Open navigation

interactive report
From Search Engine to Booking Engine: Sojern’s 2017 Hotel Report

Scroll down to see more

scroll down

Introduction

In this report, Sojern teams up with Google to explore and explain the modern traveler's path to purchase. The project combines Google’s deep insight into hospitality and hotel search trends with Sojern’s unique data set of 350 million global traveler profiles, including billions of booking and search signals from data partnerships across the travel industry.

The new research report offers a state-of-the-art view of the hotel consumer's extremely complex path to purchase, including:

With these learnings, travel brands and hoteliers can forge strategic campaigns that find and convert travelers with the right message on the right device at the right time.

Upper-Funnel Planning Behavior

As travel planning begins, one in five travelers are destination agnostic.1 Using search engines, like Google, travelers perform upper-funnel searches hoping to be inspired by a great travel brand video, location, or package.

Thanks to data from Sojern and Google, we have new insight into the rising search trends of travelers as they begin their planning.

Hotel Search Trends Year-over-Year

When travelers begin their trip planning, they turn overwhelmingly to Google. The types of brand searches they perform offer a number of surprises: with the rise of home sharing, branded searches for vacation rentals rose dramatically in comparison to traditional branded hotel searches.

Source: Google Internal Data. US Origin for Hotel Destination Type. 12 week period: October 30, 2015 to January 21, 2017 and October 30, 2016 to January 21, 2017.

Strong searches for casino branded hotels show that as travelers begin their planning many are interested in specialized lodging that promises the convenience of fun with their hotel.

Top 5 Fastest Rising Destinations Year-over-Year

Overall, Sojern and Google see year-over-year growth in searches for hotels. Intent to Europe has increased substantially over the same time period, driven by interest to new and emerging destinations like Portugal and Iceland.2

Domestic
Source: Google Internal Data. US Origin for International Hotel Destinations. 12 week period: October 30, 2015 to January 21, 2016 and October 30, 2016 to January 21, 2017.
International
Source: Google Internal Data. US Origin for International Hotel Destinations. 12 week period: October 30, 2015 to January 21, 2016 and October 30, 2016 to January 21, 2017.

The opening of Cuba for US travelers has caused a flurry of searches to Havana. Thera, Greece and Sodankylä, Finland have added new hotels and resorts recently, driving intent to these international destinations.

According to Google, 60% of leisure travelers and 55% of business travelers use search engines to plan their trips.3 It’s important, then, that you have a strong SEO & SEM strategy to ensure your brand is well positioned in search engine results.

Search and Booking Timing Trends

Not all travelers search in the same way for similar travel purchases, so we break down search and booking timing trends by flight and hotel to get a crisper picture of their diverging paths to purchase.

Source: Sojern Internal Data. US Domestic Travel Data. January to December 2016.

We see that the highest number of bookings for US domestic hotels occur within a week of the check-in date. However, travelers often begin shopping much earlier—with nearly half of flight searches taking place 30 or more days prior to departure.

As options are narrowed down, it’s important that hoteliers and travel brands have a strong strategy for raising brand awareness and nurturing travelers to a decision early on in the funnel and not just at the end. Video is an ideal tool for capturing early planners and inspiring them with your beautiful rooms, views, or amenities.

The Impact of Trip Motivation on Travel Planning

Why people travel, or their ‘trip motivation,’ also plays a significant role in their search and booking behavior. Consider a solo hotel traveler booking a single night stay compared to a family looking to travel five or more days—these travelers exhibit motivations similar to business and leisure, respectively, and plan their travel very differently.

In order to understand these different travelers, we investigate the planning cycles for each motivation.

Source: Sojern Internal Data. US Domestic Travel Data. January to December 2016.

We see that travelers with an affinity to leisure are significantly more likely to search further in advance and are likely to experience longer planning periods compared to travelers with business-like motivations.

Insights such as these help you identify and understand your target audience, their travel motivations, and booking patterns. Leverage data to inform the development of custom content and deals that target your audience differently. Then serve these tailored ads to travelers lower in the funnel to drive bookings.

Growing Interdependent Travel Planning

Before booking their final hotel room, travelers make a number of searches and they’re not limited to the hotel vertical. In order to get a better picture of just how complicated, and interdependent, the path to purchase is, we look at the number of different travel-related searches conducted prior to booking a hotel room.

Source: Sojern Internal Data. US Domestic Travel Data. January to December 2016.

We see that for US travelers who search or book a hotel, a sizeable amount conduct flight searches or consider other booking events prior to search or conversion.

