Guest Booking Path Phase III: Booking
The Booking: at once the Holy Grail, the Great White Whale, and the Great Pyramid of the modern travel world. Though at times evasive, the booking is the pinnacle of achievement. After visiting an average of 38 websites and threatening abandonment for a better rate here or a better review there, a traveler has decided on your property and is ready to commit. For most hoteliers and vacation rental management professionals (VRMs), successfully converting lookers to bookers ultimately happens due to savvy marketing, thoughtful technology, and a dedication to building a relationship with travelers long before they ever walk through the front door.
Seventy-nine percent of digital travel bookers are expected to use a smartphone to purchase travel in 2016; therefore, mobile booking capabilities are paramount to achieving (or increasing) direct bookings.  Further, this rise in smartphone use for travel purchases also points to the need to employ click-to-call capabilities and ensure the resulting phone call is handled efficiently and effectively. Sixty-eight percent of travelers report that the ability to place a call to a hotel is most important during the Booking Phase.
As the process of achieving bookings becomes more complicated for suppliers, the window in which to capture bookings also becomes shorter. Expedia reports that only 30 percent of travelers book more than two weeks in advance; this means a substantial 70 percent of travelers are booking in a 14-day window. This window leaves properties with little room to make up for lost bookings or abandonment, so the website and voice channel must work seamlessly.
What’s Happening for Travelers During the Booking Phase?
At this point, travelers are questioning whether they are making the right hotel or vacation rental choice, perhaps double checking reviews or toggling back and forth between two properties. They will be asking themselves: Is this the best value? Does this meet all my needs and wants?
How Are They Searching During the Booking Phase?
The search is much more limited during the Booking Phase and will likely include your property website, metasearch engines, and a selection of online travel agencies. Travelers at this point are reviewing the fine print of rates, rooms, and booking policies.
Searches may look like:
“The Little Nell Aspen Rates”
“Litte Nell Promotions”
What Should Hoteliers & VRMs Be Doing to Reach Guests in This Phase?
This is the final confidence-building push. Lodging providers should be solidifying the relationship with guests and putting their minds at ease about any concerns. Additionally, adding a call-to-action in the Booking Phase—both online and via voice—is useful. For instance, consider letting travelers know how many rooms are left at a price or within a category they are searching. Additionally, be transparent about security and booking policies, and ensure that the booking process is as straightforward and efficient as possible. The lodging industry has a hefty 67.6 percent booking abandonment rate, so every measure must be taken to instill confidence and encourage the booking.
The Booking Phase is when reservation technology and proper training become crucial. With the right technology in place, agents can automatically access traveler information (name, number, geography, and so forth). If a guest is calling for a second or third time, the previous call details can be displayed, and with routing technology, the call may be routed to the former agent for a flawless guest experience.
NAVIS Tools for the Booking Phase:
- Improving call center agent conversion (Narrowcast)
- Call and contact center (Rezforce)
- Capturing leads during the Booking Phase (Narrowcast: lead management)
- Provide the agent with details on the advertisement or promotion that triggered the inquiry (Narrowcast: marketing tracking)
- Streamlined online booking process
- Ability to call with ease from the booking engine (More often than not questions arise during the booking process. Without easy access to a number, booking abandonment rates increase.)
Not every traveler that gets close will book. There will be lost reservations for a variety of reasons; however, hotels and VRMs are tasked with minimizing losses through leveraging technology and training. Guests have a circuitous path to a reservation—one that crosses over hundreds of web pages and often includes at least one or two phone calls, especially for high-consideration stays. Taking every measure to ensure the online and offline practices act in tandem to create an experience that guests desire is not only the bottom line toward increasing conversions, but it also sets the tone for the service they will receive during the rest of the booking path, which includes the Build Up Phase, the Stay Experience, and the Post-Stay Sharing Phase.
 By 2016, Most Digital Travel Bookers Will Use Mobile Devices. eMarketer, November 2015.
 The Role of Click to Call in the Path to Purchase. Think with Google, September 2013.
 Ali, Rafat. Online Booking Abandonment is Huge In Travel as Consumers Comparison Shop. Skift, March 2014.