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From Dreaming to Booking Part IV: The Booking Phase How to Capitalize on the Booking Phase of the Travel Planning Journey – By Margaret Mastrogiacomo

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From Dreaming to Booking

This article is part four in a five-part series that uncovers top strategies for reaching potential guests in meaningful moments throughout every stage of the travel planning journey to increase direct bookings. This article focuses on the fourth stage of travel planning: the booking phase.

Finally, after the daydreaming, advice-seeking, and travel planning comes to an end, the long-awaited moment arrives where travelers are ready to book. This is the moment of truth where your hotel brand must not only be present, but compelling enough to win the direct booking.

Below we explore the booking phase of our five-part series, “How to Capitalize on the Full Travel Planning Journey to Drive Direct Bookings”, to understand how hotel marketers can win the booking during this stage of the online travel journey. We will uncover what online behaviors are most common in this phase, what marketing channels are most effective, and how to measure success.

How does the booking phase take shape?

The booking phase is when consumers have narrowed down their accommodation options and are ready to commit to one. Google refers to the micro-moments throughout this phase as “Lets-Book-It” moments, where consumers’ have decided on the location as well as the brand they want to book with.

According to Google, in this stage, 94% of leisure travelers switch between devices as they plan or book a trip. In these cross-device moments, people often search for “[brand name] + [location].” And, in fact, almost half of these searches happen on mobile.

Mobile bookings are on the rise.

Google also reports that travelers aren’t just researching on mobile, mobile bookings are also increasing. 31% of leisure travelers say they’ve booked travel on a mobile device, while an even higher percentage of these mobile bookings came from business travelers at 53%. Yet, while mobile bookings are steadily growing, the question remains: while living our lives on a mobile device has become second nature, why are a majority of hotel bookings still happening on desktop?

Mobile may rise, but desktop still wins.

As much as mobile research and bookings have grown, the majority of travelers, especially those traveling for leisure, still book on desktop. Yet, we can’t ignore the role mobile plays throughout the journey. 46% of travelers state that they make their hotel decision on mobile but then move to another device to book.

So, why the hesitation? Fear of not finding the best rate on mobile, and overall mobile booking limitations. 69% of leisure travelers worry that they’re not finding the best price or making the best decision, while more than half of consumers switch to desktop to double-check hotel prices.

Not only do hotel brands face travelers switching devices, they also risk losing customers to competitors or OTAs. According to a study with Ipsos Connect, 88% of travelers with smartphones would switch to another site or app if yours doesn’t satisfy their needs—that’s a tough statistic to swallow after being there throughout every phase of their journey. In light of this, it cannot be stressed enough that a fully-responsive website with a seamless booking experience across devices is not only a must, it can be a serious deal-breaker.

What digital touchpoints are making an impact throughout the booking phase?

It’s no secret that reaching potential guests in crucial micro-moments throughout the booking phase is the final step in winning the direct booking. In the booking phase alone, a travel consumer can encounter up to 700 digital travel touchpoints, conduct over 52 searches, and consider up to 8 accommodation brands prior to booking. But, throughout these digital touchpoints where exactly are these crucial “lets-book-it” micro-moments?

A study conducted by Think with Google has confirmed that the majority of time spent throughout the booking phase is:

With almost half of research taking place on search engines and maps, having a strong search strategy throughout the booking phase should be a top priority. Utilizing top travel ad networks that capitalize on first-party travel planning data from flight providers and OTAs (a combined total of 24% of time spent) is also crucial in this phase. Time spent on OTAs can seem misleading as we know that OTAs typically make up a large portion of a hotel’s distribution strategy. This breakdown of time spent can simply reveal that while a majority of time goes to the official hotel website, search, and maps; due to loyalty, user-experience, and lack of rate parity, the OTAs can still ultimately win the booking.

What type of content are travelers looking for in the booking phase?

