With the economy reportedly heating up as rapidly as the weather, the financial forecast for the hospitality industry is hotter than it has been in years. This is not to suggest however, that innkeepers and hoteliers can now sit back and wait for business to effortlessly roll in the door. In the wake of the new economy that has emerged since the recent recession, travelers have different (higher) expectations of your value proposition. Upping the ante even more, advances in technology, mainly social media, have put travelers in the driver’s seat, thus ensuring that those in the hospitality industry who fail to heed the traveling public’s discerning demands will be left behind the progression.
- After years of delaying capital expenditures, the new economy demands that innkeepers and hoteliers renovate, upgrade and otherwise beautify their property. In this age of Facebook, Yelp, Pinterest and Instagram, one poor review with a corresponding picture to support the claim, can cause a business owner countless reservations and dollars.
- Online bookings will continue to grow and become the mainstay of the industry. More than 114 million people will research travel online this year, with 94 million actually making a reservation online. This accounts for more than 50% of all travel being booked online exclusively. This number is expected to continue to rise every year. A well-designed website with an easy to navigate reservation system is an essential tool for anyone in the hospitality industry to survive in the new economy.
- More and more travel research and bookings are taking place on mobile devises. According to Forrester Research, mobile channel bookings increased four-fold between 2008 and 2010. Google is projecting that mobile access (i.e. tablets and smartphones) will overtake PC access by 2013. It is imperative that innkeepers and hoteliers optimize their websites for mobile usage in order to capture these mobile transactions.
- Social media has revolutionized how business is conducted. 22% of the travel industry currently uses social media as a revenue generating tool. This number is projected to rise to 27% within the next 5 years. Furthermore, social media presence is integral in search engine algorithms, with Facebook’s posts integrated into Bing search and Google+ integrating into the Google search engine. It is crucial that innkeepers and hoteliers embrace social media as a means to drive traffic to their most important business asset—their web presence.
New technology demands that the hospitality industry become “social” and engages their customers online as a major component of their marketing strategy. The onus is squarely on the innkeeper or hotelier to convince the potential customer that they offer the best value for the travel dollar via the internet; by virtue of a well-designed website with a mobile application and an intentional social media presence. The good news is that these hard-won loyal customers will then become your best, most vocal “sales team”, spreading the word via viral marketing that yours is the best destination for their travel-dollar.
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