Hotel Industry Blog

A new look for Google search results page

By Ciaran Rowe | On Mon, May 27, 2019

Google has refreshed its search results page with updated text ads and favicons added to the organic results.

Text ads now show the website URL at the top of the ad, with a colour change from green to black. In their recent announcement, Google explained that the change was introduced so “you can quickly identify where the information is coming from”.

google black text ads
Figure 1

Figure 1 above illustrates the change, with the green ad label and URL moving from underneath the ad title to above it, while changing the text to black and removing the grey line between the heading and body of the ad, to make it appear more like a single unit.

The second change is the introduction of a favicon beside the organic result as seen in Figure 2 below, with the URL also changing from green to black text. Google says that during testing, a majority of users found it easier to identify websites and more than two-thirds said it was easier to scan results more quickly. Instructions from Google on how to choose your preferred icon are available here.

google favicon
Figure 2

The new look is rolling out on mobile first and is currently visible Europe wide. The changes should allow site owners to promote their brand more clearly, but there is also the possibility that the distinction between paid and non-paid content will be blurred even further, increasing the importance of running paid ads to ensure brand traffic is not hijacked by competitor or third party ads.

Our digital marketing team will be analysing the results in the coming weeks, to see what, if any, changes result from this update.

Labels: google search page, google favicons, google black text ads, google ads

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We See Continued Mobile Revenue Growth in 2019

By Des O'Mahony | On Fri, May 17, 2019

Mobile Revenue is growing, and Bookassist V10 Mobile is better at capturing it

​Bookassist has been monitoring and publishing mobile traffic and revenue statistics continuously for a number of years. We measure statistics from over 1000 hotels across markets in Europe, and analyse the changing trends. Here’s our latest update for the first quarter of 2019.

Mobile Traffic To Hotels

In full year 2018, we observed a continuing rise in mobile traffic to hotels, mostly at the expense of tablet and somewhat at the expense of desktop/laptop traffic. However when compared with 2016 and 2017, the rate of rise in mobile traffic is definitely slowing. We interpret this as a balance being reached between mobile and computer traffic in many countries. This may not be surprising, as the change in mobile handset capability from 2015 to 2018 was significant and allowed for a rapid initial growth in mobile access to websites (and less relevance for tablet use). Now that the majority of users have very capable smartphones, the balance between smartphone use and desktop/laptop use is likely stabilising.

This trend has continued somewhat through the first quarter of 2019 with desktop still showing leakage towards mobile in virtually all areas. But the changing picture is not as dramatic as it was in the 2016-2018 period.

Mobile Revenue To Hotels

The situation with revenue generation on mobile paints a different picture of opportunity. While traffic may be stabilising, the growth in revenue is stronger and the ratio of mobile traffic to desktop traffic remains higher than that of mobile revenue to desktop revenue. Clearly there is still opportunity to move the needle on revenue generation in mobile.

We see this trend continuing into the first quarter of 2019 also, with strong double digit growth in revenue generation on mobile.

The Mobile Opportunity

The message is clear. Optimising for mobile is critical in order to capitalise on the traffic that is already there. But ensuring your booking system is fully focused on mobile is crucial if you are to actually convert mobile users to a revenue opportunity - if you do not convert, they are likely booking on mobile elsewhere, such as on the highly-capable mobile OTA platforms.

At Bookassist we have been laser focused on improving all aspects of the mobile booking experience. The V10 Mobile booking engine is the industry’s most advanced platform and has proven revenue and conversion uplift with higher average booking values and increased opportunities for ancillary sales.

We analysed those hotels who moved from less capable mobile implementations to Bookassist’s new V10 Mobile booking engine. Comparing revenue-generating sessions to all sessions, the ratio is higher when people are more likely to book on mobile. With V10 Mobile, we see double-digit improvement in the ability of sessions to capture revenue on mobile, giving an uplift of conversion across the board for clients in all our key markets.

Bottom Line

The message is clear. Mobile first is as important as ever.

With about half your online customers looking at your hotel on mobile, you must be mobile first and mobile optimised. But it is even more critical than ever that your booking system is optimised for mobile conversion, or you are losing real revenue-generating opportunity. Bookassist can fix that issue for you today with mobile optimised Smart websites and V10 Mobile booking engine. Contact us now.

Key Takeaways From Google Marketing Live 2019

By Ciaran Rowe & Samantha Salazar | On Fri, May 17, 2019

The annual Google marketing live event was held in San Francisco this week, with lots of news and updates on products across the Google suite.

Some key takeaways relevant to hotels include:

Google Travel is now live on desktop. Previously available only on mobile, this service allows users to organise flights, hotels, sightseeing, and packages in one travel portal. This addition gives even more visibility to Google Hotel Ads, making it an important part of any hotel’s digital marketing strategy. More.

Google Travel Portal
Google Travel Portal

Discovery ads are a newly announced native ad type that will appear in the Google discovery feed, as well as on YouTube and the Promotions & Social tabs in Gmail. This means they have the potential to appear before 100s of millions of users worldwide, presenting an opportunity to target users at the very early stages of the booking process. More.

Discovery Ad Sample
Discovery Ad Sample

Having previously tested and removed various image ad formats on search, such as image ad extensions, Google have now released Gallery ads, which allow scrolling through a series of images in a carousel format. Currently available only on mobile, the ads will appear for the top result and should improve click through rates. Google say that they have seen improvements of up to 25% in CTR, so this will give a competitive advantage to hotels who will now be able to direct more users to their official website.

