4 ways B&Bs can win the war against online travel agencies

4 ways B&Bs can win the war against online travel agencies

Very quietly in the world of boutique accommodation a battle has been raging between accommodation providers and online travel agencies (OTAs). The battle is fast becoming a war over who is able to win the guests’ booking.

Third party booking websites are winning as they invest millions into featuring top on search engines, provide instant booking facilities, free cancellations and the introduction of loyalty schemes providing frequent booker discounts, all while charging the B&B at least 17% commission per night.

But the war is certainly not lost as B&B owners fight back against loosing on average £5,000 per month in commission to the OTAs.

They’re taking action by improving their online presence to compete with these giants. Here are the 4 most effective ways they’re winning the war against online travel agencies.

1. First, guests need to find the website: improve rankings on search engines.

The surge in third party booking sites in recent years means competition for a bed and breakfast’s own website to feature above them on search engines like google is increasingly fierce. Add to that the daily phone calls from companies promising to improve the SEO (search engine optimisation) of a website so it features on page 1 of google, and a busy business owner would be forgiven for being overwhelmed with where to start.

Our answer is simple. Here at Pump the websites we design and build are search engine optimised as standard so B&B owners can focus on running their business. Going forward we can even regularly create fresh content by writing blogs or articles – a guaranteed way of topping up SEO.

For example, by spending time crafting a search engine optimised website for Rook Lane House, search for ‘bed and breakfast in Frome’ and the boutique accommodation will appear on the first couple of pages. And this is having a direct positive impact on their business. Since the site launched six months ago, owner Claire Rose has reported an increase in direct bookings of 25%.

2. Second, the website needs to sell the experience: invest in professional photography.

Investing in professional photography is the first step in sparking an emotional response with guests by showing them how wonderful it will be to stay at the accommodation. The photographs will not only sell the experience on the website but will also make a B&B look consistently appealing across other platforms including social media, printed marketing materials and on third party booking sites.

Anyone who’s tried to photograph rooms will know how notoriously difficult they are to capture looking their best. A professional will come equipped with lighting, lenses and a wealth of experience to overcome those challenges to produce a photography toolkit giving the rooms, food and accommodation the wow factor.

Bridstow Guest House in Ross on Wye employed Pump to produce a photography toolkit when we were designing and building their website. The images have been used to promote the luxurious guest house on their website, their online booking system, on third party booking sites, on social media and even used to print a range of postcards for guests to send to friends and family during their stay.

This has led to an average direct booking rate of 70% across four years with half of those guests returning for at least an extra stay.

3. Third, allow guests to book direct: install an instant online booking system.

The top reason guests we’ve spoken to use third party booking sites is convenience. They want to see availability, book with a credit card and receive confirmation of their booking instantly. Without a facility to book online via their website, a guest house owner is likely to miss out on the sale at worst to a competitor who has invested in an online booking system and at best to a third party booking site, losing at least 17% in commission.

Now like lots of aspects of the internet the choice of booking systems that are available to embed into a B&B website can be overwhelming. But that’s why a team like Pump can be useful to turn to – because we’ve done the hard work.

For a number of years we’ve connected B&B owners – like Rook Lane House and Bridstow Guest House, with a British based company who are competitively priced for a range of accommodation sizes. Their prices start at around £40 a month for properties with as little as two rooms, up to a cap of £180 per month for larger properties.

We’re not in anyway affiliated with this company, we’ve simply found them to be the best at providing a cost effective, easy to use booking system to encourage guests to book direct. It also provides the boutique accommodation owner with a brilliantly easy customer relationship management system helping them run their business effortlessly.

4. Finally, make the website a valuable resource: write useful articles promoting the local area

B&B owners are the experts in their local area and a hugely valuable resource when a guest is planning their stay. Writing articles which promote upcoming events, shows, attractions, restaurants and bars has a number of benefits.

First, it encourages the guest to stay as it promotes everything the vibrant area has to offer – and could even encourage a return trip later in the year if other events take their fancy.

Next, it shows the guest that the owner is expert in everything that’s going on, meaning they’ll not only have an enjoyable stay but there’ll be plenty of advice on hand to make their most of their visit compared to staying elsewhere.

And finally, useful articles add far more value for the guest during the booking process compared to OTAs, meaning they’ll feel more reassured booking direct.

Pump have just been employed by a serviced apartment in Bristol to write monthly articles for their website to promote the local area. With articles planned to be published later this year, they hope to increase direct bookings from 5% to 50%, saving thousands in monthly commission to OTAs.

Need some help?

Pump are experts in helping busy B&B or Guest House owners save thousands of pounds in commission from OTAs by offering simple, transparent, effective ways to improve their website to encourage guests to book direct.

Get in touch to arrange a free consultation where we can explore ways to help you.

Roz Hutchings