All posts by Paul Manzey

Upselling for Guest Satisfaction and Revenue

Front desk Interalpen Hotel in Tyrol

With occupancy rates returning to pre-recession levels in many parts of the world, many property owners and hoteliers expect that revenue per available room (RevPAR) and average daily rates (ADR) will continue to grow with an increased number of heads in the beds.  However, without an effective upselling program, it will be difficult for properties to increase revenue in 2014 and beyond.

We discussed implementing a front desk upselling program in a previous blog post, which dealt specifically with how training companies are attempting to teach employees to effectively upsell when guests check in.

Upselling provides an important revenue stream for managers and hoteliers, but the idea is still underutilized across the industry.  Let us look at why your upselling program will not only increase your revenue, but may also increase the satisfaction of the guests who choose to stay with you.
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Wego Launches Arabic Metasearch App for iOS

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Wego, a leading travel metasearch site in the Asia Pacific and Middle East, today launched the world’s first dedicated flights and hotels travel metasearch mobile app in Arabic for iOS.  This app is expected to follow the success of the first travel metasearch site available in Arabic, created by the company in 2012.

“The response from GCC countries to Wego’s fully Arabised site has been overwhelming,” said Mohamad Ibrahim Masri, Managing Director, Wego Middle East and North Africa.

Masri added that it only made sense to invest in a fully-localized version of the company’s mobile app, especially when experts predict an almost 14-fold increase in Middle East North Africa (MENA) mobile data traffic by 2018.

“The app for iOS comes complete with right to left language support (Arabic RTL support for android coming soon), for comfortable navigation of Wego’s extensive global metasearch platform, available in multiple currencies, displaying both local and global air services and accommodation options.”

Since the Arabised metasearch engine was released in 2012, Wego has built valuable partnerships with major travel brands in the region including Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, GulfAir, Musafir, ArabRooms and more.

Impact of the Wego App

The Wego app was recently released in the company’s core markets, and to fairly resounding success.  It currently ranks as the number one new travel application in Singapore, China, and Thailand, and ranking number two in India.  It also ranks in the Top 100 of travel apps in 20 countries worldwide.

“We’ve had very positive reviews of the application so far and the download momentum is continuing to accelerate,” said Matthew Varley, Wego’s Chief Operating Officer.

“We spent a great deal of time consulting our Arabic speaking colleagues so that every minute detail was reviewed and verified. We paid careful attention to numbers, calendars, currencies and labels and the complexities of tools required for right to left translation, screen transition directions and swipe gestures were all a huge challenge.”

To learn more about Wego, and the Wego Affiliate Travel Network, click here.

To download the Wego App, click here.

The Future of SmartPhones

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A recent post on Venture Beat discussed the future of mobile technology, but the conversation was not centered around the phones themselves, but on adaptive operating systems. You may have already seen examples of these adaptive OS’s with your own smartphone. Have you been directed to Facebook when you were trying to access Twitter? Companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google are using our usage data to transform our experiences with the “best friends” we carry in our pockets.

Adaptive Mobile Technology in the Travel Industry

In our “Death of the Cookie” blog post, we discussed how most mobile devices are “un-cookieable”, making tracking from platform-to-platform a difficult concept to achieve. However, mobile applications are typically coded to give hoteliers and property managers a better feel for what type tasks travelers are using a specific app for.

Phones themselves are not likely to change in the near future. The next option would be to revert back to smaller-sized phones, but most users prefer a larger screen for multiple uses. This is why apps and the OS make all the difference in the world. These are the parts of the smartphone landscape that will see the most gains in the future.

Potential Future Opportunities in Mobile Marketing

As operating systems become more adaptive, it may benefit brands to focus more on direct mobile advertising. Currently, advertisers are investing large sums of money to put their ads within mobile applications. Could the next step be marketing directly through OS itself? Cutting out the application “middle men” would allow marketing guru’s to reach out directly to the consumer.

To read the entire Venture Beat article, click here.