Googlel gallery ads

Gallery Ad Sample

Bumper machine is a tool that will automatically create 6-second “bumper ads” from longer form Youtube videos. The machine looks for “key elements” such as a clear focus on a product or a voiceover, with a final call to action at the end of the ad. This means that your video content can go much further. Having content to publish regularly can be a challenge for hotels, but by automatically creating shorter videos, hoteliers can expand and reframe their available video content.

Note that some of these new options are not yet available in Europe, but will be rolled out over the coming months.

Labels: news, mobile, marketing, googlemarketinglive, google ads, google

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We Asked Hoteliers How They Combat Cancellations - Here’s What They Said

By Claire Sawier | On Mon, May 13, 2019

Part 1 of our cancellations feature covered the soaring pace of hotel room cancellations and the phenomenon of the just in case booker, the “maybe” booker who books multiple hotels to make their final decision on one (or none) of them later. Providing the option to cancel a room later for free can often convince people to book with you, though they clearly do so with less commitment.

But this growing practice has sent cancellation rates through the roof, particularly from OTAs (>40%) who initiated and aggressively encourage the practice. Hotels have followed OTAs to focus more on “free cancellations” for direct bookings, but the net result is a lot of wasted valuable time and resources spent on trying to convert “maybe bookers” who go on to cancel as they had no real intention to stay.

Hotels need to focus their efforts on “converting to stay” and forget about wasting time on converting those who have no real intention to stay and will most likely go on to cancel. Hotel inventory is perishable, and bookings made in advance that cancel close to arrival make it much harder for revenue managers to yield revenue.

Convert to stay, don’t convert to cancel

Converting “free cancellation” bookers far up the funnel, the just in case bookers who are still shopping around, is more like opening up an “I’m interested” list. It should not be viewed in the same way as a booking from someone who has made a firm commitment to stay. Don’t fool yourself with good conversion rates if a good chunk goes on to be cancelled.

Focus your efforts on offering decent direct booking benefits and incentivise early bookers to commit by paying in advance or at least paying a non-refundable deposit.

In this regard, hotels can learn a lot from the airlines. Rather than a free cancellation policy that ties up inventory for a long period, some airlines allow you to cancel a flight within 24 hours of booking it provided it’s made 7 days before take-off! It’s the same free cancellation concept but their inventory is not locked down for weeks or in some cases months as it is with hotels. If you are going to lose a booking, lose it early!

Learning from the Airlines

Aer Lingus for example allows you to lock-in a price for 24 hours. This is designed to allow those who are not quite sure of their plans to hold a booking for 24 hours for a small fee. Bookings must be confirmed with a full payment before the expiry time/date specified, otherwise the booking is cancelled, and the fee is forfeited. British Airways also offers the option to hold a flight price for 72 hours for a small deposit.

Why do hotels offer early bookers a free cancellation period up to 24 hours before arrival? That’s potentially months and months of that room being tied up only to be cancelled last minute.

Using another approach, American Airlines sell fare add-ons that let you change your flight for free at any time, you pay extra for that flexibility. And some other airlines, like Southwest, let you change and cancel fares almost whenever you like, but instead of a refund, you get credit toward a future flight within a year of the original reservation. All Ryanair flights are changeable, but they cannot be cancelled so all “just in case” bookings become “use it or lose it” bookings.

Lots of great ideas there to consider from the industry that masterminded yield management!
Chains like Marriott, the largest hotel brand in the world, and Hilton are well known for their direct booking programs - It Pays to book Direct (Marriott) and Stop clicking around (Hilton). They combine a very strong direct booking strategy with a smart cancellation policy

Direct champions Marriott and Hilton lead the way

In 2017 Marriott famously revised its free cancellation policy from 24 hours before check-in time to 48 or 72 hours before check-in if cancellation fees were to be avoided. Other hotel chains such as Hilton soon followed suit.

“We regularly review guest booking and cancellation patterns across our 5,000+ properties and have seen cancellation rates rise over the last few years,” Hilton spokesman Nigel Glennie said in a statement. “These insights have led to the proposed update, which will allow us to maximize the number of available rooms for guests seeking accommodation.”

The changes that Marriott and Hilton made reflect an industry shift in the way hotels are approaching cancellations. It makes good business sense and removes a lot of volatility and headache around occupancy and forecasting.
Bookassist surveyed hundreds of hotels across our network in April and the general feedback (unsurprisingly) was that OTA cancellation rates are significantly higher than direct cancellation rates. This supports general industry findings that report an increase in cancellations across the board, especially via OTAs.

Direct Cancellation rates below 15% for over half of respondents to Bookassist’s survey

Just over 42% of all respondents to the Bookassist survey reported OTA cancellation rates of between 30% and 50%, while more than half said their direct cancellation rates were below 15%. At Bookassist we see a huge variation across hotels largely due to the strategy they employ. What’s really obvious is that hotels that fail to adopt a strong direct booking policy suffer higher rates of direct cancellations, some of which can exceed 30%.

