Failure to Book: Is Your Hotel Turning Away Guests?

July 26, 2022
Jeremy Wells

If you’re in the hospitality business, you understand the importance of providing guests with a great experience while they’re visiting your property. You probably have spent a lot of time and money training your staff to provide exceptional service and go above and beyond guest expectations. Providing a great place to stay is a top priority for you.

But what if you were turning away guests before they ever had the chance to enter your hotel?

Brand Avoidance is unfortunately very common in the hospitality industry. Many hoteliers don’t even realize they’re suffering from brand avoidance until they start to see the negative results from it. The painful outcomes of brand avoidance can include low direct bookings, poor guest reviews, and occupancy and ADR which falls well below the Compset index.

With so many hospitality brands fighting for attention online, it can be difficult to convince travelers to choose to stay with you; however, there are ways to prevent brand avoidance.

What is Brand Avoidance?

Brand avoidance is when guests intentionally choose to keep away from or reject a brand. If a hotel has low service standards, for example, guests may be less likely to recommend that hotel to their friends and family. This can even lead to brand aversion which is the polar opposite of brand loyalty. Brand aversion is an even more intense distaste or disgust for a brand!

With this in mind, it’s important for hoteliers to know how brand avoidance can impact their business. Hoteliers need to understand what factors could trigger a guest to start avoiding their brand and then work on resolving these issues as soon as possible.

What causes someone to dislike your brand?

There are many reasons that someone may dislike your brand. It could be simply that your brand isn’t aesthetically pleasing, and looks outdated or boring. Maybe they perceive that you’re marketing tactics are too direct or misleading. Maybe they’ve read negative reviews and have determined that you do not follow up on your promises made. People do not like to be misled, and most travelers want to feel confident in their choice of lodging while they’re traveling.

Most travelers want to feel confident in their choice of lodging while they’re traveling

The main reason for brand avoidance is when there is no clear benefit for the guest to book a room at your property. If there is no perceived value in what a hotel provides, then it becomes easier for travelers to avoid spending time with them as opposed to engaging them further or becoming loyal guests.

Another reason why someone may avoid booking with you is if he/she feels that his/her values are contrary to yours, whether it’s political views or environmental ones for example – people don’t want the brand involved in an issue that doesn’t align with their beliefs! If you’re bold and outspoken about certain beliefs or views, then you should be ready to alienate certain people who may disagree.

Does Your Brand suffer from Brand Avoidance?

Brand avoidance is a critical problem that hoteliers should be keenly aware of. The first step in addressing this issue is understanding the nature of the problem and then looking for common signs of brand avoidance within your own business.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Do you have low performance? Does your brand perform below your Compset index with ADR and occupancy? Are you routinely missing revenue targets even when working at full capacity? If so, this could be an indication that guests are avoiding booking rooms at your property due to its poor reputation among travelers.
  • Do you struggle with getting 5-star reviews, or consistently subpar guest feedback? This could mean that your brand is sending mixed signals, creating wrong perceptions, or not following through on its promises to guests.
  • Do you find that guests had a misconception about your property prior to arriving onsite (i.e., booking elsewhere after hearing bad reviews)? This would also point toward brand avoidance issues as well as other factors such as location or amenities lacking what most customers want today, which are non-negotiable qualities when picking out accommodations prior to arrival!

How can you change your brand perception?

One of the best ways to change your brand perception is to take a step back and identify your audience. Then, you can understand how they perceive your brand. Reassess your brand strategy and identity; is your brand telling the right story to potential guests? If not, consider whether your hotel brand needs updating or refreshing so it can better resonate with current guests as well as new ones.

Reassess your brand strategy and identity

Identify your audience.

Who do you market to? What are their key demographics? How does that differ from other people in your industry? Understanding who you want to reach will help determine how you go about changing their perception of your brand.

Understand how they perceive your brand.

It’s important to know that perceptions aren’t always accurate—but they are very real! Finding out what people think about your company can be done by conducting surveys or focus groups with target audiences, as well as asking friends and family members who fit into specific demographic groups (e.g., millennials).

  • Ask your guests why they stayed with you
  • Ask guests if they’d stay with you again; and why?
  • Ask guests if they feel like they got their money’s worth for staying at your hotel
  • Ask guests if they’d recommend your hotel to a friend or family member
  • Ask guests what you could improve or could have done better

Reassess your strategy and identity.

Does it align with what guests actually think of when they hear about it? Are there ways that it could be improved upon? Remember: The goal here isn’t necessarily perfection; it’s consistency and connection between a guest’s expectations and the actual guest experiences delivered by your property.


Brand avoidance can cause a lot of damage to a hotel, but so many hoteliers put such little effort, thought, and investment into their brand. Branding is critical to the success of any business – especially hospitality businesses. In fact, branding is so important that some chain hotels have even been forced to close due to a lack of adherence to brand standards.

The most successful hospitality brands in the world are always thinking about the health of their brand, the perceptions they’re creating, and the promises they must keep to their guests. It’s truly a matter of life and death for a hotel. I hope this article has communicated this importance, and given you some guidance on how to make an impact in your own business.

Jeremy Wells

Partner at Longitude°

Jeremy is the author of Future Hospitality and Brand Strategist at Longitude°. As a member of the Education Committee for The Boutique & Lifestyle Leaders Association (BLLA) and a content contributor to Cornell University’s Hospitality Vision and Concept Design graduate program, he is a committed thought leader in hotel branding, concepting, and experience strategy.