Our 2021 roundup in hotel marketing, bookings and tech

Our 2021 roundup in hotel marketing, bookings and tech

It’s been another long year for us all, and a tough one for the hospitality industry. Ups and downs have been weathered, with some periods of success and relief experienced amongst the harder, more worrying times of uncertainty.

Restrictions across Europe and the US have become generally tighter recently in a bid to minimise the threat of the Omicron variant. Pubs and restaurants across Ireland are now closing at 8pm every evening, while we are simultaneously noticing hotels experiencing strong bookings for the month of December. Voucher sales are also up – in fact, they’re currently higher than last December. Before we look too far ahead, it’s important to take note of what’s just been and gone, so we can actively learn from this strange time.


Staycations were the name of the game this year. With Failte Ireland announcing details of a €55 million business continuity scheme for the tourism sector in February, the idea was to improve the quality of things like outdoor dining spaces and make our cities and towns more decorative with light installations for example.

2020 saw the first flush of Covid-era staycations – 2021 was the year of refining staycation experiences. Properly updating website content, then marketing that content, designing the perfect rate plans and being creative around other revenue-generation opportunities in relation to staycations were the key concerns of hoteliers. Smart hoteliers relooked at their content marketing efforts to make sure their online presence aligned with the experience they were trying to provide in the hotel.

With so many hotels competing for attention, a half-hearted offer just wouldn’t do. Enhancements were carefully considered and hoteliers realised the importance of making them creative and making them stand out.

And it wasn’t just staycations that saw growth – 2021 was the beginning of the workation surge, too!

Companies across the globe reduced office space and continued to allow employees to work remotely in some capacity. 47% of people continued working remotely in 2021 – so no surprise workation packages began cropping up! This trend is set to continue into 2022.

Book direct saw growth

The book direct channel saw decent growth in 2021. A report from Siteminder earlier this year showed the book direct channel sitting at number two in markets like Germany, France, New Zealand, Italy and the United Kingdom.

We advised looking at your book direct channel and everything surrounding it to ensure your hotel is set up for those direct bookings. Considerations to think about in relation to your booking engine:

  • Is it mobile first?
  • Can it provide you with actionable data and reporting?
  • Does it allow you to share rates, availability and critical information from your PMS and Channel Manager to a wide variety of distribution channels?
  • Is it built with a variety of booking modules like ‘weddings’?
  • Is it built for conversion?
  • Can it facilitate secure payments?

As well as your booking engine’s features, you need it to link up with the rest of your tech stack to provide a seamless, easy user experience. We wrote about this recently with our partners over at Taktikon.

‘Your booking engine should be the primary portal for your direct bookings. Make sure your provider gives you the option to integrate sales conversion tools to help maximize the number of visitors turning into actual buyers.’

Another reason it’s so important to have a well built tech stack is because the more automation you have in place, the easier things are on your staff – and as we know, 2021 was tough on hotels in relation to staffing issues.

Learn more about Net Affinity’s award winning booking engine

Your guests have changed

This pandemic has changed us all in some way shape or form, that’s one certainty. 2021 was a good time to review your market segments and re-evaluate your ‘guest persona’ profiles within them to make sure your customer is still at the heart of your hotel’s promotional strategy.

During the summer, Failte Ireland released their latest consumer update which revealed people’s sustained sense of caution surrounding travelling. There are certain long-lasting effects the pandemic will have on people as travellers, and a big one is around health, safety and wellness. It means hoteliers need to go that bit further to make guests feel safe and to enhance their stays.

Going about creating new guest personas isn’t as tiresome as it sounds. It is actually a task that’s good to come back to every now and again to make sure your personas are as up to date as they could be – especially in the times we are living in. Below is a list of questions to answer about your various personas in order to create a vivid picture of them:

  • Personal needs/requirements
  • Values
  • Covid-related stresses
  • Safety concerns
  • Interests
  • Age
  • Location
  • Gender
  • Device usage
  • Income
  • Objectives

Mobile bookings soared once again

Mobile performance has been growing steadily over the last few years, and continued to do so in 2021. In July, there was a significant increase in mobile bookings. Mobile revenue contributed 60% of revenue in the month, which was the highest we’ve ever seen it. Mobile traffic was also at an all-time high in June, coming in at 77%. In 2023, it is projected that there will be over 295 million mobile internet users – mobile isn’t going anywhere. Don’t get left behind, ensure your website is fully mobile optimised!

Voucher sales were strong

With the world slightly more opened up this year compared to 2020, people craved experiences with loved ones – now and in the future. It made sense then that we noted voucher sales to be strong all year, with August turning out to be a particularly successful month. In the Republic of Ireland, voucher sales increased by 53% and in the North of Ireland, they increased by 75%.

Voucher sales can be hugely beneficial to your hotel. Consider the following:

  • They contribute to cash flow
  • You can build unique packages and experiences that people will crave
  • They give your customers flexibility
  • They allow you to cross sell your property & each outlet within your hotel
  • You can personalise them
  • They help to promote your hotel online

Learn more about Net Affinity’s online hotel gift voucher product

Sustainability concerns

What with the ever-changing and disturbing climate emergency impacting the planet, sustainability concerns have permeated the mainstream steadily over the last few years but the pandemic has certainly heightened people’s awareness even more so. According to a recent study by travel company Virtuoso, 82% of people surveyed said the pandemic has made them want to travel more responsibly in the future. Eco-friendly hotel searches will continue to increase and sustainable practises will become more than a novelty – they will become increasingly expected. If you are making an effort to run your hotel sustainably, make sure you are communicating this effectively on your website.

Rise of Google Hotel Ads performance

Google Hotel Ads is a meta-search platform which displays your hotel rates in direct comparison to OTAs, enabling you to showcase your hotel on Google across multiple devices.

In March, Google eliminated fees for hotel booking links in order to make the booking process easier and more comprehensive for consumers. Before this, hotel booking links in Google.com/travel were paid ads ranked by the traditional advertiser bidding model. The free booking links extend the reach of Hotel Ads campaigns. Throughout the year, we noted brilliant performance in relation to Google Hotel Ads campaigns. In May, we noted the strongest performance we have ever seen on the platform. Comparing performance to May 2019, revenue increased by 42% and CPA improved by 63%.

Using Google Hotel Ads can result in an increase in your direct traffic and revenue, and will allow you to own your guest data while sustaining a future relationship with guests. It’s a win all round!

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