‘Tis the season to look back and reflect on what made 2015 a remarkable year for hotel marketers and what to be excited about just over the horizon. This Thanksgiving, let’s gather around for a bout of gratitude and appreciation for everything that has made our jobs easier, more exciting and massively rewarding.
1. A Stable and Strong Economy
Studies show that we’re sitting on the edge of the best economic years that the country has seen in a decade. This means travelers feel better where they stand economically and are looking at their future with optimism. About eight years of economic doldrums have left the hotel industry with pent-up demand as travelers regain confidence in their spending and are booking travel at record rates. This means ADR is up. Occupancy is up. And, our gratitude is through the roof.
2. More and More Consumers Are Preferring to Book Direct
What hoteliers lacked in pricing power because of rate-parity clauses, they regained by luring in direct bookings with coveted perks and privileges not given to OTA customers. Think complimentary Wi-Fi, better rooms, digital check-in, late check-out and even the ability to pick your room. And, the perks are paying off as more and more travelers catch on that booking direct means a better travel experience, period. A recent survey of nearly 3,000 leisure travelers discovered that there was a noticeable drop in how often the respondents booked with OTAs compared to 2014. They also found that consumers are still frequenting popular third-party sites, but mostly for researching their options and to compare prices.
3. An End to Rate Parity Is in Sight
This past summer, hoteliers and lawmakers in France made history by striking down rate parity. With this newfound freedom, French hoteliers can now differentiate their hotel product, charge whatever they’d like for direct bookings, and essentially, take back the power to market their properties, drive direct business and turn a profit without the burden of OTA contractual language holding them back. It’s only time before the end to rate parity makes its way across the Atlantic, and that’s reason enough to break out the champagne and cigars.
4. Continued Low Prices for Gas and Airfare
The low prices at the gas stations (and airlines) are continuing to lure travelers to get on the road and indulge in much-needed vacations, getaways and business trips. And, it gets better. As people save money at the pumps and on airfares, they’re happier to expand their travel spending in other places, such as their lodging, dining and ancillary products, like a trip to your hotel spa!
5. Trend in Authentic Travel
Modern travelers are losing interest in bland and cliché experiences and attractions that are “touristy.” Instead, they’re indulging in authentic and locally inspired experiences that give them a "sense of place." And, when it comes to booking a hotel, more and more travelers are seeking options that give them front-row access to these immersive activities, and perhaps even offer some themselves. Marketing for authentic travel allows hotels to be more creative when differentiating themselves from their compset and allows them to easily position their properties as destinations themselves, not just cookie cutter rooms with a bed.
6. New Lower-Cost Channels
OTAs aren’t the only game in town. Now hoteliers can partner with TripAdvisor to have rooms booked using their new Instant Book feature. While TripAdvisor receives commissions, they are only half of what OTAs would charge. Similarly, Google Hotel Ads allows hotels to post their available rates, along with perks. Google’s commission amounts are TBA.
7. Tech-Enabled Travel
The proliferation of smartphones, tablets and wearable technology have allowed us to streamline bookings, engage in conversations with our guests pre- and post-travel, offer express check-in, communicate on-property offers, empower social sharing and enhance the guest experience like never before.
8. Word-of-Mouse Marketing by Social Media Enthusiasts
One of the best things to emerge since the advent of social media is the brand evangelist/ambassadors. You know them well. They are the guests who gush and brag about their stay on Facebook, who post foodie pics to Instagram and who take quick Vine videos of their hotel rooms. Not only have they made marketing travel engagingly personal and authentic, they come at no cost to the hotelier.
No matter how stunning your photography is or how captivating your copy is written, the fact remains that travelers trust travelers above anything else. This is why TripAdvisor has become synonymous with travel research and decision-making. Their consumer-facing platform of unbiased reviews gives hotels the chance to post public responses to showcase their customer service prowess. Plus, they offer plenty of hotel marketing tools and programs to lure TripAdvisor visitors directly to their hotel Website.
10. Digital Intelligence That Drives Conversions
Everyday, hotel website designers are getting smarter and smarter about who’s visiting, looking and booking. The robust analytics and monitoring technology at our fingertips give us unprecedented power to customize marketing campaigns to specific travelers, personalize offers and track ROI.