Developing A Clear 2020 Vision For Your Hotel Brand
The UK Hospitality Industry has seen some ups and downs in the previous year with only marginal occupancy growth in some areas and a weaker demand versus higher supply, and with Brexit causing uncertainty with international customers, especially European ones, 2019 was a difficult year.
The number of people utilising the internet to research and book their trips is increasing, with 83% of all trips booked by Brits booked online in 2019, up from 81% in 2018. Source: ABTA, 2019
In this report we’ve gathered together useful information, data and our own blend of experience-based knowledge to provide you with the information you need to make informed choices in 2020.
Customer expectations, changes in technology and the current social climate all impact the hospitality industry, and unlike other areas which only need worry about the events taking place in their home country, hospitality providers need to look at the needs of international tourists and balance it with their local audience.
84% of travel respondents consider it very important for brands to provide personalised experiences to their customers. (Source: Travolution, 2019)
Adopting and adapting to current and incoming trends will help you better understand what your customers want, expect and need.
700 million people will be booking their hotel rooms online by 2023.
(Source: Condor Ferries, 2019)
To make an impact and have your hotel stand out amongst the crowd, you must have a carefully planned, optimised, flexible and workable digital marketing strategy.
With a global focus on creating sustainable brands and making a visible effort to commit to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) goals, customers expect to see hotels clearly implementing sustainable practices.
The number of people who say they would choose one travel company over another if they have better sustainable practices has increased by 10% in just four years. (Source: ABTA, 2019) with 87% of global travellers stating that they want to travel sustainably and 68% intending to stay in eco-friendly accommodation (Source: Booking.com, 2018)
For hoteliers, adopting sustainable practices will help establish trust with their target audience, save money with more efficient and targeted processes, and help reach specific CSR targets and goals.
The top reasons given by customers for choosing an eco-friendly hotel are:
- To help reduce environmental impact (40%)
- To have a locally relevant experience (34%)
- To feel good about their accommodation choice (33%)
(Source: com, 2018)
Campaigns that a hotel may consider adopting include, global emission compliance, waste reduction, reducing plastic usage, saving water, and digitising hotel facilities to produce lower energy costs.
(Source: SiteMinder, 2019)
SMART Rooms and Processes
Changes in technology have radically changed the way in which hotels can operate and interact with their customers.
SMART, standing for: Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology, approaches have impacted customers from self-service check-ins to room ambience customisation, virtual tours, voice assistance and more.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the biggest trends in hospitality technology, providing staff with the ability to manage variable areas (such as inventory) and better regulate energy consumption, and customers with interaction on their own terms for check-ins, questions, recommendations and more.
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) have opened up new and creative ways for hotels to entertain their guests and bring in new customers with innovative games, tours and virtual conference suites.
SMART changes don’t just benefit the customer, for example: The Chatwal Hotel, New York retrofitted approximately 1300 lamps in the hallways, common areas and 80 rooms. It saved more than 410,000 annual kilowatt-hours, equating to a 90% reduction in lighting energy consumption, saving the hotel $124,255 (approx. £94,854) in the first year alone. (Source: Hotelmanagement.net, 2019)
Customers Will Continue to Use Their Mobile Devices to Book Their Trips
82% of all travel bookings in 2018 were made online via a mobile app or website without human interaction.
(Source: Condor Ferries, 2019)
A huge number of people access the internet from their mobile phones, and whether they’re using a company app or the web browser, it’s essential that hotels provide content, which is responsive, optimised and easy to use.
45% of UK Travellers feel comfortable researching, planning and booking trips to new destinations using only their mobile.
(Source: Condor Ferries, 2019)
Social platforms such as Instagram which focus on a visual experience through images or videos are especially powerful means of connecting with customers. Research by EasyJet discovered that 55% of 18-65-year-olds had booked trips based purely on images they’d seen on Instagram. (Source: Telegraph, 2019)
Customers Continue to Seek Experiential Offerings
67% of high-income travelers would rather spend their money on activities than a nicer hotel room,
(Source: Skift, 2019)
Whilst there are still customers who are simply looking for a bed for the night, there has been a rise in engaged guest who want unique experiences either provided by the hotel or offered in the location’s local area.
From upscaled motels to boutique hotels that offer an immersive get-away, customers are no longer making booking decisions based solely on the price of a room.
With alternative accommodation, such as AirBnB, drawing consumers away from traditional establishments, it’s essential that hotels design personalized experiences and highlight local attractions or areas of interest.
London ranks at Number 1 for the most active AirBnB listings in major cities worldwide, with 59,302 active rentals as of August 2018 (Source: Statista, 2018) but in every region of the UK there are at least 2000 AirBnB properties available, with each household making around £3600 per annum (Source: Next Guest, 2018)
Alternative accommodation affects hotels in a number of different ways, not only does it reduce bookings, but can also leave them unable to raise prices in periods of peak demand.
Offering unique experiences, up-to-date local events and knowledge of the area is one-way hotels can not only improve their reputation and trust levels, but also reduce the draw of alternative accommodations.
A Continued Focus on Driving Direct Bookings
In 2020, businesses will be spending more time, money and effort on building brand recall and loyalty to boost direct bookings.
