Preparing for the high season: hotel challenges to increase your direct bookings

Preparing for the high season: hotel challenges to increase your direct bookings

40% of leisure travelers say they are making more effort and spending more time preparing their trips. And in May 2023, the majority of European travelers had not yet finalized their summer vacations.

It’s now or never, don’t miss out on capturing this demand and attracting potential customers right up to the last minute!

With summer just around the corner, we’ve compiled a list of the major challenges and issues in the hotel industry, so you can prepare for the summer and increase your direct bookings.

Hospitality industry trends for the second half of 2023

The 2023 current economic climate presents several challenges for the travel and hospitality sector, but travelers have not said their last word.

Indeed, we are still seeing a high volume of research from travelers, the trend is still upwards. For the hotel industry, 2023 is shaping up to be as good or better than 2022, the record year ahead of 2019. In a post-Covid-19 pandemic era, the travel industry is thriving, as travelers seek to escape from their hectic lifestyles.

Though, faced with an often uncertain environment, travelers’ behavior has changed. More and more of them are booking their holidays at the last minute, even though they are spending time preparing for their trip: in April 2023, almost 75% of European travelers had still not booked their summer vacations. 

Americans in particular continue to travel, especially in summer. The pandemic has led to a permanent shift in preferences, particularly for the younger generations who value personal experiences over material goods.

According to Chip Rogers, CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the coming summer months could “set a record or come close to it” in terms of room occupancy. A recent Bank of America survey showed that 68% of Americans plan to take a vacation this year. Nearly three million Americans took a vacation in March, the highest number for that month since 1976 (Current Population Survey).

In addition, there is a growing demand for vacations that offer the chance to discover new regions, establishments, and experiences, previously inaccessible, for example, with new countries opening up to tourism.

A greater proportion of travelers are looking for slow-paced local experiences, which also correspond to ecological values towards deceleration, contemplation, and intimacy. They are turning to establishments that offer wellness solutions to disconnect and recharge their batteries in a natural setting.

Meanwhile, business travel demand is high in Europe this year despite rising air and hotel fares. According to FCM Travel Solutions, global business travel demand remained “strong despite mixed economic conditions” in the first quarter of 2023, with more travelers looking to book online and earlier to “secure options and book at lower prices”.

Hotel prices are also rising worldwide, according to FCM, with average corporate rates up 19% in Europe in Q1 2023 (vs Q1 2022), the third highest quarterly rise in hotel rates, behind Asia (26%), and the Middle East and Africa (22%).

How to make sure to sell directly on my website rather than via OTAs?

Today’s web users are used to receiving personalized suggestions from their favorite platforms. Everything is done to take into account their lifestyles to offer them the content that best suits them.

In the tourism sector, OTAs are already taking advantage of these personalization algorithms to propose the best offer to web users looking for a stay or a hotel. To stay competitive with Expedia, Booking, or, we recommend that you integrate personalization into your strategy to win direct bookings.

Determine what most influences your target customers when they book a hotel room with you. A booking engine will provide you with detailed reports on your distribution channels: you’ll be able to identify which ones bring you the most customers and which channel is the most profitable. This way, you can improve your online sales strategy to increase your direct hotel bookings.

Take advantage of the technology that today brings new tools to strengthen your relationship with travelers: you need to know your customers, but also collect usable data about their preferences, and be able to put it to good use.

Interact intelligently with your customers and offer your services on mobile, with support throughout the customer journey: before, during, and after their stay. Investing in tools that harness data and algorithms enables you to better meet the needs of digital natives, who are different from their elders in that they are used to receiving results in real time while ensuring the security and privacy of their data.

As you can see, digital marketing is now a prerequisite for the success of your hotel business. It’s the cornerstone of your sales strategy in which you must invest your time and resources.

How can I prepare for the summer with my hotel website?

Have a website designed to generate bookings

First of all, your hotel website needs to be linked to a booking engine so that your rooms can be booked online. It needs to be user-friendly, easy for your future guests to navigate, and fast and adaptive (adaptable to all desktop and mobile devices).

Create a high-performance, personalized website based on what makes you unique and brings you closer to your future guests. This will enable you to reach a qualified audience and convert more customers to your hotel website.

Focus on an attractive presentation of your rooms, with detailed descriptions, quality photos, and videos to showcase your establishment and its rooms. Don’t hesitate to use a professional photographer. Make sure rates, amenities, and canceling policies are easily accessible and clearly displayed.

See the example of the Five Seas Hotel in Cannes :

The information on OTAs about your hotel and rooms must be identical to that on your official website, to reassure potential customers who can easily compare your offers/rooms with those of the Online Travel Agencies.

What’s more, did you know that 40% of visitors leave your website if your pages take longer than 3 seconds to load? Your site’s speed is crucial to keeping visitors on your pages and converting more customers. Hosting and media file optimization, notably, are two elements on which you can act to increase the speed of your website.

