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Today's proliferation of marketing channels presents new opportunities and challenges for hotel marketers, along with a need to better understand how different channels can deepen customer relationships and drive revenue most effectively, according to a study by HawkPartners. This article is copyright 2012 The Best Customer Guide.

The company's '2012 Hotel Channel Usage Study' was based on a survey of over 1,200 business and leisure travellers, gathering new insights into how hotel marketing executives can most effectively reach specific customer segments.

Specifically, the study examined the channels that:

  • Are most important in driving hotel evaluation, selection and booking;
  • Drive top-of-mind recall, intent to stay again, and likelihood to recommend;
  • Are best suited for branded communication with targeted customer segments.

Among those travellers who are members of any hotel loyalty programme, hotel websites are the sources most relied upon for researching and evaluating hotels, followed by loyalty programme websites.

Among those not in any loyalty programme, online travel websites (led by Expedia, Hotels.com, Travelocity, and Orbitz) are the most relied upon.

While online review sites (with TripAdvisor being the clear leader) are also key to the evaluation and selection process. Word-of-mouth and personal recommendations also strongly influence selection, especially among those aged under 30.

Promotions and incentives are clear drivers of selection, but also drive brand recall and intent to recommend - far more than above-the-line brand advertising. Loyalty programmes were also cited as one of the most important reasons to book a particular hotel, especially for business travellers and luxury hotels.

But the single most important driver of a future booking is a positive prior experience, making guest service a critical investment.