Interestingly 26% of all hotels surveyed said that their cancellation rates on OTAs had decreased in the last year, with 28% saying that direct cancellations rates had decreased. On closer inspection we see that respondents with a reduction in both OTA and direct cancellations are hotels that have implemented a strong direct booking strategy that is reflected in their rate and cancellation policies. It’s great news for these hotels who are actively implementing successful strategies to reduce cancellations.

When it comes to trying to understand why people cancel, over 50% of hotels reported they are not tracking the reason and a further 10% responded that they just “don’t know”. Just 37% of hotels surveyed said they are tracking why people cancel. But if you don’t know the reasons, you can’t address the issue and assumptions can be misleading.

We also asked hoteliers what they are doing to address the issue of rising cancellations and here are just a few of their nuggets!

We asked hoteliers for ideas and got lots!

  • “The best option is always to present the best rate and best conditions in the direct channel all the time” (Spain)
  • “Take a 50% non-refundable deposit” (Gambia)
  • “Engage with the guest once booked” (Mexico)
  • “Present last minute and discount deals as non-refundable only” (Czech Republic)
  • “Raise cancellation policy on OTAs to 3 days” (Italy)
  • “Use non-refundable rates on OTAs only for certain dates - close off standard offers” (Czech Republic)
  • “Offer a free change of date but not a cancellation” (Czech Republic)
  • “Make non-refundable conditions more attractive” (Austria)
  • “It’s very important not to lower rates on dates more than a few months into the future, to avoid cancellations and rebookings” (Spain)
  • “Propose non-refundable benefits.” (France)
  • “Credit cards are all tested, and reservations canceled in case of wrong cards” (France)
  • “Bookings of 5 nights and more are automatically non-refundable” (France)
  • “Pre-authorize the cards a week in advance in order to resell the rooms. Boost non-refundable bookings.” (France)

  • “We try to avoid lowering rates as much as possible, starting always with lower rates to begin with. If the market forces us towards lower rates, we try to do it only very last minute and outside the free cancellation window” (Spain)
  • “We now have a non-refundable night in for high demand months and kept our own website more flexible to incentivise direct bookings.” (Spain)
  • “Set stricter rate policies for bookings that have longer lead-in times” (Spain)
  • “Make the customer commit in advance by paying a deposit” (Spain)
  • “We fill out a no-show report every day. This allows us to over book where we know we might get rooms back. We also do weekly calls for arrivals especially on the weekends, this cuts out a lot of cancellations at the last minute.” (Ireland)
  • “The client has the option to transfer the reservation to another date within one year of arrival.” (Czech Republic)
  • “We offer unique benefits and room types only available through the official website.” (Spain)
  • “Remove the cancelation option for short lead in times e.g. 48hrs before arrival.” (Ireland)

And one response that doesn’t exactly surprise…
“We would like to remain anonymous as this can negatively affect our relationship with” (Spain)

Our own pointers

  • Adopting a strong Direct Booking Strategy.
  • Working with a direct booking partner who can help you to focus on your strategy.
  • Engaging with metasearch - these are higher-intent bookers.
  • Ensuring you offer direct bookers a strong mobile experience to avoid pushing would-be direct bookers onto OTAs.
  • Building a deeper connection with your customers to be more resilient to cancellations.
  • And most importantly, give people reasons to book direct, not just reasons to book…

In our previous article on cancellations we stated that there are basically three reasons why people cancel. One of these is because they found a better deal for your hotel elsewhere. For a hotel to allow this to happen is totally unacceptable and it is totally avoidable. The only place a customer should ever be able to get the best deal should be hotel direct. Knock this one on the head by offering direct booking benefits that bookers actually value, and by making sure you actually tell them!

Stop giving useless Direct Booking benefits

Free wifi, complimentary parking and no booking fees are not direct booking benefits if you can also get them via an OTA. They’re just hotel benefits! If you want to encourage bookers away from OTAs then you need to offer “real” value that is not for OTA bookers, such as those in the example. Your website needs to highlight what’s in it for them if they book on your website, not just what’s in it for them if they book anywhere. Take a look at some winning examples that have proven direct booking uplift in figure 1.

Figure 1: Three examples of using your website to clearly state the direct booking advantage, instead of just offering the same content as your OTA already does. These examples are all proven examples to capture more direct bookers.
Figure 1: Three examples of using your website to clearly state the direct booking advantage, instead of just offering the same content as your OTA already does. These examples are all proven examples to capture more direct bookers.

Cancellations rates are rising and are a thorn in every hotelier’s side. They cost heavily and often mask and artificially boost hotel conversion rates. To effectively address cancellations, hotels need to:

Bottom Line

1. Capture cancellation data, reasons and timing, to allow for informed actions.

2. Put in place a solid cancellations policy that favours the direct channel and advertise it.

3. Introduce and advertise ‘real’ direct booking benefits that reduce any risk of a potential guest booking elsewhere.

We will keep our Bookassist cancellations survey open and report back again, so please continue to share your valuable experience and ideas!

Claire Sawier is Head of Marketing at Bookassist, (, the multi-award-winning technology and digital strategy partner for hotels worldwide.

“Just In Case” Bookers and Soaring Cancellations

By Claire Sawier | On Thu, March 14, 2019

By Claire Sawier, Bernhard Böhm, and Des O’Mahony

This is the first in a two-part feature on cancellation impacts and how to mitigate their impact.

