Expedia's Andrew van der Feltz talks traveler habits, what to learn from them

Expedia Media Solutions’ latest white paper, Multi-National Travel Trends, is a study of the online travel consumption habits of consumers from eight countries worldwide. While HOTEL MANAGEMENT has already offered a glimpse at the travel habits of French, German and U.K. travelers in our last look at the first iteration of the study, here we again speak with Andrew van der Feltz, director, EMEA & APAC at Expedia Media Solutions, about the travel planning and purchasing habits of Australian, Canadian and U.S. travelers, and how hoteliers can best leverage that data.




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HOTEL MANAGEMENT: What key differences between these three groups of travelers should hoteliers take note of and why?

Andrew van der Feltz: Interestingly, travelers from the U.S., Canada and Australia have some unique similarities, despite cultural and geographical differences. Of the three groups, U.S. travelers take the most trips (four or more trips per year), but trips are often less than one week in duration. Australians take more than three trips per year, but they maximize holiday time by taking lengthy vacations – averaging more than 10.5 days. Canadian travelers take the fewest number of trips, less than three per year, but make up for it by taking slightly longer trips – nearly nine days in duration. And while U.S. travelers are more likely to travel domestically, nearly 60 percent of Canadians and 45 percent of Australians traveled outside of their country. Keeping in mind that travelers are maximizing their vacation time and budget, hotels can consider promoting package deals or discounted rates for stays over one-week in duration.

We also found that visiting family resonated with U.S., Australian and Canadian travelers – large countries where families may be scattered throughout – and more than 50 percent of them reported taking a trip to visit family in the last year.

Despite the growth of the sharing economy, hotels are the top accommodation choice globally – at least 50 percent of travelers from each country stayed in a hotel on their last trip. And while as many as 20 percent of Australian travelers stayed with family or friends on their last trip, more than 60 percent stayed at a hotel or resort, so there is still a significant opportunity for hotel marketers to reach and influence travelers from these countries. Hotels should highlight on-property activities and restaurants, particularly those that are family friendly, as well as local-area transportation options, nearby sites and activities and family deals.

The data also revealed that U.S. and Canadian travelers allocate the largest percentage of their budget to hotels – more than 25 percent, so hotel deals and promotions are especially important. In Australia, not surprisingly, budget allocation for hotels is second only to flights.

HM: Could you talk about some broad strategies for dovetailing deals with activities? Can value be tied into the promotion of activities?

AF: Deals are phenomenally important, but they have their place in the travel hierarchy. Earlier in the travel planning phase, experiences and activities are prioritized over price and deals, so content and information around activities should be tied to the consumer experience to create a stronger emotional hook. The more rational side of planning, such as budget, happens closer to the conversion phase, so messaging around discounts and deals can be a secondary message.

Knowing that travelers from the U.S., Canada and Australia are taking trips to visit family, sight-see and relax, hotels should promote activities and offerings that align with the traveler priorities, and integrate a discount or deal to help at the point of conversion. For example, if a hotel offers on-property activities for all ages, and these activities include free drinks or meals, there’s an inherent opportunity to speak to the value of the overall experience. Or, if your hotel offers a discounted price on popular attractions or activities, speaking to the overall savings or value for a family of five is a great way to connect with travelers both emotionally and rationally.

HM: Travelers from all three of these countries are among the most receptive to destination inspiration. How can hotels capitalize on this and what platforms would you recommend as being best suited to this?

AF: For many travelers in the inspiration phase, they already have in their minds what they want do, but they just don’t know where they want to do it – so they’re visiting multiple sites looking for inspiration, including OTAs, hotel and airline sites, travel review sites and social media. So rather than focusing on one specific channel to reach your target audience, it’s really more about ensuring you have inspirational and relevant content across all channels in your marketing mix.

We know discounts and special offers strongly resonate with travelers from the three countries, so this can play an integral role in your larger content strategy, to inspire travelers’ destination and trip decisions. Reviews and photos also resonate with travelers from the U.S., Canada and Australia, so ensuring that your hotel has a strong review program and a robust photo or video content library with property information is another way to inspire travelers' destination and hotel selection.

From there, hotels should think about their targeting strategy and how different channels, platforms and partnerships can help them reach their priority audiences. Targeting will of course vary by region, country and generation.

HM: According to the white paper, these three sets of travelers are most active on their smartphones during the actual trip. Moreover, they’re booking primarily via OTAs. So is there opportunity for hotels in considering travelers’ mobile device usage?

AF: What we see in the data is multi-device usage across the three countries, but from a convenience perspective, consumers are still dominantly using their desktop or laptop to book. On a computer, it’s a larger screen, and likely an interface they’re familiar with – which is important when you think about travel as a time-consuming purchase.

As travelers move throughout the booking journey, they utilize various devices and resources, and mobile has a more prominent role during the inspiration phase, and of course during the trip. While OTAs are prominently used for planning and booking a trip, hotel sites are still a valued resource. Across the three countries, nearly one-third or more of travelers used a hotel site when planning their last trip, and one-third or more of travelers used their smartphone when looking for trip inspiration, so while mobile-first may not be the most important consideration for hotels, a multi-device strategy is still key, particularly when you start looking at targeting and engaging travelers by generation.

Anecdotally, mobile devices are used first in certain markets, like Brazil and China, and desktop seems to have skipped an entire generation all together, so there are nuances, which is why we look at this data as directional.