Hotel Marketers to Use More Online and Social Media to Reach Travelers

Travelers rely on multiple information sources when planning where to stay on a business or leisure trip. As online resources and social media have grown more popular, operators want to know which sites are attracting travelers and why. The Cornell Center for Hospitality Research has studied this topic and published data that explains where travelers are looking  for information and how behavior differs between genders.

The study uncovered key differences between business and leisure travelers when it comes to using sources to find information on hotels. Businessmen and women rely heavily on  search engine sites such as Bing, Yahoo and Google. They are also most likely to use sites recommended by their employers. Men edge out women slightly in their use of search engine sites, travel related websites and travel specific sites like Expedia, Priceline and Kayak. Women show more tendency to use social media sites. Although social media is ranked near the bottom of the list of influencers, less than 20%, women turn to Facebook and Myspace at a higher rate than men as they look at reviews.

Leisure travelers, especially women, turn to friends and families for hotel information. Nearly 60% of women and 50% of men rely on this source. The next most popular information sources were search engines, meta-​search sites like Priceline, and  travel related websites, all counting as influencers at least 40% of the time.

Business owners of all types worry that opening their sites to reviews will result in an oversupply of negative comments that will impact future revenue. How big a problem do operators in the hotel industry face when it comes to comments? The Cornell study found that women are slightly more likely than men to post any comments at all. Overall, nearly the same number of visitors, ranking 3 out of 5, say they would post both a positive or negative comment after a hotel stay.  The likelihood of posting comments seems to be positively correlated with the type of hotel visited. Consumers staying at luxury or 5‑star hotels say they are more likely to post comments.

Women are also more sensitive to negative comments and on a scale of 1–5, women give a grade of 2 when saying they would book such a hotel. Men give a grade of more like 2.25 when considering whether to stay at a hotel with negative comments.  Not surprisingly, women give a grade of 4 when considering whether to book a mid-​range, upscale or luxury hotel with positive reviews and slightly edge out men in this case.

The bottom line from this study seems to be that travelers consider a number of sources when selecting hotels. For many, online search engines and recommendations from employers/​friends and families help move travelers from early stage to late stage decision making. But for female travelers, social media is playing a role in deciding where to book an overnight stay. Hotel operators should pay attention to positive and negative reviews and take steps to encourage recent visitors to post positive reviews in order to boost business.

[Source: How Travelers Use Online and Social Media Channels to Make Hotel-​choice Decisions. Cornell Hospitality Report. December 2010. Web. 12 Jan. 2011] 
Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.