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HITEC Super Session: Consumer Behavior, Social Media & Personalization

Katie Briscoe

Last week, I had the privilege to attend HITEC, the world’s largest hospitality and technology show, in New Orleans, LA.  The conference is comprised of cutting edge technology education for hoteliers plus an unbelievable tradeshow with vendors showcasing the latest and greatest products and services to improve hotel operations and the experience of their guests. Over 6,000 people attended with over 65 countries represented. 


In addition to attending this world-class conference, I was asked to lead a super session to talk through the digital customer journey. The session was co-produced by HSMAI (Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International) and I was able to partner up with Sean Cohen, a creative director at TravelClick, who specializes in designing booking engine experiences for consumers.

Sean and I conducted an overview of consumer behavior to understand the techniques used by online marketers to improve targeting through content and customization.


I kicked the session off by giving our attendees a pat on the back…they picked a great profession. We’ve got a record year ahead for the travel industry. But there is more pressure than ever for us to meaningfully connect with consumers to drive bookings.

So it is incumbent on us to do…what?!


First, we have to meet our consumers wherever they are. This is both in the appropriate stage of their purchase path (inspiration, option envisioning, research/price comparison, etc.), but also the marketing channels that are influencing them throughout the process.

That’s easier said the done. The path to purchase continues to evolve. 

Rather than looking at the path linearly, we now believe in this age of digital, that no two consumer experiences are quite the same. The opportunities for a brand to reach target audiences seem almost infinite throughout the course of a day. 


Particularly exciting to this HITEC audience was some recent research from our 2016 Portrait of American Travelers® research which indicates that travel suppliers are continue to gain back share from OTAs at the booking stage. And, their loyalty programs have played a key role in this behavioral shift. 

Second, we have to communicate with them in the way they prefer.  Long gone are the days of “Build a website, and they will come.” We have highly engaged customers that are consuming media differently than ever before.

Not surprising to anyone, consumers are highly engaged on their mobile devices. eMarketer has even predicted that over half of all travel bookings will come from a mobile device this year.


American travelers are spending nearly four hours a day on the internet for personal use and 30% of that time is spent engaging on social media networks. Particularly compelling was the growth in platform adoption with Instagram and Snapchat amongst travelers in the past year.

And while we’ve got an idea about media trends and consumption now, look out – we’ve got a new generation coming. Generation Z, a group that in five years will make up more than 40% of the population and will have more that $44B in spending power.  

Lastly, we are living in an era that enables marketers to have 1:1 communication with consumers to provide personalized messaging that has the potential to establish true brand loyalty. 

We’re now in a position to operationalize data and infuse that powerful information into marketing programs across all channels of engagement.

I even talked about some hotel brands that have already utilized messaging apps to reach audiences in notoriously hard-to-reach markets like China.


Our super session audience was highly engaged which must mean that Sean and I were successful in getting them to think about the consumer path a bit differently and, more importantly, recognizing the great opportunity that lies ahead for hoteliers to reach and engage customers. 

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