In today’s world, you need to develop an online distribution strategy for your small hotel that’s going to bring your business into the modern era and most importantly, increase your bottom line. As a boutique accomodation provider, you’ll be competing with large hotels to reach a global audience. Having an online distribution strategy will arm you with the tools you need to put in a good fight. Remember that even though you may not have as much money to invest in marketing as your larger competitors, you’ve always got the advantage of offering an authentic intimate experience to your guests. So here’s how to develop an online distribution strategy from scratch in four simple steps.
1. Create a brand
Your online distribution starts with your brand. Before getting your hotel out into the big bad world, you’ll want to start by considering who your desired market is and then positioning your brand to target them. Consider what makes your hotel special and then develop your unique selling point to put this into words, colours and ideas. Try to keep your public image consistent to unify your brand, and develop a special something that adds value to your service. Your brand will improve the experience of your guests, make that experience more memorable, and make it easier to spread the message about your service through social media and other avenues.
2. Use OTAs
Online travel agents or OTAs are going to be your main distribution channels other than your direct channel. Although they take a large cut in commissions (between 15-30%) they promote your hotel to an international audience, providing an invaluable source of income. Ideally, you want most of your bookings from your direct channel which will be commission free but unfortunately large OTAs are unavoidable. The best you can do is use fewer booking websites to save cost, and maximise these channels by running them efficiently. Always remember to adjust your rates to accommodate the cost of using OTAs, and if they hitch their commission rates, do the same with your rates.
3. Get software
Your online distribution strategy will be impossible to set up and manage without the correct software. If you haven’t already done so, you’ll want to invest in a property management system for small hotels. This will keep your basic management in check, make your life easy and reduce workload for you and your staff. From there, you’ll want to manage your distribution by integrating your PMS with your booking engine. Your best bookings will come directly from your website and unlike the OTAs, you won’t have to pay commissions for these. Next, to keep all of your booking channels up to date and prevent double bookings, you need to integrate your PMS with a channel manager (pro-tip: Preno now offers a channel manager and booking engine, as add-on’s to its existing PMS).
4. Troubleshoot problems
With your distribution strategy in action, you should be getting more bookings and increasing your revenue, while reducing your workload and freeing up time for yourself. But you might encounter some small glitches along the way. One of these is rate disparity across your various booking channels. Your channel manager should take care of this, but it can still happen when your OTA decides to offer a discount you can’t afford on your own site, or when you have mistakenly not updated your system. Simply being aware of these hiccups will prepare you for dealing with them when they arise.
Be sure to check our blog regularly for advice and tips on reducing the admin for your hotel so you can focus on delivering great guest experiences.