How to get more bookings for your accommodation business (Part 2)
Part 2: Booking websites
This is part 2 of a 4 part series on how to increase bookings for your B&B, hotel or other accommodation business.
In part 1, we looked at online reviews as a way to get your customers to spread the word for you. Part 2 of this series looks at using external booking websites to increase your sales.
Booking websites are a powerful tool for you to achieve more bookings and promote your business, but consider the following points before you sign up.
Fees can quickly add up
There is an ever increasing number of booking websites in the market, and most will ask for an annual fee in addition to a per-booking fee. In exchange, the booking website will market your accommodation to their users, offering you a targeted way to get the word out to people looking for accommodation.
While each individual website listing may not be too expensive, the annual fees can quickly add up and you have to carefully consider which websites to focus on.
Negotiate a trial period
If possible, negotiate a free or discounted trial period with the booking website before committing to paying an annual fee. That way you can test whether the website delivers on its promises.
Favour commission-only websites
If a website offers you a listing with no annual fees and an affordable booking commission, there is no risk as you only pay if you actually get a booking. List your business on as many commission-only websites as possible and let them work for you.
One of the biggest commission-only websites in the Australian market is Wotif. Wotif is an immensely popular website, and getting listed on it can make a real difference to your business. However, there are some strings attached: Wotif will currently only accept registrations from businesses with at least 3 rooms, and you must be able to accept online bookings that are instantly confirmed. To avoid double bookings you need to commit to constantly keeping your availability on Wotif updated. It may just be worth the effort though!
Allocate some budget to try new or niche players
The accommodation booking market is constantly changing. To get the most out of it, focus the majority of your budget on proven websites but don’t be afraid to try some new websites too. There are some fast growing websites around, such as Air BnB which is gaining a lot of traction in the holiday rental and B&B market. Niche players may also pay off, particularly if a large part of your customers fits a specific profile such as people with pets or business travellers.
Keep an eye on trends
Having so many players in the market frequently results in takeovers or mergers, which can change the focus for these organisations. For example, Takeabreak was taken over by Stayz last year. Since then, some B&Bs have reported bookings through Takeabreak declining whilst Stayz bookings were increasing (this is only anecdotal evidence) – maybe the company has decided to focus Takeabreak on a different part of the market or is simply putting more resources into Stayz. Either way, keep tabs on the market and move with the times.
Local tourism organisations
Local tourism organisations and associations seem to have a mixed reputation amongst accommodation providers. The membership fees can be substantial, and not everyone feels they are getting their money’s worth in booking referrals.
Visitor’s centres can send referrals to local accommodation providers, and having your website listed on local tourism websites can also help. Generally, I would say if you have the budget, support your local tourism organisation. You may not always see an immediate benefit, but the role of your tourism organisation is much wider than just sending you bookings; they market your region to achieve long-term growth for your local tourism industry, which will benefit your business in the long run.
Coming up: in Part 3 of this series we will look at using search engine marketing to increase enquiries