Travel can be a wonderful and exhilarating experience, but get it wrong and the dream getaway or business conference can quickly turn sour. When it comes to hotel bookings therefore, it’s understandable that travellers want to do their research and make the right decision.
Today, more than ever, potential guests at your hotel can make well-informed decisions based on a plethora of external factors such as previous reviews, guest photos/videos and the valued opinion of travel writers. So, what can hotel marketers do to directly influence the buying decision, take back some control and increase hotel bookings? Here are our five top tips.
For obvious reasons we have put hotel video marketing at the top of our list. According to recent research conducted by tourism marketing expert Frederic Gonzalo, 62% of leisure travellers and 74% of business travellers will want to see a video before they make a final decision.
More than anything else, potential guests will be keen to see inside a property and get a feel for what it would be like to stay there. Video is a great way to show rather than tell a guest all the important aspects of the hotel. From the entrance to check in through to the public areas, bars, restaurants and food and then onto leisure areas such as the spa, swimming pool and gym, video can act as a perfect showcase for your establishment. Photos and web copy can only do so much to convey the unique character of a property and guests tend to trust video more than photos.
Videos are especially important in attracting business clients for meetings, events and conferences. They need to see more detail than most such as room sizes and possible layouts. This is where a 360 virtual reality video can benefit hugely by taking prospects on a walking tour of the hotel without actually having to be there.
Although it may be time consuming, content marketing is the direction that a lot of digital marketing is moving in and as a hotel you are in a great position to produce some very useful and entertaining content. For example, an area guide discussing things to do in the proximity of your hotel would be useful for guests thinking of staying with you. Other content could be based around simple ‘how to guides’ such as making cocktails or how to make the perfect bed. Content added to your website and social media channels not only gives people a reason to engage with you, but it is also useful for internet search engines and could lead to new business coming from unexpected sources.
Content can also be collaborative by teaming up with other complementary brands, such as drinks or food companies. A significant added benefit in pooling content together in a joint branding exercise is the sharing of data and social platforms. Any content created, whether it’s print media, online or social can be shared with your audience as well as the audiences of your brand partner. This will open you up to a much wider audience in a way that complements and suits your brand.
Include Reviews on Your Website
It seems simple and obvious but many hotels do not include reviews on their websites. Customers are obsessed with reviews and testimonials and rightly so. Any kind of user-generated content helps to build trust in your brand. This is word of mouth marketing in the digital world and it is still the most powerful way to win new bookings.
Most of the online travel agency (OTA) sites feature hotel reviews because they know it works. Whether it’s a direct feed from TripAdvisor or your own reviews embedded on your site, this should be a quick and easy initiative to implement.
Build a Loyal Subscriber Database
Building your own email subscriber database will provide you with a strong marketing tool to help increase bookings. By collecting email addresses from guests at check-in as well as via the website you will soon have a sizable database from which to work from. Although OTA rate parity agreements may prevent you from offering lower rates directly on your website, you can always offer discounts to your email subscribers. Offering exclusive deals to loyal followers is an effective way to stimulate bookings — it’s a great way to make your loyal customers feel special and valued. Special rates can be accessed via a discount code that can be entered into your direct online booking form or redeemed over the phone.
As well as email subscribers, social media followers can also be targeted in the same way. This kind of social engagement will enhance your social media profile and give people a reason to follow and connect with you.
Pick up the Phone
So many companies these days are doing everything they can to avoid answering the telephone. So, if you want to make yourself stand out from the crowd then promote your telephone number prominently on your website. Encourage potential guests to pick up the phone and make sure a member of staff is dedicated to answering it. You will be amazed how much value your guests will place on this often neglected method of communication.
The caller may have a specific question that can’t be answered on the website and, believe it or not, not everyone is on Facebook. For example, can you cater for a gluten free guest or is there a wheelchair accessible bedroom on the first floor? Once a question has been answered and you have demonstrated the friendly and customer centric ethos of the hotel you can then direct guests to the online booking form. It may not be digital, sexy or cutting edge but you will see bookings increase.
So there you have it – five marketing recommendations to give your hotel bookings a boost. From dynamic hotel videos to simply picking up the phone there is bound to be one or two initiatives here that your hotel can look at implementing over the weeks and months ahead. Dedicating resources is always the challenge but believe me when I say, it will be well worth the effort and your bottom line will ultimately benefit.