A panel of experts on Tuesday attempted to cast some light on the road ahead in a Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International webinar titled “Keeping Up with Trends.” Their insights during the 90-minute session touched on a variety of topics, ranging from pricing, distribution and mobile. Here are the top 10 points raised,
1. Corporate demand varies by sector, said Ash Kapur, VP of revenue management and distribution for Starwood Capital Group. The technology sector, for example, is “extremely strong,” whereas the financial, pharmaceutical and energy sectors are exhibiting some weakness.
2. Widespread demand in general will give hoteliers increased pricing power, panelists said. “2013 is going to be the year to focus on rates,” Kapur said, adding Starwood Capital is forecasting revenue-per-available-room gains across its portfolio “mostly driven by rate.” STR’s 2013 U.S. forecast calls for a 4.6% increase in average daily rate, Brown said.
3. Search-engine optimization and pay per click will continue to be top of mind for marketers, Kapur said.
4. The same goes for channel-mix optimization, he added, which will be crucial in hoteliers’ ability to drive rates.
5. Companies will shift even more of their focus to digital platforms, Kapur said. Traditional media, such as print, no longer will be given importance.
6. Expedia seems to be gaining share in major European gateways, while Booking.com is making headway in many tertiary markets in North America, Kapur said. Orbitz and Travelocity, on the other hand, are becoming less relevant, he added.
7. “Google Hotel Finder is going to become more and more relevant,” he said, noting Starwood Capital is using the platform for many of its hotels in Europe. Still in beta testing, the experiment has yet to generate high volumes—although Kapur thinks that eventually will change.
8. The next 12 months will see no interruption in the thundering stampede of hoteliers to the mobile space, panelists agreed. As more Web browsing continues to happen exclusively on mobile, there is an imperative to bring brands’ offerings to the third screen.
9. The ability to book on the road will lead to more last-minute bookings, which in aggregate will contribute to shorter booking windows throughout the industry, he said.
10. Mobile devices and social media platforms also will allow marketers to better target niche customer segments, he said.