OTAs are a huge part of the hostel marketing game, and a valuable tool in your marketing toolbox. They will benefit from your hostel being listed on their site, and if managed correctly, so will you.
Fig Cakar, SiteMinder’s Managing Director for the Americas, wrote an article about making sure your OTA listings are beneficial for you. (SiteMinder is a channel manager for controlling your bed inventory across multiple OTAs)
Optimizing your online channels: 9 proven ways to make OTAs work for you
The answer may not be pleasing to all hoteliers, but it's a strategy I've seen work to incredible effect over the years. Work with your OTA partner, not against them.
Here is a summary of the nine methods:
- Know your market managers – get to know them personally, like you would any other business partner
- Recognize the OTA is a marketing and sales channel for your hotel – put up your best pictures and make sure your profiles are complete with descriptions, cancellation policies, and other important information
- Offer the same availability as you would your hotel website or any other channel – use a channel manager to make sure your inventory is always available for purchase
- Cleverly manage your rates and promotions – use OTAs to highlight time-sensitive promotions for events or other periods and get them in front of the eyes of travelers
- Carefully respond to guest reviews – only 36% of hoteliers respond to reviews
- Consider paid advertising – pay per click campaigns can give you more exposure and more control over your marketing message on the OTAs
- Focus on specific markets – try geo-targeting to narrow down your target audience to a specific market, like travelers in Spain
- Understand your competition – if they change rates, their occupancy or promotion may be due to something you could also be taking advantage of
- Consider entering into a preferred partner agreement – pay higher commissions for better search exposure
OTAs are easy marketing channels to use, so it makes sense to take advantage of the opportunity. Just don’t rely exclusively on any one channel or you risk losing control of your business.
Some other suggestions might include:
- Implement minimum stays - ensure guests have the time to fully experience and appreciate what you have to offer, resulting in better ratings
- Use Non-Refundable rates – make sure you don’t lose money by turning away paying guests while holding beds for someone who may never arrive
- Close availability for high-commission channels in peak periods – if you know you’re going to fill up anyway then don’t sacrifice money on unnecessary commissions
- Include OTA commissions in the price - offset the cost of customer acquisition and empower your guests by letting them choose if they want to pay commissions or book directly with you
From the perspective of a hostel operator, what other suggestions would you give for making OTAs work for you as a marketing channel?