Marketing & Distribution - Industry Journal

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February 2020 2020 Metasearch Trends You Can’t Afford to Ignore


The Hotelier’s Guide to A Pre-Opening Digital Strategy An open mind can make a world of difference New year, what’s new in hotel marketing? Google and photos!

Marketing & Distribution 2020 Find your way through the digital marketing jungle

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February 2020

Marketing & Distribution 2020 Finding your way through the digital marketing jungle

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Contents 6

Global Professional Survey: Digital Marketing in the Hospitality Industry The eHotelier Team


2020 Metasearch Trends You Can’t Afford to Ignore Nick Hopkins, Sabre


The Hotelier’s Guide to A Pre-Opening Digital Strategy


HSMAI Insights




Garrick Lee, NextGuest of what is in the Jackie Douglas, HSMAI Asia Pacific

An open mind can make a world of difference James Bishop, SiteMinder


New year, what’s new in hotel marketing?


The secret power of boutique hotels


Marketing Automation in Hospitality


Digital marketing and small hotels

Dr. Meng-Mei Chen, Ecole hotelière de Lausanne (EHL)

Barbel Pfeiffer

Ira Vouk

Philia Tounta

Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020

Welcome Dear Hotelier, Welcome to a new year, a new decade and the first edition of the eHotelier Industry journal for 2020. We’re delighted to launch the new year with one of the most important issues for modern hoteliers: how to navigate through the jungle of hotel digital marketing. From digital media and emerging technologies, distribution, OTA’s, content marketing, SEO, guest reviews, artificial intelligence, guest communication and pre-arrival upselling, there are a vast array of tools, channels and strategies available for the hotel marketer in 2020. Yet this extensive range of new technology can make the digital marketing landscape appear noisy and overwhelming. With so many demands on the marketing spend, just where should managers prioritise and invest? This new edition of the eHotelier industry journal is designed to help hoteliers identify the major marketing trends and strategies to maximise bookings and profit. To guide us, we have gathered an exemplarary range of insights from some of the most prominent thought leaders in the industry from around the world: • Nick Hopkins from Sabre Hospitality casts his expert eye on the power of metasearch and its essential role in making sure that your property stands out from the crowd • Garrick Lee from NextGuest gives a nuanced overview on how to market and launch your new property • James Bishop from SiteMinder uses results from the eHotelier Global Survey to identify core marketing trends • Dr. Meng-Mei Chen from EHL talks about the power of Google My Business • Ira Vouk speaks on the radical impact of marketing automation • Jackie Douglas provides insight gleaned from one of the largest hospitality professional bodies in the world, HSMAI Asia-Pacific • Finally, Barbel Pfeiffer and Philia Tounta outline powerful marketing strategies that independent and boutique properties should pay attention to. Digital marketing for the hospitality industry is an incredibly exciting and fast-moving space. With this edition, we hope you’ll find insights to help you become a better-informed and more agile hotel marketer ahead of the new year. Regards, Matthew Stephens Managing Director, eHotelier

Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020



Digital Marketing in the Hospitality industry

Survey Says! By Professor Peter Jones and the eHotelier team


arketing is a mandatory, yet fraught exercise in hotels (or any business). With digital marketing strategies and tactics woven into the mix of traditional methods of attracting guests, there is even more scope for tinkering with the wide range of initiatives you can employ to make your property stand out from the crowd. So, as we head into 2020, where should you be spending your precious hotel marketing budget? eHotelier has recently surveyed more than 500 hotel executives about their current marketing practices. Look through the graphs of the responses to find out how you stack up against our globally diverse respondents. Data from the survey doesn’t lie – some of the results were expected, but interestingly, some of our readers’ feedback may also take you by surprise. Here are the highlights:

Direct bookings are still the holy grail, however…. Website direct bookings are clearly considered the most valuable booking channels. 84 per cent of respondents view website direct bookings to be valuable or very valuable compared with 82% who considered OTA’s to be valuable and very valuable. It is interesting to note that there is still a strong positive perception of the value that travel and tour agencies contribute to hotel revenue. Marketing consortiums are considered to be the least valuable in terms of contribution to revenue.

Q: How valuable are the following booking channels in driving revenue or your business?


Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020

New and old ways to collect guest feedback The most valuable way the respondents develop marketing strategies is by using direct customer feedback. They do this by a combination of ‘new’ methods (84% use TripAdvisor reviews) and some means that might be considered very old fashioned – 79% still consider guest comment cards to be very useful or useful.

Q: How useful are the following in helping to develop your marketing strategies?

Marketing costs against revenue 75% of respondents indicated that they managed and monitored the costs of the marketing strategies against revenue. What is perhaps more surprising is that 11.5% weren't sure if they did or not. Many said that while they considered it important, measuring marketing against revenue wasn’t always easy – both from a resources and contribution percentage standpoint.

Q: Do you monitor and manage the costs of your marketing against revenue?

The world’s gone digital Over 70% of respondents said they had implemented a digital marketing strategy within their business. A further 23% said they intended to implement a digital strategy within the next 12 months.

Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020



Digital Marketing in the Hospitality industry

Survey Says! Most still do it in-house Some 70% of respondents manage their digital marketing strategy in-house. A growing percentage use a combination of in-house and external agencies.

Owned channels most effective Respondents felt that the owned channels - e.g. direct mail, website, etc. - are either very effective or effective in driving business (81%) as against the earned channels such as Facebook, blogs, et cetera (67%).

Q: Please rank the following Digital Marketing channels in terms of effectiveness in driving business


Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020

Traffic and bookings For increasing traffic and bookings, the most effective digital techniques are website optimisation and search engine optimisation Google Ads were ranked third in terms of their effectiveness, just above Google Analytics.

Q: How effective do you think these digital techniques are in increasing traffic and bookings for your business

Higher skill sets In terms of ways to make digital marketing more effective, there was strong support for both having a dedicated digital marketing position as well as more in-house training for all staff (90% -89%). Not surprisingly, this question generated many comments on the desire for bigger marketing budgets and the constraints faced by smaller properties with fewer resources at their disposal.

