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In a recent report, Google ventured outside of their current online domain and did a study to compare online travel purchase patterns to offline travel purchase patterns. The number of similarities between the two types of buyers provides compelling information that every tourism business owner should know.
Getting right to one of the most amazing facts derived from the study: 90% of both online bookers and offline bookers do their research online. You read that right, 90% of travellers do their research online before booking whether they purchase online or walk into an agency to book in person. Understanding the full value of a travel business's online presence has never been demonstrated so definitively.
Research starts on average 70 days prior to purchase. Both types of buyers use search engines to do most of their research. Naturally, the time spent searching and number of sites visited do vary, as these averages below demonstrate.
- Number of search sessions - 16.7
- Overall time spent - 129 minutes
- Number of sites visited - 32.5
- Number of search sessions - 11.9
- Overall time spent - 94 minutes
- Number of sites visited - 22.5
Google's Sun, Sea, Sand and Search Report Oct 2013
Looking at the demographic differences between the two types of bookers;
- 42% of the online bookers are under the age of 34 whereas,
- 85% of offline buyers are over 34 with nearly half (48%) having children and being retired (48%).
Travel agents are still the preferred channel for offline bookers seeking packaged tours. No real surprises in those numbers. But what is most surprising is that travel research on mobile phones is growing 66% year on year. Google claims this to be the number one take away from the study; "More than ever, travel related businesses need to be accessible on whatever screens consumers are using".
Google's Sun, Sea, Sand and Search Report Oct 2013
As a tourism supplier, whether your model depends on agency business or you desire more direct bookings, understanding the impact that your online presence, especially on a mobile device has to ALL potential customers is vital to the growth of your business.
Connecting your TripAdvisor reviews to your Facebook page.
|Now, in just three easy steps, you can combine these two great forces so your Facebook followers can click on a tab and quickly and easily see your great TripAdvisor reviews right on your Facebook page. So you have worked hard to exceed your customer's expectations and earned yourself great TripAdvisor reviews, fantastic! And in all of your copious spare time, you have also been engaging with your Facebook followers, promoting your posts and increasing your Facebook Likes.|
To add the TripAdvisor Widget to your facebook business page you simply go to:
2. Enter your business name, choose your business
3. Choose one of the Facebook widget offered to you.
The chosen widget will automatically be added to your business page and your reviews easily available for your followers to see!
Although the majority of top-end luxury travellers may make their bookings with an agent, it is their friends and family, search engine results, online videos and loyalty programs that inspire and influence their choices.
The results are just in from a report commissioned by Google to help them better understand the affluent US traveller and the role that online resources play in their choice of airline, cruise, lodging, car rental and holiday packages.
Trip Inspiration & Research
One of the most significant pieces of information revealed is that friends or family and the Internet are both equally influential as the number one source for inspiring a trip. Moreover, when it comes to planning and researching for a holiday, the premier sector turns to the Internet 87% of the time.
About 50% plan to spend more time researching because getting value-for-money product is important. They continue to comparison shop for all components of travel, especially accommodation.
Although the luxury traveller still favours luxury hotels, the boutique and holiday home rental is increasing in interest at double the rate of two years ago.
How the Luxury Traveller Engages Online
80% of the premier sector in the US will research online for their upcoming trip. When researching, two (2) out of three (3) read travel reviews and one (1) out of three (3) watches a travel video with an astonishing 90% of affluent travellers taking some type of action after viewing an online travel video.
OTAs and DMO sites
The affluent traveller still relies on a brand's website for planning, up 5% from last year, as opposed to reliance on DMO sites, which dropped 8% from last year. Branded sites, searching and OTAs are still consistently the top sources for planning.
Multi-Device Influence on Trip Planning
More than half of affluent travellers (55%) access travel information on their smartphones or tablets for planning. Convenience is the top reason that affluent travellers book on smartphones using both browsers and apps in near equal frequency. They use all devices to engage in travel-related activities from planning through to booking.
Loyalty Program's Importance to the Luxury Traveller
The need for a multi-channel, multi device online strategy is no longer optional for the luxury provider but a definitive requirement to keep up in the competitive luxury market. From inspiration to planning and decision-making, the Internet, whether viewed on a smartphone or computer, is where the luxury traveller is looking.
For a copy of the full report click here
There are a number of email campaigns going around claiming they can boost your TripAdvisor rankings, some even blatantly advising that you can buy 'genuine' reviews.
