The Trouble With Travel – Digital Marketing In An Inhospitable Age


For many, 2016 has already established itself as an ‘annus horoblilis’, whether you wanted to Brexit or not, it’s obvious that the world is a slightly less zany place now that Bowie has bitten the big one and Prince has popped his purple clogs. For Hoteliers and those within the travel sector, political uncertainty, financial instability and the continued threat of international terrorism have made this year an ‘annus terribilis’ but what steps can be taken from a digital marketing perspective to mitigate the bad stuff and stride positively into 2017?

Angry Passenger Complaining To Staff At Airport Check In

“To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.” – Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband

Ironically, unexpected events are happening on an increasingly regular basis these days but that doesn’t mean that we should remain unprepared. Having an agreed crisis management plan in place can boost your hotels security and help to protect both staff & guests alike. A swift and effective communication policy, whether leveraging SMS communication on mobile devices or communicating through social media channels, will allow you to respond in real-time, keeping all relevant stakeholders involved.

Bangkok, Thailand - June 6, 2016 : Apple iPhone5s showing its screen with popular travel applications.

“Nothing is yours. It is to use. It is to share. If you will not share it, you cannot use it.” – Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed 

The growth of the Sharing Economy has been problematic at best for many hoteliers and even potentially ruinous in urban markets such as New York and London, where AirBnB now represents over 10% of available accommodation.

But Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta has already gone on record, in the third quarter of 2015, as saying: “We do not believe there is a material impact on the bulk of our markets or with our core business and leisure customers. As we speak to our largest corporate clients, we are confident that AirBnB will not satisfy a meaningful piece of their demand… I think it’s extremely hard for them to replicate what we are doing.”

Essentially, AirBnB is considered by the hotel industry to be what EasyJet and Ryanair were to the airline industry in the 90’s, a low budget alternative, enabling opportunities for those who would otherwise not have been able to travel, or certainly would have travelled less frequently. While hotel chains and independent hotels continue to rely upon their business travellers for demand, AirBnB went ahead and launched their ‘Business Travel Ready’ program back in November of 2015, so hoteliers should ignore the actions of their cost-effective counterpart at their own peril…

Multicultural group of friends using cellphones - Students sitting in a row and typing on the smartphones

“Globally the majority of internet usage will be done via a mobile device and for most people the mobile web will be their primary – if not their only – way of experiencing the internet.” – Peter Rojas, Co-founder of Engadget and Gizmodo 

Desktop is dead, mobile is king. That is to say, that since Q1 of 2015, roughly 56% of consumer traffic to the leading US websites was from mobile devices (SimilarWeb’s State of Mobile Web report). It is now pertinently clear to even the most archaic of hoteliers that a mobile friendly website and booking engine is an absolute necessity.

Compelling video, User-generated Content (UGC) and experiential led packages are a fantastic way to reach out to the often sought after ‘Millennial’ market but if this means your hotel website now takes over seven seconds to load, or worse still includes Flash content then it’s time for a design rethink! Responsive websites in and of themselves are not the complete solution to understanding your audience and offering your services to them, this requires a comprehensive content strategy following a responsive approach to design.

“After a certain point, money is meaningless. It ceases to be the goal. The game is what counts.” – Aristotle Onassis

A 10% drop in the value of the pound against the euro has seen a surge of overseas tourists capitalising on the weak pound and a sharp rise in the British staycation boom.  In the wake of Brexit, many UK tourist boards are enacting their own publicity drives to counter the perceived annoyance felt by Europeans due to the result of the vote. Now, the onus is on UK hoteliers to welcome visitors from across Europe and further afield with a tailored communications plan that reassures potential guests by revitalising loyalty and rewarding their custom.

Hoteliers often talk of reducing their reliance on Online Travel Agencies (OTA’s) by reducing their commissions. Triggered email or designing email communications with dynamic content is a cost-effective way of re-targeting guests on check-out, with a timely, perhaps even personalised reminder to book again next year.


Robot Family

With all the challenges and threats that the travel sector has faced up to in 2016, the next few years will see the most significant changes and opportunities come from consumers and technology.  Travel savvy consumers will continue to dictate their expectations and changing behaviours on the hospitality market, expecting brands to speak to them as individuals through personalised communication and recognising their feedback/review as unique insights into their business.

Technology will also continue to surprise us from autonomous check-in to virtual-reality travel. In the not too distant future you will be able to book and stay in your chosen accommodation without ever speaking to another human, and just maybe, if you’ve experienced an ‘annus horoblilis’ that could be exactly the sort of stay you’re after.

What next?

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Author: Doug Walker

Doug has over 13 years experience in digital marketing and at least 8 years in the luxury hospitality sector. Doug is an avid gamer but equally likes to spend time outside in the great outdoors. Doug is a self-confessed SEO nerd, when he’s not optimising for the web, he can be found in the kitchen cooking up spicy food!


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