Overall.... 67% of respondents considered that digital marketing was effective in driving income for their business. For those yet to implement marketing strategies in their business, over 58% indicated they want to do it in-house; 24% say they may outsource marketing programs through an agency. Note: Of the survey respondents, 35% were affiliated with small, independent properties of less than 50 employees, 27% were from medium-sized establishments (50-250 employees) and a further 35% were from large companies, chains or franchises. The split between international and non-international organisations was roughly 50-50.

Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020


2020 Metasearch Trends You Can’t Afford to Ignore 15

What are the major developments in metasearch that will give you strategic insight and direction to better optimize your direct marketing spend, reach and results for the coming year?

By Nick Hopkins, Director of Search Engine Marketing


onstant changes in consumer booking behaviors and increased reliance on technology continues to impact hoteliers’ online distribution strategies. As the new year begins for hoteliers, it brings with it another year of new ideas, strategies and objectives to drive more bookings and deliver more memorable stays and guest experiences that ultimately lead to a considerable lift in revenue. Here we share a few major developments in metasearch to provide hoteliers strategic insight and direction to better optimize their direct marketing spend, reach and results for 2020.


Being Searchable Online Remains Key for Hoteliers

Today, the guest’s journey begins by discovering your hotel on metasearch engines (Google, TripAdvisor, Trivago, Kayak and others). Being visible on these channels is more important than ever. In fact, search is the first site highvalue travelers visit. Listing your hotel on these metasearch engines can not only boost your visibility, but also improve your brand value.

Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020

What advantages does metasearch offer to hoteliers? As a channel, customers can book directly, and it allows hoteliers to have a direct relationship with the customer versus OTAs. It places your hotel in front of travelers when they are making purchase decisions; more than 90% of consumers use metasearch services to book accommodation. On top of that, it’s a distribution channel that works cross platform—mobile, tablet and desktop. This is a key consideration for hoteliers. According to the latest data from McKinsey, the proportion of crossdevice travel-shopping journeys has risen 10% in the past year. A 2019 analysis conducted by Koddi shows metasearch is the top performing direct booking channel for hotels with the breakdown as follows: • 27% metasearch • 22% paid search • 14% social • 10% retargeting/display/SEO • 7% affiliate In addition to these findings from Koddi, a recent study from Phocuswright also found that twothirds of independent properties now receive direct bookings from metasearch. Ramping up for 2020, the foundation of a hotel’s digital marketing strategy needs to include metasearch along with SEO, and numerous paid and organic channels, to give the hotel visibility throughout travelers’ research, consideration and final booking stages. If a hotel’s site is out of sight, it’s simply out of mind. Regardless of how much hoteliers labor, the task of securing more bookings in the new year will be increasingly difficult. More Travelers Are Looking to Google for Places to Stay

When looking at the metasearch landscape closer, Google continues to dominate the search engine world. Google has an unequalled advantage when it comes to traffic: an estimated 4.5 billion searches are made per day on Google, accounting for 77% of the world’s total search traffic. More importantly for hoteliers, Google is the primary channel for hotel discovery. When it comes to hotels, Trivago, TripAdvisor and Kayak all lag behind Google. In fact, the Sabre Digital Experience (DX) Team found that out of 100 visits originating from search engines, 90 are from Google, 5 from Bing, 2 from Yahoo!,

Listing your hotel on metasearch engines will not only boost your visibility, but also improve your brand value.

+ 3 from other search engines. These numbers should come as no surprise when considering that most users start their initial research for about anything on Google, becoming omnipresent in most consumers lives. Besides Google’s growing dominance in metasearch, hoteliers need to be aware of their new travel portal called Trips that the company quietly launched in 2019. Trips allows users to search for flights, hotels and more from a full-fledged travel site. Travelers and potential guests are able to view hotels’ highlights— complete with photos and reviews—to help them decide on reservations, plus track hotel prices, monitoring when rates increase and decrease, before they book. We examined the roll out of its new travel hub features in a recent blog. In short, Google’s new travel portal offers hoteliers a lucrative meta strategy to boosts clicks and drive bookings for 2020.

Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020


Another recent development with Google that hoteliers should be aware of is Google’s new reviews search feature. With unprecedented access to user search and location data, Google is uniquely positioned to solicit reviews from users. In addition to asking for reviews in Search and Maps, Google uses location data to prompt users to leave a review after they visit. Users are asked to rate the rooms, service and location, add comments, specify the nature of travel, answer questions about the hotel, and include photos and videos. Positive reviews aren’t only an effective way to increase bookings, but also provides a valuable approach to achieving a higher SEO ranking and increasing your hotel’s online visibility. This means hoteliers need to actively monitor and manage their customer reviews. As Google continues to roll out new travel features that make it a convenient one-stop hub to search and book trips, hoteliers can’t afford to take a wait-andsee approach. What Metasearch Strategies Hoteliers Should Employ for 2020

Many hoteliers, faced with time constraints and limited resources, find optimizing their distribution while also improving their financial performance to be challenging. As a result, many make the mistake of implementing a set-it and forget-it strategy. To smartly leverage metasearch, it is vital for hoteliers to invest the time and effort to monitor and optimize metasearch campaigns in order to ensure their success. Here are some key factors that you should keep in mind while running a metasearch campaign for maximum profitability throughout the new year. 1. The first step is knowing your audience.

As an advertising and a distribution channel, it is essential that you reach the most qualified potential guests with compelling offers designed to generate bookings. Meta search channels offer various ways to target your ads to reach the users that are most likely to convert. 2. Another thing you shouldn’t overlook is your hotel’s profile.

Make sure that you share accurate property content, like description, pricing, images and callouts on the metasearch site. And remember that travelers’ decisions are not always based on price alone; there are also other factors like location and amenities that come into play.


3. It is also important to have a well-designed website and booking engine in place.

To win direct bookings, make sure that you have high-value content (lowest rate, brand logo, marketing callout, strong review score), attractive images that inspire conversion as well as a seamless payment solution right on your website. Remove any addon steps and limit distractions such as social icons, links or anything else that pulls potential guests away from the booking path. 4. Something else that can’t be overlooked is rate parity.