Focusing solely on your vertical misses the many touch points and intent signals that travelers make in their path to purchase. Leverage data across travel verticals to identify key complementary categories to reach similar audiences for your brand.

Planning by Hotel Segmentation

It’s not just the motivation of the consumer that impacts travel planning, but also the hotel itself. When investigating hotel segments, we see planning trends and consumer behavior vary depending on the segment searched.

We first look at high-level searches on Google to understand the fastest growing hotel brands by segment.

Top 5 Fastest Growing Hotel Brands Year-over-Year
Google Internal Data. US. July 2015 to December 2016.

While large chain hotels are consistently among the top five searched brands across all segments, we see a significant rise in searches for boutique hotels—especially in the Upper Upscale segment.

In order to clarify the impact of hotel segments on planning behavior, we dug deeper, looking at the relationship between flight class, flight event, and hotel segment.

Source: Sojern Internal Data. US Domestic Travel Data. January to December 2016.

Your hotel segment also impacts how many average touchpoints a traveler makes on their path to purchase. Luxury travelers, for example, conduct more hotel searches, on average, than more economical segments.

Source: Sojern Internal Data. US Domestic Travel Data. January to December 2016.

In addition to knowing your audience, it’s also important to know yourself. Consider how your hotel segment impacts the path to purchase and look to increase your brand's presence at moments when people are likely to be influenced.

The Rise of Mobile Search

As people leave behind their desktops, run errands, go to their kid's soccer games, and more, they’re bringing their smartphones—and their travel planning—with them. We look at the share of mobile searches across hotel segments in order to understand the full mobile story across hotel segments.

The Share of Mobile Hotel Queries
Source: Google Internal Data. US. July 2015 to December 2016.

Almost all segments see at least half of their searches done on mobile. For more budget conscious hotel segments, some brands see more than 75% of their searches made on mobile. Luxury hotels, on the other hand, see lower shares of searches done on mobile, averaging 45% of all searches. However, this lower share is still indicative of an overall huge query growth.

The Growth of Mobile Hotel Queries
Source: Google Internal Data. US. July 2015 to December 2016.

For hotels, mobile queries are growing rapidly in all segments, with luxury seeing the highest growth, at 23% year-over-year.

With mobile queries on the rise, your campaigns can’t live only on desktops. Implement a multi-platform strategy to drive real results for capturing travelers early: prospecting and retargeting users with Facebook, YouTube, native ads, mobile, display, and more.

Device Trends

With so many devices at travelers’ fingertips, their paths to purchase often jump across platforms on any given day of the week. We examine the differences between mobile and desktop searches and bookings across a week in order to understand the latest in device trends.

Source: Sojern Internal Data. US Domestic Travel Data. January to December 2016.

On any given day, mobile makes up 20-30% of all hotel searches, with the weekends seeing a sizable uptick as people hop off their work computers and onto their phones. Mobile bookings, on the other hand, represent 9-15% of all bookings on any given day.

Source: Sojern Internal Data. US Domestic Travel Data. January to December 2016.

The timing of hotel searches on desktop and mobile are strikingly similar. A notable difference arises in bookings—there’s a large drop off of mobile users booking more than seven days in advance, which desktop doesn’t experience to the same extent.

Because everyone is on their smartphones, it is important that hoteliers and travel marketers are too. It’s also important that you have a mobile strategy that goes beyond advertising. Your website needs to be mobile-friendly so you’re converting travelers hitting your homepage.

Get our free guide to get help making your site mobile-friendly.

Conclusion

Though a traveler’s path to purchase becomes more and more complicated as consumers jump across devices and websites, companies like Sojern and Google continue to stay on the cutting edge of these travel trends and booking behaviors, including:

Uncovering these insights not only allows an unprecedented understanding of the hotel industry, but also gives hoteliers and travel marketers the guidance necessary to find and convert the right user with the right message on the right device at the right time.

Methodology

Sojern's reports are based on the rigorous analysis of more than a billion traveler intent data points obtained through Sojern's unique partnerships with some of the world's largest renowned travel brands. Sojern never shares or distributes personally identifiable information (PII) such as names, emails, or addresses for the purpose of analyzing travel behavior. Hotel brand segments are defined and based on STR chain scale segments.

Get More Sojern Reports

The Hotelier’s Handbook to Managing Guest Expectations in the Digital Age
Download the Report

Creating a Website that Converts: The Hotelier’s Guide to Driving Direct Bookings
Download the Report

North America Travel Trends Report

Download the Report