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Why Last-Minute Bookings Should Be Top of Mind for Hotels

Friday, January 09, 2015
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by Grazia Ochoa

With summer and peak travel season long behind us, marketers in the hospitality industry are looking for ways to capitalize on the latest trends and stimulate demand. Last-minute travel is one such trend that is fascinating the industry and is generating a lot of speculation on how to best target this market. But who exactly are these travelers and what do their last-minute bookings consist of?

A Closer Look at the Last-Minute Universe
One thing to keep in mind is that, for the purposes of this piece, we’re defining last-minute travel as a trip booked up to seven days in advance. We then break it down further into three general travel categories: seven days or less, three days or less and same-day - and you may want to consider a similar breakdown to help the strategy for your marketing campaigns.

When looking at a large set of airline search, book, departure and return data, there are a handful of rather intuitive last-minute travel trends that emerge:

  • All Days of the Week Are Not Created Equal: Tuesday is the most popular day for booking last-minute and Friday for booking same-day. Friday is also the most common departure day for last-minute bookings, and Thursday comes in second. For returns, last-minute travelers most commonly book Sundays and Mondays.

  • Trip Length and Booking Lead Time Go Hand in Hand: Last-minute travel accounts for 25 percent of trips lasting a week or less. When you book a trip longer than a week, the likelihood of you booking it last-minute drops significantly. Trips of three days or less account for 14 percent, and same-day travel accounts for 6 percent.

  • Less Planning, Shorter Stays: 47 percent of last-minute bookers stayed at their destination for two days or less and only 19 percent of last-minute trips were of longer duration. Compare that with general travel: only about a third of travelers who planned in advance were likely to stay less than two days.

Where Does Business Travel Fit in This Picture?

Business travel, especially of the ‘unmanaged’ variety, is typically arranged on an individual basis, as compared to a vacation. That coincides with data telling us that many last-minute travelers fly solo: 84 percent of last-minute travelers are flying alone, compared with 76 percent of all trips. Business travellers are also more likely to be late bookers compared to the overall population: last-minute bookings among business travelers is 75 percent more frequent than for leisure travelers.

This business-influenced pattern emerges across travel destinations as well. Within the domestic market, Boston, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. have the highest levels of last-minute travel. Conversely, destinations like Orlando, Miami, and Honolulu, have the least amount of last-minute travel and instead see longer stays and more family travel.

How Does Last-Minute Impact Your Marketing Strategies?

The impact of last-minute travel trends on the hospitality industry is undeniable, albeit hard to measure accurately. Keeping in mind everything we already established about last-minute travelers, here are a few questions you should be asking yourself to help your organization capitalize on the opportunity:

  • What does last-minute travel mean for your product or location? Data analysis of both first- and third-party research (i.e., destination trends), can help you acquire key information to inform both stakeholders and the areas of your organization that are most affected.

  • Do your yield and revenue management strategies, and promotional tactics accurately reflect the increasing demand for last-minute travel? A high-level review of your current game plan for attracting and winning last-minute travelers can reveal any under-utilized strategies and opportunities.

  • How can you best reach this group of travelers? To complement your high-level analysis, you may want to consider mapping your acquisition tactics with your gaps in occupancy. Marketers should identify channels and publishers that have access to a traveler’s intended date of travel, outbound market, and destination interest, and then seek to reach and engage those people who fit the last-minute profile and timeline.

Weighing Acquisition vs. Pricing Tactics

As publishers enhance their targeting capabilities, and marketers take advantage of improved date targeting, more companies will be pairing first- and third-party data. For example, you can leverage both pricing strategies and acquisition tactics to identify travelers with near-term intent for your destination and particular dates of stay.

When possible, marketers may benefit from favoring acquisition tactics over pricing tactics so as to preserve the company’s brand value and margin. That being said, you should still experiment with price breaks and alternative pricing strategies to observe consumer response.
By using data pulled from the aforementioned strategies and creative promotions and advertising, you can more effectively target the last-minute traveler for your specific destination, product, or service. Thankfully, with publishers and marketing organizations offering more sophisticated targeting techniques such as API-enabled feeds, Dynamic Creative, and real-time bidding, you are empowered to hone your marketing campaigns to the last-minute traveler better than ever before.

Grazia Ochoa’s Biography:
Grazia Ochoa is the Senior Director of Sales Development for Sojern. Grazia joined Sojern in 2013, after having led Global Digital Marketing for Starwood Hotels and Resorts since 2010. An experienced digital advertiser within the travel industry and beyond, she has held previous posts at Yahoo, Cendant, Viator, eGulliver and Carlson Wagonlit Travel. Grazia holds an MBA from Emory University and a BA in English & Economics from Denison University.

About Sojern
Headquartered in San Francisco with key offices in New York, Omaha and London, Sojern is the world’s leading data-driven traveler engagement platform that delivers the most efficient marketing, distribution, monetization, and insight solutions at scale. Since 2007, the company has helped top global travel brands like American Airlines, American Express, Avis|Budget Group, Choice, Delta, Enterprise, Hertz, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Las Vegas Tourism, Marriott, Microsoft, Samsonite, Starwood, United, and US Airways more efficiently and meaningfully engage with travelers to drive conversions, loyalty, and monetization.
For more information, please visit www.sojern.com.

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