Hotel Industry Blog

Get ready for major changes to payments processing - PSD2 is on its way

By Claire Sawier | On Mon, August 12, 2019

By Claire Sawier and Don Cronin

Just a little over a year since GDPR came into force hoteliers are facing yet more EU legislation with the adoption of the second European Payment Services Directive (PSD2). Here’s what all the fuss is about.

What is PSD2?

If you haven’t heard of PSD2 then you are not alone as awareness across the industry is only beginning to pick up. PSD2 is a follow-up to the initial European Payment Services Directive (PSD1) which was adopted in 2007 to make cross-border payments easier, more efficient, and more secure within EU Member states. PSD2 is being introduced in order to widen the scope of the initial directive. PSD2 is due to come into force on September 14th, 2019 although it’s increasing likely that implementation may be delayed as many Payment Service Providers (PSPs) and merchants continue to struggle to be ready to meet the deadline.

Why is PSD2 being introduced?

There are a number of important benefits to PSD2. It will enhance the initial successes of PSD1 in the prevention of payment fraud and will strengthen data security protection, which is really important in today’s digital payment environment. PSD2 will benefit consumers by making cheaper and more innovative electronic payment options available. New players have emerged in the area of internet payments which enable consumers to pay instantly without the need for a credit card. Examples include Apple Pay, Google Pay and Paypal. PSD2 will regulate these new payment options and make it easier and safer for consumers to access them. This is great news for around 60% of the EU population who do not have a credit card (figures according to the European Commission, Payment Services Directive FAQ).

Another important and significant element of PSD2 is Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) which aims to reduce credit card fraud and make payments more secure for consumers by forcing ‘two factor’ customer authentication to payment processes, in other words, forcing payment processing to challenge users for more identification information before allowing any card charge. The introduction of SCA is a significant legal requirement.

How will Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) be applied?

Strong Customer Authentication mandates that for online payments, both originating and terminating within the EU, at least two of the following three factors must be provided by you online in order to validate the card and allow payments to proceed:

  1. Knowledge – something only you know (password, PIN or memorised swiping path)
  2. Possession – something only you have (mobile phone or QR code evidenced device)
  3. Inherence – something you are (fingerprint, voice, face recognition or retina scan)

From September 14th, hotel bookers online will have to provide two factor authentication instead of single factor (just the card CVV) as is mostly the case today. Some people are already familiar with two factor approaches, such as having a PIN sent to their phone as a secondary layer of authentication, but from mid September onwards it is likely to be used far more frequently to ensure enhanced security.

How will SCA impact online bookings?

The overriding fear is that these authentication requirements will frustrate users to the point that it will negatively affect conversion. More significantly, the immediate threat of potential disruption to businesses and customers is much more of a worry as non-compliant participants run the risk of having customer payments delayed, challenged or rejected entirely. On top of this the continued exposure to fraudulent transactions will continue to undermine business. In the worst case scenario where no action is taken by banks, then hotels should expect higher booking abandonment rates and an increase in authorisation declines.

Are all bookings subject to SCA?

Certain transactions will not be subject to SCA and will remain out of the scope of the legislation. Cardholder-present transactions are an obvious transaction type which will be out of scope. Paper-based transactions, mail-order, telephone-order (MOTO) transactions, and Merchant Initiated Transactions (MIT) will also be out of scope.

Other transactions, while not out of scope, can be effectively managed so that they are exempt from a SCA challenge. These include trusted beneficiary transactions, low monetary transactions, low risk transactions, and recurring payment transactions.

However the majority of online payments will require SCA, even including online bookings which require no upfront payment but use credit card guarantee only.

Will OTA bookings also need to meet SCA requirements?

OTA bookings are subject to the same rules as direct bookings. They too will need to implement two factor authentication. It is not yet known how OTAs will manage this. However it is likely that the preponderance of up-front payments is likely to increase. The exposure therefore is that hotels become further ensnared within the OTA web which is already creating daily difficulties for clients as it stands. If hotels utilise an OTA SCA processing solution then they run the risk of losing even more control of a key element of the booking process and may incur even higher costs. At this stage Bookassist would advise hotels to wait to see what the OTAs propose and be cautious and patient before taking the next step, as understanding the ‘small print’ could be crucial to avoiding future undesired consequences.

What do hotels need to do to prepare for PSD2?

The good news for hotels is that the responsibility for PSD2 lies primarily with payment gateways and the banking or financial sector. Hotels need to ensure that their payment partners are PSD2 ready in addition hotels should check with their own banks and/or payment gateway provider to ensure that they have taken the necessary actions to ensure that they are PSD2 ready and can receive funds without issues post September 14th.

