All posts by Paul Manzey

Using YouTube to Generate Bookings

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Content may be king of the marketing world, but the modern consumer is less interested in text-based advertisements and more interested in video.

The video content site YouTube claims to host more than one billion unique user visits to its website each month.  These one billion viewers spend more than six billion hours watching videos.  These numbers may seem astounding and nearly incomprehensible, but it follows the trend of a tech-savvy population looking for the quickest and easiest way to digest information.

Nielsen, a company known for producing television ratings, has noted that YouTube reaches more U.S. adults ages 18-34 than any cable network.  Seeing that this age group, commonly referred to as Generation Y or Millennials, will become the core customer within the hospitality and travel industries over the next five to 10 years, it is important to understand the best way to reach them.

If these numbers are accurate and video marketing is the key to attracting attention of hospitality’s largest audience going forward, why is video so underutilized today?

According to DJ Vallauri, Founder and President of Lodging Interactive, hoteliers simply “need guidance as to how to create videos for search engine marketing and guest engagement.”

Marketers must continue the evolution from keyword proficiency, to content-driven marketing that helped maximize search results for websites.  Now similar practices will be required to optimize video.

Valluri believes that the best way of turning lookers into bookers is found in delivering creative, yet relevant, content that informs and entertains travelers and prospective guests, and there is no better vehicle to do that than video.

Why is Video Effective?

“Authentic, compelling and informative video content will entice travelers and convey a hotel’s unique experiences to online visitors,” said Valluri.  “A video embedded on the homepage of a hotel’s website and also uploaded to YouTube and the other leading social media channels can be what sets your property apart from other destinations.  Video conveys visual and emotional touch points which are present in almost every travel offering, and that is what drives bookings.”

Facts and Stats About Video

-Bookings are 67% more likely to happen when a video tour of your property is available.

-Internet shoppers who view your video are 89% more likely to book.

-Google purchased YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 billion when the video site was only a year old.

-Both Google and YouTube offer tools such as “Google Trends” and “YouTube Videos Keyword Tool” to help hoteliers identify keywords to use in video titles.

– When it comes to engagement, Comscore says online video is 5.33 times more effective than text, and, site visitors who view video stay two minutes longer on average and are 64% closer to purchase.

Three Keys for Effective Video Marketing in the Hospitality Industry

1) Increase Awareness

2) Generate Buzz

3) Boost Bookings

To read more about the role of video marketing going forward, click here.

How to Make Metasearch Sites Work For You

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Metasearch engines are a topic that gets a lot of attention on the ResortsandLodges.com Business Blog because they play such an important role in the supply-and-demand principles of the hospitality industry.  They enable consumers to search all the major online travel agencies (OTAs) at once through a single website simultaneously.

Metasearch channels are fantastic booking tools for the modern consumer, but they can also be a game-changer for hoteliers.  What remains to be seen is whether metasearch engines will have a positive or negative effect, and this depends on an individual property’s revenue management system.  Let’s take a look at a couple factors you will need to consider as your metasearch engine use progresses.

Metasearch engines expand your property’s compset exponentially.

By definition, your compset is a group of other brands offering a similar product or service to the same consumers.  Your traditional (geographical) compset is typically going to be quite small.  However, metasearch engines expand your compset to every hotel listed on every OTA on the internet.  Even if a property is only listed on one OTA, metasearch sites will present that OTA listing to consumers as well, turning that property into a direct competitor.

This drastic increase in competition forces hoteliers and property managers to constantly offer the most competitive prices.  These prices also need to be updated in real-time as the market changes.

Jean Franois Mourier, a contributor at Hospitality Net, explains that without a sophisticated revenue management technology necessary to update pricing as the market changes, and without channel management technology to manage your rates on all online channels, hotels will find it almost impossible to keep up.

If done properly, metasearch engines can drastically increase your online visibility.

Having the necessary technology mentioned above will allow your property to have a much greater online visibility without have to sign up with additional OTA channels.  You may be asking yourself, how does this work?  By having a presence on the major OTAs, your rates will be pulled into the metasearch engine results and will be visible to any consumer using that site to book a hotel stay.

Metasearch OTAs enable you to direct bookings through the channel of your choice.

