Mobile hotel bookings: Why they’re no longer a trend but an important reality

The Oxford Dictionary defines a trend as something that is “…developing, changing, or in fashion”. And for a long time mobile bookings could be determined as all of the above.

Over the last five years there have been countless white papers, blogs, webinars, and seminars dedicated to predicting the uptake of guests choosing to book hotels via smaller screens. But nowadays, you only have to look at the evidence to see how mobile devices are dominating the path to purchase.

We asked several people around about their favourite mobile usage stats, many of which they’ve come across in blogs and industry news articles, and here are some of the best:

  • For the first time in 2015, mobile searches via Google surpassed those on desktop computers cementing the shift from PCs to smartphones 
    Source: Business Insider Australia
  • WiFi and mobile-connected devices will generate 68% of all internet traffic by 2017
    Source: Hosting Facts
  • 70% of mobile searches result in an online action within an hour of the original search
    Source: Hosting Facts

Mobile-first in 2016 and beyond

Independent hoteliers need to do everything they can to adapt their marketing strategies, and take a mobile-first approach to attracting global guests.

Hotels and travel service providers in the US can expect 52% of travellers to book using a mobile device in 2016 – up from 44% in 2015, according to a study from It’s a pattern that many countries across the world are repeating, from the UK to Japan, as mobile devices continue to reign supreme.

Oscar Orozco, a forecasting analyst at eMarketer, believes hotels should be focusing on smaller devices, above anything else, when it comes to marketing: “Hotels, airlines, and online travel sites are better optimising their websites for mobile bookings. As a result, people are finding a simpler and easier path to purchase and booking their trips right on their devices. This bodes well for the industry as a whole.”

Marketing for mobile guests

It should all start with a hotel’s mobile website. The experience delivered to guests before they’ve even booked a room is so important. Fingertips are less accurate than a computer’s cursor and it can be annoying for guests wanting to click through the pages of your website, to find the information is far too small to read.

As TWENTY ONE Guide to Beautiful Hotel Website Design’ explains, the way a hotel’s website responds to small devices is the key to mobile marketing success: “Responsive design is a simple concept and it’s one that you should be enthusiastically embracing. It’s an approach to website design that aims to create a viewing and interaction experience that reacts to the chosen device of a user.

“It ensures the experience is smooth and that elements of the page can be seen and used properly. If a user is required to zoom in to click a link on your mobile website, then it hasn’t been designed in a responsive way.

“Putting your users’ needs first, just as you do the moment they arrive at your hotel, is crucial for the best web experience. A mobile responsive website that delivers an awesome small-screen experience can also help secure those last-minute bookings from guests searching on-the-go.”

Savvy hoteliers are already mobile-friendly

New research from leading industry analysts Phocuswright and h2c, looked at how independent hoteliers in Europe and the US are embracing and adapting to mobile technology in order to attract more guests within this captive market.

Nearly half (48%) of independent properties in Europe plan to use more social media for their marketing purposes in the future, while only 7% plan to increase printed advertising – a sign that a good proportion of savvy hoteliers are already thinking mobile-first.

According to the ‘Independent Lodging Market Report’, mobile websites are well-established in both Europe and the US – with 52% in Europe employing a mobile-friendly site, and 66% in the States.

Mobile’s share of online direct bookings is expected to grow over the next two years for both the US and Europe, but the report from Phocuswright highlights some concerns that independent hoteliers raise when it comes to competing for market share effectively with mobile technology.

As many as 48% say they lack a solution, but despite this, one fifth of independent hotels believe their direct online revenue already comes from devices such as smartphones and tablets – proving that hoteliers who choose to dismiss mobile bookings as just a trend will be risking opportunities to secure vital revenue.

A year in review: How Google’s mobile algorithm updates have improved hotel SEO

For years now, search engine optimisation (SEO) has played an important role in the online marketing strategy of businesses in nearly every type of industry. The hotel industry is no exception.

Quick recap: SEO is the practice of using web development techniques and content marketingstrategies to boost a hotel’s ranking on the search engine results page.

Given the fact that the Google algorithm is constantly changing, SEO experts and marketing professionals are forced to regularly re-evaluate their strategies.

What has changed?

This year, there have been a few major changes to the Google search algorithm, and they’ve benefited hotel SEO in several ways:

  • An algorithm update in January started the year off with a bang for hotel SEO experts. Rankings changed for many properties, but Google provided little information on it.
  • In February, a change in the AdWords displays altered the PPC campaigns for many hotels. Rather than having ads in the right-hand column, the AdWords ads were moved to the top block of the search engine results page (SERP). Competitive keywords became even more competitive.
  • Mobile continued to play a big role in the overall ranking system on Google. An additional mobile-friendly change to the algorithm took place in May, but it did not have a significant impact on the hotel industry. This is due to the fact that most hotels already know the importance of a mobile-friendly website.
  • September is ushering in rumours of another big change to the Google algorithm. Nothing has been confirmed by the search engine at this time, but SEO experts have been tracking ranking changes.

