Byravee Iyer
May 29, 2014

Half of Hotels.com’s ad dollars will go to digital

ASIA-PACIFIC - Travel site Hotels.com is shifting its marketing focus to mobile in an effort to capture a bigger piece of the hospitality pie in Asia.

Katherine Cole
Katherine Cole

Mobile will be a big part of the Expedia company’s marketing and brand advertising this year—so much so that digital spend will account for about 50 per cent of its ad budget.

“I’m not discounting traditional media,” said Katherine Cole, the company's regional director. “We’re just not increasing our spend there.”

In line with that, Hotels.com has launched download campaigns (prompting people to download its app) and banner advertisements. The firm is also promoting its app with television campaigns—either to demonstrate how to use it or to just let people know about it. This will play out in new TVCs for Hong Kong and Taiwan, which should appear in the next two weeks. The company is also increasing spend on social media. Hotels.com made another small but important change when it tweaked its format to remember customers’ details.

“It’s where the growth is and it’s where our customers are,” said Cole. For Hotels.com, 20 per cent of bookings across the region come through mobile devices and 70 per cent of those are same-day bookings. Japan, Australia and Indonesia are strong mobile markets within Asia, while Singapore lags behind. Since Singapore is not at the same stage yet, Cole has commissioned some brand research before launching a campaign there.

The regional director is also keen to spread word about the firm’s loyalty programme. Despite strong penetration globally, awareness is a relatively low in this region, Cole admits. That’s why new campaigns focus on how consumers can make the most of the rewards programme. In Japan, for instance, the company recently launched a TVC featuring cute pug dogs as bellboys to promote its loyalty programme. Similarly, Australia uses local comedian Sam Simmons to push the same programme.

Hotels.com has grown to a community of 290,000 bookable properties on the site, and 25 million people have downloaded its application. There are about 85 localised sites in 35 languages and 10 million reward members. Leisure travel accounts for about 90 per cent of the company’s revenue, while business makes up 10 per cent.

Cole says APAC is the fastest growing region in the world with strong growth across every single market. She also observed that China is the biggest opportunity for both outbound and inbound travel.

She isn’t too worried about competition from players such as Agoda, Tripadvisor or Airbnb. The latter recently launched its first global campaign (in Asia the campaign runs across Singapore, South Korea, Japan and China). “Everyone has a different product offering so I’m not overly concerned,” she said noting that customers are constantly looking for different experiences. “The travel market is exploding and there is plenty of room for growth.”

 

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