A comprehensive, ROI-centric Internet marketing strategy is the hotelier’s perfect “survival tool” in the current economic environment, says Max Starkov at Hospitality eBusiness Strategies.
Doug Hay, CEO of Expansion Plus, a boutique PR firm that specializes in online travel PR, agrees. “Although there have been dire predictions about the state of the travel and tourism industry in 2009, a recent study by the TIA showed that Americans are still determined to travel,” says Hay. “They might look for a resort closer to home, and they’re keen to find packages and deals, but they are going on vacation. To capitalize on this information travel websites need to invest in online PR in 2009.”
More than 55% of all travel bookings and up to 40% of all hotel bookings in North America will be generated from the Internet, which represents a double-digit growth over 2008. (Source: eMarketer and HeBS)
Here the 10 strategies HeBS recommends for 2009:
- Take advantage of the competition’s hesitancy and outsmart them online.
- Re-evaluate your marketing efforts and advertising budget. Focus on proven return-on-investment (ROI)-centric efforts. Shift funds from offline to online formats
- Re-evaluate the importance of your key customer segments and feeder markets in lieu of the economic downturn.
- Track conversions. Figure out what works and what doesn’t.
- Create unique hotel offers based on unique product attributes. Don’t compete only on price.
- Differentiate your hotel and offer what the competition does not: a broader selection of specials and packages in a variety that your customers can appreciate.
- Make the direct online channel the centerpiece of your Internet strategy. It provides immediate results in a very difficult economic environment as well as long-term competitive advantages.
- Your website is the hotel’s most important marketing asset today and enhancing and optimizing the hotel website should be a top priority in 2009.
- Get familiar with and use Web 2.0/Social Media. Establish interactive relationships with customers via Web 2.0/Social Media initiatives such as expert blogs, consumer experience and photo sharing, contests and sweepstakes.
- Acquire new core competencies and adopt best industry practices by partnering with leading hospitality experts in Internet marketing and direct online channel strategies.
Excellent resolutions. And here a few more that fall into the best practices category:
- Create compelling content about your hotel or your destination. Google says the most important factor in search ranking is exclusive, relevant content
- Add this content to your site
- Make sure it has visual elements – images and video. It’s the visual element that sells travel destinations
- Syndicate the content in an RSS feed
- Add social bookmarking tools
- Make it easy for your readers to save and share the content
If you make the most of these simple, cost-effective online marketing strategies 2009 could end up being your best year.