Hospitality Marketing: Take Advantage of Last Minute Bookings

By Daniel Hearn, Executive VP & COO

February 12, 2018

Hardly anyone would argue that technology hasn’t changed our lives for the better. But recently, I am reading more about unintended evils. One of these is a decline in our necessity, or perhaps just desire, to plan. Assisted by technology, we routinely push off making commitments until much closer to many activities.

For the hospitality industry, this has created a new breed of consumer, who is becoming seemingly more short-sighted than ever before. Google search activity reflects this behavior. Consider that on mobile, the new breed’s preferred device, travel related searches in the US for “today” and “tonight” have increased more than 150% over the past two years. That makes it awfully difficult to market to these consumers much in advance.

For those of us who have been analyzing booking windows for years, it feels like those windows are nearly closed. So, what is a hospitality marketer to do? Here are some suggestions:

  • Embrace More Fluidity—Keep more of your annual budget in reserve to spend when you’re long on capacity and you really need close-in bookings. With a strong offer, you’ll snag more of today’s non-planners, and give yourself the opportunity to drive additional revenue with add-ons.
  • Personalize Your Marketing—Recognize that these guests are ripe for conveniences, since they didn’t take the time to plan in the first place. Tailor your packages to do the work for them, and they’ll gladly pay you for it.
  • Make Late Planners Feel Welcome—Don’t treat them like your friend who never RSVPs, but always shows up for the party. Use your CRM system and train your staff to make these guests feel like the return of the prodigal son. “So glad you were able to join us again.”  And, “Can I make any arrangements for you to enjoy the spa again this visit?”  Personalization like this goes a long way toward making a near drop-in feel totally loved. And who doesn’t crave that?!
  • Tailor Your Search Terms—People use different keywords when searching last minute. Make sure you serve ads against terms that address their current immediacy needs and tailor copy to appeal to a last-minute mindset.
  • Continue with Retargeting—Even with very short booking windows, retargeting can be very effective. They may not have committed when you touched them the first time, so bring them back when their credit card is closer at hand. This applies not only to display advertising, but also to video and search.

I’m not sure how much shorter booking windows can become, but observing the behavior of my own adult children makes me believe the travel decision makers of the future will close the gap even more. For my kids, “planning” has become when they send me an email rather than a text.

Want to learn more? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you. Or, check out our hospitality insights at


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