When a consumer decides to book a room at your property, they will likely be looking for the channel charging the lowest rate.  Travelers using a metasearch engine will see multiple rates, and will (almost) always book through the least expensive site.

This is where you have an opportunity to direct consumers to the booking channel of your choice.  Advertising the lowest daily rates on OTAs that offer the lowest commission will allows you to maximize your revenue potential.

The modern consumer is tech-savvy, and focused on being more efficient with their search efforts.  Metasearch engines create a real demand as the potential “OTA of the future”.  In order to capitalize on this expanding online resource, you will need to adjust your revenue management strategy now to get the best possible results from this highly profitable channel.

Just How Big a Deal are Same-Day Hotel Bookings?

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Mobile devices have taken the travel and hospitality industries by storm in recent years with companies focusing their efforts on creating mobile websites, applications and more to help attract a new generation of travelers:  millennials.

Mobile and same-day booking trends are transforming the user experience in hotel bookings, but the travel research and booking experience is still very much a multi-device phenomenon.  Desktops, phones, tablets and even walk-ins all still play an important role in the booking process.

A recent Skift travel article looked at the user behavior from partners of Sojern, including major brands like Starwood, Hyatt and Hilton.  Sojern’s data showed that in Q4 of 2013, 29% of U.S. hotel bookings were done on the same day – defined as within 24 hours – of their stay.

These numbers clearly demonstrate a shift in the timing of hotel bookings, as well as the way rooms are booked.  Brad King, Sojern’s vice president of sales and marketing, says his company’s numbers do not necessarily portray the U.S. hotel-booking sector as a whole.  They are, however, worth considering for the directional trends they depict.

Why is this Important?

Although same-day and last-minute bookings, especially on mobile devices, area a resounding trend, it is still a multi-device environment.  Consumer behavior varies widely with some individuals and groups preferring to book much further out.  The accommodation type also typically has an effect on consumer behavior with travelers looking to book at luxury and all-inclusive resorts typically planning their getaways over a longer period.

Hotel marketing that focuses overwhelmingly on last minute and mobile would likely bypass a majority of bookers.  This is why travel marketers and revenue managers need to craft their campaigns to take this diversity of booking patterns into account.

To read the full Skift article and to learn more about what major players in the OTA industry had to say about the Sojern report, click here.

Personalization Equals Loyalty with Millennials

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A key question facing hoteliers and property managers in today’s travel landscape is how to build loyalty with the millennial generation.  Points-based loyalty programs are proving ineffective in capturing this ever growing demographic, so what is the answer to building this important connection?

Panelists at the 2014 Americas Lodging Investment Summit recently dove into this topic and what the trade-offs will be if hoteliers are able to build loyalty with millennials.

Teresa Y. Lee, a senior analyst at HVS and a self-described “token millennial”, explained that the loyalty of the generation is up for grabs. “It’s up to you to design a program we want to be loyal to.”

For travelers born between 1980 and 2000, personalization equals loyalty.  Benji Greenberg, founder and CEO of BCV, explained that millennials want to be wowed, and they want these amazing experiences built for them.  “They want to feel special,” said Greenberg.

Fortunately for the hospitality industry, today’s younger travelers serve up an abundance of personal data on a variety of websites and social networking platforms.  Lee McCabe, Facebook’s global head of travel, articulated that his company’s executives have recognized the potential and are working feverishly to make that information readily available to the company’s marketing needs.

“What we’re working towards is a very efficient marketing platform, a marketing platform built around people.  You’re not marketing to cookies, but visible faces.  You’re marketing to people,” he said.

Although hotel companies are getting better at this, the challenge is packaging relevant data to associates on property, most likely via property management systems.

To read more about this panel discussion, and how companies are paying for personalization, click here.

The Importance of Reviews in Shopping Research

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Reviews now play an integral role in the path to purchase among consumers inclined to do research on the internet.  According to a January 2014 survey of U.S. adult internet users conducted by YouGov, 79% of respondents checked online reviews at least some of the time before making a purchase, whether online or in person.

To put this in perspective, only seven percent of respondents said they never checked a review, underscoring how important they have become during the research phase of shopping.

