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Digital Marketing

While digital might have made the world smaller and made it easier for travellers to enjoy the very latest high-tech experiences, it’s also changed the way that consumers buy travel products such as hotel stays, tours and package holidays.

The internet has meant far-flung corners of the world are now closer than ever, there’s no need for high street travel agents if someone wants to plan their own trip and travellers are savvy about shopping around. There’s more digital technology in rooms, with personal voice assistants, apps which make checking in a breeze and a thousand and one other advances, functions and experiences.

However, according to one industry expert delivering a keynote speech at London’s HMAI conference, it’s also changed consumer attitudes. Digital has shaped consumer attitudes to an extent that convenience now dictates customer loyalty, rather than a guest’s affinity for any particular brand. For any hotel marketing company, this knowledge is invaluable – and it means your hotel rewards program is more important than ever.

If you were in any doubt as to how digital has changed consumer expectation and attitudes and what that means for brand loyalty, consider the OTA behemoth, booking.com. While it may not rate highly when it comes to a brand that people actively are loyal to or feel connected to, it is one that travellers turn to repeatedly to book hotel stays and other accommodation. Brand loyalty

Unlocking the booking.com secret

So why is booking.com so successful? Simply put, convenience. The booking engine is easy to use, accommodation easy to browse and the act of making a reservation is quick and above all, convenient.

According to a survey by Phocuswright in 2016, almost half (47%) of travellers actively prefer to use an OTA for the sheer convenience. The survey found that the 10 most popular reasons for choosing to use an online travel agent mainly stemmed from convenience too. Travellers cited advantages such as being able to book all required travel products in one place, easy to use websites, best prices and ease of changing and cancelling a booking.

This means of course that your hotel marketing company and hotel rewards program will need to work together to win bookings back from the OTAs by offering a similar level of ease.

If your app or booking engine isn’t as easy to use as booking.com or the reservation process not as streamlined, it could be that even powerful incentives within your hotel rewards program such as a free stay or upgrade won’t be enough to win over the time-poor traveller.

How can you use digital to drive convenience and loyalty?

Many travel and hotel brands are increasingly using digital to drive convenience for their clients – and you can too.

Disney issues guests with an electronic wristband – which acts as a fast pass for accessing rides at its theme parks and purchasing souvenirs, in addition to keyless room entry. If you can’t roll out something at that scale, consider how your hotel rewards program could be upgraded to offer similar features. Could guests use their rewards app to purchase in-room dining or pay for drinks for example? Is it easy to make, amend and cancel reservations?

Other options are even simpler still – consider using social media for customer service or streamline your booking engine and website.

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Digital Marketing

The answer to attracting more business travellers doesn’t necessarily lie in more expensive software and fancier systems. A recent New York Times article posited that it was actually about the people who work within the hotel itself.

Though this is not new among travel and hospitality trends, it’s worth taking a look at to see if you can adapt any of the advice given in the article to your own marketing strategy. Business travellers will not know your city, and are relying on your staff to make the venue seem attractive. Unfortunately, for many, the outreach is too late if it starts when the guest is already in the hotel.

Using a hotel marketing company might be useful on this occasion if you’re not sure where to start with client outreach, but remember that business travellers want to be able to feel welcome at your hotel even though they’ve not checked in yet. For that reason, it’s social media and targeted communications that will make your marketing an ambassador for your area.

The right personal touch can give hotels and other local businesses a competitive edge. Try not to hew too closely to travel and hospitality trends, but instead focus on the customer. Any good hotel marketing company will tell you to do that, but it’s especially important if your traveller has no pressing reason other than locale to choose your hotel.

business-travellers-essentials

It’s a mistake to devalue business travellers, not just because they often keep midweek rooms full, but because they aren’t just in the city to go to a meeting and sleep in a room in your hotel for the night. They might have kids who want a souvenir brought home, or have always wanted to visit your city and want to know how to make the most out of their one or two-night stay there but need a few clues on where to begin.

