The international travel market is of course, by nature, very complex and diverse. However, international travel is a universal activity that almost every human with the means to do so enjoys. Either that or it becomes a necessity for them if they have to travel for work or to visit family.
There are many reasons people travel internationally and that’s why it’s such a growth market, and such a valuable one for many hoteliers.
Attracting international travellers to your hotel may differ in difficulty depending on what region and location you’re located in. By the same token, the level of prioritisation you give to capturing international travellers will also be impacted by these factors.
If you are a property that relies on international bookings or wants more global traveller bookings, you need to tap into the motivations, behaviours, and preferences of travellers around the world. Given how many countries and cultures there are in the world, it becomes a huge task to understand who you should be targeting and exactly how you should communicate to them in a way that convinces them to stay at your hotel.
This blog will try to give you as much information and advice as possible on international travellers and how you can get more of them through the doors of your property.
Table of contents
How are global travellers changing?
As international travel continues to increase, travellers also continue to evolve in the way that they plan, research, book, and experience travel.
Technology plays a major role, especially if it maintains its accelerated state of development and society becomes more sophisticated and more accepting of alternative lifestyles.
Travel is undertaken for many reasons and is instigated by many sources of inspiration and motivation. The way travel is planned, booked, and experienced can change from individual to individual, but there are still defined groups hotels can focus on to develop strategies and create the personalised service all guests seek in a trip.
The new travel experience
In an era where the impact of technology and data has never been larger, it should be easier for travellers to navigate the maze of destination and booking options to make the right travel choices and be more satisfied with their trips. In the same breath, there should be more opportunities for travel marketers to apply specific, personal, strategies and make dramatic increases in conversion rates and optimise guest experiences.
These days, some travellers will prioritise technology and personalised service, while others could grow to see it as a hindrance to their experience.
The types of services offered to travellers will be impacted by technological advancements in artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing and virtual reality. But ultimately, travellers will still have the same human needs as they have always had – it is their purchasing behaviour that will vary.
New Hotel Guests #1
The Simplicity Searchers
The first group are travellers who want their trip planning and booking to be as easy and seamless as possible. If this means handing over responsibility to third-parties to organise their travel, so be it.
Generally holidays are rare for this tribe and are treated as an opportunity to pamper themselves. This is why they feel no need to invite extra stress by insisting on managing every detail on their own.
They’re happy to try new experiences but only if safety and satisfaction can be assured by the additional benefits of homely comforts that allow rest and rejuvenation. It’s believed this group will be money-rich but time-poor and mostly likely suffering burnout from their daily lives.
This group will be extremely open to bundles and packages; anything that reduces the hassle of involved in booking a trip and offers a one-stop-shop experience.
New Hotel Guests #2
The Reward Hunters
To this tribe, travel is an opportunity to undergo personal growth and enlightenment. This could mean enrichment in mental health, physical health, spiritual health, or anything else that centres on the ‘self’. They will see their trip as a well-deserved treat that is most likely to involve a retreat of some kind or travel focused specifically on wellness.
Crowds and the most popular tourist spots don’t appeal to this group and they actively avoid mass-market offers. Instead they prefer to look for special or rare experiences.
Technology is also something they won’t want to be a slave to so they’re more likely to use it at the start of their customer journey than any other.
This group will be more than willing to provide data that can be used to personalise hotel offerings.
New Hotel Guests #3
The Social Capital Seekers
These travellers choose their destination based on the opportunities to capture and share social media-worthy experiences. For them, travel is an activity that should be done to fulfil personal goals and something that is treated as a must-share endeavour, rather than a private getaway.
They are not restricted in their journey and are always open to accepting new services, providing they increase the chance for social capital gain.
Obviously technology is their friend and they’ll embrace it at every opportunity, including advanced features like Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR).
Creating a sense of scarcity will continue to work in the future. Any product that is limited, rare or expensive will be in demand by this tribe.
New Hotel Guests #4
The Cultural Purists
Cultural purists want to immerse themselves in the new and unfamiliar to explore different ways of living. Getting off-the-beaten-track is very popular with this group.
They put little emphasis on planning, preferring to take a randomised approach to add a sense of adventure to their trip. Often they gather inspiration and stimulus from lifestyle media such as documentaries, YouTube, and blogs created by their peers.
Cultural Purists don’t want vast amounts of data used to personalise services. In fact, members of this tribe do not want their past preferences to guide their future plans. Flexibility and spontaneity are keywords when thinking about this group.
Sales channels are likely to remain similar to today. This tribe will avoid robotic channels and prefer the human touch.
New Hotel Guests #5
The Ethical Travellers
Conscience, morals, and core values based around political or environmental issues shape the travel of this tribe. Their ideal is to bring a neutral balance to the world by keeping the impacts of individuals under control.
This group will have concerns about the sustainability of their trip and the places they stay. Of course, some will see certain issues as more serious than others, be it a carbon footprint or political unrest.
Ethical travellers will have a firm grasp on their travel plans and will be extremely focused on knowing where their money will go and how their travel providers might use it.
Use social data and technology that uses this data to make predictions and build profiles. This will allow you to understand the nuances of these travellers and what issues matter most to them.
New Hotel Guests #6
The Obligation Meeters
This tribe are largely restricted in their travel choices. Whether they are travelling for work, medical needs, charity commitments, or anything else, they have less control over where and when they can book their trip.
Similar to ‘The Simplicity Searchers’, they will look to technology smooth the process of their entire trip. Also described as corporate travellers, they will still need flexibility in order to tailor their travel within defined budgets or other parameters.
‘The Obligation Meeters’ are uniquely balancing between freedom and restraint. Unlike the other tribes, they have a value-system from which it is relatively easy to infer preference; this tribe do not have a core value, rather, they have an objective.
Given how important timing is for this group, removing any anxiety around speed and convenience of booking will be of huge value to them.
One proviso: The more things change, the more they stay the same
They say food brings people together and research from Oxford University confirmed that communal eating “…increases social bonding and feelings of wellbeing, and enhances one’s sense of contentedness and embedding within the community”.
People will always love food and positive experiences.
Combine this with the relaxed and happy feelings your guests have when they stay at your hotel and it’s feel-good vibes all round!
