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Key European travel booking trends and how hotels can capitalize on them

Nearly 50% of hotel bookings in Europe come via online channels. That’s according to an infographic of key European travel booking trends released by eRevMax.

Additional figures in the report also provide a fascinating insight on the way people are researching and booking. For instance, 20% of bookings are now made via mobile, while 43% of travelers consult reviews before making booking arrangements. Travelers are also tech savvy about price comparison with 45% of online bookers comparing rates using metasearch.

In general, mobile is playing an increasingly central role in the European travelers daily life—90% of leisure traveler’s now own a smartphone. Owning 3 or more web-enabled devices is also the new norm. A traveler tech article featured by Tnooz adds weight to this point, revealing that nearly 4 in 5 European traveler’s own a laptop, smartphone and tablet.

Based on these trends, here are some of the key areas hotels should be aware of and look to capitalize on in the year ahead.

Bookings dominated by OTAs

OTAs account for a significant number of direct bookings in Europe, with 21% of gross hotel bookings in the region coming through OTAs. That figure may not seem hugely surprising, but there’s a different story to be told when you look specifically at the numbers related to the independent hotel sector.

According to the Phocuswright and h2c Independent Lodging Market Report, OTAs account for a huge 71% of all online bookings for independent European hotels.

phocuswright-h2c-european-travel-trends-report
Infographic by Phocuswright and h2c

This all points to challenging times for small and medium-sized properties, which make up a significant share of the European marketplace. In fact, independents account for 75% of the hotel market in Europe (compared to just 25% in the U.S).

But of course, the issue of OTA dominance isn’t clear-cut. On the one hand, OTAs provide a reliable source of booking revenue and play a major role in boosting occupancy levels. So it’s easy to see why a heavy reliance on third party sites might be tempting.

That said, direct bookings remain highly prized by hoteliers. Given that OTA commission rates average around 15%, there’s a clear incentive for hotels to attract customers to book directly through their own sites and make concerted efforts to address this particular trend.

Mobile reliance

european-mobile-booking-trends

Mobile travel bookings are on the increase around the world, and Europe is no exception. 20% of travel bookings in the region are now made via mobile.

Travelers aren’t just sticking to a single device, either. Europeans own three or more web-enabled devices, which gives them the ability to freely switch between desktop, tablet and mobile to research, plan and book their trips.

Yet despite this trend, only half of hotels in Europe are using mobile channels. Clearly, this represents a missed opportunity to connect with a highly mobile audience spending more and more time away from the desktop. If a traveler starts planning a trip on their mobile, discovers a hotel they like, but finds the website navigation clunky and frustrating, they’ll likely give up pretty quick.

The repercussions of not optimizing a website for mobile look to become increasingly more pronounced. According to Skift’s State of Travel Europe report, mobile bookings are set to increase sharply in 2016, from 20% to 27%.

The message is simple. By ensuring their website is optimized for all devices, hotels can dramatically improve user experience and maximize the chance of direct bookings throughout the travel journey.

Half of bookings made online

One of the most significant figures from the eRevMax infographic is that half of online travel bookings are now made online. This accounts for a hefty €118B ($133.5B) in revenue.

For hotels, their own website plays a major part in generating online sales. According to the Phocuswright and h2c report, a property’s website generates about a quarter of all bookings made online, while OTAs make up 71%.

Clearly there is an opportunity for hotels to gain back a larger share of direct business. Yet many hotels are still losing a significant amount of potential revenue because their websites simply aren’t optimized to convert. While many do a great job of showcasing amenities and rooms, they lack the requisite elements that ultimately drive direct bookings. For both European hotels and the industry at large, there’s a clear need to catch up on e-commerce and conversion rate optimization.

A blueprint for success already exists.

The most successful e-commerce sites in the world have been investing heavily in user experience for years to maximise conversions. They ensure their sites are easy to navigate, engage shoppers with personalized recommendations, and drive purchases by tools such as a tactical use of consumer reviews.

OTAs have applied many of these strategies to great effect, and hotels should look to do the same. By optimising your hotel website with the key principles of e-commerce, the increasing trend of online bookings can be exploited.

Comparing prices via metasearch

As European travelers become more reliant on digital platforms, they’re also becoming used to comparing prices quickly and easily on the same site. The eRevMax infographic reveals that 45% of European travelers use metasearch as a way of checking for the best rates. And yet 46% of hotels are unaware about metasearch integrations.

erevmax-european-hotel-booking-statistics
Infographic by eRevMax

This shortfall in knowledge represents a key area hotels should look to address. The ability to cross-reference rates and compare booking options has engendered a price-savvy traveler—all too aware that a better deal may exist just a mouse click away.

Hotels have a clear opportunity here to start winning back direct bookings by catering to the growing reliance on metasearch.

By integrating metasearch directly onto their own websites, hotels can give customers peace of mind that they’re getting the best rates available. Using the latest industry tools, metasearch integration enables a hotel website to pull in rates from OTAs and display them alongside the hotel’s own rates within the booking engine.

With a best rate guarantee, they can then offer to match or beat any lower rates subsequently revealed elsewhere. New tools by travel tech companies, such as Travel Tripper Rate Match, allow European hotels to take advantage of this trend.

Travelers are booking earlier

While many people are still happy to book last minute, the European market is seeing a return to advanced travel bookings. The average booking window before a vacation is now 38 days.

There are two potential takeaways here for hotels.

First, with a longer timeframe between booking and arrival, there’s an even greater opportunity to acquire valuable information from guests to help personalize their stay, catering to any specific needs they might have.

Secondly, it’s reasonable to infer that earlier bookings indicate that the customer journey is also beginning earlier as people research and plan well in advance of their trip start date. This reinforces the need for hotels to engage early on with customers by focusing on digital marketing strategies to attract direct bookings.

In the digital era, marketing campaigns should ideally be segmented to target different audiences based on how and where they’re browsing online. Tailored content can also be created by looking at past booking history and monitoring customer interactions on a hotel’s own website.

It’s important to mention that a last minute mindset still exists: 28% of hotel bookings are still made on the same day, but that still leaves a significant number of potential customers hotels can actively influence away from relying on their own website.

A bright future for the European hotel sector

european-travel-booking-trends

The European travel sector continues to flourish. In 2014, Europe had the highest hotel occupancy levels in the world while international tourist arrivals are expected to rise by 3.3% up until 2030.

The challenge now for hotels is to tap into the mindset of customers and adapt to the changing nature of how and when bookings are made.

Technology continues to play an increasingly central role in the travel journey and the high presence of OTAs in Europe have benefited by responding to this trend, continuing to heavily invest in technology.

The European independent hotel sector must now follow suit as a shifting digital landscape changes the way people plan, research and book trips and accommodation.

Gautam Lulla

Gautam Lulla

Gautam is CEO of Pegasus and an outspoken expert in hotel technology and distribution. When he's not busy disrupting the status quo, you can find him ripping powder on the slopes. Contact him at gautam@pegs.com.

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