June 2018

With the ongoing DATA deluge that businesses face each and every day, it’s frankly hard to know what to look at, and what to let slide; it can all get pretty overwhelming. Let’s be honest; some stats are interesting, some are astounding, and some is just confusing – at least as it relates to travel marketing.

For 78Madison, we work hard to discern what data is eye-opening enough to impact future marketing initiatives; stats that can help ad agencies like us identify some potentially ah ha moments. As we approach mid-year 2018, we thought we’d share some of our more recent “ah ha” information that hotel and travel organizations in particular probably need to know, if they don’t already.

We know this is far from a new statement; we’ve all been saying this for a few years now. But you can’t ignore the fact that 49% of direct online bookings are now on mobile. This compares to 31% in 2016. A huge increase!

Key Takeaway
A few years ago we were telling our hotel/destination clients to continue increasing their focus on mobile marketing, especially if their mobile wasn't optimized well. This call-to-action remains just as true and important today. The world is rapidly going mobile, which should be no surprise to anyone. Put as much effort into mobile as you can.

Speaking of mobile, if you don't have a mobile-friendly website, it should be the first step you take moving forward in your digital marketing strategy.

Take out your smartphone right now. Go to your hotels website. Can you easily navigate and find the information you need to complete the action you want visitors to take whether that's an online reservation, click to call or important information such as location, directions, photos and more?

Your mobile site needs to be responsive and fast.

Research indicates that roughly 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less and 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. Further, it is estimated that a 1-second delay in page response time could result in a 7% reduction in conversions. Now those are some ah ha stats!

The battle continues to wage, and if you expected Airbnb to go away, it’s not going to.

No one would deny that the hotel industry has had a fight on its hands when it comes to Airbnb. As of 2016, it is estimated that fully one-third of U.S. travelers have booked non-traditional, home-based accommodations. That’s a significant jump from an estimate figure of 1 in 10 in 2011. Here’s the deal. While it’s our understanding that hoteliers are a bit savvier than Airbnb hosts, they could nonetheless learn a thing or two from them as well. In other words, as Airbnb's are becoming more like hotels, hotels may want to consider some of the attractants of Airbnb’s.

Key Takeaway
One of the major ways Airbnb’s build trust is by showing pictures of their hosts and co-hosts, so potential guests immediately know who they are talking to. Don’t underestimate how big of a deal this is. To fight this “advantage”, hotels might want to consider creating social media content that sort of Airbnb-proofs their business. A popular option is to show guests that your team is available to them to help create individual vacation experiences in ways that “absent” Airbnb operators can't manage. You can do this by possibly featuring individual personalities from your property in appropriate messaging outlets. Honestly, we have always been intrigued by how hard hoteliers work at keeping staff information away from guests – no names, no email addresses, no photos, no personalities…

As well, alternative accommodation websites like Airbnb seem to appeal to travelers looking for authentic and unique experiences. In response, perhaps hoteliers can work harder at letting guests have a glimpse into “living like a local”, rather than just letting folks know about the typical “popular” attractions and guide book-endorsed restaurants. Maybe allow key members of your hotel/resort team to offer up some of their neighborhood knowledge and give guests advice on popular hot-spots. You might also consider adding little touches like local micro-brews and wines in the minibar or rotating exhibits of local artwork in the lobby to add a distinctive and immersive experience.

Last, Airbnb isn't just a booking engine; it's a travel community. Hosts and their guests communicate frequently - during the research phase, once a booking is confirmed, before arrival and throughout the stay. By using Messenger apps, hoteliers need to work at having similar interaction.

Speaking of apps, you can’t ignore that the number of mobile phone messaging app users increased by 15.5% in 2017; significant indeed.

Key Takeaway
We are always telling our clients to be where the guests want to be. Communicate in the way guests prefer to communicate. And everyone likes text messaging!!

Consider that Marriott Hotels has been redefining the hotel visit with mobile at the center, enabling members of its loyalty program to engage in real-time conversations with staff before, during and after a visit through the brand.

WhatsApp Messenger has emerged, with hotels such as Barcelo Illetas Albatros using the app to offer any-place, any-time customer service. Chinese messaging app, WeChat, has launched their Mini Program service, allowing users to interact with companies and complete transactions to make a hotel reservation. Since 2015, Hyatt has been using Facebook Messenger as a tool for serving customers at all stages from pre-booking to post-checkout.

With these apps, you want to try to answer the question of how you make the hotel useful beyond that single trip. The way you build engagement with a guest goes much beyond the actual stay.

In the U.S., 43% of business trips are "bleisure," according to Expedia Media Solutions - people extending their business trips to have some personal experiences in that location. That’s BIG data. Again this is not a new subject; 78Madison has been talking about this for a few years. But importantly, it’s still relevant!