Part 2 of this article focuses on actual tactics that hotels can use to address the issue of cancellations in their hotel. Share your ideas and experiences and we will share them in our follow up article. Take survey

Rising cancellations

Cancellations are an inevitable part of the hotel industry but they have soared in recent times and bring with them more headaches for hotel and revenue managers. Much of this rise in cancellations is fuelled by OTA booking cancellation rates, and some hotels we have consulted with cite over 50% cancellation rates today for bookings made through OTAs.

In contrast, cancellation rates for direct bookings are significantly lower, although these rates too are rising for some hotels. Based on an analysis of hundreds of thousands of direct bookings across all of our markets, cancellation rates for direct bookings now stand at an average of 12% as of March 2019, and have been noticeably rising since the beginning of 2017. The cancellation rate varies with lead-in time, but more on this later.

Huge variation across hotels

Cancellation rates vary a lot between hotels, and this is significantly impacted by the strategy that the hotel employs. Hotels that adopt a robust direct booking strategy tend to experience less cancellations across the board and experience a far more profitable bottom line since they more actively control distribution and therefore exposure to OTAs.

This is in contrast to more passive hotels, some of whom do nothing even on the hottest high-demand dates, and others who deal only tactically with the impact of cancellations rather than working actively on reducing them. Direct booking cancellation rates in these cases can exceed 30%.

Why do bookers cancel?

Getting to the heart of the problem is not simple, and attitudes to booking and customer commitment to booking have certainly changed online. On the whole, bookers cancel for one of three reasons: Of these reasons, hotels should be adopting strategic approaches to mitigating the first 2, which they can directly influence.

  1. They found a better deal in another hotel
  2. They found a better deal for your hotel elsewhere
  3. They have a genuine reason for not travelling

OTA practices influencing cancellations

OTAs promote competition based on price and are particularly useful for people looking for a location rather than a specific hotel. There’s nothing wrong with this, OTAs provide a vital service to hotels in furthering a hotel’s reach into markets it cannot normally or easily tap into.

However, OTAs are increasingly encouraging bookers to actually book multiple hotels in a destination well in advance and then make their final choice later, with no-penalty cancellations. These “casual” bookers are higher up the sales funnel and are not so sure of their plans. The planning phase is therefore morphing into a “just in case” booking phase with a knock-on impact on those ultimately delivering the service fulfilment - hotels.

Pressure-selling tactics such as “one room left at this price” and “booked 4 times in the last 24 hours” are also routinely used to create a sense of urgency further pushing people to book before they are ready. (Tellingly, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority CMA has just recently clamped down on these practices as well as misleading discount claims. Offending OTAs have until September 1st to make changes). Figure 1 for example shows seven different pressure-selling tactics in use in a single hotel listing for a Dublin hotel, two of which emphasise the ease of cancelation.

Figure 1: OTAs using pressure-selling tactics in their listings. In this case, at least 7 examples of pushing for early booking, including phrases such as “see our last available rooms” as distinct from just “see our rooms”, and two statements, 5 and 6, relating to free cancellations.
Figure 1: OTAs using pressure-selling tactics in their listings. In this case, at least 7 examples of pushing for early booking, including phrases such as “see our last available rooms” as distinct from just “see our rooms”, and two statements, 5 and 6, relating to free cancellations.

The OTA of course doesn’t mind that you book many and cancel most, since they will still receive their fee for the one booking that is finally chosen. However all the hotels bar one that are provisionally booked in this “just in case” approach are now left with some real problems. It is possible, especially in high occupancy markets, that rooms being held for this “just in case” booker are now not available for sale to a genuine booker (direct or indirect), leading to real loss of business in the long term.

In today’s world therefore, there is a clear difference for hotels between receiving an OTA booking and actual intent to stay. Bookers are increasingly “just in case” bookers and your chance of them actually staying is only as good as all the other hotels the OTA customer has also booked. Follow on alerts from the OTA notifying the booker of price drops encourages them to cancel their original booking and rebook at the lower rate, and so the situation worsens.

Risk Free Reservations and Cancellation Parity

In an effort to push the early booking strategy introduced Risk Free Reservations for hotels in 2018. Hotels that participate see their advance purchase rates effectively turned into free cancellation rates for bookers with guaranteeing the hotel another guest or the price of the room in the event of a cancellation.

Customers see the same rate on and the hotel website but with different conditions that favour booking on With free cancellations being offered, cancellations will again increase with more and more people being encouraged to book multiple hotels for the same date. carry all cancellation risks as it usually results in a confirmed booking for another hotel on their platform.

However, cancellations of direct bookings on the hotel website will increase too as bookers cancel their direct booking in favour of the better free cancellation rate on

In our view as hotel partners encouraging higher-profit direct bookings for our client hotels,’s Risk Free Reservations should be a clear NO for any hotelier who wants to grow their overall business. The only place a customer should ever be able to get the best deal should be “hotel direct”. What’s clear is that rate parity in itself is not enough to facilitate this. Cancellation Parity is becoming just as important as customers look for more booking flexibility. Imposing more restrictive cancellation policies on OTAs is just the starting point.

Watch those early bookers

From our own data analysing hundreds of thousands of direct bookings we can see that the closer to arrival date the booking is made, the smaller the risk of cancellation and the further away the greater the risk of cancellation (see figure 2).

