By Adam Anderson
From coffee makers designed to brew your morning cuppa before you get out of bed to cars that park themselves, it seems like technology is capable of something new and wonderful every day. And while many of these time savers are just that—invaluable resources that restore precious minutes back to our calendars—that does not mean that unmanned operations are the solution to all things online.
Take, for example, your international capabilities to reach new customers. International markets are a great source of incremental bookings, so make sure your hotel has a plan in place to reach what could be some of your hotel’s most important new customers. While some might think that a U.S. site merely needs a Google translation to be good to go, this most certainly is not the case. Don’t worry, with the right OTA partnership, you can position your hotel well to these prospective visitors with minimal effort. Here are a few things to consider when considering your OTA partnership as a means to drive international bookings.
1. Talk the talk
Some businesses argue that since English is spoken in virtually every country, why go through the effort of translating at all? It’s about confidence and convenience. The customer wants to know that they are booking exactly what they want, that they understand the terms and conditions, that they are comfortable with how the site works, and also that they are dealing with a company that values their customs and culture and, therefore, their business. It’s easy to see that this will be a more effective approach than a generic, all-purpose English site.
Taking this a step further, the quality of the translation matters, too. Too often, translations are either shoddy or read nothing like how a local would speak. More often they come across as if a far-from-perfect translation program were used instead. Also, different dialects of a language are spoken in different countries. For example, Argentina, Spain and Mexico all have different dialects of Spanish; it is important to use the right version for your site in those countries.
Companies like Expedia, have invested heavily in a multilingual staff and technology to assist them. Having experts on the ground in a given country provides invaluable insight into correct linguistic tone, style and commonly-used idioms. For example, Expedia has the capabilities to translate content into as many as 38 languages, which is a huge plus considering we market 240,000-plus hotels in more than 70 countries worldwide.
2. Keep the currency
It should go without saying that the easier the shopping process, the higher the conversion rate. It’s easier for a guest in Taiwan to plan a trip to your hotel in California if they can easily understand your nightly rate. Transacting in the local currency takes the guesswork out of the booking process for guests who are unfamiliar with the U.S. dollar or don’t want to calculate exchange rates.
3. Make it culturally correct
If there’s one, overriding theme here, it’s to make sure your OTA understands your target customer. This will impact design, user interface, and payment options that resonate with native shoppers. For example, the Japanese language is difficult to type on a computer. Therefore, instead of having a search field to type in the desired destination, we’ve created drop down menus and buttons for top searched destinations. This improves both time to search and conversion.
Also, different cultures use different payment types, and your OTA needs to adapt to meet those cultural preferences. In the US, credit card payments are the norm, but in India, the locals prefer direct bank billing. And then in Brazil, installment plans are the common way to pay for even everyday purchases. If you want to attract these potential guests, your OTA needs to offer these options, as well.
4. Be Visible and Relevant.
Finally, you can do all these things, but if travelers don’t know about your business, how are they going to transact with you? You need to build a brand and employ effective marketing campaigns in these regions. Expedia spent more than $2B in marketing in 2013, and that money goes to search engine marketing, advertising, metasearch, public relations, social media and marketing partnerships to drive awareness and demand to the sites that showcase your property.
International travel is a tremendous opportunity for hoteliers. International travelers generally book farther out, cancel half as often and stay twice as long. The right strategic partner that has the expertise and resources to deliver this demand can make a real difference to your bottom line.
Adam Anderson is director of industry relations, Expedia. Prior to joining Expedia, he worked in marketing and PR for technology companies Microsoft and Dolby Laboratories.