Once upon a time, traveling internationally was a luxury few could experience, it was something only done by the ultra-wealthy or CEO’s of major corporations. With the development of discount airlines and technology advancements over the last decade, traveling across borders has become a reality for everyday people. According to the U.S. Travel Association, in 2011, 62.8 million people traveled internationally to the United States and that number is expected to jump to 90.3 million by 2020.
With travel to the United States projected to rapidly increase over the next 5 years, hotels should be doing everything they can to capture international markets. By being active on social media, staying up-to-date with OTAs, maximizing SEO efforts, and implementing link building strategies, hotels can capture this market with ease.
Social media has taken over the world and it seems that everyone uses at least one type of social media platform. To put this into perspective, according to ehotelier.com, there are approximately 1.55 billion Facebook users, and the average user checks their Facebook account 14 times a day.
Identifying where your hotel’s fan base dwells is the first step in using social media to attract international guests. Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics allow hotels to investigate what countries your audiences reside in. This information can be used to set up targeted ads. For example, let’s say that after looking at Facebook Insights, a Seattle hotel notices that 10% of their Facebook fans are Canadian. The Property could set up Facebook Ads specifically targeting people that live in Vancouver who are coming to Seattle for business. Make your ad copy catch the attention of these potential guests by offering free WiFi or a discounted room rate for Vancouver residents.
Facebook and Twitter Ads can be set up to be as general or as specific as the advertiser needs them to be, making it a great tool for hotels to engage with and grow their international audience. Your ad set could target women, ages 35-50, located within 25+ miles of Northampton, England who are interested in hotel spa packages. Alternatively, your ad set could target men and women, ages 18-65, that in England, and have expressed interest in holiday packages in California.
Another way to get those international travelers interested in your hotel is by creating engaging content for your social media platforms. Use this opportunity to showcase hotel packages and hone in on what is most important to your guests. Facebook Insights is able to show what languages your fan base speaks. If you see that a good portion of your followers speak Spanish, it would be a good idea to consistently create posts in Spanish to engage with Spanish speakers. Social media is a powerful tool and, if used strategically, you could see more engagement from the international community.
Identifying which Online Travel Agencies (OTA’s) a hotel’s target audience is most likely to use is another great way to attract overseas travelers. According to Little Hotelier.com, Ctrip is the most popular OTA in China for millennial travelers, while TripAdvisor.co.uk is a favorite among leisure travelers from the United Kingdom. Here is a list of other popular international OTA’s:
- Last Minute.com
Ensuring that your hotel has a presence on popular, international OTAs and that your information and photos are up to date will further enhance your chances of catching the attention of international travelers. Encouraging guests who have had good experiences to leave reviews on OTA’s will also help get your listing viewed more. On the flip side, it is important to respond to all negative reviews, guest’s want to see that a hotel cares about what they have to say and takes their concerns seriously.
Attract international travelers by employing a good old fashioned SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategy. By looking at which countries are already providing organic search volume on your site, hotels can then determine how they can grow their global audience.
There are a few Google Analytics reports that show where your audience is coming from. By navigating to the “Overview,” you can see the top countries your traffic is coming from and the top languages spoken by those visitors. Take this a step further by looking under “Geo Locations.” There are a number of elements in this report that will help you decide the best international market to target.
- Sessions: How many visitors are coming to your site from other countries?
- Bounce Rate: Are there countries that have a higher bounce rate than others?
- Pages/Sessions: How many pages on average are visitors viewing once they land on your site?
- Average Sessions Duration: How long are visitors staying on your site?
- Check Rate: Are visitors checking rate?
Let’s say after analyzing information from Google Analytics, your hotel has determined that they have a sizable amount of traffic coming from the United Kingdom. The hotel could generate more, high quality traffic that is likely to convert into booked revenue by creating a landing page with keywords that people in the UK commonly search for. While Americans might search for “vacation packages,” the British might be searching for “holiday packages.” Having a separate landing page featuring “Holiday Packages” could help increase organic traffic from the UK to the hotel’s website.
Partnerships and Link Building
Partnering and building links with international websites can be another powerful way to drive international traffic. Travel blogging has become a major outlet and many millennial travelers turn to influential travel bloggers for tips on where to eat or where to stay when they travel. For instance, your hotel has seen an influx of young, hip Berliners staying at your hotel lately and you want to attract more of these travelers. Do your research, who are the most influential travel bloggers in Germany? Often, for a fee or a free hotel stay, bloggers will write a review and link to a hotel in a blog post or on one of their social media accounts.
The more high quality links hotels have pointing to their site the better. A quality link from a trusted, relevant website can result in an increase of visits to your site and affect your ranking in google and other search engines. Search engines view sites with lots of high quality links pointing to them as an authority on a specific topic. For example, if you have several top tier travel bloggers or travel sites linking to your site, you will capture some of their traffic and search engines will see you as a trusted source for travel information.
Practice Makes Perfect
As international travel grows over the coming years, it will become increasingly important for hotels to reach out to their international feeder markets. These strategies are great ways for hotels to attract guests from all over the world. The commonly used saying, “Practice makes perfect” comes to mind when figuring out what strategy will work best for your hotel. Now, it is time for your hotel to begin researching your audience and determine which of the strategies we have outlined will fit best. When you are ready to increase the number of international guests at your hotel, Blue Magnet is here to help. Contact us and we can discuss the opportunities your hotel has in attracting international guests.