Digital Overview Header image

Digital Marketing
for Hotels

A year in review: Our digital team reflect on 12 months of data and measure the changes we have seen develop throughout 2019.

Digital Marketing Overview 20192020-07-15T17:19:00+01:00


For this report we have analysed 16,664,199 sessions from 10,852,582 users in Ireland and 6,857,306 sessions and 4,641,957 users in the UK. Across both countries, the analysis looks at over €100 million in bookings in 2019 from approximately 200 properties.

We have only used data from hotels that are “Digitally Active” to ensure we are only measuring hotels that have a basic digital strategy. As a minimum starting point, we selected hotels that are live on Google Ads.

If you work in a property and are unsure of your digital strategy or have yet to implement one – email us via so that we can answer any questions you might have and help you implement a successful digital marketing solution.


At Avvio we have a team of over 25 Digital Marketing and eCommerce experts ranging from Digital Strategy Managers, PPC specialists, SEO specialists and specialist Ecommerce Managers with hospitality experience. Our primary goal and general mantra across our teams is simple: generate better quality traffic to the website and drive more revenue through the booking engine at a low cost of sale or a low cost per acquisition.

In this infographic you will find an overview of the devices used to browse and book online, an outline of the changing distribution landscape for traffic, the impact paid search is having on organic, a summary of paid search results including the rising costs in line with increasing returns and a summary of metasearch and social media as well as the part they play in a successful hotel channel mix.

Device Breakdown

Mobile traffic continues to grow, and in Ireland, it accounted for 63% of all sessions and 60% of users and against international trends. The Irish are purchasing more on mobile with 33% of revenue generated and 42% of transactions made on mobile devices in 2019. In the UK, mobile has always dragged slightly behind, however, mobile has taken a significant step forward with an 18% growth in revenue and 17% growth in transactions through 2019.

Revenue by Device 2019 Results

Ireland – Revenue by Device 2019

Ireland Revenue by Device 2019 2018 Change
Desktop 55.62% 58.11% -4.28%
Mobile 33% 29% +14.42%
Tablet 11% 13% -13.31%

UK – Revenue by Device 2019

UK Revenue by Device 2019 2018 Change
Desktop 59% 61% -3.72%
Mobile 28% 24% +17.65%
Tablet 13% 15% -13.53%

The question everyone keeps asking: ‘Should I be turning all of my attention to mobile – is it taking over after all?’ Well… Yes and No. You should absolutely be looking at mobile strategies and trying to win more revenue through a combination of a mobile optimised website, booking engine, and digital strategies, however, despite the trend of a mobile-first world, there are some key stats below that you should take into account, particularly around high-value bookings before writing off your desktop efforts completely.

For example, the Average Booking Value (ABV) in Ireland from Desktop to Mobile is very different. If we take €300 as your average booking value, desktop delivers €345 and mobile just €240. There’s a €105 swing in the average booking value and a drop of 2% vs 2018. Desktop has grown by 3.6%.

In the UK we see a similar story but even more dramatic in terms of the swing between Mobile vs Desktop – a £300 ABV will bring just £231 through mobile and £351 on desktop.

High-value purchases for higher-end and luxury hotels (4/5 star) are still happening on desktop. Users are engaged in the ‘messy middle’ on their smartphones browsing your website, your competitor’s websites, OTAs and social media channels. Once all that is out of the way they are then having conversations with their peers, checking TripAdvisor and Google reviews before finally making a purchase decision, and for this key moment they tend to open the laptop on the couch, in the evening or at their desk during their working day.

ABV by Device as a % of Average (UK) 2019 2018 Change
Desktop 117% 113% +3.48%
Mobile 77% 77% +0.19%
Tablet 98% 100% -2.18%
ABV by Device as a % of Average (IRE) 2019 2018 Change
Desktop 115% 111% +3.61%
Mobile 80% 82% -2.07%
Tablet 113% 109% +4.40%

Traffic & Revenue by Channel

Overall we have seen our digital team deliver more revenue and more traffic at a low cost of sale for our clients official websites. The following data is an analysis of how that growth has impacted the distribution across the key channels that deliver traffic to each website.

Channel distribution for both traffic and revenue is constantly evolving: organic traffic for hotels has been in a downward slump for some time due to the growth in paid traffic, metasearch channels and social media.

Over the past 12 months the % of revenue being delivered from organic traffic has decreased 46% to 44% in Ireland and a staggering 18% drop in the UK, from 48% to 39%.

So where is all the organic traffic going? Paid search is the obvious culprit – Google are monetizing their platforms as are Facebook, but so are hotels. Direct traffic has taken a big share in the UK with more properties embracing brand loyalty and bringing potential guests back to the website through a direct landing page, email blast and/or social media.

Paid search has continued to increase. A more mature market in Ireland has seen a 3% uplift compared to an emerging digital adoption in the UK with more hotels now embracing new digital channels while upgrading their websites.

It is important to note that a lot of UK properties were unable to evolve or reluctant to invest in their online presence during the downturn. CAPEX for sales and marketing tools was difficult to source during the leaner years of the recession and the UK only began to have the confidence to change in the past 2 years with the reluctance to invest post recession being prolonged by the lengthy Brexit process that followed the 2016 referendum.

Revenue by Channel % of Total (IRE) 2019 % of Revenue 2018 % of Revenue Change
Organic 44% 46% -5%
Paid 32% 31% 3%
Direct 14% 15% -1%
Revenue by Channel % of Total (UK) 2019 % of Revenue 2018 % of Revenue Change
Organic 39% 48% -18%
Paid 28% 25% 12%
Direct 17% 14% 22%

Traffic had a similar pattern in its distribution across the primary channels with Organic dropping 5% vs 2018 in Ireland (2 points) and 11% in the UK (5 points). Paid traffic grew by 12% (+2) and 20% (+5) respectively.