Your hotel restaurant presents, not only an opportunity to delight your guests, but to also boost revenue and stabilise any cash flow fluctuations you might face thanks to seasonal demand.
Get your restaurant offering spot on and you can attract guests on an international scale and become a local destination in your own right.
Key tips for attracting international guests
International travel is now fully-fledged. Anyone can travel anywhere, anytime they like.
From 2011-2020, international travellers to the United States are expected to grow from 62.8 million to 90.3 million.
International leisure guests are usually more valuable to your hotel because they tend to stay longer and spend more, given they have saved up for several weeks of annual leave.
With the growth of global travel showing no signs of slowing down, securing international bookings is an absolute must for hotels that want to become profitable. There are some fundamental strategies you need to employ and some factors that may be holding you back.
As always, the key to success is in the details.
Here are five simple tactics to attract more international guests to your hotel:
#1 Increase your language and currency capabilities
If you don’t have multi-language and multi-currency optimised, it’s very likely you’ll experience a high number of abandoned bookings.
Guests may love the look of your website or property images, but if they’re unable to read about your features in their own language, or view rates into their own currency, they’ll quickly become frustrated and look for a hotel that CAN accommodate these needs.
Translating your web pages is not the only priority. To give international guests the full experience you may want to offer translated brochures or audio tours to give guests an idea of what to do and see during their trip.
Employing multi-lingual staff will also be a huge benefit. Communicating with them prior to their arrival in their own language will make them feel more comfortable. Then when your guests arrive you can ensure their trip runs smoothly and you receive positive reviews.
There are generally popular languages such as English and Spanish that you will want to cover but to help you decide which languages to translate you should use Google analytics. You can see which countries you’re getting the most views on your website from and start focusing on those key areas.
Knowing where the bulk of your international audience is from is important for all aspects of your hotel marketing.
#2 Stay active on social media
As with Google, Facebook can tell you where your followers are from. With this information you can start posting content to engage the target audience to want to attract, or use targeted ads.
You can be as generic or as specific as you want with your advertising, depending on what your goal is. For example, targeting females under 30 vs females in general.
You could even start making occasional posts in their native language to create a stronger affinity with them. Being active in general, with varied and interesting content, is the best thing you can do.
With over 1.5 billion Facebook users, who check their profiles on average 14 times a day, you have no limits on who you can attract to your hotel!
#3 Keep up-to-date with OTAs and maximise SEO
Obviously international travellers will research their trips via channels they’re familiar with. Making your presence felt on the local OTAs and third party sites of the travellers you want to target is vital. Again, you can analyse your traffic to see which regions you’re most popular with and redouble your efforts in that area.
The same goes for search engine optimisation. If organic traffic is flooding in from China, you should make it a priority to connect to Ctrip and start capturing the huge amount of potential bookings waiting for you.
#4 Partner with international websites and showcase your destination
Travel blogs and websites can reach far and wide, so it’s worth getting in contact with any that you think may prove useful.
By offering a free stay to bloggers, you can convince them to write a review of your location and property gaining you exposure in their own country and beyond.
Creating links with local publications can be a strong driver of international traffic too.
#5 Maintain your website and manage your reviews
Few things are more important than the overall aesthetic and functionality of your hotel website. If it looks old and is slow, guests will view this as a representation of your property and service.
This is especially important when international visitors are often coming from a location that expects an optimal experience online; such as China, which has very fast internet speeds.
Of equal importance are your online reviews. International travellers generally trust their peers so if your rating isn’t high, your bookings will suffer.
Do your best to manage online reviews by being responsive, calm, and patient.
#6 Target corporate and group bookings
Putting your hotel in front of as many eyes as possible is a good initial step. A global distribution system (GDS) is an extremely popular method of booking for corporate companies and travellers. The ability to link with hotels, flights, and car rentals in one simple interface makes it the perfect platform for that never-ending need of convenience. Properties can offer guests better value by combining accommodation, transport, and other travel plans into one rate. This is always attractive to business travellers.
A GDS will also give you the following benefits:
- A single point of entry to thousands of travel agents across the world
- Access non-traditional booking agents for last-minute stays
- Access to Fortune 500 companies
Understanding how business travellers make their booking decision is extremely useful for your hotel. Their preferences allow you to place a measuring stick to your property and see which boxes are ticked and which need work. Perhaps surprisingly, proximity of their hotel to their meeting far outweighs their desire to travel to and from the airport easily. The need for convenience is filtered throughout almost every statistic when it comes to business travellers.
It’s also very lucrative for you to open and maintain a relationship with an entire company. Keeping a company account on the books will keep your revenue strong, and increase the likelihood of capturing group bookings.
You need to identify your market and understand what groups your property will be able to accommodate. Only target who you have the space and time for. Once you know this, you can create fun and attractive packages for groups around team building, meetings, or conferences.
If you want group bookings, you have to establish a clear brand presence in this area. Highlight the most relevant features on your website including photographs and outline the most important details. For example, knowing indoor and outdoor seating capacity will be important to groups who are looking at your hotel as a potential booking, as will free WiFi and other resources for all guests.
To get a head start, you could make a habit of attending trade shows and travel and tourism events, where you’ll get the chance to meet directly with many key decision makers about the benefits of your hotel the next time they need to organise a business trip.
How to attract overseas guests from the corporate sector
If your hotel is located in or near any sizeable city across the globe, the chances are overseas guests who are travelling for business will come across your property’s website, online travel agent (OTA) profile, social media page, and more as they conduct their accommodation research.
There nearly 500 million business trips each year in the USA alone.
Reasons for overseas trips are often to attend a conference, speak at a summit, discuss deals with partners, inspect a worksite, foster relationships, or to establish new business opportunities.
Depending on the size of the company the business traveller will either book their transport and accommodation themselves, usually via online travel agents and hotel/travel websites – and organise their own itinerary – or their company will do so on their behalf through travel agents and global distribution systems.
The frequency, duration, and expenditure of these corporate trips – and the travel behaviour displayed by the guest – will be impacted by the particular industry, gender, age, and personal preference of the individual.
Business travellers are an increasingly diverse group and within this umbrella group there will be many different demographics that have varying requirements. For instance, in the future it’s likely that China will encompass the biggest proportion of business travel spend.
