HOSPITALITY MARKETING

2023 hotel marketing trends & how property owners can prepare

By Kent Schnepp

In 2022, the hospitality industry saw demand strengthen as restrictions eased post-pandemic, and travelers felt more confident to start researching and booking trips again. While demand is back,  the pandemic and its lasting effects fundamentally changed traveler behavior, and in 2023, experience-based travel will be prominent as travelers look to make up for lost time. 

This shift will require lodging operators to develop effective messaging and marketing campaigns that closely align with their brand and guest experience across channels to drive brand awareness and win bookings.

Here we look at how the travel landscape is evolving and new hotel marketing trends to shape your marketing strategies this year.

Hotel marketing plan templates

 

5 trends in traveler behavior

Before we jump into marketing-specific hospitality trends, let’s look at how travel patterns are changing in 2023.

  • Value-driven travel takes priority. The ways in which people travel this year will change, with travelers prioritizing value and experiences. Hoteliers need to ensure that guests feel their experience was worth the cost.
  • The vanishing front desk. Travelers want more self-serve, personalized options, and with continued labor shortages, hoteliers are replacing front desk activities with digital solutions.
  • Blended travel meets hybrid lodging. Blended travel is on the rise, with remote workers and digital nomads looking for flexible accommodation providers. Properties of all types have started to blend, with hotels getting into vacation rentals and vacation rentals becoming more like hotels.
  • Travel search moves to video. A December 2022 survey from Google found that more than half of respondents use video in their travel research. TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube are taking over the research landscape, with Google updating its algorithm to favor short-form videos in search engine results.
  • Shift from amenities to experiences. Travelers are looking for an experience when booking a trip this year. How a property’s amenities and values contribute to that experience will be prevalent. Expedia predicts that 2023 will be the year of the “no-normal,” with travelers ditching conventional travel for experienced-based travel.

travellers

 

The five hospitality trends above will significantly impact hotel marketing strategies as travelers’ priorities and expectations change.

1. Google dominates hotel search

Google controls over 90% of the global search engine market, averaging 90+ billion monthly searches. Over the past few years, Google has expanded further into the travel industry and has introduced new search offerings that have significantly changed travel booking behavior. These offerings include:

Skift noted in its October 2022 Report that “Google maps isn’t a super-app yet, but it’s edging in that direction, touting 1 billion people monthly using the feature.”

What hoteliers and hosts can do to prepare:

Most of Google’s offerings (besides Hotel Ads) are free for hoteliers and hosts. To drive more direct bookings and compete on search engines, hoteliers need to optimize their Business Profile and connect their hotel rates via channel manager. Price will play a critical role on Google as hotels are positioned against other properties and online travel agencies (OTAs) in local search results. Ensure there is rate parity across your channel connections, or you risk the chance of losing out on direct bookings.

 

2. Advertising continues to be a strong driver

Costar predicts that average daily room demand will reach all-time highs in 2023. This demand for hotel rooms will require lodging operators to stand out online to compete against other businesses and secure direct bookings. One of the most effective ways for hotels to reach their target audience is through paid advertising. Paid marketing efforts help hotels climb to the top of search results, which can be extremely challenging and time-consuming through organic efforts alone.

What hoteliers and hosts can do to prepare:

In 2022, over 68% of all sales in travel and tourism were made online, with hotels shifting their advertising budgets to digital marketing channels. This year, hoteliers need to invest in a multichannel advertising approach utilizing metasearch advertising, search engine marketing, social media advertising, and retargeting to reach travelers wherever they are online.

 

3. Price will prevail (so ensure yours is right)

Rising inflation rates and economic uncertainty will shine an even brighter light on hotel prices this year. When searching online, travelers will look for the most cost-effective booking method across OTAs, metasearch platforms, and hotel websites. Business travelers may be the only segment where price won’t be the first consideration when booking trips this year.

What hoteliers and hosts can do to prepare:

Phocuswire found that nearly 75% of travelers use metasearch engines in their research process. As this number continues to grow among travelers for hotel bookings, lodging operators must ensure that rate parity is maintained across all channels. Metasearch sites provide a clear cost comparison between channels, and most travelers will choose the cheapest option when booking. Hotel management must closely observe rates to maximize the number of direct bookings through these channels.

 

4. Rich content will become even more important

In 2023, potential customers will have much higher expectations regarding the type of content they expect to see online, and search engines will reward hospitality businesses that get on board. The use of rich content, like videos, social media stories, and virtual tours, will increase as consumer habits shift to prioritize more diverse content offerings.

In August 2022, Google announced its ‘helpful content update’ that ranks original, helpful content created by people higher in search results. Video content will be a key driver of search engine optimization (SEO) this year and should be a major priority in every hotel’s content marketing strategy.

What hoteliers and hosts can do to prepare:

Focus on creating rich, helpful content built to educate travelers and streamline the booking process. Getting active on social media platforms and investing in resources to produce high-quality, short-form TikToks, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts will be crucial for hoteliers’ video marketing strategy. To reduce the workload required to create videos, leverage content created by your guests. This is called user-generated content and is highly trusted among travelers.

Consider making influencer marketing a part of your plan, a new trend taking over the hotel industry. Find micro-influencers (those with 1,000 – 5,000 followers) on TikTok or Instagram that fit your hotel brand and offer them a complimentary stay for an endorsement on their channel. The right influencer can help you to create rich content and increase engagement across your target demographics.

