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We have all heard how important online marketing is, but while some hotels have big budgets to spend, others are trying to persuade their finance departments to be more generous. However, while you’re still waiting to be convinced, there are hotels that have already spent heavily on online marketing and received their ROI.

ONYX Hospitality Group is one such example, spending nine digits annually. “To support the group’s current portfolio of 38 operational properties and an additional 16 in the pipeline, we are placing significant investment towards enhancing our proprietary online platform and digital content. This to help ensure a smooth online experience for our guests,” said Chetan Patel, Vice President of Strategic Marketing & E-commerce at ONYX.

The main channels we invest in are search engines, followed by travel-related websites, travel meta-search sites, social media and content marketing – the last two channels now comprise almost 15% of our online advertising budget’,” Chetan commented further.

Boutique and independent brands are no exception to the trend. Mandy Itthikaiwan, the PR Manager at BHMAsia, said the brand received a lot of inquiries and bookings through their social media channels: “From our advertising budget, we usually set about 50% for online marketing/advertising and 50% for traditional advertising and PR activities. A good PR/marketing campaign is very importation for designer/boutique brands. We are weighted towards online marketing as it is fast, cost effective and measurable, and it is something I call sustainable as it stays online almost permanently and can go viral.

Talking to other hotels with limited online marketing budgets about why they don’t spend more on online marketing, the answer is often that they don’t see ROI. Well that could be true if you don’t spend it correctly, but with ONYX it does work. “Under the current strategy, we are seeing a positive ROI of many times the spend from our online channels, in particular with search engine marketing and travel meta-search sites, which are focused on driving bookings. Even accounting for advertising expense, online bookings is our most cost-effective distribution channel. There is not much point in doing online advertising if we cannot continuously achieve this positive ROI,” Chetan said.

The same goes for BHMAsia, who spend their online budget on Google ads and convert their ad campaign into bookings directly from their own website. Even so, there is no set formula on what the ratio should be for spending your budget online, nor should you abandon traditional media.

“*We have to create the public image the way we want people to perceive us, and that includes the selection of partners we would like to work with *… it is the combination of everything from the online channel, word of mouth, traditional printed media, TV, etc. Sometimes I meet our guests and talk to them and they say they would like to stay in the Villa Number 9 at X2 Kui Buri, Cabin Number 6 at X2 River Kwai or Oceanfront Bungalow Number 4 at Away Koh Kood as they have read the review from this website or that magazine, seen it on Instagram, watched us on TV or got recommendations from friends. We also have some promotions at the resort to encourage the engagement of social media,” explained Mandy.

Hannah Filer, Director of Communications at ONYX agreed: “The way hotels communicate across all channels is constantly evolving. PR is no exception. Traditional media and print publications are still important, but getting the right balance between on and offline is increasingly a challenge. A hotel review written in a newspaper will reach an influential and targeted audience, but its shelf life lasts little beyond one day. Online media reviews last an eternity but there are so many channels, it’s important to target those that can convert into business. We often have guests staying in our properties who have read online travel articles years after they were published from sites like Travelmail in the UK. Other channels like radio and TV work to a varying extent in different markets. For example, radio advertising and PR is very successful in the Middle East when targeting the expat market.

There are many channels to consider when you’re allocating that online marketing budget, but both ONYX and BHMAsia make the golden rule perfectly clear: no matter what tools you are using, make sure it converts into business.

Note: This is a website that allows you to see how much you should spend on your online marketing http://digitalmarketingcalculator.com