In a recent benchmark study, conducted in conjunction with NYU’s Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management, Hospitality eBusiness Strategies set out to indentify trends in online marketing techniques that have developed in the industry to help grow this distribution channel.
This benchmark survey, a first of its kind, asked hoteliers what Internet formats and methods they are using to reach their customers, what Internet marketing practices they find most productive, why they choose to devote marketing dollars to certain mediums over others, and more. The results were impressive and foreshadow things to come in online travel marketing for 2007 and 2008.
Hospitality executives worldwide, including GM's, revenue managers, sales and marketing managers, and other industry professionals participated in the survey. Survey invites were sent to HeBS permission-based global database as well as through channel partners such as Hospitalitynet.org. A broad section of the industry completed the survey: boutique, luxury and upscale hotels, franchised and independent properties, resorts, casinos, branded or managed, mid-scale, budget and economy, etc.
- In 2007, a remarkable 68% of hoteliers will be shifting their budgets from offline to online marketing activities, representing a huge shift from traditional methods.
- US properties rely more on direct to consumer bookings via their stand-alone websites compared to intermediary sites as a percentage of their overall Internet business (20.7% and 16.6%, respectively) than do their international counterparts (15.3% and 17%, respectively) who are still receiving, on average, more of their Internet bookings from intermediaries.
-The top three Internet marketing formats hoteliers believe produce the highest ROIs are website optimization, Search Optimization + Organic Search, and website re-design.
- Interestingly enough, more hoteliers believe new media formats as consumer generated media and blogs will generate better ROIs than traditional banner advertising.
- An average of 16.2% of Internet transactions occur through intermediary websites.
- US hotels rely more heavily on keyword search marketing (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) that their international counterparts who favor website re-design and optimization, and strategic linking.
- Franchised hotels seem to rely more heavily on the chain websites.
Internet Marketing ROI
What are the Internet marketing formats hoteliers believe generate the highest ROIs? In the past paid search and SEO were usually named as the top drivers for increased revenues online. The 2007 benchmark survey shows that hoteliers have matured and now understand that long-term, strategic objectives and formats such as website re-designs and optimizations, email marketing and strategic linking produce higher ROIs than “quick fix” solutions, such as SEO and PPC.
The following shows hoteliers believe that long-term solutions such as website optimization produce higher ROIs vs. short-term solutions:
What Internet marketing formats do you believe produce the best results and the highest returns on investment (ROI)?
1. Website optimization 71.9%
2. Search Optimization & Organic Search 68.3%
3. Website re-design/design 62.9%
4. E-mail marketing 58.7%
5. Strategic Linking/Partnership 52.7%
6. Search marketing-Paid Search 40.7%
7. New media formats (e.g. CGM, blogs, etc.) 16.8%
8. Display advertising (banners) 16.2%
9. E-mail Sponsorships 6.6%
Budget Allocations Differ Across Industry Segments
Luxury vs. Non-Luxury Brands:
• Luxury hotels focus more of their online marketing budget on website optimizations and re-designs (17.1% vs. 12.2%), display advertising (banners), email marketing and new media formats (CGM, blogs) than non-luxury hotels.
• Luxury hotels spend less on paid search, strategic linking and SEO.
Franchised vs. Independent Properties:
• Franchised hotels focus more on paid search, display advertising and email marketing than independent hotels.
• Independent hotels prefer website optimizations and re-designs, strategic linking and new media formats.
Budget Allocations Differ in the U.S. vs. Internationally
USA vs. International Hotels
• U.S. based properties focus more of their online budget on search marketing (18.5% vs. 10%), local search and meta search, and SEO than their international peers.
• Properties based outside the U.S. spend more on website re-design and website optimizations and re-designs, strategic linking and email marketing.
• International hotels even spend more on new media formats (CGM and blogs) than their U.S. counterparts, which is an interesting phenomenon since most of the most popular CGM and blog sites are U.S. based.
2007 Internet Marketing Budget Allocations Trends
The benchmark survey shows several interesting trends in how the budget allocations and the usage of various Internet marketing formats are changing over the previous year (2007 vs. 2006):
- Resources dedicated to Website re-design are expected to decrease by an average of 5.5 percentage points throughout the industry.
- Non-franchised properties will decrease their spending while franchised properties will increase theirs.
- International properties will likely limit their spending but the US is expected to increase their website redesign allocation.
- Website optimization is expected to increase in resources by an average of 3.8 percentage points throughout the industry. This is a trade-off. Where a hotel is spending money on site redesign’s they will spend less on optimization, and visa versa.
- Strategic linking is expected to increase in resources by an average of 3.8 percentage points throughout the industry. The non-luxury and international hotels will likely give a major push to improve link popularity (7.1 percentage points and 5.5 percentage point increases, respectively).
- PPC/ paid inclusion is expected to decrease by an average of one and a half percentage points throughout the industry. Luxury brands plan to grow their spend on PPC outpacing all the other hotel categories.
- Local search is expected to receive an increase in resources by an average of one half a percentage point throughout the industry. The two exceptions to the incremental advance in resources to this tool are franchised and international properties. International properties are apparently not increasing or decreasing their allocations to local search, likely because they have not been exposed to the advantages of local search tools or the technology itself.
- Meta search is expected to receive an increase in resources by an average of 1.8 percentage points throughout the industry.
- Search engine optimization is expected to receive an increase in resources by an average of one half a percentage point throughout the industry. The industry makes a complete split decision with the use of SEO in 2007.
- Display advertising is expected to have resources reduced by an average of 1.8 percentage points throughout the industry.
- Email marketing is expected to receive an increase in resources by an average of 1.6 percentage points throughout the industry.
-Consulting/ third-party fees are expected to have their resources reduced by an average of 2.2 percentage points throughout the industry.
- New media formats are expected to increase by an average of 2.3 percentage points throughout the industry. All hotels plan to use new technological tools to enhance the customer experience on their websites, all except for the franchised properties.