Not enough direct bookings on your hotel website? Avoid these 3 classic mistakes.

What helps hotels generate more revenue? The “right” guests, website visitors who book direct and – ideally – a full house. But despite all efforts, it’s just not happening.

And no, this isn’t a lecture on search engine optimization and how to rank #1 on Google. Sure – your guests will have to find you, but the real problem is different.

Many hotel websites just don’t make a lasting impression, and that costs hotels guests and revenue. Because if they don’t stand out in the eyes of your website visitors and are already forgotten again a few clicks away, then these are extremely bad conditions for more direct bookings!

Here are three steps how to change that:

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Mistake #1: In order to reach as many people as possible,
hotel websites often sound bland and very generic.

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The reasoning behind it: “The more guests see us, the greater our chance of occupying all rooms.”

The problem with this, however, is that if you try to appeal to everybody, you come across as one hotel among many
and to your guests, you are interchangeable.

If you target your marketing to a specific group of guests,
you’ll see much better results.

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I know it sounds paradoxical, but in this case, less is really more: because if you try to be everything for everyone, in the end no one will find your message appealing to them.

However, if you focus on your favorite guests with your hotel marketing – the guests that you really love hosting,
then amazing things will develop over time.

You get to know your ideal guests better and realize that you have a lot in common. You understand and appreciate each other. You know exactly what your guests want and adapt your hotel product accordingly.

Your target group is enthusiastic about a product, tailored to their preferences.
A nice side effect: guests that are not a good match, will stay away over time.

You’ll hardly have any complaints and you’ll be recommended enthusiastically. Your hotel stands out with personality and you’ll have more and more regular guests who appreciate your hotel product and book directly on your hotel website.

Your guests no longer search and compare – they don’t have to – because they have found THEIR hotel.

It’s fun having hotel guests like that. They understand when something goes wrong, they are loyal and helpful and last but not least – they are priceless brand ambassadors who keep talking about their great hotel experience…

A few years ago, as the hotel manager of a small boutique hotel with such guests, I experienced a hurricane. Our 30 rooms were full, the storm raged for almost 16 hours and the following morning the hotel grounds looked the same. The roof of the restaurant took a beating, the kitchen was full of water, the garden was trashed, the pool was full of leaves and branches, but that didn’t spoil the overall mood.

We started cleaning up immediately, two days later we had done most of the work and our guests were able to continue their vacation. There were no complaints, quite the contrary, some guests insisted on helping and enjoyed this unplanned “adventure”. The following year, almost all of them visited again. (and we also received an award for outstanding service.)

That happens when you have the “right” guests in the house. ūüôā

Mistake #2: “The most important thing about hotel websites are great images – they speak for themselves”.

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“Pictures speak louder than words”, is a statement you hear all the time, but have you ever chosen a hotel for your vacation? Looked at 10 hotel websites in a row, one photo more beautiful than the next, so that in the end you no longer knew what belonged to which hotel and gave up in frustration? Because they all kind of looked the same‚Ķ..?

Or how do you like  Hotel websites whose home page consists only of an impressive photo, a listing of the number of rooms and the restaurant, and a booking button ? Would that convince you to book direct?

It’s like meeting each other for the first time and the other person half an hour later asks: “To you or to me?”

I think it should be a little effort.

Especially if you want the relationship to last a little longer..

A good start to getting to know your counterpart is to tell them about yourself, and the curious and colorful stories that are part of everyday hotel life provide plenty of material.

Good stories give you a marketing advantage, you should really use. 

It’s amazing what happens behind the walls of a hotel on any single day:

“The fresh salmon for today’s VIP lunch still hasn’t arrived”, “the lady in suite #501 had an emotional breakdown, which no one can really explain”; “one of your best regular guests is without a room due to overbooking” and “the air conditioning in one of your banquet rooms has stopped working”.

Have you ever noticed what happens when someone tells you a good story? You are involuntarily pulled in. Your imagination and senses are stimulated and suddenly you are right in the middle of the story.

If the story is really good, from time to time it’ll come to mind and you will tell others about it.

Most businesses first have to laboriously create the “story” for their product – in a hotel, on the other hand, stories unfold all natural – day after day – a gold mine for your hotel marketing!

Our attention span is short. Very short. Especially online. You click on something and a few seconds later you are gone again.

The only exceptions to this rule are: stories!

Did you know that we remember stories 22(!) times better than facts?  

Why is that? People love stories because they touch and move us. Stories are linked to emotions and we can identify with them.
Good stories leave an impression. Their message sticks.

‚ÄěOur hotel offers you 30 designer rooms with a fantastic view, as well as an award winning gourmet restaurant. ‚Äú

This is how most hotels advertise – sounding distant and alike

But what about presenting your hotel vividly and intriguing? Have you ever thought of giving the rooms on your hotel website a voice and letting them speak for themselves? Of their characteristics and the guests they’ve already hosted? In a voice that talks with personality, engages you in friendly conversation and expresses humor, pride, and maybe even a few little quirks?

An idea that will make you stand out on the spot. (And who knows. This kind of conversation might even be able to help you sell rooms that are otherwise difficult to rent..)

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Mistake#3: Hotels focus on product details. But guests are looking for a compelling REASON to book.

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 What are guests really looking for? A comfortable bed and a beautiful view, or a memorable hotel experience? A relaxing weekend, a successful meeting or an enjoyable family celebration?

We all believe we decide rationally. Examine all the facts and come to a conclusion. But research says something completely different. Professor Gerald Zaltmann from Harvard University found that a whopping 95% of our decisions are made subconsciously. And our emotions play an important role…

Of course, before we make an important purchase decision, we first do some thorough research and compare products and prices. We weigh up, think, determine, but despite it all, we don’t act as logically and pragmatically as we would like to think of ourselves. Quite the opposite…

How does Prof. Zaltmann put it so aptly? 

“Sell the sizzle, not the steak”¬†

If you decide to buy the new turbo vacuum cleaner, your housekeeper won’t be first asking you for an impressive list of technical details. She woudl want to know, if the vacuum effectively sucks up the dirt, is wasy to handle and how much faster it helps her get the next hotel room sparkling and clean.

It’s the same with your future guests. They are looking for a good experience, the prospect of an enjoyable time.

Use your hotel marketing to connect with your guests.

Make them feel, “Wow. They are exactly what I’m looking for.”

Then it will also work with more direct bookings and more of your favorite guests.

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And once sales increases, you can improve your hotel experience, your guests’ enthusiasm will soar, they will talk about your fabulous place, word will spread and your marketing efforts will take off all on their own.

Without booking platforms and hundreds of competitors….

You know you have a great hotel product.

But you are still not fully booked, because many guests simply overlook you!

What you need is more website traffic, more favorite guests and more direct bookings.

It really isn’t that hard to make your hotel stand out.

With a few simple steps you can create big impact..