Direct traffic lost ground in its overall importance with a 9% decrease however this is only a 1 point drop total from 18% to 17%.

Traffic by Channel % of Total (IRE) Sessions Sessions (Orig) Session (diff %)
Organic 42% 44% -5%
Paid 30% 28% 10%
Direct 17% 18% -9%
Traffic by Channel % of Total (UK) Sessions Sessions (Orig) Session (diff %)
Organic 41% 46% -11%
Paid 26% 21% 20%
Direct 20% 20% 2%

Unlike the changes seen in device, the average booking value stayed – for the most part – consistent across all channels with just a €17 difference from Organic to Paid. Organic and Direct delivered on average €108 and Paid search returned €91.

In the UK the difference was even less with Organic delivering £98 and Direct £107, a difference of only £9 with Paid search in the middle at £102.

Organic ABV dropped 6% vs last year compounding the revenue shift away from organic of 18%. The volume of transactions dropped just 13% meaning paid search was winning more of the higher value bookings in 2019.

Transactions % per Channel ABV as % vs Average
IRE 2019 2018 Change 2019 2018 Change
Organic 41% 44% -7% 108% 106% 2%
Paid 35% 33% 6% 91% 94% -3%
Direct 13% 14% -5% 108% 104% 4%
Transactions % per Channel ABV as % vs Average
UK 2019 2018 Change 2019 2018 Change
Organic 40% 46% -13% 98% 104% 6%
Paid 28% 24% 18% 102% 108% -5%
Direct 16% 15% 8% 107% 94% 14%

Google & Bing Overview

We also analysed our Paid Media data which looks at a combined 515 million impressions and 8.5 million clicks in Google Ads alone.

Brand Protection plays a fundamental role in nearly all digital strategies and no industry knows that more than Hospitality. OTAs have been increasingly driving the cost of own brand searches. Brand costs in 2019 for Irish properties have grown by 38% in 4 years and 53% in the UK.

Brand Clicks (EUR) 2019 2018 2017 2016
Average 0.42 0.38 0.32 0.30
Median 0.35 0.36 0.3 0.26
Brand Clicks (GBP) 2019 2018 2017 2016
Average 0.63 0.55 0.64 0.41
Median 0.67 0.54 0.71 0.41

At first glance this may not seem to be an issue with the difference being just 12c or 22p between 2016 and 2019. It becomes a concern when you introduce the volume of brand searches that need to be protected and the true costs become clear. Larger properties with a mature digital presence could have over 2000 users per day coming to their website with the vast majority of these finding their way via a brand search. Across our Irish properties, the average brand clicks through PPC last year were over 40,000! That is an extra spend of €4,800 on brand protection vs figures in 2016.

The average cost per click (CPC) is more extreme in high demand areas with a lot of supply and strong competition. (i.e. Dublin, London, Belfast) CPCs are more expensive with some properties having to pay over €1/£1 to protect their brand for each click. This is what we categorise as a ‘high-pressure’ market and outside of being incredibly frustrating, it is absolutely necessary to compete with the OTAs at that CPC level to win the conversion.

Hotels who have control of their OTAs and use them as a necessary back up are able to flex their digital marketing spend due to lower brand costs and put it into more awareness and prospecting mediums such as Display, Social and Video.

Generic Clicks (EUR) 2019 2018 2017 2016
Average 1.13 1.02 0.91 0.94
Median 1.11 0.94 0.87 0.91
Generic Clicks (GBP) 2019 2018 2017 2016
Average 1.43 1.39 1.26 1.16
Median 1.45 1.33 1.24 1.05


Metasearch has become an integral part of a hotel’s online strategy and with that maturity comes new challenges. The hyper-growth we have watched and nurtured over the past 4 years has somewhat slowed with Google HPA and Trivago levelling off their return on advertising spend in 2019.

Tripadvisor played an important role in 2019 and the quality of high-value users displaying medium to high intent has proven the platform a far stronger bet to focus budget spend in 2020.

Channel % of Spend % of Revenue % of Bookings Avg CPC Avg Conv Rate Avg ROAS
Tripadvisor 17.57 21.80 25.65 0.66 3.23 16.7
Google HPA 60.78 57.26 48.15 1.21 5.37 12.7
Trivago 18.79 18.30 23.81 0.76 3.94 13.1
Kayak 2.20 1.97 1.73 1.22 4.71 12.1
Skyscanner 0.46 0.22 0.34 1.29 3.26 6.5
Bing Hotel Ads 0.18 0.45 0.30 0.58 5.58 33.5

Social Media – FB & Instagram

Prospecting online has changed over the last few years with a hotel’s brand becoming the centre of its attraction. The experience of the property and its surrounding neighbourhood or resort facilities now have to be curated in strong, engaging visual content across multiple social networks.

Consistency of brand, diversity of content and quality of visuals (video or image) across platforms is absolutely key to winning and retaining attention.

Reinforcement of the brand your potential guest has found on the website is key when they return to Facebook or Instagram and continue their “dreaming” phase of the booking journey.

Taking the time to properly plan, curate and execute campaigns with curated audiences for re-marketing is a powerful and cost-effective tool for engaging and winning clicks back to the official website.

We looked at a full year’s worth of data for Avvio managed campaigns with a combined reach of over 6 million users and 83 million impressions. With Wedding, Dining and all sorts of non-rooms campaigns in the mix we have a median cost per acquisition of just 5.99% in 2019.

This low cost per sale and high volume reach coupled with the visually strong brand-friendly platforms available through the Facebook business manager clearly demonstrates the value of including a paid social strategy in the channel mix for 2020.

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