For that reason, they’re going to choose a hotel that makes their stay feel more exciting and seems to be aware of more things to discover in the local area. It’s up to you and your hotel marketing company how you manage that, but discovering what your customers want and then being able to deliver it better than your rivals is a worthy outcome.

Think about what makes your city special, and keep up to date with the various happenings in the area; a recurring theme in travelling and hotel trends. Maybe there’s a beer festival, or an exhibition—find what’s popular around your workplace and with your customers. Ask your staff, since they are as much ambassadors for the city as you are and the people your customers will be interacting with the most. Develop a strategy with your hotel marketing company that shows deep local knowledge and appreciation for the area that travellers will most likely not know about. And then put that knowledge into practice and see if business travellers choose you over your rivals.

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Digital Marketing
The travel industry has long since realised the possibilities of content marketing to help increase bookings, engage with customers and grow trust amongst potential hotel guests. But how do you create the ideal travel blog post, sure to draw in an enthusiastic readership and ultimately, move your reader further along the sales funnel and ever closer to making a confirmed reservation?

Start With a Catchy Title
The title of your blog post is one of the most important elements of the whole piece of content. Much like the headline in a newspaper or magazine, it provides a quick way to tell your readers what they can expect from the blog post as a whole. Stay on-topic and ensure reference to your hotel or the local area as appropriate to help ensure your content is seen by the right audience. Include keywords to help with search visibility and discovery and be sure not to get too wordy!

Respond to Travel Industry Demand
Have your customers provided any feedback as to the sort of content they want from your travel blog? Maybe you’ve read a really great article about a new trend in the hospitality industry, and you want to provide your own take on it. Responding to demand and new emerging trends within the hotel trade will help enhance all your efforts and provide you with a steady stream of new topics to draw in an eager readership.

Take Charge of the Blog Length
While the jury is still out on the ideal length of the perfect travel blog, it is generally accepted as somewhere between 350-1000 words. At this length, you’ll have time to discuss the topic you’re writing about and draw some valid conclusions or offer important advice, without rambling too much about non-essentials.

Blog
Be Specific
Staying specific when writing a travel blog post is key to achieving success, as the last thing you want to do is create content which is too generic for your audience. Visitors to your blog know what they are looking for, and it is your task to provide this for them.

Include Links
Add a couple of outbound links to content applicable to your post, ensuring you are promoting other great content on the web whilst simultaneously boosting the credibility of your own travel blog.

Prepare for Scanning
Break up your text with subtitles to ensure readers can scan through the content with ease. Huge blocks of text can be a little hard-going! A great hotel marketing company will have the knowledge and experience to teach you more about how to make the best of your content curation strategies.

Close with a Killer CTA
A superior call to action will help prompt your readers to take the all-important next step, be that connecting on social media, joining your mailing list or making a hotel booking. Don’t be afraid to try out a few different ‘types’ of call to action to see what works for you.
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Digital Marketing
It’s easy to underestimate quite how much impact visual content can have on a customer’s purchasing behaviour. We are all drawn to attractive images, and when these images are combined with useful and engaging information, this power can be enhanced significantly.

As a key part of many content marketers’ toolkit, infographics offer a number of benefits which longer form content can’t begin to match. They work across many different platforms and for many different purposes, though chief amongst them is condensing complex information into a more palatable format.

As every hotel marketing company knows, engaging and educating are the dual roles of any successful infographic – key considerations for the discerning hotelier seeking to grow reservations by telling customers more about their offering. Read on to find out how and why infographics can help you harness the power of visual content to drive more bookings to your hotel.

Digital Marketing

They make statistics exciting
Humans are visual creatures, but we’re also impressed by verifiable numbers and statistics. When they’re backed up by solid mathematics, infographics help make educational material which could otherwise be dry and dull suddenly seem far more colourful and exciting. Whether added to a webpage or a social media channel, statistics give your hotel authority – and attractive images help your market research seem much more attractive. 

They’re great for social media
Social media is a big part of every hotelier’s marketing retinue, but there is a difference between having your hotel on all the social media channels out there, and providing your fans or followers with content they want to see. As a general rule (and with some notable exceptions), social media content is best distributed in bite size chunks. This not only makes your content much more digestible, but more shareable, too – which is ideal for increasing shares, likes and comments, all metrics which ultimately will build more traffic and result in more bookings.

