In this month’s Lodging News Watershed’s founder Lisa Donoughe provides insights on the current state of travel. We’ve included the full article below for a good read, but here are some take-aways collected from our insights division for small lodging properties:
Read the full article here: Lodging News April May 2016
Now is a fantastic time to be a small properties operator. Unique, personalized experiences are highly valued in travel, led by millennials who grew up expecting customization. By 2020, it’s projected that half of the money spent in the travel sector will come out of the pockets of millennials. But this trend is catching on in the sector at large. In 2014, revenue for lifestyle and boutique hotels increased by 8.8% — outpacing traditional chain hotels.
Consumers, more than ever, are looking for a good story and they often look to do their own sleuthing on the Internet first. Small properties not only have an in here, they have the competitive advantage of their stories being truly distinctive. Lodging properties’ biggest asset is their company website, the place to tell their story in their own words.
Smaller operators should think about doing something big once a year such as producing their own special event or something that is genuinely newsworthy. Watershed developed a signature culinary program for The Allison Inn and Spa to attract locals and it’s been a tremendously effective way to attract media attention, generate new business relationships and keep the property top-of-mind in winter when things slow down in the hospitality industry.
One thing we know for sure about social media is that high social engagement correlates with awareness and website traffic visit. This is particularly important for small properties.
Loyalty programs leveraged through social media, though still relatively new, are a great way to engage consumers. Think about building customer loyalty by providing a gift or next-time-discount for those who post vacation photos to their social networks after lodging. Use customized contests & campaigns as well. It’s important to know how consumers engage on each social platform and adapt the strategy (and language) accordingly.
We know that consumers, in general, distrust advertisements now. Plus, with so many other cheaper and more effective opinions, we would not advise investment in advertising for small properties.
On the other hand, PR is more important than ever perhaps even over social media. User-generated media by brands seems to have reached a peak amount of content for many consumers. But earned media is the go to for consumers looking to make travel choices. 92% of consumers say they trust earned media above all forms of advertising.
Many consumers see little difference between a mention in a magazine and a mention on a travel site – these are not seen as advertisements. A brand image is the formation of everything consumers know about a brand, and PR (or lack thereof) is an intricate part of that story web.