Figure 2: Bookassist data on direct booking cancellation rates versus lead-in time across hundreds of thousands of bookings in multiple markets back to January 2018. The further out a booking is made, the more likely it is to be cancelled.
Figure 2: Bookassist data on direct booking cancellation rates versus lead-in time across hundreds of thousands of bookings in multiple markets back to January 2018. The further out a booking is made, the more likely it is to be cancelled.

In fact, one third of all cancellations occur within a week of the arrival date, and half of these bookings are cancelled two days or less before arrival (see figure 3). Interestingly almost half of those who cancelled two days or less before arrival time had booked with a lead-in of more than one month. Watch those early bookers.

Figure 3: Bookassist data on how soon before arrival that direct bookings tend to be cancelled based on data since January 2018.
Figure 3: Bookassist data on how soon before arrival that direct bookings tend to be cancelled based on data since January 2018.

Given this direct booking data, what about OTA behaviour? The question here for hotels is: how much of your inventory is now tied up with “just in case” OTA bookers, many of which will go on to cancel, leaving you with a narrow window for sales recovery? How far out are your OTA bookers booking and how close to arrival are they cancelling? It is critical to have a handle on these figures in your business so that you can formulate an action plan.

Impact of Cancellations

In our experience, hoteliers often fail to calculate the true cost of cancellations when analysing their distribution per channel costs. Cancellation costs not only include the loss of revenue when it is not possible to resell that room for the same price but also:

(a) the operational costs of processing volumes of bookings that go on to be cancelled, and the operational costs of processing the cancellations themselves;

(b) additional distribution costs associated with sales efforts that become void, and

(c) the wasted initial cost of acquisition to include digital marketing spend and website costs for example in the case of a cancelled direct booking that resulted in a subsequent indirect OTA booking.

Even a compensated cancelled booking via’s risk free reservations program brings costs in terms of an empty room that could be have been generating F&B income, or could have attracted a higher margin direct booker.

There is far more to a cancelled booking than the loss of the room itself and hotels need to be very mindful of the total cost per cancelation just as they need to be fully aware of cost per acquisition for successful bookings. Proper analysis is the starting point for risk mitigation.

Losing a direct booker to an OTA has long term implications

No hotelier wants to see a confirmed direct booking being switched to an OTA booking, but unfortunately it happens. But this situation is for the most part avoidable. An astute revenue manager or direct booking partner such as Bookassist will help to address any of the issues that may lead bookers to switch from direct booking to indirect booking.

You are already on the back foot when a direct booker cancels only to book instead via an OTA. They may have already concluded (perhaps correctly, but hopefully incorrectly!) that the OTA brings them better value so will be less inclined to go back to the hotel website if booking again.

Furthermore, the minute an OTA booker checks out of your hotel, the OTA sends them emails suggesting other locations or hotels, as well as offers. They own the customer, and unless your hotel has a robust process in place to capture and inform that customer before checkout then they will most likely be lost to the OTA if they decide to come back again. Why? Because there may be no reason for them not to go back to the OTA – unless you give them a reason.

OTAs build tight connections with their customers and so to compete effectively and be more resilient to cancellations hotels need to develop closer ties with their bookers well before arrival to ensure they are not tempted away by an OTA. You risk losing the life time value of a customer by losing them to an OTA, so it is key to push your direct booking benefits at every opportunity.

Know your data

Profitable hotels are the ones that know exactly where their customers come from, how far out they book and how many will end of cancelling. They also know why bookers cancel. Knowing why people cancel and when they cancel is essential in order to put in place effective cancellation, rate and overbooking policies. No two hotels are the same and cancellation trends can vary a lot across hotels. The key is to know your own data. If you don’t, you can’t even begin to address the issue.

Seizing opportunities - Guests who book on mobile devices tend to cancel less

According to, guests who book on mobile devices tend to cancel less. With more and more bookings now being made on mobile a good user experience on mobile is therefore paramount. If your hotel fails to offer a fast feature-rich mobile experience, you may be raising barriers to getting the booking even though that booker may want to book direct.

Targeting mobile transactions is the single best thing that a hotel can do to improve its direct booking business and be prepared for the future. While desktop may drive more revenue now, traffic on mobile has now exceeded desktop traffic for hotels, giving you opportunity to capitalise on growing levels of mobile transactions. Alternatively, not addressing mobile is lost opportunity today, and increasingly into the future.

For example, Bookassist’s next generation V10 Mobile platform is an entirely new mobile-first booking platform delivering a truly engaging, super fast, touch-optimised mobile experience. It offers a full-feature app-like user experience that fully exploits the mobile opportunity for hotels right now, and positions them for the future. It has already proven to increase mobile conversion as well as average booking value for participating hotels.

Bottom Line

Hotels should pay much more attention to cancellation rates and their subsequent effects. Rather than accept the issue of rising cancellations and only tactically adjust operations to cope with them, hotels need to focus more on why they happen and strategically adjust for long term business success.

Conversion rates for sales channels need to be considered alongside cancellation rates and not in isolation. Hotels that adopt a strong direct booking strategy and professional mobile presence experience a far lower rate of cancellations and therefore a far more profitable bottom line.

Part 2 of this article focuses on actual tactics that hotels can use to address the issue of cancellations in their hotel. Share your ideas and experiences and we will share them in our follow up article. Take survey

Claire Sawier is Head of Marketing, Bernhard Böhm is Product R&D Officer and Des O’Mahony is CEO and Founder at Bookassist, (, the multi-award-winning technology and digital strategy partner for hotels worldwide.

