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In recent years, the hospitality industry has seen a significant shift in the way customers book their accommodations. With the rise of online travel agencies (OTAs), such as Booking.com, Expedia, and Airbnb, hoteliers and vacation rental owners have come to rely heavily on these platforms to generate bookings and revenue. However, in doing so, they have become increasingly dependent on these third-party sites, which can have significant consequences for their business.
While OTAs can provide an easy way to reach a large audience of potential customers, they also come with several drawbacks. For one, OTAs charge high commission fees, often as much as 15-25% of the booking price. This can significantly eat into the profits of hoteliers and vacation rental owners, particularly small businesses. Furthermore, relying on these third-party sites means that hoteliers and vacation rental owners are not in control of their own pricing and availability, which can be problematic in a dynamic market. Finally, being too dependent on OTAs can mean that hoteliers and vacation rental owners are not building their own brand and customer loyalty, as customers often see these platforms as the primary source of information.
So, what can hoteliers and vacation rental owners do to escape the dependencies of big OTAs? Here are a few strategies:
Build a Direct Booking Website
One of the most effective ways to reduce your dependency on OTAs is to build your own direct booking website. This way, customers can book directly with you, without the need for a third-party site. A direct booking website not only gives you more control over pricing and availability, but it also allows you to showcase your brand and establish a direct relationship with your customers.
A direct booking website does require an upfront investment, but it can pay off in the long run by reducing your reliance on OTAs and increasing your profits.
Offer Incentives for Direct Bookings
Once you have your direct booking website up and running, it’s important to incentivize customers to book directly with you. You can do this by offering exclusive deals or discounts for direct bookings. This not only encourages customers to book with you directly, but it also helps to build customer loyalty and increase repeat business.
Use Metasearch Engines
Metasearch engines, such as Google Hotel Ads, allow customers to compare prices and availability across multiple booking sites, including your own direct booking website. By advertising on these platforms, you can increase your visibility and drive more direct bookings.
Metasearch engines typically charge a lower commission fee than OTAs, so this can be a cost-effective way to generate bookings while reducing your dependency on big OTAs.
Utilize Social Media
Social media is a powerful tool for building brand awareness and establishing direct relationships with customers. By using social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, you can showcase your property, promote your direct booking website, and offer exclusive deals and promotions.
Social media can be a cost-effective way to reach a large audience and generate direct bookings, without the need for a third-party platform.
Invest in SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of optimizing your website to rank higher in search engine results. By investing in SEO, you can increase your visibility and drive more traffic to your direct booking website.
SEO requires ongoing effort and investment, but it can be a highly effective way to reduce your dependency on big OTAs and generate more direct bookings.
Niche listing websites.
In addition to the strategies mentioned above, another effective way for hoteliers and vacation rental owners to reduce their dependency on big OTAs is to list their properties on niche listing websites. These sites are focused on specific destinations or types of accommodations and can provide a targeted audience of potential customers.
One example of a niche listing website is FollowmetoGreece, which specializes in properties located in Greece. By listing your property on FollowmetoGreece, you can reach a highly targeted audience of travelers who are specifically interested in Greece. Moreover, FollowmetoGreece redirects travelers to the property's private website, providing direct bookings without commission fees.
Listing on niche websites like FollowmetoGreece can be a highly effective way to generate direct bookings and reduce your dependency on big OTAs. It also allows you to establish a direct relationship with your customers and build your brand awareness.
In conclusion, while big OTAs have provided an easy way for hoteliers and vacation rental owners to reach a large audience, they also come with significant drawbacks, including high commission fees and loss of control over pricing and availability. By implementing strategies such as building a direct booking website, offering incentives for direct bookings, using metasearch engines, utilizing social media, listing websites and investing in SEO, you can break free from the grip of big OTAs and take back control of your business. By reducing your dependency on these third-party platforms, you can increase your profits, build your brand, and establish direct relationships with your customers. It may require an initial investment of time and money, but the long-term benefits can be significant. So, if you're a hotelier or vacation rental owner, don't be afraid to take the leap and start implementing these strategies today. Your business and your bottom line will thank you.