These changes have a tendency to put SEO professionals into a frenzy, particularly those who want to maintain their ranks.

What can hotel marketers do to adapt to Google’s changes?

For hotel marketers, there have been a few adjustments to make along the way:

Websites should be mobile-friendly

To survive the massive mobile-friendly update that took place about a year ago, most hotels had to invest in mobile optimisation for their websites. This meant having a responsive website in place that adjusted automatically to the platform of the end user.

Websites should load quickly

In addition, hotels needed to check their site speed and site loading times. If their sites weren’t loading up quick enough, that was grounds for being docked in the rankings.

Keywords should be reviewed regularly

Frequent ranking changes required hotels to evaluate the keywords that they use and where they implemented those keywords. For example, keywords that incorporated their locations were moved to prominent places, such as the page titles and within the meta descriptions.

Keywords should be monitored regularly

Hotels that invested in AdWords campaigns benefited from the new displays that were created in 2016. However, this did increase the pressure to monitor trending keywords and the rankings results, as those coveted AdWords positions became more competitive than ever before.

Google’s ad platform should be seriously considered

As a general rule of thumb, signing up for Google Hotel Ads can greatly benefit your hotel, by giving you maximum visibility in search results and full control over what is displayed to guests. You can learn more about that in this blog post.

With undoubtedly more changes looming on the horizon, hotel SEO experts must be at the ready to make the changes necessary to maintain their top search engine results page rankings.

Since Google always has a new trick up its sleeve, the key to staying ahead of the curve when it comes to hotel SEO is staying vigilant in following and adapting to the latest updates.

The right way to attract business travellers to your hotel

Business travellers are an important market segment for hoteliers, because they are frequently jet-setting across the globe for work. This makes them a highly reliable market segment.

So how can you start to attract this lucrative niche?

Understand what business travellers want during their hotel stay

While leisure travellers may be looking for luxury, business travellers are more focused on convenience and efficiency.

To attract business travellers to your property, make sure you offer the amenities that they desire.

  • Business travellers spend more than 16 hours per day connected to WiFi Internet, according to Leonardo, and they expect it to be available at hotels. If they have to pay extra for it, they will, because they need it to complete their work.
  • They’ll probably have more than one device that they’re working with. Make sure there are at least four plug outlets in each room, situated near the bed and desk areas.
  • An iron and ironing board would be useful for those who need to look sharp before rushing off to meetings.
  • Many business travellers don’t want to give up their fitness routines while travelling. If your hotel has a fitness centre, then that’s a definite plus.

Create a pricing strategy aimed at business travellers

To create a pricing strategy aimed at business travellers, you’ll need to identify them first.

So use your property management system’s customer data to segment your guest database. Then, take note of any trends you notice – like length of stay (LOS), lead time, and booking channel.

When you combine those trends with your seasonal pricing changes, you’ll be able to develop a pricing strategy that pushes the needle.

As a general rule of thumb, business travellers are not as sensitive to rate changes and pricing because their companies are compensating their travel.

Create a loyalty program aimed at business travellers

Business travellers are looking for loyalty programs that provide them with useful rewards.

For example, you might create a rewards program for your brand that allows them to collect points to earn free rooms, free upgrades, or luxury amenities during their stay. This type of program works particularly well for large hotel brands that have locations in metropolitan areas around the globe.

Business travellers also find multi-level rewards programs to be appealing. For example, once they spend a certain amount with your particular hotel brand, they can advance to the first level.

However, they can continue to work toward earning a more elite status within your hotel, in turn reaping better rewards along the way.

5 ways your hotel should be managing room rates to get ahead of the competition

How can you use revenue management strategies to get ahead in today’s increasingly competitive landscape? By keeping a close eye on the local competition.

Among other things, your hotel should be monitoring the room rates of your competitors so you can see just how competitive your pricing is and react in a timely manner when needed.

Here are a few examples of what you can do with the information at hand:

1. Value-match competitors

One of the ways you can use competitor pricing to increase your hotel’s revenue is by matching them on price.

Set one room rate at the same price point as competitors, and set another room at a slightly higher rate. This allows you to attract deal seekers without sacrificing the opportunity to make a slightly bigger profit.

Keep in mind that value-for-money is the key point here – value-matching goes beyond bringing your hotel in line with your competitors’ rates or simply making your hotel rooms cheaper.

2. Run effective promotions

Continuing with the idea of value-for-money, promotions are one of the best ways to keep up with, and stay ahead of, your competition.

