Top 10 Trends Driving Hotel Search and Booking

by Mahak Mannan | Published 1 year ago

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Millennials and disruptive technology-led changes are expected to significantly transform the travel industry in the years to come. Luckily, being at the top-of-funnel, metasearch engines get a sense of the upcoming trends for every leg of the customer lifecycle from travel planning to hotel booking, Anna Trushkina, hotel director at Wego, rounds up the top 10 trends impacting the online hotel search and booking consumer behaviour.

Anna Trushkina_Director-Hotels_ Wego

  1.  Decline in interest for brands and star ratings: Yes you read it correctly. Unlike the recent past, the selection of hotels preferred by local travellers are no longer restricted to 5-star properties. We now see more and more 3-star and 4-star hotels amongst top properties, popular with Middle Eastern audience. And it is the boutique hotels, individual properties, soft brands, and apartments that are gaining popularity with Wego’s audience.
  2. “Trendy” and “Instagrammable” hotels: The tech-savvy youth of MENA are choosing to frequent trendy hotels, equipped with state-of-art technology and fast, free Wi-Fi. Since Middle Eastern countries top the list of locations with the highest number of active users on YouTube and Instagram, travellers from the region are gravitating towards hotels where they can generate unique content for social media. Therefore, properties such as Zabeel House by Jumeirah and Rove Hotels, are gaining popularity.
  3. Personalisation: Hotel booking is a high consideration process. Picking the right hotel to stay, on average, is a more time consuming as compared to a flight ticket purchase. User preferences help us customise search results to deliver accommodation options best suited to each individual. However, even with the emergence of artificial intelligence, personalisation is quite a difficult task. Yet, the effort tends to pay off. To achieve such levels of customisation, Wego relies on systematic and disciplined data collection and analysis.
  1. Reviews matter: User reviews is one of the strongest factors for purchase decision-making along with price. In fact, sort and filter by aggregate guest rating is one of the most popular functionalities on applied when our users want to narrow down their search for hotels. This way, hotels with poor reviews are being filtered out, even before travellers get to see rates. Another factor, other than reviews and price, that influences traveller decision making when shopping for accommodation, is free rate inclusions. Most popular rate inclusions are free breakfast, free Wi-Fi, pay-at-hotel payment option, and free cancellation, the latter being of utmost importance to GCC travellers.
  1. Alternative Accommodation: Vacation rentals, a new accommodation type, is gaining popularity in the region. A quarter of users in Saudi Arabia are searching for more than one room, as they plan trips on Wego. And around 45% of Saudi Arabian travellers look for accommodation for four nights or more. The young tech-savvy population of MENA are more likely to choose longer stays, travel with families or in groups, and visit urban destinations. In view of these preferences, alternative accommodations, apartments, and homes for rent are a great alternative to hotels. We find home-inventory to be a great addition to hotel accommodation options, as trips to big cities are usually six nights or longer.
  1. Conversion rates via mobiles: Users are much more comfortable booking on their mobile devices, as compared to three years ago, when travellers used to research on mobile but complete their bookings through other devices. Today, mobile has become mainstream. Even google index has become mobile-first. Advances in technology and mobile experience optimisation has also made customers more comfortable with booking on mobile. Additionally, it has also led to a shorter booking window trend, as more travellers are booking last minute on the go, using their smartphones.
  2. Direct hotel website booking growth: Having worked with major chains directly for years, we’ve started seeing an increase in acceptance and adoption of meta channels by smaller to mid-sized hotel brands as well as independent properties and brands with regional presence. It is especially easy to extend hotel distribution to meta with the help of third party connectivity or channel management providers. Hence, the task of distribution on meta can be outsourced. Consumer preference is evolving too, we see a 30% higher click-through rate for hotel direct rates when compared to OTAs.
  1. Chatbots: Having a lot of insights on how travel is booked online and with the recent evolution of AI and machine learning, chatbots have become a viable technology to make a hotel booking process more seamless for the consumer. This is especially a boon for those who are not fully comfortable with booking online. With Wego’s search results, you may already find hotel merchants successfully using chatbots as a principal funnel in the booking submission process. Chatbots also represent a smart way to promote personalised or fenced hotel rates.
  1. Exclusive rates: The hotel booking marketplace is becoming increasingly fragmented. Therefore, more fenced member rates and promotions are being distributed in attempts to gain a bigger share of bookings by OTAs and chains alike. Independent properties that are not implementing CUG rates, as part of their pricing strategy, may find it difficult to attract direct bookings through paid search or metasearch engines.
  1. New destinations: Young Middle Eastern travellers, given that more than 76% of MENA population are below 40 years old, are becoming more adventurous and open to exploring new destinations. Along with the traditionally popular locations, we are seeing year-on-year growth for hotel bookings in South East Asia and Eastern Europe. The youth is also keen to rediscover off-the-beaten-track hotel locations in the region. Sarajevo (Bosnia & Herzegovina) appeared in the leader board of top 20 hotel destinations, searches, by Arabic users, on Wego mobile apps this summer. Such popularity can be attributed to the fact that it is a halal-friendly country with easy visa for GCC nationals, low-cost flights, lush-green scenery, and rich heritage. We are also witnessing a surge in hotel bookings across Saudi Arabia, beyond religious tourism, to destinations such as Taif, Yanbu, and Abha among others.


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