US Market Research Reveals Why People Prefer to Book on OTAs — Photo by Daniel Diosi & Partners
US Market Research Reveals Why People Prefer to Book on OTAs — Photo by Daniel Diosi & Partners

The week before we published the results of a market research, examining booking preferences and decision-making factors of travelers. The over 2,000-response survey revealed interesting insights about what factors make people stop scrolling OTAs and start liking particular hotels.

The report stirred great interest, and various hotel and travel industry news media cited the data and our findings.

To dig deeper into this topic, We did a follow-up research with Market Sampler, and got over 1,500 responses from US travelers about why they like to book either on OTAs or direct.

Once again, the results are very straightforward, debunking quite a few myths and theories we keep hearing from self-proclaimed experts selling hotel direct booking strategies.

The research results can be seen here:

Why do most travelers prefer to book on OTAs?

If prices are identical on OTAs and the hotel website, nearly 70% of respondents prefer to book on OTAs, and only 30% prefer to book directly on hotel websites. Let's see what is behind this.

The survey shows that most travelers prefer to book on OTAs, unless the hotel offers significant advantages, discounts, or inclusions for the same price. Top reasons US travelers prefer OTAs are simplicity, membership rates, and security.

On the other hand, the top reasons for not booking direct are poor booking experience, prices not being the best, and payment security concerns. Some 12% of people who prefer OTAs responded that they book on OTAs because it's faster than booking on hotel websites.

What are the key motivators for people who usually book direct?

From respondents who claim to book direct, we asked two additional questions. One is to share the topmost reason they book direct, and the other is what they expect hotels to offer as a reward for direct booking.

  • 28% shared that they book directly to ask for extras
  • 21% said that they book direct for the best price
  • 21% said they book direct because of loyalty programs
  • 18% said to negotiate a better rate
  • 11% books direct for direct booking benefits

These results question the status quo of direct booking benefits, and the top 28% segment suggests that getting more people to book directly might require letting guests ask for more customized extras. OTAs make it inconvenient to chat or communicate with the hotel directly to discuss any special requests about one's stay.

The same applies to the 21% who want to negotiate rates. These two groups add up to 49%, nearly half of direct booking customers would like to arrange either rates or extras with the hotel team.

We also asked what frequent direct bookers expect from hotels as a reward for direct bookings?

  • 37% would expect VIP service
  • 22% would expect significant discounts
  • 19% would welcome significant value-adds
  • 7% would like to have free spa treatments
  • 6% free minibar
  • 4% other additional services
  • 3.5% want free cancellation

These answers debunk the age-old revenue management strategy to prioritize free cancellation and better booking conditions to encourage direct bookings. The responses clearly outline that offering better cancellation policies is not a priority. This behavior might have something to do with the post-covid booking habits, to avoid non-refundable rates as much as possible.

What to do with this information? How to use it for your direct booking strategy?

The research results outline clear indications about what would motivate guests to book direct.

Please keep in mind that this research was done in the United States, so booking behavior and travel planning habits might be entirely different in your region. Reconciling this data with similar research projects done for particular hotel clients in Europe and Asia, the results are surprisingly similar.

In order to improve the direct bookings at your hotel or resort, data suggests the following:

  • reward direct bookings with plenty of extras
  • provide easy ways to get in touch with your hotel reservations team
  • don't assume that guests will choose to book direct because you have rate parity

Should you require specific market research, competitor analysis, brand audit, or consumer perceptions study for your hotel, visit Market Sampler to get a quote.