Make sure your rates are the lowest price or in parity with other lowest price options. Spot-check your rates on OTAs regularly. Keep in mind that being listed on metasearch means disparity is highlighted right in front of the potential guest’s eye. After the basics are covered, the next step is to analyze the data to constantly optimize for the best use of your budget—and identify the greatest ROI for your hotel. What are the types of questions hoteliers should be asking? For one, are the right metrics being reviewed? The focus should be on ad performance (CTR, CPC, position), conversion performance and cost of sale, along with market share and number of impressions. Is the correct allocation of marketing dollars per channel in place? Are all marketing channels working together with local listings, SEO, reviews, paid search and display ads? Finally, is all data available being used, including bid multipliers and automated bidding? Business intelligence is key to winning the direct booking battle over OTAs.

Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020

Having access to actionable data is critical to make any needed adjustments on metasearch to create special offers that click with more customers and increase bookings. Most hoteliers understand how metasearch enables them to compete for that prime online real estate that has been typically overshadowed by OTAs. However, simply being present in this ad space doesn’t always ensure easy success. New entrants and recent changes continue to transform this dynamic online landscape, which impacts what works for creating an optimal campaign. By applying this information, hoteliers can make the most of their metasearch in 2020 and win direct bookings by running successful metasearch campaigns. As always, Sabre looks for ways to keep you informed on the latest trends in digital marketing. Visit for more on this topic and to learn about how to unlock new revenue opportunities with our award-winning Digital Experience (DX) Services. who understand that selecting the right technology partner rely on SHS to remain focused on what matters most – optimizing revenue across all channels while improving the guest experience.

Nick Hopkins the Director of Search Engine Marketing for Sabre Hospitality Solutions. Nick has over 9 years of experience helping hoteliers take back their direct bookings through search (organic, paid, and metasearch). Nick is able to apply his previous experience in digital marketing when helping hoteliers increase their revenue. About Sabre Hospitality

Sabre Hospitality Solutions is the leading technology provider for the hospitality industry, serving more than 40,000 hotels, resorts, and chains spanning 160 countries. From independent properties that need a true marketing partner to large global chains

The Sabre SynXis platform powers a wide array of integrated solutions that unlock exceptional value and revenue for hoteliers. The integrated reservations systems, property management system, distribution and marketing services help hotels increase revenues, identify savings, and improve customer service. Additionally, the solutions include hotel operations management through the Sabre Property Management System, a webbased system for hotels to manage inventory and reservations, guest profiles, staffing, back office and payment system integration. Consulting services and marketing strategies are also offered for online and offline merchandising, including solutions for mobile and social media marketing, website design and software hosting services. For more information, please visit

Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020


The Hotelier’s Guide to A Pre-Opening 15 Digital Strategy

Proper planning of brand education and market positioning leading up to the opening date will set new properties up to win direct bookings, decrease overall distribution costs, and reduce their reliance on the OTAs.

By Garrick Lee, Brand Marketing Manager


pening a new hotel requires an ‘all-hands-ondeck’ approach. From checking the allowable voltage for hairdryers to staging rooms for test shots and much more, there’s an endless list of tasks to complete. Unfortunately, the most critical part of a pre-opening strategy oftentimes gets lost in the shuffle: the new property’s digital presence and strategy.


In today’s landscape, hoteliers cannot afford to forgo a pre-opening digital strategy, as this missing piece will lead to lost bookings and revenue not only for the first opening months, but will set the hotel up for over-reliance on the OTAs in the long term. Conversely, a hotel that has a strong pre-opening digital strategy will enjoy better transient and group business on the books upon opening. Having more direct business from the get-go allows the property to build a receptive audience and better engage and retain past guests thus decreasing the need for overexposure on the OTAs.

Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020

Hoteliers on pre-opening teams need to go beyond reactive solutions and relying on the allure of being a new hotel once the construction crew packs up. What should a hotel include in its pre-opening digital strategy? Proper planning of brand education and market positioning leading up to the opening date will set the property up to win direct bookings, decrease overall distribution costs, and reduce its reliance on the OTAs. Here’s how to do it. Phase 1 Digital Marketing: Generate Awareness

A hotel’s pre-opening digital strategy should be a two-phase approach and in line with the outlined goals. The goals of this phase are to generate awareness for the hotel and reach the right consumer. Now that the vision has been aligned and unique selling points identified, the hotelier should leverage known information about the destination, such as top feeder markets, to help inform the targeting of each initiative. Phase 1 Initiatives:

• Launch a 30-day Pre-Opening Sweepstakes: Generate buzz and awareness around the new property and award travel consumers with daily prizes (Ex. Free room night at the new property) plus a VIP Opening Prize (Ex. VIP Weekend Suite Prize) • Create a Grand Opening Special Offer or Package and promote it through the pre-opening website, SEM, display and Retargeting, Social Media, etc. • Search Engine Marketing: in the case of a hotel that has no brand awareness yet, these campaigns should leverage destination keywords to a much greater extent compared to a more established property, and hit users at the top of the purchase funnel. Doing so will spark interest in a future stay and introduce those users to the name of the upcoming hotel. • Google Display Network: These campaigns should be set up with interest category or inmarket audience targeting. It is important that the campaigns leverage HTML5 banners over other ad types to help achieve the most reach. These banner types are more widely accepted by ad servers, have

The first few months of running digital marketing for any new hotel will be a time of learning and constant optimizations as hotel marketers will begin to understand the type of user who is engaging with their ads.

better readability, and cannot be blocked by adblockers. Lastly, the banner set should highlight a unique selling point with mass appeal. • Gmail Ads: The focus of this initiative will be to reach not only new users through interest category targeting, but also target users with emails from competitor domains. The tandem of having Gmail Ads and Google Display Network reaching the same interest categories will allow the hotel to reach users at multiple touchpoints. Phase 1 initiatives should be set live as soon as possible after a website/mini-site is complete, and at minimum six to eight months in advance of the projected hotel opening date.

Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020


Phase 2 Digital Marketing: Capitalize on Awareness:

Shifting into phase 2 at least three months in advance of opening, the hotelier should continue to leverage all phase 1 digital marketing initiatives, with a concurrent shift in targeting and messaging according to the new offers or packages. • Intent & Data Driven Marketing: These campaigns will leverage first-party data from airlines and travel partners to reach users with travel intent to the destination. The first flight should utilize HTML5 banners showcasing “book direct” messaging or a unique selling point. • TripAdvisor Display: This media buy will reach consumers in the travel planning process, on the largest travel research platform in the world. Banners should run on the destination pages for where the hotel is located, the property page of the hotel, and on competitor pages. If the hotel does not run banner ads on its profile page, another advertiser will showcase their ads in that placement. • Native Ads: These ads will blend into the website, with editorial content speaking to the fact that the hotel is opening soon and boasting that the hotel is the new premier accommodation in the destination. The first few months of running digital marketing for any new hotel will be a time of learning and constant optimizations as a hotel marketer will begin to understand the type of user who is engaging with their ads. They need to be open to running new


initiatives and recognize that while some initiatives are seemingly the same, the targeting and phased approach make them different. Launch Grand Opening: Revenue Driving Campaign

In the last couple of months prior to opening, the foundation of brand education and unique selling points have been communicated to the target audience. Further, digital marketing initiatives are set up and optimized. To give an extra push and build occupancy base to allow for greater revenue management strategies in the future, hoteliers need to craft a multichannel grand opening campaign that will be supported by an offer that is enticing—especially to the local or primary feeder markets. Some general best practices for crafting a multichannel campaign include: • Building Customer Personas: determine the target audience and deep dive into their online behavior in order to reach more qualified audiences. • Mapping the Path to Purchase: based on marketing insights, map the path to purchase and determine key micro-moments to reach customers at each touchpoint throughout the travel planning process. • Determining Campaign Messaging: brainstorm and promote a cohesive campaign theme that will resonate with the audience and align with the brand voice.

Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020

• Launching Campaign Initiatives: utilize multichannel, cross-device initiatives in tandem and determine the timing to reach and engage audiences across multiple touchpoints. Case Study – The Numbers Don’t Lie

With the recent opening of a premier boutique hotel in New York City, NextGuest launched a grand opening multichannel campaign with the goals of building awareness, generating revenue, and driving ADR. By following best practices and having accomplished all of the steps mentioned in this article, these hoteliers were able to garner a 1,812% ROI over a two-week time period. For a 130-room hotel with no brand awareness, with no reviews and entering a very competitive market, an 18:1 return is an excellent start.

Countdown to Opening Date • 9-12 months out: Align Brand | Determine Goals • 6-8 months out: Launch Teaser Minisite | Launch Phase 1 Digital Marketing • 5 months out: Align Unique Selling Points | Create Special Offers • 4 months out: Determine Grand Opening Campaign • 3 months out: Launch Phase 2 Digital Marketing | Begin Building Grand Opening Campaign Assets • 2 weeks out: Launch Grand Opening Campaign | Optimize and continue running Phase 2 Initiatives

Additional highlights and successes from the Grand Opening Multichannel Campaign include: • The grand opening rate generated 69% of total revenue during the time period. • Leveraging an opening campaign strategy with no blackout dates helped build compression for future months and contributed to the rate type garnering a high LOS of 3.94. • Users were able to easily complete a booking upon visiting the website, as illustrated by the website’s 2.23% conversation rate – which is on par with benchmarks. In conclusion:

Opening a hotel is no easy feat, but hoteliers on pre-opening teams need to have a well thought out digital strategy and a strong investment in their digital presence in order to ensure success. Without the proper planning or launch of the right campaigns and initiatives, a new hotel will open with minimal occupancy and be reliant on the OTAs. The following table helps to outline the path needed in order to ensure success leading up to the opening of your hotel.

Garrick Lee is a hospitality digital marketing expert with experience in helping hotel brands elevate their online presence and increase direct revenues. Having a background in corporate-level hotel marketing and working with NextGuest clients on their B2C digital strategies, Garrick uses his intimate knowledge of hoteliers’ business needs to create content that helps them drastically increase their direct bookings. About NextGuest

NextGuest provides hoteliers with everything they need to thrive in the digital world. Based in New York City, the company is comprised of NextGuest Digital, CRM, Labs, and Consulting. While each arm offers stand-alone services, the integrated technologies, marketing, and consulting services work together to increase digital engagement and generate revenue, allowing hoteliers to focus on what matters most — serving their guests. For more information, visit

Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020




Now with 64 different targeting metrics, NextGuest has made it quicker and easier than ever for hotels to personalize their website content. Directly within our CMS, it’s now possible to define customer segments and serve them a personalized website experience. Use the information below to find out how you can customize your website’s narrative for key customer segments. REQUEST A DEMO


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HSMAI Insights The skill sets required by hotel marketers are rapidly changing. How can we keep up-to-date?

By Jackie Douglas, President, HSMAI Asia Pacific

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SMAI’s Marketing Advisory Board recently discussed best practice for data analytics, attribution modelling, marketing skills, and more. Here are some of the takeaways from the hoteliers: 1. Expansive storytelling:

“Placing travel within the context of the wider world. You can do this in long-form or shortform. High-quality communications, highquality storytelling was really a theme this year.” 2. Greater expectations:

“Digital is maturing. Four, five years ago you could stand out with a cool execution, or a cool technique, that people had not seen before, even if your story was kind of flat. Now, all of the channels are getting more mature, all of the tools are getting more mature, and it’s harder to stand out that way, so you better have a good story to tell or else you’re going to get lost in the shuffle.”

3. The role of the hospitality marketing professional is constantly evolving.

All agreed that the role is changing and that marketing professionals today need to know a lot more. Not only do they need to learn about applying the new attribution models and using analytics tools, they also have to be more creative and be fast movers. One hotelier said “If you look back 20 years, there’s a lot of people who got stagnant and stuck in knowing what they know and not knowing what they didn’t, but today it’s different.” 4. Another member noted that the lines between the disciplines increasingly are becoming blurred.