Although online reviewers tended to lean towards writing good (54%) and mixed (57%), just over one-fifth (21%) of all those surveyed had left a bad review.

Bad reviews, in most cases, were written under the motivation of warning off other consumers about a poor product or experiences.  Nearly 90% cited this reasoning for a negative review.  Other top reasons for writing bad reviews were to feel less angry about the problem (23%) and hoping for a refund/help of some kind from the company implicated (21%).

Hoteliers should keep this last demographic, those looking for a refund or help of some kind from the company, in mind as it presents an opportunity for customer relations management to take over when a problem has been identified.  Interacting with these consumers and making the necessary adjustments can only help to build your brand loyalty and improve the experience for future travelers.

The State of the Online Travel Industry in 2014

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State of Digital recently released a Travel 360 report after collating the viewpoints and analysis of experts, thought leaders and key commercial players of both the hospitality and travel industries.  The report aims to act as a marker of the level of integration between travel brands and the various online channels within digital marketing.

The key trend throughout this report is the idea that companies must be able to adapt their business and marketing models in an attempt to future-proof their businesses.  Facilitating ongoing relationships and interactions with travel consumers has now become critical to survival.

The following are seven key points highlighted in this report that you should keep in mind going forward.  They address challenges facing businesses today, and the holistic approaches and angles that will provide real value, strategy and insight to your brand.

1) Communicating a holistic brand message, consistently across all channels, is now very important to a brand’s long-term prospects.  Consistency is crucial when planning your marketing strategy.  It is important that your message is the same whether consumers see it on your website, in e-mail blasts, on a mobile site or from a third party site (OTAs, vertical marketing sites, metasearch engines, etc.)

2) Brands need to install a startup culture and nurture a digital experience that runs through the business.  Word of mouth is a great way of advertising to dozens of people, but those numbers will not sustain your business over the long haul.  “Rewriting the rule book” should not be seen as a negative experience, but rather as growing with the always-changing digital landscape.

3) Storytelling helps the digital travel industry to get the right customers in the right way.  Honest, authoritative and local content, infused with quality storytelling is the future of travel content.  The millennial generation is looking for a unique experience when planning a getaway.  Capturing that audience by telling your own unique story will be an important marketing tool going forward.

4) Storytelling, marketing, PR and outstanding content will inspire loyalty and provide long-term success to a brand.    Brand loyalty has recently taken a step back to deals when consumers are planning to travel.  Re-establishing brand loyalty with quality content and marketing is a key to survival in the future.

5) There is going to be an increasing trend towards personalization and the creation of more unique experiences.  As noted earlier, this is precisely what a new generation of traveler is looking for.  Millennials are willing to spend the money if they believe their experience will be unique

6) Mobile is the biggest growth area in terms of sales.   Recent projections by PhoCusWright predict that U.S. mobile bookings will almost double in 2014 to $24.3 billion, up from $12.3 billion in 2013.

7) Mobile has led to the rise of the ‘always connected traveler’ and the possibility of in-experience interactions with brands.  Social media allows guests to provide feedback and interact with a company in a way that has nearly usurped the role of the on-site concierge.  Travelers use their mobile devices for everything from getting directions to their accommodations, to finding a restaurant or tourist attraction during their stay.

To download and read the full State of Digital Travel 360 report, click here.

Why Mobile Marketing Will Continue to Grow

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There was a time, although it seems inconceivable, when online video and mobile executions were dismissed as pipe dreams.  The principles were appealing, but the idea that technology would develop into such an integral part of everyday life still seemed futuristic.

Today, innovation across channels has saturated the mainstream, and mobile devices are now ubiquitous.  It is hard to imagine a time when Nokia and Blackberry owned the market.  This was a time when touch screen was not yet part of our daily vocabulary.

We are now living in an era of the mobile makeover, a time where mobile technology has changed how consumers shop, engage and absorb information forever, and there is an expectation of continued rapid growth in the future.

