Third party sites are cutting into hotel profits, and the answer is content.
Hotels are becoming increasingly inventive with unique content-led experiences, not only to raise brand awareness but to create brand advocacy, which is key to getting guests to come directly to them.
Use of sites like Booking.com or Airbnb are eating away at profits. Price comparisons, alternative lodgings, as well as ratings and reviews makes them a first port of call for many travellers.
Many hotel websites have the customary video displaying rooms and facilities, but allowing users to experience and immerse themselves in a brand story is proving far more effective.
How did Marriot achieve ‘ridiculous’ engagement on Snapchat? They teamed up with three popular online video creators who took over the Marriott Snapchat account to film a trip. Followers voted for destinations, creating an interactive experience that they could watch in real-time.
Marriott are also partnering with TED Talks to provide thought-provoking and inspirational in-room entertainment, and to host events. In addition, they recently published an interview with the photographer behind popular Facebook page ‘Humans of New York’.
The Shangri-La have dipped their toes into the brand-new world of VR. You can now explore resorts and destinations with dynamic 360 degree video without leaving your armchair. A truly immersive experience but reach can be limited, since users have to own VR hardware to watch it. VR tours may be the next big thing, but blowing the whole budget on it now could be a questionable move.
Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr enable users to get design inspiration by sharing images with hashtags, and through communities linking people with similar aesthetic tastes. Beautiful or interesting interior design are a natural fit for these platforms. The 1888 in Sydney is the world’s first hotel wholly inspired by Instagram, all aspects are designed to be as photogenic and ‘instagrammable’ as possible. And guests with over 10,000 followers are entitled to a free night’s stay, as the owners know they will snap every moment of their trip and share the photos.
The Renaissance of the Independents
For small independents, content is a great way to show uniqueness and compete with big-budget hotel chains. Independents appear to be having renaissance with a growing movement by some city-specific sites and blogs keen to feature and promote them.
In-person content, such as events and classes, give a sneaky glimpse of the facilities. For example, some Japanese traditional inns host tea ceremonies and calligraphy classes, framing themselves as a ‘real’ local experience.
Making engaging and entertaining content is no mean feat, which is why brands are getting extra creative and original to win those conversions. Take, Westin’s ‘Out of Office Generator’ from last year. The site generates a humorous message for you to put on auto-reply for the duration of your trip with a video to display on Facebook.
Content-led experiences have a dynamic potential to immerse people into a brand story. So with such possibilities, could the middle-man someday be cut out altogether?