Wouldn’t it be great if people saw your hotel’s ad or heard about it via a social media site and immediately went to your website? And while there looked only at your homepage, maybe one or two specials and then went directly to your booking engine to reserve a room.

A hotelier’s fantasy, but it’ll never happen.

The Cornell University Center for Hospitality Research recently published a study entitled, Search, OTAs, and Online Booking: An Analysis of the Billboard Effect.” Originally designed to show how hotels benefit from being listed on the Online Travel Agencies, the study also shed some light on how people search the web before making a hotel reservation.

What the study shows is that people spend an enormous amount of time researching hotels, performing as many as 150 searches or visiting travel-related sites in excess of 50 times. That’s probably more time than most teenagers spend on Facebook in a week.

And if you focus only on the OTAs, the average consumer makes 12 visits, searches through nearly eight pages each time and spends an hour looking through 90 pages of content.

This chart shows the distribution of travel-related sites visited. (Click to enlarge)

So, what should hoteliers be doing?

  • Actively Manage Your Online Reputation – With all the blogs and social media sites out there now, you have to be aware of what people are saying (and others are reading about your hotel). Make sure the information is accurate and interject where necessary to make corrections.
  • TripAdvisor – Closely related to the previous point, hoteliers need to be actively engaged in the conversations (posts and forums) taking place on TripAdvisor. People expect hoteliers to respond and research shows they respect those hotels that show they are listening. What’s your TripAdvisor strategy?
  • Join the Conversation – There is a huge difference between dabbling in your own social media program and being actively engaged. Today, hotels need to be committed and engaged in social media. Your customers are.
  • Monitor OTAs – Hoteliers need to periodically check the information being used to promote the hotel on the various OTAs. Make sure the information is accurate to maintain continuity as people search for hotels.

Hoteliers should also be effectively managing their own websites paying particular attention to:

  • Navigation – Make sure your website is easy to navigate so travelers can quickly find the information they are looking for. Remember, these people are on a mission. If they can’t find what they are looking for on your site, they’ll be gone in a nanosecond – never to return.
  • Content – Make your content interesting and relevant to the people you are trying to attract. It may be interesting to you, but look at it from the customer’s perspective.
  • Format Copy For Web Reading – Well people don’t actually read web copy – they skim it. Short paragraphs. Outline. Limited scrolling. Large blocks of copy, even if written by Shakespeare, will make their eyes glaze over and move on.
  • SEO – This almost goes without saying. In order for your hotel to be in the consideration set, it has to pop up in the first or second page of the most popular searches. When was the last time your site was optimized?

What do you think?

AUTHOR: Madigan Pratt

Madigan Pratt is President of MP&A Digital & Advertising, an award-winning agency helping luxury hotels attract and retain profitable customers. Principals with over 60 years of collective experience at some of the world's largest advertising and direct marketing companies lead the agency's team of marketing, creative, public relations, Internet and social media professionals.

  • Jim

    It’s more important than ever for hotels to manage there online reputation, in today’s world people want an experience and they will express there opinions, sometimes in real-time. They best way to keep your name out there is to stay current in the social media arena and to keep your guests engaged with service offers.

    June 9, 2011
  • A very interesting report from Cornell University, which highlights your tips about how hoteliers need to be very aware of their market in particular their website.

    June 12, 2011
  • Stephanie

    Hotels definitely need to be keeping up with today’s trends with social media. It’s become much easier and faster to do a Google search for hotels than to look in a travel guidebook. The more present a hotel is online, the better chance it has of being found by potential hotel guests. I know I go straight to Google to look up hotels when I’m traveling. Very interesting article!

    Stephanie Bekerman
    Tulane University

    March 12, 2013

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