With constantly evolving travel trends, the importance of online guest engagement for hoteliers is stronger than ever. It is highly essential for hoteliers to stay engaged with their guests, from planning stage to post-trip analysis – and everything in between.

When it comes to brand affinity and customer loyalty, it is essential to engage at each level of the customer journey. Research has shown that there are four main phases in the booking journey for a traveller: dreaming and planning, shopping and booking, the trip itself and post-trip. Today’s tech-savvy mobile-first travellers are looking for personalised content that is relevant to their preferences; noteworthy given that Dubai mobile demand was up almost 35% year-on-year during the third quarter of 2017.

Nearly a third of travellers use an online travel agent (OTA) during the consideration phase; they want to imagine themselves in a destination. Tailored guest-related tools enable hoteliers to stay ahead of the curve, helping them to inform, influence and engage with travellers throughout their journey.

The research found that, on average, shoppers reviewed 35 property photos on mobile and 75 property photos on tablets. It’s essential for hoteliers to use this to their advantage to attract travellers visiting an OTA site. They are a treasure trove of compelling imagery, robust hotel descriptions, information and local insight — all of which help to influence a traveller’s hotel booking decision.

Story continues below

As travellers narrow down their options in the booking phase, hoteliers need to account for diverse needs and budgets. They can attract more travellers and increase the likelihood of converting a booker by offering a variety of room types and rate plans. Understanding the market and offering competitive rates and availability can be what helps travellers make that final booking decision.

Success! The booking has been made. The hotelier can now begin delivering on guest experience by initiating a dialogue before the guests even arrive. With tools such as Conversations, they can create first impressions and set expectations with custom welcome messages or check-in instructions. The tool allows hoteliers to acknowledge, confirm, and manage special requests and provide information about the property’s offerings helping to enhance engagement. Active engagement not only increases the likelihood of guests returning by 40%, it also drives incremental profit: a recent Gallup study showed that engaged hotel guests spend about US$588 (about AED 2,200) per visit versus the average guest who spends only $457 (about AED1,700). What’s more, properties that respond to real-time feedback can see post-stay review scores that are up to 10% higher than those who do not respond.

During the post-trip phase, travellers want to relive their experiences by posting on social media and leaving reviews – positive and negative. Understanding the role of reviews and their impact on a hotel’s online reputation is imperative for hoteliers. Online reviews provide actionable insights on what guests think of a hotel, but they also help inform decisions for potential guests, and may be the tipping point between consideration and booking. Research has shown that 49% of travellers won’t book a hotel without a review and most travellers read six to 12 reviews before booking. Guests should be encouraged to write verified online reviews after they’ve checked out.

It’s equally important for hotels to respond to questions and concerns in reviews. In fact, 62% of users say that seeing hotel management respond to reviews generally ‘makes me more likely to book it’ and 87% of users agree that an appropriate response to a bad review ‘improved my impressions of the hotel.’

Engaging content, competitive pricing strategies and improved reviews can be tracked on a data-driven basis, with hoteliers successfully using these tools to overcome issues that may previously have been barriers to booking for prospective travellers.

About the Author: Paula De Keijzer is the senior director market management for Middle East, Africa, Greece & Turkey at Lodging Partner Services, Expedia Group. To view the full whitepaper please visit: (English) http://bit.ly/2FY80el and (Arabic) http://bit.ly/2EQb5h9.