The Good and Bad of Trivago’s Hotel Metasearch Model

By Jacopo Rita | On Thu, March 07, 2019

According to recent industry buzz and rumours, Trivago has seen better times.

Hardly a month (or even a week!) goes past by without an article or press release highlighting even more trouble for the metasearch site.

The issues seem endless: Financial woes and a weakening competitive position as an effective marketing channel are compounded by online travel agencies pulling back on spend.

But at same time, we are still bombarded by Trivago advertisements and demand as well as interest from hotels in Trivago show no signs of slowing down.

There’s no doubt about the steady interest in the company from the market, and it still remains a major player in travellers’ efforts to research, find and book the ideal hotel.

So, what’s behind all these stories?

From a Hotelier Perspective: The Good About Trivago

At Bookassist, we work with hundreds of hotels to boost their visibility on metasearch sites, including Trivago.

We collect a huge volume of data over time, and that gives us a privileged position in determining how effective Trivago is from an advertising perspective for independent hotels.

And some positive news can’t be ignored.

  1. Trivago is still the metasearch leader in terms of traffic generation to hotel websites.
  1. The ROI is there.
  1. The volumes vs. profitability eternal dilemma: Trivago is fine here, too.

Trivago still drives lot of traffic to hotels websites at a reasonable cost of acquisition, given the ROI it delivers at a larger scale; and it’s actually the metasearch site - second only to Google - that gives the best balance between these KPIs.

So, again: why all the negativity?
While the year-to-date figures above show some pretty nice and positive KPIs for Trivago itself as well as for Trivago’s effectiveness compared to other metasearch engines, the same can’t be said when those very KPIs get compared to the previous year.

All That Glitters is Not Gold

Trivago, as with any other digital marketing activities has to have a long-term strategy, and so looking at its growth (or decline) over a longer time frame is a crucial task for digital marketing managers, especially at this time of the year when 2019 budgets are due!

When we look at Trivago’s growth through a year-over-year comparison, the picture changes dramatically.

While Trivago is still the channel that delivers the most traffic to hotel websites (see Chart 1 above), the trend has actually decreased quite significantly compared to last year, showing a concerning up-to 40% drop for some hotels.

While metasearch as a whole has been growing, Trivago has been falling behind, not only in terms of traffic generation (see Chart 4), but also in terms of contribution to bookings for hotel websites.

When Everything Changed For The Worse

At the end of 2017, Trivago rolled out a major update to its algorithm that determined how advertisers ranked in the auction. While Trivago always has been proud of its price-win auction dynamics (resulting in giving first position to advertisers with the cheapest room rate), this has all now changed to a bid-win dynamic: Room rate is no longer a way to guarantee a first position in the ranking.

Whether this has been done in a desperate effort to try to keep OTAs onboard (as they had started pulling back on spend) or as a way to increase revenue (it’s hard to say, but it’s likely to be a bit of both ), the outcome is the same: This move has only penalised independent hotels and, in particular, the effectiveness of their pay-per-click investments on Trivago. The result is a higher cost-per-click (Chart 6 below) and, as a consequence, less traffic to hotel websites.

Less traffic to hotel websites at a higher cost of click acquisition can only lead to a decrease in profitability, as has happened to many hotels.

The Trivago Value Proposition Compromise

On the consumer side, overall popularity of Trivago also seems to have taken a nose dive. Again, comparisons to 2017 show fewer users using the Trivago search engine, which Trivago also states in its quarterly reports when significant decreases in qualified referrals are reported.

Trivago’s changes to its algorithm didn’t only affect profitability of hotels investments, it has also compromised its value proposition to its customers.

How can you promote yourself as the go-to place to find the best price if the results don’t reflect that?

There’s disconnect here between brand promise and user experience.

And this can be certainly one of the reasons why Trivago, as a brand, has lost some popularity compared to the past in users’ eyes.

So while bidding and ranking algorithm changes were crucial to the effectiveness of hoteliers’ investments in Trivago (which turns into a higher or lower profitability), attractiveness of Trivago to travellers is now crucial in terms of potential volumes that it can drive to hotels.

These are the two key areas that need to be looked at closely to ensure ongoing successful performances for hotels, and we expect (and hope!) that these are the two main areas where Trivago moves next.
Like everything involved in technology and the digital ecosystem - and when it comes to metasearch advertising, even more so! - change is the norm, and the speed of change is the paradigm.

A Hotelier Action Plan

Things change so quickly, so often: Reacting to change, and adapting on time is the key to staying competitive.

This is the same approach that needs to be taken with Trivago.
Trivago is still delivering positive KPIs as an advertising platform, and it’s a cost-effective channel, especially compared to a number of other digital advertising options hotels can choose. This can’t be ignored by independent hotels in their quest to drive direct bookings.

Trivago is still the leader in terms of traffic acquisition in the metasearch landscape, especially for properties located across Europe. There’s a lot of online traffic to hotels (official websites or OTA listings) through Trivago, which it makes it a worthwhile channel.

Conversion rate optimisation is the key when it comes to converting Trivago’s huge traffic into bookings. Hotels need to be well-equipped for that, with outstanding landing pages, well-performing booking engines and, and last but not least, an optimised user experience for mobile devices (since 70% of traffic on Trivago is through mobile).

