Independent, non-branded properties often have to compete against well-known hotel chains or brands with extensive sales resources and revenue capabilities.
This can be frustrating and might seem like it’s impossible for an independent hotel’s reservations to increase significantly.
This couldn’t be further from the truth though.
Guests often look for a property that has character and can offer unique rooms, tasty cuisine and great experiences including afternoon tea, a round of golf or a spa treatment.
Independent hotels and apartments are therefore in the perfect position to attract a growing market of agencies and a new generation of travellers that are looking for a more adventurous stay.
We’ve put together a list of the four things you can do to encourage more guests to book a stay at your independent hotel today.
1. Update your website content
As it stands, 96% of people travelling for leisure purposes start their travel planning with a Google search.
In order to show up in that search, you need to make sure your website is optimised for SEO, and that you are updating it with fresh content on a regular basis.
This includes adding high-quality images that show your hotel in the best light, relevant content about local points of interests and, ideally, positive guest reviews.
According to recent statistics, 97% of people read reviews and 68% will gladly leave a review if asked to do so.
So the next time one of your guests thanks you for an outstanding stay, simply ask them to leave you a Google (or TripAdvisor) review and then link to them on your website.
Essentially, the more you can highlight your unique selling point and bring your personality across with great content, the more online reservations you’ll see at the end of the day.
2. Implement a hotel booking engine
Besides online content, another determining factor is how easy the booking experience is on your site.
Make it as easy as possible for them to view prices, room availability, special packages and booking options.
After all, there’s nothing worse than a slow loading website when you’re trying to book a room, especially when you need to enter your credit card information online!
A great way to ensure an optimal booking experience is to implement a booking engine on your website.
Choose one with a straightforward booking process (the fewer steps, the better) that can be effortlessly integrated with your website and social media channels.
Guests appreciate when they can complete the booking in their native language, so ideally go for one with multilingual options.
Our booking engine, REZbooker SBE, has been designed and tested as a booking engine for independent hotels.
Optimised for over 25 languages and currencies, its modern user interface is fully responsive across all devices, meaning that guests can conveniently book from a tablet or mobile phone if they wish.
Considering that bookers are now 5 times more likely to leave a website if it isn’t mobile-friendly, this goes a long way!
3. Include a good mix of channels in your online distribution strategy
Recent statistics suggest that 83% of US adults book their travel online, and digital travel sales were worth a massive US$755 billion worldwide in 2019.
While a hotel website and booking engine are two very important online distribution channels for small hotels, it is key to include a good mix of channels in your distribution strategy.
OTAs, short for online travel agents, make up one of these channels.
While recent changes to Google advertising tactics are making it more costly for OTAs to attract bookers, they still receive a fair share of bookings from travellers that hoteliers cannot ignore.
From Booking.com to Expedia and TripAdvisor, there are a number of key OTAs potential guests will go to before selecting a hotel.
So how can you make sure your hotel is listed on OTAs and showing up-to-date information across all of them?
This is where a channel manager comes in. A channel manager is a tool that allows hotels to sell their rooms across all connected OTA booking sites at the same time.
You see, when a guest books a room, your property management system (PMS) automatically updates your channel manager, which distributes your availability in real-time across all sites.
At HotelREZ, we manage this via our CentralREZ Central Reservation System (CRS) and our integrated channel management tool ChannelREZ.
A second online distribution channel that is key for independent hotels to be present on is the GDS, also known as Global Distribution System.
Despite generating billions of dollars in sales year on year, we’ve heard many hoteliers refer to the GDS booking engine as “dying”, “outdated” and “disappearing.”
This couldn’t be further from the truth, however.
In fact, over 600,000 travel agents use the GDS to book flights, hotel rooms, car rentals and destination activities every single day.
GDS production continues to grow year on year by as much as 5% to 10% worldwide and is particularly good at attracting corporate bookers.
It is also a great way for an independent hotel to get more exposure overseas as the majority of business and leisure travel from the United States is booked via the GDS, and bookings from countries such as Russia, Japan, India and China are on the increase.
For more information, have a read of Why the GDS system is still as important as ever for hotels.
We’ve also created a free downloadable guide on everything a boutique hotel needs to know about the GDS.
4. Hire the right team – and train them well
One of the most important things independent boutique hotels can do to stand out is to hire, and train, the right staff.
This is particularly the case when it comes to a revenue manager, whose job it is to maximise a hotel’s revenue and profits through new business opportunities.
Make sure you hire someone with experience to manage your online distribution strategy, and the ability to implement any rate, inventory or promotion on the system.
Train them to work closely with sales teams, front desk staff and your general manager to advise across promotional activities, business planning and reservation costs.
It’s also crucial that they are a great people person as well.
By building up the right network of contacts, they’ll have greater success at targeting the agents and corporates you have your eyes on.
When screening candidates, ensure they are empathetic, have great listening skills and above all are passionate about your independent hotel.
Independent hotels: utilise all ‘routes to market’
The best way for independent hotels to increase their reservations is to have a distribution strategy that includes all ‘routes to market.’
This means combining online distribution strategies while working closely with a GDS representation company that supports and enhances your business.
A good GDS partner will help you generate greater awareness for your hotel and build a strong brand image within specific market segments.
This is particularly important when trying to attract guests from niche market segments, such as pet-friendly travellers.
At HotelREZ Hotels and Resorts, we’re proud to provide quality distribution, representation, marketing and consultancy services to more than 1,500 hotels in over 100 countries.
If you’re an independent hotel looking to receive more bookings, have a look at our services or get in touch today.
HotelREZ Hotels & Resorts was founded in 2004 by Mark Lewis, an experienced hospitality industry professional and entrepreneur. Over the course of over a decade, the company has grown to be one of the leading hotel representation companies dedicated to marketing and connecting independent properties with bookers worldwide. HotelREZ now provides distribution, revenue, sales consultancy and marketing services and support to more than 1,500 hotels, apartments and hotel groups in over 100 countries including private label GDS chain code solutions. HotelREZ Hotels & Resorts is a SAAS company.
HotelREZ manages the brand Best Loved Hotels, a collection of unique global individual properties, with a dedicated GDS Programme, together with a Website and printed Directory, aimed at the high-end leisure agency and traveller. HotelREZ also incorporates the global World Rainbow Hotels, the world’s only GDS enabled LGBT global hotel consortia representing some 1200 hotels in 230 destinations across the globe.