Not getting the ‘right’ customers even while paying high commissions to OTA’s?

Join our disruptive network of like-minded hoteliers and hosts, attract direct bookings and become less dependent on the OTA’s.

Are you attracting the ‘wrong’ guest who is only looking for a place to close his eyes? Are you paying through the nose commissions to giant online travel agents like Booking and Expedia? Like to cut costs?

Over the years I worked with and talked to hoteliers and hosts, always the subject of OTA’s comes up. Most are tight by strict rules only benefiting the OTA’s, like rate comparity, penalties on overbookings and the right to bid on the name of the property. On top of that hosts are paying high commissions for this “service”. Not to mention paying even more as a premier partner to fight off the direct competition in their city or area.

OTA’s are not free! Even if hosts and clients do not pay any fees – actually they are paying! A lot! Hosts will add the costs to the rate and ultimately the guest pays. The only one getting wiser is the OTA. Big time!

What do OTA’s bring? The strength of OTA’s are their sheer volume. They accomplish this by advertising heavily on Google (did you know is Google’s largest advertiser spending millions). They need these large numbers of viewers to convert to a certain level (=book your hotel). As their advertising is very generic it misses the point for properties which “sell” more than just a place to sleep or are only focussed on the lowest rate.

OTA’s have been getting a lot of bad publicity, not only lately during the COVID-19 crisis. From charging commissions for cancelled bookings, referring guests to the hotel booked when one of their major selling points is their “customer service”, pressure selling (last room available!), to bidding on brand names – even to the point you are not offering any inventory to them.

I have been thinking how I could help hoteliers and hosts cut costs and still reach a large targeted audience. Affiliate marketing, basically selling a product or service through a website other than yours, is a possibility. However, it has its restrictions – it is mainly used by the big players (larger hotel chains and again, the OTA’s) as the costs are still quite high, especially if you only have one property to sell.

A direct booking system would be an answer. Such a system would mean connecting with hundreds of online booking engines (OBE), which is technically challenging. This has been done – of course, by Google, the mother of all search engines and by the likes of Trivago (Expedia!), Kayak or HotelsCombined (Booking!) which all invested millions in this technology. And who are not surprisingly sharing any of this knowledge, On the other side of the spectrum are the OBE’s which are reluctant too: even if they promote direct booking, they are reliant on the channels they supply to the OTA’s…

Independent hoteliers and hosts can use these meta search engines, but costs are high or need expertise on bidding and click rates. Expertise is also needed with other online marketing activities, like SEO, AdWords or have high costs when outsourcing or hiring.

The list of initiatives to boost direct bookings and become less dependent on the OTA’s continues. There is franchising (soft brands especially have been on the rise), loyalty programs, “old school” advertising, marketing consortia, and conversion companies like TripTease and Hotelchamp. Are these bringing you the perfect guests at little cost as possible?

The Co-Op

What all these direct booking ‘boosters’ have in common (or lack!) is that they have or need a certain scale. The sheer volume of OTA’s is one of their strengths. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that OTA’s are the only option.

By building a network of (independent) passioned hosts that have “a story to tell” (one-off’s, authentic, stylish, local, sustainable, cultured) thereis a possibility to significantly increase direct bookings and keep money in pockets. And by doing it a little bit differently – you are used to that – getting the ‘right’ guest in the process.

Have a look at your offerings and how you translate this to your guests

If you run anything else than just a place to sleep you already get why the generic listings of the OTA’s are not good for you. A five star spa resort is presented in exactly the same manner as the local Ibis Hotel. There is no room for any individuality or differences.

Sadly, the same applies to many individual hotel websites. Most just list their services and nothing else much. Some even use templates of -argh- BookingSuite’s template complete with a booking engine directly connected to the giant’s database (which data they never get back). Often hoteliers only think in product terms, “I run a hotel because I am a hotelier”. Look beyond and see what the client is really looking for. An experience, a feeling.

It doesn’t mean you have to complete overhaul your website. On your homepage tell about you. There is a reason for the popularity of TV shows which follow people turning around their lives and starting a B&B in another country. People love people. Tell that you are a third-generation passionate hotelier who knows all the ins and outs of the region, including off-the-beaten track restaurants (even if you have your own!) and the local tipple. Give something away, share your tips, just like I am doing now.

