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28th September 2021

Direct Bookings Are the Answer to Travelers’ Needs in 2021 and Beyond

SiteMinder, which audits the hotel bookings scene on an annual basis, had a unique challenge for  2020 – understanding the ways in which travelers’ booking habits shifted throughout the drastic downshift in hotel reservations between April and December at the height of the pandemic. In its report, “Top revenue makers of 2020 plus predictions and tips for 2021,” SiteMinder’s team delves into best practices for engaging consumers in today’s travel landscape, and where revenues are growing the fastest in the hospitality space. 

A trend that was observed across the board, from Australia to South Africa to Portugal, was the spike in bookings directly on hotel websites. To be specific, direct hotel bookings remained in  the top five forms of booking globally for the entirety of 2020. Why? Patrons looking to escape their apartments through local staycations also sought transparent safety and security protocols,  which are best obtained straight from the source. Booking direct felt like the safest and most straightforward option for many in a time of uncertainty and fear. To continue to capitalize on direct bookings’ full potential, hoteliers must consider a new playbook for the post-Covid travel industry. 

According to SiteMinder, “The current crisis has brought out never-before-seen innovation across the hotel industry globally […] This comes at the same time as guests start to ramp up their expectations about what it means to have a good experience.” In order to address the heightened hopes travelers have for hospitality providers, hotels will need to craft an altogether superior experience, from ease of booking and customer service all the way through to hygiene procedures. 

A positive booking experience implies easy payments and quick, mobile-friendly solutions,  especially for the growing segment of risk-averse customers who are wary of scheduling trips too far in advance. Hotels that use seamless booking platforms like Selfbook will be able to draw in these guests making plans on a whim with hassle-free room selection and payments in a single click. By offering customers easy direct bookings, hotels will experience the added benefit of being able to showcase their health and safety protocols firsthand and integrate content that can further encourage bookings for nervous travelers such as flexible cancellations and one-to-one customer support. 

Due to the past year’s lengthy quarantine restrictions, higher risks associated with travel, and the ability to work remotely, travelers are now also looking for more extended getaways. Longer-term escapes where consumers can fully ingrain themselves into the local community of their destination, and trips where they can pair work and leisure, are becoming more common holiday formats. Hotels should tap into these new desires, as well as the increase in last-minute bookings,  by offering discounts for longer or spontaneous stays. A pro tip to encourage direct bookings is to instate dynamic pricing on owned websites to match the demand for these types of holidays.

“Understanding that travelers will require flexibility, speed, and safety when it comes to their trips, means that hoteliers must rely on technology to provide the best possible service and ensure efficient operations,” shares the team at SiteMinder. “An example of this is contactless  check-in, the adoption of which has been greatly accelerated due to Covid-19.” Embedding hotel booking operations into a platform like Selfbook can ensure exactly the kind of swiftness and flexibility required by the post-pandemic traveler, not to mention the ability to provide an entirely digital booking experience that eliminates the need for in-person check-ins or payments. 

By offering simple and contactless payments, actively generating price changes for last-minute and longer-haul stays, and creating flexible cancellation policies for customers who book direct,  hotels will be able to respond to the needs of the 2021 vacationer. Adaptability, customized content, and attention to detail will go a long way in drawing travelers from online travel agencies to hotels’ own sites, which, beyond driving bookings in a slow return to travel post-Covid, will also save hospitality providers up to a quarter in cuts typically taken by external platforms and agencies. 

While multi-player platforms still outranked direct bookings as the top approach to hotel reservations in the majority of markets in 2020, by playing into the new needs of wanderlusters and restoring their previous comfort levels with traveling, hotels might just be able to make booking direct the “new normal” for vacation planning. 

By Haley Crawford

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