According to a recent survey by the World Tourism Organization, there were over 940 million international tourist arrivals worldwide in 2011. Almost 60 million of those travelers are coming in to the United States. This presents a huge market that hotels in the US should be sure to target in any online sales strategy. International travelers tend to book early, stay longer, and rarely cancel, all attributes that make international travelers ideal candidates for staying at your hotel.
In order to reach these travelers as they start their online planning, your hotel must make a conscious effort to target them in the channels they use the most. Because these travelers are coming from countries around the world it's important to note that they're not always going to use the typical online travel planning sites that we use here in the US. Some travel websites do have a strong international presence, but other sites may be specific to individual countries, while having little to no presense in others. For instance, while Google is the dominant search engine in the US, the Chinese rely heavily on a local search provider known as Baidu for the lion's share of their search queries, despite Google also providing Chinese search results.
Below are some of the most budget-friendly and ROI-producing strategies for targeting international travelers online.
Long term strategies:
- Local Attractions - International guests likely won't know your city very well, but they'll probably do plenty of research on local attractions they plan on visiting. Your hotel should partner with local area attractions for link building purposes and visibility. Make certain your hotel is featured as a recommended property on any local event or attraction that may draw an international audience. This will vary by location. For example, if you have a Seattle hotel, it would be important to be listed on the Pike Place Market or Space Needle website. For Chicago, top listing on the accommodations page for Navy Pier would be ideal.
- OTA Opportunities - Work closely with your OTA Market Managers to receive notice of any upcoming seasonal promotions. Expedia and other OTA’s email lists include an incredible number of travelers, both international and domestic, and being included on these promotions can greatly increase visibility.
- International Travel Sites - Ensure your hotel is live and optimized on the following international sites:
- Mobile - Ensure the property has a strong mobile strategy. Many Asian countries have a huge (and ever-increasing) mobile shopping base. Make searching for your hotel on mobile devices easy for these travelers and they’ll be more likely to stay with you.
- PPC on OTAs - Take advantage of pay-per-click listings on OTA sites. Expedia’s TravelAds program gives your hotel top listings on result pages, which is great for both branding your hotel and encouraging guests to choose your property over others. TravelAds only takes $500 to start and most hotels see a very healthy ROI from even the smallest bid. TravelAds will even give you more specific tips on how to target specific groups of travelers, international travelers included.
Short Term Strategies:
- Advanced Purchase - Ensure Advanced Purchase Rates are bookable on the hotel’s website. Most international travelers book 21+ days in advance and are looking for discounted rates since they typically plan to stay longer.
- All-In-One Packages - Build promotions to include transportation and meals on-site. Make traveling in a foreign country as easy as possible for your guests. They are likely unfamiliar with the area and would appreciate knowing they have backup transportation readily available if they struggle with figuring out local transportation options.
- LOS Packages - Ensure your hotel has LOS packages live and bookable on your site. These guests will want to stay to explore the area and LOS packages will keep them at your hotel as long as possible.
- Multilingual Website Options - Make sure your hotel website auto-translates to various languages, especially to accommodate your top international feeder markets. Your hotel fact sheet, or a one sheet document that gives the basics of your hotel, should auto-translate as well.
- Multilingual Staff - If you have multilingual staff on-site, say so on your collateral. Guests with limited to no English speaking ability will find comfort in having someone on property that speaks their language.
- Holiday Inventory - Always load inventory on OTA sites around the holidays. Europeans, for example, tend to take longer vacations in the summer months and around holidays.
Of course, the best strategies for targeting international travelers depends on your hotels market and top international feeder markets. With the number of international travelers consistently increasing every year, international travelers are a market you want to be sure to reach no matter what your hotel's size or location.