Hotel Websites Don't Matter—and 3 Other Insights on Travel Booking Trends

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Sullivan's report includes data on hotel booking trends. Getty Images

As Airbnb continues to disrupt tourism and travelers seek out more unique, localized experiences, hotel marketers need to break out of industry tropes and adapt to guests' changing tastes. "Where They Go. Why They Stay," a new report released today by brand engagement firm Sullivan and qualitative research firm 20|20 Research, provides a look at travelers' decision-making processes and offers tips for attracting more guests.

Here are four key insights from the report.

1. Location is paramount.
When determining where to book lodging, consumers rank location above amenities, price and ratings. Hotel marketers should therefore note their property's proximity to a cultural landmarks or neighborhoods to gain more traction with potential guests.

"They should highlight their connection to the local community," said Lauren Walsh, CMO at Sullivan. "There's a desire to be immersed in experiences that are relevant to a particular area."

2. Reviews and social influencers have a major impact on booking.
Hotel marketers should incentivize more customers to write reviews, or partner with social influencers on marketing initiatives.

3. Hotel websites don't matter much.
Forty-six percent of travelers book via a booking engine, and none of the consumers surveyed for the report visited a hotel's website during the booking process. Hotels should focus on SEO/SEM too, because most hotel searches start with Google.

"Search is the front line on where people are seeking information to stay," Walsh said. "The power of information is shifting from the hotels themselves to third party sources, so the importance of getting in front of people before they start to narrow their search down is incredibly important."

4. Travelers don't care about your brand reputation.
The report found that hotel chains like Hyatt, Marriott and Hilton are still outpacing Airbnb in terms of bookings, but over the next year, consumers are less likely to book a hotel over an Airbnb or other homeshare service. Therefore, hotels should focus on the unique experience that their property has to offer rather than a brand statement.

"The definition of the hotel brand is taking on a lot of different forms. It still needs to be consistent to one thing, but you have the ability to tailor it to different people at different times," Walsh said. "You have to elevate aspects of the local culture, or buy the right search terms for that particular region."

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