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Want to use the Booking Window to increase bookings? Here's how!

How to use the booking window to target your marketing and sell more without wasting budget

How to use the booking window to boost your marketing efforts | Smartpricing

If you've ever experienced a sudden drop in bookings without having any idea it was coming, you know how it feels: bewildered and, more importantly, with very little room to maneuver to increase sales.

The only way to avoid finding yourself in this situation in the future is to take hold of your current and historical data and start analyzing one of the most important parameters in hotel revenue management in a systematic and consistent way: the booking window.

By understanding the average booking window of your guests and analyzing pickup, you will not only have the information you need to make more informed pricing decisions, but you will also be able to plan timely marketing activities to focus promotional efforts at the right time and increase bookings without wasting valuable resources.

In this article, we will look at the basic steps to analyzing the booking window and the specific marketing actions you can take as a result of your analysis.

Booking window and pickup: what they are and why it is important to analyze them in hotels

The booking window or reservation window is the time interval between the date a reservation is made and the actual start date of the stay.

For example, if a guest books on June 1 for a stay that begins on June 30, his or her booking window is 30 days.

This data is critical for planning your pricing and marketing strategies, as it not only tells you about the booking habits of your clientele, but also allows you to optimize your offers and promotions based on the periods of highest and lowest demand.

Along with the booking window, it is always necessary to analyze the pickup. Pickup is the total number of rooms booked within a specific booking window for a specific date of stay. For example, if the 30-day pickup for June 30th is 5 rooms, this means that you expect to receive 5 reservations 30 days before June 30th.

By monitoring pickup at regular intervals, you gain a better understanding of booking and occupancy trends, allowing you to anticipate market trends and adjust your pricing strategies accordingly.

How to create an occupancy curve to visualize booking trends

In order to make the collection data clearer and more immediate to read, it is useful to plot it on a graph that we can call an "occupancy curve".

With this graph, you can immediately see what percentage of occupancy (or how many reservations, if you choose to report absolute values) you should have at each time of year, and you will be able to see any seasonal patterns in your accommodations much more easily.

Building such an occupancy curve may seem complex, but it can be done with a simple Excel spreadsheet or, even better, by implementing software that does it for you automatically. Here's how:

Collecting historical and current data

To get started, you will need to collect historical data on your bookings, ideally for at least the last 2–3 years. This should include dates of reservation, dates of stay, number of rooms booked, and cancellations. At the same time, you will need to monitor current bookings and constantly update the data, preferably in real time.

Create the chart in Excel

In a new spreadsheet, you will need to enter all the data you have collected so far, using columns for days and rows to enter the daily occupancy rate (or the number of reservations received each day). At this point, you will need to use Excel's charting capabilities to create your occupancy curve.

Using automated software

Using Excel is easy if you are familiar with it, but it is still time-consuming both in the data collection phase and in the phase of creating graphs to cross-reference. Therefore, the easiest way to monitor and compare your data is to implement software that allows you to automate this analysis.

For example, Smartpricing's Dashboard allows you to clearly view your occupancy curve and make comparisons by simply selecting the periods of interest.

Occupancy curve in the Smartpricing Dashboard

Once you have created your occupancy curve, you can compare it to previous years to identify trends and anomalies in demand.

Occupancy curve and comparison with previous year in Smartpricing Dashboard

For example, if your curve shows a year-over-year decline in the same time period, you can quickly intervene with targeted marketing or price adjustments. Similarly, if the data shown on the curve is higher than expected, you can consider raising rates to maximize revenue.

How to use the booking window to target marketing efforts

Once you have analyzed occupancy curves, you can identify periods of low demand and plan marketing campaigns to increase bookings.

This is where the booking window comes into play: knowing the average booking window of your guests allows you to focus your marketing efforts on the right time period and avoid wasting resources. For example, if your guests tend to book 30 days in advance, it makes sense to launch targeted advertising campaigns at least 30 to 45 days before the low demand period.

