Online Reservations: Increasing your site's 'Look to Book' ratio

By Jerry Tarasofsky CEO, iPerceptions Inc. | January 27, 2012

Hospitality web site's "look to book" ratio is a benchmark that can be directly compared and related to shopping cart abandonment. There is no real difference between making buying something online and making an online reservation. Both require the use of a credit card and a commitment to make a purchase.

Data taken from the most recent Rush Report on User Satisfaction & Hotel Web Site Performance published by Hospitality e-Business Strategies and iPerceptions confirms that the overall "look to book" ratio in the hospitality sector is approximately 65/35 - in other words, for every ten people who visit your site only three actually make a reservation. Imagine how your revenue numbers might look if you could increase that ratio by 25%. Do the math and I'm sure you will agree reservation abandonment is one of the most important issues facing hospitality web sites today.

I have used this example in other articles before, but it makes my point - what if seven out of every ten people waiting to check in to your hotel suddenly walked out with no explanation and went somewhere else. That's exactly what's happening on your web site when people abandon the reservation process. You've got them ready to check-in but at the last moment they up and disappear.

My guess is, if this situation took place in a traditional bricks and mortar location, you would quickly take the appropriate actions to find out what the problem was and without any hesitation you would implement a program to insure that once people entered your hotel, they opted to stay.

Your web site for all intents and purposes is your online property and should be treated in much the same manner as your traditional bricks and mortar location. With six out of ten prospective customers abandoning the reservation process, there is much room for improvement.

Following this same analogy in the traditional world, would it not make sense to stop the people leaving your hotel and ask them what the problem is?

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Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.