Over the past few days, I have been working on a presentation on social media usage in the Kenyan Hotel Industry. This was brought about by a proposal I presented to a major Hotel in Nakuru which has branches across the Rift Valley Region. Given the prominence of this hotel in the region, I decided to look at its website to see how well optimized it was, the visitors it received, the ease of usage and my specialty, how well they had integrated social media marketing in their online marketing strategy. To my surprise, the my website which has only been up for around 4o days beat it on almost every fundamental metric including number of visitors. But I realized that there was a problem with my approach. I was presenting advanced solutions to an industry that does not understand elementary.
The Home Page of this website is entitled Myth vs. Reality and the reality of online marketing seems to be lost to the majority of Hoteliers in the country. The myth that just because you have a website people will come is held in high regard among hoteliers. For most, they are too willing to tell you that they have a website as if the website has answers to every question. I have been dismissed because of this very flawed perception with mangers telling me “we have a website and we don’t need anything else for the foreseeable future.” And that is just the problem. While brochures are printed and deposited at the reception for those passing by to pick if the want, Kenyan Hotels have made their websites Online Brochures. Worse is also the fact that these Hotels do not know how critical these websites, if effectively utilized and optimized, can be for the bottom-line of their businesses. My comeback to dismissal saying “we have a website” has been the cold hard numbers because another tragedy is that those managing these hotels do not know what web analytics is. These analytics put a figure to what Hotels Assumed to be effective marketing and often, these figures are demoralizing.
I keep insisting that the Travel and Hotel Industry in the country is very well placed to reap from Social Media Marketing. But before they do that, a lot needs to change. First, Hoteliers need to understand how online marketing works. To do this, free online tools such as Google Analytics and Webmaster will come in handy. Through integrating their websites with these tools, they will be able to see how many people are coming to their website, where they are coming from, which pages they look at the most, how much time they spend on the website, which keywords they searched for to find the website, which websites refer most visitors to you, among many other metrics. What these will provide is actionable intelligence for the marketing team to work on. Hotels could not measure or out of innocent ignorance did not know that they could measure traffic to a website among other useful metrics. And what you cannot measure you cannot improve.
For instance, from the analytics table, the marketing team will know:
There are many more critical metrics that provide actionable intelligence. It is only after understanding analytics that Social Media would make sense to these hotels because social media is what can be used to improve these metrics and consequently the bottom-line of the hotel.
Social Media is off-site optimization and is as critical as on-site optimization, maybe more. And that is what Hotels need to understand. People are already talking about their experiences at these Hotels in various social media channels with the most prominent being TripAdvisor.
According to Nick Salerno, a Hotel Marketing Coach in his article in the Hotel News Resource, most travelers (around 70%) will check TripAdvisor before or after making a hotel reservation. Many Kenyan Hotels have been reviewed here like Lake Nakuru Lodge with 65 reviews, Merica Hotel with 2 reviews, Sarova Panafric with 57 reviews, Nairobi Serena Hotel with 79 Reviews, and Hilton Nairobi with 68 Reviews. Looking at these reviews, some are great and some are brutal. As a Kenyan Hotel, most people travelling to Kenya will read these reviews first before booking with your hotel. And if you are not there replying to these reviews and comments, the negatives expressed against our Hotel will not be mitigated and cause you to lose clients. Additionally, you will not know what it is that you do wrong and improve on it. TripAdvisor among many other review sites online is similar to Exit Polls. People express their experiences with you and this represents the best form of consumer feedback.
How Optimized is your Website?