How Curacity Is Working To Close The Loop Around Editorial Travel Content And Luxury Hotel Bookings

Working with hotels like The James and publishers like AFAR Media, the data driven marketplace aims to help luxury travel brands better understand what drives bookings.

Travel industry-focused marketplace Curacity has added AFAR Media to its publisher network, a move aimed at expanding its reach to millions of new users — and improving its ability to close the online-to-offline loop around how editorial content influences customers’ luxury hotel bookings.

Here’s how it works: Curacity works with luxury hotels, like 60 Hotels and The James, and aims to provide them with a means to measure revenue driven by its publisher partners’ online content and amplification efforts. Curacity helps facilitate the production of editorial articles from publications like AFAR, and Curacity attributes which users were influenced by this content to actually book a room. Hotels then pay agency-like commissions on these bookings to Curacity publishers.

Unlike an affiliate program, bookings and revenue are reportedly measured based on the online impact of all offline sales within an “inspiration window” up to twelve months.

“Currently, online travel agencies tax hotel revenues via commissions, irrespective of whether the demand was catalyzed by their own efforts.” said Mike Keriakos, Co-Founder and CEO of Curacity. “We are excited to take the lead in harnessing and measuring the demand publishers create for luxury hotels, which we’re confident will force a new conversation between hotels and OTAs as to where demand originates and what entity deserves the financial credit. Our goal is nothing short of moving 50-percent of the dollars used to chase existing demand into creating new demand within this $10 billion category.”

 GeoMarketing: How was the idea to build a marketplace aimed at attributing bookings back to editorial content born? 

Mike Keriakos: When I was at Everyday Health, I had this sort of “aha!” moment when we were closing the loop online to offline loop for pharma.

While working on that, I was taking a vacation and I bought [a magazine] city guide to Marrakesh, and I planned my whole trip using that city guide because I really liked the publication, and I didn’t have time to do all the research. I thought, “they’ve done it, it’s curated, it’s my taste; let’s go.”

I booked everything through Expedia, but the guide was my little pocked travel agent. I took a step back and realized that they probably made $1.50 selling me that $11 book — but Expedia made $1,500 taking a $10,000 booking, and really, they just consummated the end transaction; they weren’t the reason I booked it.

In this case, the person upstream — the one creating the inspiration and the demand — was getting paid just 1 percent or .1 percent. The booking was getting 99.9 percent of it, which just felt wildly off to me. I realized [that the editorial side] just needed to close the loop and prove the impact that they’re having.

You can’t make a publisher to write about one of your hotel partners since this is editorial — not sponsored — content. How do you balance that “separation of church and state” while still getting great content and driving bookings and visits for your hotel partners? 

When we go to a hotel, we say that: We can’t make a publisher write about you, because that crosses the line of church and state. But we can certainly ask a publisher, “does this [property] qualify to be editorially approved? Does this hotel have compelling story, and is it the [sort of thing] that publisher would theoretically write about?

So we can get [our hotel partners] approved or not right away. And I would assume that 90 percent of our publishers will write about 90 percent of the hotels that we bring to them.

What are the specifics of how you attribute who has read one of these articles or seen a review to who visits a physical hotel property?

So, in a very granular way, let’s say AFAR would write about 1 Hotel South Beach. We don’t have AFAR’s database, but we have a line of code that, as soon as someone clicks through to read that headline, that comes to our database in an encrypted way. That, you know, “Mike” just read the AFAR newsletter and zeroed in on the 1 Hotel. We keep that in data file one. And then data file two, the hotel sends us their actual booking data. Every person who stayed in the hotel.

Our contracts with the hotels are to commission us and the publishers for anything that turns into a booking within twelve months of reading about the hotel. So basically, we lengthen the tail to make it more fair for the publishers to measure their actual influence, but we don’t charge a CPM which then takes the hotel out of their comfort zone to actually be able to work with the publisher.

And [in our recent case study], where we could close the loop with 15 of the top hotels, we showed that — on average — we drove about $40,000 in revenue.

On a macro level, what does this influence of digital editorial content on luxury hotel bookings say about how people purchase things today, and, specifically, how they find hotels? We’ve all heard the stats about how Millennials are likely spend money on experiences over things — and they’re more influenced by top-level branding.

Absolutely. We’re seeing a very strong and consistent correlation between consuming this type of content and [booking luxury hotels].

For example, the bounce rates for TripAdvisor for five star hotels are very high. Because at that level, you might not want user-generated content — you often want a definitive, trusted voice of authority that you get to read one of.

And we’re targeting hotels with a story to tell, because then content becomes a powerful tool. Hotels that are “experience rich” mean that content can be a useful tool to paint a picture. Whereas if [a budget hotel] wanted to pay us a million dollars, we couldn’t really do much for them — because you’re going to say the hotel is clean and neat and near the airport, but that’s not a real story.

Where we’re playing is where there’s a story to tell; it’s all about creating a compelling experience and sharing it. And it’s nice that that happens to fit in with the Millennial trend as well.

About The Author
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.