Whenever we hear from an accommodation owner that they don’t get many direct bookings via their website, it is often simply a case of not having worked on a few simple things. We have put together a series of articles that focus on the 5 main things that should be worked on to ensure that your website brings in direct bookings. This is the first article, 4 more to follow!
Add a Booking system. Make it possible for a guest to book online on your website (or at the very least, view up to date availability).
In today’s impatient online world, consumers want to have the ability to purchase (in this instance book) whatever they want, when they want to. Many will not have the patience to send an email to the accommodation owner to either request to book, or worse, find out if the dates they want are available. So, unless your accommodation is unique and irresistible, if your website doesn’t have the ability for them to book online your best case scenario is that they book your accommodation via your listing on a large booking site or worse case, lose them to alternative accommodation where they can book direct and save on the booking fees.
It is highly likely that you will get more direct bookings if you have a proper booking system that will easily show site visitors your availability, and be able to book online. Booking systems don’t need to cost the earth, and not only will increase bookings but also can reduce an owner’s workload with online payments and automated emails to the guests as well as a multitude of other functionality that makes keeping track of your bookings/guests easier for you.
Nearly all booking systems also allow the ability to not take an instant booking if you prefer to vet each potential booking beforehand, and once you have done so you just confirm the booking and it then sets in motion deposit requests etc.
Alternatives to a Booking System
If your website shows up-to-date availability and has an enquiry form you will find that you do get enquiries, especially if accommodation is a premium (as it has been lately during the pandemic and people are desperate to find accommodation).
BUT – you may actually get LESS enquiries if your website displays a calendar but you don’t keep it updated. When we build a website for our customers we always recommend they think about adding a proper booking system but if they really don’t want to, our websites can include a free calendar that syncs with 3rd party calendars eg the calendar on your VRBO or Airbnb listing, so that the owner doesn’t need to manually update it – which whilst not as good as a proper booking system will allow site visitors to see current availability which in turn builds more trust and increases the chances of website booking enquiries.
Example: This site is using calendars instead of a booking system: Old King Street Farm
We often get asked how many of our owners use a booking system versus just a calendar, and it’s about 60 : 40 ratio – we don’t mind what our owners want to do, as long as they are aware that they are less likely to get direct bookings without a booking system in place. We are happy to discuss the merits of various booking systems with our customers, please get in touch if you have any questions!