However, there are some common general needs for business travellers:
- Business travellers will commonly visit the same destinations each year, or even multiple times in a year, so they appreciate a flexible loyalty program.
- Business travellers are often short on time and will look for the most convenient and efficient options, so they’ll search for easy transport options, quick check-in/out, hotels that have adequate work spaces and WiFi, the convenience of a hotel gym, and healthy meals that can be enjoyed on the run.
- Customisation and personalisation is very important for a business traveller. They appreciate having their affairs in order meaning pre-stay communication, mobile check-in and room entry options, simple expense reporting, and proactive and responsive staff members are vital considerations.
- Business travellers expect high quality technology to be in place, both to help them book their trips and to utilise during their stay.
- People love mobile apps in general, and business travellers find them particularly useful to organise their trip, check details, or find help.
Business travellers want to stick to their everyday routine, while being extremely busy with the work purposes of their trip. This means they place a high level of importance in maintaining their normal diet, exercise, and off-work habits.
Let’s look at what business travellers look for in a hotel:
- 55% say mobile apps help enhance their time on the road
- 75% assert that access to WiFi is vital when they’re away from the office
- The same number say they maintain their diet from home or even attempt to eat better
- The ability to press their clothing, exercise, and eat a healthy breakfast is important to start their day
- Business travellers are usually equipped with at least four electrical devices – laptop, smartphone, tablet, personal groomer, etc
- 80% of business travellers get no more than eight hours of sleep, so they place a premium on being uninterrupted
- 69% say mobile limitations is the only reason they would book on another device
- When searching for a hotel 46% look for best value while 54% put the highest focus on being close to their meetings or clients
Additional features your hotel should have to increase your chances of capturing a booking include shuttle services for easy transport, accelerated check-in/out via mobile; office and workspace essentials like desks, stationary, and printers; an adequate number of power outlets, enough space and privacy, and access to leisure activities if they choose to extend their stay.
Read our complete blog on attracting business traveller bookings here.
The global impact on travellers by technology
Global travellers now prefer to make travel and hotel bookings via technology such as mobile apps.
Wait, do they? The answer is yes and it will only become a bigger yes in the future.
If the statement takes you by surprise, it probably means you’re in the majority of hoteliers who haven’t implemented a mobile app into their business strategy. While over 75% of properties concede the importance of an app, only a quarter are currently utilising one.
It’s no longer enough to simply have a mobile-friendly web experience. This is expected. Now, guests are excited about booking and managing stays on an app.
The travel industry is expected to contribute US$17.3 billion in global revenue by 2020. When every traveller is equipped with a smartphone, mobile app domination was bound to happen. The sheer growth of mobile traffic was a precursor to this reality. Even in 2013, around 40% of overall digital traffic was from a mobile device. Marriott International, forever at the forefront of innovation, immediately launched mobile check-in via their own app to compliment the mobile bookings they were already accepting.
Fast-forward another few years and 85% of travellers already use smartphones to plan their leisure trips with travel apps ranking seventh for the most downloaded category of apps.
For further evidence, consider these survey stats from Travelport Digital:
- 58% of people prefer apps to search for flights
- 53% preferred apps to find accommodation
- 82% of travellers said they will be downloading the same number or more travel apps than they did the previous year
- 35% like the immediacy of push notifications to keep them up to date
- 90% of travel industry professionals said they were investing in mobile in the coming year
- 60% of travel brands are looking to enhance or replace their app this year
Travellers prefer mobile apps to manage their trips because well developed apps make things quicker and easier. Convenience and personalisation is the order of the day and, while there may be warring debates about the role technology plays in optimising these desires, apps are proven to be effective in this area.
Here’s why app technology is such a boon for global travellers:
- Apps make bookings easy
With a travel app, it only takes a few taps of a finger to research accommodation, find reviews, check rates, and make a booking. With the easy user experience apps are famous for, most people could do it with one eye open.
- Apps simplify transactions
Paperwork is wiped off the map with mobile apps. Travellers can keep multiple documents including reservations, emails, tickets, receipts, confirmations etc. all in one place to be accessed at a moment’s notice.
- Apps are an attractive proposition for buyers
With growing number and popularity of apps, it means there’s a lot of competition between them. Travellers can carefully consider which one they want to use so often it may come down to what discounts or rebates suit them best.
- Apps improve service and communication
Industry apps provide customised services which include tour packages for different purposes and types of travellers. Travel agencies have become quite conscious in paying attention to the specific requirements and priorities of their customers. There’s also travel apps that include emergency help, such as in the event of a natural disaster. For visitors, knowing where to go and what to do could be lifesaving.
Many travel apps will operate in a similar way and, as stated, will make similar offers to remain competitive. So what can make your hotel stand out?
If all you’re giving travellers is a price it will be very hard for them to distinguish you from any other deal and therefore reduce the likelihood of them booking with you. Engage users with fascinating stories and beautiful photos of desired destinations. Wrap a compelling story around a hotel deal. The more you can tell them about what they may experience the more you can entice them to buy.
If your hotel can act as a local guide and give guests handy recommendations and advice, it will significantly improve their experience. This might mean informing guests of local dining options and giving directions to nearby attractions.
It’s important your app offers something exclusive for guests. For example, you might have a section where they can quickly contact the front desk or make requests, check the availability of amenities and make bookings, or accept offers like wine tasting or exercise classes.
Allow your app to stand in as the front desk
The more guests can do autonomously, the happier they’ll be when it comes to small tasks. Letting your guests check-in and check-out straight from their app is a good first step.
Give guests more control with their app
Instead of requesting certain things of your staff, it would be much better if your app could fulfil what your guest needs. Integrate the app so they can order room service, control room temperature, operate the TV and other technology straight from their mobile.
The global impact of voice, face, and emotional technology on travel
Science fiction is invariably based on real theory, and usually becomes reality at some point in the future. This is the case with technology such as voice, face and even emotional recognition. No longer will films be able to awe us with these features because they already exist in real life!
Human-centred technology like this is especially relevant to travel, something raised in Euromonitor International’s annual Top 100 Cities report. The research company proposes that both face and voice recognition, in conjunction with artificial intelligence, are set to see a huge rise in prominence. Beyond that, Euromonitor believes even emotional recognition may play a part in targeting travellers to help them make booking decisions.
