Checklist to strengthen direct distribution

This is a self-assessment checklist for hoteliers to evaluate the potential of their own establishments regarding prospective direct bookings. It may also serve as a stimulation to reflect upon, what could still be done to attract more direct bookings. Although answering honestly even all questions with a ‘Yes’ will not guarantee 100% of direct bookings, the more questions you can answer with a ‘Yes’, the more it is likely, that guests would book your services direct.

Completing the checklist may take around 20 minutes of your time, which can be considered as a first good investment to increase direct bookings. You may also print the checklist with your (even temporary) results.

Note: in the point score, some questions have a higher weighting than others!

We wish you lots of success.

If you decided to participate in the European ‘Book Direct’ campaign, you can find further information and promotion materials in the ‘Book Direct’ Shop.

1. Establish an own profile Yes No
1.1. You know why guests book your hotel?
1.2. You have clearly defined your competitors (local & regional)?
1.3. You have unique selling propositions (USPs), which set you apart from competitors in your region?
1.4. You actively communicate these USPs on your website?
2. Build up knowledge and know how Yes No
2.1. You know how many bookings and what turnover you generate through which online booking portal and especially via your own website?
2.2. You know what affiliate marketing is, how it is used by online booking portals and what this might mean for your distribution strategy?
2.3. You have an overview which online-portals (OTAs, review sites, etc.) place advertisements on your hotel name on Google, Yahoo, Bing or similar?
2.4. Do you intend to do something against that?
2.5. You know the average costs per booking that result from the particular online booking portals and your own website (monthly fees, reservation fees, commissions)?
2.6. You know the percentage of your spending on online intermediaries’ commissions of your total expenses?
2.7. You have examined the meaningfulness and efficiency of OTA partner programs which promise a better ranking and more bookings for a higher commission in the case of your own hotel?
2.8. Does your business have an employee, who has expertise in the area of online marketing, online distribution and social media?
2.9. Have you or your employees ever taken part in a course or seminar regarding online marketing, reputation management, search engine marketing, social media etc.?
3. Optimize your hotel’s website Yes No
3.1. Your hotel has its own regularly updated website?
3.2. Visitors of your website find all the information they need with only few clicks and can contact you for any question they may have?
3.3. You use a live chat tool on your website to communicate with guests and visitors (e.g. LiveRate, hotelchamp, Triptease, etc.)?
3.4. You have the booking possibility / button prominently placed on your homepage?
3.5. Do you present helpful and unique content regarding your business on your website, checked by a third person, which helps the guest with his decision-making and which he can only find on your website?
3.6. Do you have professional and up-to-date pictures of your hotel on your website and you own the copyright for all published pictures?
3.7. Do you have an own video of your hotel, which one can find displayed on your website and for example on YouTube, Google or use the services of Google Business Photos?
3.8. Do you have some 360 degree photos of your hotel on your website and on e.g. Google My Business?
3.9. You make purchasing as easy as possible. You guarantee a simple booking process offering availability, alternative dates, immediate booking option and contact information for every offer and every product (such as conference rates, weekend-specials, etc.).
3.10. You only request data from guests that is absolutely essential to process the booking?
3.11. You provide the methods of payment which your guests like to use?
3.12. You know the deeplink to the booking page (not the general URL of the homepage!) of your favourite online booking channel, so that you can give it e.g. to your classification company/agency?
3.13. You link your own website to other webpages (e.g. with regional event webpages, tourism organizations, museums, etc.) and they back link to your website?
3.14. You advertise your webpage intensively (e.g. by inserting a link into E-Mails, in letters and on invoices)?
3.15. You use software to measure success on your website and you know which search terms are used to find your website?
3.16. You have targets set up in the website traffic analyser (e.g. Google Analytics)?
3.17. You track the booking engine traffic on your website separately?
3.18. Are there goals tracked in this part (to check at which stage you “lose” the guest)?
3.19. You have examined the meaningfulness of tools which animates website visitors to book direct with the use of smart personalization - the website automatically provides the right offer / incentives in the right place to the visitor - (e.g. hotelchamp, Triptease, etc.)
3.20. Your website is available in different languages for the different source markets you address.
3.21. You propose a mobile/ responsive version of your Website?
3.22. You have tested if your website is mobil-friendly (
3.23. Your hotel is easily bookable on this mobile website?
3.24. Did you ensure that the imprint, the terms & conditions and the privacy statements on your website are legally secure (check within the last 12 month)?
4. Control prices and availability Yes No
4.1. Do you know on which online booking portals, travel sites and “deal-portals” your hotel can be booked?
4.2. Do you have an overview of the rates, availabilities, conditions and information that can be found in the internet concerning your hotel?
4.3. Are you aware that some OTAs in their terms and conditions allow you to offer better prices and conditions offline and in some cases online to your guests, than available with them?
4.4. Do you propose your customers on your website to contact you by phone for special / better offers?
4.5. Nobody, not even the best sales partner can sell anything better than you yourself via your own website?
4.6. You have a best price guarantee on your own website with clear and comprehensible rules for guests who book your hotel direct (online or offline)?
4.7. You have examined the meaningfulness of price comparison widgets (e.g. Triptease, LiveRate, hotelchamp, etc.) on your website to compare your website-price with the prices on OTAs?
4.8. You make all products, room categories and optional additional services available to purchase online on your own website?