Don’t say you are a boutique hotel. Boutique – like design hotel – is an overused and overstretched term. Hotels with hundreds of rooms call themselves boutique even if they just have a slight different decoration than usual. Mention the number of rooms you have, how big or small they are (in both square metres and foot) and let your future guests do the maths. Sell a cabin sized room as a cabin and not as a junior suite. Greatly helps positive reviews.

Speaking of reviews. Remember hygiene is the number 1 reason for bad reviews. It is not very sexy to sell hygiene, but always keep it in mind. Reviews also work better on OTA sites where people compare. On your own website they work counter-productive as they are seen as biased. You are not putting any negative reviews on your own website, are you? Look at any negative reviews you might have, work on them and if you can’t, turn them into something positive: yes, our rooms are small – but we have a fantastic space to work or it is twenty minutes from the city centre – but you do hear the birds chirping.

Take advantage that an estimated 70% of people which surf the OTA websites also look at your website. Lure them with your story – and at least be clear the best overall deal is to be had at your website. Best price guaranteed should be visible on first look (and be genuine it is!). Don’t wait to mention your best price guarantee on the booking page – but it is always good to remind your guests there.

SEO (Search Engine Optimalization) writing is dead. Bold print, repeating and repeating your “key words” is simply annoying. Let alone that Google hasn’t been working like this since ages. Inform your clientele – don’t sell.

Always remember you are not making a direct sell. Travel is something clients surf on the net for hours and hours before making any decision – if any, or two weeks later… or next year. The clients who are ready to book do this on price or seek a very specific location – not the guests you are targeting. You often see OTA’s and even some hotel websites advertising “only 1 room available”, “10,000 visitors”. This works counter-active to the guests you are targeting. You want to warm up (not hurry) your potential guests with your story and close the deal when he is ready – never think that when you are ready to sell, someone else is buying.

Storytelling and The Hotel Writers Collective

By now you have guessed we showcase your property a little bit different at DNA Hotels. We have stories by professional travel writers and hotel lovers like us i.s.o. the usual reviews by everybody who seems to be an expert nowadays. This “Hotel Writers Collective” also opens up possibilities for exposure on our contributants websites, blogs and social media, enlarging the audience.

I have been publishing the DNA Hotels and charmhotelsweb (which will be integrated into DNA Hotels) sites for 10 years and making a living out of it. DNA Hotels initially listed design hotels only, but now showcases all properties authentic, soulful, local, indie, sustainable, and stylish. As a kid I already had a fascination for the hospitality industry and started collecting hotel brochures, books, magazines, travel guides, newspaper clippings, anything I could get my hands on. After a study and career in marketing communications I turned to my passion once again and started stylehotelsweb, the predecessor to both sites. With it I gained great knowledge on affiliate marketing, as I was mostly working with the larger hotel chains and OTA’s. And so discovered the need for direct bookings and niche marketing. Not to mention my friends love me for the tips I am always giving for the perfect place to stay (if you need personal advice, just ask me). Check my considerable network, on LinkedIn.

During these 10 years I came accustomed to and experienced in affiliate marketing (and started my own company, Affiliotel). Basically affiliate marketing is selling another one’s product or service on a third-party website, blog or social media. One could even consider influencers as a type of affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing works if you have a large product or service range to sell, if you are Amazon, Marriott or When you are small or even mid-sized, not so much. It is relatively expensive and to get a good group of affiliates (and not just that single influencer) time-consuming. That is why there are so many affiliate marketing agencies. However, techniques used in affiliate marketing, like tracking can be beneficial what marketing initiatives work and which don’t. Always considering that the direct sell usually doesn’t happen.

DNA Hotels

DNA Hotels is a club, or co-operative, promoting direct bookings with its members – not only hotels but any kind of accommodation. We do this by storytelling on our website/blog and through our social media (we’ll be looking at offline media too). We are about independent, authentic, stylish, local, sustainable and cultured hosts. Join and keep money in your pocket or return it to your guests – in any case, don’t throw it at the OTA’s.

Tap into our club of hotel lovers that look for something different. See it as a club of regular guests – and you know a regular guest is way more cost effective than it is to attract a new one over and over again.

