How Iberostar Group and Making Science used machine learning to ensure rapid response when travel bounced back

The pandemic-led downturn in the travel sector provided the global tourism and hotel chain with an opportunity to look at its paid social campaign and enhance efficiencies to prepare for a return in demand.

The background

By partnering with recent Making Science acquisition Agua3, global hotel and tourism chain Iberostar Group was able to harness machine learning for a rapid response when the travel industry bounced back, rather than panicking about the effects of the pandemic on the hard-hit sector. 

Iberostar Group collaborated with the Google Search team to examine modern search account structure to optimise keyword relevance. It had three core objectives:

  • To strengthen coverage in search by getting more qualified volume.
  • To improve the relevance, quality level and visibility of promotions.
  • To get the most out of machine-learning algorithms with an account structure that allowed agility and speed when reactivating.

The solution

The Google Search team proposed engaging potential new customers by simplifying the account structure for modern search; grouping ad groups and campaigns together while optimising relevance with Responsive Search Ads, Ad Customisers and Dynamic Search Ads.

Agua3’s Growth Engines and leverage smart bidding were core to creating the new strategy. With a focus on Spain initially, the number of campaigns dropped from 206 to 32 and Ad Groups were reduced from 1,186 to 24. The initiative also removed segmentation by match type.

Personalisation at keyword level was then introduced by generating individual ads for more than 15,000 generic keywords. Each of these were identified and created for their probability to convert based on historical search term data. The strategy also integrated a Feed for Ad Customisers and IF functions so ads could be customised depending on audience, keyword, geography and promotions.


Alongside overall revenue rising by almost a third, with return on ad spend (ROAS) running 21.5p higher, paid search campaigns improved dramatically with a 127% increase in clicks compared to previous campaigns, an 18.1% increase in click through rates and an improvement in ROAS by 225%. The changes also drew in a new US audience, owing to the action taken to the pandemic and before demand returned to the travel market.

Ad customisation was particularly effective, and meant Iberostar Group could better communicate tailored offers and customised messages - with a result of net profit increasing by 17%, and a 9% increase in Quality Score.

Ignaico Ochoa, Ecommerce Director at Iberostar Hotels & Resorts said: “Simplifying the structure of the campaigns and the improvement in exploiting the Smart Bidding algorithms help[ed] us to show more relevant ads to a higher volume of searches, while profitability and volume are not affected.”



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