These are some of the tactical actions required to maximise the Trivago opportunity.

Top Trends Hotels Should Watch Out For in 2019

By Editor | On Mon, December 03, 2018

As the year draws to a close, the hotel industry is setting its sights on the future in an effort to align marketing plans with new and emerging trends. So what are the hot new trends? Before we dive in, it’s worth noting that while hoteliers are always keen to know what’s coming next, some get over-excited about new trends but have not properly adopted the more universal current trends. The benefits for hotels who choose to ride the online wave of innovation will be realised in more direct, higher-margin bookings. But make sure to get your fundamentals right and optimise today’s opportunities before embarking on shiny new directions.

Millennials and Gen Z

Buying power in the market is now dominated by Millennials and Gen Z who by 2020 will make up nearly 60% of the world’s global workforce.

Millennials are much more interested in discovering something unique and personal, spending 70% more on experiences than purchasing physical items. Gen Z, known as the convenience generation, has never known a world without the internet. Always connected and always on, they are used to instant results and feedback. With short attention spans, they demand quick and pain-free user experiences.

The message is clear. Experience is king. Luckily, hoteliers have a huge influence over generating customer experience. Hotels need to remember that they alone own their hotel rooms, they alone own the in-stay experience, and they alone choose whether or not to own the customer relationship at the time of booking. This is the hotels’ unique advantage over online sales brands.

Mobile is set to explode. Again.

With download speeds 10 to 20 times faster than currently available, 5G will have a massive impact on mobile user behaviour and expectations. Video and augmented or virtual reality will become readily accessible. This will lead to huge changes in pre-booking research, with users able to visualise themselves in a room rather than just looking through photos or a 360 degree tour.

A mobile-first strategy must replace the “also available on mobile” approach. Google’s mobile-first indexing will reward hotels who invest in a mobile-first strategy and heavily penalise those that are not mobile friendly. No hotel can afford to ignore mobile as again online travel agents (OTAs) will be waiting in the wings for the easy pickings served to them by hotels that fail to prioritise a mobile-first strategy.

Bookassist statistics show up to 60% of hotel website traffic coming from mobile (UK & IE). Transactions too have seen a jump for hotels who are mobile optimised. While revenue is still very much desktop-heavy, mobile revenue is rapidly rising. It’s also important to consider that the customer journey doesn’t always start on desktop and has multiple touch points. Ignore mobile optimisation at your peril.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will be further enabled by 5G network rollout. While VR replaces the real-world environment with a virtual one and requires wearable technology such as a VR headset, AR adds to the real-world environment by introducing digital components into reality which users can access with a smartphone. This makes AR a more realistic goal for hoteliers.

Some hotels are already using AR to enhance their brochures which, when scanned by mobile, can jump to life. AR-enabled wall maps allow guests to explore local points of interest before venturing out. AR can even be used to augment the hotel environment itself to make it a more enjoyable experience. There is huge opportunity here for hotels to enhance both the pre-stay and in-stay experience for their guests.

Video Will Dominate

Millennials and Gen Z access more content by video than any other form. Information transfer from video is also significantly higher, since people today are more likely to watch than read, especially on mobile. It’s worth remembering that in terms of search volume, YouTube is now the world’s second largest search engine. And it’s not just YouTube - Facebook generates 8 billion video views on average per day and certainly can’t be ignored. The advent of 5G access will just make this an even more important medium.

Hotels need to future-proof their businesses now by investing in relevant, informational and entertaining video content and video advertising. Google estimates that video will account for 80% of all media consumed online by 2021. While video, and video advertising, may be more expensive to generate, the cost of not investing in video will become plain very soon.

Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence

The most widely implemented form of artificial intelligence (AI) in travel is in the form of chatbots. Many hotels already have a live chat on their websites but chatbots have automation at their core and can deliver rapid response times to common problems or queries, freeing hotel staff to focus on more personalised service.

An intelligent chatbot is further able to improve itself through machine learning based on its interactions with customers over time. At the moment most chatbots are text based, although this will change as voice queries increase.

Some of the key things to look for in choosing a chatbot service are:
Chatbots can integrate with booking engine APIs so that rates and availability can be provided to customers, and Bookassist has already completed such integrations (for example with Colossal Factory’s chatbot Zoé).

  • The ability to ‘teach’ your chatbot by adding personalised questions and answers
  • Multilingual options
  • Self-learning through machine learning so that the chatbot can improve itself
  • Availability on all devices
  • Option to connect with live chat when necessary
  • Option to arrange a follow up or call back when an answer is not available
  • Most importantly, the facility to provide information that can facilitate a booking.

Digital Voice Assistants

There has been a surge in digital voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana, and the hotel industry is increasingly adopting these assistants to enhance the in-stay experience.

In-room voice assistants and the Internet of Things is being used to enhance the guest experience. We can now simply speak to easily adjust room features to suit personal needs such as controlling lights, heating etc. Voice commands can also be used to schedule a wake-up call, play a favourite playlist, order room service, request towels, and report faults. The implications for hyper personalisation and customer service are significant.

AI-enabled robots equipped with speech recognition technology are already being used by some hotels such as Yotel to greet guests, answer basic queries and deliver room service. It’s still very early days, but expect to see lot more robots in your travels in future years.

