This month, we were thrilled to sponsor and attend the 2022 Direct Booking Summit, hosted in New Orleans across the 25th and 26th of October.
What is the Direct Booking Summit?
The Direct Booking Summit is an event that unites hundreds of hoteliers every year to strategize, network and drive the Direct Booking Movement forward, a movement built within the hospitality industry to protect hoteliers from OTAs and increase the number of direct bookings received.
Not only were we proud to sponsor the event, but we also celebrated the launch of allora.ai across North America, offering our advanced AI technology to hotels and businesses further afield. We’re excited to see the success that this will generate, improving the direct booking experience for every guest whilst securing more bookings for hoteliers.
Hundreds of Independent hotel owners attended the event to hear from over 20 industry experts, including our very own Ian Sloan, VP Global Partnerships, who delivered a session on how we need to change the direct booking mindset and how to tackle the meteoric rise in cancellations and build a retention strategy.
Below we provide an overview of Sloan’s talk.
Ian Sloan: Guess what? The “Book Direct” Message is wrong!
When it comes to digital experiences, expectations are very high, many big brands have raised the bar, and the outcome is that many guests expect tailored experiences across every industry.
Technology is how hoteliers can gain that competitive edge. However, research shows the hospitality industry is behind when it comes to digitalisation. The industry needs more investment and training in digital to be able to consistently deliver a mature digital experience.
As an industry we’ve been talking about ‘Book Direct’ for over a decade, it’s on every hotel’s website all over the world. However, the reality is that consumers don’t care about book direct, they’ll book on the most convenient channel that meets their needs. And while Covid-19 taught us we don’t need OTAs to secure bookings, they are part of the ecosystem and are returning. If a guest does make a booking, there are two forces in play that could impact whether that guest stays or cancels. Those are flexibility and remarketing.
Guest staying and returning should be what hotels are measuring against. So what strategy can you put in place to ensure a guest stays?
A guest’s journey isn’t linear, it’s across multiple days, screens and conversations. From the beginning of a guest’s interaction, you should be implementing personalisation. Simply put, you’ll need a softened call to action on the first visit, and then have the tools to provide personalisation to each guest through pre and post-booking experiences.
See examples below:
A booking isn’t a promise, so to focus solely on a booking is not enough. With other factors in play, there is still the risk of cancellation. An OTA will still be remarketing to that guest as that’s where their loyalty lies, with the guest and not the hotel.
So you have the booking, what are the post-booking risks?
By ensuring that a guest’s second visit to your hotel website is a personalised one and they’re not seeing ‘Book Direct’ you’re improving on their experience and the likelihood of that guest staying as well as that guest returning. Personalisation will give you a competitive edge.
Cancellations are a growing trend, having a retention strategy and understanding the risk will help you to mitigate the number of cancellations and once again allow you to improve your guest experience.
Technology can make it easier to understand your cancellation rate and help you make intelligent decisions when it comes to your retention strategy. With the right tools you can:
- Achieve greater consumer insight
- Understand cancellation patterns – Who, When, How, and Why
- Understand booking behaviour
- And implement effective retention strategies to maximise effectiveness such as tailored website experiences
For more insight on the state of 2022 cancellations have a look at our cancellations white paper.
To wrap up Sloan’s talk, here are his top three takeaways:
- Soften your language for first-time visitors
- Change your success metric from “booked” to “stayed”
- Implement a retention strategy to retain guests
And remember to change your mindset when it comes to measuring success; channel the experience of the ‘staying guest’ instead of the booking number.