A new study by Hitwise has confirmed what many hoteliers have long since known – the runaway success of Airbnb and similar brands such as HomeAway and VRBO is having an effect on the volume of web traffic going directly to hotel websites.
Hitwise data reveals that traffic to Airbnb and similar sites has increased by 70% in the last three years. In the same time period, there has been a decline in direct hotel website traffic of 3.6%. Although a smaller than 5% loss in traffic may seem negligible in the grander scheme of things, Hitwise predicts that this traffic loss will be compounded by further encroachment on hotel web traffic in the next 12 month. The new challenge will come from residential rental sites, which the study anticipates will surpass direct guest visits to hotel sites.
The Hitwise survey theorises that hotel sites are more dependent on search engine traffic than the more disruptive Airbnb business model, meaning hotel brands may feel the impact of the 3.6% decline more sharply than would otherwise be the case.
The survey found that Airbnb is able to generate double and triple the traffic from its social media presence and other channels such as email marketing respectively. It does this to a much more successful degree than hotel sites themselves according to the survey. Hitwise suggests that one possible reason for this is due to the nature of Airbnb’s hotel offering, saying this “…travellers seeking rentals may be emailing property links to friends.”
Hotel aggregators such as Booking.com have not been immune to the Airbnb effect either, with the same research finding traffic to those sites has dropped by around 8% in the last three years.
As a hotel marketer, this research paints a worrisome picture but, there are plenty of ways to learn from the success of Airbnb and similar firms and emulate some of their traffic generating strategies.
1. Diversify marketing efforts
The lesson to be learned from Airbnb’s dominance of online traffic is that dependence purely on search engine visibility is a marketing folly. Airbnb generates a huge chunk of its traffic from social media and email, making these an important part of any hotel marketing campaign. Using social media and email marketing to win direct traffic should be an integral part of any digital marketing campaign.
2. Enable sharing
Allowing visitors to share links to rooms and packages or email accommodation options to friends is another lesson to be learned from Airbnb. This function allows hotels to tap into their guests’ own networks, helping to increase direct traffic figures.
3. Play to your hotel strengths
One area where hotels are far superior to Airbnb and other short term rental accommodation providers is in the range of services. Hotels are able to offer packages, excursions and other add-ons not typical of Airbnb. Making this convenience a bigger factor is an easy way to appeal to travellers seeking a more complete travel experience.