There’s a lot of talk about social media being a game changer in the hospitality industry, and that’s mostly accurate. But it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that hotel websites are still the primary tool by which consumers research hotels.
Back in the day, the process of researching hotels went something like this: ask your friends, call a travel agent, thumb through guide books and similar publications. Today, consumers have more options in their evaluation process. They can hit up their friends on Facebook and Twitter, compare on OTA’s like Expedia or Priceline, or look at travel review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. The old method of researching accommodations was quite linear and looked like a funnel. Today the process is circular, with multiple touchpoints throughout the decision making process.
Hotel evaluation and selection process
According to a recent study commissioned by HawkPartners LLC regarding hotel channel usage, hotel websites are still tops with consumer when researching hotels. This is born out by research that shows the order of influence as follows. The percentage represents the number of people in the sample (1203 leisure and business travelers, 21-75) who used the resource in the last year while researching hotels.
- Hotel websites – 74%
- OTA’s – 52%
- Loyalty program websites – 47%
- Online review sites – 40%
- Recommendations from friends and family – 34%
- Called hotel directly – 27%
And on and on. Another notable statistic is that the hotel website was relied on as the primary source of information for 25% of all users – more than any other. However when you measure the impact of these resources in the hotel selection process, personal recommendations and travel review sites (the recommendation of others) have the most impact.
So the onus is on the hotelier to make sure there’s a good strategy in place for review sites. But it’s important to remember that good, old fashioned service is what the consumer will remember and ultimately pass onto others to use in their decision making process.
We’ve worked with a lot of hotels over the years, and in almost every instance the hotelier cited “service” as their key differentiator. But everyone can’t be the best, and being good at it means it has to come from the top down. The hotels that have success with this metric are the ones that make good service a part of their culture. At the risk of showing bias, Hotel 1000 and the Wickanninish Inn are two great example of this – the service feels honest and anticipatory (without feeling like you’re being harassed), and this is borne out in the excellent reviews they earn on travel review sites like TripAdvisor, and general word of mouth.
So here’s my point – putting an emphasis on this channel is smart, especially when you consider the influence it has on the buying process. So by all means keep on top of social media, travel review sites, and OTA’s – but make sure you’re website is killing it because this is a place where you’re still in the driver’s seat.