10 Unknown Reasons Why Hotels Fail At Driving More Direct Bookings (Part #2).

Hotel Distribution

Welcome back!

Let’s continue with the 10 unknown reasons and this time as well, I will keep referring to the same screenshot from Booking.com (BO) at that is enough to count all 10 different points that make BO skyrocket as opposed to your direct booking strategy.

3) Negative Into Positive Wording.

This is so easy to do that it drives me crazy when I see booking engines showing rooms&rates conditions in such a negative way, most times limiting hoteliers from changing and customising those labels.


By moving the mouse over the “Partially refundable” guarantee policy label, you see how an extremely restrictive policy is being turned into a positive statement.

It’s essentially a Non Refundable rate, yet BO makes it sound like a benefit by placing emphasis on the fact that it’s Partially refundable, even though only 10% gets reimbursed.

Considering this as just a nice-to-have would be limiting. One of the basics I learnt from NLP is that human brain can’t process negatives.

In other words, including a negative word in the middle of a statement can throw off visitor’s brain as it makes it more difficult to understand and process what is being said.

Think of yourself crossing a suspension bridge where a single false step could cost your life, and someone in the background tells you “don’t look down!”. What would the natural reaction be?

Of course, you look down, because that’s what the brain would first understand in such an awakened emotional state, that you look down before realizing that you were supposed to do the opposite.

Yes, making a booking is not life-threatening, but the principle is the same: by throwing negatives to our prospects, we are asking them a bigger effort to process the exact meaning of our message.

I particularly wanted to take this hotel as an example as a good practice on BO and a bad practice on its IBE:

Booking Engine restrictive payment policy

This is very logic: why would this hotel charge 100% upfront at the time of booking, when in case of cancellation you will give 10% back?

A possible answer could stand in the fact that making 2 transactions (90% at the time of booking and 10% upon check-in) could be bothering if not automated.

Then why would the hotel give the 90% option on BO?

Try to look at the 2 screenshots, the one from BO and the one from the booking engine, with the eyes of a potential customer. Which one would you go for? Even if the final result, meaning what you would be paying for your stay, remains the same, the highest perceived convenience stands on BO.

My Not-Refundable rates require 100% payment upfront and no money back“. If that’s what you are thinking and what you currently have, well, consider asking for a prepayment of 90% only. Or 95%.

Fact is, if you leave a little margin on your conditions, you can use that margin to easily turn restrictions into benefits, just like BO greatly does.

You want to sell your rooms, right? Then why focus on the restrictions (100% payment upfront) rather than the benefits (partially refundable even if only 10%).

The essence, meaning the content, remains essentially the same, but the form changes how it is being perceived.


4) Negative Into Positive Wording (again).

Yes, same title as before. But it’s no mistake. It’s just the same principle applied to something else and in a different way: your breakfast.


Usually on booking engines, if excluded, breakfast is either not mentioned or declared as “breakfast excluded” or, again, visitors must deduct it from the “room only” label in the rate name.


Think about it: you want to sell your rooms and services. Then why focus the attention on what customers will NOT have? Make no sense.

Plus, in certain countries, breakfast is a must. And I know that, personally. I mean, I’m Italian, generally speaking we do not even get out of bed in the morning if we know we are not going to have breakfast!

In the example above, there are at least 2 identical rates that only differ in the breakfast, included or excluded. Often you can find hotels that consider breakfast as an ancillary service that is not even going to be displayed in the rooms&rates booking step, resulting in a higher exit rate.

However, even in the example above (screenshot of the booking engine), such a setup makes the hotel create and deal with 2 different rates.

This, in turn, generates more and more rates we force visitors to go through.

The ultimate result is that we create more confusion, too many rates, too many prices, too many options.

Make a check on BO for any hotel, any date. You will barely find hotels displaying more than 15 combinations of rooms and rates, meaning max 15 options visitors can choose from.

When it comes to booking engines, sometime I end up visiting hotels offering 40, 50, 60 and even more combinations. How can it possibly be of help to the visitor? It’s simply too much.

The solution adopted by BO (and many other OTAs) is to make mention of breakfast even if excluded, by adding the extra price.

It’s easy to read and understand, we give users the information that breakfast is an option without having to create additional rates.

Last but no least, it’s not just a “breakfast”, it’s an “Excellent breakfast”!

Excellent, Wonderful, Delicious, you can be as much creative as you wish, but the principle remains the same: we want to sell those services. Then instead of focusing on the negatives, highlight the benefits.

One more, last one I swear.

Room-only“. Almost every hotel has been using this label. Please, remove it. It’s the same principle I have been stressing out from the beginning of this post.

Would you really want to highlight what is NOT included? Ryanair can do that, because that’s what they became famous for, their revenue model.

Is that because you fear possible complaints post confirmation?

If so, then ask yourself: “how much are these fears preventing me from selling more and better?

Put yourself in the shoes of your dream-buyer, and compare what you have been offering in your booking engine (and how), as opposed to how BO or EX are showing for your hotel.

Pay attention to the wording and try to abstract yourself from your role within the hotel.

Which one would you go for?

Stay tuned, next post with more unknown reasons why hotels fail at driving more direct bookings is coming soon.

See also:

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