(Source: Trivago, 2019)
Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) offer customers a wide selection of locations and establishments that fit their direct needs. Listing on these sites can be extremely useful but they come at a cost (fees), hotels need to focus on making it quick, simple and easy for their customers to discover what is available, when and where – and follow through with their booking.
One-stop-shop online travel agencies, allowing their customers to research, book and manage their trips in one place are expected to own 41% of the online digital travel market in 2020. In 2018 direct online bookings were at 66.7%, with agents and affiliates at 24.3% and marketplace bookings at 9.1% (Source: Condor Ferries, 2019)
In 2018 it was revealed that Customer Experience (CX) was the top reason that customers were citing for choosing a hotel, but 85% of British customers stated that they’d seen no progress in the customer experience in the hotels sector, and only 12% of global respondents to the survey saying that they would be swayed by a company’s advertising communication. (Source: Medallia, 2018)
The importance of the CX is still essential to the decision-making process and with social media providing a global platform to connect with the domestic and international audience, advertising and marketing tactics must work to define the online character of a hotel.
Hotels must publish high-quality, consistent and relevant content to distinguish themselves from competitors. The content mix needs to be interesting and engaging, and not highly focused on sales posts or providing offers – whilst it’s important to include these types of posts, they should not form the main thrust of the marketing campaign, when customers are exposed to too many sales or offer posts they become disinterested in the brand, see them as desperate, or simply ignore them altogether.
Millenials prefer to book hotels via travel agencies, but 52% browse the hotel website for more information.
(Source: Condor Ferries, 2019)
Customer Service online is conducted largely through social media platforms, messaging apps and business websites. Hotels that want to get ahead and cultivate loyalty in their guests need to have dedicated teams monitoring social comments, reviews and emails on a daily basis to ensure prompt reactions, responses and appropriate action to customer issues and feedback.
Marketing Techniques for Hotels
Engaging with your customers on the channels they expect and in a manner that matches or exceeds their expectations is essential.
Digital marketing for hotels needs to focus on utilizing your webpage, social media channels and responding to reviews left on 3rd party platforms. It’s important to provide a mixture of content which will engage your audience, you want them to stop scrolling and click on your content – so you need to give them a good reason to do this.
Your content needs to be consistent across all your channels, from your business website to your social media accounts. By interacting with the same brand name, colours, style and tone of voice, customers will come to know and trust you, and feel confident that they are speaking with the right people when they look at connecting with you on a different platform.
Video marketing is increasingly popular, as it’s engaging, easy to digest and simple to share with others; humans remember 20% of what they hear and 30% of what they see, but 70% of what they see and hear. However, the majority of social media users watch videos without the sound on, so it’s essential that you provide captions as required.
Email marketing is a cost-effective method of engaging with previous guests and interacting with potential ones, to make the most of this you should:
- Target Repeat Guests
- Take Advantage of Peak Periods
- Promise and Provide Security for Your Customer Data
- Optimise Your Sending Times
- Create Short, Direct and Interesting Subject Lines
- Include Stunning Images
- Include a Call to Action and Encourage Replies.
Reputation Management also plays an important role in your marketing strategy. When potential customers are doing their research, they will look at your review ratings and feedback. If you’ve got unattended negatives or 2-3 star rated reviews with no replies, they are going to make assumptions about your property that may not be based on facts or even the truth.
Responding to customer feedback does three things for your hotel brand:
- Addresses the Individual – If it’s a positive review it will make them feel even better about your brand. If it’s a problem, then you’ve got the opportunity to solve it and change their impression from negative / ambivalent to positive.
- Negative Reviews Can Be Put into Context – By telling your side of the story, or the truth of a situation if the reviewer is being selective in their application of the facts, customers can make a balanced determination of your brand. It also encourages people to see that you are active, involved and care about their wellbeing – all very good reasons for someone to feel more positive towards booking their stay with you.
- Replying to Positive Reviews Increases SEO – When reviews are indexed, the replies are as well. This means you’re effectively doubling the amount of content a search engine can index and show in results.
Marketing your venue online is essential
- 31% of hotel and accommodation searches began on Search Engines in 2018, this was an increase of 23% in 2017
- com had 697 million visits to its website in July 2019
- TripAdvisor has 224 million visits to its website in July 2019
- 80% of ALL Travellers spend up to 4 weeks on TripAdvisor reading other traveler reviews and researching destinations.
- 90% of people do all their holiday research online, 80% book online.
(Source: Condor Ferries, 2019)
To get the best Return on Investment (ROI), attract the most customers and increase your occupancy and booking rates, you need to have an outstanding online presence that gives the customers what they expect, want and need.
Check Out with the Key Take-Aways
- Brand Messaging and Key Target Markets are Essential
- Digital Marketing is the most powerful method to connect with your audience
- Marketing, Customer Service and Reputation Management must be attended to at least daily
- SMART applications will continue to change the way hotels operate and guests engage with the services
- Sustainable practices attract more customers
- Direct Bookings will continue to be challenged by OTAs and Alternative Accommodation
- The number of customers interacting with the hotel and booking through a mobile device will continue to increase
- Telling a story and offering a consistently high standard of content will help you attract and retain customers.