Practical examples:

  • Google Ads and social media campaigns: Create ads on Google Ads and social platforms (such as Facebook and Instagram) that begin running 45 days before the period identified as low demand, using eye-catching messages that include special offers or exclusive packages to incentivize bookings.
  • Email marketing: Segment the mailing list based on each guest's booking window and send personalized emails with special offers. For example, send a newsletter offering a 10 percent discount for bookings made 30 days prior to arrival.
  • Influencer marketing: Work with industry influencers to create posts and stories that promote your hotel. In this case, it will be useful to provide tracking of influencer activity so you can monitor the booking window of reservations generated from this channel. This will help you increase visibility and incentivize future bookings.

How to use the booking window to select the channels on which to run marketing campaigns

Analyzing the booking window for the different sales channels you use will help you understand which channels are most effective at different times.

For example, if last-minute bookings come mainly from OTAs, you will need to invest in specific promotions on those channels. Conversely, if you notice that mainly advance bookings are coming from your website, you can plan SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) campaigns to help you attract more direct traffic.

Practical examples:

  • OTAs (Online Travel Agencies): Here you can use the specific tools made available by the individual platforms, such as "Last-Minute Deals" promotions on or "Mobile-Only Deals" on Expedia.
  • Website and SEO: Investing in SEO and SEM campaigns will help you improve your website's search engine rankings. For example, you can use specific keywords and create dedicated landing pages that offer discounts for direct bookings made well in advance.
  • Meta search engines: Working with metasearch engines such as Trivago or Google Hotel Ads will help you increase visibility and attract direct bookings while optimizing customer acquisition costs.

How to use the booking window to select the right product to propose with marketing actions

Knowing the booking window will also help you define which products or services to promote during certain periods.

For example, if you find that a booking window between 10 and 20 days does not favor the sale of family rooms, but is effective for the "double room + romantic dinner" package, you can decide to create a targeted campaign to promote this type of offer.

Practical examples:

  • Special offers and packages: Create specific promotional packages for different booking windows. For example, packages for families who book 60 days in advance or dedicated discounts for solo travelers who book last minute.
  • Events and activities: Promote special events or activities available during the stay. For example, for last-minute bookings, you could offer free admission to local events or activities organized by the hotel.
  • Loyalty programs: Implement loyalty programs that reward early bookings with extra points or future discounts, thus incentivizing bookings well in advance. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, we suggest reading our article on whether your hotel needs a loyalty program.

How to use the Booking window to figure out which market segment to market to

After determining which channels to use and which products or services to offer, the final step is to determine which market segment to target with your marketing efforts.

By analyzing market segments through your management software or CRM, you can determine which segments are most responsive in the booking window where you want to drive bookings.

You can then define specific marketing messages for couples, families, groups or individuals based on nationality, status and other relevant parameters available to you. Knowing these details allows you to tailor marketing campaigns to each segment, increasing the effectiveness of promotions and conversion rates.

Real-world examples include:

  • Families: Create targeted campaigns for families who book well in advance, offering discounts for longer stays or packages that include theme park admissions and children's activities.
  • Business travelers: For last-minute business travelers, promote business-friendly offers such as express check-in, personalized concierge services and organized workspaces.
  • Groups: Create special offers for groups that book early, such as discounts for multiple rooms booked together or packages that include group tours and activities.

The ability to monitor and analyze the booking window and capture data in a timely manner can make a real difference, both in increasing the profitability of your property and in avoiding the last minute scramble for reservations with no time to act.

In this delicate activity, Smartpricing's dynamic pricing and revenue management software offers you crucial support: not only does it allow you to compare your occupancy curves in just a few clicks, but the algorithm already takes this data into account to apply the most appropriate dynamic pricing strategy for your accommodation, constantly updating it according to demand pressure and automatically publishing your prices on your booking channels.

Meanwhile, you have complete control over your pricing strategy and more time to focus on the marketing efforts needed to drive bookings.

Want to see how it works? Request a free, personalized demonstration!