Millennials Are Choosing OTAs – How Can Reviews Influence Their Decisions?
It has become pretty clear by now that millennial travelers are here to stay. Sure, Gen Z is quickly catching up, but millennials are still leading the race and hospitality is going above and beyond to adapt to this particular generation of consumers. Driving millennials to a hotel and keeping things as personal as possible has become a priority for hotels and, naturally, this includes direct bookings.
What happens though when millennials choose OTAs rather than booking directly on the hotel website? Unfortunately, this is not a rhetorical question, but a reality. Studies show that indirect bookings are on the rise - by June 2016, 27% of all U.S. hotel bookings were indirect, up from 23% two years earlier. Also, a report by the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), shows that about 30 percent of millennials reported using an online travel agency in the last 12 months - in addition, more than 45 percent indicated they would recommend using an OTA to friends or family.
For hotels, this means paying fees to a third party, which cannot be completely avoided, but it’s definitely not the most desired thing in matters of revenue. Giants like Priceline and Expedia have gotten to the point where they can afford to charge even up to 30% in commission.
It’s obvious now that the primary competition is no longer the one between hotels, but rather between hotels and OTAs. In this case, one question arises: what can hoteliers do in order to win the battle and drive millennials towards direct booking?
Once more, our favorite subject is the answer. Your hotel’s reputation is undoubtedly something that can influence the booking process, especially in the case of millennials. It’s a well-known fact that millennials, more than any other generation so far, are relying on the online world to search, book, and promote their travel. For them, a hotel’s online image, website, and reputation represents its business card and 82% of millennials consider online travel reviews important. As a hotelier, you have to make sure that your hotel’s reputation is out in the open and that it reaches the audience. Let’s refer to this as rule number one: visibility.
Beyond a technical level - you might already be familiar with SEO and rich snippets, which can boost the visibility of your hotel’s website -, it’s important to know that customer reviews contribute to the overall quality of your website and your entire business. It’s a fast-paced world that we live in and millennials are highly selective when it comes to their time and attention. They want all of the information they can get and they want it now. Having reviews on your website means saving customers’ time by providing all of the necessary information and details in one place.
Also, consider this: in a previous white paper, we unveiled that 91% of travelers use search engines when looking for a hotel to book and 81% of them prefer using Google. Having as many Google reviews as possible enables a higher visibility for your business and your hotel website. The good news is that by using a post-stay feedback survey tool, like the one integrated into the TrustYou platform, customers can push their reviews on Google, therefore boosting your hotel’s online reputation and visibility.
Another thing that you can do in order to make sure that reviews convert to direct booking is to mind your social media accounts. Millennials are especially active on social media, more than any other generation and for them, not being on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, is pretty much equal to invisibility. It frequently happens that friends and acquaintances’ activity and recommendations on social media reaches the eyes of a larger audience, and that audience might be inclined to check out that hotel’s web page. Starting off on social, ending up in direct booking, that’s the goal here.
As an extra step, remember to properly advertise loyalty programs and memberships on social platforms! Offer perks as an incentive for booking direct, something like a free dinner, spa-access, anything that won’t break the bank, but will assure that travelers avoid OTAs and go straight to the source. Anything you can offer, anything that can make a difference in the booking process, make sure to put it out there!
To be completely honest, it’s already known and accepted that OTAs will always be around and, up to a certain level, hotels do need them. However, direct booking is something that belongs to you and you alone, so don’t shy away from using all of the possible means of reaching it, including your hotel’s positive reputation.