Thinking Outside the Loyalty Program and Encouraging Direct Bookings

The whole point of travel is to not stay in the same place. Guests check in and check out, travelers come and go, people are always on the move. What really differentiates a successful hotel business lies in its recurring guests – the loyal ones that keep coming back for more. 

Guest loyalty is one of those inexhaustible topics that is always on any hotelier’s list of top priorities. Besides being a solid strategy of engagement with travelers and building trust, loyalty programs can be interlinked with direct bookings, one of the industry’s constant goals. Direct bookings lead to more revenue since hoteliers don’t have to pay fees to third-parties, such as OTAs, and so a circle of good practices is created. So far, so good.

But how can loyalty be nurtured and leveraged? And what role do direct bookings play in this strategy? 

Big industry players have been testing the waters when it comes to loyalty programs and the results are in. A recent Skift article breaks down the findings from a Kalibri Labs report that suggested that massive direct booking pushes actually paid off. Not only that but the direct bookings strategies implemented by big hotel chains have generated a wave of loyal guests. In an industry where options are endless and guests have a large range of hotels and accommodations to choose from, loyalty is rare and should definitely be nurtured and rewarded. 

When it comes to loyalty programs, one of the best strategies is rewarding travelers who book direct. This comes as a win-win since both the hotel and the guests get something out of it – the hotel can save money by not paying fees to OTAs and the guests are rewarded for their direct booking with a lower price. This is another important thing that hoteliers need to take note on: although “traditional” loyalty programs revolve around a point system that would eventually pay off for the guests, modern travelers are more inclined towards instant gratification. Sure, the promise of a discount for the next stay or future free access to the SPA sounds good, but the idea of getting a discount on the spot can be much more appealing. 

Standard loyalty programs are very popular and they normally pay off. However, it’s important to keep in mind that there are different ways to solve the “loyal guests + direct bookings” equation and those ways stretch out during the entire guest journey. In another article, Skift emphasized the value of constant and open communication, not only during the on-site experience but even prior to and after the guests’ stay. Keeping the lines of communication open through a guest messaging solution is a simple way of personalizing the guest experience and building loyalty. Before and during the hotel stay, it is highly recommended to keep in touch with guests through one of their preferred real-time communication channels, as well as strive to send out a personalized text. After the guests depart from the hotel, a guest survey can also generate more loyal guests since they notice the hotel’s interest in their experience and well-being and the value that it is placed on their honest feedback. 

It can be hard to think of the path to direct bookings and loyal guests as a straight line with a clear strategy and outcome. Many times, it’s important for hoteliers to think outside the box and analyze the ways in which every one factor influences the other, not necessarily in a linear way, but more likely, in a circle. The marketing strategy influences direct bookings – great services and open communication nurture loyalty – loyalty programs “seal the deal” – and loyal guests will continue to book direct. 

If you are interested in using a complete, yet easy-to-use platform in order to easily communicate with guests, gather and analyze their feedback, and nurture loyalty, make sure to get in touch! You can also sign up for a demo or a free trial for our award-winning guest feedback platform and start making the most out of your hotel’s reputation!