Equally hotels should speak with their PMS supplier, booking engine provider, their online distribution partners and enquire how they plan to authenticate and facilitate payments post September 14th. Confirmed compliance will avoid the risk of a drop in conversion with guests dropping out of booking processes and buying rooms elsewhere.

Hotels will also need to review and update their terms and conditions to ensure that they take account of the new PSD2 legislation.

How is Bookassist preparing hotels for PSD2?

Bookassist has been working for many months with its payment partners to ensure that we and our clients are PSD2 compliant. This has involved an update to all our various payment gateways and integration software. Bookassist will continue to keep clients informed of any additional PSD2 updates including additional requirements, should this become relevant or updated implementation timelines which may be announced.

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

Why hotels should claim their Google My Business Short Name URL

By Rumenigo Fernandes | On Mon, July 15, 2019

By Rumenigo Fernandes

google my business short name url banner

Google has introduced a new Google My Business (GMB) feature that allows hotels to create a short URL for their Google My Business listing.

This new feature makes it easier for hotels to share their GMB profile and collect guest reviews.

Example of current URL:,-6.3796203,15z/

New Short URL:

google my business preview on google maps

Why claim your Short URL?

Your Google My Business profile is a key brand asset and although not mandatory, we recommend you protect your brand assets and therefore claim the short URL you want before another brand does. No two brands can have the same short URL so we recommend you protect your brand by claiming your free short URL now.

Once created Google will also generate a review link e.g.

You can share your short URL to request reviews, share hotel directions etc. Additionally, you can print your short URL and circulate on promotional material as you would for say TripAdvisor review requests.

When a user searches for your brand the Short Name URL will be shown on the Google Knowledge Graph. Google’s idea with this is to allow users to easily share your hotel profile with friends and on social media channels.

google my business share link preview

How to create a Short Name URL for your hotel

Login to your hotel’s Google My Business Profile
Click Info and you will see the feature @ Add short name.
Click on the pencil icon to create your Short Name URL.

google my business admin menu preview

Note: Your Short Name URL should be consistent with your other social media vanity URLs to maintain brand consistency and recognition. Google will automatically suggest a Short Name URL but it is not mandatory to use this. If you like it you can use it, and if not you can create your own.

google my business profile short name preview

Important points to keep in mind when creating your Short Name URL

1. Maintain Brand Consistency

Brand consistency is key. You need to review all of your social brand urls to ensure consistency across all platforms.

social media platforms including facebook, instagram, twitter, and pinterest

The GMB short urls are in line with the Hotel’s facebook URL:

2. Keep it Short

Google lets you use up 32 characters but that does not mean you have to use them all. Keep it short unless required.

3. Use Caps and/or Hyphens for clarity

Eg. MyHotelName vs myhotelname
Or NameDublin vs namedublin

Adding “-” can help to clarify even more

Eg. My-Brand-Name vs MyBrandName
Or Name-Dublin vs NameDublin

Note: you cannot use spaces or special characters to create short URLs.

google maps location pins banner

4. Use of Localisation terms

Localisation terms can be used to distinguish individual hotels within a hotel group for example. All hotels use the common Brand name and additional location term to differentiate each hotel by location.

My-Brand-Name-Dublin vs My-Brand-Name-Galway

Hotels that have a similar name to another hotel in a different location may also need to make use of the localisation term if the other hotel has already claimed the short URL “my-brand-name”

In this case the 2nd hotel can’t claim “my-brand-name” but can make use of the localisation term as a work around.


5. Think Long term

Google allows you to change your Short Name URL up to 3 times a year. While this is great to know it’s best to get it right first time. So take your time to create a Short Name URL that can be used long term and is consistent with your other social media vanity URLs.

Learn more with Google My Business Help

Google my Business provide a guide to help you with every aspect of the set up and includes information on how to change or delete your Short URL to how to report a user that has illegally claimed and is using your brand Short Name URL.

Stay Tuned

Google Short Name URL is a new feature within Google My Business profile and we expect more changes in the future. To keep up to date with industry trends and changes don’t forget to visit our Bookassist Blog.

5 New Features Coming to Google My Business

By Samantha Salazar | On Thu, June 27, 2019

google my business logo

Last week, Google announced a handful of new changes coming to Google My Business.

Hoteliers can now implement these new features on their Google My Business profile.

1. Better branding through short names and URLs. Hotels can now claim a short name and URL for their business. This will allow you to easily refer guests to your profile. This will also make it easier to search for your property in Maps.