This also applies to weekend prices and additional services, such as early check-in, late check-out, car park or airport shuttle.
4.9. You have a strategy to offer benefits / amenities to customers, who book direct (free parking, free newspaper, upgrades etc.)?
4.10. You offer exclusive arrangements and conditions (e.g. late check out, free cancellation, etc.) exclusively bookable on your website?
4.11. Do you make sure (contractually) that tour-operator-rates, which are exclusively intended to be sold to guests in travel-packages, cannot be depacketized and booked freely via online booking portals on the internet?
4.12. Do you use a channel manager?
4.13. Do you administer the channel manager actively and regularly?
5. Ensure attention and detectability Yes No
5.1. Your hotel can be found via search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo) easily?
5.2. Do you make use of search engine optimisation (SEO) for your website?
5.3. Your hotel is present on Google My Business / Google-Maps

Have you already taken possession of the entry?
5.4. Your hotel is present on other online maps and in navigation systems?
5.5. Do you maintain your hotel content on trivago, holidaycheck, tripadvisor, kayak and other important travel sites proactively and regularly?
5.6. Do you follow your ranking on these sites?
5.8. Do you know of the specific deals for advertising for hotel businesses, which some travel sites offer?
5.9. Do you carry out search engine marketing (Google AdWords / SEM)?
5.10. Do you or does your agent apply “monitoring software” for such search engine advertisements?
5.11. You use a modern Content Management System and carry out regular updates (ideally daily, but at least weekly) which help search engines to bring the right visitors to your website (e.g. descriptions of current events in the region to offer guests a hotel room).
5.12. You know and actively use meta descriptions, HTML titles and so-called "friendly URL’s", i.e. browser addresses, which correspond to your guests'searches as much as possible.
6. Improve customer retention (CRM) Yes No
6.1. Do you invite leaving guests to consider booking direct next time?
6.2. Do you have a database of regular guests, which you keep up to date?
6.3. Do you contact your guests via direct marketing (special offers, newsletter, etc.)?
6.4. Do you use professional software to organise your newsletter marketing?
6.5. Do you know which channels your regular guests use to book your hotel?
6.6. Do you have a bonus / loyalty scheme for regular guests and is it integrated in your own website?
6.7. You develop creative ways to say "thank you" whenever a regular guest books through your website by using your fully automated online booking tool?

For example you offer a surprising welcome drink on arrival (and the important information that this is a thank you for booking direct) or another small added value to reward guests?
6.8. Do you have a policy regarding the use of the guests’ profile in your booking system or Property Management System? This may help to keep focus on individual guest booking through your own channels.
6.9. You store all the agreed contractual prices and you personally invite companies, conference booking guests and other target groups to get to know your online booking conditions.
7. Strengthen recommendation marketing Yes No
7.1. Do you already collect evaluations by your guests on your own homepage, to become more independent from booking and review portals (e.g. Customer Alliance, Trustyou, Revinate, etc.)?
7.2. Do you actively communicate these possibilities to evaluate on your homepage?
7.3. Do you encourage your guests to give reviews (e.g. request per e-mail after the stay, flyer, cardboard stands, direct address, etc.) on internal or external websites (e.g. holidaycheck, Tripadvisor)?
7.4. Do you comment evaluations, positive as well as negative ones?
8. Use social media Yes No
8.1. Do you make use of social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter to attract attention to your hotel?
8.2. Do you monitor what is said about your hotel on social media platforms (social media monitoring)?
8.3. Do you have a social media strategy?
8.4. You have linked your website with social media applications (G+ button, facebook button, etc.), in compliance with applicable privacy policies?