“In order to do the job, you need to understand what’s happening in operations and revenue management,” the member said. “You need to understand how they’re putting out rates and how you can develop that into a marketing campaign or even just have it on your website in a way that will get bookings.”

Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020


Hospitality Marketing Competencies

Above Source: James Cook University, Australia

5. A hotelier from an independent property struggles with doing everything on their own, including deciding where to spend on marketing .

“I struggle with the feeling that if we were to only look at attribution modelling, we would put all of our money into digital and take everything out of any other traditional marketing avenue,” the member said. “Because it’s untrackable essentially, so it’s a lot about trying to grapple with my own convictions on things and with how much of the budget we should spend in those different areas.”

A recent competencies illustration (above) was developed by James Cook University to show the skills required to perform well in this field. HSMAI and their wonderful team of volunteers (hotel digital marketers) are busily developing different forms of education to help hoteliers expand their skills and not only survive, but thrive, in this constantly changing environment. For more information, please visit

“Currently we are hearing that the closest most hoteliers get to Digital Marketing training is attending “free” digital workshops run by vendors of digital technologies and marketing agencies. These sessions might boost knowledge in specific areas but don’t improve the overall skills of the marketing professionals who need to build their knowledge in creating strategy, executing against a strategy, analysing data, being innovative, creative and working across disciplines.” said Jackie Douglas, President, HSMAI Asia Pacific.


Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020

Are your staff keeping up with the velocity of digital marketing trends? This guide will get them up to speed.

Published by Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI), Hospitality Digital Marketing Essentials: A Field Guide for Navigating Today’s Digital Landscape is tailored for hoteliers by one of the hotel world’s leading professional bodies. Whether you lead a branded or an independent property, this guide is an indispensable resource for the emerging hotel marketer in your team.

Available at

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An open mind can make a world of15 difference

It’s only by knowing your customers that you are able to better identify opportunities that suit their needs, tailor their in-stay experience, and ultimately create increased customer loyalty for future visits.

By James Bishop, Senior Director of Global Demand Partnerships


n today’s hyper-connected, multi-channel and multi-screen world, we know the booking journey online is no longer linear. Rather, it is fluid, albeit far from straightforward, with casual research often taking place over many sessions, weeks and platforms. And, it’s across this timeline that accommodation providers are taking it upon themselves to more readily interject and employ a variety of digital marketing methods to snare the widening demographic that is migrating online to lock in their travel plans.


SiteMinder is proud to support the ehotelier Industry Journal: Marketing & Distribution 2020, which pleasingly portrays an increasingly tech-savvy hotelier; one that is dialled in to the importance of an informed online strategy and the potential it provides for improved business outcomes. It’s encouraging that over 70% of all respondents already have a digital marketing plan implemented (this number as high as 95.45% for chain groups), and only 6.94% see themselves as not having any form of digital marketing system in place, in 12 months’ time.

Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020

These figures seemed almost unimaginable as recently as 13 years ago, when SiteMinder first opened its doors to hoteliers all around the world who yearned for a way to market and sell their rooms online. Our purpose has always been to liberate hoteliers with technology that makes a world of difference, and we are delighted to see the difference one can make with an open mind to what’s possible. The core issue of how hotels should be dividing their attention to attract new guests continues on without an end in sight. Unsurprisingly, however, within the group of respondents that ranged from small independent hotels to large chains, direct website bookings remain perceived as the most important booking channel this year, a trend accentuated within chains and franchises, which see their direct channels as fractionally more valuable than their smaller counterparts. This is heartening for the health of the market, as it displays the enthusiasm that hoteliers of all sizes currently have to effectively embrace the various tools and innovations at their disposal, to ensure they’re able to support their business via a range of channels into the new decade. For every hotelier openly looking to drive an increase in direct bookings, however, there is an equally-high percentage that acknowledges (albeit less emphatically) the simultaneous role that OTAs play within their acquisition strategy, in terms of creating initial discoverability and an uptick in brand awareness, and this is particularly true for independent hoteliers. Historically as a segment, smaller hotels have relied more heavily upon OTAs to successfully reach their customers online. With OTAs only becoming more effective at acquiring customers for hotels and continuing to invest heavily in optimising their campaigns and customer experience, their level of importance is sure to remain high for hoteliers of all sizes in the years to come, which is the bittersweet reality. Despite the continued value and success of OTAs, it’s clear that hotels of all sizes are seeing the benefits of the skills that a specific digital marketing expert could bring to their business, as they embrace a more diversified digital strategy.

With OTAs only becoming more effective at acquiring customers for hotels and continuing to invest heavily in optimising their campaigns and customer experience, their level of importance is sure to remain high for hoteliers of all sizes in the years to come, which is the bittersweet reality.

The majority of hotels currently manage their digital marketing in-house (this number higher amongst independent hotels than chains and franchises), suggesting they either wish to retain close control over these processes and their implementation, or, more likely, that due to the costs involved in having someone fully owning the task externally, an internal team member has been forced to absorb the role of the digital marketer into their day-today tasks, often to the detriment of their time and headspace, no doubt.

Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020


For example, succeeding on Google will continue to be a key part of the digital marketing mix of astute hoteliers in the next 12 months. However, as anyone with experience in this discipline can attest, it can be an extremely time-consuming process to drive great results from, if it’s not your full-time focus and profession. Finally and for me most importantly, the study underlines the growing desire for hoteliers to truly know their customers in order to maximise their strategic digital objectives. Across all hotel sizes, direct feedback from the customer was seen as clearly the most important channel in terms of defining their digital marketing strategy, with 92.59% of all hoteliers finding this feedback either very useful or useful. It’s only by knowing your customer that you are able to better identify opportunities that suit their needs, tailor their in-stay experience, and ultimately create increased customer loyalty for future visits. It’s vital that in the next 12 months, hotels of all sizes seek to listen to their customers and adjust accordingly, personalising their experience and becoming a hotel that their guests are willing to recommend again and again.

at the global hotel industry’s leading guest acquisition platform, SiteMinder, living out his passion for providing technology that empowers both hoteliers and technology innovators alike to find success online. Having led the diverse EMEA region’s sales team for many years, James now works with SiteMinder’s ever-expanding global partnerships portfolio to drive demand for hotels worldwide.

