This is what hoteliers need to focus on to drive business

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The U.S. hotel industry is still trying to adapt to an increasingly mobile marketplace—one that is hyperfocused on online reputation management and digital marketing strategies that will drive the best return on investment. That can be hard work for an industry that is notoriously behind the times when it comes to technology and as segmented in the digital sphere as they come.

Recent research from TripAdvisor and Ipsos Mori broke down the top concerns and areas of focus for the travel sector, including hotels. The companies asked travel business owners and operators about the key industry trends that are top of mind this year. The biggest finding? Hoteliers are concerned about their online presence and how to use mobile and social media to attract their target customers.

Here are four things to know from the resulting "2018 Hospitality Sector Report:"

1. Adapt to a Growing Digital Marketplace

U.S. hoteliers are in the thick of an ever-growing digital space, but they do recognize its importance. Of those surveyed, 87 percent said that having a mobile-friendly website or app is important. Meanwhile, 71 percent of respondents said that taking bookings online is important.

Researchers note that the results complement the latest internet trends report from Mary Meeker, a partner with venture capital company Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which found that consumers are increasing their mobile and internet usage faster than advertising dollars can keep pace, opening up a $7-billion mobile advertising opportunity for businesses.

Hotelier Tip: Do a better job conversing with customers on social media and make sure your website stands out—thinking mobile first to satisfy Google algorithms—in order to drive online bookings.


2. Online Reputation is Critical

It’s no surprise survey respondents answered that maintaining a positive reputation online is key to success. Of those surveyed, almost all (97 percent) said online reputation management was important to their business, and 98 percent said online reviews were important. Additionally, the vast majority (92 percent) said social presence was important to their business.

Hotelier Tip: Yes, online reviews are important—but equally important is whether you are responding to reviews. For example, hoteliers who respond to online reviews receive 12 percent more reviews and their ratings increase an average of 0.12 stars, according to recent research. So, don’t leave a review unanswered—positive, negative or neutral.


3. Choosing the Right Channels Still Key

U.S. hoteliers understand that staying ahead of online marketing opportunities continues to be imperative, with 89 percent saying it’s important to keep up with online marketing. Additionally, 80 percent of respondents said that working with the right online marketing service is important.

Hotelier Tip: Search-engine optimization might be old hat, but if you haven’t seriously thought about it lately, you’re already behind the curve and you’re probably sending bookings to the competition. Likewise, if you aren’t using marketing analytics, then how can you ever realize opportunities? It’s true that digital marketing is a huge expense, but a good strategy needs to be in every hotelier’s toolkit—so here are three tips to increase the ROI in today’s digital world.


4. Top Areas of Focus

There are three areas that U.S. hoteliers are focusing on this year. Is it time you focus on them, too?

  1. Customer service and retention: 27 percent
  2. Staffing: 25 percent
  3. Marketing efforts: 20 percent

Hotelier Tip: Labor issues have been and continue to be a top concern for the industry, and they make for a challenging time to operate a hotel in the U.S. right now, especially when guest loyalty is changing. Start small. Focus on one area of your staff, such as your front desk, and inspire them to focus on customer service. Your team is the face of your hotel, and it can make or break guest loyalty and retention. Encourage team members to get their names in TripAdvisor reviews—in a good way. After all, to ignore TripAdvisor is to ignore its economic impact.