Let’s take a look at the key advancements and potential uses for each piece of technology…
Facial Recognition: The promise of streamlined airport and hotel experiences
The global facial recognition market is expected to grow to almost $7.8 billion (USD) by 2022.
Facial recognition has the potential to significantly improve security and efficiency at both airports and hotels. If the technology can be implemented on a global scale it will forgo a lot of unnecessary paperwork and time spent waiting in line or checking-in.
Travellers will be able to move more smoothly through the various sections of an airport and then not only skip the check-in line at their hotel, but also enter their room without need of a key. On the security side of the coin, this technology will be extremely effective in picking up people who aren’t who they say they are or don’t have the authority to be in a particular place.
In many airports facial recognition is already being used and/or tested, such as in Aruba, Boston Logan, Singapore, and Dublin. Most of these cases involve passengers having their photo taken, their face checked against the image held in the biometric chip of their e-passport, or against an airline passenger manifest, and they move through the airport without the need for a manual identity check.
Voice Recognition: The promise of an efficient online search aid for travellers
With Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa making such a splash in the home device market, voice is seen as one of the next big frontiers of travel in delivering greater convenience for travellers and hopefully more revenue for travel providers.
Without the amount of data in the world, voice search has the potential to really narrow things down. Instead of a whole screen of information overload, a voice-based search will be designed to deliver a much more personal and helpful result.
By only delivering the most relevant and specific information to a traveller much time and confusion can be saved. This is where AI will play a large role, with the ability to analyse what data is useful in milliseconds.
Over time it’s hoped a traveller may only have to utter “I want to holiday in Sydney” and their mobile or other device will present them with a range of immediately helpful options.
Physical locations such as airports and hotels will also utilise voice in the way of concierges. An AI voice app will be able to guide prospective guests through their journey or hotel stay right from the palm of their hand. This presents a smarter and cheaper solution than a physical AI bot and Dallas/Fort Worth airport is already working in this space.
Emotional Recognition: The promise of a helping travellers experience the perfect trip
While still rudimentary at this stage, the potential for emotional recognition technology is very real.
Travelsify, an online hotel booking platform, is taking baby steps by allowing users to pick a hotel based on their mood or emotional state, rather than simply selecting from a list of amenities.
Expedia is another company that used sensors to assess the emotional state of its users, to develop strategies for better online conversion and customer booking experience.
Increasing international hotel bookings easily
Some international travellers want to spend their time in big cities and built-up areas – while many want to explore the entirety of what a country has to offer.
Even properties in remote areas may rely upon international bookings or want to try increasing their revenue from this market. One such example is Bullo River Station in Australia. Located within 500,000 acres of private countryside in the northwest corner of the Northern Territory bordering Western Australia, Bullo River Station is a picturesque escape to the true outback of Australia.
The property is surrounded by the coffee coloured waters of the Victoria River, encompassed by rugged hills telling stories through Aboriginal rock art.
Visitors are bound to catch a glimpse of the 9,000 Brahman-cross cattle along with wallabies, dingoes, wild buffalo, and a myriad of native and migratory birds, fish and, on the off chance, crocodiles.
However, the principle behind attracting new and ongoing business is the same for every hotel; work on increasing brand visibility and making it easy for guests to book.
You need to stay connected to the vast online marketplace where travellers are looking to book their next international trip.
- Stay connected to guests from the outside world with a modern channel manager that integrates with your booking engine to increase online exposure and capture potential bookings.
- Keep present an eye out for new customers by using an integrated channel manager to distribute and sell the most rooms possible through as many online channels as possible at the same time.
- Take around-the-clock commision-free online hotel bookings through your hotel website by using an online booking engine with multi-language and currency capabilities.
- Integrate your PMS with a channel manager eliminate manual entry of inventory and enjoy instantly updated rates, availability and special offers.
A channel manager really is the biggest piece of assistance you can get in attracting international bookings. Because a channel manager automates and accelerates so much of your work via a pooled inventory model and PMS integration, you can connect to more and more online travel agents without increasing your workload. This puts your hotel in front of millions more travellers than you could have reached without these connections.
Using a channel manager to list on as many OTAs as you like can also boost your direct bookings. In what’s known as the billboard effect, travellers may find your property on a site like Booking.com but then visit your hotel website and eventually complete their reservation there, saving you the commission fee.
Read a complete guide on channel managers here.
International hotel sales: Turning business into repeat business
Running any successful hotel is a bit of a cycle:
- The more guests you can attract, the more guests you can service with a great experience
- The more guests you give a great experience to, the more repeat bookings and increased reputation you get
- The more your reputation increases, the more guests you can attract.
Customer retention and repeat bookings are extremely important in maintaining a reputation as a great hotel. If you can get the same people booking with you time after time you can lay claim to that in your marketing. People don’t go anywhere else because you are the best. It’s also more likely that regular customers will recommend you and become free ambassadors, so the more you have the better.
Here are some tactics you can use to master the guest relationship and keep them coming back.
Send automated emails
Email is the best way to keep in touch with your international guests, since they will be overseas in conflicting time zones, making it difficult to get in touch over the phone.
Send automated emails through your hotel booking engine. Guests should hear from you before they stay and after they return home.
Here’s an outline of email communications to keep your guests engaged before and after their stay:
- Confirmation of reservation
This is an automatic email that is sent immediately after your guest enters their details to make a booking. A credit card is usually required, so this email is to reassure your guests their reservation was successful.
- Thank you
The tone of this email should be personal, showing guests that you appreciate their business and look forward to meeting them. It gives your hotel that personal touch and increases their anticipation for the trip. Send it about a day after they have made their reservation.
- Feedback request
Whether or not your guest has had a good stay at your hotel, you should be asking them for their feedback afterwards. Ask them if they have any suggestions for how you can improve.
- Special offers
Make sure each guest gets an email with a special promo code to get a dollar amount or percentage off their next stay.
Run promotions to past guests
Promotions and discounts can help encourage people to book with you and also helps generate buzz about your business.
They can also be a great way to remind travellers of the amazing time they had at your property – and the second time they can enjoy it at a discounted price or with some added extras. Amplify your promos on email and social media to drum up attention.
