Resolutions Every Independent Hotel Marketer Should Embrace in 2022
By Dustin Caromano
After nearly 2 years of what hoteliers would consider a rollercoaster for the travel industry, we are seemingly rounding the corner of the Omicron surge and the consumer’s hesitancy to book travel is showing signs that demand is ready to be unleashed. According to CEO, Doug Parker in an interview with CNBC, “American Airlines is showing an improvement in bookings 30 to 60 days out, with net bookings above pre-Omicron levels. What we all know is there is a huge pent-up demand for travel.”
Now, as a hotel marketer myself, I understand that most of us are trying to manage our business with fewer resources at our disposal. If we’ve learned anything over the last few years, it’s that we are:
- Rockstars (well…duh)
I’m approaching 2022 with a fresh mindset and an understanding that I can’t predict the future, but I can stay nimble and react quickly to the market. The need to work efficiently is more imperative than ever and embracing the following resolutions in 2022 will benefit every independent hotel marketing team.
There’s No Time To Wait: Invest In Digital Marketing and Guest Communication
When the pandemic hit, digital spending plummeted across the industry to record lows as marketing leaders were forced to cut or eliminate spending overnight. In the short term, these decisions were necessary to preserve the business, but we must wonder...at what cost?
Initially, The OTAs reacted similarly but quickly invested billions of dollars into digital marketing campaigns designed to reinvigorate and reassure the guest to book travel in 2021 and beyond. In fact, Expedia made its largest marketing investment in five years. A major blow to independent hotels, collections, and big brands who were significantly underspending compared to 2019, and after years of hard work to educate the consumer about the benefits of booking direct, investing in technology, and designing loyalty programs to win guest preference and reduce acquisition costs.
Coupled with a reduced staff, most hotel marketers were also communicating less frequently with guests across owned channels like their website, social media channels, email, and press over the last two years. This vacuum allowed for the OTA’s to sweep in and regain market share as they engaged travelers during a time when no one else was. Those short-term decisions we made back in March of 2020 will undoubtedly impact profitability due to acquisition costs in the long term.
Leverage Data To Drive Decisions
We all wish we had a magic eight ball that we could shake that could help us predict and plan. And while we may not have magic on our side, we do have endless data to help guide where we should be investing our dollars. Don’t be afraid to dig into Analytics, Demand 360, Channel Production Reports, etc. to learn more about where your business is coming from. Armed with insights, you’ll be able to better target your ad dollars around key segments that are producing while keeping close tabs on those that are reemerging, such as traditional domestic and international feeder markets that may have slowed during the pandemic.
Pay Closer Attention to Customer Value, Cost Per Acquisition, and Booking Window
Unfortunately, not all guests are worth the same and the cost to acquire them can vastly differ. It’s important to understand these nuances for your hotel and how they apply. For example, it’s quite likely that if you’re a hotel in NYC, guests who book from California are likely to stay longer and generate more revenue, making them a more valuable customer than a 1-night guest in the market. Being able to layer those insights with a solid understanding of the book to stay window, will help you allocate the right amount of your budget to target customers in a more effective way while having fewer ad dollars.
Over-Communicate with Your Digital Agency
It’s easy for your digital agency and your hotel team to operate in silos when you’re only communicating once or twice a month. Make the most of that time by ensuring it’s a two-way dialogue between partners by keeping them in the loop on your strategy, goals, trends, and performance metrics outside of what they have access to. The more they know about what is going on at your hotel, the better they will be able to optimize your campaign performance.
Focus on Commercial Strategy
A strong alignment between the Marketing, Sales, and Revenue departments will produce better results than teams that are disconnected and focused on individual and sometimes competing goals. If you’re not having weekly commercial strategy calls focused on planning instead of analyzing historical production, now is the time to incorporate into your cadence.
Use this meeting time to plan projects that will have an immediate impact on revenue like implementing a holiday offer, updating your seasonal promotion, or auditing your imagery to plan for future photoshoots. By working through this together, each team is marching in the same direction and can support each initiative in its own way.
Outsource To Move Faster
Your team size may look very different than it did back in 2019, but the needs of the guests and your hotel team have only increased. Where you find difficulty lifting internally, utilizing an outside resource can work well for project-based work, system implementation, or other time-intensive projects that your team lacks the experience or time to dedicate. Consultants can also bring a fresh perspective to your business and challenge what may be the norm at your property.
Accept You Won’t Have All OF The Answers
As I write this, another variant wave of COVID could be spreading across the globe only to make everything you just read moot. The point is, we’re not going to be able to predict the future and a lot of our assumptions are going to be wrong. Trying to predict our marketing spend for 2022 was a challenging task and we may not have all gotten it right. Being wrong is something I’ve learned to embrace since the pandemic. I, unfortunately, won’t have all the answers, and neither will you. Simply put – that’s ok. You’re still doing a great job!