Malolo Bed and Breakfast
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 B&B is a labor of love for owner David Alaga. Along with his partner George, David runs this popular B&B in Washington. 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.
After purchasing this house, David built a business based on how he wanted to be treated when staying at a B&B. He was successful, and this 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). However, David wasn’t focusing enough on digital marketing and driving bookings through his own website. As a result OTA commission fees were eating into his margins and profits.
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. Unfortunately it fell short and was largely ineffective at converting travel shoppers (driving bookings). According to David, his previous website “didn’t tell a story. It was flat, and just gave [travel shoppers] some pictures.”
Guests love staying at the property, but it was a challenge to get travel shoppers to actually book on David’s old website – it was a basic site that didn’t tell a story or capture visitors’ attention. He wanted to highlight the house and his new bathrooms, and 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. According to David, it was obvious that the booking engine and the website were disconnected and it would confuse travel shoppers. Ultimately, travel shoppers would make the booking on an OTA instead of directly on his website. This wasn’t good enough for David – the whole point of having a website is to drive bookings, and his website wasn’t doing that for him. He 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.”
David Alaga, Owner of Malolo Bed & Breakfast
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. “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.”
David’s website is using one of Vizlly’s responsive website designs, which means that it looks great and encourages travelers to book no matter what device they’re using – smartphone, tablet or desktop. This easy approach to digital marketing suits David well: “I’m not working as hard at telling my story – Vizlly does this for me. We’re seeing a lot more bookings come in, and that’s all credited to us changing over to the Vizlly platform.”
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. Before Vizlly, 80% of David’s business came from OTAs, while only 20% of the bookings were coming directly from his website. Only 3 months after switching to Vizlly, he saw a dramatic shift in the ratio of OTA to direct bookings – now, 40% of his business comes from direct bookings, while his dependence on OTAs has decreased to 60%. 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.
David says, “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 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.”