I’m often asked by sales & marketing directors and General Managers how they can "win back" guests who have decided to make their travel plans via a third party site like Expedia, Travelocity or Hotels.com. The intent of course is how to increase online revenues and to build guest loyalty via direct marketing through the hotel’s own website, versus the third party sites.
One of the strategies I always recommend hoteliers deploy is what I call the "e-conversion program". Simply stated the e-conversion program offers "third party website guests" with a reason to book directly online with the hotel’s website…that reason being a preferred rate discount and/or upgrade upon check in. Here’s how it works:
- Set up a special rate code (an SRP code in most hotels) that floats a 10%-15% discount off your lowest published rate. Call this code your "e-conversion code" in your Property Management System (PMS).
- Have your General Manager draft a welcome letter offering your "third party website guests" the ability to use this discount code on future reservations by booking directly on your website.
- Run your daily arrivals list and identify your "third party website guests".
- Upon checking in a "third party website guest" hand them the General Manager’s welcome letter.
- Emphasis that they should book through your website in the future and to use the special "e-conversion code".
- Based on your availability, offer them a room upgrade for their current stay so they feel special on their current visit.
I deployed this program in over 250 hotels when I was Vice President of E-Commerce for Prime Hospitality (AmeriSuites, Wellesley Inns and Suites and Prime Hotels & Resorts) and it worked very well. We were able to increase each property’s ADR while winning back our clients. And best of all, the third party website DIDN’T have an issue with this!