MarkMonitor has released a special edition of the Brandjacking Index, focused on online hotel bookings. The report reveals that online traffic lost to competitors as well as unnecessary commission payments cost hotels $2.2 billion a year worldwide. More than 580 million visits from highly-qualified travelers are siphoned away from the brands’ online bookings sites to those of channel partners via search engine marketing techniques.
Due to the highly competitive nature of online bookings, hotels are confronted with a different form of brandjacking than identified in previous editions of the Brandjacking Index. Instead of facing the threat of counterfeit goods in e-commerce channels or online fraud, hotel brands risk their search traffic being intercepted by online travel agencies (OTAs), where it is potentially diverted to competitive properties. As a result, hotel brands lose customers and revenue to their competitors or pay unnecessary commissions.
“Online travel and e-commerce are flourishing and the time is ripe for hotels to drive their online marketing strategies to the next level of sophistication by protecting their clickstreams,” said Frederick Felman, CMO of MarkMonitor. “The hotel industry’s e-commerce experience demonstrates how easily online traffic and the resulting revenues and customer relationships can be lost if a brand protection program is not in place and enforced.”
The study examined five global hotel brands, including economy, mid-market and luxury brands, during the early spring of 2011, scanning e-commerce sites, consumer marketplaces and email campaigns promoting the hotel brands. The study also examined more than 1.3 million search ads triggered by nearly 4,000 keyword combinations containing those brands and estimated the traffic stream that was generated to develop the estimates.
The study identified more than 1,750 OTAs that purchased keywords using one or more of the five monitored brand names. That investment in search engine marketing resulted in traffic being diverted to competitive properties, costing the hotel industry an estimated $1.9 billion in lost revenue and $270 million in unnecessary commission payments.
The leisure travel industry spends $1.8 billion annually in online advertising, with 46 percent allocated to search advertising, according to the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB). In 2010, Forrester Research estimated that 40 percent of all travel bookings were made online with another quarter of total bookings influenced by online research.
Another form of brandjacking identified in the study is cybersquatting, a technique which abuses the domain name registration system by registering domain names containing brands that are not owned by the domain registrant. The study identified over 2,100 cybersquatted domains using the five brands surveyed. These cybersquatted domains generated more than 57 million visits per year that could otherwise be visiting the hotel’s official sites. The majority of these domains are monetized by pay-per-click (PPC) schemes offering no content other than a collection of PPC links.