We often get asked how to boost your TripAdvisor rankings and our advice is always the same: "Give the better service than the guest expects".
We also often get asked if we think buying reviews is a good investment and our advice is always the same: "No, don't do it."
Today another email campaign made the rounds, it looked like this:
As a TripAdvisor Premium Connect Partner, we immediately reported this to them and they promptly responded with the following:
Thank you for sending this on - I’ll get this to the attention of our content integrity team who will investigate.
There is a helpful section in the Help Center on TripAdvisor for Owners with several links with regards to Fraud and Organised Boosting:
Help Center Link to Fraud information and helpful links:
What is organized boosting?: http://help.tripadvisor.com/articles/200615007-What-is-organized-boosting-
What is TripAdvisor’s policy on organized boosting? http://help.tripadvisor.com/articles/200615017-What-is-TripAdvisor-s-policy-on-organized-boosting
How do you detect fraud?: http://help.tripadvisor.com/articles/200614947-How-do-you-detect-fraud-
What will happen if a business is found to have fraudulent reviews?: http://help.tripadvisor.com/articles/200614957-What-will-happen-if-a-business-is-found-to-have-fraudulent-reviews-
Thanks again for sending the specific details of this company along, this will be reported immediately to our content integrity team for immediate action.
If you are a ResBook client, using the automated ‘welcome home’ email to thank your guests for staying and asking if they would kindly give a review is an approved method for receiving genuine TripAdvisor reviews and is a nice way to make it easy for your guests to let you know how happy they are!
online travel purchasing and distribution trends
Today, travellers are empowered by instant access to information, at any time and on any device be it computer, tablet or on a mobile phone, and while at work or waiting in line for a coffee. So it is easy to understand why over 78% of travel research is now done online.
And it is not just about research but inspiration; 29% of Facebook users claim they have been motivated to book a trip based on a posting they saw.
Internet travel booking revenue has grown by more than 73% over the past five years providing over 50% of a businesses' bookings. A company's online presence can make or break them. But you don't have to take our word for it, see the latest statics from June 2013 about online travel sales
So what does this mean to your business?
- Can your website be viewed on desktops, laptops, iPads, tablets and smart phones?
- Is your website up to date with the purchasing style of today which is picture rich, engaging and customer focused?
- Are you providing information to your customers that is targeted to their needs so they easily and confidently book with you directly or easily share your website with their agent so the agent can book you?
- Are you on the first page of Google for your most desired keywords?
- Are your rates and inventory dynamically updated across all platforms match up across all platforms online and offline (agents)?
- Are you receiving bright stars on Trip Advisor and interacting to your reviews?
- Is your social media inspiring, engaging and educating? Are you using the most popular platforms for travel like Facebook, Instagram and You Tube? And if you are interested in China, you need to be on Weibo too.
Traditional Distribution Model
Now the importance for integrated channel management offering dynamic pricing across multiple channels (both online and direct with agents) is imperative.
Online Travel Agents (OTAs) like Booking.com, Expedia, Viator and local promotional sites play an important role in a tourism products promotion and distribution. Whether it is to generate bookings from the sites, use them as 'online brochures' to drive bookings to your site or to assist with search engine optimisation (listing sites that permit website links).
New Distribution Model
But this simplified model doesn't include the new big player in the game, Social Media.
A social media campaign that inspires across a seemingly growing number of platforms is necessary as You Tube, Instagram and Facebook become the voice and conduit for travel inspiration and conversation.
And the powerful voice of the traveller means that customer service and an experience that exceeds expectation is vital as social media, Trip Advisor and Yelp can make or break a business. And if this sounds over dramatised, remember that Trip Advisor is the number one travel site in the world with over 260 million visits a month.
New Travel Purchase Model
Agents and suppliers alike need to ensure that what their customers find online when researching and/or booking effectively and genuinely promotes their product.
Researching travel is considered part of the journey of a trip. So whether a traveller is booking directly with suppliers or through an agent, travel requires more online research than other online purchases as research from Google last year shows.
In the same research done by Google, a typical travel purchase is shared below:
This is a classic example of how social media works within the buying process. It is all about reassurance, quality control, weeding out the negatives.
Understanding how the distribution model has changed and the online travel purchasing process has morphed into a multifaceted procedure is vital for tourism operators to maximise their revenue potential.
