Shifting Demand from OTAs and Other Priorities for Hotel CDOs

By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)

As part of Road to Recovery 2020, HSMAI hosted a virtual Executive Roundtable for hospitality chief digital officers in partnership with Clairvoyix and ZS on Oct 7. Roundtable participants choose the topics that they wanted to focus on; participating companies included Apple Hospitality REIT, Club Quarters Hotels, Concord Hospitality, Crescent Hotel Group, G6 Hospitality, IHG, Noble Investment Group, Preferred Hotels & Resorts, Remington Hotels, and Wyndham Hotels &Resorts.

Here are key takeaways from the group’s discussion:


What types of marketing messages are resonating today? Roundtable participants shared the are areas of focus they believe are working the best to attract customers.

Multiple participants mentioned flexibility and safety as being very important to customers in the current environment. One participant said he was surprised that a photo of a hotel room announcing the company’s safety policy drove a more traffic than the mobile website that didn’t feature the photo/announcement.

“We launched an initiative focused on ‘clean and safe,’ and I think it’s that confidence-building message that’s resonating more than ever,” another participant said. Other participants said they were stressing hyperlocal messaging as well as messaging focused on leisure and outdoor spaces, as vacationers continue to make up a large portion of travelers.


Participants shared their best practices when it comes to driving demand. Several participants mentioned OTAs as being a large driver of demand right now. “Demand is currently in the OTAs,” one participant said, “but we’re hopeful that our new promotions should take that share back.”

Social media was mentioned by several participants as an affordable way to draw in customers and potentially shift some business away from OTAs. “In the summer, we relied on social media because it was the most cost-effective way to get out there,” one participant said. “We had a lot of leisure promotions. We were trying to shift demand away from OTAs and get more customers booking direct. Micro weddings have performed very well from a social media standpoint. So, that’s been a hyper focus for a lot of our markets.”

Participants also said that they are seeing a tremendous amount of walk-in business, which has changed their focus. “Most of our customers drive to our hotels and walk in without advance booking,” one participant said. “We’ve had a lot of success with reaching people in their car at the minute they turn off the interstate. We’ve done some testing with Waze.”

“I find interesting that we’re going back to walk-ins,” another participant said. “When did we ever think we’d go back to that? Now, anywhere that’s a destination, like a beach, has a tremendous amount of walk-ins.”


Participants have made quite a few changes in how they’re using their digital channels. Several participants said they are focusing more on OTA advertising because that is where more customers are choosing to book. “These channels are outproducing numbers that the brands are doing,” one participant said. “It’s made a big difference for us.”

Another participant has seen an increase in inbound telephone calls from customers. “While it would be great if they could book direct on digital, we don’t want to lose the customers if they can’t find the answers they need,” the participant said. “For all of our campaigns on a social media standpoint, I’m including the telephone number should they have a question. There’s also a lot of walk-in business and we want to be able to capture that verbally if we can.”

Another participant added: “Our booking path hasn’t necessarily changed, but what matters to them has.”

One participant has had a positive experience with meta search in the past few months. “Out of all of our digital marketing channels, meta has been one that we’ve really relied on a good bit,” the participant said. “Return on ad spend has continually increased since August, and we have seen a corresponding increase in spend on the marketing tool Expedia Travel gives you. We’re seeing some big jumps indicating a lot of people are seeing it as a lucrative channel and putting more into it.”

(Read takeaways from HSMAI’s previous CDO virtual Executive Roundtables for brand CDOs here, here, and here, and for hotel management company CDOs here and here.)

For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Recovery Resources page.

Categories: Marketing
Insight Type: Articles