Hotel Online Marketing: Where should you invest your efforts?

Most hotels are putting an effort into competing with their “frenemies” – the Online Travel Agencies (or OTAs). OTAs claim between 10-20% commission on bookings, and they are the source of almost two-thirds of all online bookings.

What can hotels do?

Small to medium independent hotels, with their limited resources, can improve profit by increasing direct bookings to their hotel website. Each direct booking saves the commission paid to online travel agencies and creates a direct relationship with the customer – towards referrals and return visits. Since almost all of travel research are now made online, hotels must allocate time and effort to online marketing and ensure they are investing their resources effectively.

A hotel website extends your reach

It is crucial that today’s hotels have their own website that shows the hotel, its unique selling points, its rooms and amenities, and a list of nearby attractions. A hotel website must make a good first impression and present the hotel well, in terms of look and feel, simple navigation, depth of content and ease of booking and paying.  By converting visitors before they move back to online travel agencies, independent hotels can increase their direct bookings.

Online travel agencies as free billboard

Because online travel agency sites are often the most complete list of hotels in a destination, they are often the first sites searched by travellers.  By having your hotel listed in as many online travel agency sites as possible, your online travel agency listing serve as a free online billboard for your hotel. Note that a quarter of a hotel’s direct bookings come from travellers who find your hotel on the online travel agency sites.

The future of mobile booking

It is projected that by 2019, approximately two-thirds of travellers will reserve hotels via a mobile device. Considering this, hotel websites must not only look good on desktop and mobile devices but also should make booking easy on mobile devices, with as few steps as possible, offering travellers the convenience online payments via paypal, credit card and bank transfer.

Boost marketing by targeting your customers

Are your customers adventurous singles or couples on a romantic getaway? Families?  What are their interests during their stays?  Communicate based on your target audience. Adjust your amenities and services to meet their specific needs, and create special offers and deals for your target audience. Once you have located your audience – expand to other channels to widen your customer base.

Monitor online reviews and social media mentions

Most people will not book a hotel with bad reviews. Remember to monitor all your online reviews and social media mentions on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tripadvisor and the online travel agency review sites. Reply to all comments by previous customers on review sites, whether to thank a guest, or respond to a complaint, as these are leading places your audience is likely to visit.

To sum it all up, pay attention to industry trends, be sure to define your target market, and analyse your customer base to update your marketing mix and target your marketing efforts accordingly.  Focus the majority of your marketing efforts on online marketing, making sure to offer a responsive and easy to navigate website, as well use marketing tools to streamline your task and get the results you want.