Google and Facebook are on the way to cornering the market on who goes where on their holidays. With 148 million bookings processed online every year, that’s reason for concern.
Google by its very nature determines who sees what on the SERPs. Facebook is a major player in the online hospitality marketing game as it is.
What is Google Planning?
For starters, Google has started pumping cash into developing systems to manage user data across its products. In this way the search engine giant could effectively ‘own’ the customer relationship all the way through the travel sales funnel – from the first search inquiry to the final customer review.
With thousands of skilled engineers in its arsenal, this is something that Google could easily achieve.
It’s no secret that Google is everywhere that technology is – from smart phones to tablets and even watches. Google’s VP of Travel, Oliver Heckmann, emphasises that the Google assistant will soon dominate in the technological realm. It is already available in over 100 million devices.
He states pretty plainly, “If you are working with us on flight and hotels search, you will be included in the future. If you want the booking function, then you can work with us on booking functionality.”
It looks like its Google or ‘bust’ for the travel industry.
Google has already shut off developer access to the feed that automates data for airfare search engines. This is bad news for third-party travel sites.
Tour operators, hotels and booking sites can only shuffle their feet nervously as they wait to see what happens.
On the other hand, there are exciting times ahead as the industry figures out how to manage hospitality online marketing to cope with the changes when they happen.
The Role of Facebook
Facebook is already a familiar face on the South African hospitality marketing landscape, with several accommodation providers spending their entire advertising budget on Facebook advertising.
With a loyal following that bypasses Google on its way to their profiles, Facebook has little to fear from Google’s rumblings on the tourism front.
The role of the social media consultant in South Africa is suddenly becoming a lot more apparent. The hospitality industry is going to have to up its game on Facebook and other social media platforms too. It’s becoming increasingly important to make sure that you run your fan page properly, and encourage engagement and interaction on your content.
The attack of the giants doesn’t end there either. Amazon undertook a brief foray into online bookings with its Amazon Destinations page.
This has since been shut down. With changes afoot in the way hotels will be able to market online, it is highly likely that the ecommerce giant may again offer this facility to its loyal members.
What about Air BnB?
The huge member base of AirBnB suggests that this booking platform may survive this onslaught. However, that depends on how loyal these members are.
Only time will reveal what changes actually transpire in the world of hospitality online marketing, however the impact on game lodge marketing will be limited, given the unique offering of lodges in Southern Africa.
The Way Forward
Locally, members of the industry’s best defence for now is to invest in social media training in South Africa to cope with the one certainty that they have – Facebook will stay in the game.
Building a strong and loyal customer base is the key to getting your clients to skip the search engines when planning their holiday.
In today’s technological times, it is unlikely that traditional offline marketing may rise again to save the day any time soon.
Buckle up, it’s going to be an interesting journey!