In 1985 my grandparents took me to their local travel agent, a sweet woman named Ruth, to book a vacation to Florida. I remember being mesmerized by the beautiful brochures and exotic posters on display. Who knew that within a relatively short period of time, Ruth and the entire travel ecosystem would be disrupted by technology that empowered consumers to plan their own trips, preview images, videos, reviews from previous guests, make dinner reservations and chat (for free) with a concierge in Bangkok from the comfort of their home!
As we gather together here in the US for our annual Thanksgiving holiday, we give thanks for the many blessings we have in our personal lives. This year, we’re starting a new tradition, we’re also giving thanks for all the amazing things we have that enrich our professional lives as hotel marketers. So we asked our staff, client GMs, revenue managers, hotel owners and partners to contribute and help us serve up our inaugural dish… dig in!
According to recent study by STR, US hotel revenue reached record levels in 2012, with profit climbing to 24% of total revenue. Unfortunately, despite growing consumer preference for direct bookings… most hotels also saw an increase in their dependency on expensive OTA-driven transactions. This costly channel drags down profitability and frustrates property owners seeking greater ROI on their investments.
There’s no question social media is critically important in the travel-consideration and purchase process (think: TripAdvisor). But how important is social media in driving direct website traffic? According to two recent studies, less than 2% of ecommerce visits are driven by social media referrers. While search still drives more than 30%. Makes sense if you think about it… consumers use search to find stuff to buy and they use social media to…socialize. So while everyone is busy ramping their social efforts… we all need to remember that search still dwarfs social as a tangible business driver.
Thanks to web-based communities like TripAdvisor, travelers are sharing their experiences and affecting the subsequent purchase decisions of others. 70% of travelers actually change their mind about an intended hotel or destination after reading reviews of previous guests! If your past customers are talking about you online–whether it’s good or bad–join the conversation! It shows transparency, honesty and appreciation… good qualities for your brand to represent.
Every day, travel becomes more and more central to the social experience. With Facebook’s new Graph search, updates to Facebook’s Mobile App Nearby, and the big announcement that Facebook is starting to ramp up their hotel industry presence, hotels that have diligently worked hard to create a strong and consistent social presence are going to have a big leg up on the competition. But for those hotels still fumbling around in the dark, trying to find a social strategy, here’s a few things to keep in mind.