10 tips for hoteliers to capture direct international sales as travel resumes


One of the biggest
challenges of direct sales is acquiring foreign clients who usually book their
holidays through online travel agencies, especially through Booking.com and Expedia.

Among the
many reasons that motivate this decision is the trust placed in these powerful
brands (together with unawareness of your hotel brand or name), as well as the
fact that OTAs frequently offer better prices in these markets that are more
competitive than those offered on your own website. “Selective disparity” is
one of OTAs’ biggest secrets to success.

But the attraction of
OTAs is about more than just “brand” and “price” – there are other reasons like
usability, simplicity and adaptability to the cultural differences and
consumption habits of the tourist’s source market.

We have pinpointed 10
features your direct channel must have to adapt to international clients and be
able to compete with OTAs on equal terms.

Detect your client’s language and automatically adapt your
website

Usually clients will land
on the version of your website in their language. Google usually makes sure of
this by properly indexing the different languages your website is in and
redirecting users from the browser to the appropriate language.

But it is important to
note that there are relevant accesses to your website that do NOT automatically
redirect users to their preferred language:

  • Direct traffic
    – The one that reaches your domain directly, without going through Google. This
    type of traffic usually accounts for between 10 and 15% of your website’s total
    traffic, which is a significant amount.
  • Google
    MyBusiness traffic – Where you are only allowed to input one URL,
    which usually redirects to your home page (or the hotel details, in the case of
    a chain).

According to our research, about 34% of all visits to your
website from Google come through MyBusiness, a figure that reaches 37% on
mobile phone devices, where the link is much more visible.

When these clients land
on your home page, you should address them in their own language, otherwise,
there is a good chance they will leave the site. The worst part is that you
will often have that language on your website, but if the default language is
English and you expect the user to manually change the language, you are asking
too much. 

If your hosting provider
does not auto-detect the user’s language, ask them to configure it to do
so. In this other post we tell how to test whether your
website auto-detects languages or not.

This is an important feature to internationalize
your direct sales that substantially improves user experience, thus increasing
conversion.

Show prices in the user’s currency, not yours

A common error is showing
prices in the currency you charge in (EUR in Europe, USD in the United States
or the Caribbean, etc.). This might feel natural to you as a hotelier but it’s
not to your guests.

They are used to their own currency and, if shown your currency,
will have to mentally calculate the exchange rate or use a calculator, which is
inconvenient and prone to error.

Providing a currency
converter on your booking engine is a lesser evil, but it has two problems: (1)
users might not find it or (2) they might not find their currency, as only two
or three options are featured.

Showing rates in the
user’s currency is just as important as informing the hotel that the payment
will be done in another currency, and that the exchange rate might vary from
the day of booking to the day of arrival.

Show prices excluding tax in markets where this is common
practice

In certain countries like
the Unites States, prices are typically shown excluding tax, local fees and
resort fees. This is how OTAs and metasearch engines do it. On the other hand,
many hotels make the mistake of showing prices including tax on their website,
making them look (even if they aren’t) more expensive than OTAs, leading users
to book through the latter.

If you use a gateway to charge your guests, let them use their
own currency

Just as we must show
prices in the user’s currency (and not the hotel’s), it is advisable you offer
guests the possibility of paying directly in their own currency, when the rates
are non-refundable and have to be paid online.

Japanese users will
always feel more comfortable paying in JPY than in USD or EUR.

What’s more,
their banks will probably charge them a commission for the conversion, which
will make the transaction more expensive (especially when using debit cards;
with credit cards this happens less often).

Accept alternative
payment methods other than credit card

An increasing number of
users pay for their online shopping or bookings by using alternative forms of
payment (AFOP). Some of the most popular options are PayPal, Amazon Pay and
Sofort.

It is highly recommended you offer users these alternatives and let the
user be the one to choose their preferred method, otherwise those who are more
used to them could turn to OTAs, which are increasingly offering more
alternative options.

Divide your rates by market as a strategy or a tactic against OTAs

There are still hotels,
especially in the holiday sector, that offer different rates for different
source markets. Nowadays, while technically possible, it is more difficult to
implement and control, even though it can still be a worthwhile strategy if
done properly.

For those who offer the
same prices to all markets, there is a key reason for which to consider
offering different prices to different countries: to compete with the OTAs in
markets where your direct channel is not doing so well but OTAs are thriving.

Offering prices per market helps acquire a higher number of guests from these
countries without negatively affecting your global ADR. 

Although this practice is
less widely used in direct channels, it isn’t new to OTAs. Expedia and Agoda (the dominant
“merchant” type OTAs) are the ones that most deploy this tactic (sometimes with
your consent, sometimes without it).

And now that Booking.com is starting to
turn towards the “merchant” model (thanks to its Early Payment Benefit program),
it will also be able to offer disparate prices like this.

Analyze where your own
website sells and where each OTA does so and design a pricing policy per source
market. You will recover direct sales and improve your distribution margin.

Offer different prices
per market on your website and on metasearch engines

Offering different rates
depending on the guest’s country is only the first step, but it won’t be much
good if metasearch engines keep showing your regular rates (instead of the
discounted ones) in said markets.

Remember that OTAs already vary your prices
according to the market and the Google point of sale (POS) to get more
conversion. As a hotel you should always check the OTA prices as if you were a
final customer and not look at it from your hotel.

To do this you can change
your IP to go online or use this simple trick to configure Google to show you the results as if you were in another
country

You should make sure to
show in each country the rate set in your booking engine, which will help you
improve your sales and investments in metasearch in those markets
(impressions, CTR or click through rate, conversion and profitability). 

Offer your website and booking engine in as many languages as
possible (using common sense)

It is surprising to see
hotels in international destinations with websites and booking engines only in
English and Spanish or French, leaving out other important languages such as
German, Portuguese, Chinese and Russian.

Each destination has its own source
markets and those are the ones you must cover. Most users feel more comfortable
in their native languages and when they do not find it on your website, they
turn to OTAs.

Maintaining a website and
booking engine in several languages is no easy feat, as it requires constant
supervision to make sure everything is ordered and coherent, but it is
certainly worth the effort if you have a large demand from those countries.

What does not make sense is translating your website into languages that are
not relevant to your sales as you will end up forgetting about them, and they
will ultimately reflect badly on your site.

Provide clear information
on local fees should there be any

A common error is to
leave out or offer vague information about the “local fees” such as the “resort
fee” or “service fee” that some hotels use.

If you misinform or fail to be
precise, many clients will flee your website knowing there is a fee but not
knowing whether it is included in the price nor how much it even is. Once more,
OTAs excel at this.

Adapt to the local market and its habits

The first day of the week is Monday
or Sunday depending on the country
. In Japan, the United States,
Canada, Brazil – the week starts on Sunday, in Europe on Monday. You
should make sure to adapt your calendars to the style of your main source
markets, as not doing so can lead to confusion and frustration.

Another common mistake is
to publish dates with a dd/mm format such as 07/06 to refer to 7 June, when for
an American that means 6 July. Check how your booking engine appears to these
users, whether you are offering them a calendar that makes sense to them and a
metric system they understand.

Conclusion

Boosting your official
website’s sales in international markets is always a challenge. But the first
thing you must do is make sure you are technologically prepared. Otherwise you
will become easy prey for the OTAs that have mastered adapting to markets and
users.

Meeting these 10
requirements will make your job a lot easier, but they do not necessarily
guarantee success. On top of good tech, you need a good strategy. Only then is
success guaranteed.

About the author…

Pablo Delgado is CEO of Mirai.



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