Product  |  19 August 2021 |  Tom Brown

How to get real guest emails from OTA bookings

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Love them or hate them, OTAs still have a prominent part to play in generating hotel bookings. But we’re not here to talk about the merits of boosting bookings vs the excessive commission rates. We’re here to talk about their relationship with your guests’ email addresses, and how Mews can help solve a longstanding problem. 

As you probably know, many OTAs refuse to share a guest’s real email with hoteliers. This is a wholly selfish move done to protect their business and to stop hoteliers reaching out directly to guests for future bookings. Their solution is to generate temporary emails so that guests and hoteliers can still communicate, but only temporarily. Guests don’t usually know about this process and it means that OTAs effectively control the conversation, which can’t continue after the stay once the email expires. That’s not cool. 

For all the hard work that you and your team put in to giving guests a remarkable stay, the least you deserve is an email address. So what’s a hotelier’s best defence? The answer: the Mews virtual concierge, also known as the guest portal. 

 

What does the Mews guest portal do?

Part of Mews Guest Journey, the guest portal is a way of capturing the guest’s real email address. Once the booking has been made through the OTA, guests are invited to perform online check-in with Mews. Once the registration card, companion details and payment information is filled in, we also ask for the real email address. This field only appears for OTA guests with masked emails, and it’s intentionally left to the end of online check-in so as not to harm the conversion. 

Once guests verify their actual email address (to ensure high security standards and prevent identity theft), it effectively means they have two profiles in the platform. All your hotel team needs to do is merge the two profiles before the guest arrives (using the profile with the genuine email address as the base profile) and that’s that. At the beginning this will be a manual process, but we’re already working on automating it to make things even easier for your reservations and reception teams. 

It works for all guests who have booked through booking.com, Airbnb, and Expedia, which equates to about 96% of all masked emails for Mews properties. Currently, those who booked through Agoda won't be able to provide real email addresses because those OTAs strip out the guest portal link from their email content – but we’re looking into solutions for how to get these guests using the virtual concierge as well. 

 

The benefits of collecting real email addresses

Now you know how Mews can gather genuine email addresses from your OTA bookings, but what are the benefits of doing so?

 

Drive more direct bookings 

We don’t need to tell you that direct bookings are great for business. A study found them to be 12.5% more profitable than OTA bookings, and considering that one third of all our hoteliers’ bookings are created through OTAs, there’s plenty of room to convert and maximize revenue – this can be done much more easily once you have real email addresses. 

Direct bookings give you a much better opportunity to upsell and cross sell, with everything from room upgrades to spa packages, and you can push them in expertly crafted pre-arrival emails rather than relying on staff to promote them in person during check-in. Get this right and it’s a triple win: not only do you cut out OTA commission rates, but you lower acquisition costs and increase your RevPAG. 

 

Improve the guest experience 

Once you have the correct email address, you can identify returning guests before arrival. This way you can give them a more tailored welcome, using the data you’ve collected on them in the past to make them feel special. This could be a simple ‘Welcome back’ by the receptionist, or it could be that you’ve placed a complimentary Peroni in their room because you know they took plenty from the minibar on their previous stay. 

It’s also a much smoother check-in if your property already has the guest’s real email. There’s no reason to collect is manually during physical check-in, which means you can ditch the unnecessary paper registration cards and make it a much speedier process. 

 

Maintain an accurate database 

Few things are more infuriating than messy data. It forces you to make marketing and business decisions based on inaccurate information, limiting how effective you can be. For instance, if the same person books five different stays at your hotel, each time through an OTA, this will create five unique profiles in your PMS. Once you merge guest profiles, you’ll have a cleaner, more accurate database. 

 

Easier future communication 

With a true email address, communication is streamlined. No more unanswered, jumbled, or delayed conversations caused by going through an OTA extranet. Also, once the OTA-generated temporary email expires, that’s it. There’s no other way to contact your guest by email. Capture it and staying in touch will be much easier. You can include them in campaigns and direct booking incentives, let them know about lost and found items, or inform them about payment or bill discrepancies

 

Increase security 

Mews always verifies the guest’s email address, which minimizes the possibility of a guest providing a mistyped or dummy email. Just as importantly, it means that you can be sure the email really belongs to the guest. Why is this important? Because the guest profile is full of sensitive personal information, and you don’t want to enable unauthorized access to this data in any guest application that uses email authorization.  

 

Increase the reach of your loyalty program 

Building a loyalty program is a great way to ensure return guests in an environment that’s more competitive than ever. Even better, it’s a way to encourage a higher percentage of direct bookings, and the amount you’ll ‘lose’ on loyalty discounts will be much smaller than the amount you’d lose through high OTA commissions on the equivalent booking. Capturing the guest’s real email address and merging it into your hospitality cloud means that you’ll be able to market to them directly and get them to join your loyalty program.  

 

OTAs aren’t going anywhere, so we have to learn to live with them. Being able to capture real guest emails with Mews is a good step to limiting their drawbacks and taking back some control.  

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Tom Brown
19 August 2021