WIHP’s 2013 Direct Bookings Survey

Leading online hotels marketing firm WIHP (World Independent Hotels Promotion) has just released their 2013 “Direct Booking Comparison Analysis. This latest direct survey of some 15,000 plus hotel guests offers a clear snapshot of guest booking decision making.

Over the last three years WIHP analysts have ferreted through so-called Big Data in an endeavor to fully optimize marketing strategies. During the same timeframe, the marketing agency has also directly polled and surveyed over 40,000 hotel guests, and published the key decision making facets of how people interact and book through a hotel’s website. This year there are some standout discoveries.

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Back in 2011 WIHP discovered just how impactful so-called “word of mouth” was in the whole “direct booking” scheme of things. Friends and family played a major role in the booking process back then, as well as today.

Then, in 2012, those surveyed showed clearly the OTAs gaining market share even for driving direct bookings to hotel websites. The “billboard effect” so long discussed, actually plays a huge role in the overall decision making process. Fully 24.82 percent of direct bookings could be attributed to the “billboard” trend (see graph below).

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This year’s surprise is TripAdvisor emerging as the dominant channel for direct bookings, even atop OTAs and friends and family. We can tentatively attribute TripAdvisor’s moving ahead of the pack of typical OTAs to a dynamic shift in their strategy, one of increased friendliness for independent hotels. Allowing for direct booking via TripAdvisor use, this is the largest common denominator of direct booking success the WIHP study reveals. Below are several key decision drivers worth mentioning.

  • On the general question; “How did you find your hotel?”, the biggest changes year on year showed TripAdvisor’s gaining 2.2 % and moving up to the third position just behind Friends and Family and the OTAs.
  • Interestingly too, Travel Agents are moving up, which indicates lower rate parity between GDS and hotel websites.
  • Social Media doesn’t factor atop our list of key variables for direct booking. As we have indicated several times there are two aspects to this. First off Social Media isn’t a good marketing tool, but it’s a great public relations tool and hotels must use it as a channel to communicate to guests and potential guests. There’s also a lot more work to be done in understanding how social amplifies some of these other categories.

Finally, while Friends and Family lost a fair share of its influence as a stimulus it is also very likely that sharing one’s stay on social media is being recorded in the guests minds as Friends and Family and not social media. Just like nobody is saying they heard about the hotel from emails.

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