Just before the turn of the millennium, I started travelling, having the time of my life. My memories of that time are recorded in part in a few photo albums and scribbles in travel journals. At that time I had no camera and I refused to buy a mobile phone – I wasn’t interested in following the growing trend at the time and disliked telephones anyway. I’d bet you a couple of quid that Bessie’s B&B in Ireland was probably relieved I didn’t have a phone back then when friends and I visited the beautiful city of Galway. We had to wait a whole week before returning to Dublin to complain about our stay, we got no joy from lodging the complaint and Bessie got away with hospitality murder.
Now I own a fairly competent mobile phone tablet that can do a zillion things I don’t know how to use. But it’s attached to me like an appendage. I tweet on it, Facebook on it, Instagram on it and I Whatsapp with friends in far away places as easily and regularly as I speak to my family and colleagues. While I’ve been a slow convert to the world of mobile (and frequently teased for it), I am a rare exception. The way we use our devices to communicate with is evolving – the Internet empowers us with access to the entire world at our fingertip. It makes sense that if you can buy just about anything online from the convenience of your mobile device, you should be able to purchase travel too, and share the experience with those in your community.
We’d gone to the Tourist Info Center in Dublin for a list of accommodation in Galway, chose Bessie’s B&B based on a 3 star recommendation, we wanted a triple room and the price was right. Made a phone call from home to book it and that was the extent of our research. That’d never happen today.
31% of consumers will research their next trip from a mobile device.
Alarm bells should’ve gone off when we couldn’t find any pictures of the B&B, no brochure or even a printed flyer. Still, we went ahead with our plans, undeterred. Never happen today either.
People respond to visual storytelling now more than ever, so it’s really about sharing…experience through the medium of photography or film.
Greg Snell, G. Adventures
It’s an expectation, if not a demand at this stage, that marketers for accommodation suppliers must meet with their content. The quality of images used matters, the narrative behind them matters. It’s got to be high definition all the way, captivating video, 360° images (just click on the image below for a quick twirl)… And this content has to be available, accessible; in fact, it’s got to be everywhere the traveller is, on their mobile device.
But travel technology back then was not what it is today. Bessie’s B&B would never have seen me. We lugged our luggage around for a good hour after disembarking the train. Bad directions, you see. The B&B was located 10 minutes from the station, just as Bessie had said. Tired and hungry, we decided to run out for a quick bite first. Returned to our room, desperate for a lovely shower. There was no hot water. It was just after 9 on a Friday night. Apparently the geyser got switched off between 7pm and 7am every day to conserve energy. Important information, wouldn’t you say? One quick cold douche later, we hit the sack, flipped for the cot (which was supposed to be a third single bed) and settled down. My friend in the cot complained all night about the dip in her mattress.
Where was Social Media when we needed to make a stink about inhospitable hospitality?
63% of respondents considered SM channels and recommendations by friends and family the number 1 factor to inspire travel.
Or not, as the case may be. I would’ve made sure nobody I knew landed up at Bessie’s, bless her heart. The most commonly used SM platforms among travellers include Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram in order of popularity, followed by YouTube, Vimeo and a host of others. The dippy cot mattress would’ve found instant selfie notoriety on social media today.
97% of millennials post photos while travelling.
After a restless night, we finally had a hot shower and looked forward to our full English breakfast as promised. My friend worked for a reputable hotel in Dublin, so she knew her Continental from her English breakfast very well, and she was adamant: that was not a ‘full English’ on her plate! Oh dear.. Bessie wasn’t to know what we knew, was she? Told us some nonsense about fried green tomatoes and offered us free extra muffins instead. Definitely NEVER happen today. Certainly not without very public consequences.
1,700% growth in mobile travel between 2011 & 2015
That’s huge. What it means for the likes of Bessie’s B&B is that a significant proportion of our travellers out there are plugged into their mobile devices as they travel and they’re connected to the world. They celebrate when they’re impressed with something and castigate with they’re unimpressed. Bessie would do well to tap into Social Media (SM). By monitoring what your clients say about you on SM, down to what they frequently like or share, you glean valuable information to incorporate into strategies for marketing or even changing aspects of your offerings. Essentially you need a SM strategy to represent your interests where your clients, existing or prospective, live.
