10 Unknown Reasons Why Hotels Fail At Driving More Direct Bookings (Part #5).

Hotel Distribution

Final part.

There’d be more, but I wanted to stick to 10 points as I think it should be enough to start working on.

The last 2 points I wanted to talk about are more related to the capabilities of your booking engine.

As you might have noticed, I’m quite critical of IBEs in general, especially when it comes to certain IBEs.

I’m critical because, since helping hotels drive more direct bookings is my mission (and what I love doing and everything I have been working on since I was 21) and booking engines play a central role in this matter, sometimes I would love to see BE providers being more proactive rather than reactive.

There are BEs that in my opinion are simply great and, generally speaking, those are the ones that were born and remain pure booking engines, meaning their core business.

In fact, I’m not a big fan of those system integrators that were born as CRS systems, then developed a booking engine as a sort of extension of what they already have.

I strongly believe that if you want to be extraordinary in something, you must be doing and excel in one thing only: in other words, be the specialist in that one field. Those all-in-one systems, that many hotels have decided to go for (which, btw, I totally understand) are not my best choice nor are they what I would recommend.

It’s a simple principle: the more you want to offer, the less quality you can deliver.

Pretending both, it’s just utopia, no matter how big the company or corporation that delivers the product or service is.

Not a preconception of mine though, I’ve been working with IBEs since I was 21 in 2005. By this time I’ve worked with 20+ booking engines and the one rule I’ve learnt ever since is this: successful booking engines are the ones that have been conceived to be consumer-oriented (hotels’ guests).

In fact, many BEs are instead hotel-oriented, meaning they focus their attention on features and functionalities because hotels asked for them, yet too often forgetting that ultimately, the one and only who decides whether reserving through the booking engine as opposed to the OTAs, is the end-user guest.

This is exactly what I mean when saying reactive as opposed to proactive. Reactive is the exact feedback I mentioned in one of my previous posts when I asked a BE provider to deploy an important feature and the response I got, same as all other times, was: “we haven’t had enough hotels asking for it”.


Me dealing Booking Engine Providers… sometimes

Jeez, YOU (provider) are the so-called expert, then prove it and provide me with solutions rather than waiting for me (hotelier) and my colleagues to tell you what we want!

OK, I probably went a bit off-topic.

Oh, and btw, luckily there is a good number of BE providers I simply love to work with.

So don’t get me wrong, I’m just making a case, though a real case not necessarily referring to the entire category 😀

Let’s get back on track and see the final 2 points.


9) ‘Book Now’ vs. ‘I’ll Reserve’

BO, just like Google, can rely on so much traffic on its site that it’s easy for them to conduct several A/B tests.

This, for sure, it’s the result of one of them.

In this post on LinkedIn I recently mentioned how a single label resulted in 17% engagement on Google.

If you take a look at your own booking engine, you are likely going to find a Book Now button next to your rooms and rates.


Whilst on BO the text of the same button says I’ll Reserve.


The fact that we might not fully understand the difference and, in our logic, there isn’t actually any, could make us think that this different text is ultimately not that important.

However, think again of the result that Google achieved by simply replacing Book a room with a less committing Check availability.

The principle here is essentially the same, even though may appear like less clear to our mind.

The label Book Now on that button can be compared to Buy-in-1-click button on Amazon.

In simple words, even if not true and even if logically all visitors know that they are not actually buying anything as a result of them clicking on that button, on a deeper level Book Now seems too committing, therefore a bit scaring.

Instead, BO uses:

  • the future tense.
  • 1st person singular as if the user is choosing to reserve rather than being imposed (you Book Now)

Plus, just below the button there’s that bullet that also says it only takes 2 minutes. This means that visitors can immediately perceive that there is going to be a next step, and that is exactly where BO wants users to end up to.


10) Like Having a Virtual Assistant.

I’m giving you the input, but to fully understand it, you should definitely abstract for a moment from your role of Hotel Professional and try to put yourself in the shoes of your potential guest.


And again:


And again:


And again:



And again:


And I could go on for hours.

No matter at which stage visitors are at of their booking process, BO is essentially babysitting them. Like having a virtual assistant that follows them step after step.

It’s not just about providing impersonal information. Look at the form: it’s like someone is talking directly to me (consumer).

Don’t you believe me?

Well, I made a test, with the best tester I could ever think of: my mom (sigh!).

She barely knows how turn on a computer, so she’s just who I was looking for.

I simply made her book a hotel, twice: first time with BO, second time with the hotel booking engine.

Booking Engine first: she made it, but with struggle. As a basic user she felt way more insecure and kind of scared, she kept asking me whether she was doing right.

With BO? Not a single question. She was so happy that she did it on her own. Then I disappointed her when I said that it was just a test and I was not going to bring her anywhere… but that’s a different story.

Also notice this:


See how BO refers to customers by addressing them with you.

Pronouns, and especially you, give copy a warm, human flavour that people notice instantly.

Not using the impersonal form, but you, it’s as if there was a physical person or assistant right next to each visitor who guides him/her along the process.

Check on your website and booking engine, can you say it is the same? I bet not.

But you can do the same and I strongly suggest you to revise your existing copy and, from now on, to start writing your new copy by addressing your audience with you.

Always refer to them and what’s in it for them.

Remember, even though it may hurt your ego, people and customers do not care about you, your hotel, your features and services. They only care about how you, your hotel, your features and services make them feel.

And that’s the only thing you need to keep in mind when creating your copy.



At the beginning of this post I mentioned what I meant with booking engine providers being reactive or proactive.

More specifically, how reactive providers often focus on delivering what hotels ask, rather create something that is objectively needed.

From a business-perspective, it may make sense.

But look at the above. Has BO ever asked any hotel on Earth what kind of functionalities they should deploy? Has BO ever even considered any sort of development request from hoteliers? Best case scenario they just bloody laugh at them.

Point being, again, only that which works actually counts.

And they know what works: what makes visitors book.

See the previous articles:

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