Relationship advice in an online marketing article? Absolutely. Today, having a website, a brochure and working with your agents is no longer enough. You put time and effort into ensure the agents you work with are happy with your product and that you are romancing them but what about your online relationships?
Social media and review sites like Trip Advisor can make or break a business. An online distribution strategy based on paying commissions to Online Travel Agents (Expedia, Booking.com) is mono dimensional and eats away at margins. Having a Relationship Strategy can serve your agents, increase your online reputation to give potential guests assurance, build customer loyalty and thus increase bookings.
So I am not trying to teach your grandmother to suck eggs here, but it all begins and ends with customer service. The effects of one really good or one really bad customer experience can dramatically effect a tourism operation in today's connected market. Review sites like Trip Advisor, Yelp and Online Travel Agent's own verified reviews leave the customer with the last word. With 93% of global travellers claiming that their booking decisions are influenced by online reviews and 53% of travellers say they won't book a hotel that doesn't have online review the vital role these reviews play in a tourism operator's business is obvious.
One situation not handled correctly, can affect the bottom line, just ask Hotel Quebec. They had one 'Bed Bug' experience that was poorly handled by a staff member resulting in a scathing Trip Advisor review and a corresponding dramatic dip in bookings and revenue. So much so that the hotel sued Trip Advisor for damages and loss of earnings. They lost the case and gained even more publicity on the issue in the process.
Could the horrible situation of being eaten by bed bugs (which was videotaped live by the guest) been turned into a positive and actually made that customer an ambassador for the hotel? Possibly. Could Hotel Quebec have handled the online review better. Absolutely!
The review went live April 2013 and they still haven't responded to it online. Responding to negative reviews is just as important as basking in positive reviews when it comes to a relationship strategy. Expressing concern over the situation raised, that corrections have been made or kindly requesting the reviewer to make personal contact with a manager to learn more are all ways to create a better online relationship.
Make Loyalty Royalty
Generating bookings online through your chosen Online Travel Agents is an important revenue stream for most tourism operators today. But creating an on-going relationship with those visitors once they have been delighted with your product or service, so they become loyal customers should be your ultimate goal.
Like a seven year marriage, you need to create ways to keep the relationship alive and make them feel special. Email marketing, loyalty specials announced on Facebook and 'loyalty login' pages on your website for benefits and incentives are all ways to keep visitors interested and encourage them to talk to others about you.
As the saying goes, 'Relationships take a lot of work and commitment,'both offline and online.
Marketing is considered by many as a game of guessing, hoping, finger crossing and watching to see if there is a result, never really ever knowing what the return on investment truly is. The good news is, as the online pay per click model is being adopted by more and more channels, ROI for both intuitive and intentional marketing can well and truly finally be measured. Let's look at how to measure the returns and where the opportunities lie.
Search Engine Marketing or Price Per Click
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a very simple model where by you pay per click (PPC) for a set of keywords/search terms and the price per click is determined by how popular the search term is that you are targeting. A per day and per month budget can be set.
Now a days it is a stretch to call it SEM as the PPC model has now spread onto other arenas like Facebook and TripAdvisor. But no matter which channel you choose to do your PPC marketing, it is important to know how to measure the results.
We all know how to calculate return on investment but in the PPC world there are a couple of other measurements that are important; Conversion Rate and Cost per Lead.
Begin by knowing how to calculate your conversation rate; take the number of conversions (bookings) divide by the number of clicks and it equals your conversation rate. So for example if you got 29 clicks which resulted in 2 bookings your conversation rate is 2 divided by 29 x 100% = 6.9%.
The tourism industry has the lowest conversation rates as compared to other industries with an average of 1.45% whereby Internet/Telcos were top with 6.27% as per WordStream's recent report released in November 2013. Wordstream suggests that an average of 2% - 5% is considered a good result for competitive industries like tourism.
Next you need to know your 'cost per lead.' Take the average cost per click you are paying for an ad and divide it by your current conversion rate and you will arrive at your cost per lead. If your ad's cost per click is $1.00 and the conversion rate for that ad is 5%, then your cost per lead is $1/.05 which equals $20 per lead.
It is not enough to know that you spent $100 on PPC marketing and it resulted in $180 in bookings. Knowing your cost per lead allows you to know how to allocate your marketing budget best.
