Many self-catering business owners are becoming increasingly worried about the commission they are giving away to third-party booking websites.
So, how can you encourage guests to book directly rather than via a third-party channel? Here are some simple suggestions:
- Add value: Offer add-ons through your own website that are not available on the third-party booking portals. For instance, you might want to include a hamper of local produce with any website bookings – detail this on your website. This doesn’t have to cost a vast amount to leave a big impression on your guests. Or, offer perks for booking direct (eg check-in earlier/check-out later for no extra charge).
- Encourage loyalty: Reward direct-booking guests with something special when they arrive. This could be something small like a bottle of champagne or a special gift, or something a bit bigger. For instance, if they’ve booked a standard chalet and you have unexpected availability on a chalet with a hot tub when they arrive – upgrade them, at no extra charge. This will cost you very little but the perceived value to your guests is huge!
- Offer savings: Many people would argue that we’re becoming increasingly blind to discounts, as we’re inundated with them from all over the place, but running a seasonal or last-minute discount still has its appeal. Offer it to a limited audience (eg your social media followers or previous guests) for booking directly with you.
Even if guests initially come to you via a third-party booking website, once they’ve stayed with you, stay in touch with them through marketing emails and on social media. Make sure they know all about the rewards they get for booking direct and you’ll hopefully convert them to direct bookers next time!
Before you start
Don’t forget about your website itself. The most important thing that you can do is make sure it’s as easy as possible for your guests to book directly. So, at the very least, ensure your website has:
- Live, up-to-date availability calendars.
- A simple, secure online booking process.
- Great content and professional pictures.
- Lots of detail about your properties and the area you’re in.
- Your contact details (just in case they want to enquire first)!