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The majority of guests book online; Digital marketing is now a must

Amsa Hospitality recognizes the importance of digital marketing to get online bookings

It is a secret to no one that the hospitality industry is changing – fast -, and what was true yesterday might not be today, and certainly not tomorrow.

We are now aware that we need to rethink our hotels' design (from luxury to economy), guests services, amenities and more: Employees have changed and expect more from us – a salary and a stable job is not what they are primarily looking for anymore; they need their job to be meaningful (another reason the hospitality industry must adopt proper CSR practices urgently) -, while guests expect a more digitalized, sustainable-friendly hotel, with a level of service at the same time more personalized and more ‘computerized’.

Unfortunately, many are still managing their hotel the ‘traditional’ way, hence leading to the current post-COVID staffing crisis, as well as online complaints resulting from hotels organization not adapted to guests’ latest generations expectations.

The same way today’s guests are dealing with us differently than they did few years ago when staying at our hotels, the booking process behavior (the infamous ‘guest journey’) also changed: Guests are less loyal than they used to be to brands – study shows that frequent travelers always carry up to an average of 14.8 loyalty program cards! In other words, according to a 2022 Webrezpro study, loyalty is nowhere to be seen in top guests’ criteria, when booking a room (in order of importance):

  • Unique experience (i.e., lifestyle hotel)

  • Good service

  • Flexible booking policy

  • Sustainable stay

  • Mobile booking

  • Healthy and handsfree hospitality

Not so long ago, from corporate to leisure, most bookings were made through travel agencies. According to a Stratosjets study, the booking landscape changed considerably…

  • An estimated 700 million people will make a booking online by 2023

  • 70% of all customers do their research on a smartphone

  • 72% of mobile bookings happen within 48 hours of last-minute Google searches that include the words ‘tonight’ and ‘today

  • 82% of all travel bookings around the world took place without human interaction in 2018

  • There are over 148 million travel bookings made annually

When combining guests’ expectations and preferred booking methods – mostly last-minute, making forecasting an increasingly complicated exercise -, we see that we must not only change the way we build, decorate, and organize our hotels’ guests services, but also review our communication and selling methods.

The old-fashion hotel brochure and attractive posters are outdated. Hotel communication must be digitalized.

We must consider this new world that is currently being imposed on us: From our hotel / hotel group Web site to our online booking engine, smartphone application, or / Expedia page, we need to develop not only consistency, but recognize what will attract potential guests and make them not only click on your page, but stay on it until they process their booking to the end. We have only a few seconds (10 to 20 seconds, according to studies), to attract visitors attention, and keep them long enough to select your hotel over the competition.

Therefore, you understand why having a great loyalty program is by far not enough anymore to attract most guests.

International groups have a key advantage over independent hotels: They have the necessary resources to put a lot of science and expertise behind every aspect of the hotel's positioning, product presentation, photos and videos, ads, websites, applications, and more.

It would be too easy if there were an effortless way to grab visitors' attention! According to a 2022 Market Sampler study, you will first grab browsing visitors attention with…

  • Quality photos and videos (32.7%)

  • Hotel name (23.1%)

  • Price (20.1%)

  • Online rating (14.2%)

  • Location (9.9%)

Interestingly enough, online rating and location – which we always see as paramount – are not what make visitors stay on your page for more than the ’20 seconds of death’- more on that in a minute! Unexpectedly, the way the hotel is called is important: It must be meaningful, attractive, engaging.

Things become a little more complicated when we want to reach the next step: Visitors to (maybe) consider booking at the hotel. The number of parameters increases, and what seemed quite simple at first becomes more challenging:

  • Quality videos, including of food preparation (19.8%)

  • Product presentation (16.4%)

  • Photos (14.4%)

  • Food photos (12.4%)

  • Demonstration of experience – lifestyle (12.2%)

  • Ratings and reviews (10.9%)

  • Location (9.8%)

  • Uniqueness and style (4.1%)

Again, at this stage, it is interesting to note that – logically - location and rating make the end of the list.

If your hotel successfully passes the previous stage, the final criterion that will persuade visitors to select it over the competition are very down-to-earth:

  • Pricing clarity (22.8%)

  • Price value (22.6%)

  • Discount (17.1%)

  • Fun and excitement (14.3%)

  • Ratings and reviews (12.7%)

  • Location (5.9%)

  • Photos (4.6%)

This time, photos and location make the bottom of the list, with ratings and reviews are not so much ahead. As I said before, it might seem strange that the famous ‘location, location, location’ motto is always at the end of the list... but it's not: Visitors are already aware of the hotel location, as it is listed as part of a search results.

You must wonder what the deal breakers are, those ‘items’ that make a visitor run away from a hotel Web site:

  • Boring rooms (21.6%)

  • Unappealing food photos (17.6%)

  • Pretentious content (14.3%)

  • Boring product presentation (13.7%)

  • Bad room photos (10.4%)

  • Lack of excitement (9.0%)

  • Bad reviews (7.4%)

  • Poor photos (5.9%)

To summarize, deal breakers come mostly from hotel design and décor (boring rooms, lack of excitement…) and substandard quality photos.

The former confirming what we said earlier: We need to rethink our hotels design and décor – the old fashion bedroom, lobby and F&B outlets don’t work anymore.

You may also have noticed that, during the ‘hooking’ stage, pricing came at the top of the list: If rates have always been important, they never took such a crucial place as they do today. It is certainly due to the current global inflation crisis, guests being currently more price-conscious than ever.

Selling a hotel in this digitalized world is more challenging as it has ever been – we are not even discussing the entire guest’ digital journey, only the online booking part; remember that the same level of difficulty is to be found at each step of the way!

The human Travel Agent, who was commissioned to promote hotels, has been replaced by Web sites and applications. This explains why the highest quality photos and videos are so important. What’s more, each photo and video must be properly stagged: Forget the bedroom with rose petals on the bed, or the happy couple walking on the beach at sunset. Guests want to be excited, know even before they check-in that the hotel atmosphere and overall theme match the lifestyle they’re looking for. They do not want anymore a ‘home away from home’. They want a meaningful life experience.

Even the busy executive or salesman who jump from hotel to hotel one night after the other may enjoy the uniformity of the room (which has been the norm in the 2* / 3* / 4* market segmentations for over 20 years), but only to a point: They are now looking for more, as the copy / paste hospitality doesn’t fully satisfy anymore the expectations of guests of all ages. The “wow” effect is more important than ever, if not mandatory.

At Amsa Hospitality, being different is in our DNA. Our brands are designed with the latest guests’ requests trends in mind to not disappoint them, while developing an exclusive lifestyle summarized by our "Hallmark of Arabian hospitality" motto. Similarly, we are constantly working to improve our digitalized communication, to be more attractive, hence more efficient - we still have a long way to go, but all Team Amsa members work hard daily to keep us at the top of the game!

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