More Cowbell! Hotels See Bigger Digital, Social Budgets as Way to Counter Competition

If digital/social marketing was the business equivalent of a band’s cowbell, hotels would be replicating the famous Saturday Night Live “More Cowbell!” sketch.

Major hotels see a need for charged-up marketing via digital and social channels as they work to combat threats from Airbnb, Priceline, Expedia, and other actors in the extremely competitive hotel business.

How to stay “top of mind” with consumers? More hotel marketing professionals than ever plan to increase their budgets for digital marketing and social media strategies.

Evidence for this comes from a recent SiteMinder survey. When the hospitality marketing platform queried hotel professionals worldwide “about their projected budget allocations for the next 12 months, 48 percent of respondents said they planned high spending to go toward digital marketing, while 44 percent said they intended to designate high investment in social media strategy.”

The goal among hotels is to invest in marketing campaigns that encourage customers to “book direct.”

“One reason hotel professionals are doubling down on digital marketing and social is the growing market power of accommodations upstart Airbnb,” according to eMarketer. “Hotel operators must also compete with the deep pockets of online travel agencies Priceline and Expedia, both of which spend considerable sums on consumer marketing (and cut) into hotel profits by charging commissions for customer referrals.”

Review of the top 10 U.S. accommodation websites tells the tale about challenges confronting hotels.

“Airbnb ranked as the most visited accommodation website in Q4 2016, receiving nearly 88 million visits, up 42 percent from Q4 2015,” reports eMarketer. “Priceline Group’s came in second, with more than 82 million visits and a 24 percent growth rate, while Expedia-owned was fourth, with more than 65 million visits, up 25 percent year on year.”

Did any hotel chains make the top five chart? Only two: Marriott and Hilton.