Ins & Outs of DNA Hotels

• direct booking • storytelling • authentic hotels • inspirational places to stay • soulful • local • independent • hotel writers collective • passion • people love people • less dependent on OTA’s • wine hotels • target audience • Wallpaper* Magazine • social media • tracking • urban • remote • power of the co-op • sustainable • forum for best practices and inspiration • influencers • heritage hotels • the expert on where to stay • art • Pinterest: 700,000+ impressions a month • low cost per sale • happening • quiet • the perfect guest • direct linking • owning the booking channel • gourmet restaurants • fabulous bars • Monocle Magazine • owning the data • no time • architecture • interior design • no expertise • no stress • spend time on your guests, not on your marketing • easy to use • cultured • stylish • honest • trust • disruptive • inspirational • “old school” hospitality

DNA Hotels is not for hoteliers and hosts that:

  • lean backwards and hand the money over to the OTA’s
  • like pay-per-click, bidding and revenue management
  • operate a branded or uniform product

DNA Hotels is for passionate hoteliers and hosts who:

  • sell an experience and emotion rather than a place to sleep
  • like to spend time on their guests, not getting them
  • like independency, authenticity, sustainability, local, style, culture

Why DNA Hotels is different:

DNA Hotels works with an advertising model based on the strength of the co-operative. We think as a hotelier or host and as a guest, not as an OTA or technology supplier. We do not charge any commissions. We are about storytelling and creating great content, therefore engagement. We are not going for the direct sell (and if we do, that is just fine), instead warming up potential guests – to use an industry term “funnel marketing” – as a booking is made usually after many hours of surfing, comparing and thinking.

For DNA Hotels you do not need any big marketing budgets. Neither do you need expertise or time. It is not just another sales channel to upkeep. You pay a small annual fee, place our logo on your website, and set aside one night’s room for one of our content contributors from The Hotel Writers Collective.


Have a look at some of your alternatives:

  • continue paying high commissions to the OTA’s while abiding to their customer unfriendly terms & conditions.
  • joining as a chain franchise or member, high-end marketing collective or loyalty program paying high fees (and usually on top of that a commission or fee per booking). Not to mention giving out reduced rooms in times either not convenient to you or to your guests.
  • affiliate marketing with its restricted reach and still paying high commissions. With privacy regulations tracking is often limited and publishers often miss on commissions as customers book on a later date.
  • paying high fees to booking boosters like TripTease and Hotelchamp. How do they find your website anyway?
  • bidding (or paying high commissions) on meta search engines where you are still directly competing with the OTA’s – who do have the time, budget and expertise to do this.

DNA Hotels is specifically aimed at independent hoteliers and hosts. Our rates reflect this. We like to help hoteliers and hosts at as little costs as possible. That is why the co-operative side on being a DNA Hotels member is so important. You co-advertise your fellow members by placing our logo/banner (below) on your own website, helping to grow the number of visitors to the general DNA Hotels website and back again to its members (you!). We add great content to the site and social media boosting engagement. And simply, as we do not have to upkeep costly technology or a customer service. This is an initiative to help fellow independent entrepreneurs.

Rates 2020

low-cost properties

  • less than 10 rooms: €149
  • 10 to 30 rooms: €199
  • 30 to 50 rooms: €299

mid-range properties

  • less than 10 rooms: €199
  • 10 to 30 rooms: €299
  • 30 to 50 rooms: €399

high-end properties

  • less than 10 rooms: €299
  • 10 to 30 rooms: €399
  • 30 to 50 rooms: €499

over 50 rooms: enquire

We want this to be as easy as possible. No further costs or commissions. Memberships begin at the 1st of the month, f.e. join anytime in July you pay the annual fee on August 1. Rates include banner placement on your website and setting away one complimentary roomnight per year for one of our writers. VAT(BTW) 21% is added in The Netherlands. Outside The Netherlands and within the EU VAT is reversed. Outside the EU there is no VAT. Timely payment (as you expect from your guests too) – preferably using our automated billing system. Cancellation of the membership – no questions asked (maybe 1) – one month in advance.

Are you a passionate hotelier or host and like to join?

Without going through a list of yay’s or nay’s or a form just talk to me (yes, that’s me in the picture). Use the button below and see if the club is right for you. Also, talk to me if you need a tailored solution to your property’s marketing.

Inspirational places to stay