About SiteMinder

Having began his career at the UK’s Ashdown Park Hotel, Elite Hotels Group and the esteemed Queenwood Golf Club, James Bishop understands intimately the day-to-day challenges involved with managing and marketing a hospitality business. In 2002, he transitioned into the dynamic space of hotel technology, working initially as a business development manager with SoftBrands Europe Ltd (now part of the Infor Hospitality Suite) before taking on roles at Xn protel Systems and Acorn Hospitality Systems Ltd. Today, James plays an instrumental role


In an age of rising choice and accessibility for curious travellers, SiteMinder exists to liberate hoteliers with technology that makes a world of difference. SiteMinder is the global hotel industry’s leading guest acquisition platform, ranked among technology pioneers for its smart and simple solutions that put hotels everywhere their guests are, at every stage of their journey. It’s this central role that has earnedSiteMinder the trust of more than 35,000 hotels, across 160 countries, to generate in excess of 87 million reservations worth over US$28 billion in revenue for hotels each year. For more information, visit

Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020

An open mind can unlock a world of difference Join 35,000 hoteliers worldwide and embrace a more diversified digital strategy with SiteMinder’s channel manager and booking engine. We enable hoteliers like you to focus on your guests and have our automated systems do the work for you.

Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020


New year, what’s new in hotel marketing? 15 Google and photos! Marketers can control the information, post high quality photos, respond to reviews and questions, and actively engage with potential and current customers on Google products via Google My Business.

By Dr. Meng-Mei Chen


he termination of the Google Trips app may indicate the barriers of travel apps to become ‘main stream’ are so high that even Google has quit. Yet, the web version of Google Travel demonstrates the ambition of Google involvement with the travel industry. While the travel industry debates about Google’s next steps, it is crucial to review Google products and identify opportunities for hotel marketers.


Google Travel shows CRM at its best. Most major hotel corporations updated their loyalty program interfaces in the past two years. While hotel companies are waiting to evaluate the effectiveness of data collection from the new loyalty program interfaces, Google already put together a customer database integrating air travel, hotel stay, attractions visited, and even photos.

Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020

And the travel history dated back to at least 2016. From search data to reservation records sent to personal Gmails, and travel schedules blocked on Google calendars, Google Travel can have holistic views on an individual traveler’s past behavior and future intention. Google Travel/hotels probably could replace most hotels’ outdated websites! Google travel/hotels provides information including photos, reviews, facilities, services, attractions, public transportation nearby, and prices of hotels. The presentation quality and the rich content outperforms most hotels’ Although Google Trips app is out, Google certainly has focused on Google Maps app. Google Maps has transformed from a simple map to a driving direction provider to a concierge. For hoteliers, the above mentioned Google hotel information is available on Google Maps. Restaurateurs will be glad to see that Google Maps allow users to search for cuisine types. Furthermore, Google Local Guides are reviewing, photo shooting, and answering questions on Google Maps. Google (with permissions) knows users’ current locations, and pops up questions when Google Local Guides are on the properties! Google Local Guides help Google to stay on top of property information. Suggestions to hotel marketers

Digital marketers leverage owned media, earned media, and paid media. Smart hotel marketers think beyond search engine optimization or Google ads, and take the ownership of their Google My Business accounts. Google My Business is the touch point between Google and hotels or restaurants. Marketers could control the information, post highquality photos, respond to reviews and questions, and actively engage with potential and current customers on Google products. A photo is worth a thousand words. Most hotel websites provide two photos for each room type. If the company’s website cannot provide more room photos, use other channels such as Google My Business and OTAs. Upload room photos with correct tags of room types. Let customers see the room from different angles, and communicate the points of difference between different room types. This will reduce customers’ risk perceptions and facilitate their decision making.

Given the ubiquity of smartphones and photo sharing apps, hotel marketers could participate in user generated content by setting up “stages” for customers to take photos. Some hotels deliberately place unique furniture in the public areas and customers respond with photos. Moreover, hoteliers could incorporate user generated content (with permissions) in their marketing campaigns to increase authenticity and trust. So what’s new in your hotel marketing program for the coming year may depend on how you take advantage of the above Google based opportunities.

Dr. Meng-Mei Chen is an assistant professor at Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne. Her research interests include online customer decision making processes, digital marketing, mobile marketing, distribution channel marketing, and consumer behavior. Dr. Chen shares her research findings and insights through consulting projects, keynote speeches, and publications.

About Ecole hotelière de Lausanne (EHL)

Ecole hotelière de Lausanne (EHL) was founded in 1893 as the world’s first hotel school. With 125 years of proven expertise in preparing leaders for the future of the hospitality industry, our institution unites the best professionals in hospitality training, academics and research to create stronger connections between education and industry, and to expand the future of hospitality with greater innovation. For more information, visit

Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020



Become an Expert in Hotel Revenues EHL’s «Driving Hotel Revenues» is a 15-week online course where you will develop a comprehensive knowledge base related to three key areas of hotel revenues: distribution channel strategy, revenue management and digital marketing. 28

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EHL is ranked the world’s best university in hospitality management «2019 QS World University ranking» «CEO World Magazine, 2019»

The secret power of boutique hotels Marketing a boutique hotel is about understanding your guests – and showing them that you do.

By Barbel Pfeiffer “Optimization of booking channels, clever SEO strategies, digital techniques and an endless list of what Millennials prefer or don’t”. As the owner or manager of a boutique hotel, pulling together a strategic marketing program can feel rather daunting. "That may all be nice and good for the big hotels, but we're too small for that." "We cannot afford all this technology." "We do not have a marketing department," and above all - "We have no time for this."


t is as if online marketing for small hotels is a loaded topic - like investing in the stock market for the first time. Pundits hit you with so much information and “best successful practices”, creating a barrier so high, you want to give up before you’ve even started. eHotelier’s recent global digital marketing survey seems to reflect these sentiments. Companies that are part of a chain leave nothing to chance – 95.45% market with a strategy in place. Of the large companies, 70.59% confirm they have a strategy in place, but only 63.09% of small independent companies in the hospitality industry have implemented a digital marketing strategy.

Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020


Despite the fast-paced developments in hotel marketing over the past decade, small hotels are also heavily relying on outside help to fill their rooms. The report shows that although 57.02% of the small properties believe website direct bookings are highly valuable, they also confirm that OTAs are important revenue generators (46.08%). Despite size and marketing budgets, however, hotels are not all that different in their marketing. Both, small and large properties agree that dedicating an in-house person would make their digital marketing more effective. They can also imagine recruiting a marketing specialist, and they think in-house training would be valuable. Perhaps small hotels don’t have the exposure and the marketing funds the big ones have, but there’s more to it. The marketing radius of a 500-room hotel is certainly larger than that of a small hotel, and therefore the effort to attract a broader audience is greater. This is where the full range of deployable technologies comes into play. From booking apps to chat bots and messengers, it's all about reaching out to as many potential clients as possible and to streamline the "hotel experience" for a large number of guests. Though boutique hotels might not realize it, they have a distinct advantage over the "Big Boys". • • •

They need fewer resources. They can respond faster, in more detail and on a much more personal level. They can provide highly individual, memorable experiences and bespoke service simply by interacting with their guests.

And with this remarkable position, boutique hotels find themselves at the forefront of the latest trends in customer behavior. Notwithstanding all convenience and modern technology, people are craving real connections and authenticity.

By the IDEAS Team


Though boutique hotels might not realize it, they have distinct advantages over the ‘Big Boys.

"We Know Experiences 2019", a consumer behavior study by Momentum Worldwide, New York provides deep insight into consumers’ expectations. They report that 76% of consumers would rather spend their money on experiences than invest in material things. It all comes down to this: consumers are longing for extraordinary experiences that appeal to them and help them better deal with the challenges in everyday life: They want to be part of an experience to get away from it all (58%), an experience where they can laugh and have fun (70%) and they want to be part of an experience where they learn something new (63%).

Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020

What does this mean for a boutique hotel? You can create such an experience much easier and much better than a large hotel with hundreds of rooms. It requires you to pick one or two niche markets and, based on the wants and needs of these guests, build the best experience there is for them. As this guest experience is put at the center of your hotel marketing, you attract more of the guests that you most desire. This allows you to focus on your role as host, and with your hotel experience improving, you’ll soon build a fan base and become a brand in demand.

be afraid to let your personality shine through and where appropriate, even use a little humor. Once you are done, analyze what works and what didn’t – Rinse - Repeat. Marketing a boutique hotel is about understanding your guests – and showing them that you do. Once you start to focus your marketing efforts on what your guests are looking for, everything will fall in place - and hotel marketing can even be fun!

Often, it is just a few small improvements and adjustments on how you use your marketing channels that can get you started on the road to a hotel brand in demand. The key points: Sales comes about through connection.

People like to buy from someone they like and trust. Talk with your ideal guests about what they want, and not about what you think they need. Put yourself in their position, answer the question they might ask and offer them what they want. Stay tuned!

In the age of information overload, as soon as the information is out of sight, we forget about it. Which means, you frequently need to remind your audience that you’re there. An excellent tool to make this happen is email marketing, provided it has value and meaning for the reader. And no, a newsletter, three times a year, with an update on your latest offers is not sufficient. Educate your readers, philosophize, or entertain them! Meet your guests where they are.

Do your favorite guests hang out at Facebook? Or is it rather a platform for Meeting Planners? Choose your social media platforms not because they are trendy, but because your ideal guests use them.

Barbel Pfeiffer is the founder of Text Spot On, a small marketing agency that helps passionate hoteliers turn their boutique hotels into brands. Text Spot On uses and teaches creative marketing concepts and emotional copy writing to connect hotels with their ideal guests. As a former hotel executive, Barbel worked for Hilton International, boutique hotels in Germany and Switzerland and hotel resorts in the Caribbean. She understands what engages prospects, generate leads and drives business to your hotel. You can reach Barbel at

Listen to your guests.

Granted, TripAdvisor and Co. can annoy, but these platforms also provide valuable information. Read between the lines of guest comments and understand what makes your guests tick. And if you comment, please do not use a stiff template! Be authentic, don’t

Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020


Marketing Automation in Hospitality Hospitality professionals tend to be very reluctant to adopt new technologies, which prevents the industry from developing at the same pace as other segments.

By Ira Vouk


ophisticated technology surrounds us in our everyday life. AI algorithms predict our shopping behavior and social media ads are tailored to our needs based on vast amounts of data gathered and analyzed through the web. Yet at the same time, most hoteliers are still adopting old-school generic marketing approach without investing in any (even basic) technology. Unfortunately, the state of marketing automation in hospitality is currently on a very basic level. In most cases, this is a prerogative of upscale properties staffed with full-time marketing professionals. Majority of hotels in the world (midscale and lower-end segments) are not yet willing to allocate resources for these automated tools, due to lack of understanding of the value (ROI) that they deliver. At the same time, OTAs have been successfully using marketing automation for quite some time, reaching high levels of sophistication and customization. As a result, they continue chipping away at the market share and shifting business away from the hotels’ direct booking channels. Lack of integration between different components of the hospitality eco-system has been a major obstacle for many hospitality technology startups (not just marketing companies). Many hotels are still using premisebased legacy systems that intentionally make it nearly impossible to connect to third-party tools. Currently, the market offers a wide selection of new user-friendly cloud-based hospitality tech solutions (PMS’s, channel managers, booking engines, etc.) that provide more API integration options. However, those companies also face obstacles when trying to gain market share due


to various adoption barriers (lack of trust, budgetary constraints, resistance to learn new technology). Overall conservatism of the industry is something that needs to be addressed on a larger scale. Hospitality professionals tend to be very reluctant to adopt new technologies, which prevents the industry from developing at the same pace as other segments. This makes it crucial for technology providers to start with raising awareness and educating the market about the importance, benefits and ROI of such tools.