People like to feel special. The fact that you remember them and stay in touch will make them feel good, especially if you offer your ‘best’ customers the most luxurious perks, like free room upgrades or free spa treatments.
How to make solo travellers your international guests
Some demographics change the way hotels have to do business.
One group to focus on is solo travellers.
Today’s consumer is hooked on their digital devices, and increasingly relying on mobile technology to complete their daily tasks. Throughout these digital experiences, they are bombarded with more than 3,000 marketing messages per day.
So for businesses, including hotels, it’s important to develop a marketing strategy that breaks through these signals and stands out in the crowd. Hoteliers must focus on adapting their marketing plan in order to capture emerging digital-savvy audiences.
Who are the Solo Travellers?
Solo travellers are a growing market that seeks to use travel opportunities as a way to gain new experiences and connect with other people.
Approximately 25% of the population is never-married, divorced or widowed, and these people still want to see and explore the world around them.
By virtue of the fact they’re choosing to take a trip alone, solo travellers are unsurprisingly an adventurous group. In many cases, they are attracted to one-of-a-kind experiences that may have a significant impact on their life. For instance, tour operators in the United States noticed that many people are interested in taking storm-chasing holidays.
Appealing to these travellers who want to connect with others while trying something new can mean big business for your hotel.
According to Intrepid Travel the top 10 destinations for solo travellers are:
How are hotel brands responding to them?
Some travel industry businesses are noting a 50% increase in solo travellers. Brands are beginning to respond by creating welcoming and comfortable spaces for those who are travelling solo.
For example, some hotel brands are focusing on creating singles mixing areas and lively common spaces that encourage people to gather, interact and connect with one another.
How do you get them to book direct at your hotel?
Here’s a few ways to appeal to solo travellers and encourage them to book a room directly with you:
- Include aspirational images on your hotel website
High-resolution photographs of people actively enjoying your property will inspire the solo travellers who are visiting your website, and encourage them to book with you. This group loves to dream about their next holiday, and they enjoy flipping through photographs in a gallery.
- Inspire your guests through pre- and post-stay messaging
Communicating with your guests is critical to developing your brand, and the solo travellers, in particular, prefer to stay in touch. Use pre- and post-stay messaging in order to inform them about upcoming events and new specials. Remember, they’re all about the novel experience they’re going to have once they get to your destination.
- After they leave, contact them and encourage them to leave feedback about your property
Many solo travellers fall into the millennial category and their recommendations are taken very strongly by their peers and on social media.
Including plenty of information on your website is also essential for solo travellers, who will want to be in charge of their own trip and be well informed about where they’re staying and what they can do. You might even go so far as to include a solo traveller section on your blog.
By far the best thing you can do for solo travellers – and in general for that matter – is to fully integrate your hotel with the local community. Think about introducing new initiatives into your hotel, such as:
- Local cooking, arts, or exercise classes
- Package deals that include tickets to attractions and historical sites
- Making your hotel the start or check-in point of tours
- Hosting local performances
- Publish informative content on the most stunning natural wonders to explore, and restaurants to visit
When solo guests are at your hotel be sure to make them feel welcome by discussing their plans with them, and offer any advice or recommendations they might need. Travelling alone can be daunting so the more assistance you offer, the more comfortable and grateful they’ll be.
Single female travellers go international too: Here’s how your hotel can accommodate them
Single female travellers in particular are on the rise. The industry is increasingly starting to cater to independent travellers, making solo trips much more accessible.
Some of the most common activities for women (who make up a bigger proportion of solo travellers) travelling alone include:
- Signing up for free city tours
- Strike up conversations and meet locals
- Take their time and do more of what they enjoy
- Solo dining experiences
- Explore nature and more isolated parts of the environment
- Take a class – both in new and familiar areas
- Learning and cultural discovery such as museums and monuments
- Attend local performances
Women as solo travellers is a growing market. According to Solo Traveler World, 63% of solo travellers are women, with three main reasons for the journey:
- 46% said freedom and independence was the main factor in travelling alone
- 22% said they didn’t want to wait around for others
- 15% indicated they enjoyed challenging themselves and gaining confidence
Whether they’re travelling for leisure or business, solo female travellers will have specific needs their hotel should meet.
Here are some tactics to use so your hotel can attract more solo female travellers:
Be flexible around single supplements
A single supplement is a premium charged to solo travellers when they book a room alone since most accommodation is priced for double occupancy. Sometimes a tour company or a cruise etc. will offer room-sharing to avoid this supplement, but more than 64% of solo travellers aren’t happy with this scenario; they want their own room.
“I know a lot of hotels are phasing this out, but with the rise of solo travel, no one should be expected to pay extra for single occupancy,” says Gemma Thompson, author of the blog girlsthattravel.com.
Provide relaxed eating areas for solo guests
If you notice that lone travellers are frequently ordering room service, perhaps your dining room doesn’t feel comfortable to them.
“A not-too-formal eating area gets my vote. The last thing you want to feel when eating breakfast alone, is self conscious,” adds Thompson.
Music can help make a space feel a little more casual. Some lone diners may prefer to disappear against the backdrop of an open kitchen; some may relish the peace and quiet of a table tucked away. Don’t assume they want to eat at the bar – most don’t.
Make exploring easy for female hotel guests
It’s extremely frustrating, particularly to lone female business travellers who may only be able to explore in the evening, if they can’t get out and about safely.
“I don’t mind if the hotel is not right in the centre of a city, but it does need to be in a safe area and well connected to transport,” says Thompson.
Lone female travellers are pretty intrepid; a recent BookYogaRetreats survey showed that more than half wanted to learn about local culture, so be sure to provide reliable and safe links to any rural places of interest: food producers, nature reserves and so on, that aren’t on the tourist trail.
Make sure any lone guests take a business card out with them, to help them communicate where they’re staying to a taxi driver.
Provide branded bathroom products at your hotel
It sounds like a cliché, but women are more particular about personal care than their male counterparts, and importantly, more likely to share the provision of any perceived ‘treats’ on social media.
“Again, this depends on the level of the hotel but as shallow as it sounds, nice freebies do stick in my mind,” adds Thompson. “I remember getting a room upgrade once to a suite which was stocked with lovely Aveda minis. THAT was a great experience, and one which I tell my friends about.”
