Increased use of voice search in the hospitality industry has been one of the major technology trends of recent times. Yet, reliable voice search is still relatively new and many hotels and restaurants have only just started to recognise its potential. In this article, you will learn more about voice search and how hospitality companies can benefit from it.

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What is Voice Search?

Voice search is a technology that combines core search engine functions with voice recognition capabilities. Typically, a user provides a spoken voice command and the voice recognition technology allows this command to be understood. From there, the search is carried out in much the same way it would be if the command had been typed.

The search string that is input using speech is usually created through a process known as automatic speech recognition, or ASR. The search results may be shown on a screen or presented as audio. When the latter occurs, this is usually achieved via a technology known as text-to-speech, which essentially reads text out loud.

Voice search within hospitality tends to centre around tourist information-type questions, as well as voice-activated bookings. This means users are potentially able to find out important information about attractions, venues, local businesses or locations, or book hotels rooms or meals in restaurants, all with the use of their voice.

Difference Between Voice Search and Text Search

Aside from the way it is activated, there are some fundamental differences between voice search and classic text search. In general, voice search tends to be significantly faster, because most people are able to provide voice commands more quickly than they are able to type in a search string and press ‘Enter‘ on a keyboard.

People also tend to use voice search and text search slightly differently and those in both the hotel industry and the restaurant industry need to keep this in mind. To provide one example, a voice search will often be phrased as a question, whereas a text search may consist of a few keywords that indicate the topic the user is interested in.

Voice Search vs. Virtual Assistants

In many cases, voice searches are carried out using virtual assistants, with some of the most popular being Google Assistant, which was created by Google; Siri, which was created by Apple; Alexa, which is the voice assistant for Amazon; and Cortana, which is a Microsoft technology that makes use of the Bing search engine instead of Google.

Voice search is a major feature associated with these virtual assistants. However, it is important to state that voice search can also exist independently too. Voice search within hospitality settings is generally carried out using virtual assistants, but not exclusively so. Essentially, any technology using voice commands to carry out online searches can be described as voice search technology, whereas virtual assistants usually offer extra features on top.

Why is Voice Search Becoming More Important Within the Hospitality Industry?

There are a number of different factors that have combined to make voice search one of the most important hospitality trends to be aware of. The first of these is the amount of investment that has been put into the technology, with companies like Google, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft all developing their own voice-controlled virtual assistants.

However, beyond this, voice search is in-keeping with other customer trends, which are largely intended to remove friction and speed up processes. For the average person, asking a question via voice command is going to be both quicker and easier than launching a web browser, going to Google or Bing and entering their search query. Voice searches are also something that can be carried out even if the user is busy doing other things.

As much as voice search has emerged as an important technology today, it is also fair to say that voice search is an investment for the future. Research suggests that voice search has already taken off in a big way, but this is only going to expand further, especially as more people start to realise the benefits of the technology.

In fact, according to statistics published by Review 42, 31 percent of smartphone users now use voice search at least once a week. More than a billion voice searches are made every month and 61 percent of people aged between 25 and 64 say they expect to use voice search even more in the future than they do right now.

How Does Voice Search Work?

In terms of how voice search actually works, it makes use of modern speech recognition technology, which is hugely reliant on machine learning. The technology is able to recognise not only when a user is speaking to it, but also what they are saying. In many cases, it can even detect multiple different languages.

From there, voice search technology works by converting this speech into a web search, which is then carried out using the search engine in question. Today, the majority of voice searches are carried out using Google. After the search itself has been conducted, the user will be presented with results, or a single answer to a question.

What Are the Advantages for Hospitality Companies Adopting Voice Search?

Some of the main advantages of adopting voice search within hospitality are outlined below:

1. Improve the Customer Experience

Voice search in hospitality has been one of the major ways in which hotels and restaurants have been able to deliver an improved customer experience. Whether it is booking the room or meal in the first place, or using smart speakers within hotel rooms to provide greater control and personalisation for guests, voice search can go a long way towards delivering greater efficiency and improving the overall customer experience you provide.

