Hospitality marketing has evolved into a complicated web. Today 53% of all guests book travel on the Internet. They make 67% of last-minute bookings online via mobile devices. 81% of travelers think online reviews are important, and they read 6-12 hotel reviews before booking. It can get overwhelming to try to grasp all you must do to market your property online.
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Online travel agencies (OTAs) are an important hospitality marketing tool. Even if you don’t list many rooms there, there are many reasons to list at least one.
Guests visit 38 different websites before booking a vacation, according to an Expedia study. When guests find your hotel on OTAs, many of them open up a new browser and search for your website. Sometimes those guests will book directly from the website, especially if they can get a better deal. The Billboard Effect is when guests discover your hotel on an OTA first, but book from your website instead.
Hoteliers who list even one room on OTAs experience more direct bookings due to The Billboard Effect. OTAs are a great way to fill otherwise vacant rooms, but they are also a good way to market your property.
We all know about the major OTAs–Booking.com, Expedia, Travelocity. There are also hundreds of niche OTAs out there. Niche OTAs cater to specific audiences. These include backpackers, hostel hoppers, couch surfers, and more. Get your property listed on them to increase your market reach.
Savvy hospitality marketing includes using a channel manager. A channel manager syncs your property’s availability with all the niche OTAs you choose. A channel manager will open your property up to new marketplaces. It will find you guests from communities you never knew existed.
OTAs help with hospitality marketing for branding, too. There is much noise out there about your property. From negative reviews to forum gossip, people can say anything they want about your property.
Google your property’s name. Does your website appear on the first page? What other listings appear on the first page? This is what your guests will see when they search for your property’s name. Is there anything there you wish they wouldn’t find?
One way to manage your property’s online reputation is to list your rooms on many OTAs. OTAs are powerful websites that Google trusts. When you list your inventory on an OTA using your hotel’s name, the OTA will often create a dedicated page for your property. Google will rank the page using the authority of the OTA website.
In this way, you can crowd out the first page of Google with OTA listings you control through your channel manager.
Your website, known as the “direct” marketing channel, is where you make the most revenue from each booking. It’s where your paid ads send visitors, and it’s where Google and other search engines send visitors. If you don’t have a website, you can’t take advantage of The Billboard Effect. A website is an essential part of every hospitality marketing strategy.
One thing to bear in mind is that for-commission booking engines eat up much of your profit. It almost makes the direct channel worthless. For-commission booking engines take as high as 10% from each booking made on your website. This is completely unnecessary, as there are dozens of commission-free booking engines out there.
Before you spend money on ads, and before you craft your website, make sure you have a commission-free booking engine.
Another thing to consider is the mobile channel. We shared earlier that 67% of guests make last-minute bookings from mobile devices. Google recently published an update penalizing websites that don’t look good on mobile devices. If your website is not mobile-friendly, then your are invisible to many guests who make mobile decisions. You need a responsive, mobile-friendly website.
Your next step is to set up paid advertising for your property.
AdWords is Google’s search engine marketing (SEM) platform. When you create a free AdWords account, you can buy ads that appear in Google’s search results, for whatever keywords you wish. You can either manage these ads yourself or hire a professional. A SEM specialist will be able to choose the best keywords for your property, and place the best bids for your business plan.
Savvy marketers can use social media advertising to reap great rewards. Use Facebook’s detailed targeting system to show your ads to only those guests who are likely to book a room. Use Twitter’s ad platform to show ads only to users who talk about your property’s location. Hire an experienced social media ad manager to help you craft smart social media ads.
Flash deal websites like Groupon and LivingSocial produce mixed results. They have enjoyed great peaks of popularity and suffered deep valleys of rejection. Despite having lost the prominence they once enjoyed, flash deals are still popular with guests.
Contact a flash-deals website, and they will help you set up a deal for your property. Offer a discount that you can tolerate. 10% off, two rooms for the price of one, or a free meal at a local restaurant–this is your creative opportunity!
Once done, your deal will go live. Users of the flash websites will buy your deal, and you split revenue with the flash deal website. If used wisely, flash deals are great tools for filling vacant rooms. Make sure that you always do the math before crafting flash deals.
When hospitality marketers talk about “organic” traffic, they refer to free visits from search engines. This happens when your website ranks well in the search engines for popular search terms. The benefit to organic traffic is that you get direct bookings at no cost to you. The downside is that it is hard to rank well “organically” on search engines like Google.
Hire a search engine optimization (SEO) specialist. They can look through your website, and suggest changes to help it rank better on search engines. They can give you a list of keywords that guests use to find properties like yours.
Write new content optimized for these keywords. The more content your website has the more opportunities it has to rank. Become a thought-leader about your location. Write answers to common questions guests have about your local events and landscape. Publish them on your website, and on local blogs, magazines, and newspapers.
The more noise you and your website makes in the industry, the more organic traffic (and bookings) you will get.
We at Cloudbeds focus on software to help solve the challenges of digital marketing for your property. But that doesn’t mean real-world marketing should stop. Instead, supplement your real-world marketing efforts with the hospitality marketing steps we describe above.
Forge partnerships with other local businesses. Create a co-marketing plan, where you help promote a business and the business helps promote you. Put fliers and coupons for each other in your lobbies and on your websites. Recommend local businesses to guests who ask for your advice. Become a well-known and respected member of your local business community.
Team up with local tour guides, or start providing tours of your own. Make your property have more value, as not only a great place to stay, but a great place to find something to do. Promote local events on your website and social media. Have regularly scheduled local adventures. Make your property a destination in and of itself–a hub where explorers start their adventures.
As for us, we’re experts in software solutions for hospitality marketing. We have three products that may interest you.
Myfrontdesk is our property management system (PMS). It helps you manage your day-to-day property tasks. Myallocator is our channel manager. It helps list your property with niche online marketplaces you may have never heard of before. Mybookings is our commission-free booking engine. You can embed it on your website and Facebook page.
Together, they empower your property to work like a well-oiled machine. This saves you time to spend on your guests’ happiness. Request a demo to learn more about what Cloudbeds can do for your property.