When the first OTAs appeared, hoteliers saw them as an excellent advertising tool and as a place where they could offer last minute available beds. Quickly, these websites started to grow and gain hotels’ and travelers' confidence. In BananaDesk, about 64% of reservations are pulled in from booking channels as opposed to a direct channel like a hostel’s website.
The benefits to booking on an OTA for travelers are quite clear:
- They have an easy way of comparing rates, location, etc. across hostels in the city
- More importantly, they can read reviews and ratings left by other guests.
Travelers also trust booking channels because they assume the OTA’s support in case they have any problem, regarding room types, treatment or whatever, almost like insurance. They know they’ll be able to review the hostel and let other travelers know about their experience there.
Fast-forward to today and most of the hostel industry is trying to reverse this trend to take back control of their “deal flow”. That’s mostly a result of the increasing commissions laid down by booking channels, and for independence. Everyone that’s managed a business knows that you can’t depend on one marketing channel; you need to diversify your marketing strategy.
How to diversify your hostel’s marketing strategy
Increase your website traffic
As hosteliers and hostel owners, our first goal should be for travelers to get to our website and book their beds there. Why? Two reasons:
- We avoid paying high commissions to OTA’s / booking channels
- We own our deal flow and this is priceless.
So, we have to focus on making things easier for guests to book on our websites.
Some things you can do to attract travelers:
- Boost your hostel’s SEO ranking by building a hostel blog, and making sure you have keyword targeted pages on your site. Create different types of content: hostel videos, photos of the hostels and common areas, etc.
- Exchange links for your website with hostels in feeder cities to improve your SEO ranking and get more guests to your website.
Improving your website’s ranking on Google will not be achieved overnight. It will take time, effort and creativity, but it’s worth it!
Social networks for hostels
A well-planned strategy on social networks will also help increase traffic to your website. And not only that: it will also increase your guests' loyalty! Using Facebook, you can show the world your hostel and also post promos that are fan-only. There are also less used social networks (by hostels at least), but worthy as well of your time:learn how to use Twitter and Pinterest.
Google AdWords is Google’s tool for businesses to advertise on Google. Make an AdWords campaign for your hostel so you can appear on Google’s promoted results. Using this tool you can plan and modify your campaign and target the audience you are interested in, by segmenting the public according to age, location, keywords, and more.
An attractive website
Of course none of all these tips will get you anywhere if you don’t have a good looking website that is creative, expressive, and useful enough for your hostel travelers! If you want to build your own website easily, learn how to build your own wordpress site easily. And check out these beautiful hostel sites for inspiration.
- Show your hostel’s best photos of the coolest areas in your hostel right on the homepage. If it’s possible, hire a photographer to take them. You want to make sure that the first impression a visitor has to your website is a great one. Remember:
Receive bookings on your website
Are you ready for this? So we’ve talked about how to lure guests to your website, but we’ve missed one of the most important pieces so far! If you don’t have a booking widget on your website, most travelers will find your hostel on an OTA and book there. So, having a booking widget on your website is absolutely fundamental! If not, all the work we’ve put in up until now will help us get more and more bookings, but all of them through the OTAs, which will make our business feel even more dependent on them. But don’t worry, adding a booking widget to your website is actually easier than you think. There are lots of different options, but we’ve partnered with MyAllocator to offer you Channel Management and a booking widget. MyAllocator offers a simple booking widget for your site that is easy to install, and that you (or a designer) can adapt to your website’s style.
Important: When deciding where to put the booking widget on your hostel’s website, make sure you call attention to it appropriately so that travelers can see it clearly as soon as they arrive to your site. This is called “Call To Action” in internet marketing and is very important in order to help you convert website visitors to guests. The best booking widgets will be the ones directly integrated to your PMS, so try to find something that works best for you. That way any new booking made on your website will automatically be imported to your PMS and taken down from your other booking channels. We have this integration with MyAllocator, so let us know if you have any questions.
Avoid Bookings through Contact Page
It’s easy to start out with, but it’s not scalable and guests prefer confirmed bookings. Remember: the less emails you have to respond to, the more time you have to do other more creative things for your hostel. The second point is that guests simply prefer confirmed bookings right away. When they are booking accommodation, they want to know right now if it’s available and make the booking now, not later… Don’t get me wrong though: it’s good to have a Contact Page and clear contact info so they can get in touch if they want, but making reservations should be done directly through your booking widget.
Incentivize guests to book on your website
Offer special benefits to guests who book directly on your website. For example, a guided tour or a discount. Depending on the benefit, this could be the edge that makes this traveler choose your hostel.
So, what are you waiting for? Get your hands dirty and start increasing your hostel’s direct bookings!
Image Source: http://goo.gl/7Rt3U9