Going mobile: Hoteliers warm to digital marketing

Nearly half of UK hoteliers now allow bookings through a mobile device

As the competition for space in the digital sphere continues to intensify among UK hospitality businesses, half of hotel operators are now devoting their marketing spend to mobile and social media channels with over 90 per cent completely avoiding offline promoters such as high street travel agents. 

According to the latest TripBarometer survey by TripAdvisor, hoteliers are quickly responding to a rising consumer demand for mobile-friendly websites, location-specific deals and branded apps. Nearly half (44 per cent) of UK hoteliers now allow bookings through a mobile device, and 40 per cent ensure their website is mobile-friendly.

And the trend looks set to continue, with nearly a third (32 per cent) planning to expand their mobile offering next year and 30 per cent looking to invest more in their use of social media platforms.

“Travellers’ reliance on mobile devices and social media is consistent with the trends we’re seeing at TripAdvisor,” said Marc Charron, president of TripAdvisor for Business. 

Mind the Gap: The Mobile Opportunity 

“TripAdvisor has 79 million average monthly mobile unique visitors - an increase of more than 216 per cent from last year. Over 50 million people have installed our various apps, and we see that travellers are using them not only for planning but during their trips.

“Additionally, one in three TripAdvisor reviews are submitted by Facebook connected users, demonstrating that travellers are still keen to share their experiences via social media platforms after their trips.”

The findings of the TripBarometer survey confirmed the thoughts of hoteliers at a round-table discussion about online travel agencies (OTAs) last month, organised by NatWest and BigHospitality.

While the majority of hoteliers recognised that external websites have marketing benefits and are a key way to fill rooms, trying to control or compete with OTAs online can be a tricky – particularly for smaller operators.

Paul Callingham, managing director at Starboard Hotels, said: “We do need to compete, but it's difficult to compete with the power of Booking.com, particularly when it comes to SEO.

“OK, IHG and Hilton should be able to do it, but there is a challenge. Why should we pay a third party if we're already paying a franchise fee? With IHG as well, not only do we pay a fee, but extra if the booking comes through performance marketing, so it's fees on fees that we need to try and get on top of.”

Social media usage

One area that hotel, restaurant and pub operators are taking advantage of, without having to spend any money, is social media. A quarter of global travellers relied on social media to plan their last trip, found the TripBArometer survey, and the majority of operators have seized upon the opportunity.

Seventy-two per cent of UK hoteliers now actively use social media to engage with current and potential guests, with over half of hoteliers globally claiming that they get the most value from Facebook.

(For more on this, here's five things you need to know to run a successful #SocialHotel)

There is still room for improvement, though, particularly when it comes to optimising a business’s website for mobile devices. As the TripBarometer survey concludes, over a third of UK hoteliers said they don’t do this, with nearly half of those admitting they did not have the knowledge about how they would do so.

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