I just received the list of most popular articles from hotelmarketing.com and am republishing it here. I couldn’t find it on their site and emailed them to publish it but am not sure if that’s going to happen any time soon since they also announce that they’re on holidays until January.
Looking through the list is quite interesting. I wrote about it in a Google+ post (which has limited distribution) so am republishing the content of that post here:
Just went through the hotelmarketing.com‘s list of most popular articles in 2011. An excellent list, reading through the list alone is a great analysis of what’s happening in the hospitality world. Here’s my analysis of the scene: Feel free to add yours.
1. Hoteliers are more and more worried about their dependency on OTAs. Rate Parity problems, Cutting availability to OTAs being flagged and more.
2. Hoteliers still haven’t figured out how to yield results from social media. And nobody blames them. The stats talk for themselves: while social media brings lots of visits and can be used as a branding strategy the conversion of those visitors is much lower than on search. And what should we talk about?
3. Hoteliers want more direct. OK that’s nothing new, it’s the eternal problem of every industry, how to increase direct sales.
4. Hoteliers are searching for new marketing ideas. The posts with catchy headlines like Google+ will re-shape search… andGroupon and Expedia… are high on the list indicating that new ideas are definitely on their mind, even if many are just not mature yet. It leads me to believe that the common phrase that hoteliers are not up-to-date is just wrong, they are probably more careful and aren’t going to invest heavily into stuff that doesn’t work.
5. Big names still work best. I guess this isn’t limited to hotels but if there is Facebook, TripAdvisor, Google, Kayak or other big name in the headline it just gets much more readers. That’s just one of the PR laws, big names sell.
It’s probably more revealing as a trend to see what posts were most read and shared than the content of the posts. It gives a great crowdsourcing of hotel marketers interests (at least those that read hotelmarketing.com).
My collegue and friend Tony Loeb at WIHP published a study yesterday called Where to find new customers online analyzing websites that bring new guests and customers versus those that are used as a passing point in the purchase cycle.
I thought it was quite interesting and am re-posting the infographic here. I’m not going to put the entire article since you can read that on the WIHP Magazine.
For those wondering why I am not blogging so much here, it’s just because I’ve been busy blogging on WIHP’s Magazine and I figured just taking all the articles and duplicating them here would be boring for everyone not to mention the duplicate content that search engines won’t appreciate too much.
In any case, if you’re really upset because you want more on mirarmedia.com then drop me a note and I’ll find some time to blog ideas here…
With the analysts at WIHP we’re constantly crunching numbers. How many visits before clients book, what countries book most, what links are the best, how do they find the hotel, what pages are most interesting, how fast the booking goes etc. Good marketing is based on lots of analysis and I think every good marketer out there knows that. I thought it would be fun to share some of the numbers, so I got an infographic made with some of them and it’s pretty cool. Here are the booking trends in the independent hotel market as an infographic.
Very interesting stats, and definitely reflective of our observations. Key takeaways: (1) Your home page MUST be optimized for conversions; (2) You need to be visible in conventional search, have good reputation with prior guests, AND be on the OTAs; (3) your website must stand out as providing something different.
To which I added that you need to have a booking engine that’s designed to convert. With 44% of user time spent on the booking engine if it’s somewhat complicated, slow or not representative of the hotel you’re going to lose conversion since the OTAs have some pretty good booking engines.
With no further ado, here is the hotel booking trends infographic:
I’ve been doing some research lately to find out how the customers that booked on the hotel websites heard about the hotel. We (me and our analysts at WIHP) reached out to over 6000 guests to gather their information. The hotel base we selected was about 100 hotels located in Paris, Rome and Barcelona. A selection of independent hotels varying from cheap to luxury and including Boutique. A pretty wide variety of hotels but all of them independent and in the smaller category of about 30-50 rooms.
We used the classic question “How did you hear about us?” and to be quite honest I was expecting something rather different from what I found. We already know that about 90% of the bookings done on a hotel’s website are done by people who search for the hotel on their search engine, the question that we wanted to answer was how did the guest find out about the hotel.
After some months of surveying the guests we started seeing the answers roll in and they were very interesting, here we go:
Survey Question: How did you hear about us?
