Open up the Stratosphere website, steer your cursor over to the booking module and you’ll notice something: It looks remarkably like the interface of the big online travel agencies.
That, said Brian Christensen, was entirely intentional.
Christensen is corporate vice president of revenue management and distribution for American Casino & Entertainment Properties, which owns the Stratosphere. Last year, the resort teamed up with hotel web technology provider Travel Tripper to create a new online booking platform with the goal of driving more direct bookings.
“We spent a lot of time on discovery,” said Christensen. “We looked at some of the best.”
The Stratosphere wanted something that mimicked the OTAs that have come to dominate online hotel booking. It needed to offer a best-rate guarantee, have geo-targeted pricing, be easy to use and informative, and give guests the confidence to click the green “book now” button.
“Transparency was important as well,” Christensen added. “The last thing we want the guest to do is shop around.”
Working closely with the Stratosphere, Travel Tripper developed a customized version of their booking engine, RezTrip Direct, that checked all of the property’s boxes for both the backend and user interface.
“The single most important goal is to increase direct booking,” said Gautam Lulla, president of Travel Tripper. “We focus on simplicity and showing the hotel product as clearly as possible so the user can make a decision as quickly as possible.”
Together with Travel Tripper, Stratosphere launched a new booking interface that has boosted conversions.
On the Stratosphere’s site, RezTrip Direct shows images of the property, its TripAdvisor rating, the best rate available for each room product on a given night and any deals or promotions that might apply to your booking. The layout is intuitive and modern, with plenty of white space and clean lines.
There’s also only one price per room, which Lulla calls a “gutsy decision.”
“When the consumer is inundated with so much choice, they’re like a deer in headlights: they freeze,” he explained.
In the past, Christensen said, the Stratosphere offered multiple package options for the same room at different price points. They ended up converting mostly the base rate. Simplifying the choices has boosted conversions, he adds.
Now, Christensen can offer geo-targeted pricing and pinpoint promotions to specific groups, like including breakfast in the rate for British or German customers. “We can nail down to the ZIP code if we want to.”
All these elements are having a measurable effect on direct bookings for the Stratosphere. In the past, approximately seven percent of guests booked directly with the resort. Now more than 10 percent are completing their reservation on stratospherehotel.com. Christensen says their next goal is hitting 15 percent, a figure that he says is high but attainable.
The way Lulla sees it, the power of RezTrip Direct is in all the individual components that together create a compelling whole. “It’s a number of small things that add up comprehensively to lift the conversions rates significantly,” he says.
And the platform’s still evolving. Soon, they’ll be able to integrate loyalty programs into the booking. After that, well, it just depends what clients like Christensen and the Stratosphere can dream up.