What Google data tells us about the hotel industry
What Google data tells us about the hotel industry
15 MARCH 2017 8:17 AM

A recently released report from Google and Sojern provides a window into the psyche of global travelers throughout the booking cycle.

REPORT FROM THE U.S.—More than half of all travelers—specifically 60% of leisure travelers and 55% of business travelers—begin their journey to booking a trip on a search engine, according to the experts at Google.

That means the search giant is sitting on a treasure trove of data that helps provide a glimpse into the thought process of travelers around the world from the beginning of the booking journey.

Google, in conjunction with Sojern, recently released some selections of that data to highlight some top trends, including what destinations, brands and segments are seeing the biggest growth in searches, for 2017. Here are some highlights from the “From Search Engine to Booking Engine” interactive report.

1. Only 4% start by searching for a hotel brand
According to the report, “one in five travelers are destination agnostic” and begin the process by poking around for inspiration from things like “a great travel brand video, location or package.” That means there’s a golden opportunity to win guests over if you have a compelling offering, but the downside is only a small slice of that group (4%) begin by searching for a hotel.

More start with vacation rentals (28%), casinos (8%) or metasearch (5%). The silver lining here for hoteliers could be that they’re even less likely (3%) to start by searching out an online travel agency.

2. The fastest-growing brands by Google search
If queries into Google can be looked at as a sign of overall interest in a brand, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants officials should be feeling pretty good about their growth trajectory. The report ranks the hotel brands that saw the biggest spike in searches, broken down by chain scale, from July 2015 to December 2016.

As previously mentioned, Kimpton saw the biggest spike of any brand during that time frame, leading the upper upscale segment with an 88% increase in searches. Red Roof Inn lead economy hotels with a 9% increase, while Yotel’s 20% jump lead all midscale brands. Home2 Suites saw significant growth (41%) in searches among upper midscale brands, while Hotel Indigo was the top growing upscale brand at 23%, and Ritz-Carlton saw the biggest increase in searches for luxury brands at 10%.

The report notes there has been a significant increase in searches for boutique properties, particularly in the upper upscale segment.

3. Mobile behavior differs by chain scale
It might surprise some to learn that, according to Google data, mobile searches are significantly more prevalent at the lower price-point segments than the high end. In total, 73% of searches for economy hotels come via mobile, compared to 45% for both upper upscale and luxury. The trend seems pretty linear, with 62% of searches coming from mobile for midscale hotels, 56% for upper midscale and 53% for upscale.

The report notes that for luxury and upper upscale hotels “this lower share (of mobile searches) is still indicative of an overall huge query growth.”

In fact, luxury hotels saw the biggest jump in terms of mobile searches for the July 2015 to December 2016 period studied in the report with a 23% increase. Each of the chain scales saw a double-digit percentage growth in mobile queries for the time frame, the lowest of which was 13% growth for upper midscale hotels.

4. Fastest-growing destinations for search
The report notes that both Google and Sojern have seen growth in hotel searches, with some destinations seeing a marked increase in interest.

“Intent in Europe has increased substantially over the same time period, driven by interest to new and emerging destinations like Portugal and Iceland,” the report notes.

To that end, the report ranks both the top five U.S. and international destinations in terms of growth of searches based on Google data culled from a comparison of 12 week periods (ending in 2016 and 2017, respectively) spanning from the end of October to mid-January.

By the report’s rankings, the fastest-growing U.S. destinations for searches are: Fort Washington, Maryland; Gatlinburg, Tennessee; Washington, D.C.; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Detroit.

The fastest-growing international destinations are: Havana; Sodankylä, Finland; Varadero, Cuba; Lisbon, Portugal; and Thera (Santorini), Greece.

The report notes that recent openings of travel from the U.S. to Cuba has generated a spike in searches for destinations in the latter country, and new supply is driving some interest in Sodankylä and Thera.

5. Hotels are a more last-minute decision
Sojern data included in the report shows that travelers are much more likely to make a late decision on booking a hotel than booking a flight.

When it comes to flights, just 24% are searched within a week of its date and 29% are booked within a week. A total of 26% of flights are first searched 60 days or more beforehand.

Conversely, a majority of hotels (58%) are booked within a week of the stay and nearly half (47%) are first searched within that same time frame. Only 15% are searched out 60 days or more ahead of the stay.

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