Analyzing Digital Marketing Metrics and Benchmarks: Results from the HSMAI Study

The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) Digital Council recently conducted a webinar that featured the results of the HSMAI Digital Marketing Benchmark Study.

The panelists included Paolo Torchio, VP, Product Management & Consulting, Sabre Hospitality Solutions; Robert Arnold, President, Vizergy; Peter Winkler, Director, eMarketing, Preferred Hotel Group; and Tim Peter, President, Tim Peter and Associates. As a member of the Digital Marketing Council, I’d like to recap the highlights of the event in today’s blog post. You can also access the full webinar recording here.


Overview of the Study:

  • Provide the hospitality industry with meaningful Digital Marketing key performance indicators to answer the question “How am I doing?”
  • Better understand performance, competitors, and marketing budgets
  • Participants included chains and independents, representing a variety of locations, property sizes, ADR (average daily rate), and organizational structures
  • Over 300 respondents globally!

Key Metrics and Implications for Hotel Marketers:

  1. Web TrafficGeneral web traffic results – 51% of hotel websites generate 10,000 visitors per month or fewer, and 25% generate 10,001 – 25,000 page visits per month. These figures can act as a benchmark to help you assess exactly how well your hotel’s website is performing.
  2. Web traffic from search engines results – Search engines generate a significant amount of web traffic for hotels, especially with 28% of respondents stating that over 60% of their total traffic is through online search. Overall, 69% of respondents said that at least 30% of their total traffic came from search engines – really driving home the usefulness of SEO for hotels!
  3. Mobile traffic results – A lot of web traffic is coming from mobile users BUT there’s a large drop off when it comes to actually booking! A whopping 62% of respondents said that mobile bookings only made up 5% or less of their total bookings, a main reason being that many shoppers (almost 50%, according to Google research) start researching a trip on their smartphone but then book using another device.
  4. Direct website bookings and digital marketing spending – 33% of respondents said that over 30% of their total bookings were done directly on their own website, while 5% said that 5% or less were direct bookings. These two figures were analyzed, revealing that the hotels with higher direct bookings spent almost double on digital marketing compared to hotels with lower direct bookings.

Significant Takeaways

  1. Spend 100% of your marketing budget wisely – The old adage that “half of your marketing budget is wasted, you just don’t know which half” doesn’t apply in 2014, according to Peter Winkler. Metrics have never been easier to obtain with today’s technology. Tracking online performance benchmarks is a great way to identify and take advantage of patterns in consumer behavior.
  2. OTAs are valuable – Independent hotels benefit more from the billboard effect that occurs on an OTA vs. the average, making a presence on these channels critical to their strategy of driving bookings to direct channels, like their own website. Peter Winkler added that savvy hoteliers actually consider OTA margins as a marketing expense and as a result it’s tracked and measured accordingly.
  3. Web TrafficYour website experience is crucial – Treat your website like any other customer interaction channel. Too often, hotel marketers focus on improving the customer experience on traditional channels, with websites taking a back seat. Robert Arnold, President of Vizergy, says that website redesigns are no longer about your image, ego, or vanity – they are driven by changes to the digital landscape. With nearly two-thirds of respondents stating that their websites were at least 2 years old before their most recent redesign, it’s clear that hoteliers need to maintain and update their online presence to engage the consumer and lead them down the booking path.
  4. Ask your agency for transparency and better reporting – If your agency runs your analytics, ask them for access to the system and become familiar with it. There are free analytical tools available, such as Google Analytics which you can use to keep track of your online performance. Robert Arnold says that the primary benefit of an agency is that they have the ability to measure your performance against other clients, using their own validated internal benchmarks.
  5. Don’t let the shiny new objects distract you – Decipher the noise from the game changers, and focus on what is really driving your bookings. Peter advised that hoteliers can and should experiment with new marketing techniques, but if you find it doesn’t work for your property, then move on to something else.

Questions from the Audience:

Q: Is there a recommended percentage of your marketing budget that should be dedicated to digital spend?

A: It depends on your competitive position in the market, your company, and its goals, and where you are today. While every hotel is different, you should find a balance between traditional and digital marketing strategies.

Q: What percentage of total bookings should come from the hotel website? What’s a reasonable goal?

A: Each hotel has its own set of distinctive qualities and therefore the answer varies based on many factors such as digital marketing spend, hotel size and location. However, based on some of the data accumulated in this study, a reasonable goal would be to aim for 30% of total bookings to come from your hotel website.

What Surprised Industry Experts

To conclude the discussion on the Digital Marketing Benchmark Study, the industry experts on the webinar panel were asked which results were most surprising:

Peter Winkler: A surprising amount of people don’t know their analytics! The takeaway here is to really get involved in the data, it’s not hard. Start integrating that data into your future marketing plans by setting goals and tracking progress. Also, understand how much business is coming through your sub-channels (search engines, OTAs, or other sources).

Robert Arnold: The disparity between the amount of direct bookings and the amount spent on online digital marketing. Spending money on digital marketing is a good investment to make because it’s easy to see how your budget was spent and the returns you’re getting from it.

Paolo Torchio: The rapid growth in the amount of mobile activity, in terms of visits directly to our website, was very surprising. There’s still a big opportunity to increase mobile bookings since today it’s skewed more towards page visits than reservations at the moment.

Mobile Optimized Hotel Website

HSMAI’s business insights and expertise help hotels worldwide develop effective marketing strategies and optimize revenue. Find out more at

View Comments