Hotels.com’s North American media planning and buying business is up for grabs as they seek to combine their U.S. and Canadian accounts to gain a strategic advantage in the travel reservation market.
But let’s focus on the important part here - they need a strategic advantage, because the online reservation/booking market is crowded. Their competitors aren’t just Priceline, Orbitz and Travelocity (both also owned by Expedia, Inc.) - though they are the most similar competitors in the travel deal category - they’ve also got to contend with Airbnb, VRBO and other vacation rental companies. All of them offer deals, many offer more unique experiences.
It’s a tough market.
But Hotels.com has figured out one very important thing: The key to winning the travel game is to court the female traveler.
Consider tourism and travel, where experts agree that women are fueling an explosive growth, making 80% of decisions and expected to spend more than $125 billion this year. - “Girls Guide to Paris Shows That In Travel, Women Are On Top,”
by Cecilia Rodriguez, Forbes, 2014
The Hotels.com website user demographics reflect some success here: 59 percent of their users are women, most of whom are 25-59 years old. Their audience data - those who follow the brand on social media channels - echo these numbers fairly closely: 61 percent female, 35 percent of whom are between 55-69 years old.
Professional and retired women. Which is a growing and powerful travel segment not to be ignored. But we think they should concentrate on expanding brand recognition to the Millennial travelers.
Meet the Millennial Travelers
Nearly two-thirds of travelers today are women, according to the George Washington University School of Business. In fact, 54 percent of affluent travelers with incomes greater than $250,000 are women (according to MMGY Global). In a 2016 Boston Globe article, author and professor of generational marketing at NYU, Ann Fishman, says “Millennial women have given even greater momentum to this trend.” She says,
“This is not a timid generation. They have traveled the world with their families, or on study abroad. These are young women who are very empowered, very self-confident, and probably know somebody in the country where they’re going.”
In our own analysis of Millennial travelers, we found these observations to be true. This segment ranks high as outdoor enthusiasts, party-goers, food lovers - even gamblers. And, they’re 57 percent female.
Most are single or unmarried. Half have children. Many make a high income of between $70-$200k.
They are well worth investing in, because not only are they the future of travel - they’re increasingly the present.
So let’s look at what these Millennial Travelers want out of life.
• Good booze
These are social drinkers and they enjoy craft beer and craft cocktails. Offline, you’ll likely find them at The Great American Beer Festival. But they also regularly engage with Untapped - an app that allows users to check in and rate beer. Perhaps highlighting beer destinations like San Diego, California, Portland, Oregon and Asheville, North Carolina would attract some critical views.
• Enriching experiences
Art events and music events rank high for this group, but so do activities like backpacking, yoga and painting. When they travel, their mantra is “I take vacation experiences that help differentiate me from my friends.” They’re looking for more than a hotel + car rental deal. Their travel is part of their identity. Hotels.com could differentiate themselves by adding more unique travel experiences.
The travel deal website of choice for this segment knows this audience well - HolidayPirates.com. On the home page alone, you’ll find “glamping staycations” in converted gypsy wagons, luxury vacation packages to Dubai or Montenegro. These are the places Millennials dream of while they’re reading Adventure.com at work.
As of now, Hotels.com isn’t courting this audience - at least not from anything you can see on their website. They have deals, sure, but those deals don’t highlight unique properties or out-of-the-ordinary experiences. It’s more perfunctory. Clearly geared toward the business travel market. But even business travelers want experiences - and most of them are Millennials too.
If you’re considering pitching Hotels.com - or are looking for a crash-course in the online travel market, we have all that and more in our latest Pitch Brief. Get it here!