We've teamed up with Triptease for this two-part blog series on direct bookings and guest service.
It almost goes without saying by this point that direct bookings are kind of a big deal. Guests who book via your website (rather than via an OTA) are more valuable, likelier to spend more, and more often than not enjoy an all-round better relationship with the hotelier.
But what if you're not a Marriott or a Hilton? What can you do to win over guests and convert them into direct bookers?
Well, apart from making sure you're in parity with your partner OTAs - and advertising that fact to your guests - one of the best things you can do is make sure your guests are getting a little something extra when they book with you.
Benefits. Everyone loves them. Apart from your best rate, what are you giving lookers to convert them into bookers? While the basics - free wifi, free parking - still have an undeniable pull factor, today's guest increasingly expects those things as a given. Benefits need to have a little something extra to really stand out.
We've put together a list of some of our favorite - and highest-performing - direct booking benefits.
1. Free upgrades when available
Is there anyone who doesn't love an upgrade? If they exist, we're yet to find them. Triptease's consumer survey last year found that nearly 30% of guests consider a free room upgrade to be the most valuable benefit a hotel can offer. And what have you got to lose? If a better room is standing empty, show a direct booker what they mean to you and bump them up for free.
If you're not in a position to promise upgrades to everyone, why not follow the example of the hotel that holds a 'Daily Upgrade Lottery'? Direct bookers have their names put in a hat, and one lucky guest gets a free upgrade.
2. Free bikes
If the proliferation of self-serve cycle hire schemes in cities across the globe is anything to go by, city cycling is having a moment. If you've got the resource to offer them, free bikes have a real pull factor for today's experience-driven travellers - and you're helping guests save on travel costs at the same time. Two birds, one stone, anyone?
3. Use of smartphone with local data and calls
This one might not be for everyone, but we've seen it used to extraordinary success - and it's well worth thinking about if you have a high proportion of international guests. Providing a smartphone pre-loaded with data allowance is an immeasurably valuable benefit for almost every guest, from the Snapchatters to the selfie-takers to the suited & booted businesswomen. And the benefit works both ways - as a hotelier, you capture valuable data about your guest, and have a direct channel to that guest throughout their stay.
4. Voucher to spend during their stay
Direct bookers are more likely to spend on ancillaries once they're within your hotel. To nudge them towards that ancillary spend, why not give them a voucher to spend at the restaurant, bar, or gift shop? The guest gets something for free, and you get more opportunities to engage with them and showcase your excellent service. A win-win situation if ever we saw one.
5. Free pineapple
We just had to round it off with this one. Our favorite-ever direct booking benefit. A hotelier Triptease works with provides each of his direct bookers with a free pineapple. It makes no sense, it solves no immediate or obvious problem for the guest, but it's quirky, unusual, and sticks in a guest's mind long after their stay is over. You don't have to confine your benefits to the strictly practical - injecting a little personality to your offering will set you well apart from third parties and middlemen.
So there you have it - the Top 5 Direct Booking Benefits. Check out Triptease's full list here!