What is challenging the hotel industry this year?
The increase in mobile traffic and the importance of metasearch engines, the emergence of voice searches and the need to respond to an always-connected user are the main hotel industry challenges for 2019. These are some of the conclusions drawn from the event organized by Roiback, specialist and leader in the management of the direct channel of hotel sales, together with Google and Palladium Hotel Group, during FITUR (the International Tourism Fair held in Madrid, Spain).
The event has brought together 150 participants among hoteliers, decision makers and media. Paola Amoruso, Head of Channel Sales in Spain and Portugal of Google, has analyzed the current consumer, defining him as “super curious, very demanding and impatient”. In a context where, every day, the active buyer does 1.5 searches about its next trip, Amoruso highlighted the importance of understanding that digital buyers are always active and connected and that do not depend on seasons: “they search all the time, so hotels should always be there to not lose sales.”
Amoruso also defined mobile as the “device on the go” and highlighted that only 1 of each 4 users continue their reservation with a company or a brand that has a slow mobile site or app, moreover, over 50% of travelers have a negative perception of a brand if they have a slow mobile site or app. On this matter, Rebeca González, Managing Director of Roiback, explained that the mobile channel is one of the biggest challenge hotels face: “Mobile traffic has grown exponentially in recent years, reaching over 50% of the total traffic on hotels websites. 30% of Roiback’s total bookings are made through the mobile channel with an impressive annual growth year after year and the trend is to keep rising over the next few years. Those hotels that do not have an optimal mobile solution will see their sales and profitability negatively affected this year.”
To respond to market demands, Roiback showcased at the event its product Mobilis Pro, one of the most cutting-edge products in the sector and 100% mobile designed. It works like an app but does not need to be download and allows the hotel reservation process to be easier and quicker.
In a session where experts and directors of Google, Palladium, Destinia and Alua Hotels&Resorts also took part, Alejandro Lazcano, Digital Sales Director of Palladium Hotel Group, underlined the importance of metasearch engines, highlighting the growing role of Google Hotel Ads: “In many cases, the search starts through the SEM but ends with the metasearch engines”, and mentioned Youtube as a channel that “it is becoming more important every day and will grow more in the future in the users’ search of content”.
According to the speakers, another challenge for 2019 is the rise of voice searches. Currently, 20% of searches through mobile devices come through voice controls and, by 2020, this percentage will reach 50% in the United States. In this regard, the new booking engine Backhotel 5.0, which will be launched soon, makes a strong commitment to voice search technology, in addition to achieving conversion ratios of up to 3.5% and positioning itself as the leading engine in the direct sales sector. To demonstrate the possibilities of voice searches, González showed a prototype of a real booking developed by Roiback that allows, through Google Home, to make a real reservation through the voice channel within a loyalty program, in this case the Sercotel Rewards.
González also underlined that 2019 is foreseen to be “an uncertain year, with a possible weakening of the demand”. Another of the main keys of hotel distribution and which allows to compete with the OTAs to optimize the direct channel are loyalty programs: “Hotels have a huge challenge to catch the direct customer. Currently, there is a fierce fight on the part of big hotel chains and OTAs to ‘take over’ the clients. This means that for the other chains and independent hotels is key and a strategic factor to have a loyalty program.”