Are you normal?

Are you normal

I’ve been asked several questions this week, all with a common theme: comparisons.

What’s a normal level of direct bookings for an accommodation provider?

What sort of level of repeat bookings should I aim for? 

What would be a usual bounce rate on Google?

How are bookings looking for everyone else over the next few months?

Are others experiencing a higher than usual level of cancellations?

How good is my social media compared to others?

I’ll answer each of these in a little more detail later but I can give one instant response to them all: it depends.

It’s normal to want to compare how your business is doing compared to others and to want to know whether you’re normal (whatever that is). But the answer to each of these questions really does depend on so many factors: how long your business has been established, your location, quality of what you offer, markets you target, profile of guests, and especially your investment of time and money in your marketing.

Proportion of direct bookings

Some accommodation providers only take direct bookings, some only get bookings through online travel agents like Booking.con. If you’re just getting started or just starting to work on getting more direct bookings, 50% would be a good proportion to aim for. Your future chances of success very much depend on the quality of your website, social media engagement and mailing lists. If you want to increase direct bookings, look out for my new Nurture and Grow programme, launching in September.

How many repeat bookings should you have?

This is a tricky one: if your business is in a beautiful bucket-list destination, there’s a good chance you’ll have a low number of repeat bookings but high number of recommendations so you get many referred bookings. Many visitors like to go to 'wow' places once but quickly move on to others. Some businesses in family-friendly destinations find they get a really high proportion of repeat bookings until families grow up and look for a different type of holiday. So your level of repeat bookings does depend on the type of visitor you attract and where you are. I’d expect most businesses over 5 years old should be able to attract at least 25% repeat bookings.

What would be a usual bounce rate on Google?

If your bounce rate is 80%, worry. If it’s 20% celebrate. If it’s 40% you’re doing pretty well. It partly depends how visitors come to your website. If the majority of visitors type your business name directly into Google and yet a high proportion bounce out immediately, then you have a problem and your website needs some serious attention. Unless of course they were all looking for your opening hours or phone number and they’re really prominently displayed on your home page…

However, if you get a lot of traffic from search engines and social media, then it’s natural that some of those people may have misunderstood what you offer or just wanted to know where you are, and then they’ll bounce out of your site. If you’re wondering how to find out your bounce rate, you need to make friends with Google Analytics.

How are bookings looking for everyone else over the next few months?

Erratic is the answer to this one. There’s no specific pattern. Some places are fully booked, others have plenty of availability. Accommodation is performing better than activities and attractions. Rural locations are doing better than cities. Some places that have been booked for months have had numerous cancellations. There’s huge uncertainty and my advice is to simply keep promoting your business, regardless of how your bookings look. If you’re full now, your marketing will help you fill gaps later.

Are others experiencing a higher than usual level of cancellations?

Many businesses are experiencing high levels of cancellations. Most of it is due to Covid – either because the news and guidelines change, because there’s an outbreak in a particular area, because of insecurity, and most frustratingly, because people are hedging their bets and booking several places for the same dates. There’s very little you can do to prevent cancellations but there are two things you can do to make the situation easier. Firstly, make sure you get your cancellation terms and conditions in order, and secondly, build your mailing list, keep posting on social media and follow this advice

The best answer to all these questions

You might be frustrated to read ‘it depends’ as the answer to these questions. There’s a more useful, motivating approach you could use. Just log the answers to the questions for your business and compare month by month, year by year. It's easy to get disheartened when you compare to others but there are so many variables, only you can know how well your business is doing. 


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