They can be branded for your hotel
Infographics don’t have to be anonymous when they are published on the web. You can brand them with your hotel’s logo, symbols or even a hyperlink direct to your booking engine and social profiles.  If a prospective guest’s first interaction with your brand is seeing an authoritative, interesting infographic which discusses how to solve a problem with the hospitality industry, give customers more value for money, or make hotel stays more luxurious – all of these associations will be passed on to your brand and encourage future bookings.

They tell people more about your hotel
Whether you are trying to position yourself as a thought leader within the hotel industry or simply sharing a few facts and figures about why your hotel is the best there is – every infographic you create and share tells people a little about the kind of company you are and what you have to offer.  This is one of the greatest things about infographics; they can be whatever you want them to be, explain whatever you want them to explain, and look however you want them to look.

The options are endless – allowing hoteliers and marketers the chance to get creative in producing infographics which suit a brand’s aesthetics, values and branding whilst actively enhancing perceptions of all three.
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Booking Engine
When you get down to the nitty-gritty – once visitors have been drawn in by smart and efficient marketing tactics – a hotel’s website is all about driving up RevPAR. Put simply, this is the revenue a hotel makes according to its average daily room rate (ADR) when the occupancy rate is taken into account. Any and every independent hotel then has to look to increase its bookings against its competitors and, once the marketing’s successfully done its job, that means ensuring a customer’s booking is efficiently, swiftly and satisfyingly processed.

Booking Engine

Increasingly, small- to mid-sized hotels, wherever they’re based in the world, are turning to specific computer technology called a booking engine to handle this work. A real-time online booking system then, a booking engine is actually relatively simple but, when it operates effectively and to its full potential, it becomes an indispensable piece of digital kit that enables people to book and pay for rooms instantly via hotel sites, ensuring the hotel doesn’t need to rely on an online travel agent (OTA) and its profit-stealing slice of the pie to get the booking done swiftly and without fuss, thus critically driving up RevPAR.

To that end, when hotels deploy a booking engine, they have to be confident it’s going to deliver the goods. Quite simply, it’s the make-or-break part of a website’s customer journey. Booking a room through a hotel’s website might be said by some to be a ‘virtual’ interaction with the customer and vice versa (that is, non-human), but as the customer’s parting with money, in reality it’s very real. It’s the exchange of money; it doesn’t get any more serious than that – it’s the hotel brand’s first acid test.

To ensure they choose the right booking engine and that it’s installed correctly and runs smoothly and efficiently, many a hotel will wisely turn to experts, namely a specialist hotel marketing company. Indeed, one like Digital Hotelier. Our booking engine (‘Booking Direct’), for instance, is one we guarantee every hotel can depend on.

An industry-leading digital solution, ours is of course compatible with different devices – mobile, tablet and desktop – and allows for both Google+ and Facebook-integration, as well as always proving easy to navigate for bookers and providing a seamless service. As far as hoteliers are concerned, it’s also highly flexible, in that it can be perfectly tailored to their site thanks to its inherent customisability; for example, it offers multi-lingual and multi-currency options.

So, if your hotel’s website isn’t already fitted with a booking engine – and frankly, if not; why not? – you should definitely put that right immediately. However, we urge you to be wary. Don’t settle for the second bests out there; there’s no need to pay over the odds for a quality booking engine. What you’re looking for is an affordable one with excellent functionality. Your booking engine should certainly be able to keep up a consistent user experience right the way through to a booking’s completion and never redirect away from your website’s URL. It also, though, should offer selective add-on options to potentially increase value and RevPAR further; always save search criteria so guests can log-in and -out and modify and cancel what they’ve booked; enable customisable emails for communication and feedback and, of course, be able to add both complex rates and promotion/ voucher codes.

Fundamentally, a good booking engine should be capable of revolutionising and improving the booking experience (and revenue) for both your hotel and guests looking to stay there.
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