A famous Cornell study in 2009 found that when a hotel had a first-page listing with an OTA, it received a boost in direct bookings on its own website, this came to be known as 'the billboard effect'.
Recently, the effectiveness of the billboard effect has been questioned, because new studies show that although many customers still visit a hotel’s website after learning about the hotel on an OTA site, many return to the OTA site to book.
One of the major reasons for this is OTAs have become experts at mastering the user experience and making the booking process blissfully simple.
But it’s important to remember that the guests are still visiting your hotel’s site, so you have an excellent chance to capture a booking that might be lost to an OTA by making the process on your website easier and instantly more appealing.
A clear and easy way of doing this is by placing this phrase prominently on your website, above the fold:
“Our agents are standing by to offer you the lowest rates and helpful local information. Click here to call us now.”
This simple sentence provides a compelling reason to book with you directly, and it’s more personal and immediate. It gives guests a specific reason to call you. You’re offering an enticing proposition, scented with the promise of possibly obtaining a better rate or an upgraded room and to learn about the local area. Instantly, this has more appeal and impact than simply placing a toll-free number on your home page and waiting for the phone to ring.
Stating that you have a dedicated booking agent available also makes the process sound easier. It draws attention to your offer of the kind of personal communication customers value. And when potential guests do call, make sure you capitalize on their interest by using trained, dedicated voice agents to sell your property and close the sale at the highest possible rate.
Use this simple method to convert OTA bookings to direct bookings, making the guest yours instead of belonging an OTA. And avoiding the OTA commission is nice, too.
This is one in a series of short essays by John Smallwood, CEO of Travel Outlook Premium
Reservations Call Center about voice reservations, the second most profitable revenue channel. Travel Outlook is a hospitality company that takes voice reservations calls for its clients.