2019: A Year of Crossing Hurdles for Unlimited Potential for Hotel Sales

Think local, act globally to achieve

We have arrived at “the future” according to every expert in digital marketing and sales. Never before has there been such opportunity for hoteliers to reach the global audience, but this does not mean our businesses will stop evolving. The intersection of globalization and communications will lead to vast opportunity, but there will also be pitfalls for hotel marketers throughout the business metamorphosis.  The following is the first of many primers on best practices for targeting an international audience, and for deploying cutting-edge SEO.

Think Local – Act Globally

Drawn from the 1915 Thomas Geddes book “Cities in Evolution,” the concept of thinking locally and acting globally environmentally, can be applied to the whole sphere of globalized business too. Corporations and bigger businesses now see growing roots in local markets as trusted practice. This brings us to huge advantage hotels have, since most are firmly rooted in the urban or regional landscape where they are located. Local hotels are already brands in their own cities, countries, and even regions. However, the problem/opportunity of “acting” in the international sphere is seldom addressed properly. 

Most hotel marketing/sales strategies are in a kind of infancy in that the unbalanced reliance on distribution channels like OTAs, metasearch, and advertisements. Take the example of millennials, the first generation growing up with a sophisticated technology that has revolutionized the meaning of communication. These developments are the historical equivalent of the advent of television, only we take our smartphones, tablets, and smart-watches with us as companions. These millennials seek out the local experience, they “go there,” and then their actions broadcast the local value internationally. Their action equals the most powerful form of marketing in the world – organic word of mouth marketing (or WOMM).

Reaching Your International Audience

Before we get into optimizing WOMM, we must complete our “local” thinking by ensuring the global audience can see us. Hotels are an integral cog in a global mechanism. The common dogma “home away from home” is prevalent for a reason. But each hotel must communicate using a universally accepted language, and the language of international commerce is English. Where SEO is concerned, hotels are at the forefront of services searched for by this global audience, so it’s mandatory to practice global SEO content strategy that defines the right keywords in English. First, we must check all the organic SEO boxes.

Website Translation
Every hotel that serves an international clientele must provide content on the company website in English first, and then into the predominant languages of the relevant guest demographic. As for keywords in foreign languages, exceeding care should be taken to ensure the right keywords are delivered. Free online translation services such as Google translate, Babelfish or Reverso are just not good enough. Bad translations may lead to the wrong keywords and the failure to reach the proper audience.

Keyword Research for Global SEO
In Global SEO the cornerstone of all work in in-deep keyword research. Only the proper keyword research from scratch will benefit organic results. The first step in this process is to define correctly who our target audience is while considering the way our target audience behaves during searches. We need to classify some major characteristics of our targeted global audience, like so: 

  1. Speak their language – The key here is to correctly translate keywords correctly. Things like language style, the appropriate use of street language or academic language, and the correct colloquial communication structure play a huge role for choosing the right keywords. 
  2. Consider country factors – Geography plays a major role in not only SEO, but in content distribution, marketing, and advertising. Make sure to understand where your audience is located. Small countries versus big countries, population demographics, and a wide range of country data are important for successful keyword placement.  Also, we need to determine which product/service is the most relevant to the country-specific target audience. We cannot end up selling ice cubes to Eskimos.
  3. Consider cultural factors –  There is nothing more important than understanding an audience if conversions are our goal. We must make sure to understand the culture, the mentality, the costume and norms, or the etiquette of our future guests. Local culture has as much to do with correct SEO as any other factor. Local culture will actually define search behavior, and in the end it should define our keyword choices.
  4. Be political – it’s okay – Political and social behavior are fundamental variables in online search behavior. A country’s or region’s political, social, and economic structures are byproducts of the individuals we target with our services. The laws, political differences, restrictions, taxes, crises within a country demographic help determine our target audience’s identity, but more importantly, they raise or lower search volume of specific keywords. We can never exchange the search behavior of one country for that of another target audience. Too often hoteliers think their guests think, react, and search as they do. 

With the right foundation of demographically sound SEO practice in place, the local hotel entity has laid the groundwork for broadcasting or communicating to the international guest through search engines. Of course, creating the right website/social/advertising experience has not been addressed here, these facets can be dealt with separately. We have at least begun to cement local thinking to global action. 

Applying Amplified WOMM

With the right value in place locally (your hotel), and the refined international billboards set (SEO, OTAs, etc.) furthering reach can be achieved by amplifying the organic message. So, as hotel marketers we refine everything locally, we become a part of the local experience, and this experience is naturally advertised internationally. It’s the next step in WOMM that is a huge hurdle/opportunity for businesses wanting to benefit from digital. 

There are many definitions for word of mouth advertising or marketing. The best definition we’ve come across is:

“WOMM is influencing and encouraging organic discussions about a brand, organization, resource, or event.”

We know that almost two-thirds of consumers respond most favorably to word of mouth as the key influencer in their purchasing decisions.  We also know that almost all consumers trust friend recommendations more than any other form of advertising. And nearly 70% trust online opinions for bookings and other services. We need not delve into the voracity of WOMM since it’s proven fact now. What hoteliers need is a strategy, so here are three recommendations for effective amplification of WOM. 

Tell a meaningful story – We can make anything newsworthy if the story is impactful locally. Through skillful creative work in storytelling (content writing or video creation) we use public relations media outreach and media campaigning to create buzz. Accentuated with social media campaigning, our story has an organic feel created for our target audience. 

Do some good – Nothing creates more goodwill and organic WOM than a charity or civic campaign to do genuine good. Thinking local is automatically metamorphosized into “acting globally” when a hotel engages in such a campaign. Combined with storytelling techniques, this conventional PR strategy ends up generating its own momentum many times. 

Embrace exclusivity – Your future guests want what they cannot have. This facet of marketing is as old as humanity. If you offer exclusive access or value, guests searching online will snap up the perceived value. Consider inviting influencers to enjoy the VIP treatment before making it available to anyone. 

Build your digital community – Three fourth’s of the world’s most successful marketing firms use social media to develop loyal fans. A tight-knit community on Facebook and other platforms is a necessity for a successful word of mouth marketing effort. 

Be human – The more people you share your message with, the more likely they are to share your value proposition. Fans and friends equal magnitude, and magnitude is amplification potential. Let your guests know that they’re interacting with a brand that has a soul.


There are many other proven strategies for driving your guests further down into the marketing funnel, we’ll address them all eventually. What’s important to glean from this report is the need to connect local thinking and global action. We’ve shown some organic search practice to engage target audiences abroad, and we’ve shown an inkling of the WOMM approach for organic conversion. These are but two facets of an integrated sales and marketing schema that will propel your hotel past the competition, especially the competitor reluctant to pursue the proven path.  Use these and more strategies to make 2019 your most successful year ever.