A few PPC marketing options
As Google is the number one search engine and they have perfected the PPC model with rebust reporting too, it is an obvious choice for intentional marketing. Do your research for the most appropriate search terms for your business, not the obvious two word terms like Auckland Accommodation but suitable long tail terms like Auckland accommodations for families with small children.
With TripAdvisor recently launching their TripConnect option, they have studied what Google Adwords does and laser focused intent marketing by offering the PPC model on their review site for accommodations.
Facebook offers the PPC model for those that want to play in the intuitive marketing arena where by you focus on the specific types of people you want to suggest your product to (newly engaged Australians living in or near Sydney) using Facebook Ads. With Facebook's recently released ads in the newsfeed, the results for marketing within Facebook has shown dramatic results.
Nanigans released a study in October of 2013 which highlights retailers advertising on Facebook saw a 375% explosion in click-through rates from Q3 2012 to Q3 2013. The study also indicated that newsfeed ads had massive click through rates while the right hand side ads had the better conversation rate. The study only looked at retailers but many are using the results a generalisation across industries.
So in summary, the pay per click space is becoming popular and with good reason, it works. But as with all good things you need to understand what you're wanting to achieve, have a clear budget and learn the metrics that allow you to succeed with a solid ROI. Happy Marketing!
As a tourism operator, you may have been advised that in addition to giving the best possible service to your customers and ensuring that you love up your agents, you also need to ensure your online presence is attractive to both your clientele and Google. Just how important Google is to most businesses is interesting, a bit scary and is about to get even greater.
An accommodation provider has a long 'to-do' list to promote themselves online:
- Get an attractive website that guests like and ensure it is properly built to please Google.
- Add an online booking engine and integrated channel management to ensure that you are listed on major OTAs.
- Spend time on your website each month to optimise it so Google ranks you well.
- Set up a blog on your website to keep the content fresh because Google loves lots of relevant, new content
- Set your business up on Google Maps to be found for location search and Google Places
- Start a Google Adword campaign to increase website traffic and get on page one
Then in your free time, be attentive to your Trip Advisor posts and don't forget your Facebook page, as engaging with your past and prospective clients is vital and there is evidence that Google's latest algorithm takes into consideration your social media interaction, so again, better do it to keep Google happy.
Google has now created another consideration for your business building on, and dependent on everything else you have done online to promote your business. It is called Google Hotel Finder.
Now, when you do a search for a 'Hotel in Auckland' or 'Motel in Auckland' (not lodge or B&B yet but this won't be far off) you will first get 1-3 paid Google Adwords listings then you may get a couple of OTA listing (Booking.com or even Trip Advisor) followed by 'Google Hotel Finder' with the best deals available followed by Google Maps entries followed lastly by the organic search results.
In order to appear in Google Hotel Finder, a property has to have a booking engine, be connected to a number of OTAs, be registered on Google Places and now also has to be sure they have Google + account too.
And lastly, as you may have already guessed, Google has created a whole new revenue stream on Hotel Finder by creating Hotel Price Ads. These are like Adwords, but with a twist. They are similar to Adwords where by impressions are free but you pay per click. The twist with Hotel Price Ads are you can choose a traditional pay-per-click model ($2.00 a click) or a percentage of average room night value.
So keeping up with Google's latest developments is important, ignore Google at your own peril. You can choose to consider Google an important business partner or an annoying business competitor. Whichever your opinion, it is also imperative to know your partners and competitors and to best be prepared for them.
Mobile is offering the biggest shift and growth opportunity we have seen since the birth of the world-wide-web. Twenty percent of travel is researched via a mobile device and surveys indicate that this number will grow to 50 percent in just over a year.
And, distinguishing the difference between a mobile specific site, a responsive site and an app is important, as these are different.
Apps are custom-made applications that your customers need to download onto their smart phone to use.
Mobile websites are accessed on the web browser of a mobile phone. Learning the different types of mobile sites available along with the pros and cons of each can help you confidently choose the best option for your business.
1."Honey I shrunk the website": This mobile site is a copy of your desktop website, but has been resized for a mobile, often without some of the design elements that make a website easy to use and appealing. A piece of code is added to your site, and detects the screen size and reformats accordingly.
Pros: Usually the least expensive option and the resizing code can be added to most desktop websites.
Cons: A reformatted version can be unwieldy on a mobile where information is needed quickly and easily and design elements that are lost can impact badly on your brand and the user's experience.