2. Welcome offers to reward loyal followers. Promote unique special offers directly through your Google My Business profile.

welcome offers for google my business

3. Cover photos, more prominent logos, and photo displays to showcase the best of what your property has to offer. In addition to including a profile cover photo, hotels that have completed their core information (phone number, hours, etc.) will now be able to have their logo displayed at the top right-hand side of their profile. We will also be seeing photos uploaded by hotels displayed more prominently on their profiles through a new dynamic module, with photo captions to give life to your imagery.

google my business adds short names cover photo

4. Take your Google My Business offline with custom posters, social posts, and more from reviews and highlights on your profile. All for free with Google’s new Marketing Kit.

5. The most significant update announced is that Google will be highlighting the top five percent of businesses in a particular category with the “Local Favorite” designation. To help people easily find and engage with these businesses, Google is also creating digital and physical badges of honour. We can expect more details on these recognition categories later this summer.

Hoteliers can now implement these features by updating their settings, by visiting Google My Business or learn more by connecting with their digital marketing specialist @Bookassist.

Google My Business is just one essential aspect of optimising your Search Engine Results Page! Why not have a read through our previous article on Owning Your Hotel’s Online Real Estate?

We Need To Talk About Conversion

By Claire Sawier | On Mon, June 17, 2019

By Claire Sawier, with Dr Des O’Mahony and Samantha Salazar.

opening hotel room image for conversion article

What is conversion and why does it matter?

Your conversion rate is typically defined as the percentage of how many bookings you received compared to the number of sessions to your website, and is a key metric often used to measure marketing efficiency.

For booking engines using Google Analytics, the e-commerce tracking feature displays the number of bookings made and the amount of revenue generated, as well as the e-commerce conversion rate for both mobile and desktop.

According to this traditional outlook a conversion is a booking. But at Bookassist we are challenging this simplistic metric.

Misconceptions about conversion

Certainly the goal for most hotel marketeers is to secure a booking and that’s where most conversion metrics end, at the point of booking. It’s a simple ‘lookers to bookers’ ratio. But what about cancellations? If you are only measuring your success in terms of bookings made, then you are masking the reality of what happens after the booking is made. Do you even know how many of your bookings go on to be cancelled?

In our recent article on cancellations we found that the most successful hotels are those that take a combined view of conversions and cancellations and manage both carefully. High conversion rates might look good, but they may simply be delivering high cancellation rates unless a robust cancellation strategy has been implemented.

Net conversion rate

Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) is a marketing strategy aimed at increasing the percentage of website visitors that convert into customers and is crucial to your hotel’s online success. Your CRO strategy needs to focus on;

  1. Getting the right traffic to your website in the first place
  2. Converting those visits to bookings
  3. And making sure they stick around to actually end up staying at your hotel

Conversion rates therefore need to be considered alongside cancellation rates to give a true picture of success and marketing effectiveness, i.e. we need to be looking at a Net Conversion Rate. You therefore need to start tracking cancellation rates, both direct and OTA, for a more realistic conversion metric for your distribution channels and an assessment of their true effectiveness.

The real challenge for CRO is to tackle the full booking journey right through to the point of stay. The industry as a whole needs to switch mindset to reporting on net conversion rates and not just conversion from the point of view of bookings. And marketers also need to focus on their post booking strategy to minimise cancellations and increase net conversion rates. This is particularly important with the clear rise in online booking cancellation rates that we’ve been seeing throughout the industry in recent years.

Limitations of website conversion metrics

It is often quoted in the industry that the average website conversion rate for hotels is 2% or thereabouts. This 2% is based on the bookings made relative to the ‘total’ number of sessions to your website. Many hotel website visitors of course have no booking intent and are simply browsing the showcase aspect of your site which often includes spa facilities, restaurant, wedding and corporate pages. We’ve all done it.

So your website conversion figure is a useful benchmark but it doesn’t really tell you a lot. For example, the 2.93% conversion rate shown in figure 1 tells us simply that the website in question is performing above the industry average, but it doesn’t give you any insight into the steps that you need to take in order to improve your direct booking capability.

Figure 1: Sample Google Analytics data for a three-star Dublin city centre hotel.
Figure 1: Sample Google Analytics data for a three-star Dublin city centre hotel.

Because hotel websites are traditionally a cross between a showcase and an e-commerce site, a more relevant conversion metric is the booking engine conversion rate. Unlike your overall website conversion rate which is skewed and therefore lowered by your overall general-purpose traffic, your booking engine conversion rate focuses exclusively on the booking e-commerce aspect of your business and is likely a truer and more insightful measure of what your are trying to achieve.

