The secret is out: Boutique hotels have to be competitive in the current marketplace.

To win direct bookings, hospitality companies must take part in what’s essentially a numbers game—and smaller hotels need to implement a particularly strategic approach.

The truth? Competing online may seem cost-prohibitive, but boutique hotels can level the playing field by using the same techniques as large chains. This will virtually eliminate the need for online travel agents (OTAs), which tend to charge hefty fees and take away from the overall guest experience.

Here’s the thing: Innovative marketing technologies can carry boutique hotels through every step of the guest lifecycle. All it takes is the right partner. Yet to simplify your digital marketing in today’s complex world, everything must work in tandem.

With that, go ahead and take the five following steps to get started on your journey. You’ll soon be well-positioned to stop depending on OTAs.

1. Improve Your Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Have you mastered the art of SEO?

To attract guests and land direct bookings, you need to first and foremost improve your organic visibility. This means you’ll want to keep your content fresh and readable, with the goal of increasing your ranking on search engines like Google, Bing, and about 20 other platforms.

How can you make this happen? The process requires careful planning. People online generally visit a number of sites simultaneously, comparing information such as price, quality, reputation, efficiency, and the overall vibe.

Making a decision takes time, but the guest journey begins with a single search. And one thing is certain: Higher organic traffic will propel your visibility on the web. Those direct bookings will likely follow.

2. Revamp Your Website

When it comes to attracting guests, your website is critical.

In most cases, it’s the first thing leads see. This means your site must follow industry best practices, including hotel web design guidelines that exceed modern travelers’ expectations.

Some proverbial food for thought: A captivating website should appeal to prospective guests’ emotions and their sense of aesthetic, allowing them to complete bookings with ease while enjoying a virtual tour of sorts. You might think of your website as your lobby, and you want guests to feel comfortable the moment they set foot inside.

So, rather than booking potential guests with deals through OTAs, why not give them the engagement they’ve been hoping for? From dreaming to planning, and from booking to experiencing and eventually sharing, a powerful website will make all the difference in capturing leads.

Be sure to make your site mobile-friendly and include direct incentive messaging for even better results.

3. Consider Your Reviews and Reputation

Reviews significantly impact your reputation and play an essential role in the guest decision-making process.

But when it comes to dealing with reviews, boutique hotels are initially at a disadvantage. This is because they are more easily affected by negative ratings than their large hotel counterparts.

However, once they start collecting positive reviews, smaller establishments can really take the reins of their reputation. This is why reputation management is so important. A solid reputation management system will give boutique hotels insightful analytics into the aspects of the guest experience consumers enjoyed most, and those areas where there’s room for improvement.

From there, you can make changes as needed. Just keep in mind that positive reviews help to build consumer confidence and trust, and that they will result in more direct bookings than ever if you keep them coming in.

4. Focus on Demand Generation

Are you proactively engaging in multichannel targeted advertising campaigns?

If not, you’ll want to make demand generation a crucial part of your process. It will help you generate more leads and gain higher website conversion rates.

You might think of demand generation as a funnel, the same way you see lead generation. The process first involves identifying your target audience, and then carrying prospects through an immersive journey that touches on every stage of the conversion process.

The goal here is to keep your hotel’s marketing and sales initiatives in close alignment. From SEO to social media campaigns, this process will also include email and marketing optimization.

5. Evaluate Your Distribution and Channel Management

Finally, you’ll want to revisit your distribution and channel management to increase those direct bookings.

A mobile-first booking engine, along with the right channel management technology, can go a long way in elevating your sales distribution and yield management activities.

A word of encouragement: Try to find solutions without complicated server or software installations.

And to propel your revenue further, plan to monitor all your booking channels and inventory from a single hub—keeping everything in sync with your post-marketing surveillance (PMS) for a harmonious booking and payment process.

With these steps in your arsenal, you can make the most of your digital presence and gain more direct bookings. To succeed in today’s landscape—and push past the need for OTAs—boutique hotels must adopt an inclusive digital strategy to fuel demand. All aspects of this process must work in concert.

The result? Higher-than-ever direct channel revenue, and a major spike in demand in response to your digital activity. Your boutique hotel will more than likely watch those direct bookings come in no time.

Shri Lildharrie is the Managing Director of The Hotelogist, a digital consultancy and hospitality tech company. For the last two decades, Lildharrie has made a career of empowering boutique hotels, helping them master their digital channels to overcome online travel agency (OTA) dependency.

By succeeding online, boutique hotels can significantly boost their revenues and reduce their operational expenses—all while leveraging Lildharrie’s transparent, responsive, and trust-oriented approach.

Work with The Hotelogist, and hotels can enjoy state-of-the-art hospitality technologies, multichannel digital marketing services, and unparalleled direct channel revenue optimization. Please contact shri@thehotelogist.com to learn more.