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The next Revolution: Direct-First Independent Hotel Brands

June 25, 2024 5 min read
Independent hotel brands harness technology for direct first strategy


The next Revolution: Direct-First Independent Hotel Brands

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Maintaining a strong hotel brand is essential for long-term success in the hospitality industry, as the behemoths Marriott, Hilton and Accor prove. Robust brands provide stability and reliability, crucial during uncertain times. Smaller brands and independent hotels invest in guest experience, but often not in their brand. Despite the convenience of third-party platforms, small brands and independent hotels have the opportunity to run a direct-first strategy by controlling their brand and safeguarding their digital presence, inventory, and customer relationships.

Hotel Tech Stacks are getting increasingly complex

Historically, hotels have largely relied on three-letter acronym software packages like PMS, CRS and CMS to operate their business. In the last few years hoteliers had to take notice of additional issues like website visibility on Google and Meta-search. Recently, pulverization of features and functionalities for hotels (payments, chatbots, experiences) and democratization of technology like rate shopping and RMS have led to an increasingly complex tech stack even for small brands.

The Pitfalls of Relinquishing Control

Against this background of tech complexity, the big brands and third-party platforms promise operational ease. However, entrusting them with your hotel’s online business will lead to a loss of control over your brand. This makes hotels vulnerable to policy changes as the recent change in’s prepaid rates changes demonstrate.

Another alternative is to select an all-in-one solution provider. However, that solution is also one of getting locked in and relinquishing control, whereby strong independent brands will be competing with stronger sales & marketing solutions from independent providers.

Direct-First Brands Harness Technology

If you have a run-of-the-mill 3-star hotel by a highway there is probably not much you can do in terms of differentiation, and relinquishing control may be an effective option. But, if you have a special property and guest experience, a story to tell, you must select a solution that maximizes your opportunity for direct-first.

Adopting a direct-first strategy allows hotels to maintain control and strengthen their direct business. By leveraging technology effectively, hotels can enhance the guest experience and increase revenue. Here are five key steps to achieve this:

1. A Unified Website and Booking Engine Experience

To give guests a hassle-free and transparent booking process where they are more likely to convert, you should ensure a deep integration between the hotel website and booking engine for a smooth, uninterrupted user journey from browsing to booking. This integration allows guests to effortlessly browse rooms, check real-time availability, and view Best Available Rates (BAR) directly on the website without redirections or barriers.

Your tech solution should keep all information synchronized across the booking engine and website, ensuring that any promotional offers or updates displayed on the website, such as teasers or pop-ups, are immediately reflected on the booking engine, and the guest simply needs to complete the transaction. This cohesive approach builds trust with guests by providing accurate and consistent information throughout their booking journey, aligning marketing efforts with revenue strategies to optimize the overall guest experience.

2. Minimal Friction in the Guest Experience

As technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, guest expectations for ease in their online browsing and transactional processes are high. When collaborating with a solutions provider, your goal should be to design the booking process in a way that minimizes steps and clicks for guests, ensuring a swift and hassle-free experience that maximizes conversion rates.

Real-time access to rates and availability plays a crucial role in guiding guests’ purchasing decisions, and hotels should prominently display this information throughout the hotel website. Tools like Date Select Pro offer an immersive experience where guests can instantly view up-to-date rates and availability in different areas of the hotel website.

Additionally, hotels should use tools that seamlessly integrate rates and availability into room or package pages, empowering guests to select their preferred dates directly from these pages. This integration ensures a smooth transition to the booking engine, where guests find their selections pre-populated, simplifying the final booking steps.

Your hotel should also utilize enhanced conversion tools on your website that reduce abandonment rates and create urgency to book, such as shopping activation or shopping recovery widgets. Furthermore, to give hesitant guests greater booking flexibility on your direct channel, features like Rezlock can give guests the option to lock-in their preferred rates for a future stay.

3. Publish Targeted Offers, Campaigns, and Incentives to Book Direct

To increase profitability and reduce reliance on third-party platforms, it’s crucial for hotels to incentivize guests to book directly by tailoring offers for their target market segments. Your hotel should prominently feature specific offers just one click away from booking, including limited-time discounts, special packages, or exclusive deals for direct bookers. Providing direct booking incentives, such as special pricing conditions for groups, weddings, and other events, can also effectively drive direct bookings.

Utilizing the power of technology, your hotel can seamlessly target a broader audience, including social media, corporate markets, travel agents, and partners with specialized campaigns that are likely to generate more business. These campaigns should have unique prices, cancellation policies, guarantees, and payment methods tailored to the specific needs of each audience.

4. Rooms or Package-Centric Approaches

A fully integrated hotel website and booking engine with the ability to adopt a rooms or package-centric approach enhances user experience and revenue potential by catering to diverse guest preferences.

The rooms-centric approach emphasizes selling individual rooms based on their specific characteristics to maximize room occupancy and revenue per available room (RevPAR). This approach focuses on highlighting the unique features and benefits of each room type, allowing guests to select from various room types tailored to their needs and budget. Each room category is detailed with amenities and visuals to aid decision-making.

Alternatively, the package-centric approach appeals to guests seeking comprehensive and convenient stays, because it bundles accommodation with additional services such as meals, spa treatments, or local experiences. Guests can also choose to simply book experiences like spa treatments or dining, adding accommodation later if needed. This flexibility ensures that the booking process is personalized and meets guests’ specific preferences, whether they prioritize accommodation, experiences, or a combination of both.

5. Open Platform for Innovation

To achieve all of the above, hotels need technology, plain and simple. The starting point would be to invest in a solution that seamlessly consolidates all online marketing and sales activities to meet the diverse needs of your guests and encourage them to book direct.

However, it’s important that you have an open platform, enabling you to easily enhance, improve, and adapt as market conditions change and technology evolves. Your tech solution should integrate seamlessly with the latest technological innovations, ensuring your hotel stays ahead of market trends, improves service offerings, and continuously enhances guest experiences.


By embracing a direct-first strategy and harnessing cutting-edge technology, independent hotels can assert control over their brand, elevate guest experiences, and boost profitability. Amidst the complexity of technological advancements and industry jargon, the ultimate goal should be to invest in solutions that simplify operations and align closely with core business objectives. It’s crucial for hotels to prioritize user-friendly technologies that not only meet current needs but also evolve seamlessly alongside market trends.

By starting with a straightforward approach and gradually enhancing capabilities, hotels can effectively navigate changes in the hospitality landscape while maintaining flexibility to scale. Partnering with a technology provider that supports continuous growth and innovation ensures that hotels can adapt swiftly and remain competitive in a dynamic market environment.


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