Book Direct Day

bed with brown bedspread and burgundy accents
Gray page with red letter February 5th and light blue letter Book Direct Day!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 5, 2020, managers and owners of independently owned inns, bed and breakfasts (B&Bs), lodges, boutique hotels, and vacation rentals are spreading the word.  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.

 

A Common Problem

Guests and the general public are being misled. Recently the Association of Lodging Professionals and ACORN Services conducted a Google Survey of 1000 random Google users (ages 18-65+).  Here is what the users noted about the blue BOOK A ROOM button when booking a room through their Google search:
  • 25.6% said yes, the blue BOOK A ROOM button would allow them to book direct.
  • 44.1% said they didn’t know.
  • Only 30.3% said no, the blue BOOK A ROOM button wasn’t a direct booking.
Since the last answer is the correct one, that means that 69.7% of those surveyed are confused or do not understand that the blue BOOK A ROOM button is indeed booking with an OTA and not directly to the lodging property.  In order to book direct , you must click on the much smaller “website” button to go to the property website.
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 lodging. We are spreading the word that booking your lodging needs directly through/with the property has many advantages.

Online travel agents (OTAs) like Expedia, AirBnB, and Priceline are huge competitors in the travel industry. Everyone knows you can book an entire vacation using one of these online services. They use huge commercial advertising campaigns to attract your business.  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, and 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 other small lodging businesses 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:
  • 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
  • Accommodation descriptions are forced into preset forms that sometimes result in inaccurate or misleading information
  • They will have less flexibility with booking dates
  • Travelers don’t have access to all properties/rooms available at a property

Additionally, a current lawsuit involving Expedia and its subsidiaries is seeking summary judgement against the OTA giant. Expedia takes the name and information of a Bed & Breakfast / Inn property and lists it on their site without any contractual or business relationship. The result is an unauthorized advertisement with false information, since Expedia and the other Defendants have not been given room inventory by the property.

  1. The false statement of “sold out” (or a variation indicating ‘no rooms available’) leads the potential guest away from attempting to make a reservation.  Of course the OTA has several other suggestions for a quick booking.
  2. The OTAs claim that small businesses do not need to list their entire inventory.  Then they use the same practice mentioned above with these Inns as well.  They mark them as “sold out” when there are still rooms available.
  3. Repeated efforts by individual inns who contacted Expedia have had no result.
  4. Rather than rely on the deceptive marketing practices of OTAs, contact the Inn directly to determine if there is availability for the night(s) in question.
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/-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.  In order to pay more to the large company middlemen for this perceived convenience and ease, lodging properties need to raise prices to pay the commissions. They also may need to 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. 

The following recently appeared on one small B&B website, they felt it was necessary to close:     “The travel industry has changed over the last few years and it has become increasingly hard to compete with the OTA’s (Expedia, Hotels.com, Booking.com, etc.) for direct bookings to our Bed & Breakfast. It is also hard to compete with Airbnb when they don’t have to follow the same rules (or any rules) and regulations that we adhere to as a licensed B & B. In the past few years, Google has also changed its search algorithms making it harder to drive traffic to our own website. Because of these and other reasons, we have found it necessary to close the business. Our website will be coming down soon, but our Facebook page will be up and running for a while.”

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 a larger player in the travel industry.  The new algoritm is another added 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.  Of course Google will also rectify this if we pay Google for a hotel ad.  Doing so will allow us to be in the price listings with the OTAs.

The answer is to take a brief moment to type or copy the name of the property 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.  And remember that if you wind up  at the BLUE BOOK A ROOM button, it will take you back to the OTAs.  Use the website button for access to Book Direct!

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Share this Information

We hope this blog post has helped you to be more informed  about your future accommodation reservations.  We ask you to please share this information with your friends and family and #BookDirect!