Every year, the same concerns arise among hoteliers – namely, how to increase occupancy and ADR in a competitive digital landscape.
This year is no different except that these same concerns also present new opportunities for hotel marketers to learn how to differentiate themselves from the competition in order to attract more travelers and fill their rooms.
In today’s digital age, providing relevant, personalized content targeted towards your ideal demographic is the first step, which companies from Concur to Airbnb and hotels such as Marriott and Four Seasons are already doing. Despite the big brands that have invested in content and are using storytelling to attract travelers, the truth is this can be done no matter how big or small your property is.
The first step is to understand what your key demographics are looking for and ensure you create content targeted to these demographics. For the majority of hotels, the main demographics they target are business, leisure and group travelers – since these core demographics make up the most hotel revenue.
Business travel spend is set to increase in 2015 but the picture of the new business traveler may be changing. Concur, a business travel and expense management tool, has reported that every year since 2010, Concur customers’ use of shared accommodations site Airbnb has quadrupled.
As a result, Concur and Airbnb recently announced a new partnership to provide business travelers with more booking options and easier expense management tools. By teaming up with Airbnb, business travelers can now book Airbnb properties directly through Concur. Currently, about 10% of all Airbnb customers are business travelers – a number that Chip Conley, Airbnb Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy, wants to double by end of 2015.
Why might business travelers prefer to book Airbnb properties rather than a hotel, especially if they’re not footing the bill? Airbnb’s core motto is to provide travelers with a unique experience – one that emphasizes taking advantage of the local activities and immersing yourself in a new culture by staying in a local’s place. And that’s what hoteliers will have to do to compete: tell their story about what makes a stay at your property unique, a story communicated on all the channels travelers use to research and book online – whether that’s your property website, third-party travel websites like Concur or social media sites like Facebook.
This story should include not only what makes your hotel unique but why business travelers should choose you – perhaps your rooms have free WiFi so they can log in to their next meeting and your lobby bar has live music for when they want to relax.
For leisure travelers, telling a story has never been more important. Today’s leisure travelers are absolutely bombarded by thousands of hotel choices for every destination they want to visit and it’s demanding that hoteliers learn to showcase what makes them unique.
This year, Americans are planning to spend eight percent more on leisure travel than they did in 2014, according to a Choice Hotels 2015 Travel Trends Survey.
What’s more interesting, perhaps, is the fact that 62% of leisure travelers said the most influential factor in searching for a leisure travel destination was the price – yet they also said they’d be willing to spend more for unique travel experiences.
A unique travel experience doesn’t have to be visiting an exotic location – it can be found whether you’re a beach resort, small B&B or roadside motel, as long as you are telling travelers with compelling content and showing travelers with rich multi-media why your hotel is their next unique experience.
In fact, nearly half of those surveyed said they’re visiting a city they’ve already been to – meaning it’s not the new, exotic locales that travelers are looking for but rather experiences.
Tell your story to the leisure traveler by amplifying your hotel’s location (perhaps you’re located near a jazz bar or a restaurant with unique cuisine), highlighting your hotel’s unique features (pet friendly? Let pet lovers know with a funny video or photo), and compelling them to book with special offers.
Year over year, the number of meeting request proposals generated primarily online increases – and in order to convert those important leads into sales, hoteliers must provide meeting and events planners with all the information they need to come to a decision.
“You need to tell planners everything they need to know,” said Ed Simon, VP of Sales at Destination Hotels & Resorts, which will launch a new website with more meetings-related information this year. “You have to fill in all the blanks. It would be nice to have direct contact, but if they want to buy that way, you have to make sure they have all the information they need.”
The most effective way to convert these leads into sales may be a triple threat: compelling content, rapid response and automated booking tools that enable planners to complete the transaction without human interaction.
Identify the most common questions meetings and events planners ask about your hotel – such as the capacity of the meeting rooms or availability of on-site coordinators – and include that in your hotel story.
Achieving your key metrics – whether those may be increasing rates, occupancy, driving brand awareness or more – depend on your hotel’s ability to convey its unique story to the travelers it wants to stay at the property – the more you know about what your hotel can offer and to which type of guests, the better you can grab their attention – and their wallets.
This is the second in a series of four blog posts about targeting your desired hotel customer segments.