Voice Search

Statistics around voice search are dramatic. According to Comscore, 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. And about 30% of searches will be done without a screen by 2020 according to Mediapos. There is no doubt that there is a solid trend away from traditional text-based search.

The shift to voice search has implications for digital marketers who need to tailor their SEO and content strategy to match with voice search. To be optimised for voice search, you first need to assess the intent of likely queries. Is the user likely to ask general questions indicating that they are not very far into the purchase path, or questions that indicate they are almost ready to book? Next, you need to see how your content might answer the various questions you anticipate. Is your content conversational and likely to provide a good and clear answer?

A well-written FAQ page is a good way to address voice search. Other areas to look at include adding schema markup to your content to help it appear in featured snippets on Google results, optimising your Google My Business page, and ensuring your site is mobile friendly and fast to load.

Visual Search

Visual Search has been around for quite a while, but it is starting to gain more traction, particularly since the launch of tools such as Pinterest Lens and Google Lens which allow users to point a smartphone at an object and access information about it. It is also possible to search by image on Google on desktop, by clicking in the camera icon in the search box.

To prepare for the shift towards visual search, hotels need to examine their visual content strategy. High quality and engaging imagery, preferably quite unique, consistency across all platforms and presence on key visual platform such and Instagram and Pinterest are basic requirements.

Consider your role both as a content creator and a curator of images. If you come across great images of your property on Instagram or Pinterest you should repost on your hotel’s account and also approach the owners and ask for permission to use them on your website.

Opportunities to appear in visual search present themselves across the entire customer journey, so don’t limit yourself to images in and around your property. A good quality image of a local attraction added to a blog post about things to do in your area could potentially appear for a user who is researching their next trip.

Exploring new markets - China

The number of Chinese tourists to Europe surged by 65% in the first half of 2017 year on year. The growth in the number of visas being issued for Chinese travel to Europe further underlines this growth with almost 2.5M visas issued in 2017, compared to 1.2M just 5 years earlier.

Before deciding to target the Chinese market, consider that Independent travellers from China are rare as it is more typical for Chinese visitors to have visas and travel arranged by a tour operator.

In targeting the Chinese market, look for options that don’t require a huge initial investment. An example would be a meta search platform such as Wego, which has strong visibility in China and which can be accessed for you by Bookassist Meta Search services. If you start to see good results, then it may be worthwhile investigating other platforms and making a firmer commitment to advertising on them and localising content.

Recognition Technology

Recognition technology has hit the hotel space and is increasingly being used in a bid to enhance personalisation and significantly improve customer service. Recognition technology includes biometric identifiers such as facial recognition, fingerprint recognition and retina scanning.

Some hotels are already adopting this technology to create a more frictionless guest experience for example room access via fingerprint, or seamless check in via facial recognition. In a time-poor world, friction reduction is something that guests will increasingly appreciate. The hotel of the future will adopt this technology to personalise the experience to an extent never seen before.


Blockchain is a highly secure digital approach to recording data changes and transactions. Think of it as a ledger but each digital block of a record is encrypted, and each subsequent block has a link to the previous block in that ledger, along with a timestamp and information on the transaction or change. These blocks of data cannot be overwritten, leaving a permanent immutable record and making the data extremely difficult to compromise.

Blockchain technology is still in its infancy in terms of mass market adoption, but there are already foreseeable uses in the hotel industry. For example, the travel industry relies upon client information being passed between multiple different companies. Blockchain technology can make accessing and storing this client information much more secure, reliable and seamless, improving the travel experience and making customers feel more secure with their bookings and sharing their personal data

The issue remains market adoption. Blockchain is not free, and it certainly is not fast to use in terms of transaction speeds. The technology is getting there, but it has to be widely utilised to start disrupting industries, including hospitality.

Out With The Old For Measuring Success

The traditional method of looking at return on investment (ROI) per medium in isolation is no longer relevant. it only measures the impact of one channel but ignores the overall contribution to success. We need to look at total revenue uplift and different attribution models to measure overall contribution of all paid platforms combined.

There are many different attribution models available, but understanding how attribution works is essential before deciding on a multi-channel model. A simple analogy to help explain it is this: If a player scores a goal, should they get 100% of the credit for that goal, or should the defender who passed to midfield who then passed it across to the eventual scorer also receive credit for assisting? In this analogy, if you decide the goal scorer should get 100% of the credit, then you have no need for the other players. Clearly this doesn’t happen, so in an advertising scenario, it equally doesn’t make sense to remove all the platforms that assisted in your final conversion and rely simply on the campaign that got the last click.

Measuring the value of each channel is not easy, but tools such as Google Analytics have improved how they report on assisted conversions and attribution, so this should be your first step.

Bottom Line

There has never been so much new technology coming down the line. Each year brings more and more opportunities for the future. But it is critical to optimise the opportunities you already have right now. Today, there is no stronger direction to take than to focus on mobile. Most of the future technologies will rely heavily on the mobile channel, so ensuring you already have an optimised presence there will allow you to build in the newer technologies as they arrive and not be playing catch-up in the future.

Bookassist ( is the multi-award-winning technology and digital strategy partner for hotels worldwide. Bookassist is The Direct Booking Expert™ and is a Google Premium Partner.

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