As one of the busiest booking sites in the U.S., Expedia has enhanced ability to influence where travelers decide to vacation. This includes telling customers how many people booked a particular hotel, and it extends to running marketing campaigns for destinations.

These “Find Yours” campaigns are generally success stories for Expedia, and at the same time increase awareness of underdog destinations or those that ask for publicity. The site saw an 11 times return on investment with its Alberta, Canada campaign, for example, and air passenger traffic to the province’s airports also increased 21%, says Noah Tratt, a spokesperson for Expedia Media Solutions. Alberta approached Expedia to help with its larger rebranding effort after observing successes of other Expedia marketing campaigns.

“Alberta had recently overhauled their marketing effort when we started the campaign, and with these campaigns we see an opportunity to influence people before they make their decisions and this campaign’s results are in many ways consistent with our other campaigns,” he said. “Those who don’t know Expedia assume that people come to us already knowing where they want to go, but that isn’t always the case.”

In 2010, Expedia found 20% of customers were searching for multiple destinations on the site 48 hours before they made a booking. Another Expedia study from 2013 showed travelers visit an average of 38 sites before booking a vacation, suggesting it’s never too late to influence travelers’ once they reach a booking site.

The site’s Alberta campaign provided lessons for what it means to reach the right audience and what doesn’t work for engaging social media followers.

“Alberta’s campaign didn’t drive the level of engagement on social media that we had hoped for,” he said. “We hope to change this with future campaigns by focusing more on our viewfinder blog. Engagement is our first-order efficacy, and the return on investment is a second-order metric for us when determining how successful a campaign was.”

Booking Sites on Destinations’ Sites

For travelers coming to a destination marketing organization (DMO) site to determine where to stay, most destinations have integrate either a booking site such as Expedia or Booking.com — either branded or in a white-label version — or choose an alternative booking system. DMOs will typically get a commission based on bookings.

For Expedia, bookings made on the site via traffic from DMO sites are negligible when considering all bookings and revenue. Tratt adds that DMO sites account for only 6.4% of all travel site visits in the U.S.

“We don’t have a team working to get destinations to integrate Expedia into their sites, since we barely see any traffic from that with DMO sites that do link to us,” he said.

The Austin, TX convention and visitor’s bureau (CVB) exemplifies destinations that use alternative online reservation and booking systems. Austin chose to partner with Advanced Reservations systems in 2009 to provide options for festivals, attractions and tour companies looking to offer packages that include hotel stays. Discover Los Angeles is another city using this system.

“Working with an alternative reservations system ensures that our consumers are able to more easily book their travel plans,” said Shilpa Bakre, a spokesperson for the CVB.

But many destinations see it the other way around, such as San Francisco Travel and New York City, as both cities chose Booking.com for hotel reservations on their sites. Especially for those with a large international visitor base.

“As we continue to grow and expand our marketing presence internationally, Booking.com’s 40+ language and currency translation was a key benefit to us in partnering with them,” said Lynn Bruni, a spokesperson for San Francisco Travel’s marketing team.

“Booking.com’s existing infrastructure is already connected to most of our hotels, so there are no extra steps needed for the hotels to make,” she said. “Also, they provide superior reporting and tracking, as well as an affordable commission model for the hotels.”

Tags: expedia
Photo Credit: Bow lake Icefields parkway in Alberta, Canada. davebloggs007 / Flickr