24.1% Friends or Family
11.8% Repeat Guest
2.7% Travel Agent
1.0% Travel Guide
Amazingly (or not) Friends or Family is the leading reply, Google found exactly the same in their survey which you can find here. While I didn’t expect that to be the top answer it obviously makes sense and we’re back to the old marketing and PR law that word of mouth is your best advertising. However here is where the Social Media Marketer needs to realize that his role is to leverage that and yield it to the maximum, sure Social Medial will also create new customers via totally different channels but your social media campaign is all about Friends and Family and do it right, it’s a massive revenue generator. All the staff participate, they’ve got to make sure the guest don’t just feel “good” they’ve got to feel GREAT! and Social Media manager better be concerned about that and do something about it if it isn’t the case.
OTAs (Expedia, Booking.com, Orbitz etc) come second and here is where the hotelier who tries to shut off the OTA is a fool, and his goal shouldn’t be to exclude them but include them intelligently so it generates bookings via the OTAs and spills over to the website, it needs to be a win-win partnership. The article I wrote in February about shifting from OTAs to Direct bookings is still the best way that partnership will work and remain healthy for both parties.
The category “other” contains too many variable replies and while we’re analysing those too I wanted to mention that Google search is included in here. I mention that because some hoteliers will think they their SEO strategy is to be found through all manner of search terms and thus pull in new customers. For your average independent hotel that’s a bad strategy. You will end up with a tremendous bounce rate and eventually Google will notice your site isn’t about “Boutique Hotels in London” and will push down the ranking costing you the double in work. The best strategy for an independent hotel is to build a proper website and get popular through all the regular channels. Additionally I purposely didn’t give the option “Google” or “Search engine” in the survey since sure they found the hotel on Google, but they knew the name before they Googled it.
Tripadvisor comes fourth which is quite interesting. Some time ago I was all over telling hotels to buy their link on Tripadvisor, however about 50% of the hotels that participated in this survey didn’t have that link and oddly enough some of the hotels that didn’t have the link and were very low on the overall chart (1100 out of 1800 hotels) had about 20% of their guest come from Tripadvisor. What I learned from this is that your ranking on the site is not as important as the reviews. Having the last 5-10 reviews all positive and great is more important to your revenues than tearing your hair out because you lost 10 places on their site. Which is great news – because now you know you can always do something about it.
While I am not going to cover the rest of the results, I am sure you understand the figures as well as everyone else, I did want to mention that Facebook with 2% is quite interesting. Facebook is definitely on the rise as a travel marketing resource and I recommend hoteliers to embrace it as a means to reach millions and help them on their buying process.
Feel free to comment and ask questions I’ll do my best to answer them.
There’s a project we’re working on at WIHP which I am quite excited about. It’s in beta, even though it produces quite well already, and we’re constantly adding features and correcting little things with it. It’s called www.explorotel.com.
The idea came about from a few different viewpoints, one a few of us had been booking hotels for vacations and found that existing OTAs are everything but user-friendly. If you don’t know what hotel you want to stay at and if you don’t know the city you are going then locating a hotel can be a drag. For example, you find a hotel in a city that is within your budget, the location seems OK, then you click on the hotel’s page to look at the photos and to your horror, the place looks like it was the set for an Alfred Hitchcock movie. When you click back your search criteria are gone and you can start all over again.
And this can go on for hours until you find the hotel you want. That was the user viewpoint.
Then came the programmer viewpoint, some of the engineers at WIHP are speed-freaks, and correctly so. They were tired of seeing sites that took forever to load the first page and wanted something well structured that could build into something large and remain fast on load. So they went to town as well.
And then was the hotelier viewpoint, the cost. They needed something that would give them a good return on investment. So we worked out two ways of subscribing to the system, one was a fixed price membership and for those that didn’t want to take the risk, the classical commission system.
We called it Explorotel because it’s sort of a new way to search and explore a hotel listing. The idea is that the user gets maximum control of the listing and can search with all the criteria he wants and in the end find what he is looking for.
For example some of us (me included) really want to see the room of the hotel before we book. Even more important than the location is the comfort of the hotel and will it be a proper comfort. We made a “photo search” tab where you put in your city, then price range and search for a hotel.
We also thought a fun and practical way to search for hotels is against the map of the city. But we wanted to do two things, one speed up map search – this is typically a tremendously long and complex loading procedure especially if you’re going to have prices showing immediately. And that was the challenge, to have dynamic pricing against the map of the city. While it isn’t yet perfect it’s pretty fast and works quite well.
Then we needed wanted help guests with reviews, real reviews from people that have stayed at the hotel and we figured that being able to sort the hotels by the type of guests or reviews would be helpful too. For example, if you’re looking for the best value hotel in a city, you can find it. If you’re looking for the cleanest hotel in the city you can find that too.
