Hospitality sector could be missing 45% of potential revenue due to poor targeting

By Mazen Hallaway, CEO Reach MENA

Based on traveller search data by travel audience and Reach MENA, businesses in the hospitality sector should consider a new approach for their 2020 advertising strategy.

Today’s travellers typically manage the full vacation booking process, unlike past generations that relied on dedicated travel-agents. As a result, consumer booking-journey is much less predictable.

The erratic mind of a holiday booker

Marketers traditionally simplify the holiday booking journey into 3 phases: inspiration, research and booking; creating campaigns around these phases for awareness, consideration and conversion. While an excellent guide, this is oversimplified.

Consumers do not smoothly run from step one to two and then three. Instead, they may bounce between the phases numerous times, before making a booking. There can be around 38 different touchpoints as consumers move back and forth between sites looking at hotels, destinations, activity search, car rentals, weather, restaurants, and more.

The oversimplified traveller booking journey            The more realistic traveller booking journey






Are you communicating the right message at the right phase?

Another mean of oversimplification we see from hotel marketers is only targeting travellers who have already booked a ticket.  This strategy faces multiple challenges:

  • Spending additional Ad Dollars to advertise in a more cluttered ad environment.
  • Targeting travellers who could be visiting friends and families and are not interested in hotel bookings.
  • Targeting consumer who are less open to changing their mind when delivered the right offer or image.

Travel Audience research reveals that 55% of travellers book a ticket then take their time in booking a hotel. With a strategy that focuses on these holidaymakers, there is an opportunity loss of 45%. The data shows 29% of travellers book a hotel first, and 16% book a hotel within 2-3 hours after booking the flight. These means these people are checking and selecting their hotel at the inspiration and research phase.

Recommended strategy for the entire booking journey

Through our observations in the market and partnership with Travel Audience; we can access insights that helps us to differentiate four holiday-booking stages, each requiring a different advertising strategy.

  1. Inspiration (dream) phase
  2. Research phase
  3. Booking-intent phase
  4. Booking phase

Inspiration (dream) phase:

The dreaming phase is typically the longest part of the consumer journey. During this time, people are gathering information to build a consideration list for an upcoming or potential trip. They are open to ideas, checking various destinations and forming a top-line opinions about hotels and resorts.

Recommended strategy: We commonly notice hotels and resorts skipping this phase or deploying an “always-on” high-reach social media campaign. The challenge with this approach is high ad budget wastage that reaches a broad market who have not shown specific interest in your location. Instead, we recommend narrowing the targeting down to travellers who have shown interest in the region– making conversion more likely. This is the ideal time to begin brand awareness activities using video, images and content.

Research phase:

The research phase is when we see travellers getting more specific. They are performing destination activity search and going to OTAs and Meta sites. Potential travellers are checking websites for things to do, places to visit, weather information, and form a preference on accommodation, flight prices and timing options, and the overall trip cost. Travellers can easily jump back and forth between this stage and the previous because they’ve not entered a booking mindset.

Recommended strategy: The research phase is the ideal time to start building brand consideration with additional information about the hotel or resort, highlighting reviews and experiences, as well as utilising dynamic creative optimisation technologies to show more contextually relevant ads. Businesses should also heavily target people who show signals checking competing premises, cities or regions, as travellers are still open and flexible to changing their mind.

 Booking intent phase:

We separate the intent phase from the research phase as the Travel Audience research shows there is a difference in search behaviour. In the intent phase, we see patterns of travellers moving from METAs to OTAs to hotel websites. They are intensely shortlisting the destination, hotels and resort, and activities trying to get the best deals.

Recommended strategy: At this stage bookers are looking into price VS loyalty points or accommodation upgrades – such as breakfast or half board. We recommend hotels and resorts move into performance campaigns, as travellers are now in the right mindset to book. Once a holidaymaker moves into this phase, our experience proves it’s highly unlikely for a new hotel to enter the consideration shortlist, if not there already.

Booking phase:

Once consumers have selected a destination and narrowed down their choice. They are more sensitive to promotional offers and other specific details, such as location and services.

Recommended strategy: If you are relying on this time to serve ads, as we have seen from many clients, you will have a much narrower timeframe to become a late consideration.

Mazen Hallaway, CEO, Reach MENA


A broad strategy that deploys the mass reach of social media and then narrows targeting once a ticket has been purchased, is less likely to place your hotel or resort on the consideration list; and loses 45% of your audience.

Instead, using the consumer behaviour research and travel data from ‘travel audience’ we suggest an advertising strategy that considers –

  • Dynamic ad capping based on the intensity of search.
  • Different ad format (video, display and native) deployed in accordance to the booker’s mindset.
  • Targeting the right touchpoints to deliver the ads in line with the traveller’s journey phase.

Remember – 45% of travellers have a shortlist of hotels in mind, before booking an airline ticket. Therefore, if you are only looking at a performance campaign, then be sure to factor in the intent and not only the booking phase. If you are building awareness in markets, avoid high reach platforms, instead focusing on high-potential travellers, who show interest in the region/travel, as they will serve you better on the medium and long run.