Ira Vouk is Successful Revenue Management professional and RMS Product Manager with over a decade of practical experience in the hospitality industry and a deep passion for technology. With her diverse educational background and experience, she has applied her knowledge to the hotel industry and populated many innovative ideas. In recent years, she has developed a new index for profit maximization (Adjusted RevPAR, or #ARPAR) and helped design a revolutionary automated Revenue Management tool – iRates (the first RMS created for the limited-service hotel properties). In addition to ongoing daily Revenue Management services, she provides one-time consulting sessions, and hold Revenue Management classes and webinars. For more information, please visit

Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020

Everything you need to know about Revenue Management practice In under 100 pages, in simple language, with clear and easy-to-understand examples.

By the IDEAS TeamFrom the originator of the ARPAR

performance index (#ARPAR), Ira Vouk.

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Digital marketing and 15 small hotels Digital marketing is even more vital for small hotel operations, as so much can be achieved with a small budget if it’s used strategically and creatively.

By Philia Tounta


can’t even begin to remember the number of times I have heard hoteliers talk about the need to get more direct business, preferably through their own hotel websites. Of course, this is something we want for all our hotels. We know that direct sales bring a higher margin to the bottom line, rather than via reservations (with commission) to third party distributors like OTA or low net rate wholesalers and tour operators.

The big guys already include social media as a major part of their marketing plan. Small hotels don’t have the same marketing budget large hotels do. Sometimes there is no marketing budget at all. It’s important that small hotels take advantage of every opportunity they can get to promote the property, starting from digital marketing. The golden age of hotel digital marketing can be a huge advantage for small hotels and if you are a smaller hotel without the resources of a national advertising budget, you need to go all in on digital advertising.

Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020


So how can small hotels capture the attention of prospective guests using digital marketing? Responsive websites

Nowadays, we live in a mobile-driven world. That means that small hotels need to put mobile first when it comes to email marketing as well as web design. A responsive web design (RWD) takes a mobile-first approach to ensure web content properly scales on devices of varying sizes. By creating a consistent and creative display, RWD helps to prevent frustrating users. Start by investing in a responsive website – too obvious and easy (cheap too in any other industry). But guess what? Many hotels still don’t have them. Creating a static or promotional web site will drive skeptical guests to competitors. On the other hand, intuitive and unique web sites can infuse your brand. Use your website to show off your property and focus on what makes you different in the market. Then add in design elements like Call-to-Actions and photo galleries. Social media

Running creative ad campaigns on social media can also be extremely effective and inexpensive. Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc., can have a massive impact on hotels. There can be a connection with their past, present and potential guests via interactions, contests, special offers and feedback. Small and mid-sized hotels must learn the art of balancing their post usage. Inactive posts are boring and dated, but overzealous postings many times a day, bombarding guests with useless information is equally counterproductive. Balance and creativity is required. Initially the existing data of customers can be used as a basis for hitting the target market. Afterwards as the campaign runs, you will be able to obtain more data and refine the messages to the desired audience. Special offers and discounts can be promoted to entice guests to check-in. Encourage guests to post pictures or ‘selfies’ with hash tags in Instagram, Twitter, etc. Create powerful posts where your guests can comment and share their feedback.


There are countless ways to engage with your guests – you just need to think out-of-the-box. Social media channels are not merely for hotel updates. If management believes in social media and allocates the resources, the return is more immediate. Creative communications

Inbound marketing strategies such as actively engaging on social media and producing fresh content (i.e. blogs and videos) can help small hotels communicate openly with customers and earn their attention. For instance, you may generate engagement from past and prospective guests with a Facebook post by talking about a beautiful excursion near your property. Building engagement with your brand is a first step. Creating an online guide could be very interesting and attractive. There are many options paid or free (wander guide, etc). Fewer travelers are picking up hotel lobby brochures. However, these people still need advice about what to see and do. In every locale, there are a plethora of things for people to do, so knowing where to begin can be confusing. As part of a digital marketing, you can create some cityrelated guides to help visitors. Guests like having a guide they can check on their phones. You can also try multimedia – It is an excellent practice to attract viewers by providing them a virtual tour of your property. Post appealing videos promoting an event or a new space in your hotel or nearby tourist attractions. Come up with inventive ideas and use your videos to your best advantage.

Industry Journal - Marketing & Distribution FEBRUARY 2020

Creating a blog can be life saving. Usually small hotels create a static website waiting for results. A blog has the potential to become a sort of social hang-out or engagement section of the hotel website. As a result, it will help your website to grow its authority on search engines, and eventually direct sales. Automating your marketing strategy can engage past guests on a one-to-one level in order to encourage them to book directly. A targeted email marketing campaign can be very effective if you gather data from all hotel systems to create a single customer view. Sending automated email interactions to guests during the stay cycle, before and after their stay can create higher click-through rates than undifferentiated messages. Experience-based email offers conversions at a rate double promotional emails. It is essential to create better content for email marketing and retargeting campaigns by building experiential packages with local businesses. So, do small hotels really need to use digital marketing? A loud YES! Small hotels should actually value digital marketing in all its forms; especially social media since it is the cheapest marketing option. As they cannot spend a lot on marketing and brand building like the big hotel chains, using social media strategically is their best bet for marketing.

Hotel marketing strategies are a vital part of guaranteeing the percentage of occupied rooms stays high. That’s why hospitality digital marketing is so significant. There are countless ways to get the right social media marketing for your property. You can be as creative as you want as it is a free promotional tool. These tools can assist hoteliers in creating a major global presence with powerful impact. Keep your hotel digital marketing simple and stick to the basics. Get directly involved in the digital marketing for your hotel - it’s definitely worth the effort. You might be surprised when your next guest will come knocking from your social media page!

Philia Tounta PhD (ca), MBA, Ba, Di,; General Manager Apokoros Boutique Hotel Craft Deco & Activities-Three Trees Corner Yoga Studio; Customer Service Manager Almyrida Beach Resort; Travel &Hospitality Consultant; Freelance Author

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