Powerful hairdryers should be provided in all rooms. Hyatt hotels have all manner of items that can be bought or borrowed from reception (yoga mats and light-up make-up mirrors are thoughtful examples), alongside a long list of complementary items.
Safety and discretion must be a priority
Offering women-only floors is a step too far, but offering rooms close to lifts and not announcing room numbers verbally is sensible.
Maiden Voyage is a website and social network, mainly for female business travellers, which ranks hotels according to amenities but also safety.
The Sofitel Le Grand ducal in Luxembourg, receives high marks because it has on-site secure and well-lit parking, as well as a 24/7 manned reception and room service delivered by female staff.
Comfort and pampering goes a long way
Women prefer their room to be more colourful, well-lit, spacious and comfortable in terms of sleeping. Comfort is key, with 73% of women stating that luxury linens, thick towels and other simple indulgences are among the three main reasons they chose to stay at luxury hotels.
Women also enjoy being pampered and they often look for spas or massage services to relax and refresh themselves.
Remember that the products targeted at solo female travellers should do the same thing products targeted at men do: solve the problems they need solving.
Tips on giving international tourists a great hotel experience
International tourists to your hotel will have certain expectations around the experience they’ll receive, and the experience they WANT to receive.
Giving them the optimal hotel experience means personalising your service to suit the individual. Treating a business travellers the same as a leisure traveller simply won’t work, for example.
You need to streamline the entire journey and delight your guests at every turn.
Once a customer has made the decision to book with you, your focus must shift immediately to make sure they are taken care of pre-arrival and at check-in. People anticipate their trip very strongly in the weeks and days prior to it so communication will help get them excited and ease any concerns they may have. App and email notifications make this simple and allow you to share relevant information and inspiration.
When it comes to check-in, a separate line for mobile check-in will facilitate a smoother process for all guests and a free meal and/or drink voucher will put a smile on their face as they got their room. To make things even more convenient, consider offering keyless room entry.
During the stay is obviously when you want to make an impression your business guest won’t forget. Everything starts with your hotel staff. Staff must be friendly, proactive, responsive, and resourceful if all the needs of a guest are to be met in a timely and satisfactory manner. No problem should be looked at as too hard or too large – hassle-free solutions are a priority.
Business travellers as an example
The relationship between a business traveller and their technology is extremely important, as is access to an adequate workspace. There needs to be an environment of connectivity between the guest and the hotel technology so they can use their own devices in conjunction with the TV, lighting, temperature control, and other features they find in their room.
Comfortable furniture and appropriate lighting is also essential for a guest who intends to work while in their room or in the common spaces of the hotel. With such a busy schedule, corporate guests may forget a thing or two so it’s prudent to provide complimentary toiletries and accessories such as hair dryers or clothes irons, etc.
The same principle applies at check-out as check-in. Make the process as simple as possible and if you send your guests away with the encouragement and expectation they’ll come back, they probably will. Just as importantly, if you give your corporate guests a great experience it could translate into some powerful positive online reviews.
Which region receives the most international tourists?
By sheer volume countries such as France, US, Spain, China, Italy, and the UK are always at the top of international tourism numbers.
However, the volume of international tourism fluctuates with the season, so at different times of year some destinations will be much more popular than the status quo might indicate.
For example, in December and the Christmas period, here’s what’s travellers in the regions are doing:
North Americans are looking to party towards the New Year with Cancun the most searched for long-haul trip.
This market is getting a head start on other travellers by departing within the first two weeks of December to hit the beaches of Cancun and Miami – although Mexico City and New York City are also popular destinations.
Jet-setters are visiting Bangkok most commonly, though for families and groups, destinations are extremely varied with American locations like New York, Orlando, and Miami featuring heavily.
Middle East & Africa
The largest contingent of international tourists are heading to London. Interestingly, if we focus only on Middle Eastern travellers, the Philippines becomes the most popular destination.
TripAdvisor always has its finger on the pulse when it comes to traveller behaviour and has identified what the preferences for travellers to the regions are right now.
Top five recommended Asian destinations:
1. Ishigaki, Japan
2. Takayama, Japan
3. Busan, South Korea
4. Phnom Penh, Cambodia
5. Nantou, Taiwan
Top five recommended European destinations:
1. Gdansk, Poland
2. Riga, Latvia
3. Rovinj, Croatia
4. Nerja, Spain
5. Catania, Italy
Top five recommended US destinations:
1. Kapaa, Hawaii
2. Waco, Texas
3. Wilmington, North Carolina
4. Bend, Oregon
5. Boulder, Colorado
What trends are global tourists engaging in?
Some trends can change like the wind, while others can stick around. It’s always important to look at trends from an analytical point of view and assess what impact they may have on your hotel and whether there is an opportunity for you to profit.
Global tourists tend to jump on anything new, but some fads continue to grow.
Wellness travel is by no means a new concept; wellness activities are almost as old as time but travel is seeing a rise in healthy travel trends from guests and hotels alike.
More people are looking for getaways that will revitalise them mentally, connect them spiritually, and revive them physically. And hotels are doing their best to meet the demand, creating a strong global movement for this type of holiday.
Traditionally, wellness travel would include spas, yoga, massages, and general relaxation but now there is a wide range of wellness travel categories for travellers looking to escape for many different reasons.
It may be they’re simply rundown by work and a hectic personal life, they might actually be suffering from some kind of illness, wanting to kick a bad habit, looking to bond with others, or on a personal mission to get the best out of their life and themselves.
Eight wellness trends of recent years:
1. Stop smoking retreats
2. Men’s health
3. Healthy mind and emotion healing holidays
4. Eat-well detox holidays
5. Zen and adrenaline
6. Family-wellness holidays
7. Workplace wellness
8. Eco-friendly wellness retreats
Hotels adapting to the wellness travel trend
Hotels across the globe are jumping on this trend to offer guests the same experience even when they’re in the city or on business. EVEN Hotels were one of the first to realise the huge revenue potential attracting people who wanted to stay focused on their well-being while travelling, but were having a tough time doing so. They viewed it as a complete shift in the mentality of a lot of travellers.