2. Boost Website Traffic

A significant benefit associated with voice search is the potential to attract more website traffic. After all, if a certain percentage of users are now regularly using voice search instead of text search, it is important to try to capture this demographic. The companies in the hospitality industry that make the most of voice search tend to be those who optimise content based on the fact that voice searches are often framed as questions.

3. Stay Ahead of Main Competitors

Finally, another major advantage for those involved in hospitality management is the opportunity voice search provides to get ahead of your competitors. Whether you are in the restaurant industry, the hotel industry, or other parts of hospitality, such as bars and cafes, providing voice search support in as many areas as possible can be a good way to differentiate your business from your main rivals and offer something they are not offering.

4 Tips for The Hospitality Industry to Optimise a Voice Search Strategy

Below, you will find four tips that can help you implement and optimise a voice search strategy for hospitality.

1. Place a Strong Focus on Local Search

One of the most important tips for hotel, restaurant and bar owners is to focus online content on your local audience. As the aforementioned statistics published by Review 42 show, 58 percent of people have now used voice search to find out information about a local business. Use location-specific words within the content, and think about what users may search for. This could be things like “Italian restaurant near me” or “Find me a hotel in Barcelona that is near a beach“.

2. Adapt Keywords to Focus on Speech

Next, you need to think about your keywords in a slightly different way. People are unlikely to use voice search to carry out a search for one or two words. Instead, they are likely to ask questions and this gives you an opportunity to focus on longer keyword strings. If you focus some of your keyword research on the types of things people are likely to say out loud, you may see significant SEO benefits and have your results chosen by virtual assistants.

3. Think About Your Specific Audience

As with any search marketing strategy, optimising voice search for a hospitality business requires you to be specific about the audience you are trying to reach. After all, it is no good creating content that will be accessed by people who are actually looking for something else. Give careful consideration to your target market, the questions they might ask a virtual assistant and how they might phrase those questions, then optimise your website accordingly.

4. Optimise for Search Engines Too

Of course, while your primary audience is going to be potential customers, you should also optimise your website and any content published on it with search engines in mind. There are a number of things you can do here, ranging from the use of Schema markup code, through to simplifying the layout of your content. When it comes to voice search and the focus on questions, bullet point content or content broken down into sections tends to rank highly.

Examples of Voice Search Within the Hospitality Industry

Here, you can find some specific examples of how voice search is actually used in hospitality.

1. Finding a Hotel with Voice Search

The video below shows how a user might use voice search to find a hotel. As you will see, voice searches can be quite specific. The user is then presented with a list of hotels that seem to match the parameters given.

Video: Hotel Search on Smartphone with Voice


2. Finding a Restaurant with Voice Search

In this video, you will see a similar process, where a user searches for a restaurant. The user is carrying out a voice search using a digital assistant and after the initial search, additional commands are given to narrow the options down.

Video: DEMO: See the Hound Voice Search and Assistant App in Action


Voice Search and Other Technology Trends in Hospitality

The growing use of voice search is an important hospitality industry tech trend, but there are a number of other trends you need to be aware of too, with key examples including robotics, contactless payments, AI-powered chatbots, the Internet of Things (IoT), and both augmented reality and virtual reality.

Read The Latest Technology Trends in the Hospitality Industry for more information on these trends and more. Keeping up with the latest trends is crucial for staying competitive and providing a good customer experience.

Voice Search and the Other Key Hospitality Marketing Trends

One of the biggest reasons for hospitality companies to prioritise voice search is because it can deliver strong marketing benefits. However, a rounded marketing strategy will also take into account some of the other major trends, like customer experience marketing, personalisation marketing and influencer marketing.

Check out Hospitality Marketing Trends: Discover The Latest General & COVID Related Trends to learn more, including details on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on hospitality marketing efforts.

Voice search is taking the hospitality industry by storm, allowing customers to find important information and make bookings using speech. For those operating in the industry, it is vital that sufficient time is spent on optimising website content for voice search, in order to capitalise on this shift in customer behaviour.

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