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How hostels can use data to compete with OTAs

Rosie Willan

By Rosie Willan

With so many different digital marketing techniques and tactics out there, it can be difficult to figure out which option is best for your hostel. 

As hostel marketing experts, we can recommend a variety of different methods to kickstart your marketing efforts, boost your bookings and reduce reliance on OTAs. However, the one key piece that can make a huge difference is your data. 

Whether it’s the booking data you collect via your property management system or the information you track via Google Analytics, using this data effectively will allow you to define, reach and communicate with your target audience. It also helps improve your online guest experience. 

Evaluating your own guest data will enable you to understand the customer journey, from what influences your guests to take a trip to taking action and booking a stay with you.  

So, how exactly can you use data analytics to boost bookings and better compete with OTAs? We’ll show you a few different tactics below.

Get Personal Via Email

You’ve probably heard about personalization when it comes to your hostel’s digital marketing strategy. It’s a bit of a marketing buzzword, but what does it actually mean exactly? Well, personalization means getting your desired message in front of the right person, in the right place, and at the best time. A great way to get started with personalization is via email. 

When travelers book directly, it gives you the perfect opportunity to personalize their experience with a tailored pre-arrival email. Using booking data – including their location, age and date of arrival (as well as the reason why they are visiting, if you have it) – you can put together a mailer with relevant content including tours and activities, events taking place during their stay and any exclusive offers running at the time. This approach also enhances the overall guest experience by kick-starting your relationship with your guests before they check-in. 

While OTAs offer general travel information for the destination when sending a booking confirmation, you’re able to showcase your local knowledge and send specific details about unique events or festivals that are taking place during the timeframe a guest is staying with you.

It’s not exactly a secret that OTAs are huge marketing machines, but as more and more Millennial and Gen Z travelers prioritize unique guest experience, getting personal over email is a great way to gain a competitive edge. And it’s no longer something that your hostel should look at as a bonus option – with 87% of travelers reported to value personalized offers according to a recent survey, personalized communication has become an expectation.


Reach your Target Audience with Paid Advertising 

The power of paid social advertising knows no bounds for the travel industry and – from our observations in the hostel marketing sphere – it remains significantly underutilized by hostels around the world. While OTAs receive millions of website hits each month and rely heavily on retargeting ads (ads that are shown to users who have previously visited pages on their website) most hostels cannot rely on this type of web traffic alone.

Instead, hostels need to combine ads that promote brand awareness with retargeting ads. In order to do this successfully, you need as much informed data about your target audience as possible.

With a modern, cloud-based PMS, you’re easily able to collect your guests’ location and date of birth. When setting up ads, you can use this data to inform your target audience. 

For example, if the majority of your guests are from the UK, USA and Germany, and their ages generally range between 20 – 30 years old, then you can use this information to run targeted ad campaigns to those countries and that exact age group. You can also continue to narrow down their interests based on the type of hostel you run and the experiences you offer to create an ultra-targeted ad for your property.  

The more detailed your target marketing is, the better. OTAs might have thousands of dollars worth of budget, but you can do your part to stay competitive by using your own data to build ads that speak directly to your core demographic and personalize the message you send.  


Share Revelavent Content that Resonates

Posting on social media is a waste of time if you aren’t engaging your target audience and sharing content that resonates with them. 84% of Gen Z travelers are influenced to make a

hostel data to compete

travel-related purchase after looking on social media platforms like Instagram, so it’s vital that you’re using the data you have at your fingertips to inform your posts so you don’t miss out on booking opportunities.

While the type of content you share – and the platforms you use – can be influenced by the age group of your target audience, you can also use different aspects of Google Analytics to get a deeper understanding of who your guests are. 

Filtering by ‘Interests’ on Google Analytics, you’re able to see the types of things your website visitors enjoy. For example, if your web visitors’ interests include ‘food and dining,’ you can share information about nearby restaurants and cafes. Likewise, if one of your Google Analytics groups includes ‘business travelers,’ you can share more content about your great co-working space (or one in the area) and the fast, free WiFi you offer.

You can also use social media analytics to get a better understanding of which posts are performing well and getting the most engagement from your audience. By analyzing your social media data, you’re able to determine which topics to focus on and which ones to skip. This way you’ll be able to share more targeted posts that will ultimately encourage more bookings. 

No one knows your guests better than you and this is a definite advantage you have over OTAs, so make sure you’re showcasing the experience and unique vibe your hostel has to offer. 


Get Cozy with Google Analytics

For every day you earn bookings, you’re collecting more and more data on people that have visited your website or booked a stay at your hostel. But having this data is useless if you aren’t actually using this information to influence your digital marketing strategy. 

As mentioned above, Google Analytics is a fantastic resource for finding out more about your potential guests. You can use Google Analytics to improve your website’s search engine ranking by looking at the search terms users use to find on your website (you can find these under ‘Acquisition.’) Make sure you include these terms in your website copy, blog posts and site meta-descriptions to boost your SEO value so your website can gain more organic traffic. 

By using ‘User Flows’ on Google Analytics, you can also track the behavior of potential guests when they’re on your site. This feature allows you to see the path and pages that users visit on your site, from landing on your homepage to exiting the site. This is a great way of identifying problem areas on your website, for example, where visitors tend to drop off. With this information, you can address any user-experience issues and avoid losing bookings to OTAs. 

OTAs may collect data on travelers from around the world, but your hostel has specific and detailed information on the type of guests you’re attracting and receiving. It’s absolutely vital to your success that you are utilizing this data to your advantage.


Want to see other ways your hostel management software can help you boost direct bookings? Discover the world’s #1 hostel software.  

Published on 27 December, 2019
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About Rosie Willan

Rosie Willan

Rosie is Co-founder of Stay the Night, a creative digital marketing service for hostels which she runs alongside her business partner (and travelling companion!) Charlotte. Between them, they have over 10 years’ combined experience in areas including social media marketing, content marketing and PR. As travelers, they have stayed in hostels around the world, giving them a unique perspective on what works best – and, just as importantly, what doesn’t – when it comes to hostel marketing. Stay the Night offers a full range of services designed to help hostels increase bookings, reach more potential guests and grow their brand.

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