What to expect and what to see in 2011…
In the first quarter of 2010, RevPAR increased around the world with the America's being up 5.3% according to Smith Travel Research (STR). In 2011, the growth is on trend to continue across the globe. It's obvious that, although today’s bookings aren't quite where they were at during the pre-recession days, the industry is slowly managing to crawl out of its slump. Which is good news for all of us!
With so much inventory on the market for rentals, competition remains strong and customers are becoming increasingly selective as they can. In order to take advantage of the upward trend, travel operators will need to be increasingly flexible in not only marketing their rooms, but determining what price their customers are willing to pay. Vacationers have a wealth of comparative pricing information at their fingertips with portal sites, ensuring that they won’t book if a hotel or vacation rental's pricing is too high. More and more, even a few dollars can make the difference between a customer booking and not booking with a property or company.
This year it will be more important to stay on top of your game in the online marketing arena and companies who do so and put their budgets into online marketing will reap the rewards in 2011 more so than any other year we've seen thus far. Gone are the days we'll be able to rely on direct mailings and a few postcards and we'll need to take every avenue to stay on top of the trends in online marketing.
Think about how Google's $700 million takeover of ITA Software, which will not only make the internet powerhouse a serious operator in the travel business, it will also rewrite the rules for bookings. As Google keeps its hooks in every inch of the internet, it will seed its travel offerings throughout the online space. It's very possible that starting as early as this year, web surfers logged into Gmail will be able to plan and book their entire vacation with a few mouse clicks inside the Google web ecosystem, making it much easier to do from anywhere, while on the go.
Mobile will also take a bigger role in 2011 than in 2010. Check your Google Analytics and pull last years data with mobile users compared to 2010. 2011 will be even stronger. Customers, particularly, business travelers, will make even more booking while on the road or in the air and as close as while sitting on the boardwalk outside of the hotel while sipping on a tropical cocktail. They have the chance to wait until the very last opportunity to grab the last minute deals in an arena where there's tons of inventory left and we're fighting for every dollar.
To top it all off, vacationers will be using more and better smartphone apps to sniff out available rooms and, crucially, the best prices on those rooms and rentals. According to Priceline, 58% of customers with mobile devices made their booking within 20 miles of their hotel where they ended up staying. More impressively, 35% of those polled were within one mile when they clicked on the “reserve this room” button.
Consumers have the power
We've been preaching it for years, but the recent boom in rooms and houses available to rent, along with the advanced OTA's and their ability to dominate the search engines, topped with the technology of smart phones and on-the-go research sets up an interesting arena for 2011. Driving your customer loyalty with programs and customer relationship marketing strategies will play a crucial role in this years marketing. A huge development just taking place has been American Airlines pulling form Orbitz and subsequently being dropped by Travelocity. American Airlines now relies on their own website to deliver the marketing message that they will find the best deals with AA. Even though they are driving down prices, they avoid the costs of placement and fees with the OTA's. Travel leaders will need to find their own solution to optimizing their bookings OTA's as well as their own websites. Increase customer loyalty through programs and interacting with social media.
With Facebook taking the lead over Google and other powerhouse websites at the end of 2010, we'll see a huge shift in the involvement of Social Media in your overall marketing mix. Sooner rather than later, the travel industry will find a way to book within Facebook and need to plan accordingly, before they lose out on valuable social media bookings.