An interesting stat I heard a few months ago was that 35% of visitors to an OTA will at some point go to visit the hotel’s own website. I know that Google have often preached that on average a visitor will look at 7 sites before committing to a travel purchase. Why then do hotel websites struggle to convert?
I think there is a twofold reason and a little investment with some “back to the future” thinking can help improve this problem. First, technology that the OTAs (and specifically Priceline/ invest in heavily is making sure it is easy for customers to book on whatever device they have. Hotels have to look at their own online booking process and see if it is as simple to book rooms online, over the phone or via email as it is with any third party, no matter what device the potential guest is using.  Secondly, and quite simply, is the creation of emotion . OTAs work off a rigid and cold template to show off their clients’ properties. They are not there to make customers love the hotels they are booking, but to love the process they give to the consumer. When that consumer hits the hotel website, as if they were a walk-in customer in the old days, the hotel needs to bring a sense of emotion to the customer to give them a meaningful reason to book direct. Use of amazing photography or video, carefully sculpted words and information to entice the customer, and a simple process to see, feel and understand the hotel. After this, a great hotel booking system is essential, and it is something that every hotelier is able to provide with a modest investment. Doing these things will allow the hotel to “own” the customer again and through various other marketing techniques after the guests stay, word of mouth referrals can be captured by the hotel website and direct, rather than the guests saying “I got an amazing deal through said OTA”.

As has happened in food retail, where the online space is cluttered and confusing, the same is happening with travel. Searching for a hotel in London is a minefield. If you look at the surge of interest in the UK of local markets, butchers and fishmongers reopening, I believe that the independent hotels have the same opportunity; where the search for unique experiences from a consumer is ever growing. Gone are the days where big brands are guaranteed to win online in the hotel space and this is where every independent hotel can cash in.
All that hotels have to do is go back to the future. Make sure their technology works for them, and provide their customers with a wonderful experience both online and offline to bring emotion into their booking journey.

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