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Originally published on

A hotel’s digital presence has never been more important. While call centers and traditional travel agents still remain relevant for some, in general, travelers have moved their dreaming, research, and booking experiences online.

This trend has only accelerated due to the coronavirus pandemic. Out of safety concerns, it is very rare that a guest will walk in seeking accommodations. Visiting a brick-and-mortar travel agent presents the same challenges. Therefore, hotels must ensure they’re welcoming guests online just the same as they would welcome them in the lobby—with warm hospitality, a smile, the right offers, and upsell opportunities; basically, any tool that increases the chances of converting that traveler into a guest.

The industry today has a better understanding of traveler preferences and what ultimately leads them to book—it might be a hotel’s branding they’re familiar with, it might be that they’ve stayed there before, it might be that a property offers the best rate, or it might be the hotel’s proximity to an attraction they’re hoping to visit. Websites and booking engines alone cannot capture or respond to these factors. Instead, conversion strategies require a much more holistic view of the guest and a much broader strategy to capture their attention and ultimately their booking.

Below are four ways hoteliers should prepare and manage their digital lobby to ensure travelers choose their property over their competitors.

1 Focus on direct business

There are obvious benefits to working with third-party distribution partners and placing inventory on all of the available channels. Research shows that consumers like to shop around and ensure they’re getting the best deal. Oftentimes, particularly for independent properties, travelers may not even know a hotel exists before visiting dozens of sites to research their ultimate destination. It’s important to ensure that inventory is available on sites where travelers tend to research and book.

At the same time, however, there’s no denying that direct channels will result in the highest profitability. When travelers book directly, hotels are avoiding third-party commissions and driving more revenue to the bottom line. Direct bookings also help hotels build better connections and relationships with guests because they are afforded more information on the guest, their preferences, and the type of experiences they are looking for.

By not focusing attention on welcoming guests directly, you’re likely missing out on providing an exceptional welcoming experience. Imagine having Expedia present in your lobby, and when a guest walks in, you direct them to the Expedia booth for check-in. It’s a hotelier’s job to want to take care of the guest—to welcome them with open arms, yearn to satisfy their needs, and provide them with exceptional experiences. This process should start online with a genuine and hospitable website and booking engine.

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