How Hoteliers Can Earn the Loyalty of U.S. Hispanic Travelers

Emotional Connection is Key

By Lisa Ross President & Partner, rbb Communications | October 15, 2017

The U.S. Hispanic market is growing in both size and purchasing power, and it is an audience that should be top of mind for major hotel brands. As the largest ethnic minority in the country, this group of 57.5 million represents 17.8 percent of the total population, and is projected to increase to a whopping 28.3 percent by 2060. And with annual hotel openings tripling over the past five years, it makes sense to look at new guest segments to fill all those new rooms.

Taking more vacations across every income level and spending more, nearly $300 per trip, U.S. Hispanics are a smart consumer segment to pursue. Coupled with their buying power, which is projected to top 1.7 trillion dollars in 2017, the call-to-action for hoteliers is clear: Find a way to create genuine connections with this group.

Key Motivations Behind U.S. Hispanic Travel

No matter the business, understanding your customer is vital to earning their interest and loyalty. However, unlike other industries currently experiencing disruption from technological advances, e.g. Amazon vs. brick-and-mortar retailers or Uber vs. taxis, travel planning is based on emotional drivers as much as convenience. Reaching the travel decision makers and influencing their thought process prior to booking is key. So, what should hotels do to court the growing and influential U.S. Hispanic guest? The first step is to understand what makes this group unique.

Here are some facts: U.S. Hispanics have a greater curiosity to see the world compared to their fellow Americans. Research conducted by [Wakefield Research and Hampton by Hilton, revealed a key travel motivator for the segment: A thirst for experiences and discovery. In fact, 90 percent of U.S. Hispanics would travel for a year without pay if money were not a concern. The study showed that 65 percent of U.S. Hispanics valued experiences over material things when it comes to their bucket lists. In the hospitality industry, especially, creating memorable customer experiences that get talked about is key to standing out amongst competitors and building long-term customer loyalty, which fuels word of mouth marketing.

Additionally, children in U.S. Hispanic families have a 16 percent greater influence on vacation decisions compared to non-Hispanic families. And, for the most part, while millennials have shown to be less brand loyal, that is not the case with this audience. Bicultural Hispanics in the U.S. (first- or second-generation Americans who identify with U.S. culture as well as their Hispanic heritage) have proven to be more brand loyal than less acculturated Hispanics, a reverse in traditional thinking regarding consumer segments.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.