How are people booking hotels in 2022? New research data reveals some interesting insights.

Most hotel marketers will agree that in today’s fast-paced, attention-deficit online environment, we have less than a few seconds to make a memorable first impression. And even if we catch someone’s eye, it’s easy to lose a customer by not meeting initial expectations.

In the case of professional hotel brands, there is a lot of science and know-how behind every aspect of hotel positioning, product presentation, photo and videography, advertisements, experience of the website, etc. These elements form a complex system optimized to make the ideal hotel guest stop scrolling and make them want to know more.

What makes travelers stop scrolling and want to know more about your hotel?

But what should hotel marketers focus on? This is always a heated debate between hoteliers. Opinions and experiences are diverse, and apparently everyone wants to solve this problem with things they know and understand. Income experts will say it’s all about the price. Advertisers will say these are advertisements. Designers say it’s all about branding and visuals. Some digital marketing experts will say it’s about how deep you can dig into your analytics data or how you create Custom Audiences in Facebook Ads Manager. Well, that’s a pretty minor part of the mix, but it arguably has a role in the optimization process.

We decided to get to the bottom of it, and together with Market Sampler, we ran a survey of 2,000 responses to see what grabs the attention of travelers looking for hotels. Using Market Sampler’s advanced programmatic targeting system, we collected responses from people who had recently returned from travel. The system received over 2,000 responses in about five days, and we couldn’t be more excited to share the results.

The search results can be viewed here:

Search results and interactive dashboard

What makes customers like or dislike a hotel?

The more than 2,000 respondents made it clear that photos and videos are extremely important in the early impression and thought stages. Interestingly, with 23%, the hotel name plays a key role in making a good first impression on potential guests.

During the reflection phase, videos, product presentations, and photos, including photos of food, are most important, followed by the hotel’s ability to demonstrate the experience. Attributes such as location, style, and uniqueness are less important decision factors.

At the booking stage, price clarity, price value and discounts are the key factors that guide decisions.

The most common things that make travelers dislike a hotel are boring rooms, unattractive food photos, pretentious content, and boring product presentations.

Interesting that reviews don’t appear to be a very important factor. It is clearly the photos, videos, hotel name and product presentation that matter the most.

What distinguishes hotel photography from videography?

Colm from Halo Digital Media shares the level of planning and work required to produce great photos and videography.

For photography, it’s really important to create “hero images” that will showcase the accommodation in the best possible way. Starting before sunrise, we are always at the mercy of light and plan the photo shoot around areas that receive the best sunlight at specific times. We often only take 10 photos in a single day, with a single image taking over an hour to set up and capture. For hosting and POS, we use a process called focus stacking. This involves taking many shots from the same position using different focal lengths, lighting, and flashes, then stacking all the images on top of each other in post-production to create a new composite image.

The composite photograph has a nice depth of field and the lighting is controlled in every area making the piece really shine. Our advice is always to make sure you get the best part photos possible as they are the window to your brand, and great images can set you apart from the competition.

When it comes to video, I think hotel marketers have a lot of room to improve their video marketing. Many still ask for a branded 2-3 minute video and try to cram everything property related into it. It doesn’t work as well anymore because attention spans are low and video consumption takes place on such a variety of platforms. To unlock the potential of your video marketing. it is really beneficial to create a large library of short video content which can then be cut for websites, social media posts, stories and reels.

Having 10 x 20 second videos covering different aspects of the property is inherently more valuable and effective than a branded 1 x 3 minute video. Videos should focus on revenue generators such as catering, wellness, vacations, and events. Plus, they can be tailored to specific markets or customer demographics, rolled out for specific holidays, and provide the Marcom team with ongoing content to keep social media pages interesting and fresh. Our clients who have invested in a comprehensive video marketing strategy far outweigh those who use it sparingly.

Is direct booking becoming a “boomer thing”?

The research data suggests so. Of the 2,017 respondents, 41% prefer OTAs, 29% book directly, and 29% like to book trips with travel agents or tour operators. Let’s dig deeper to understand who books how.

Nearly half of self-proclaimed regular travelers book through OTAs. This makes sense because OTAs offer a very easy way to book and reward travelers with discounts and special offers. Direct is next, leaving about 20% to travel agents.

Nearly half of respondents who hardly ever travel use travel agencies or tour operators. The rest is split between OTA (around 30%) and a slightly smaller segment of direct bookings.

The most frequent travelers book OTA and direct, again leaving around 21% to tour operators.

Looking at response data by age, it shows that people under 35 mostly use OTAs as their preferred hotel booking tool.

People who prefer direct bookings are between the ages of 30 and 40, while most tour operators’ and travel agents’ customers are over 45.

Angela C. Hale