In addition, the customer/booking path must be fluid, user-centered, and intuitive, otherwise, you’ll lose out on the number of bookings on your website, and therefore direct revenue. We advise you to favor an adaptive, uncluttered design to limit visual noise, facilitate the booking process, and emphasize calls-to-action (especially the ‘BOOK’ button).

Take advantage of textual content to tell your story and what makes your hotel unique, detailing what sets you apart from the competition. Text supports images in conveying emotions. Make sure your storytelling is well-written and enhances the value of your hotel.

You can take inspiration from the Domaine de Verchant and Les Hortensias du Lac’s websites, which WIHP, your hotel marketing agency created in their image.

Guarantee the best price on your hotel website

Travelers are often looking for the best deal. That’s why we advise you to offer the best rate on your website. You’ll be more likely to generate direct bookings and increase your sales.

On the other hand, the “offers” page is one of the most visited pages, accounting for an average of 20% of a hotel website’s traffic (internal source). Internet users are looking for good deals. We recommend punctually proposing special or exclusive offers to encourage them to book on your website.

You can offer: breakfast included, access to the SPA, a gift box, a hotel-restaurant offer, a family offer, or a 3 nights + 1 free offer. You can keep your offers simple, while still convincing travelers to stay at your establishment.

Finally, collect the e-mail addresses of visitors to your site so you can send them promotions and special offers to encourage them to book. You can also contact your customers to win their loyalty with exclusive offers. Email marketing is an effective way of reaching potential guests and bringing back travelers who have already stayed at your hotel.

Use metasearch engines to maximize your direct revenues

Metasearch accounts for up to 30% of a hotel’s direct bookings! There’s no secret: the more channels you’re visible on, the greater your chances of increasing your direct revenues. This is even truer for meta engines, as you’re reaching qualified customers who are ready to book a room in your hotel.

To maximize your visibility and direct revenue, we recommend that you appear on all the metasearch engines, each with its own characteristics and advantages. Don’t limit yourself to Google Hotel Ads, Tripadvisor, and trivago. Explore other, more profitable price comparison sites, such as Kayak, Skyscanner, or Bing Hotel Ads, to attract a maximum number of customers in different markets.

Google Hotel Ads, Tripadvisor, and trivago are the most widely used metasearch engines globally for travelers looking for a hotel online. Bing Hotel Ads is a rising player that generates a good ROAS. As for Kayak, it performs well in certain geographic zones, notably North America, its historical market, and Asia since the acquisition of HotelsCombined.

In short, one of the best strategies is to make your establishment appear on all the metasearch engines. This has become essential to your digital marketing efforts. This increases your acquisition of qualified traffic and gives you an additional distribution channel to compete with OTAs. It’s an excellent way of reducing the proportion of commissions paid to OTAs, and thus increasing your share of direct sales.

Finally, don’t miss out on the latest news and features of price comparison sites! We’ll take a look at them for you below.

Choose trivago at CPA NET (Cendyn’s Exclusive)

The trivago net commission bidding model, or CPA net, is now available only on Cendyn Digital Marketing Platform!

Activating your net CPA campaigns gives you extra security in the direct distribution of your hotel, to optimize the performance of your hotel’s online distribution.

Net CPA allows you to set a commission amount with trivago, and the algorithm automatically adjusts positioning according to the commission rate, optimizing the bid.

Above all, it’s net of cancellations and no-shows, meaning you’ll only be charged for actual stays and after your customers have departed. This guarantees you a low distribution cost and return on advertising investment (ROAS).

Take advantage of trivago’s free booking links

Trivago has launched its Free Booking Links for hotels! These are totally free links that enable independent hoteliers to promote their rates on their official websites, thus generating qualified traffic and more direct income.

For the time being, trivago FBLs are available in Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

At present, only independent hotels with no active paid campaigns on trivago can activate Free Booking Links.

If you meet these criteria, the main benefits for your hotel are:

  • Get a new free tool to generate more direct revenue.
  • Stay competitive and reduce the share of OTAs in your distribution and sales.
  • Gain autonomy in promoting your rates and your hotel’s visibility.
  • Increase qualified traffic to your hotel website.

However, paid campaigns generate far more clicks and bookings. It is therefore preferable to activate paid campaigns rather than FBL campaigns.

Capitalize on your hotel’s name with Search Ads

Search Engine Advertising (SEA) involves buying sponsored links on search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex, targeted by keywords. SEA campaigns are adverts that enable Internet users to be precisely targeted according to several criteria, such as their browsing history, location, media used, demographic data, etc. The advantage is an increase in visitors to your hotel website.

The advantage is an immediate increase in your hotel’s visibility on search engines and the recovery of qualified traffic for your site. It’s an effective way of acquiring potential new customers. Ultimately, it allows you to increase your direct sales and compete with OTAs.

With brand protection campaigns in particular, you’ll be protecting your hotel name against those bidding on it, such as competitors or OTAs. These campaigns are highly profitable, as they attract highly qualified Internet users who are actively searching for your hotel.