 

5. The disappearance of third-party data

The threat that third-party data will disappear has been looming ever since Google initially announced this change in 2020. In July 2022, Google provided an update that businesses could expect this change in 2024.

So what does this mean for the hotel industry? Online marketing, especially advertising, relies on third-party data to inform businesses of web visitors’ online behaviors, including frequently visited websites, interests, and browsing habits. This data is used to build targeted lists for hotels to advertise to travelers and drive direct bookings.

What hoteliers and hosts can do to prepare:

While this change won’t occur until at least 2024, hoteliers must prepare for its disappearance by investing in strategies to collect more first-party data instead. First-party data is generated when someone visits your hotel’s website and is responsible for remembering basic visitor data. Direct bookings will be crucial in collecting guest data to create segmented lists for future remarketing efforts.

Ensure your website is properly set up to collect first-party data and utilize your booking engine to gather further guest details. Guest engagement solutions can also help with data collection during check-in and check-out through digital registration cards and post-stay surveys.

 

6. Email is not going away (but needs to be automated)

Email marketing also experienced new challenges in 2022 as Apple implemented its Mail Privacy Protection, allowing users to protect their mail activity, restricting the insights businesses previously had access to, like open rates and segmentation features.

While hotels may have access to less data, email is still a crucial communication channel. For every $1 spent on email marketing, hoteliers can expect an average return of $36. Marketing tools like email automation platforms can help hotels scale their email efforts and provide better demographic segmentation from first-party data.

What hoteliers and hosts can do to prepare:

Apple’s new protection policy has increased the importance of email clicks as a key performance indicator. Hoteliers should include more engaging content within emails, like videos, surveys, call-to-action buttons, and gifs, to increase clickthrough rates.

To reduce the workload associated with email marketing, create email templates for each phase of the traveler journey, including confirmation, pre-arrival, and post-stay emails to send at appropriate times. Collect data wherever possible and store it within your property management system (PMS) so that you can segment hotel guests and implement an automated email nurture strategy. Consider starting a loyalty program to follow up with guests throughout the year to invite them back with exclusive discounts.

 

7. Reputation matters

A hotel’s reputation is becoming increasingly important in the eyes of potential guests and search engines. 81% of travelers always read reviews online before booking, with 71% saying that reviews influence their decision-making. Search engines also incorporate reviews as part of their ranking criteria, with Google looking at the number and recency of a hotel’s Google Business reviews. According to Moz, reviews account for around 15% of SEO ranking credit. Online reviews are increasingly being pulled into metasearch platforms from sources like Google and Tripadvisor and can significantly impact the number of clicks and conversions a property sees.

What hoteliers and hosts can do to prepare:

If you don’t have a solid reputation management strategy, it’s time to get on it! Aim to secure a Google Business Profile review rating of at least 4 to ensure a higher ranking on local listings. To start, send out a post-stay email or text to guests as a reminder to leave a review, and make it part of your daily or weekly routine to read and respond to reviews.

Leverage positive reviews on your website, social channels, or paid advertisements to build trust and credibility with potential guests. Use bad reviews to help improve the guest experience and see what changes you can implement to enhance your property.

hotel marketing trends

 

8. Optimize for mobile

In 2022, 44% of online bookings were made on a mobile device, with 70% of travelers researching on one. This trend is expected to increase as millennials and Gen Z accumulate more purchasing power.

A well-optimized mobile website is critical to how well a hotel ranks in search engine results. Google uses what is called ‘mobile-first indexing,’ which is enabled by default for all websites built after 2019. It means that Google primarily uses the mobile version of a hotel’s website for ranking and indexing purposes. Therefore, your desktop and mobile website should provide the same user experience.

What hoteliers and hosts can do to prepare:

Whether browsing social media or opening an email, most actions online take place on mobile. To streamline the booking process, hoteliers must ensure that their emails, website, and booking engine are optimized. Incorporate mobile optimization as part of your marketing plan and audit all your activities to confirm they are mobile-friendly.

 

On the radar: long-term hotel marketing trends  

Finally, here are three trends that are still in the early stages but are expected to gain traction:

  • Chatbots. In this time of labor shortages, chatbots can ease the burden on hotel employees by providing potential guests with instant answers to frequently asked questions and freeing up staff for more complex tasks. A chatbot can also be an effective marketing tool by providing vital information throughout the purchase journey.
  • Virtual reality. After years of hype, 2023 might just be the year virtual reality starts taking off in the travel industry. As a marketing tool, virtual reality allows travelers to experience a property remotely, whereas augmented reality can enhance the traveler’s experience on-site.
  • The metaverse. The metaverse is a virtual environment where people use avatars to play games, explore digital worlds, meet people, and shop. While it may be a long time before people travel in the metaverse, it has strong potential as a marketing tool for giving people a taste of hotel experiences from their desktops.

 

Achieve your 2023 marketing goals with Cloudbeds Amplify
Published on 27 January, 2023
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About Kent Schnepp

Kent has over 20 years of internet marketing experience working with top-tier clients. He’s also been recognized as one of the top Forty Under 40 executives by the Portland Business Journal. In 2006 Kent co-founded EngineWorks, a data-driven search marketing agency located in Portland, Oregon that was later acquired by ethology. Today, he is the Program Director of Cloudbeds Amplify.

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