Expedia’s Multi-Generational study has best practices for reaching European travelers

Image: ©iStock / oneinchpunch.

In May, HOTEL MANAGEMENT reported on Expedia Media Solutions’ study Multi-Generational Travel Trends, which found that a cross-section of age groups among 3,003 British, French and German travelers surveyed have a higher propensity to book hotels over alternative accommodations. But last week’s U.S. Travel Association report of increases in inbound travel make the Expedia study all the more timely.

With inbound travel up 5.2 percent in May over the year prior and 6.6 percent year-over-year in April, hoteliers should double down on outreach efforts for capturing more of this growing market of international visitors—and this study sheds some light on how and when to best access, communicate with and convert these European travelers.

“The path to purchase is a time intensive process and it’s also very conscious decision-making because of the financing of the trip,” Andrew van der Feltz, senior director, EMEA and APAC for Expedia Media Solutions, said. “It takes time to make the purchase, so there are a number of moments when the hotel choice can be influenced and this study gives them directional trends that provide approaches to various generations.”

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In Pursuit of Experiential Travel  

These Europeans averaged a 9.3-day trip on their last vacation and 60 percent travel internationally, while 65 percent travel by plane and stay in a hotel.

More notably, 86 percent look for deals, although experiences take priority over special offers. In fact, van der Feltz noted that a high percentage of all generations know or have a good idea of what they want to do on a trip, adding “conversely, two-thirds of all generations are unsure of where they want to go.”

In terms of marketing, hoteliers should consider positioning their properties as an extension of certain experiences. Hotel spas are a natural add-on to a relaxing getaway while hotels and kid-centric offerings are an inherent part of family vacations. Highlighting local attractions that are within close proximity to the hotel can also help attract culture-focused travelers.

But van der Feltz pointed out that location along with these types of hotel amenities should be at the heart of the hotel’s content. “I don’t think there’s any one-size-fits-all in marketing,” he said. “It’s about the objectives that any given hotel wants to achieve.”

Social Media Influences

However, among each generation compared in the study—Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers—there are noticeable differences in their travel mindsets, the nature of their trips, their priorities, resources and influences as well as the devices used in the planning process.

The use of social media in the path to purchase is one of the greatest distinguishing factors among the four age groups. More than 50 percent of both Generation X and Boomers can be influenced by deals posted to social media, also important to their younger counterparts.

Travel imagery, by friends and family as well as travel brands, hold the most sway over Generation Z who want both visual inspiration for their next trip as well as to gauge how suitable the locale for their vacation selfies. Van der Feltz suggested hotels targeting this age bracket include visuals of this younger generation taking selfies on location to illustrate that the hotel is a fit for this particular travel activity.

“This younger generation is more driven by social content as they live their lives through the eyes of their peers,” said van der Feltz. “The other generations are reading expertise from bloggers who have a more objective opinion rather than pulling peer-to-peer information.”

Nevertheless, van der Feltz advised making social media a fundamental part of a hotel’s marketing strategy, keeping in mind that it should be targeted accurately to each generation and that its role is more significant in the inspiration phase of the planning process and declines as travelers move closer to the purchase process.

Room images are also key since travelers will ultimately book a property based on what it looks. Rich media, including 360-degree property views, can be all the more compelling since it allows consumers to visualize themselves on property.

The Omnipresent Hotel

Generation Z and Millennials also use their smartphones in the inspiration phase as well as while traveling more than Generational X and Boomers, the latter of which has a greater tendency to use a tablet while traveling. As such, hotels should also take device usage into account when planning marketing programs.

“How you reach your audience most effectively is a fundamental part of any marketing strategy and travel suppliers should move with the times as mobile usage continues to grow with younger generations around the world.” 

Device usage is a particularly relevant consideration for hotels because it creates multiple touch points where consumers can learn about the property.

Likewise, a varied marketing mix provides consumers with multiple channels on which to book a property and OTAs were the preferred booking method for 50 percent or more of Millennials, Generation X and Boomers while Generation Z was evenly split between OTAs and search engines at 43 percent.

Reaching the three older age groups in the actual booking phase is a matter targeting of targeting the purchase-ready consumer, which van der Feltz said is done efficiently and cost-effectively by Expedia TravelAds, which raises a hotel’s ranking on the sites search results in order to make it more prominent. “By the time travelers reach Expedia sites, they’re a more qualified audience for the hotel than those sourced via Google AdWords,” he said.

According to van der Feltz, this Multi-Generational white paper is the first of a series that will be carried out to include travelers in other parts of the world, including North America.