Hostelworld Case Study. Entering the Korean market.

Hostelworld asked us to help them build and execute a strategy for reaching the Korean market. 






Our Objective


Evaluate platforms, linguistics and existing activity in the South Korean market before launching a new strategy to drive growth from this country.


Key Achievements


  • South Korean Bookings doubled month on month for the first 6 months of activity.
  • Visits to Hostelworld’s South Korean language site have increased by 380%.
  • Bookings have grown by over 700% from the South Korean site since the campaign began.






How Did We Do it?

As the global market leader for the budget, independent and youth travel market, Hostelworld provides confirmed online reservations for over 30,000 hostels, B&Bs and budget hotels in over 180 countries worldwide. As a startup in 1999 that predominantly focused on catering for European and North American travelers, the brand understood that as it grew, so too did the opportunity to satisfy the demand for this service in Asia. 


With digital accounting for more than 95% of Hostelworld’s marketing budget, it was vital that our strategy for expansion was as effective as possible in driving new business and generating revenue.


To achieve these goals, we followed these steps:




In order to gauge the likely results of larger scale campaigns, we launched a large number of small budget tests in order to compare and contrast the results. 


Building Context


After performing a site audit, we noticed that around 40% of all Hostelworld’s visits to their Korean language website were actually coming from outside of Korea. From our testing, we already knew that Korean language searches were particularly valuable in terms of propensity to purchase, and so we launched new campaigns to specifically target these non-domestic searches. In terms of context, there was a strong chance that these searches were coming from Korean travellers looking to complete last minute bookings whilst abroad. 


Use our Multilingual Expertise


We used our multilingual capabilities to analyse the existing keywords in use alongside the possible variations of these terms in the Korean language. English campaigns had been transferred and translated in Google AdWords, but there were was also an opportunity to expand on these keywords based on variants or alternatives in the Korean language. 


Connecting Customer Journeys


We identified where Hostelworld might be able to better connect Korean ads with Korean language web content in order to provide a more seamless user experience. We are continuing to work with Hostelworld in localising and optimising their landing and promotional pages. 






Asia is now not only Hostelworld’s fastest growing continent for inbound travel, but is also now the fastest growing continent for outbound travel too. South Koreans are Hostelworld's fastest growing nationality in terms of bookings, and as a national demographic have reached 5th in overall number of annual bookings globally. 


In the first six months of running South Korean activity, we consistently doubled bookings month on month. Visits to Hostelworld’s South Korean site increased by 380% and since the launch of our Korean campaigns, bookings have grown by over 700%. When initially planning for APAC expansion, South Korea had been among Hostelworld’s least prioritised markets. Based on the success so far, the business now considers South Korea to be its single most important international market moving forward. 



South Korea is currently our fastest growing market, with mobile search in particular proving to be a core marketing channel. As a result we have significantly ramped up our marketing efforts in Korea. Our key focus is truly understanding the Korean customer and offering them exactly what they want, when they want it and on the device that they want it on.
— Catherine Gilvarry, Head of Marketing - Asia, Hostelworld

This case study has also been featured on Google Think Insights

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