As countries around the globe work towards securing enough vaccine supply for their population, many are still living amid lockdowns, restrictions, and a continuation of where 2020 ended. The United States is in a separate reality. With the U.S. government securing a large volume of vaccines and rolling them out through phases to select groups, the United States is now the leader in not only the amount of vaccines given (India #2) but far and away the leader in fully vaccinated citizens. For many Americans, the light at the end of the tunnel is in view.
With this comes optimism. With optimism comes travel.
Online searches online for hotels remain on the rise as 2021 rolls on in the U.S. March numbers surpassed 2019’s highs during that same period. With vaccinations continuing across the country there should be no reason this slows down as we head into the peak Summer travel season only a few weeks away.
The OTAs see what’s happening like many of us at ground level do. U.S. occupancy is rising. Restrictions are lifting. Booking windows are slowly looking further out. As the OTAs operate on a global scale they look at the world and determine where their best opportunity is coming from. Nearly every region outside of the U.S. remains suppressed to pre-COVID levels of online hotel interest.
The largest window of opportunity for OTAs right now is the U.S. market. Americans are increasingly more interested in traveling and are currently more optimistic about it than they have been since March 2020:
Because of this, the OTAs have shifted their focus and marketing dollars on the U.S. market. Since bookings are predominately happening here, their marketing dollars are best used in this market.
Metasearch, specifically Google Hotel Ads, is a key battleground for them to be in. This area of a Google search result page tends to attract online users with a higher chance of converting than many other digital marketing tactics. It’s nearly at the point of purchase so the OTAs want to capture that user at the last possible moment before completing their vacation plans. With the increase in marketing dollars from the OTAs, costs for each click in the metasearch area has begun to rise as the year progresses:
Many hoteliers who participate in the metasearch area will worry that the rising CPCs will make this battleground uninhabitable for worthy returns. Thankfully, CPCs have still not reached pre-COVID levels yet but even back then, Sabre-managed campaigns still captured enough bookings and revenue to justify the cost to participate. That’s one of the reasons metasearch has grown in its importance in nearly every hoteliers marketing plan. Currently, that type of return, on average, is still better than they were pre-COVID.
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