Other specialty brands such as TRYP, Westin, and Equinox were also part of the movement but more recently bigger hotels have taken on these retreat-like qualities.
Marriott hotels also introduced a healthy option for guests. Their ‘stay well’ rooms cost an extra $30 per night and offer air purifiers, organic mattresses, antimicrobial countertops, circadian mood lighting, aromatherapy, and vitamin C infused showers. Guests who book these rooms will also have access to the Stay Well app which includes a podcast for meditation, a tool to help with jet-lag, and sleep, nutrition, and stress management programs.
While many of the hotels employing wellness marketing techniques are quite unique to each other, they’re all an answer to the travellers’ increasing desire to maintain a healthy lifestyle whether they’re at home, on a holiday, or on the road for business.
The wellness traveller is a growing market that hotels need to take note of, lest they miss out on large-scale revenue opportunities.
Combatting the worrying workaholic trend
International is growing, yes, but in some countries such as the US people are actually travelling less in favour of work. Many fear if they take too much time off their job won’t be as secure, or they worry the job won’t be done well while they are away.
It’s likely hotels are already doing as much as they can to promote their property and their destination. However, there are some adjustments to strategy that may help arrest the slide in revenue.
- Tap into different demographics
If you’re a hotel situated in the United States and rely heavily on domestic travel you could be suffering. A report from the US Travel Association states the US travel industry is currently more dependent on domestic travel than it has been in the past.
Rather than washing along with the flow until it lets you go, you could attempt to escape the riptide by using a broader distribution strategy to connect to different online travel agents and reach new markets from around the world.
With more connections your hotel will be more visible and have more influence over potential guests from overseas. Alternatively, you might even find new markets within your own borders that haven’t been traditional guests of your hotel.
Some OTA channels are better than others at reaching niche markets and attracting specific types of travellers. It’s important to research which ones might be best for you if you’re looking to offset a slow period.
- Give incentives for travellers to stay longer
If you make an offer too good to refuse, chances are guests won’t say no, even if they want to. Obviously this shouldn’t come at a loss to your hotel but some offers can make a big difference to travellers and still fall within your budget margins.
If your regular customer base includes a lot of business travellers, offer discounts or extra perks such as a free massage or a drinks voucher to convince them to stay an extra night.
If enough people extend their stay, it will offset the lack of new traffic coming in and keep your revenue steady.
If families or groups are commonly staying at your hotel find fun activities to keep them around. Discounts for local attractions or recommendations for hidden gems could win them over for another day.
Ultimately, the workaholic trend will come and go like any other. But remember that despite this, recent times have shown an increasing willingness to switch off, get away, and truly experience something new. And that’s good news for hoteliers.
The niche groups that make up overseas tourists (plus one giant market)
There are countless demographics that will enter your hotel from overseas and your hotel should be able to service most of them adequately.
There are a few that fall into special categories – those people that your hotel may have to adapt to.
What is a flashpacker?
Exactly what it sounds like, a flashpacker is a variation of a backpacker who wants to get the best of both worlds. Traditionally, backpackers like to travel light, stay at very affordable accommodation, such as a hostel, and spend a lot of time socialising with other travellers.
Rooms are often shared and quite small depending on how much budget they have, but there is usually a large communal space like a kitchen or lounge where people can convene and swap stories or share experiences. The hostel is usually imbued with a design and theme directed toward millennials – the most common demographic for backpacking.
Flashpackers are slightly different. They might still be young but they may also be older generations looking to relive the fun of their youth, without the shared sleeping arrangements.
Flashpackers want the backpacking experience with the luxury of a comfortable hotel. While they want the convivial atmosphere, they also want some quiet downtime.
Flashpackers have largely emerged due to the changing face of accommodation. Many hostels are becoming more upmarket to cater for more than just students, and subsequently pursue a more profitable business.
Here are the best ways to entice flashpackers:
- Create a social environment
This is one of the key considerations for travellers who enjoy backpacking. Social interaction often appeals just as much as price. Try to promote your hotel as a social hub by maximising the potential for communal space or hosting social evenings in the bar. Think creatively, perhaps you could host a trivia night with restaurant vouchers for the winners.
- Give them freedom
Often flashpackers will want to operate on their own schedule, coming and going at various times. Make sure they have unrestricted access to all of your amenities. Consider putting on buffet meals included in the price.
- Refresh your design
One thing that excites travellers about hostels is that they’re theme is often very unique, energetic, and engaging. It makes a guest feel good to stay in a place that is both cool and comfortable. Think about your artwork, the colour of your paintjobs or wallpaper, and the furniture you use. Will it attract adventurous, sociable guests? Are your spaces bland or thought-provoking?
Remember that some flashpackers are people that travelled when they were younger and they want to do it again with less chaos this time around.
What is bleisure travel?
Bleisure travellers are the group who like to extend their business trip to indulge in some leisure time, and are now a prominent target for hoteliers.
While the term may have only been born in the last couple of years, the definition certainly isn’t new. Business travellers who add a day or two before/after their trip for leisure purposes are not a fresh market – but they are a growing one that’s here to stay.
To put it in perspective, Expedia reports 43% of all business trips, both international and domestic, are extended to include some kind of leisure activity. Additionally, leisure days now tend to outnumber work days on the average business trip.
The most popular bleisure activities include sightseeing, trying local cuisine, seeing culture and art. Often a bleisure trip presents itself as an opportunity for the business traveller to take a partner or family member with them, so it’s becoming a more sought-after experience.
What is a workventure?
Workventure travellers are generally more spontaneous and savvy than bleisure travellers, usually content to organise their own trip and do things outside the box.
These are the types of business travellers who will make a spur of the moment decision to stay an extra weekend after a conference, forego flying to commence their trip earlier and make it a road trip, spend money trying new things, or take another person along to make the most of the time in an exotic location.
There are a number of insights that also suggest workventure travellers are:
- More informed – They’re better at using technology, and much more likely to seek out knowledge about technology.
- Better at finding travel deals – They’re more likely to do research to make the most of their trip.
- More likely to make bookings after they arrive – They like to keep options open in regards to what kind of adventure or extra activity they embark on.
The biggest growing tourism market: Chinese travellers
Hotels don’t need to be reminded how valuable international tourists are – especially those from China.