These are just some of the features, as you navigate through the site you’ll probably notice a whole bunch more. For example every page and search mode has a real url which means you can link to an exact search criteria and send it to a friend. You can also create an anonymous listing of selected hotels and share that with a friend. The list goes on, try it out and have fun. As a hotelier you can submit your hotel to the list by contacting us, however for the moment we’re only accepting hotels that have Synxis booking engine or Availpro.
We’ve taglined the project with “Rethink hotel search” and I think it’s quite appropriate since many of these are new ways to make hotels more visible on the internet and thus help both hoteliers and guests.
If you’ve got ideas you want to share feel free to comment on this article, we’re open to everything. It doesn’t mean we will implement them all but we’ll definitely look at them and get in touch with you.
I am re-blogging an article that Josiah Mackenzie wrote about the marketing and PR campaign that I did on Hotel Seven, instead of re-writing it all, I thought I could share some of stuff from a great blog.
How Martin Soler used a direct-to-consumer Facebook PR strategy to open Seven Hotel at 80% occupancy during low season
How did Hotel Le Seven build their Facebook community so quickly? Today I got on the phone with Vice PresidentMartin Soler to learn about the strategy he used to attract nearly 12,000 fans through Facebook. Martin’s company, World Independent Hotel Promotion, works exclusively with independent hotels, with a focus on hotel openings. (Martin is also a talentedHDR photographer.)
The Background Story (In Martin’s words)
Seven months before opening we started the campaign. It was an ambitious project – great to work on, because the hotel concept was very unusual. We built a strategy where we would be creating some mystery, and leaking ideas on what every suite would look like.
We were lucky because we had a test room to work with for imagery – the rest were just sketches. We started by talking about the owners, and the other projects they did – like Hotel Five. We talked about all the gadgets and special things there were.
We coordinated with our PR agency to make sure there was no communication with the press. We only wanted to talk directly with the consumer.
Josiah: What communications channels did you use?
Facebook was our exclusive communications channel.
I haven’t found Twitter to be very reliable for promotions. I feel it’s a bit more of a flash in the pan.
And of course we made a website with very dramatic music and imagery of what guests could expect. Facebook pointed to the website, and the website was very high-production – lots of rich media.
No Press Releases
If people wanted to know anything about the hotel, they had to follow us through Facebook. No press releases went out, and we did not take any questions from the media.
What Caused Rapid Growth
We tried some contests through Facebook, but the results were not impressive as we thought. We tried sending offers to our fanbase from Hotel Five – since the design concepts were similar. If they liked the Five, they’ll love the Seven. So cross marketing was possible there.
So a lot was just telling people about it. Pushing traffic from the website. We also wrote some bloggers, telling them to check out the page since we were going to do something interesting.
It was a bit of a risk because not many hotels have filled their rooms through Facebook yet. But it worked for us!
We’ve continued our strategy after opening, and made it clear to our colleagues that it was Facebook that attracted our fans initially. It helped us achieve 80% occupancy on the soft opening – and that was in low season.
The owner was amazed – he didn’t expect that at all.
So we had to remember that our Facebook fans helped us achieve this success. We give them an exclusive room rate – the fans-only rate is the best rate you’ll get – better than our own website or any distributor.
We also reward our Facebook community by notifying them of anything that’s going to happen before we tell anyone else. (Even before we post to our website).
Martin’s Top Five Facebook Tips
1. Treat your Facebook “Likers” like an artist treats their fans. That is, realize they make you important and therefore you need to make them important. Special treatments etc. when they arrive at the hotel is a minimum.
2. Keep your Facebook page as personal as you can. This is an information communication channel to friends. Try to involve them as much as you can.
3. Find out what people want to know about the hotel and give them more of that. It’s not about what you “think” is important; you may be totally off the mark. Listen to them and your page will be a success.
4. Use all the media of Facebook, write articles, post photo albums etc.
5. Treat every post like a “news story;” don’t give it all at once. Give it to them bit by bit and maximize the yield from your stories.
If you want to start a heated discussion with an independent hotelier, talk to him about Tripadvisor. People either love it or hate it, and those that don’t do either, ignore it.
No doubt, hotel reviews on the internet has forced hotels to up their service level and care. In the past many could get away with mediocre service and mediocre rates. Now that’s not the case anymore, cheap or expensive, hotels need to service their customers and leave a great impression.
But what’s the future going to look like? Will we still have a single site directing so much of the public opinion? Well unlike sites like Google and Facebook that actually perform functions, Tripadvisor provides raw information. And many other sites provide similar information too.
