Are Your Bookings Getting Lost In Translation?


Travel is a hot commodity worldwide. Just within the past decade, the U. S. hotel industry has seen an uplift in international travelers, with large increases in visitors hailing from China and South Korea. This adds to the already steady stream of visitors from Canada, Mexico, UK and Japan, who have been investing in travel to American cities for decades. 

This growth in global guests and the ease of digital marketing across borders has given hotels massive opportunities to expand into new markets and succeed internationally.

However, when it comes to your hotel going global, it doesn’t make sense to stick with a one-size-fits-all hotel web design or booking engine. Every culture has its own assumptions, ideals and values. What works in one country may flop in another. So, you have to do it with style, requiring a comprehensive vision, strategic game plan and most of all, a localized hotel website and booking engine experience.

Before getting started, think about your feeder markets. Is your hotel located in a sunshine state where Canadians like to escape to during frigid winter months? Does your city offer major theme park attractions that are on all the agendas of Japanese tour companies? And, don’t overlook airlift. Is there a direct flight to your destination from London, Sydney or Mexico City?

The intent of localizing your hotel’s website for international visitors is to create an online experience that mirrors that of your domestic guests, which will make your global guests want to return to your destination time and time again. Stay consistent, stay sensitive and stay smart about cultural nuances that can make the difference between bouncing or booking.

Here are the four key elements to attracting guests from around the globe:

1. Get a Real Translation

If international visitors go to your hotel’s site and just see English, it sends a message that their business isn’t important or that you don’t care to make their online experience an inviting one.

Don’t make the lazy mistake of Google translating all of your website copy, then calling it a day. Reaching international travelers will take much more than a lazy word-for-word replacement. It requires taking into account the nuances, the cliché phrases and the style of language of your specific target. In marketing, we call this “transcreation,” which refers to a re-creation of your marketing material so that it speaks the everyday language of your intended audience, both emotionally and literally. Reaching another culture authentically means communicating with guests on their terms, in the casual language they speak. As a result, hotels that successfully transcreate their website content usually have higher conversion rates and higher user engagement.

2. Currency and Payment Options

Once you have overseas visitors hooked with a successfully localized hotel website, don’t lose them to an all-American, all-English booking engine that displays room rates only in U.S. dollars.

Here at Tambourine, we’ve made it extremely simple for our hotels’ online visitors to make booking decisions in a currency they are accustomed to. We use a geo-detection software that will automatically default to the user’s local currency and language depending on where they are located. Currently, there are 17 languages available, including both simple and traditional Chinese, Arabic, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese.

“With this capability, guests recognize that the hotel wants their business,” said Noelani Berkholtz, Tambourine’s Director of Business Development. “The guest then understands all aspects of the reservation and the hotel’s amenities, and as a result, spends more money with the hotel.”

The same principle goes for guest room and suite measurements. Most of the world uses the metric system, so don’t describe rooms with feet and inches. 

3. Dates and Times

Avoid confusion by displaying the times and dates in the preferred local format. This also guarantees a seamless user experience for international guests who are accustomed to different formats than what your American guests are acquainted with.

Surprisingly, the format of MM/DD/YY is unique to the U.S. (and oftentimes used in Canada too, adding to the confusion). While Japan uses YY/MM/DD and most of Europe uses DD/MM/YY.

4. Enable Language Toggle

We can’t always assume a guest’s native language based on where they live. For instance, there are large communities of expats in countries like Germany, United Arab Emirates or Singapore. Similarly, many countries are officially multi-lingual, such as India, Switzerland or Belgium.

If Canada is one of your target markets, make note that Canadian English is not the same as British English or U.S. English. Or, that a majority of the country speaks Québécois (Canadian French). So, it makes sense to enable guests to specify and toggle the language that suits their personal booking experience. 

 About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: