Having a prominent online presence should be a priority for any aspiring hotel business. In this article, Marc Swann, Search Director at digital marketing agency Glass Digital, investigates five key digital trends that will affect the hotel industry in 2020 and beyond.
In our increasingly connected world, the digital marketplace continues to grow a source of revenue for the hospitality sector. In the UK, 83% of all trips by Brits were booked online in 2019, up from 81% in 2018, according to ABTA’s Holiday Habits report. This demonstrates just how much reliance travellers place on finding and securing their travel plans over the internet.
With such market dominance, it’s absolutely vital that your hotel business is as visible and appealing as possible to people booking online — if not, you risk losing a significant opportunity to boost your business’ revenue. However, it’s important to remember that the internet moves quickly, and you need to be able to adapt to the changes that will drive the industry in the future.
With this in mind, I’ve listed five key digital trends that are set to make a major impact on the hotel industry in the near future.
A continuing focus on direct bookings
ABTA’s report also found that a sizeable 42% of travel bookings are made directly with the service provider. So, by looking for ways to improve your website, you will boost its ability to capture attention and convert that all-important booking.
You need to ensure you have the two essentials of a good hotel website covered: a smart design that’s easy to navigate and a fast and reliable booking system. Having both will make sure that your customers have no problems when investigating your hotel. This will also help your search engine rankings too, as Google tends to rank sites that deliver a great customer experience higher than those who don’t.
Beyond this, you can also look at other ways to improve the search engine optimisation (SEO) of your site, such as targeting keywords, improving your local search (we’ll look at that next), and guest blogging. If you’re not confident in more advanced areas of SEO, I recommend hiring the services of a digital marketing agency, who should be able to help you make improvements.
An increased emphasis on local search
Unless your business is a world-famous hotel that attracts search on its own, most customers will not be looking specifically for you. The majority of your online custom is likely to come from “local” search, where queries like “hotels in east London” bring up accommodation options. And, because Google is making it easier for people to carry out these searches, it’s worth adapting to this trend.
Google My Business is a tool that presents the best options in a geographic area when searched, and it’s absolutely vital that your hotel is registered. To do so, you’ll need to fill in a profile for your business, as well as some nice images. Listings with the most detail tend to get ranked higher in local searches, so ensure you provide as much information as possible. Simply put, Google My Business is a great chance to outshine even the biggest hotel chains in your area.
A greater need for expert guidance
Revisiting the ABTA travel report once again reveals another emerging trend: 16% of Brits who book a trip online also seek extra advice on their holiday, such as through a live chat option or reaching out through social media channels. This suggests that people are still looking to receive a more personal service from a travel professional, despite booking through an automated system.
You can make sure your hotel caters to this trend by providing the ideal channels for clients to get in touch before their trip. As I mentioned, live chat is now a prominent feature used on many hotel sites. It’s a worthy consideration if you don’t currently offer it, as it can provide a guest with a quick, easy answer to their query to ensure customer satisfaction.
You can also win by being as responsive as possible on your social media channels, as this is now the first place people go to engage with businesses. Being seen providing helpful responses to questions and dealing with complaints efficiently can also be a great asset to building up your public image.
An evolution in visual marketing
While it’s still very important to have strong, attractive imagery throughout your website, its worth remembering that people are beginning to expect the next level of visual marketing from hotels to really get a sense of what their potential accommodation will be like. I expect these enhanced visual options to play an increasingly more prominent role in years to come.
The likes of 360⁰ virtual reality tours and high-quality video marketing, can deliver a greater level of detail and sense of atmosphere than a gallery of pictures. And, as the technology to easily view these assets becomes more widely available, expect customers’ expectations to follow suit until they’re thought of as a standard option.
An appetite for experience content
These days, holiday makers simply aren’t satisfied with booking a hotel and a flight and being done with the process. They want to feel like they’re buying an experience, even when they’re choosing where they’re staying, so your website should reflect this. Therefore, it’s a great idea to add plenty of experience-based content to your hotel website.
This content could include a guide to your local neighbourhood, diaries from other travellers, and lists of must-see sites in your town or city — anything you can think of that will inspire customers picturing their ideal stay with your business. You’ll also start to build expertise as a website, which can be useful when you’re trying to rank highly on Google.
Take these five trends for 2020 and beyond on board, and your hotel will be well equipped to succeed online in the years to come.