A hammock overlooking the ocean, an entertaining book, and a drink with an umbrella in it—a vacation to an exotic location is something we all dream about, save for, and plan. However, the way we plan to travel has changed over the years. Unlike past generations, most of us (ages 18-35) have seldom used a travel agent, and often don’t request a brochure by mail. Printed newspapers and magazines are beginning to lose out to their more accessible online version, and we have become an instant gratification society—for better or worse.
Statistics show that over 80% of today’s traveler uses the internet, looks at e-brochures, reads online reviews, and reaches out on social media sites to determine where we will vacation; we search on Google and access sites like TripAdvisor, Kayak, and Facebook; we read reviews and place higher importance when the review is from a trusted friend.
Just as today’s traveler has changed, marketing strategies for hoteliers must evolve as well. Traditional marketing and print media, while still important, aren’t as effective as they once were. This year, in the US alone, a third of all travel will be booked online, and another third influenced by online research and user generated content, but booked offline. The internet has become the first place people go to research a vacation.
Technology now provides hoteliers with the tools to not only develop more intimate relationships with key customers and influencers, but also the means to quantify, analyze and shift online marketing initiatives. Hoteliers now can also receive instant gratification by seeing how every online marketing dollar performs in near real time. Not knowing which of your marketing dollars are working no longer has to apply.
For example, Randy Russell, Senior Vice President of Couples resorts states, “The old adage that ‘half of all marketing is wasted, we just don’t know which half… ‘ is simply not acceptable any longer. Our decision to shift the majority of our marketing dollars to online initiatives has resulted in a 1000% increase in direct bookings over just the past three years. I love knowing that for every dollar I spend online I can track 10-12 dollars in return.”
The problem is that most hoteliers don’t know how, what, or where to focus. The good news: online marketing can be more effective at a lower price than traditional marketing. Contracting online marketing experts who can design, execute, and manage your online strategies, creating exciting interactive experiences that compliment your brand and improve your ROI will be key to your success now and in the future.
5 recommended areas to focus on are:
• Website Development
Your website is the most important tool for reflecting your brand image and capturing new potential clients, customers, and business relationships. It is imperative your website is optimized, engages visitors, and entices them to “Book Now.”
SEO is the most effective/cost efficient was to increase traffic to your website. Ranking for keywords, link encouragement campaigns, press releases, and blog posts are some of the best ways to increase your online presence over time. The increase in online ranking will increase brand recognition, and increase occupancy.
• Pay Per Click Management
Perfect in tandem with SEO, Pay Per Click (PPC) are extremely targeted, highly optimized online ads used to generate immediate results. This will help your ROI in the short term as your improve your SEO rankings.
• Email Marketing
Emails are a way to directly communicate with your potential guests. Gain loyalty, advertise promotions and sales, and persuade your potential clients to allow you to host them on their next vacation—or better yet, stay with you again!
•Social Media Marketing
Social Media is changing the way we communicate. Travelers are consistently using social media to learn about new properties, and to receive updates and special deals from their favorite vacation destinations. It is pivotal to have a professional and exciting Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter account that engages your guests and keeps them talking about your brand.
Internet Marketing will help you leverage your online presence, foster direct client relationships, create a buzz about your brand, and increase revenue by tracking your potential consumers’ online behaviors, enticing them to make a booking or re-targeting them back to your website to book.