A vacation rental colleague told me a surprising story of how a return guest declined her direct booking discount, and made a more expensive booking through an OTA! Thank you Helen for this story, with some messages for us all.
Helen is doing all the right things for direct bookings. She has her own website, a presence on Google My Business/ Maps and a clear discount in a voucher she sends to previous guests to book direct.
Imagine her surprise when an enquiring guest said she was returning and declined Helen’s 9% direct booking discount, but instead chose to book via booking.com – “for the cashback to my credit card”.
It turns out that booking.com is advertising to previous guests that they can get an (unstated) cashback in May if they book with booking.com. On signing up to the discount company so you can check the discount, you find it is just 4%, well under the 9% Helen offers!
People behave strangely. Some motorists backtrack 10 km so they can get a 4 cent per litre fuel discount, costing far more than they get for the fuel discount! Some vacation rental guests can behave the same way. Maybe they have spent so much time finding a discount, they will pursue it irrationally to justify their wasted time.
Here is the booking.com offer, offered by shopback: https://www.shopback.com.au/booking-com. The long sign up process to find the offer is followed by a tacky email talking about other offers, and there is NO unsubscribe option as required by privacy legislation! Says it all really.
So what can you do to attract direct bookings?
I continue to send out monthly newsletters to my past guests and keep reinforcing the discount for past guests booking direct – it works!
Helen’s winning strategy
Helen doesn’t have a newsletter, but she has actually solved the problem better in her overall strategy. She goes out of her way to make personal contact with 95% of her guests – and they love it. Many become regular repeat guests. One Singapore couple have been returning for 26 years. And overall about half her bookings are repeats! Who cares if one person is distracted by the 4% irrational booking.com discount?
She also now has a story to tell her guests – make sure you book direct for a genuine discount and don’t be sidetracked by other gimmicky discounts!
Email me if you have some other direct booking tactics.