This is where the future of hotel reviews (and other review sites as well) is likely to shift. For the end user, the best experience would be to have a glance on the hotel on a single page. Something similar to Google Places but with a better view.
And that’s where I think hotel reviews will go. Additionally, false reviews will not have such an impact on such a system since a single comment wont have such an impact.
Could iTunes becomes the new Paypal? In mobile shopping, it is quite hard to imagine someone pulling out their credit card in the metro and entering it on their mobile to complete the purchase of their hotel room. Not too many people would feel comfortable with that.
But what about all those people that have an iPhone who already have an iTunes account. All the booking engine would need to do is connect to iTunes, the user puts in his password and the purchase it done.
I can’t imagine that our Apple friends haven’t already started planning to change iTunes into “Apple Financial Services” or something like that and become a direct competitor to Paypal. If they do it would be that much easier for us to sell our hotel inventories to mobile users.
And all those potential guests that are wasting their time waiting for a bus or the metro could spend it searching for and booking their hotel rooms.
Maybe that’s all part of iTravel.
At WIHP we’ve been analysing shopper trends like many marketers do. Something that struck me recently was just how much shopping goes on before someone selects a hotel.
The average internet user checks out at least 6 hotel websites before doing their booking. The average internet user takes over 24 hours between their first search for a hotel to their final reservation. The billboard effect from OTAs plays an important role as well since most of the hotel searches happen by typing in the hotel’s name.
An independent hotel’s hope for success in what is the largest online business (travel) isn’t the highest unless they have a strong online presence, which must consist of Social Media + Search Engine Optimization + Design, and these elements must all coordinate around the most important message of all – added value.
If there is one message that has to shine through on all your marketing it is VALUE FOR MONEY.
Martin Soler is the VP Production at WIHP which is one of the leading European Hotel Marketing agencies producing websites, online marketing strategies, social media campaigns, pay-per-click campaigns. WIHP also does yield consulting, branding strategies and hotel reputation management with its divisions staffed by hoteliers, marketing experts, designers and SEO professionals.
When I met Philippe Vaurs who briefed me on the latest hotel he was creating I realized a major shift is happening on hotel trends. Boutique hotels which have been the trend over the last decade are no longer enough. People want more than a great design or a unique feel, they want to live an experience. That is exactly what the next hotel type is going to be, Experience hotels.
Back in the 1980s it is said that a new type of hotels was invented, Boutique Hotels. The story goes to say that Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell opened the Morgans in New York and said that it was like a boutique compared to a department store.
Since then boutique hotels have blossomed accross the world and they’ve given back the personal feel to hotels.
But that was in 1984, we’re 20 years later and things have moved on. Actually the hotel industry has some major changes every few decades. For a quick history lesson here’s a short timeline.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s the concept of Luxury hotels began to emerge as the place to go for the wealthy and fashionable. Hotels like the Langham of London and the Ritz of Paris have kept that tradition high for over a hundred years.
In the 1940s we started seeing chain hotels grow with the likes of Statler Hotel who brought levels of comfort to the travelers previously unheard of and in a standard that was found in all of the brand’s hotels. That model has been so successful that it is probably the most used model in the hotel industry today. This spun off variations of the chain concept from cheap to luxury.
At the same time hotels were getting larger and larger from hundreds to thousands of rooms per hotel and all that with a standard of comfort varying to one’s desire.
Then comes the Boutique hotels in 1984 and we’ve already covered that.
In the 1990s some amazing concepts like the Ice Hotels start, and it’s the beginning of something big. The beginning of hotels becoming a main part of the travel experience wherein the hotel itself is an experience. However we still need to wait many years before Experience hotels go mainstream.
In 2010 several such creations start showing up, Seven Hotel in Paris being one of them. The new suites in the Las Vegas Hard Rock hotel are another and there are more. 2010 could be said to be the year Experience hotels really started going mainstream.
That is the next level for hotels. Floating beds, levitating bathtubs, interactive lighting systems and olfactory TV channels in the rooms. The stuff of dreams that can now be accessed by everyone for a night, a day or both.
- HotelMarketing.com’s most popular of 2011
- ZMOT and hotel marketing
- Where hotels should get new guests [INFOGRAPHIC]
- Hotel Booking Trends an Infographic
- Five ways a hotel can use Google+
- Top referring sites for Hotels by WIHP
- How to Successfully open a hotel
- How do they find us?
- Do’s and Don’ts for a Hotel Website
- The role of Interior design in Hotel Internet Marketing