Regardless of how successful you have managed your business, venturing into a new market can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. For hotels and other travel businesses, digital media marketing can be like the New World or the Wild West. Success or, at the very least, survival here is dependent on how quickly you can adapt to new realities.
This article reviews the 3 critical challenges and opportunities of digital media marketing for hotel and tourism today. It provides 4 essential strategies for hospitality professionals.
Challenges of the Digital Age
Without a doubt, the hotel and tourism industry was one of the heaviest affected sectors at the onset of the digital age. Decades later, many hotels are still finding it difficult to maintain a competitive edge in the changing market.
In the process Online Travel Agents and intermediaries who are technology savvy have taken over the marketing function for many hotels, tourism companies and destination. Huffington Post has said the “destination site has left the station” meaning that the role of destination marketing and the hotel marketing website has been compromised by changes in digital marketing.
There is a number of reasons why it is imperative for hotels and tourism to adapt quickly to technological changes. These include (but are not limited to) the following:
There Is a Change in Consumer Behavior
So what strategies right now are considered the best for ensuring strong brand recognition and loyalty? The answer is none because those two are no longer as important as they were in the past.
In the 2010s, there was a considerable shift in consumer behavior, which saw consumers drop a recognition-focused philosophy to a more solution-based one. In essence, people do not gravitate towards a hotel brand or destination because they have effective marketing strategies, but because they offer solutions to very specific problems.
In the case of hotels and tourism, the 2010s has been less about which hotel offers the best “services” but more on which offers the best “experience” at a reasonable price. In fact, amenities that were considered worthy of 5-star ratings in the past like bars, gyms, a concierge, and dry cleaning are now considered basic for customers.
Technology Constantly Changes
Features like mobile optimization and AI-assisted applications are relatively new trends in Internet technology. However, they are expected to change the very way the industry is expected to operate in the coming years.
This has also changed the way online marketing is done. Instead of just relying on marketing campaigns to generate enough traffic to the main site, business owners also have to make sure that their websites offer an easy experience for users.
In the case of online bookings, consumers often want it to be done within mere minutes. If a page takes more than 5 seconds to load up, for instance, a person may lose interest to the point of abandoning the transaction completely.
As such, it is recommended for site owners to invest in improving the layouts of their pages. If a site is easy to navigate, the more likely it is for target audience members to complete the conversion process to become paying customers.
The Competition Is Fierce
As of now, Airbnb is considered the common competitor that all small to mid-size hotels must contend with for two reasons. First, Airbnb offers a complete travel experience where customers can have all their lodging and travelling needs provided. In essence, it is both a travel agency and a hotel combined into one package.
Second, Airbnb has always been proactive with their technological changes. Whenever they introduce a new feature, chances are that other hotel and travel chains will introduce something similar or equivalent. In other words, the company has positioned itself as an unofficial standard that all other companies must follow.
The worst part of this is that Airbnb is not the only thing hotels have to be worried about. The market itself has also become saturated in recent years. In every country, there are more than a hundred hotels vying for the same group of people who can only spend their finite income on the best possible travel experience.
How Can Hotels Keep Up?
Even with these daunting challenges, any hotel has the chance to maintain a strong presence in their area. This can be done through an effective marketing plan which should include the following:
Maintaining a Strong Online Presence
Reachability and visibility are major factors among consumers today when making a purchase decision. To ensure both, a hotel must invest in improving their website design, as well as their search engine optimization.
The website must show the best of what the hotel has to offer including amenities, locations, rooms, services, and, of course, discounts. As for the SEO portion, this will include creating content to be shared in various platforms, which will then bring in traffic to the main website.
Both strategies will require specialists, which is why it is best for hotels to plan their expenses here properly.
Optimizing Social Media Platforms
People right now congregate in places like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Thus, it would make perfect sense for hotels to go where the people (and the money) are at.
But being there is not enough. Businesses have to adapt to the language and format of each platform in order to engage with their audiences properly.
As of now, Instagram is becoming a prime channel for Hotels and tourism. It is the fastest growing media platform and boasts high engagement with visual content, professional photography and videos that entertain and motivate users. Travel brands and travellers are in fact building the platform into the digital showroom for travel.
Pinterest is also highly engaging and social sites like Facebook and Twitter each have their own relevance to hospitality and destinations. Digital Information World puts Facebook and Youtube ahead of Instagram in term of Popularity but that is changing as Instagram growth outpaces all. More on this check here >>
Protecting Your Online Reputation
Any business whose core concept revolves around providing customer satisfaction would have to deal with the fact, then, that they cannot please everybody. However, that does not mean you would rather not know what people are saying about you, and improve on your reputation.
The best way to monitor a hotel’s reputation is through sites like Yelp where users can give their ratings along with a written review. Regardless of the ratings you receive, always treat reviews from an objective standpoint.
Aside from reviews, you should be careful with the wordings in your content. All it takes is for one misunderstood tweet or social media post to generate a lot of hate that would damage the business’s reputation.
These are just some of the realities that hotel owners must deal with today. Regardless of how successful you have been in the past, it is must that you understand the different strategies to market hotel in the digital age. After all, the best method of survival in an ever-changing market is to constantly adapt to new trends while still adhering to the timeless concept of always providing the best possible services to consumers.
Much of this is covered in the latest Digital Media Book for Hotels & Tourism; by author Ian R. Clayton, a pioneer in tourism development. In this 3 book series Clayton shares 20 years of wisdom in a rapidly changing industry.
The book explains the many parts of digital media in an easy conversational style, with practical advice and insightful hotel marketing ideas for tourism professionals. It is available on Amazon in digital form and in paperback.