Almost every hostel dreams of getting more bookings and reservations, especially during low season. We've put together a list of 4 big things you can do at your hostel to grow bookings, reservations and push your hostel's top line higher.
1. SEO - Search Engine Optimization
Everyone knows it's important, but few people know how to really do it. And with reason: it's an imperfect science. But there are some things we do know, that we can control, and that we should do today to boost SEO Ranking. Here's a summarized list:
a) NEVER Use Flash!
Under any circumstance, have a completely Flash website. Why? Google and other Search Engines can't read your website and they have no idea what it is about, so it will be very hard to get good positioning. Plus you can't even open Flash from some mobile devices like iPhones and iPads, so your losing half your mobile audience right there...
b) Define Your Keyword List
Figure out what backpackers and travelers are searching for on google to get to your hostel's website and other hostels' sites in your city and make a list. This list will help guide your marketing efforts in other places such as your PPC (Pay-per-click) campaigns, copy on your website, and blog. Use some of these free tools to come up with that keyword list: Google Adwords Keyword Tool, Google Trends, and the Bing Keyword Research Tool.
c) Use Your New Keyword List
Now that you've come up with your list, it's time to actually use it… On your website, make sure your copy reflects your keyword list. Important places to make sure you're using these keywords (in your HTML): URL, Page Title, H1 and P Tags.
Note: That being said, remember your hostel's website is for humans, not for Google's robots ;) If you try to overload your page with keywords, people will notice and leave your hostel's website and you will get penalized by Google for keyword spamming.
d) Create a Blog
And keep it alive! If you don't know how to do it, ask your webmaster to help you out. If you want to do it for free, you can open one up. Having a hostel blog thats updated with relevant and useful content is super important because it helps your SEO ranking! Every new post you publish creates a new page and more (relevant) pages on your site helps your rankings! It will help you:
- Become the cool hostel people want to stay at. Just think about it: If I am traveling to Munich for Oktoberfest and in my research of where to stay I find that one hostel's website offers a ton information with an online guide and more on Oktoberfest, I probably won't even look for another hostel...
- Boost your hostel's SEO!! Relevant and useful content (especially for the backpacker demographic!) can go viral, and get your hostel seen. When people find something useful, they are much more likely to share it with friends! Aren't you?
2. Hostel Alliances In Nearby Cities
I think this one is pretty self explanatory and reasonable. You need to visit 'feed' cities (feed cities are ones that feed travelers to your hostel's destination) and work out an alliance with a popular hostel or two in each of those cities. Exchange flyers, links, and any other marketing materials you've got. The basic deal normally is that you'll send them guests and they'll send you guests. Sometimes you can work out a ‘reservation deposit' that the reserving hostel keeps upon making a reservation to the other. That also helps create a direct incentive for that hostel to book your hostel. If you can cut the receptionist a commission for creating that reservation too, it aligns those interests even better!
For the best hostel alliance, remember to target a similar type of hostel. If you own or manage a party hostel, then it's probably a good idea to make an alliance with other party hostels in your feed cities so that guests going one way or the other are not disappointed. It would be a bummer for a traveler to be looking for a quiet place and end up at your hostel if he's not looking to get rowdy. And vice versa.
3. Booking Engine For Direct Reservations
Get a booking engine on your hostel's site. There's tons of them out there. BananaDesk will have one ready for you soon :). Some are better than others, but you definitely need it. Why? Many reasons, but in a nutshell: you want to take advantage of your website's traffic, convert those bookings, and there's no better way than giving your website visitors a simple way to book.
One important key here that almost goes unsaid: the more integrated this widget is to your front desk, the better. Why? If it's not integrated, then it's costing you a lot of time. Answering emails to confirm a reservation is a thing of the past and there's no way you will be able to grow your hostel that way. Check out our Booking Engine.
4. Social Networks
EVERYONE (and their mother, very literally) is on social networks. Facebook now has 1 billion users, Twitter over 500 million, and there are a handful more like Google+ and Pinterest that are growing and fast and could help your hostel create more bookings... Don't have one? Don't wait, set them up today.
Your hostel needs to be getting the word out, developing a follower base, and creating loyalty with your customers, guests, and backpackers. The demographic traveling in hostels is the most online-social today, so it's even more important that you are there to interact with them. If you're not, then you're letting competitors gain ground on your hostel. Don't know what you should be doing? The following is a short summary list of how you should be interacting with your fans and guests:
- Interact with your fans. As a hostel, you can post content that is funny, useful, or relevant to your city, location or hostel. I think the most important in that list being relevant content. Make it somethings that will make people want to interact with you.
- Post promos. Social networks are a great way to get the word out on new promos that you are running during low season, especially if a large part of your fanbase is national (but not local).
A good example promo might be: "Bring a friend and one of you sleeps free!" That one will also help make your promo go viral as your followers will share it with their friends to see who can come together to make the weekend trip! Remember not to abuse promos though. If you post promos too often, people will take the promo as the norm and 1) they will not be as appetizing, 2) people will feel that they don't need to pay rack rate, and 3) you'll probably get flagged as spam, or at least be perceived as spammy.
Using the right promos at the right time can have a viral effect that will help you book your hostel.
Follow these 4 points and they will help you get more bookings for your hostel!