by SCOTT COHEN
While a strong dollar and political news have slowed travel growth to the U.S., international tourism is predicted to contribute $200 billion to the U.S. economy in 2018. One of the biggest shifts contributing to growth in the tourism industry is a consumer focus on experiences. In its 2018 Hospitality Industry breakdown, Deloitte Consulting frames the opportunity as “data-centric personalization” – know me, engage me, empower me, hear me, and delight me. Leveraging this trend, leading hoteliers are utilizing social media to:
Identify and segment target audiences,
Personalize offerings to build loyalty,
Impact the entire traveler lifecycle and expand touchpoints.
Too often, “social media” for hoteliers only means ads and reach, diluting the opportunity by spreading marketing efforts too broadly. In our experience, successful hotels start with a target audience built off of a clear brand value proposition. For hotels with a social presence or CRM, narrow your segment using Facebook Insights or social listening audience analysis (of followers or known travelers). For those with less developed audiences, inform marketing strategy by utilizing social listening for popular content within target categories, building audiences of specific demographics, and analyzing travel trends. In one example, a client created custom audiences of both UK Traditional Business and Millennial Business Travelers to identify differences and build a strategy focused on the latter. The hotel identified trends in “bleisure,” including partnerships aligning brand positioning in local geographies popular with that segment.
Once you have settled on an audience, tailoring your message and services is next – and travelers expectations are rising. 57 percent of travelers feel that brands should tailor their information based on personal preferences or past behaviors. One larger chain example that combines both audience segmentation with personalization is Westin Hotels. The company has a clear strategy around fitness and health while traveling. Beyond the overall brand, local operators can customize and personalize fitness and health experiences. As an example, social media listening identifies local fitness influencers who collaborate on guided runs. Further, analysis of fitness enthusiasts brand and category preferences reveals specific superfoods and menu items to more closely cater to traveler needs.
Lastly, remember that the traveler experience is more than just marketing and on-site amenities. Issue resolution and post-trip sharing are crucial. Often, hoteliers are hesitant to respond to negative issues. However, research shows that customers are more likely to recommend your hotel after an issue is successfully resolved even more than those who had a positive experience. Prompting social sharing is another tool at your disposal. Per Conde Naste, over 70 percent of Instagram posts are travel related. Prospective travelers are much more likely to value the recommendation of a friend or influencer than of a brand. Finally, leading social listening platforms provide ways to analyze the customer journey from start to finish – planning through to post-trip. If volume warrants, consider consolidating reviews of your hotel by language and/or geography for analysis. Beyond the quantitative, use natural language processing to analyze comments in bulk for trends or potential opportunities.
In summary, travel is only becoming more social. International travelers are seeking out content tailored to their local geography while expecting personalized services that show your knowledge of their desired experiences. Social media provides an excellent compliment to other traditional and digital means for both audience analysis and targeting to attract more visitors.