The key is to bid on keywords corresponding to your hotel’s name and your brand’s restricted lexical field. In particular, it’s more effective to use an “exact expression” or “exact keyword” keyword strategy than a “broad query” keyword strategy.

Finally, buying a brand name has several advantages:

  • Be at the top of search engines: travelers searching for a hotel on the Internet generally don’t differentiate between a paid and an organic link, and 55% of clicks are concentrated on the first 3 results.
  • Reclaim the traffic that’s rightfully yours: if someone types your hotel’s name into the search bar, it’s only logical that they should come across your site, and not that of an OTA. However, if you don’t buy your hotel’s brand on Google Ads, it’s the OTA that’s going to get the booking that should go straight to you.

Activate Performance Max (and soon the Travel option)

In March 2023, Google Hotel Search announced an evolution of Performance Max, specifically for travel players: the launch of Performance Max for travel goals, sometime in 2023.

The aim is to increase points of contact with travelers during their journey of discovery, consideration, and purchase. This will increase your hotel’s visibility and direct bookings across all Google advertising channels.

This new ad format is powered by Google’s artificial intelligence and will deliver your hotel ads across all Google platforms: Search, Display, YouTube, Gmail, Discover, Maps, and Google Hotel Ads (second half of 2023).

Google’s AI will automatically create all the ads for you to cover all the available advertising space. You can modify them manually if you wish.

The connection with the Google Hotel Ads feed will enable Google to dynamically promote your prices. Google also retrieves data from your Google Business Profile, which must be up to date.


Use free Google tools to generate direct bookings

Monetize your Google Business Profile

Your Google Business Profile can help you gain visibility. It’s your hotel’s identity card on Google. It brings together all the information that characterizes your hotel, making it visible and accessible with a single click.

By optimizing your Google profile, you can attract up to 38% more attention from travelers: add all your business information, link your website, list your additional services, and so on. The more complete your listing, the more effective it will be.

The GBP also enables you to improve your local search ranking by making your establishment appear on Google Maps. Many Internet users search for hotels directly on Maps, which increases your chances of being spotted and selected by a traveler.

Finally, hotel guests can leave online reviews and photos on your Google Business Profile, so they generate visitor engagement by responding to negative and positive reviews.

Activate Google Free Booking Links

Free Booking Links are totally free links that show your official rate in the “All options” category.

By clicking on a booking link, the traveler will be automatically redirected to your website’s booking page, increasing your traffic. Make sure you have a user-friendly landing page with a simple purchase path, the room in question and rates clearly displayed, and a fast website so as not to lose travelers.

Check that all your establishments are listed in the FBL, with up-to-date information, and that the prices shown match the prices advertised on your official website.

We advise you to activate FBLs in addition to classic Google Hotel Ads campaigns (CPC or Commission), which today account for at least 75% of bookings generated by the Google Hotel Ads channel.

Track your performance with Google analytics tools

Get the most out of Google Analytics 4

With the implementation of all these solutions, tracking your permanences is crucial to analyze your results and potentially adjust your strategy.

An essential tool for tracking your online performance, Google Analytics 4 will replace Universal Analytics on July 1, 2023. More powerful, GA4 collects data from your hotel website and its visitors to understand the customer journey. This enables you to measure your performance and the effectiveness of your marketing actions.

GA4 brings several new features:

  • Events: The data model is event-based (room reservation, page click, etc.) and you can track up to 300 events!
  • Reports: Customized reports with predictive analysis: access to your data is faster and more detailed, enabling you to make decisions in real time.
  • Performance: Google Ads can extract performance data from GA4, perfect for boosting your performance and conversion rate.

GA4 is therefore a more innovative tool than its predecessor, offering a range of features to boost productivity through automation while respecting the privacy of Internet users.

Anticipate search demand with Google Travel Insights

In addition to Google Analytics 4, you can use Google Travel Insights, which collects data and analyzes travel trends in real time, based on world regions.

This platform enables you to track market trends, helping you to adapt your decisions. Google Travel Insight consists of :

  • Hotel Insight: find out where your customers are coming from and from which countries searches are most important, and target the right audience.
  • Destination Insight: gauge interest in a specific destination, and stay on top of global trends with data updated daily.

These free analysis tools enable you to monitor the performance of your hotel website, and better steer your hotel marketing strategy and relevant business decisions.


Digital marketing will enable you to increase the share of direct sales in your total revenue against OTAs, and optimize your online distribution.

With favorable traveler behavior in 2023, a high-performance hotel website on the metasearch, innovative free and paid tools, and a follow-up of your results, you’re sure to have the weapons you need to prepare for the summer high season.

After the summer, if you want to increase your occupancy rate in the quieter periods, we recommend you turn to solutions such as Google Property Promotion Ads, Tripadvisor Sponsored Placements or trivago Sponsored Listing to attract new customers to your destination, those who know where they’re staying but are still looking for accommodation.

We’ll help you build an effective hotel digital marketing strategy tailored to your business, to increase your direct bookings. Contact our specialist teams!

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