Chinese tourists are consistent travellers thanks to their country’s strong economy, and with the volume of outbound guests, they’re a target for any hotel looking to boost occupancy.
Within the next 10 years China’s economy will only get stronger, and if your hotel isn’t already developing strategies to attract Chinese tourists, it absolutely should be.
We wanted to give hoteliers some strong ideas for enticing Chinese travellers, so we spoke to Justin Steele of China Ready Now.
Justin’s company specialises in helping hospitality businesses make themselves ready to attract and accept Chinese tourists.
There’s a strong distinction between western and Chinese travellers – and Justin says there are two main factors hotels must address when communicating to the Chinese market.
“The most important difference is language ability as most Chinese travellers are not as confident with their English. This means almost all pre-travel research will be done in Chinese, on Chinese OTAs and social media, especially WeChat. What very few hotels pay attention to is after their trip they will be leaving reviews on the same places. These online reviews can have a huge impact on a hotel’s reputation.
“The second difference is that there is no such thing as the single ‘Chinese tourist’. Chinese travellers are increasingly diverse in their incomes, budgets, ages, hometowns, interests, and travel motivations.”
Hotels looking to grow their popularity with Chinese travellers and cut a larger slice of the pie need to focus on these points. Justin suggests a concentrated focus on reviews and discovering more about each individual traveller.
“Hotels should actively encourage Chinese guests to leave reviews on booking platforms such as Ctrip, or even forums like Mafengwo and Qyer. It would also be worth performing an audit of your existing reviews to see what Chinese guests like about your hotel.
Online distribution requires a varied approach for Chinese tourists
We’re at a stage now where a one-size-fits-all approach no longer works. Hotels should strive to appreciate and celebrate the differences of their Chinese guests. Having information on-hand in Chinese to cater for their interests will be the difference between an average stay and an amazing stay – one that they post about on social media and tell their friends and family about.
Online channel Trip.com, has become the second largest OTA in the world with almost 80% of all online travel transactions in China leading back to it, according to Justin.
“It’s important hoteliers try to establish a direct relationship with their local Ctrip representative. However, there are many other Chinese travel platforms and medium-sized travel platforms may be able to offer better exposure through promotions or featured content.”
Chinese travellers respond to digital marketing and social media
Digital marketing and social media are repeatedly talked about as vital methods for hotels to improve their reach and booking potential. The impact is even more magnified when it comes to Chinese travellers, to the point where an absence of an online presence will put you out of the running for Chinese reservations.
Justin says social media engagement is a must.
“It’s hugely important from pre-trip planning, to when they are travelling, and finally in the post-trip period. A recent survey of young, wealthy Chinese travellers suggests that the top two sources of travel information for them are WeChat official subscription accounts and WeChat Moments.
“Another report commissioned by Destination NSW showed that four out of five Chinese travellers will post about their holiday experiences on WeChat as they travel.”
What features should your hotel offer to attract Chinese tourists?
This places an important focus on the type of content hotels need to be producing for Chinese travellers. Obviously it has to be helpful, entertaining, and highly shareable, but exactly what are Chinese travellers most interested in?
According to Justin, there are five popular areas of activity.
“The top activity is food and dining, followed by sightseeing and shopping. The fourth most popular are resort or beach attractions, with eco-friendly activities rounding out the top five. This is across all Chinese travellers and it might change if you’re targeting a younger audience.”
As for the hotel itself, the needs of Chinese travellers don’t differ all that much from your average guest. Justin states wifi access, on-site restaurants, and room service are the biggest priorities. However, there is a condition on the wifi.
“Importantly, the wifi should be free. In China, that has already long been the case (even at basic hotels). When Chinese guests stay at your hotel they’ll consider you to be lacking value if free wifi isn’t included. Think of it like this – why make it hard for them to communicate how great your property is?”
Hotels need to understand the diversity of Chinese travellers
Mobile payment is also becoming a desirable method of payment around the world, increasingly so in China.
“Hotels can take advantage of this trend easily, by incorporating payment gateways that accept the most popular mobile payment methods,” says Justin, “This is a great way to easily generate more revenue from in-house guests, as well as make check-in procedures faster and easier.”
The final takeaway, and perhaps the most important, is that even within China there is a huge amount of diversity, and targeting to China as a single entity would be a misjudgement, according to Justin.
“China is a country of 1.4 billion people and over 5,000 years of history. There are 33 provinces, municipalities, autonomous regions, and special administrative regions (SAR), and China shares borders with 14 countries – more than any other country in the world. The more you make an effort to understand China, China’s history and its modern development, the better placed you will be to relate to and cater for your Chinese guests.
“Mandarin is the official language, but various dialects are spoken throughout China – and some of these dialects should be considered entirely different languages. For instance, a person from Shanghai speaking their local dialect is going to be almost completely unintelligible to someone who can only speak Mandarin.”
- Attracting international travellers to your hotel may differ in difficulty depending on what region and location you’re located in
- The way travel is planned, booked, and experienced can change from individual to individual, but there are still defined groups hotels can focus on to develop strategies and create the personalised service all guests seek in a trip
- From 2011-2020, international travellers to the United States are expected to grow from 62.8 million to 90.3 million
- Increasing language and currency capabilities, staying active on social media, being strong on SEO, maintaining your website, and integrating with technology partners goes a long way
- Business travellers can be a valuable overseas market to target
- Global travellers now prefer to make travel and hotel bookings via technology such as mobile apps, with face, voice, and emotional recognition tech also making a splash
- To easily boost international bookings, use an integrated channel manager and online booking engine at your hotel
- Customer retention and repeat bookings are extremely important in maintaining a reputation as a great hotel – and for maintaining revenue
- One major travel group to focus on is solo travellers – including single female travellers
- You need to streamline the entire journey and delight your guests at every turn
- By sheer volume countries such as France, US, Spain, China, Italy, and the UK are always at the top of international tourism numbers
- It’s always important to look at trends from an analytical point of view and assess what impact they may have on your hotel and whether there is an opportunity for you to profit
- Chinese tourists are consistent travellers thanks to their country’s strong economy, and with the volume of outbound guests, they’re a target for any hotel looking to boost occupancy