Your booking engine conversion rate and conversion goal funnel provide so much more additional information, especially where your booking engine employs Enhanced E-commerce with Google Analytics, as is available from Bookassist. Essential insights into your visitors’ paths to purchase tell us how many people enter the booking engine funnel, what room types or packages they are engaging with, where you’re losing bookers along the way, and at which stages we can improve their experience.

In our opinion at Bookassist, hotels should focus on their booking engine conversion rate as a priority over the overall website conversion rate. Furthermore they should not settle for the industry average and should not be complacent around average figures. In terms of website conversion there is a lot that separates hotels who achieve figures much higher than the industry average and there are a number of factors that can cause this number to fluctuate wildly. Equally, good-performing hotels report website conversion rates lower than the industry average and that may be okay too, depending on their overall website goals and type of visitors that they want to attract. Hotels simply differ too much across the industry for industry averages to be relevant in many cases.

Strong conversion strategy = strong conversion rate

Strong conversion rates are only possible when underpinned by a strong conversion strategy. This takes time, cost and attention but is absolutely worth the effort in terms of the resulting increase in revenue. Once a hotel’s booking conversion funnel has been optimised for an engaging and frictionless booking experience, the increase in booking and conversion opportunities will inevitably follow.

If your website and booking process are not optimised to convert then you are just wasting your money investing in activities to increase traffic to your website. As a result of this incorrect focus, many hotels are surprised when their increase in PPC or meta search advertising spend does not result in a significant bookings uplift. Sure, the more you throw at something the more likely some of it will stick, but if the conversion issues are not addressed before you invest in bringing more people to your site you’ll find that you may only manage to increase revenue slightly, and to a degree where it is not worth the additional spend and effort.

bucket with holes and another bucket with no holes indicating lost opportunities for conversion

You’d be better off spending your time and money first on making sure that your site, booking engine and booking engine setup are converting your current visitors before turning to visitor growth.

Try taking that journey yourself to understand first-hand the would-be booker experience when booking a room online for your hotel. We’ve yet to come across anyone who enjoys the experience of a slow site, inaccurate information, broken links, or being forced to sift through volumes of information trying to find what they are looking for, all against a background of dubious data security. In many cases you’ve already lost your potential booking even before they check availability.

CRO before SEM

By improving your website’s current conversion rate, you’ll also get better value out of your existing traffic as it’s more cost effective to generate increased revenue from your existing traffic than it is to drive more viewers to your site. Better still, if you improve your conversion rate before investing in paid online advertising, you’ll get a better return on investment on all future marketing efforts. A healthier conversion rate together with an increase in the number of visitors to your site will result in increased direct booking revenue.

Frictionless booking experience

Consumer expectations are the same the world over - a booking experience that is speedy, seamless and secure. Friction will not be tolerated and hotels that continue to add friction to the booker’s journey will pay in terms of lower conversion and ultimately lower revenue.

Your website, booking engine and digital marketing all need to work in perfect harmony. In this holistic scenario, (a) your digital marketing effort generates traffic with high purchase intent that (b) goes on to visit your mobile-ready and fully-optimised landing page showing the best available rate and clear direct booking benefits, thereby (c) drawing that traffic into the booking engine which (d) has clarity of content and presentation that makes it simple for customers to complete their reservation with ease.

Bookassist tightly integrates booking engine with website and digital marketing for a truly frictionless direct booking experience. This holistic approach is far more effective than using separate providers for each solution where that tight integration is much harder to achieve.

How to increase your conversion rates

There are a number of actions that you can take to increase both your overall website and booking engine conversion rate for desktop and for mobile. We’ll dive into the detail of successful conversion rate optimisation and share some really great success stories with you in our next article, so stay tuned!

Bottom Line

Conversion is a key measure of marketing success, but there are many misconceptions about conversion and hotels need to focus on the metrics that matter. A strong conversion strategy is needed to affect strong conversion rates. Hotels that adopt a holistic approach to remove booking friction will be rewarded in higher conversion and increased direct booking revenue.

Dr Des O’Mahony is CEO & Founder, Claire Sawier is Head of Marketing and Samantha Salazar is Digital Marketing Specialist at Bookassist, (, the multi-award-winning technology and digital strategy partner for hotels worldwide.

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.

bar chart comparing Bookassist client's mobile and desktop traffic for 2017 and 2018

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.

bar chart comparing Bookassist client's mobile and desktop traffic for the first quarter of 2019

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.

bar chart comparing Bookassist client's mobile and desktop revenue for 2017 and 2018

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

bar chart comparing Bookassist client's mobile and desktop revenue for the first quarter of 2019

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.

bar chart comparing ratio of revenue generating sessions for mobile and desktop with year on year performance from 2018 to 2019

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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