46 Percent Of U.S. Travelers Make Day-Of Hotel Bookings

It's all about reaching those customers with the right message, at the right time of day during their travels, said Choice Hotels' Joey Martin.

46 percent of travelers in the U.S. book their hotel stays on the day of travel — and significant majority of them book these stays on mobile or following a mobile search, said Joey Martin, director of regional marketing for Choice Hotels, in a presentation at the MMA’s Location Leadership Forum.

Choice Hotels — whose brands include the Comfort Inn, EconoLodge, and more — isn’t trying to win over customers from the Ritz-Carlton. But it has a significant opportunity when it comes to reaching intra-state travelers with the right message, at the right time during their trips.

“We know that these are valuable people, in terms of their travel preference, ” Martin said. “So, how can we convince them to stay at Choice Properties? We’re very specific in terms of who we’re targeting that way.”

46 percent of hotel stays are booked the day of. Conversely, you also said that people spend an average of 15 weeks researching and coordinating their planned travel. So, how do you manage your marketing to ensure that you’re reaching both groups? How do you make sure you’re a part of the research process, as well as targeting those valuable last minute bookers?

Well, first, it goes back to the idea of determining whether [those customers] doing 15 weeks doing research are within our target. Based on all of their contextual behavior, and their travel preferences, and their propensity to stay with various brands, we make a decision on if it makes sense to advertise to them.

If so, [we consider] that behavior.  So, if we know that they’re spending that amount of time on TripAdvisor, we’ll go after them there. Or on KAYAK, or whatever channel that they prefer.

For those who are booking on the same day, we already know that they’re a target of ours. So we’re going to limit how we market to you, but we going [to go heavier] during the time when you’re traveling on that day, and try to serve up relevant ads [via mobile] while they’re on the go. We geo-target [these messages], and we also do day parting.

If we know someone we want to target is traveling because they’ve left their home zip code, they’re driving… we want to [customize] that message not just based on where they are but based on the time of day and the context. In the morning, [the mobile ad or message] might say, “it’s not too early to plan for tonight.” Whereas, near the end of the day, if they’re looking [for somewhere to pull off the road and stay], it might say, “come in and rest.”

Choice Hotels consists of multiple hotel brands with thousands of properties. How do you manage your national marketing, and how do you coordinate that down to regional and then the local level?

We’re very careful about overlap. With our national budget as large as it is, we have our program broken down into national, and then a whole separate program — the one that I lead — which is regional. And so, we actually make sure that we have little to no overlap in terms of who we’re going after, when we’re going after them, and how often we’re going after them.

So, for example, the national team and the regional team would both retarget guests if they came and visited our site and then they abandoned [without booking]. There was a huge overlap there. So, on the national side, we decided to spend more budget on going after net new customers. And on the regional side, we focused on our existing customers and re-retargeted them in the right moments.

Many of these “net new” customers are searching for hotels and doing trip research. But this process has changed with the rise of intelligent search: Customers are searching across devices, they’re increasingly making voice searches, and they’re getting structured answers in return. How do you ensure that Choice Hotels shows up?

I have to admit, I’m not an expert in that area. However, we’ve established a whole new department… specializing in VR, [intelligent search], and going after those voice bookings and channels.

So, we’ve set up a whole area that’s going to focus on that business; we’re setting ourselves up for that.


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Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.