OTA embraces emoji as latest booking trend
OTA embraces emoji as latest booking trend
10 JULY 2017 7:13 AM

Online travel agencies and other disruptors are adept at bringing new, funky and fun advertising, marketing—and yes, selling initiatives—to the screen, mobile and tablet. The latest is searching for and booking destinations, and thus hotels, via emoji. 

News coming in over the last fortnight is of another online threat to hoteliers and the traditional hotel industry—emoji.

Yes, that’s right, emoji, those ideograms the Japanese invented in the 1990s and named for the Japanese word that can both mean “picture” and “character,” as in a letter, not as in behavior or personality.

Online travel agency Kayak, according to a news release, is “rolling out travel search by emoji with the introduction of 10 searchable emoji/city combinations, with more on the way. From the maple leaf for Toronto to the Statue of Liberty emoji for New York City, travelers can now use … emoji to kick off their next flight and/or hotel search.”

Kayak users will get to vote on what emoji will be used, from a selection that includes Pizza, Beer Mug, High-heeled Shoe, Unicorn, the Dancing Lady and Coffee.

I am not sure what the third-to-last or penultimate ones represent in terms of tourism, but I imagine this campaign is not being rolled out for the likes of me.

I always said in interviews—a mischievous hint in my smile not altogether overriding the curmudgeon—that if you go on a trip on your own or with one other person, the world is your oyster; if you go with five or more people, you end up in Cancun.

Kayak continues that “the emoji + city pair with the most amount of votes in each category will win, ultimately giving travelers the ability to search for up to 25 destinations on Kayak via emoji.”

Hoteliers, can you do the same with your hotel portfolio? Use a Pizza emoji for your hotel in Brooklyn, which has the best pizza in the world, I should add, and must have something to do with the water in the dough. The Coffee emoji could represent Valencia, Spain, which serves the best coffee in my probably not very humble opinion.

I tease slightly, but the underlying weight of all of this is that online travel agencies and other disruptors do tend to come up with these ideas that both delight journalists—and I am delighting in some manner—and, far more importantly, consumers.

Consumers like this stuff, and if they do it is only a few more clicks before the commission charges come to you.

Hoteliers in Canada and the U.S. are the ones to act first, as these are the two countries this Kayak initiative is being launched.

Momondo Group, owned by Priceline, did the same thing but for flights via a campaign from its Cheapflights subsidiary.

It’s all good publicity, however silly it might seem, and I would add again that many people do not regard it as silly, however silly that might seem.

The age-old nugget remains that hoteliers should remain sober and above all this fizzy marketing, but as they do, the march is being stolen, along with more bottom-line revenue.

Time for an emoji hotel brand to start the slow fight back, methinks.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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