Online hotel booking is enormous: 86% of people now use websites and apps to book their next getaway, but with online booking comes booking abandonment (also called reservation abandonment). 82% of online holiday shoppers will abandon their travel booking before completing their reservation – making it one of the highest abandoned purchases on the web. So high, that it’s losing the travel industry $1.7 trillion and it’s losing you, customers.

An even bigger statistic is 87% of abandoners who would consider returning to complete their hotel reservation – 33% even considering returning on the same day. Never has a reservation abandonment email campaign been so necessary and we’re here to explain what it is and how to ace it.

What is a reservation abandonment email campaign?

Reservation abandonment software monitors your website visitors in real-time, capturing relevant contact information and browser behavior. If that customer exits your site before completing their hotel booking, an auto-generated email is sent, enticing them back. Great for them and great for sales.

Top tips for successful reservation abandonment email campaigns

Reservation abandonment email campaigns are the most powerful booking abandonment tool around and following these seven best-practice rules, can bring you between 10-20% of distracted bookers back.

1. Speed

Be quick. Cartstack’s research shows that reservation abandonment emails sent within 20 minutes of abandonment are three times more likely to be opened. In that 20-minute timeframe, your customer is likely to be still browsing and thinking about their hotel choice – it’s fresh in their minds. Outside of that 20-minute timeframe, your customer is likely to be cooking dinner, binge-watching Return of the Walking Dead, and putting any emails into the “I’ll think about that later” pile.

A cycle of follow-up emails is also a great way to convert fence-sitters. The average person takes between 10-20 hours researching, comparing, and booking a holiday, and for good reason – they’re spending a lot of hard-earned cash on some well-deserved time off. A steady flow of reservation abandonment emails keeps your hotel in the traveler’s mind while they finish compiling their research on the best pizzas in Rome.

2. Tone

Be friendly and supportive. People book hotels because they want to relax; they want someone to take their bags, greet them at the check-in desk, offer them room service, fold their towels, and tidy their room. Extend that holiday service into your email by using friendly language: Use first-name greetings and offer immediate  “was it our fault?” support – whether that’s technical support or a telephone number. Make them feel relaxed and impress them with your service from the go: 88% of people will make a booking based on excellent customer service

3. Content

Use your email to remind, entice, and impress by including:

Pages visited and recommendations

An average of 191.4 minutes is spent researching hotel bookings – think how many different hotel websites you can visit at that time. If you were website number one, they’ve probably forgotten you (we’re sorry). Make it easy for them to remember by using website tracking data to include details of what they spent the most time looking at and to intelligently recommend alternatives.


Research by TripAdvisor found images to be a huge booking trigger because they speak to our emotions louder than words. That infinity pool overlooking a sunset ocean offers a clear invitation to click back to your website and book paradise, but leave off the price for now.

Tell a story

Tied in with your infinity pool photo, should be a story that transports them to that sun-drenched roof terrace, sipping on an ice-cold cocktail while lying back and enjoying that ever so slight, warm breeze drifts over through their hair and over their body…where were we – ah yes, content. Tell a story that splashes the reader right into holiday mode, making them need to book, now.


According to Trekk Soft, reviews are an essential part of the booking process for nine out of ten travelers, with 77% checking them before booking. Peer pressure and recommendations are incredibly powerful tools to include in your email and bring your customers through the reservation process.

Keep it seasonal

Keep your email campaign up-to-date and seasonal – don’t mention summer activities when your customer is trying to plan a ski vacation for the winter.

4. Incentives and scarcity

37% of reservation abandonments are caused by a checkout shock. Customers get caught up in the fantasy of booking their dream hotel stay (see infinity pool explanation above), adding little extras here and then, when, boom, back to reality with a big dollar crash.

The best way to overcome this? Incentives. Offer special expiring discounts and deals within your reservation abandonment email campaign to sweeten the deal, quickly.

Another tactic is loss aversion: “Only two rooms left, and three people have just booked rooms similar to yours.” No one likes to miss out and to make your customers realize that they might, could move them from the fence to completing their booking in a matter of minutes – doubling your abandoned reservation conversions.

5. Browse abandonment emails

But what if your customer didn’t get as far as your booking page? 39% of hotel booking abandonments were because the user was just browsing and didn’t even reach your booking page. Don’t worry – browse abandonment emails reach those shoppers higher up in the sales funnel – the browsers. Targeting these shoppers with a browse abandonment email can boost your hotel sales by between 3-and 7%.

6. Let go

Allow people to opt out. Some people don’t want reservation abandonment emails and that’s ok. If they don’t want them, they’re not going to work. Provide an easy-to-find unsubscribe button for customers to duck out before they negatively associate your brand with spam and vow never to use you in the future. Give them the power to come back via their means and on their terms.

7. Test it

In the end, following up with browse and reservation abandonment emails can bring you a significant return on completed purchases over doing nothing and how do we know? Testing. An important part of your browse and reservation abandonment email campaign is testing. These emails can be tricky to perfect but using A/B testing and session replay data can help you to create the most compelling of emails easily. Just be sure to make it mobile-friendly (20% are booking holidays on their phones).

And most important of all

Have some fun. We are talking about holidays and hotels after all! Play around with different emails, think of novel ways to re-engage your customers, and think of reservation abandonment emails as a fun way to get travelers back – not a chore!


You’re already investing a significant amount of money in bringing people to your hotel website but if you’re not using software to help drive those bookings, even after they’ve left, then that is an investment wasted. Using our best-practice approach for browse and reservation abandonment emails, will maximize your conversions and keep even your window shoppers interested. To learn more about recovering lost online bookings, check out CartStack’s blog and newsletter.

About CartStack

CartStack gives online hoteliers the power & leverage needed to recapture 30%+ lost online bookings with conversion-focused emails & tools to help optimize reservation flow & site conversion.

We are in this together!

I need to let you all know that we are in on this together.  If you need to vent, talk, cry, or just have someone to talk with then I am here listening.

But you can reach me here:


LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn Page

Also, join us at our Facebook Group – Hotel Social Media Community

We will get through this unprecedented event together! #hotelstrong #hospitalitystrong

For any specific information on COVID-19, I recommend going to CDCWHOAHLAAAHOA, and HSMAI. Also, follow information from your local authorities.


We are starting to reopen some hotels again (Yay!!!). Make sure you follow their guidelines and say THANK YOU to those that now show a unique spirit to serve, and help us all get through this!! #hotelstrong #hospitalitystrong

About Are Morch

Hi, I am Are Morch. Your Digital Marketing Coach and Customer Experience Expert specializes in creating effective digital customer experience offer for hotels while growing and scaling customer acquisition and revenue.

Get more from Are on Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Pinterest | InstagramPodcast