What does hotel booking abandonment mean?

Booking abandonment is simply when a guest fails to finish finalising their reservation on your website – meaning your room is left unsold and you don’t get paid. In other industries this is known as cart abandonment.

It can be frustrating because you’ve expended the energy to market and advertise your hotel, to enhance your guest experience and accrue good reviews, to ensure that every one of your channels, from your website to your OTA listings, are optimised for the exact type of guest you’re looking to attract.

The effort appears to have paid off – until the potential guest gets cold feet. 

There’s perhaps no greater challenge than customer retention in the hotel industry. Every hotel suffers from booking abandonment, but some suffer more than others. As a hotelier your quest isn’t to eliminate the instances of abandonment, but simply to minimise them. 

What is the greatest challenge that the hotel industry is facing right now?

Missed revenue as a result of booking abandonment is certainly one of the largest ongoing challenges for accommodation providers.

The travel sector has one of the highest cart abandonment rates of any industry – a whopping 81.7% according to a recent study. That means that more than four in five potential guests who have shown intent to book don’t end up following through.

It’s a hypothetical, but imagine if you converted those guests? You would increase your bookings by 400%!

These figures alone show that booking abandonment isn’t just the greatest challenge that the hotel industry faces right now – it’s also the greatest opportunity. If you can find a way to convert just a fraction of the 81.7% who begin but fail to complete their booking, your hotel business could experience instant growth.

Why do people abandon online hotel bookings?

To understand how to fix the issue of booking abandonment, we must first understand why potential guests abandon their bookings in the first place.

According to SaleCycle, the main reasons that travellers abandon their bookings are:

  • 39%: They’re just looking or researching.
  • 37%: The price is too high, or they are comparing prices.
  • 21%: They need to check with their fellow travellers before booking.
  • 13%: The booking process is too long
  • 9%: Technical issues.
  • 7%: A lack of payment options.

You’ll notice that many of these issues, such as people doing research or needing to check with their fellow travellers, are somewhat out of your hands. On the flipside, you’ll see that many other issues – price, booking funnel, technical issues and payment options – are very much in your control.

The good news? The same survey found that 87% of respondents would consider returning to their abandoned cart, so if you lose them once, you may be able to get them next time. 

Common hotel booking problems (and how to solve them)

Let’s dig a little deeper into what you can control: 


As a hotelier you should be doing regular market research, checking what your local competitors are charging for a stay, whether they’re getting booked at that rate, and ensuring your pricing is competitive. If you offer a better guest experience you can obviously charge more, but you need to ensure your price is compelling for guests who are conducting price comparisons.

The booking process

According to the SaleCycle data, the two main complaints that prospective guests have about the booking process are that it can be too long and there can be technical issues. The first can be solved by thinking about the simplest and most intuitive booking funnel you’ve encountered, then looking to replicate it. The second can be solved by choosing a reliable booking engine for your hotel website; one that has a proven track record and boasts minimal downtime, like Little Hotelier’s booking engine.

Payment options

The most painful abandoned carts are those that fail at the final step: taking payment. If you don’t accept a potential guest’s preferred method of payment, you’ll lose them and they won’t come back. Speak to your current guests and think of your ideal guests, then consider which payment methods they’ll prefer: credit card, bank transfer, cash on arrival, etc. Once you know the ways in which guests want to pay, choose a capable and secure payment processor.

How to reduce booking abandonment on your hotel website

Here are a number of other ways to reduce booking abandonment on your website, including:

Choose the right website builder

Not all website builders are created equal. The big players, such as Squarespace and Wix, might offer a couple of hotel templates, but they are general tools that aren’t designed to create hotel websites. Little Hotelier’s hotel website builder, meanwhile, is specifically designed to create the most intuitive and organic hotel websites possible, complete with direct booking functionality that will minimise abandonment and maximise reservations.

Focus on the booking process

In order to secure the maximum number of bookings, your website booking process should feature the fewest amount of steps possible. Remember that non-essential information can always be gathered after payment has been made. Take booking funnel inspiration from OTAs like Booking.com, Expedia and Airbnb – they’re the biggest players for a reason.

Be perfectly transparent

Give website visitors the total price from the get-go, inclusive of all taxes, fees and charges. Tweaking the price at the end of the booking process is a surefire way to lose a customer. Consider giving an approximate rate before a website visitor has even entered any information, for example, “Two nights from $750”. Ensure that all relevant details about your property are listed on your site, and that you offer a detailed FAQ page that covers all of the most common queries.

Go mobile-friendly

Perhaps this goes without saying, but a hotel website, perhaps more than any other type of website, needs to be mobile friendly. Your customers are travellers, and will often be booking on the move, so choosing a tool like the Little Hotelier website builder, which comes complete with a wealth of mobile-friendly templates, will ensure that you don’t miss out on bookings simply because your site is clunky when viewed on a smaller screen.

As thousands of hotels have already experienced, the Little Hotelier website builder can seriously reduce your booking abandonment rates. The numbers back it up: Little Hotelier users have boosted their bookings by up to 46%, and have enjoyed an ROI of 63x!

But why trust us when you can try it yourself? Enjoy a free, fully featured 30-day trial today and test Little Hotelier out!

By Dean Elphick

Dean is the Senior Content Marketing Specialist of Little Hotelier, the all-in-one software solution purpose-built to make the lives of small accommodation providers easier. Dean has made writing and creating content his passion for the entirety of his professional life, which includes more than six years at Little Hotelier. Through content, Dean aims to provide education, inspiration, assistance, and, ultimately, value for small accommodation businesses looking to improve the way they run their operations (and live their life).