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VAT Survival Guide For Irish Hoteliers: 25 Ideas To Slash Cost Of Bookings

Monday, 03 December 2018
VAT Survival Guide For Irish Hoteliers: 25 Ideas To Slash Cost Of Bookings
Regrettably, the rumours have been confirmed. Long feared by tourism businesses all over Ireland, the government has recently declared that the sector’s VAT rate will increase from 9% to 13.5% from January 2019. 

Ever since the finance minister’s unwelcome announcement, the hospitality industry has been awash with talks of its catastrophic impact on hotels, growing uncertainty and declining competitiveness. 

No doubt, most management teams are busy reviewing their options right now and looking for ways to reduce expenses.

We too want to lend you a helping hand. We’ve compiled a list of 25 ideas on how to generate more direct revenue and ultimately reduce hefty OTA commission charges. 

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Give the Best Rate to Direct Channels

  1. Guarantee the best rate on your own website. Really, this is the most powerful tool that you can deploy to sell rooms and win market share back from OTAs. Third-party providers often lock customers into rigid arrangements. Extend the most favourable terms and conditions - such as free cancellation or no deposit - to direct bookers.
  2. Give compelling reasons to your customers to book directly on your hotel’s site. Consider offering welcome treats, a dining voucher or free laundry. Be sure to tailor the reward to your own particular audience. 
  3. Arrange an upgrade lottery for each day that is only open to reservations made directly with the hotel. Customers love entering competitions, while occupancy levels allow for a single daily upgrade at most properties. 
  4. Earn your customers’ trust by making a price promise. If a better rate is found elsewhere, provide compensation to guests such as money back guarantee or a free incentive. The greater the payoff, the more assured browsers will be that you present the best possible deal. 
  5. Don’t limit your ‘best rate’ strategy to your website. Utilise all your online marketing techniques to get this message across. Your direct booking benefits need to be displayed on your social media channels, email campaigns, digital advertising, email signatures, guest communication and so on. 

Perfect Your Website

  1. Highlight reasons to book direct on your homepage and booking engine. It’s not enough to guarantee the best rate, you must shout from the rooftops that you do so. Prominent call-to-action features can make all the difference to your conversion rate.
  2. Use engaging exit pop-ups to reinforce the advantage of direct bookings. ‘’Are you sure you don’t want to save money?” Leave no doubt that browsers will find the best offers here.  
  3. Promote your rooms and suites with specific imagery for each category, list all your amenities, showcase rates clearly and always include a ‘BOOK NOW’ button. If your property boasts a range of room types, consider withholding the higher categories from OTAs to provide exclusivity. 
  4. Let users compare your rates with OTAs. Implement a price widget on your own booking engine. This saves time for browsers and encourages faster decision making. 
  5. Always keep the last room for your own channel. Assign availability to your website as priority over third-party vendors. Ensure that rates are set up at least 12 months in advance on your booking engine. 

Harness The Power of Digital Marketing

  1. Set up a brand PPC campaign to compete with third-party entities that also bid on your hotel’s name. Trademark your brand with Google and Bing. In our experience, trademarking limits OTAs, while also improving Cost Per Click and increasing average ad positions for our clients.  
  2. If you are a member of Booking.com’s Genius programme, consider opting out. It damages your own PPC efforts and decreases conversion rate on your own site, while only building loyalty to the third-party platform. 
  3. Convert lookers into bookers. Run display or Facebook retargeting campaigns to attract those people back to your website who did not complete their reservation. 
  4. Sign up to Google Hotel Ads to give your hotel more visibility. Whether travellers are searching for your brand name in Google, or just researching options in your location, they will be shown rates linked to online travel agents, global metasearch engines and - if you opt in - your hotel’s own booking engine.
  5. Never underestimate the importance of professional Search Engine Optimisation. Even though more showy and instant marketing trends are making waves, SEO should remain the bedrock of your online strategy. 

Build Lasting Connections

  1. Create a loyal customer base by asking guests to join your database. Send out email campaigns to these subscribers on a regular basis to promote your upcoming events, special rates, gift vouchers and seasonal offers. 
  2. Develop exclusive packages for your subscribers that are not open to the public. Direct traffic to a dedicated landing pages and link the offer to your booking engine. These unique deals will not only generate incremental revenue, but foster loyalty with your most valuable clients.  
  3. Gather emails of guests from your PMS that booked via a third-party channel. Reach out to these customers with a targeted email and offer an incentive to book direct for their next stay. 
  4. Encourage your reservations team to make a personal connection with travellers. If a guest travels with a baby, offer to place a cot or highchair in their bedroom. Overseas visitors may appreciate information about local attractions. Hospitality is all about personalisation and your front-line team can be your most effective marketing tool. 
  5. Not only should you answer guest feedback, but use this opportunity to engage with undecided browsers. Travellers read through dozens of reviews while researching options so make the most of this chance to showcase your offering. Use a friendly and personable tone of voice and always include information about your services where appropriate. 

Prepare For The Future

  1. Invest in high-quality photo and video content for your website. It might be an expensive project initially, but one that will pay dividends for years to come.
  2. Opt for responsive website design and make your content accessible on all devices - be it a desktop, tablet or smartphone. Guarantee a seamless mobile booking experience in order to close sales. 
  3. Get ready for Google’s mobile first indexing to avoid losing organic traffic and stop your website from sliding back on the search engine pages. 
  4. Allocate budget for Accelerated Mobile Pages. Championed by Google, this global project is designed to make web pages load faster when opened on a mobile device. 
  5. Stay ahead of the curve and enlist a chatbot for your hotel. As more and more customers are using Facebook Messenger to reach out to you, it gives you the freedom to engage with your audience 24/7. There is now also an option for users to communicate with you on your Google My Business Profile if you download the app and activate the setting. Maximising these touchpoints can convince users to book, helping you acquire bookings more cheaply. 

Do you want to be ahead of your competition?

90% of hotels we audited are not using a marketing channel that can bring at least 5% new bookings. Find out what it is.