Harnessing the power of Social Media (SM)
It is estimated that about 50% of consumers worldwide make travel purchases based on online recommendations, with SM driving that purchasing power. As a travel supplier, you can leverage the power of SM to provide multiple options for travellers to engage with your content and share it. The first step would be to identify the formats and platforms of engagement most favoured by your target market. You need to develop a deep understanding of your audience, tune into their behaviour on SM in order to target them with exactly what they want or persuade them to spend the time to view your content. And of course, elicit from them some positive commentary about you.
Instagram contests are a great way to get people talking about your business and increase your followers.
Social Media Examiner
You can get very creative on SM and carried away! It can become a full-time job. You’ll realise the things that earn you more followers and ‘likes’ vary from one platform to the next.
Generally, animated graphics are the most shared images on SM, followed by infographics, hand-drawn images, and then photos. On Twitter, quotes to get the most ‘ReTweets’ while images with short captions, location tags and the ubiquitous #hashtag on Instagram, are a great way to get your content found on streamlined searches. It’s a popularity contest out there – prepare to get your hands dirty.
You’ve got to seek out that #love: tag existing clients or influential personalities or industry peers, so that they can spread your love and take your brand further. Engage the multitude of travel bloggers to talk about you, quote them and get them to quote you. First prize is getting your clients to review your products on SM – nothing is quite as influential to other travellers as an easy-to-find review of your products posted by a satisfied client.
Every other traveller is an amateur photographer, with gadgets like GoPro and the popular selfie stick increasingly becoming staple travel accessories. There’s tremendous marketing value in selfies and real-time videos, called UGC in the industry (User Generated Content). Basically it’s your clients doing your marketing for you. And they’re mostly using their mobile devices to do that. You’ve got to jump on that gravy train to capitalise on the momentum immediately when that great, positive content is posted. And if you’re really lucky (or fabulous at SM), a special moment gains traction worldwide when a post goes ‘viral’ – that’s SM superstar status.
The Need for a Mobile strategy
The power of compelling images and words conveyed on a digital device cannot be exaggerated. It is a convenient and portable format with recurring impact. It also empowers a consumer to interact with content, provide live, immediate feedback and potentially impact directly upon a product.
…with 75% of search and 51% of revenues expected to come from mobile devices in 2016…hotels targeting business travellers, millennials and connected travellers ought to have a proper mobile strategy in place.
Millennials are an important group to look out for as they’re set to dominate as hotel consumers towards 2017; and they, in particular, crave personalised services provided by mobile devices and applications. It’s been found by several studies that apps like check-in and e-menu are big motivators when deciding where to stay. Good quality content is required in real time across a healthy mix of online marketing channels, that should be accessible on all devices for optimal convenience.
Your relationship with your clientele is key. Get them involved as your brand ambassadors.
Some 2.4 billion minutes are spent every year in the UK on digital travel content, an increase of 44% between 2014 & 2015…1 billion of those minutes are on a mobile device…92% of those consumers are tablet users.
What’s your share of that research time? If you’re throwing your lot in with OTA’s, it’s got to be with the understanding that you may be sacrificing some of your control in the process. Having independent hotel reservations technology empowers you to manage and control your pricing, inventory and business intelligence better. Less revenue is lost in commissions. But that’s up to you. Either way, competing with the online booking machine monster requires that you have a strong online presence.
SaaS (Software as a Service) is a growing requirement for the hospitality industry – it offers a cost effective option as there are generally no initial hardware costs involved and no need for full time IT staff to maintain the system.
Or imagine how useful it would be to track the analytics behind a Facebook app if you had one. Simply put, you have so much room to manoeuvre and options to play with.
Unlike Bessie’s B&B all those years ago.
Bessie’s B&B would’ve had to do a lot of things very differently if they’d wanted to survive today. Sophistication in a traveller is not something that has to complicate our lives – we have to and can move along with the times. A simple appreciation of the technology we have at our disposal brings us closer to our travellers/clients.
That’s what they’re expecting of us.
The personal touch has moved on from the mint left on the pillow and into the realm of the digital device.
If only someone would invent a time travel app so I could go back to Bessie’s B&B and show her how enticing an iBrochure looks on my tablet. And, of course, the recipe for a full English breakfast.