Hospitality businesses have a big opportunity before them: The Social Traveller. From reading online travel reviews to sharing photos of hotels, travellers are increasingly social.
The latest TripBarometer report focusing on The Social Traveller reveals how people are heavily influenced by – and, in turn, influencing others with – user-generated content when it comes to travel plans and booking decisions. 84 percent of UK travellers consider written reviews of travel businesses to influence them most when they’re looking for inspiration for their trips. Ratings on a review site are a close second, at 80 percent.
The Social Traveller report also reveals that mobile phones are the ever-present holiday companion for UK travellers: 86% say their mobile travels with them.
We’ve moved beyond whether reviews and mobile are important. The real question business owners should ask themselves is, “How do I reach these social travellers?”
After all, insights from The Social Traveller report paint an increasingly familiar picture:
1) Review site content comes out on top for travel inspiration
2) Photos are highly influential, especially when they are on review sites
3) Blogs and forums are important travel planning sources
4) Travellers are mobile, and they expect travel content to be as well
So, how can businesses leverage these traveller habits to maximise their marketing potential? By making sure all online channels for the business are operating at their full potential.
Leveraging owned channels
Fifty-six percent of UK hoteliers report using TripAdvisor as a marketing channel for businesses and sixty-five per cent are making use of their own website for the same purpose. With four out of five owners using their website to generate bookings, it makes sense to leverage the platform for marketing purposes.
A hotel’s website should present an accurate idea of the hotel, ensuring that guests know exactly what to expect when they arrive. Photos and fresh reviews can help to paint the picture – businesses can even stream their TripAdvisor reviews directly on to their own site, demonstrating the kind of transparency that travellers want to see. According to a PhoCusWright study, over half (53%) of travellers won’t make a booking if a hotel does not have reviews.
Making reviews and photos social
Social media platforms are another channel that can’t be ignored – 31 percent of UK Social Traveller respondents say they are influenced by travel photos on social media sites, and videos have an impact for 18 percent of respondents.
With over 1.3 billion active monthly users, there is no question that Facebook is a favourite amongst global travellers. Fresh content is essential to keep the channel relevant for potential guests searching for inspiration. Owners can share their TripAdvisor reviews, ratings and photo content on their business’s Facebook page using a simple app, ensuring they tap into the trend without doubling their efforts.
The power of the blog
Savvy hoteliers have also started blogging to interact with potential, current and past guests – a good move, considering 24 percent of TripBarometer UK respondents consider travel blogs to be influential when gathering ideas and inspiration. Similarly, participating in forums and being present to answer traveller questions when they are in the planning and decision making phase can ensure the hotel is top of mind when the traveller is ready to book.
Reaching a large, influential audience
Many hoteliers already understand the advantages of managing their presence on media or review sites to promote their businesses. And it’s no wonder, as they are seeing a positive impact: fifty nine percent of UK hotelier respondents to TripBarometer say they generate bookings with TripAdvisor, which has a monthly audience of 260 million global travellers, compared to only 12 percent with other review sites and 14 percent with banner ads and other online advertising.
And for hoteliers looking to get the most out of their presence on review sites, there are a few best practices:
- Upload photos and make sure amenities and property details are updated
- Respond to traveller reviews, both positive and negative
- Keep track of performance on the site. For example, with TripAdvisor that can be done through the Property Snapshot in the Management Centre
Mobile – the unstoppable force
Mobile is king for travellers. The vast majority of UK travellers take their mobile phone with them on holiday, whether they are staying close to home or heading far away. And of those who use their mobile phone on holiday, over half use their mobiles to find their way around, making it an essential device. What’s perhaps less known is that travellers are still in planning mode when they are in destination – 38 percent of Brits use their mobile to look for restaurants, 36 percent to look for things to do and 12percent to look for hotels.
The number of travellers booking their accommodation via a mobile device is still relatively low, which could be due to any number of reasons: the complications associated with doing a search on a smaller screen, being redirected to third party sites and then completing the transaction. TripAdvisor is currently working on making the process much cleaner and easier by enabling travellers to search, compare and book, all within the TripAdvisor app. The aim is to ensure the best possible experience for travellers by offering a simple, efficient booking solution, and in turn, driving more bookings to partners and hotels.
Implementing a 360° approach
More and more travellers are looking to review sites and social media platforms for inspiration, and increasingly, they are doing so on a mobile device. The opportunity for hospitality businesses to tap into the trends revealed in The Social Traveller is substantial, leveraging not only their own websites or social media presence as marketing channels, but also user-generated content such as reviews, ratings and photos. Hoteliers should be thinking strategically about mobile as well; offering a great user experience for travellers in planning mode and gearing up to accept more bookings via mobile, with as smooth and efficient a booking process as possible!