4 Jul 2011

The Top Referring Web Sites for Hotels

In the highly competitive market of Travel, hotels need to analyze their top referring sites constantly. Unfortunately most hotels look at referring sites on their web stats with tools such as Google analytics or other and can only see which sites bring traffic, that doesn’t always show the real picture since a site can bring lots of traffic, but does it bring qualified traffic which turn into bookings.



At WIHP, like a few other professional hotel marketing companies, we’ve developed our own tracking systems that permit us to really study the ROI of the campaigns being done for our clients and track all the way to the booking.

A recent study we conducted taking into account over 35,000 bookings on the largest European markets (Paris, Rome and Barcelona) gives a pretty good picture of which type of sites generate most bookings and the market share these sites have. Taking into account that each of these categories actually generate revenue for the hotels in question, it important to state that none of them should be left out as “a minority” since they will generate revenue. The question is only one of how big an investment to make into those sites.

Below are two graphs, one with search engines and one without. We included the one without search engines to make the graph clearer as a sort of “zoom in” on the real referring sites.

Top Referring Sites for Hotels

Top Referring Sites for Hotels (source: wihphotel.com)

Top Referring Sites for Hotels, excluding search engines (source: wihphotel.com)

Search Engines                     72.9%
Map Search                            9.6%
Reviews and Review sites      7.3%
Emails                                    3.4%
Travel Guides                        3.0%
Other                                     1.2%
Directory Listings                   0.8%
Social Media sites                   0.8%
Blogs                                      0.7%
Rate checking sites                 0.4%

Explanations of the results:

Search Engines, this is self-explanatory, these are all the search engines. They bring the most of the traffic as mentioned in my prior article about the real source of hotel bookings, the majority of the people booking the hotel have found the hotel elsewhere and at the time of booking have already decided which hotel they want to stay at and thus search for the hotel directly in the booking engine.

Map Search, we’ve purposely separated this from the broad Search Engines category since map search behaves slightly different in that one could be searching for a type of hotel in an area and find the result on map search etc. Map search isn’t limited to Google Places but also includes other map-based search systems that are trackable.

Reviews and Review sites, included here is Tripadvisor which is one of the largest in the category, but also other sites such as yelp.com, vinivi.com and the multitude of review sites on the market. In this category we have also included online reviews by online magazines or review sites (non-social).

Emails, these are all the trackable email that we found, people using non-web emails clients are not trackable and wont appear here, they aren’t in this statistic at all since they’re considered direct visitors by any tracking system.

Travel Guides, as this is a study of referring sites, travel guides in this case is all the online travel guides such as Fodors, Frommers, Lonelyplanet etc. again, for more information on the off-line effect of travel guides see our study on The Real Source of Hotel Bookings.

Other, we’ve included in this category all the miscellaneous sites such as a university referring their visitors to a local hotel or corporation etc. Of which there are quite a few but not enough to make it a category on it’s own.

Directory Listings, in this category are all the listings such as Yellow Pages, local hotel directories etc. Surprisingly this category doesn’t bring that many bookings.

Social Media sites, this includes Facebook, Twitter and other minor social media sites. While these are often on the top list of referring sites, they don’t necessarily all convert into bookings. As I mentioned earlier none of these sites should be neglected since they are all generating revenues and I am a strong believer of Social Media as a platform for hoteliers to reach out to potential guests. See my article on the launch of Hotel Seven in Paris which was almost entirely done via social media.

Blogs, we’ve separated blogs from Review sites as they’re a different type of review somewhere in between user reviews and journalist stories. In some cases blogs are extremely efficient and should definitely be considered in any hotelier’s marketing campaign.

Rate checking sites, in this category are sites like Kayak, Trivago and other rate comparers. Which per experience have a more qualified audience but who in many cases bring traffic to OTAs more than to hotel websites since hotel websites can’t easily push their rates.

Top Search Engines for Hotels

Further we analysed the search engines that bring bookings. On this category there is no mystery, Google leads by far with Yahoo and Bing right behind. As the Yahoo/Bing alliance rolls out this will become one and hopefully will take more than 7.6% of the market. Oddly enough with 30% of the market in the US the bookings aren’t nearly that much which probably comes from the non-US markets.

Top search engines for Hotels (source: wihphotel.com)
Further we analysed the search engines that bring bookings. On this category there is no mystery, Google leads by far with Yahoo and Bing right behind. As the Yahoo/Bing alliance rolls out this will become one and hopefully will take more than 7.6% of the market. Oddly enough with 30% of the market in the US the bookings aren’t nearly that much which probably comes from the non-US markets.


Conclusion for the Top Referring Sites and Search Engines for Hotels

While there are obviously some key sites that bring the most interested users and converts them into bookings, a hotel needs to be on every possible site in order to get all the bookings possible. It isn’t enough to focus on a single source or two, each of the above categories need to be worked on and the hotel’s presence on each will determine their brand recognition in the eyes of the end user. The leading position of search engines in the bookings shows that to get the booking requires that the hotel is present everywhere. Only in that way will the end user finally search for the hotel’s name, which is the search the user will do when he is ready to book. Other information that we will cover shortly shows that on average a new customer visits your site 3.78 times over several days before they make their purchase, which proves that there is a lot of shopping going on.

This article was written by Martin Soler who is the Marketing Director of WIHP (World Independent Hotels Promotion) an experienced marketing professional since 1995 with an education in PR and print advertising. Martin has been a hotel general manager for several years before joining WIHP and specialising in online hotel marketing. The original article can be found at www.wihphotel.com.