When you notice your competitors are doing it – probably in the lead up to an event in your local area – find out what their rates are, and then set your rates at the lowest price possible to draw a crowd. This is your opportunity to be proactive and truly get ahead of the pack. Look at the details of the room offers. Do they include breakfast? How many nights is the special rate on offer? Are there any spa or restaurant incentives factored in? Think about how your hotel can give guests that little bit extra.

A word of caution, though: you should only do this in short promotional bursts so your hotel isn’t perceived as low-quality or constantly discounting.

3. Meet market demand

Monitor your competitors’ rates to look for signs in the market that indicate demand is increasing and inventory is getting booked out. Then you can react accordingly.

For example, when your competitors increase their rates or you notice their rooms are closed out, increase your own room rates to make sure you’re not losing out on revenue and profit. You can read more about the science of supply and demand in our recent blog.

4. Maximize midweek bookings

While discounted promotions are great, they rarely sell enough to offset reduced revenue. Instead, look at your competitors’ rates and add value to increase midweek bookings.

Create and promote special packages which offer additional services. Think clearly about who your weekday audiences are. We recently wrote about attracting midweek guests, with some great tips for boosting revenue during quieter times. Did you know that for a two-night stay it’s likely your guests will travel about four hours’ drive from your hotel’s location?

Another great approach is collaborating with tourist attractions locally and submit advertisements or editorial to newspapers and websites in population centres within the vicinity promoting midweek breaks that include bus tours, wine tasting trips, or a concert.

5. Sell distressed last-minute inventory

Data from shows that 50% of travelers who book via mobile devices do so for last-minute or next-day stays. This trend represents a huge opportunity for hotels to sell their very final rooms, right up to the last minute. By monitoring your competitors’ rates in real-time, you’ll be able to make the right pricing decisions to ensure those final rooms are sold without compromise.

The best way to do this is through a pooled inventory system via a channel manager. A seamless two-way connection to your hotel’s various booking sites is key to ensuring the constant flow of information is reliable.

Bonus tip:

Understand the importance of real-time data

Without real-time data, you won’t notice competitor rate changes – or by the time you do, it will be too late to respond in a way that maximizes your own hotel’s revenue.

Having real-time data allows you to assess the level of live demand in the market so that you can react faster, and more accurately – whether it’s increasing your rates or lowering your rates and putting promotions out.

To get this real-time data, you will probably need a pricing intelligence solution – but it’s important that it suits your property’s needs and size. Look for features and benefits that speak to your hotel’s requirements.

Choosing complex technology that’s geared for larger properties will just create more work for yourself – instead, choose something smart and simple that helps you take the guesswork out of your pricing strategy and gives you the control you need.

3 keys to an effective hotel distribution strategy

Your distribution strategy, in many respects, is the key to your reservations success at your hotel.

The more you distribute the rooms and services that you offer at your hotel, the more guests you will attract and the more your hotel will grow.

Developing an effective distribution strategy is critical, and implementing it carefully is an even more important step.

Here are three key steps to creating a successful hotel distribution strategy:

  1. Business mix optimisation

Understanding the different traveller segments who book at your property allows you to diversify your business mix and optimise your distribution strategy.

In most cases, travellers can be broken down into two different groups: lower-yield segments and higher-yield segments. Lower-yield segments often derive from wholesalers.

These guests will book your rooms early, but they also have a tendency to book your rooms throughout the entire year. Higher-yield segments are often generated from OTAs and even your own hotel booking engine.

These guests may book their rooms shortly before they arrive, and often pay higher prices for rooms because of their last-minute approach.

They may book just a few days before they arrive, and may have a tendency to book during the peak travel season in your region.

  1. Overview of online and offline channels

Your distribution strategy needs to include a diverse range of channels, both online and offline. This allows you to promote your hotel property to the greatest number of guests from around the world.

Online channels to work with include OTAs, your own direct booking engine through your website and social media platforms. Offline channels that you should consider partnering with include voice reservation services as well as wholesalers and tour operators.

With online channels, your hotel marketing campaigns are able to reach every corner of the earth. An increasing number of travellers are relying on online travel sites in order to research prices, opportunities and activities for their upcoming trips.

Without online channels, you will be left behind in the past as the rest of the industry moves forward into the future.

While online channels are pivotal, offline channels are not obsolete. Offline channels have the ability to attract local residents as well as older travellers who may not be as comfortable working with the Internet.

  1. Technology to tie it all together

Developing a pricing strategy and establishing distribution channels is an important part of your overall distribution strategy, but it’s not complete until you invest in the right technology to seamlessly tie all of these components together.

A business solution designed specifically for hotels will allow you to connect with your various distribution channels, update your pricing based on market demands and consumer trends, and maximise your bookings.

You will want to include a direct online booking engine, a channel manager, and a property management system in your hotel technology suite.