The Futures Company recently released a report for the Intercontinental Hotels Group (a client we’ve worked with on local SEO in nine countries in Western Europe) about how the travel industry is evolving toward a more relationship-centered approach as a result of globalization and technological innovation. In this new “kinship economy,” the focus is on building meaningful relationships with travelers and connecting them to the wider environment. The Internet is a key part of this new economy – which means Internet marketing for hotels is now more important than ever.
To get a sense of just how much the travel landscape has changed, here are some key statistics pulled from the report:
- 80% of travel products in the UK are researched or purchased online
- 45% of travelers use post-trip experiences and reviews shared by others to form their own travel plans
- 1 in 4 travelers have used social networking sites to plan their travel
- 1 in 3 business travelers post reviews online of the properties they stay at
This new, Internet-driven approach to travel is epitomized by the “invisible traveler.” The invisible traveler books her hotel online, checks in via mobile, and has extensive knowledge of the area gained through prior online research. How can hotels reach this kind of traveler? How can they make her stay a meaningful experience?
There are two stages involved in connecting with this kind of traveler: pre-booking and post-booking. Hotels are primarily concerned with the post-booking stage – figuring out how to create a meaningful travel experience for a new generation of largely self-sufficient guests. Equally important, however, is the pre-booking stage. With such a wealth of information about hotels available on the Web, how do you ensure that a traveler chooses to stay at your hotel?
Answer: You need to develop an effective Internet marketing strategy.
There are many techniques a hotel company can adopt to optimize their Internet presence, but two in particular have proven successful from our experience: consolidation and local search optimization.
We know that people are going to search for hotel reviews online before they book; the challenge is making sure they find the ones you want them to. You can’t control the nature of the reviews online (except, of course, by making sure you provide top-notch service). But you can make them easier to find. Hotel reviews are often scattered and fragmented across the Web. By consolidating them into one place, you’ll make them easier for search engines to locate.
Local search is also key. Tourists are gravitating more and more to specific cities as opposed to broad regions. They want to spend a week in Tokyo instead of a week in Japan. Thus, you need to make sure your hotel is ranking in local search results for city-specific keywords. If it isn’t, you’re effectively invisible to this sizeable market.
Think about it: If a traveler wants to visit Toronto (as everyone should), the first thing he’s likely to do is to type “Toronto hotels” into Google. Google Maps will pull data on all the hotels in the area that it has access to, map them, and provide a snapshot of relevant information along with links to their websites.
If your hotel is not featured in this list (and there are a number of reasons why it might not be), you won’t even factor into his decision.
The impact that effective Internet marketing can have on a hotel company’s business is astounding. For example, we worked on a Local SEO program for Delta Hotels that focused on boosting local search rankings and consolidating reviews and citations. Within 90 days, they saw a 7-figure increase in revenue. This result is not surprising in light of what we know about the changing travel economy.
So what’s the takeaway for marketers in the hotel industry? If you want to reach today’s generation of travelers, you need to optimize your web presence. In the new travel economy, that is where all the meaningful action occurs. Travelers are reading reviews online, booking online, forming travel plans online, and sharing their experiences online. To gain a competitive edge, online is where you need to be focusing the majority of your marketing efforts.