Booking Abandonment Emails – The Answer to Indirect Hotel Bookings

August 15, 2019

The travel industry is experiencing exponential growth, with online sales at the heart of the boom. But, with marketplace bookings increasing by 184% over the past year, and direct bookings being struck by an 81.3% abandonment rate, the question is: who’s benefiting from this growth? Follow us as we take a look at why indirect hotel bookings are limiting your hotel’s potential, and how to drive more direct hotel bookings with booking abandonment emails. 

The Problem with Indirect Hotel Bookings

The internet has revolutionized the way we book and sell travel – with online travel agents (OTAs) and marketplaces, in particular, exposing hotels and locations to a broader audience than ever before. But while these indirect hotel bookings can increase your customer numbers, they come at the unfortunate expense of:


Holiday marketplaces and OTAs charge a hefty commission on all bookings made through them – directly eating away at your profit margin. 

Brand exposure

Customers booking through OTAs or marketplaces are exposed to and build trust with, the branding and customer journey of the marketplace – not yours. 


Finally, travellers who book your hotel indirectly, form a direct relationship with the OTA, who can then use loyalty schemes and email marketing to encourage repeat custom through them instead of directly through you. 

The Answer to Indirect Hotel Bookings

But OTAs and marketplaces have large budgets, huge branding, and industry dominance – how do you drive traffic away from their website and onto yours? Luckily, it’s not a case of attracting customers to your website – your hottest leads are already there. The answer to driving more direct hotel bookings is recovering those hot leads who have been lost through:

  • Browse abandonment – customers leaving your website before creating a booking inquiry. They might be simply checking out your photographs, reading your reviews, or looking for information they can’t find on the OTA’s website.
  • Booking abandonment – customers leaving your website after starting a reservation but before completing it. They might be conducting a price comparison, turned off by the total cost, or distracted by the reality that is the oven timer going off.
  • Buying – customers who have previously stayed with you, but make their future reservations with you indirectly. 

However, knowing which leads to recapture is only part of the solution; you need to know how to recapture booking leads efficiently, effectively, and cheaply – and this is where emails shine. 

How to Drive More Direct Sales with Booking Abandonment Emails

Booking abandonment emails have the power to recover anywhere between 10-20% of lost bookings and browse abandonment emails can boost sales by a further 3-7%. But driving direct hotel bookings require more thought and attention than simply sending an email. A successful reservation abandonment email campaign requires:


Speed is of the essence when it comes to reservation abandonment: send an email too soon, and your customer is still busy researching the best Disney fast pass to buy – send an email too late, and your customer has already booked elsewhere and packed their mouse ears. At CartStack, our extensive research shows that emails sent within 20 minutes of abandonment are three times more likely to be opened. Add to this, a cycle of follow-up emails, and you’ll stay at the top of the booker’s mind while they carry out their research. 

If that doesn’t work, don’t sweat it.  80% of travellers take longer than four weeks to complete their holiday booking – some people just need time. Plug the leads from your reservation abandonment software directly into your CRM or marketing software using Zapier, and you can continue pushing your brand until they’re ready to book. 


But what are you going to say to bring back your hottest lead in those crucial twenty minutes? The content of your reservation abandonment email is your tool to impress, entice, and remind customers why they should book directly with you – and this requires:



It takes an average of 191.4 minutes to research a hotel booking – that’s more than three hours of different hotel websites, names, booking engines, rooms, and destinations to remember. Personalizing your reservation abandonment email grabs attention (“Hey Sarah!”), reminds customers what they were looking at (“remember this luxury villa in Tuscany?”), and provides an easy way to pick up where they left off (“It’s still available – click here to confirm your stay.”)


A photograph speaks louder than words – especially when it’s of an infinity pool overlooking a sunset ocean. Images of your hotel and surroundings are one of the biggest hotel booking triggers and should be included in your email to allow the subconscious to take control of the mouse and book the holiday of a lifetime. 


A photograph of an infinity pool is great but what about the white sand, warm ocean, smouldering heat, and ice cold pina colada waiting for you at the bar? The human brain craves storytelling and you have the perfect story to tell – use it in your email content to arouse emotions and compel booking. 


Over one-third of travellers make hotel bookings on their mobile – making mobile-friendly emails (and websites) crucial. 


You’re in their inbox, you’ve spoken directly to their emotions, but they’re still not budging. What else can your emails do to get someone to book directly with your website?

Discounts and offers


37% of people abandon hotel booking because of the cost. It’s that simple, and it’s a big reason why OTAs and marketplaces are so popular. Overcome this hurdle by including discounts and offers in your retargeting emails. Not only does money off sweeten the deal, but it also introduces an element of loss aversion – making people want to use the coupon before they miss out. 

Social proof


Consumers read an average of ten reviews before trusting a business, making social proof a powerful tool to include in your email. Not only do they provide reinforcement that their money will be well spent with you, but they also arouse the fear of missing out (FOMO) and prevent customers from being distracted by looking elsewhere for reviews.

A call to action

It sounds obvious, but many forget to include a clear, bold, and eye-catching CTA in their emails. Sometimes it’s the simple things that work best. Do it, now

Driving More Direct Hotel Bookings – Final Thoughts

When 87% of lost customers would consider returning to their booking (33% within the same day), a reservation abandonment email campaign is a no-brainer. You’ve spent time, money, and effort attracting customers to your website in the first place – don’t let OTAs and marketplaces relish in your hard work. Capture leads, send emails, and split test the results using reservation abandonment software and start benefiting from direct bookings (who incidentally spend more – bonus!)