Key Takeaway
Many business people take their spouses and families on business trips especially in beautiful destinations. You know the kids want to go with you on your business trip to Orlando, right? Marketers can capitalize on reaching these guests by offering an extension or special if they stay before or after their business trip and offer nanny services or kids clubs. Or even partner with a local daycare so single parents can bring their kids on their business trip.

Nielsen research found that travelers spent an average of 53 days visiting 28 different websites over a period of 76 online sessions, with more than 50% of travelers checking social media for travel tips and 95% of consumers read reviews before booking. Can anyone really afford to ignore such stats?

Key Takeaway
If this isn't a good argument for hotel operators that more needs to be spent on digital and social media marketing, we don't know what is. Retargeting is vital in order to follow these users. Marketing sure you have your best foot forward on all of your social media platforms is more important than ever.
There is site, mobile, email, search, contextual and social retargeting. Lure consumers back to your site with personalization and special offers. Retarget to book more guests. You will find it is an effective, affordable way to increase conversions and follow these travelers that spend hours and hours online and are ready to book.

59% of travelers begin researching their next trip between one and three months before departure.

Key Takeaway
This stat proves that an aggressive local CVB and state tourism agency that markets your destination properly is worth its weight in gold. If your CVB is lagging, now is the time to make sure they are well funded and have a stellar marketing team. Be involved.

Roughly 38% of tour and activity bookings are happening on the same day or up to two days before the activity. Many of these bookings take place in-destination, while consumers are already traveling. Only 19% of these activities were booked more than a month in advance.

Key Takeaway
This is the time to have a better plan to introduce your onsite activities and spa to your guests a few days before arrival via email or messenger. Greet your guests with a sampling of your services in the lobby upon arrival. Chateau on the Lake in Branson gave me a complimentary arm and hand massage as I arrived and I ended up booking a spa treatment because of it.

Healthy corporate travel demand: Strong economies drive business activity. Business travel is projected to grow by more than 6% in 2018 and beyond.

Key Takeaway
One aspect of business travel that is critically important is having a strong Wi-Fi connection. Hotels tout that they have free wi-fi and preferred wi-fi, but true business people want to know the strength of your hotel's Wi-Fi. Just like at home where your cable company promises up to 300Mbps of blistering Internet speed, reality tends to prove otherwise; often you’re barely topping 25Mbps and can't even watch Netflix. We are seeing smart Airbnb hosts, touting their Wi-Fi speed, by even taking a screen shot of their actual speed through sites like Not a bad idea.

Ok, so I can’t seem to move away from the MOBILE discussion. State by state, California booked the most hotels on mobile devices in 2016, followed by Kansas, Texas, Florida and New York. States that saw the biggest growth in mobile bookings in 2016 were Rhode Island, Vermont, Michigan, Iowa and Indiana.

Key Takeaway
If you are in any of these states or get business from these states, this is a great statistic to show your boss to get on the mobile bandwagon ASAP.

Who doesn’t want to increase conversions? 81% of travel shoppers will abandon their shopping carts online, which far outpaces abandonment at retail.

Key Takeaway
Imagine how much numbers would improve if you could either land the sale the first time or ensure that you have a second shot at landing the sale. When a guest abandons their shopping cart, not all has to be lost. Thankfully, there is a way to beef up your booking funnels to include second chances. In other words, focus on booking retargeting and increasing the look to book ratio.

Example: if a customer shows interest in a booking, but left your booking funnel before sealing the deal, you can redirect their attention back to you on other online marketing platforms. This includes paid search ads, on-screen prompts, retargeting and more.

Around 80 million posts are shared on Instagram daily. It's one of the fastest growing social media channels, and its appeal is undeniable. More than 25% of millennials that participate in loyalty programs are very likely to post about a brand in exchange for loyalty points.

Key Takeaway
By encouraging social shares, hospitality brands can leverage social media to build positive brand awareness and display just how much their accommodations and activities have to offer. Hotels working with millennial travelers should take into account the generation's preference for "experiences over materials." Try to create unique experiences guaranteed to create a lasting memory and to inspire a great Instagram post. By placing beautiful objects, inspiring sayings, unique views and cool experiences, hotels can inspire guests to take great photos for social sharing sites like Instagram. The goal would be to increase your Instagram posts and top some of the lists as the “most instagramable” properties.

Whatever your budget, look for ways to engage customers with compelling, interactive content rooted in authentic experiences. Today's travelers are looking for authenticity and travel marketing campaigns need to align more closely than ever with travelers' desires in order to win their attention. Our philosophy is to keep up to date on industry stats, take some risks, put a % of your marketing budget into these new marketing ideas and be 12-18 months ahead of the curve with the goal of digital domination of your competition.

What do you think? Let us know.

Joe Bouch
CEO, 78Madison

78Madison is a full service marketing communications firm – advertising agency – located in Orlando-Altamonte Springs, Florida.