We all know that travelers use the internet to research, plan, and book their trips, but we don’t always know exactly how, or in what stages, they are using it.
It’s important to step back, look at research on travelers’ search behavior, and ask yourself if your online efforts, such as your website and internet marketing strategies, correlate with your guests’ online behavior and preferences. The knowledge gained from this research can also help you forecast how your guests may use the internet in the future.
YPartnership released the 2009 National Leisure Travel MONITOR last June. This is a widely acclaimed consumer research report on the attitudes, preferences, and travel habits of Americans. The report is based on a national survey of 1,590 leisure travelers during February and March. There is also a Business Travel MONITOR available.
2009 National Leisure Travel MONITOR Survey Results
How many people use the internet to plan some aspect of their travel? According to the 2009 National Leisure Travel MONITOR, the figure is up to sixty-six percent (66%). In the year 2000 it was only thirty-five percent (35%).
As Peter Yesawich, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of Ypartnership, says, “Consumers’ search behavior has changed in recent years as people have become more familiar with search technology and the number of travel planning/purchasing sites has grown exponentially.”
What percentage of leisure travelers makes reservations online? According to the study, fifty-six percent (56%) now book with online reservation systems, which is a thirty-seven percent (37%) increase since the year 2000.
Which sites do travelers visit first when they are selecting a hotel or a resort?
• 31% visit the website of an online travel agency like Expedia or Travelocity first
• 26% rely on a search engine such as Google, Yahoo, or MSN first
• 21% visit the website of a specific hotel chain first
• 10% visit the website of an individual hotel/resort first
• 5% use meta search engines that compare rates first
What can Hotels learn from the Research?
Your hotel can learn a lot from the results of the National Leisure Travel MONITOR survey. First of all, which is not surprising, the number of travelers using the internet to plan their trip and make reservations online is growing. It is safe to say that these numbers will continue to rise as travelers gain more confidence in all the online travel resources available to them.
The report also reveals the websites that travelers visit first when selecting a hotel. As you can see, not every guest is going directly to a hotel website, but they are also visiting online travel agencies or choosing hotels that appear on the first few pages of Google or Yahoo. Below is a breakdown of the report and some tips on what your hotel can do to ensure you are visible on the sites where travelers are searching.
• 31% of the travelers surveyed go directly to a hotel website first. (21% go to a specific hotel chain and 10% go to an individual hotel website). Make sure your navigation bar is easy to use and guests will be able to find what they are looking for with no effort on their part. They want to find out your hotel amenities, location, reviews, images, pricing and offers so make sure you meet their demand.
• 56% of the travelers surveyed use the online reservation system. Ensure that your reservation system is easy to use, some systems can be confusing. Also keep in mind that another 44% aren’t using the system so they will most likely call to make a reservation. Remember to put a call to action with a link to your reservations page and your phone number on each page of your website.
• 31% of the travelers surveyed go to online travel agencies such as Expedia and Travelocity first (another 5% use meta search engines that compare prices). That means you need to be there too! You can work with an Expedia marketing coordinator who can take you through the process. To learn more about how to list your hotel in Expedia go to http://www.expedia.com/ and scroll down to the menu at the bottom of the page (see screenshot below) and select ‘add your hotel’. You can also view a video about how Expedia works.
• As you know, most of the online travel agencies have a section where former guests can write reviews of their experience at your hotel. You must continually monitor these reviews and respond to the comments on the sites which allow you to do so. You should also monitor your reputation on other review sites and social media networks such as Twitter. For more tips on how to handle reviews please read our article Don’t Hide from TripAdvisor Reviews!
• A substantial 26% of travelers search for hotels on search engines such as Google, Yahoo, or MSN. You should aim to have your hotel appear on the first few pages of the search engine result pages. Therefore you need to employ Search Engine Optimization tactics and develop a strong Internet Marketing Strategy. You must optimize your site for natural search and you should also use a Pay-Per-Click Campaign. Another important factor that will greatly enhance your SEO efforts is link building.
• 66% of Leisure Travelers use the internet to plan some aspect of their trip but remember another 34% do not. That means you must continue to market off-line, with t.v. and print, to reach the percentage of people not using the internet and to reinforce your brand with those who are.
It is an exciting time to be in Hospitality Internet Marketing with all of the new travel resources online and the explosion of Social Media. It is also constantly evolving so it is very important to stay on top of consumer research reports such as the National Leisure Travel MONITOR, and find out what sites your guests and future guests are visiting and make sure you are there too!Go Back