Breaking Free from OTA Dependency: Ingo Bethke’s Path to 150% Visibility Increase and 65% Direct Bookings

Written By Ulrich Franke

Aug 21, 2023

In this blog article, we are thrilled to bring you an exclusive interview between Ulrich Franke, Managing Director of Acronym Europe and Ingo Bethke, a visionary hotel owner in Berlin, who has achieved remarkable success in the hotel industry.

Nestled in the bustling heart of Berlin, you’ll find a boutique gem – HOTEL ART NOUVEAU. This unique hotel is conveniently located near the famed Kurfürstendamm shopping district, providing guests with an immersive experience of the city’s vibrant culture.

When Ingo took over the HOTEL ART NOUVEAU in 2016, there was hardly any marketing, and most bookings came through online travel agencies (OTAs). But Ingo was determined to change that.

Through holistic digital strategies, Ingo managed to boost the hotel’s visibility by an incredible 150% per month on average, with fluctuations of up to 25% depending on the season. Not only that, but he also turned the tables on OTA dependency by increasing direct bookings to an impressive average of 65% within just one year.

Join us as we dive into Ingo’s inspiring journey for valuable insights in hotel marketing.

Ulrich: Thank you for joining us today. Let’s dive right into your incredible journey. When you started your marketing efforts in 2016, how did you manage to significantly increase your hotel’s visibility month after month?

Ingo: It’s a pleasure to be here with you today. It’s been an incredible journey for us. When we began our digital marketing journey in 2016, we witnessed remarkable growth in visibility. We achieved a constant average increase of around 150% per month, with fluctuations of up to 25% depending on the season. This success can be attributed to our implementation of a holistic digital strategy. We focused on optimizing our website for search engines, creating captivating landing pages, and utilizing recommendation management tools. Moreover, we crafted a unique storyline and USP that resonated with our target audience, enabling us to stand out in a competitive market.

Ulrich: Your direct bookings for hotel rooms have seen a significant increase. How did you transition from relying heavily on OTAs to achieving an average of 65% direct bookings in just one year?

Ingo: It was indeed a significant shift for us. When we took over the hotel, we were heavily dependent on OTAs for bookings. However, we recognized the need to regain control over our bookings and establish a stronger direct relationship with our guests. We implemented a robust marketing strategy that emphasized the benefits of booking directly with us, such as exclusive offers, personalized experiences, and enhanced customer service. By communicating these advantages through targeted campaigns and highlighting the value of direct bookings, we witnessed a significant shift, with our direct booking percentage reaching an average of 65% within a year.

Ulrich: That’s truly remarkable. Can you provide more insights into the main marketing tactics you employed to achieve such outstanding results?

Ingo: Certainly! Alongside our focus on SEO and user-friendly website design, we dedicated ourselves to developing captivating landing pages tailored to different guest segments. We also prioritized recommendation management, as positive reviews and word-of-mouth referrals played a crucial role in attracting new guests. Additionally, we created an innovative artist’s column that served as a unique destination guide, offering guests an immersive and unforgettable experience. Furthermore, hosting events and temporary exhibitions featuring modern art within our hotel created a buzz and garnered attention from diverse audiences.

Ulrich: It’s fascinating to hear about your holistic marketing approach. How did you position and market your conference rooms to establish this successful aspect of your hotel?

Ingo: The conference room segment was a significant turning point for us. We identified a gap in the market and positioned our conference rooms as versatile, state-of-the-art spaces for corporate events.

We developed an SEO strategy that centered on creating a targeted landing page for our conference rooms with a specific focus on Berlin Charlottenburg. Our niche target group consisted of companies and trainers who didn’t have their own conference rooms but were in search of particular room size and service, along with hotel rooms in Berlin Charlottenburg.

This landing page has been instrumental, driving 70% of our bookings. The remaining bookings come through special platforms dedicated to conference room reservations. As a result, our revenue skyrocketed – surprisingly even during the pandemic. We’ve observed a substantial demand for this conference room size coupled with the boutique hotel ambiance we offer.

Initially, our financial objective for these rooms was to break even each month with the internal costs and achieve a small margin. However, we’ve been successful in increasing the revenue by 8-10 times per month. These rooms are almost constantly booked,

Ulrich: Your dedication to exceptional service and warm hospitality has certainly paid off. Can you elaborate on how these qualities have influenced the overall reputation of your hotel?

Ingo: Providing exceptional service has always been at the core of our hotel’s philosophy. We believe in creating memorable experiences for our guests and ensuring their comfort and satisfaction throughout their stay. Our friendly and attentive staff goes above and beyond to exceed guest expectations, and this commitment to excellence has not only garnered positive reviews and repeat business but has also led to our hotel’s recognition in the film and TV industry. The exceptional service and inviting atmosphere have attracted filmmakers, resulting in our hotel being frequently booked for filming purposes. This additional business has further elevated our reputation and expanded our reach to new audiences.

Ulrich: Ingo, your journey and achievements are truly inspiring. Before we wrap up, is there any final advice you would like to share with fellow hotel owners and marketers?

Ingo: Thank you for your kind words. My advice would be to always stay adaptable and embrace the power of digital marketing. The landscape of the hotel industry is constantly evolving, and it’s essential to keep up with the latest trends and technologies. Invest in creating a strong online presence, engage with your guests through personalized experiences, and leverage the power of storytelling to connect with your target audience. Remember, by focusing on holistic digital strategies, you can maximize direct bookings, reduce OTA dependency, and create a unique brand identity that sets you apart from the competition.

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