Do your hotel’s digital marketing initiatives need a boost? With the hospitality landscape as competitive as ever, it doesn’t hurt to try new things and diversify so all your marketing eggs aren’t in one digital basket. Over the past year, a few big players have created features specifically for the hospitality industry, to help hotels through the pandemic slump. From free ads to enhanced analytics to new ways to expand your digital reach, here are six new digital marketing tools your hotel can use to speed up recovery.
1. Free Google Hotel Booking Links
Google has made several changes. Let’s start with their free hotel booking links. That’s right, we said free. Google Hotel Ads has been offering paid promotion on their search engine, which displays real-time pricing and availability for specific travel dates. Now, free hotel listings displayed on Google’s hotel search are eligible for free booking links that take consumers directly to your hotel’s website booking engine to book direct. Why? Google wants to give the consumer more options and feature more properties so travelers are compelled to visit and use Google’s services—all in the name of helping the hotel industry rebound after the pandemic.
Action: If you are an existing Google hotel partner participating in Hotel Prices API and Hotel Ads, do nothing—your hotel will automatically appear in the free booking links. For everyone else, the first step is to ensure you have a Google My Business account or set one up. Then, share your rates with Google manually through your Google My Business account, or automatically through a connectivity partner such as your IBE (Internet Booking Engine) or PMS (Property Management System). Paid ads are also available to push your property to the top of the list. WebRezPro PMS is a Google partner, so contact us to get your rates and inventory connected to Google.
2. Microsoft Advertising Hotel Ads
Speaking of hotel ads, do you remember Bing Hotel Ads? This oft-forgotten platform introduced Hotel Ads in 2019 but has since rebranded as Microsoft Advertising. So while this isn’t a new feature, it may be new to you and worth a try. Here’s why: While Google has higher traffic overall, Bing offers less competition for your ad bids. And it’s not as though your ads on Bing will go into the void. While Bing currently has only about 7% of the market share worldwide, that number is closer to 35% in the USA, according to Wordstream, which added up to 126 million unique users in 2019. And of those users, 70% are older than 35 and 38% have a household income of more than $100,000. So in addition to extending your market reach, Microsoft Advertising offers a lower CPC on average and reaches an older, more affluent demographic.
Action: Visit the ad center to try Microsoft Advertising. To make it easy for hotels, there is a feature that allows you to import your Google Ads! But here’s the thing: you can advertise on Microsoft Advertising but Hotel Ads are currently only available in beta testing. Start by signing up for Microsoft Advertising and try out the ads. Then reach out to your Microsoft Account Manager about joining Hotel Ads to complement your existing campaigns. Like Google Hotel Ads and Free Booking Links, your rates will display in real-time for bookings.
3. Google Property Promotion Ads
Coming back to Google, you know how we said you can list your hotel for free? While you’re there, Google would like to give you the opportunity to appear prominently in search results for geographical locations—for a nice price, of course. Google Property Promotion Ads was previously available to select hotels only but as of March 2021, this feature has expanded to accept bids through Hotel Ads. According to Google, the difference is that “standard hotel booking link ads are meant for advertisers to capture a booking for a hotel a user already chose,” meanwhile, property promotion ads are designed to “enable advertisers to influence the buying decision for users still looking for a hotel.”
Action: To participate in Property Promotion Ads, ensure you have an active Hotel Center account linked to a Google Ads account. You’ll need to have at least one landing page in Hotel Center or participate in their travel booking. Then you should see the option within your Ads account and if not, reach out to your account manager.
4. Google Data Tools
Have you read enough about Google already? Again, in support of the travel industry recovery, Google has released analytic tools in partnership with Destinations International and Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International to help destination organizations and hospitality marketers connect with people searching for travel.
There are two free tools available that provide insights to help accelerate recovery. Destination Insights helps users understand where those travelers who are searching are located, whereas Hotel Insights analyzes search trends to help hoteliers understand what travelers are seeking so they can market to them and meet their needs with a strong digital presence.
Action: These tools are both geared to provide actionable insights. Visit Destination Insights to monitor travel trends (you’ll see the fastest-growing destination search, the most popular country search, and the most popular city search among other trends). Within Destination Insights is also a useful Flight and Accommodation Demand Sizing Tool. Use it to select your home country and then gauge what countries search traffic is coming from so you know who to target with your advertising. With Hotel Insights, you can get more granular and search by your country and region to understand year-over-year search trend changes.
5. Tripadvisor Plus for Hotels
In November 2020, Tripadvisor Plus was launched as a traveler subscription service, providing special member-only perks for hotels and attractions around the world. Since March of 2021, hotels have been invited to join the platform for free! The catch? Hotels that sign up will be required to provide Tripadvisor Plus members perks and discounted rates. However, hotels will also receive a special badge on their Tripadvisor listing plus all customer information from each reservation.
Action: Tripadvisor Plus provides hotels with a new distribution channel to try without OTA parity rule constraints. Touted as an exclusive way to reach the most engaged travelers, this channel may be best suited to providing members with perks over discounts as the platform is purportedly attracting higher-end travelers. And as we’ve learned from other reports, travelers in this category are not looking for discounts, per se, but rather a way to level up their exclusive luxury.
6. List on Airbnb
Airbnb isn’t just for spare bedrooms! Independent hotels are welcome to sell rooms on the platform and sell they should. As a hotelier, you are likely aware that Airbnb has been sneaking a big piece of the hospitality pie for quite a while now. Airbnb has accounted for about 20% of vacation rentals in the United States in the last four years.
In a recent report, Hotel distribution and the pandemic: the travel chessboard, which looked at data through May 2021 in Europe and Asia, Expedia has taken a hit through the pandemic with travelers looking to book domestic travel directly with hotels, rather than flight packages. Meanwhile, Airbnb continues to grow and expand its reach.
Action: Diversify your market reach and dip your toes into Airbnb’s market pool. First, check that you meet Airbnb’s hotel requirements. To qualify, you should be an independent hotel or boutique property with a unique style, not a mass-market chain. Airbnb host fees are around 3%. Make sure your Property Management System has an Airbnb integration to streamline management of rates, availability and bookings.
There’s no doubt about it: the pandemic has upset travel trends. However, if Google has anything to say about it (and if this article is any indication, they certainly do) direct bookings will continue to be favored. While there’s a strong case to up your digital ad spend to promote direct bookings, diversifying is the name of the game. Resting on one’s laurels has never been recommended in any industry, so go ahead and try something new! The industry has already shown how agile hotels can be. Keep the pivots going! Test, learn, tweak, repeat!