Every success-minded property management company knows that major short-term rental platforms like Airbnb and Booking.com are indispensable distribution channels. Popular OTAs are a great way to catch first-time bookers whom you can then convert into loyal return guests and encourage to make reservations though your direct booking site. With direct sales boasting many benefits, most notably the ability to do away with commission fees and pocket more profit per reservation, you should focus considerable effort on turning return bookings into direct bookings. Here are some tried-and-true tips to get you started.
1. Make your website a resource
Your booking website should feature a whole lot more than bookable properties. By including helpful resources, like local recommendations, maps of the area and important property information, you’re giving guests a practical reason to visit your site during their stay and, in turn, giving yourself (and your website) the opportunity to make a lasting impression. Not only will your site then be in your guests’ search history, it’ll be in the back of their minds, something familiar for when they next need a place to stay in the area.
2. Offer discounts and promotions
The most surefire way to secure a return booking is by offering exclusive discounts to repeat guests. By making these redeemable through your booking website, you guarantee that the next reservation they make with you will be through your direct booking site. Be sure to mention this to your guests during their reservation or simply leave a sign in your properties indicating that those who enjoy their stays are invited to book again at a discounted rate.
3. Stay in touch
You know how it goes – out of sight, out of mind, which is why maintaining communication with previous guests is crucial. Of course, you need to find a balance between disappearing completely and overloading them with emails. Best practices include sending well wishes before major holidays (preferably with some sort of discount), notifying them about significant business developments like the addition of new properties to your portfolio and, of course, inviting them to enjoy specific promotions, all of which can be done through automated emails so you can put this task on the backburner and focus on other aspects of your business. Be sure to include a link to your site and your social media channels at the bottom of every email you send.
4. Encourage social (media) connection
Speaking of social media, it’s one of the most effective avenues to earning a loyal following of guests. By regularly sharing attractive snapshots of your properties, reviews from satisfied guests, announcements about upcoming events in the area and other things of that nature, you can keep people engaged with your brand and build connections with potential bookers. You can incentivize guests to connect with you on these platforms by offering discounts or gifts (like on-the-house drinks, delivered to their door) to those who share photos on social media and tag your business, which also helps to draw more traffic to your profile and ultimately earn you more direct bookings.
5. Learn about your guests
When you’ve got guests staying in your properties, you have a unique opportunity to learn about the exact consumers you’ll be targeting in the future. Either before, during or following their stays, ask guests to fill out a quick form indicating the purpose of their visit as well as any other useful information, such as birthdays and anniversaries. You can then use this intel in your marketing efforts to close with these guests again, either by inviting them to stay with you for an upcoming milestone or simply wishing them well on celebratory occasions. Remember, the best sales tactics don’t look like sales tactics. By simply showing your guests you’re invested in their happiness, you leave an impression that’s likely to pay off the next time they want to travel.
Make future reservations direct
There are plenty of ways to draw former guests to your direct booking website and encourage them to make their future reservations there without coming on too strong. The trick is handing them all the information they need, giving them the incentive they need and letting them come to the right conclusion on their own. And, of course, if you provide the ultimate combination of an unforgettable stay and a user-friendly website experience, turning directly to your property management company for all their future bookings will be the obvious conclusion.
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This post was contributed by Guesty, a short-term rental property management platform that automates and streamlines the daily, complex operations of managing flexible inventory.