During the booking phase, travel planners are typically searching for websites and resources they have already visited in the planning phase to follow through on their booking decision. The most common searches in this phase are keywords surrounding the hotel brand in both search and Google images:

It’s important to own your branded keyword terms in the booking phase to not only accommodate these top searches as potential guests attempt to revisit your website but to ensure you are present in the top position against OTAs.

The best marketing mix to reach travelers in the booking phase:

Branded and location keyword terms should also be an SEO focus to ensure you are dominating SERPs for common searches regarding your hotel brand.

Implementing Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) is also an effective strategy to reach potential guests who have already been to your hotel website and have shown interest with more relevant and tailored messaging throughout search results. Consider implementing this on branded search terms so your ad copy can be personalized to acknowledge that the potential guest has already been to your website and welcome them back. By utilizing this targeting strategy, you can also bid more for a higher position in search results since you know this qualified audience is potentially more likely to book.

In-Market Audiences for Search, which is currently available for the Google Display Network and YouTube campaigns, will soon be available for search campaigns. In-Market Audiences will allow your search campaign strategy to target users based on intent signals such as recent search queries and website browsing activity. This targeting option for search ads will make it even easier and cost-effective for hotels to reach potential guests with intent to book.

Dynamic Rate Marketing display ads take this first-party travel intent data to the next level by allowing your hotel brand to display the best available rate in real-time for the exact arrival date a user searched for in your hotel’s destination. This is one of the best ways to reach potential guests with useful rates and information at the exact moment they exhibit travel intent to your hotel’s destination.

Measuring the Booking Phase: Getting to the Bottom Line.

In the booking phase, it should be no surprise that KPIs are revenue-driven metrics with a focus on impacting your bottom line. Top metrics include:

Overall, making an impact on travel consumers in the booking phase is your last chance to win the booking. No pressure. Your hotel brand should be present throughout as many meaningful moments of intent in the booking phase as possible, and there’s no better time to be there, be useful, and be compelling.

Read Part 1 – From Dreaming to Booking: How to Capitalize on the Full Travel Planning Journey to Increase Direct Bookings – By Margaret Mastrogiacomo

Read Part 2 – From Dreaming to Booking Part II: How to Capitalize on the Dreaming Phase of the Travel Planning Journey – By Margaret Mastrogiacomo

Read Part 3 - From Dreaming to Booking Part III: The Planning Phase How to Capitalize on the Planning Phase of the Travel Planning Journey – By Margaret Mastrogiacomo


Founded in 2001, the firm is headquartered in New York City and has global offices in Las Vegas and Asia Pacific. Through its Smart Guest Acquisition Suite, including the smartCMS®, Smart Personalization Engine, Smart Data Marketing, and full-service digital consulting and marketing solutions, HEBS Digital helps hoteliers drastically boost direct bookings, lower distribution costs, and increase the lifetime value of guests.

Part of NextGuest Technologies, HEBS Digital and Serenata CRM, the most comprehensive Hotel CRM Suite today, are the creators of the hospitality industry’s first Fully-Integrated Guest Engagement & Acquisition Platform.

A diverse client portfolio of top-tier luxury and boutique hotel chains, independent hotels, resorts and casinos, franchised properties and hotel management companies, convention centers, spas, restaurants, DMO and tourist offices across the globe are all benefiting from HEBS Digital’s direct online channel strategy and digital marketing expertise.

HEBS Digital’s technology, website design and digital marketing services have won more than 500 prestigious industry awards, including World Travel Awards, HSMAI Adrian Awards, Stevie Awards (American Business Awards), Travel Weekly’s Magellan Awards, and more.

The HEBS Digital team is comprised of thought leaders, a diverse team of experts comprised of over 33 nationalities speaking over 22 languages. Contact HeBS Digital’s consultants at 1 (800) 649-5076 (North America), +64 (0) 9 889 8489 (Asia Pacific) or


Garrick Lee
Marketing Manager, HEBS Digital
Phone: (212) 752-9425

Posted by on March 22, 2018.

Categories: Internet

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