February 6, 2019 by: Keith Hansen
Leisure and business travelers all benefit from booking directly through a bed and breakfast, inn, or hotel website! There is a misconception that using an OTA (Expedia, Booking.com, VRBO, etc.) is the best way to book a stay or vacation. On #BookDirect Day, February 6, 2019, managers and owners of independently owned inns, bed and breakfasts (B&Bs), lodges, boutique hotels, and vacation rentals spread the word that booking accommodations directly through/with the property has many advantages. This is a great time for travelers to take a minute to learn the real facts about making lodging reservations.
WHAT IS BOOK DIRECT DAY?
#BookDirect Day is held once a year in February. This is an online movement that brings together the managers and owners of independently owned inns, bed and breakfasts, lodges, boutique hotels, and vacation rentals to spread the word that booking accommodations directly through/with the property has many advantages.
Online travel agents (OTAs) like Expedia and Priceline are huge competitors in the travel industry. Everyone knows you can book an entire vacation using one of these online services, as described in their huge commercial advertising campaigns. But it’s not the best way, or the least expensive (despite their claims), for reserving accommodations. We outline some of the reasons below.
Advantages for Travelers Booking Direct
As travelers are dreaming and planning their next trip, they need to know that by booking direct, they will:
Get the best rates and the best offers
Have direct access to a manager/innkeeper who:
o can assist those who have special requirements
o can answer questions about the local area
Take advantage of any “extras” that are only offered to book-direct guests
Have access to information about specials and offers during non-peak travel times
Be able to easily add packages or add-ons to their stay
When a traveler uses an OTA
The average traveler doesn’t even know that they are often paying hidden fees. Additionally, bed and breakfasts, inns, and vacation rental companies end up sharing their profits, in the form of commissions, with these online giants. These commissions are usually 15-20% of their advertised rate. After all, someone has to pay for those big advertising campaigns.
Besides travelers paying OTAs’ hidden fees:
Travelers don’t have access to all properties/rooms available at a property
They won’t know about any of the property’s special offers and savings
Travelers won’t be able to add packages or add-ons to their stay when booking - they will have to do so as a separate transaction later
They will have less flexibility with booking dates
Accommodation descriptions are forced into preset forms that sometimes result in inaccurate or misleading information
The Convenience Factor
A big reason people book through OTAs is the perceived convenience. Although the OTAs have made booking through them easy, simple, and reliable on any device, they also pay for ads to get them listed higher on the Google results. They often use the names of the properties themselves, resulting in their presence being seen higher than the actual property on your devices.
Most small B&Bs and Inns cannot compete with this advertising in dollars or time spent. However, most properties have invested in or are working on:
Making their websites fast, responsive, and clearly laid-out
Detailing their accommodations through accurate words and pictures
Creating clear, obvious reservation buttons and tabs throughout the website
Explaining common pre-booking questions, such as check-in/check-out times, policies, breakfast availability, etc.
Making booking simple on desktop and mobile devices
Listing direct pricing that is not inflated for commissions and fees
Additionally, my experience is that the small B&Bs and inns provide a clear phone number, email address, and/or contact form on the website for guests who have more questions. They want to personalize your stay and make it comfortable.
The Price to Consumers
The ease of the internet is not always the best benefit to your pocketbook. Google and large OTA companies, in an effort to make more profits, are directing consumers away from direct booking opportunities. This in turn inflates the price of your accommodations. If you are willing to pay more to the large company middlemen for this perceived convenience and ease, all lodging properties will be forced to raise prices to pay the commissions, or reduce amenities to keep costs down. Small properties, such as locally owned and managed B&Bs like the Franklin Street Inn Bed and Breakfast, will continue to disappear if they cannot generate enough profit to stay in business.
Tips to Book Direct!
When surfing on your device for your accommodations, make sure you are on a property’s direct website. Make sure the listing does not have an OTA name as part of the URL. For example, our URL is https://www.franklinstreetinn.com, whereas an OTA listing would typically be https://www.expedia.com/Appleton-Hotels...
Additionally, Google just changed their algorithm again, and are trying to be more helpful to travelers, but at a cost to small properties. Unless one is paying for Google Ads (which occasionally we must do to rank higher in the listings), clicking on the Franklin Street Inn Bed and Breakfast picture listing on Google will take you to https://www.google.com/travel/hotels/Appleton... This in turn will take you to all the OTA listings and prices, but will not include a direct link to us.
The answer is to use Google or TripAdvisor to read about the properties in which you are interested. Then take a brief moment to copy the name of the property and paste it into your browser. This direct search will usually allow you to click on that properties direct website where you can enjoy the benefits of booking direct. Remember to check that you are on the property’s direct site by checking the URL.
Share this Information
We hope this blog post has helped you to make more informed decisions about your future accommodation reservations. We ask you to please share this information with your friends and family and #BookDirect!