Busy airports, full flights, buzzing hotels. It certainly seems like travel has made a comeback, except it’s no ordinary return to business.

Travelers from APAC no longer research their trips and accommodation like they did before the pandemic and this is a game-changer for hotels, as our recent consumer study with Kantar uncovers.

No doubt, the pent-up demand for travel is strong. In August alone, searches in APAC for travel accommodation were up 50% on average for domestic travel and 8% on average for outbound travel compared with 2019.1 Over 55% of travelers surveyed in Australia, Singapore, and Japan also said they would sacrifice non-essentials, including gym memberships and a night out, just to fund their next vacation.

Intense wanderlust aside, what truly distinguishes today’s travelers is that they are researching a lot more online. This means that a sharper digital marketing strategy which meets people at every stage of their travel research and purchase journey can help your hotel unlock business growth amid the surge in travel.

Travelers are researching a lot more online

Our latest findings show that 98% of travelers research travel online2 as compared with 82% of those surveyed last year,3 and Search is a leading digital touchpoint. In populous developing markets like India, for instance, over 70% of travelers say they use Search.4 And between July and September, search interest in “best hotel” grew 23% year over year in India, and it rose by 179% and 248% in Australia and Singapore respectively.5

The increase in online research among APAC travelers will come as good news for hotels, which have long used Search for marketing. But the shift in behavior also raises questions.

If travelers are already searching online, should your hotel still invest in paid Search ads? And does the use of different ad formats such as text ads and hotel ads drive incremental value?

To better understand if Search ads can help hotels maximize business growth amid this travel boom, Trip.com and Google partnered with Kantar on a consumer research study. We created a simulated environment for in-context testing and uncovered traveler insights that can help your hotel hone its marketing strategy to drive bottom line impact.

Travelers notice and trust paid Search ads

A key finding from our study is that travelers researching online not only look to paid Search ads for information, they embrace it to a significant extent — these ads contribute to nearly 40% of overall Search traffic.

Search ads

The high percentage of paid traffic points to the deep trust travelers have in Search ads. It also shows their reliance on these ads as they research and plan trips. What this means for your hotel is that paid Search ads can help generate meaningful traffic to your website and drive business impact.

Travelers are influenced by different Search ad formats

Our study also finds that travelers are influenced by different Search ad formats based on the stage of travel research that they are in.

When people have specific hotels in mind, they respond most favorably to text ads, which show up above or below organic Search results, and grab attention with headlines and descriptions relevant to the hotel that the traveler is searching for.

Indeed, text ads are the biggest drivers of traffic among such travelers, with the traffic from these ads exceeding that from organic Search by 33%. Travelers in this stage of research also clicked on text ads 2.2X more than those still exploring different hotels.

Search ads format

On the other hand, people who are exploring hotel options are influenced by both text ads and hotel ads, which appear as dedicated pages that detail the hotel’s rates, amenities, and user reviews. The two ad formats provide a wealth of information and they account for almost 30% of online traffic among travelers who are undecided about their hotel.

Our study also shows that across a traveler’s purchase journey, hotel ads drive awareness and loyalty, while text ads drive leads and conversion. With these insights, you can sharpen your hotel’s marketing strategy, and make targeted investments to achieve specific marketing objectives and results across the funnel.

Hotel ads and text ads can help your hotel drive full-funnel results

Hotel ads

APAC travelers might have changed how they research and plan trips, but armed with these insights on what influences them — and how — you can make confident marketing decisions that will position your hotel for strong and steady growth.

Contributor: Aditi Bhattacharya, Industry Analytical Head, Travel and Financial Services, Google APAC