2. Fully responsive site: If you are about to launch both a new desk top website and a mobile site, then you can consider a fully responsive design as an option. This approach means building a website which responds and displays information optimised for a variety of screen sizes.
Pros: Your customers get all the information from your main website; you have only one URL and only one site to update for both web and mobile.
Cons: Slower to download, usually more expensive than a mobile specific site, and you will need to plan carefully knowing what your business and your customers needs are since this is a big investment and you are creating a presence for all platforms at once.
3. Mobile specific site: A mobile specific site is one designed to take advantage of being on a mobile device and provide information users would require 'on the go.' For tourism businesses, location information or directions, 'click to call' buttons and a mobile friendly booking functionality are important features.
Pros: Your site is truly focused on engaging with mobile users, not just accommodating them.
Cons: You have a separate site to develop and maintain, even if they share content.
OK, so it wasn't exactly a time travel experience, but compared to daily life in New Zealand, my recent two-week trip to California felt like a 'back to the future' experience, minus the DeLorean.
We've all read the statistics in both articles and through insights from Google that mobile usage is escalating at a rapid pace. We know it, talk about it, write blogs about it, and at Tomahawk we build only responsive websites or mobile-specific sites. But to actually witness and experience first-hand the explosion of mobile use in just one year in California is nothing short of astonishing.
Never far from hand, the "young 'uns" were snapping photos, poring over emails, Facebook and review sites even my 76-year-old parents were using their phones for directions, visiting review sites for electronics while they were standing in a store, and forcing their mobile screen in my face to prove I was wrong because Wikipedia had the right answer all along.
Internet is for the most part widely available, free, and wireless wherever we went, so like it or not, we were always connected.
So how did mobile phones guide four Kiwis and six Americans of various ages (from 11 - 76 years old) in the two weeks that we spent trekking across California?
So the mobile phone is supposed to be, wait for it, a phone, right? We made minimal use of our phones calling capability in our two-week expedition.
Texting and emailing was rampant, as everyone kept in touch with other family and friends, and I stayed in contact with the business via email on my phone.
Show me the way
Besides taking photographs, one of the top uses for our phones was for directions. That sounds obvious, but our decisions were definitely influenced by businesses that offered embedded Google Maps on a mobile-friendly website.
One of the Kiwis wanted to buy a special drum that can't be found in NZ. He did research prior to leaving NZ and found the perfect store to purchase the very expensive drum. When we were out shopping and ready to go to the drum store, we found that the chosen store's website was not mobile enabled and didn't have a map so a quick search on our phone found an equally good store and they got the big sale because they had the drum, a mobile site and a map.
The same scenario was repeated several times throughout our trip.
Where to eat, what to do, where to shop
It is common practice in California to pull out your phone to find a restaurant, an activity or even a festival. It is almost as if dare I say it no one needs to think anymore. All you need to do is Google the chosen activity, or visit the habitually-used site.
For restaurants we commonly used Yelp, there are also regional destination sites (which offer locals rates via login) and Trip Advisor is used endlessly and is bigger than Texas (had to throw in an American clich).
There were a few destination publications available in our accommodations and at various outlets and the elders in our group took the time to read them. A place called 'Feed the Big Boys' caught my sister's eye in a publication, but alas, they didn't have a mobile-enabled website and didn't offer a map. Needless to say, they lost our potential business.
Apps make life easier
Apps are now central to daily life for most Californians. There appears to be an app for whatever the average human wants in life, from following your favourite sports team, discovering local landmarks, to banking and providing travel information.
Whether standing in line for coffee, attending a social function, everyone seems to be comparing and sharing the latest apps that have changed their life, it is like a source of status whether you have the latest and greatest.
One app that we used that definitely made our life easier was the Disney App. This was actually one app that you didn't share and tell others while standing in line!
The Disney App advises you the wait time for each of the rides so you could plan your fun to maximise ride time and minimise line wait. This app definitely served us well!
Three final factoids to wrap up the Californian report:
- Instagram is a must
- Using your mobile phone as a credit card swipe is common place
- Google Glass saw a few people walking around sporting a pair like it was totally normal
Suffice it to say, I was amazed by the sheer pace of technological advancements and mobile dependency in just a year!
I can't wait to go back next year, maybe I'll finally see one of those hover cars I first heard about in the 80s.