How Malolo B&B Improved their “OTA to Direct” Bookings from 80:20 to 60:40 (And Improved Gross Margin)

When you’re a TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Award Winner like The Malolo Bed and Breakfast, securing OTA bookings is a cinch – but is it what you really want?

The charming Washington DC B&B is a labor of love for owner David Alaga, whose impeccable customer service lead to very high ratings on TripAdvisor (out of 50,000 B&Bs in the USA, they’re rated #22 – and #1 in their area). Guests experience firsthand the care that goes into everything, from the cozy rooms to the elaborate meals complete with authentic Hawaiian entertainment. Malolo means ‘to rest’ in Samoan, and that’s exactly what guests do when they’re at this property – it’s a little slice of Hawaii in DC.

The Problem: A Basic Website That Didn’t Drive Direct Bookings

After he opened the B&B, David wasn’t very focused on digital marketing – but in the second year of operation he launched a website which was largely ineffective at converting travel shoppers (driving bookings). Guests loved staying at the property, but his website failed to hold visitors’ attention – it was just a basic website that didn’t tell a story. According to David, his previous website “was flat, and just gave [travel shoppers] some pictures.

"People would come to the website before, stay for 30 seconds, and leave. Now people stick around for a while and book."

To highlight the house and his new bathrooms, he needed a convenient platform that would allow him to easily make changes to the website so it reflects his actual property. His previous website solution didn’t allow him to do any of that. 

His old website also presented some problems with the booking engine, since it didn’t integrate very seamlessly and as a result would confuse travel shoppers, forcing them to book on an OTA. This defeated the point of having a website. David had a problem and knew there must be a better way to manage his digital marketing.

"We want to leverage the OTAs, but not increase their commissions. We can’t cut them out completely, but we do want to reduce their commissions. [In order to do that], we needed a site that was intriguing, that created an experience [for travel shoppers], and that would encourage them to book."

The Solution: Vizlly and a High Converting Website

David chose Vizlly, a cloud based Digital Marketing System that gave him a better way to manage his B&B’s digital marketing with a responsive website design, which means that it looks great and encourages travelers to book no matter what device they’re using – smartphone, tablet or desktop. “We wanted a platform that would help us do our digital marketing properly,” he says. “Vizlly aligns with our goals."

With Vizlly, he was able to create a visually appealing website that actually tells a story about his B&B and keeps people on the site. “People would come to the website before, stay for 30 seconds, and leave,” David says. “Now people stick around for a while and book."

Not only does Vizlly help tell his B&B’s story better, but it provides a better booking process. His booking engine is no longer a challenge. “The booking engine I use works perfectly with Vizlly,” David says. “The [booking] experience for the customer is cohesive now."

Engaging With Customers in New and Powerful Ways

There are other benefits to the integration between Vizlly and his booking engine. David is leveraging Vizlly so he can understand what his customers want and do some target marketing. As he explains, “We can create offers and track each of those services clearly in the back end. With the marriage between [our booking engine tool] and Vizlly, we can build, based on statistics, what the travel customer actually wants."

Improved engagement doesn’t end with his Vizlly website – David is also using Vizlly’s Facebook Apps on his B&B’s page. The interactive apps allow his fans to view room details, special offers, and even check rates directly from Facebook. “Now, if I create a campaign and put it on Facebook, I’ll see a spike. I know people will see it,” he says.

The Result: Decreased OTA Commissions and a Spike in Direct Bookings

Now that the Malolo B&B has a compelling website that keeps travel shoppers on the page, shoppers are sticking around to book there directly. David’s bookings were 80% from OTAs and only 20% directly from his website. After 3 months using Vizlly, 40% of his business now comes from direct bookings and only 60% from OTAs. When you consider the reduced commissions that the Malolo is now paying to OTAs, that’s a significant amount of money saved.

David credits his B&B’s Vizlly website with this decrease: “The visuals help immensely! They’re enticing enough that they encourage people to come and book. It’s the storytelling in Vizlly that keeps people on my site longer,” he says. Ultimately, this is also what encourages them to book there instead of on an OTA.

With David’s new website, he doesn’t need to rely so heavily on OTAs to generate his bookings. The engaging visual content of the website, combined with the easy integration of the booking engine, provides travel shoppers with a pleasant experience and encourages them to book.

The Added Bonus: Unparalleled Customer Service

David is extremely busy running his B&B daily. This means that he doesn’t always have the time or energy to address every detail on his own. That’s where Leonardo’s Success Coaches come in – every Vizlly subscription comes with a dedicated CHDM and Google Analytics certified Success Coach.

"My Success Coach, Gloria, was instrumental in guiding me,” says David. “Leonardo is always trying to make sure I’m on the right path to achieve the goals I want to accomplish. If I have a problem, I send it to Gloria and we have a dialogue and I solve it."

Before choosing Vizlly, David did a lot of research. “I didn’t just want a website,” he says. He wanted more than that – he wanted a Digital Marketing System that is easy to use and provides him with the support he needs to make sophisticated decisions about his B&B’s digital marketing, while boosting his direct bookings. As David says, “Vizlly is definitely a better tool."

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