A recent Gartner report indicated that worldwide ad spend in mobile will increase to $18 billion in 2014, up from $13.1 billion in 2013.  It is expected to reach $41.9 billion in 2017, accounting for 56.69% of total digital ad spend.  Eventually, mobile will dictate how marketers leverage more traditional advertising strategies like desktop display and search, and these are four reasons why:

Mobile Devices are Mobile

The days of marketers depending on users being in a stationary location with time to peruse content with a discerning eye is a thing of the past thanks to a multitude of desktop distractions and multiple platforms from which information can be accessed.

These days desktop computers and even laptops do not offer the same direct exposure as mobile.  Marketers now must concern themselves with reaching a consumers with greater frequency and, most importantly, while they are on the go.  People are looking to search, shop, buy and connect with a few clicks and swipes of the hand 24/7.

The King of Local

Mobile creates a variety of intricate, real-time marketing opportunities for small, medium and large-scale advertisers because more often than not, search on mobile indicates immediate intent.

Due to the rise of hyper-local technologies (Wi-Fi hotspots, tracking services, etc.) some reports indicate that local will overtake national mobile ad spending by 2017.  These technologies allow advertisers to target the “always on” mentality with advertising approaches like geo-aware, geo-fencing and geo-location.  These strategies position mobile as the optimal channel for ad relevancy incorporating the right ad, at the right time, in the right place.

Mobile Creativity

Mobile rich media is not just grabbing users’ attention at first glance.  It is proving tremendously effective at holding attention and prompting them to engage at much higher rates than desktop display or rich media have ever seen.

Innovative mobile formats are dominating the mobile web and taking consumers for the ride, and this has spread to in-app, in-game, Facebook Newsfeed ads and other larger formats.  Often times in mobile, size does matter.

Steadfast Adoption

At the end of 2013, it was reported that there were more mobile devices in the world than people.  Other stats claim that 80% of smartphone users want more mobilized products and that mobile coupon users in the U.S. will reach 53.2 million by 2014. 

With this rise in consumer mobile usage, it is important for marketers to dedicate more time towards increasing their mobile strategy.  The must find creative ways to integrate their brand within today’s most accessible consumer channel.

Are Metamediaries the Next Big Thing in Travel?

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Extensive online travel agencies (OTAs) have played a large role in the hospitality industry for the past decade, but the outcomes have not necessarily been positive for all parties involved.  They are a costly distribution channel for hoteliers, and have become a direct siphon for traditional travel agents.

The ultimate question to ponder at this time is what the next distribution giant will look like in the travel space.

Disruptive Forces

John Burns, president of Hospitality Technology Consulting, says that he does not see much change in hotel distribution in the near future.  Burns notes that OTAs have evolved over the past decade, incorporating loyalty programs into their business model, but these agencies are now fighting to compete with metasearch engines like Kayak and TripAdvisor as well.

What happens when a larger force, or a bigger name enters the travel arena?  How will this affect the traditional travel agent and OTAs?

The Big Names

Whereas Burns sees the current model remaining unchanged in the near future, Bonnie Buckhiester, president of Buckhiester Management, believes that OTAs could eventually become the “little guys” in the travel industry as larger companies emerge.

Buckhiester believes that OTAs like Orbitz, Hotels.com and Booking.com could struggle to keep with what are being called “metamediaries” – companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple – entering the landscape and creating their own category of intermediary.

Competition with these major names will be difficult because of one key factor:  money.

Buckhiester points out some eye-opening numbers when talking about market capitalization of these companies.  Marriott, a well-known name is the hospitality industry, capitalized at $13 billion, while Facebook is $60 billion, Google is $300 billion and Apple is $400 billion.  If these companies enter travel in a serious way, their presence will be overwhelming.

Where do Traditional Agents Stand?

Traditional agencies still have a very good relationship with the managed business travel sector of the industry, with hotels working hard to maintain these relationships.

Complex travel arrangements will also cause consumers to turn to a trusted travel agent when planning a trip, but niche sites including One Fine Stay, which books lodgings like castles, private homes and apartments, are trying to capture their own unique segment of the travel population.

Predicting the Future

Ultimately, it is up to the travel agents, both online and traditional, to continue to reinvent themselves and show their value.  Average commission costs that range from 15-25% across the market may require adjustment in order to keep pace when big names like Google, Apple and Amazon enter the travel space in a serious way.