The guest booking journey can often be a long one, with a nonlinear approach taken by most travellers. However, in part one of our guest booking journey series, we discovered that choosing a destination is the first and most considered step in this process.
Expedia recently released the whitepaper ‘Destination Selection During the Traveler’s Path to Purchase’ detailing how British, American, and Canadian travel consumers choose their destination.
It was able to uncover exactly when the booking journey starts and what behaviour is exhibited throughout the process, giving hoteliers a clearer understanding of what inspires and motivates travellers.
For many, the excitement of planning a trip can equal that of actually experiencing it. With the dominant presence of social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, there’s no shortage of inspiration from breathtaking images and fascinating travel stories.
They also look to offline channels for influence, so knowing where travellers go for ideas will greatly increase the opportunity for hotels to influence their purchase decisions.
Where do travellers begin their booking journey?
More than half of travellers begin their planning with more than one destination in mind, and even in the week leading to a booking decision there are still multiple destinations under consideration.
This makes it clear that choosing a destination is a time-consuming process for a traveller and one that draws on many different resources. Without a predetermined destination, your hotel has plenty of chances along the way to influence the choice a traveller ultimately makes.
International vs domestic travel
The Expedia study found distinct differences between the three regions in this regard. Americans were twice as likely to search for domestic destinations, while UK and Canadian travellers were twice as likely to set out for international trips.
The data also made it clear travellers have multiple regions across the world in mind when planning their trip – with Europe the most popular ranking in the top three for American, UK, and Canadian travellers.
How do travellers make their destination selection?
In the seven weeks leading up to a booking, travellers log 140 visits to travel sites. That’s an average of 20 per week – demonstrating the intensity with which travellers plan their trips.
Online travel agents capture more traffic than other sites, accounting for around 33% of visits across all travellers in the study. Hotel sites were next with 17% of the share.
Travellers make as many as 140 travel site visits in the 7 weeks prior to booking.
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This represents a huge opportunity for hotels to put themselves front and centre to capture bookings. Making sure your OTA profile is optimised and managing your online reviews are two vital tasks you need to perform.
You also need to build a website that is functional for all devices and incorporates engaging and relevant content for travellers. This way your SEO will be improved and travellers will find you when doing their online research.
What are the biggest influences on choosing a destination?
While OTAs may take the lion’s share of website traffic, family and friends exert an equal amount of influence on traveller decision making.
Expedia says that 18% of UK bookers, 14% of US bookers and 19% of Canadian bookers report that friends and family influence their decision.
These numbers are on par with OTAs, while search engines ranked as the third biggest influence, with UK travellers at 11% saying search engine results could sway them.
What are the leading factors for the final destination decision?
You may be able to guess this one. Cost is obviously a driving factor in settling on a destination.
Canadian travellers were the most price-conscious with 50% saying travel costs are a critical factor in the decision. UK and American travellers both fell around 35%.
The second biggest factor was found to be hotels with 30% of all travellers stating that the hotel was paramount to the destination they settled on.
This is good news for hotels putting the effort into perfecting their website and OTA profiles. High quality images and interesting content could prove the difference between a guest staying at your hotel and being on the other side of the world.
It’s important to remember that with each passing moment, a strong digital presence is becoming more important.
Among digital users in the UK, 75% consume travel content, spending an average of 2.4 billion minutes per month on travel content collectively. That represents a 44% increase year-over-year. It’s never been so prudent for hotels to push forward with their marketing and distribution strategies to make sure they’re not missing opportunities on search engines, OTAs, social media, or their own website.