Smart Hotels are No Longer an Idea of the Future

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Smart phones appear to be on the forefront as far as the future of the hospitality industry goes, but are hoteliers ready to take the next step forward? In 1999, Disney released a television show called “Smart House”. This show was centered around a teenager winning a fully automated dream house in a competition. Now, iBeacon is attempting to make the “Smart Hotel Room” a very real possibility.

Hotels are always looking to give guests the feeling and comfort of being at home. One way to achieve this is by replicating the feeling of being at home. Smart homes are the future and hotels should embrace change and be at the forefront of this technological innovation.

The Concept of the Smart Hotel

The concept of the smart hotel is to automate everything you want to forget about, allowing you to have more time to enjoy the great aspects of traveling. Here are a few of the things the hotel app, in addition to the iBeacon technology, will take care of:

  • Find your room - Having trouble navigating the winding halls of an expansive luxury hotel? Beacons are great for determining your position in large hotels, helping to guide you to your room.
  • Room Service - Check out the menu for the evening and order a movie all from the comfort of your bed.
  • Messaging - Communicate quickly and efficiently with the front desk in a WhatsApp-like messaging style.
  • Lights - This system will help save energy by automatically turning on and off room lights when you enter or leave your room.
  • Check In – If I have said it once, I have said it 1,000 times: people want to avoid a check-in wait at all costs. Your information is entered when you book the room and you are provided with your electric room key because of the beacon at the entrance.
  • Room Cleaning - When a guest has checked out of their room, the beacons can notify the cleaners ensuring they never have to knock on a door again.
  • In-Room Entertainment – Playing your own music straight from your phone and watching your favorite series on the television is just the beginning.

There are more perks to using the iBeacon system, but all of them lend to the idea of making the travel experience easier and more convenient. Smart housing has been a concept of the future for quite some time, but now it is becoming mainstream. The next step will be to determine whether this technology is cost-efficient for hoteliers to incorporate into their revenue strategy.

Priceline Looks to Enhance Mobile Offerings

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OTA’s and mobile technology are two themes you see a lot on the ResortsandLodges.com Business Blog, and a recent interview with the company’s chief marketing officer regarding Priceline entering the on-property services market may be a signal of things to come throughout the travel industry.

Priceline’s goal is to play a larger roles throughout the travel experience, such as enabling hotel check-ins or on-site purchases, and views mobile as essential to realizing these goals.

The idea of mobile check-ins is not a new theory in the travel industry, but most of this discussion focused on individual brands like Starwood, Marriott and Loews leading the way with new mobile innovations.

Often times, once the initial booking of the hotel room through the OTA has been completed, these companies have played no further role in the travel experience.  As Brett Keller, CMO of Priceline put it, “We are primarily a transaction service.  We want to help you find and book that hotel as quickly as possible, but we have expanded beyond that a little bit.”

How is Priceline Expanding?

Newly-enhanced app features will now allow Priceline travelers the opportunity to explore the area to which they are traveling, in a map-based environment, to quickly find and explore where they can fly and purchase products at a discounted price.

Going forward, Priceline would like to have a hand in day-to-day tasks when a travelers arrives at their destination with features like checking in at a hotel, making purchases at the property, unlocking room doors and even unlocking rental car doors.  This may seem futuristic, but these types of things are offered on a limited basis right now.

Why This Matters to You

Although this is a great opportunity for OTA’s to play a more impactful role on the travel industry, it could have a negative impact on these services at your property.

Expediting the check-in process continues to be an important improvement for any type of lodging, whether you are running a brand-name hotel, or a small boutique hotel.  Travelers are happy to get away from long lines and waiting just to get a key to your room.

On-property services and purchases, however, are a priority revenue stream for hoteliers, and losing this money to OTA’s could create a more fragmented industry.  Property managers/owners may have to consider price changes in order to keep their services attractive to travelers.

Ultimately, travelers are looking for the best value with the most convenience.  Creating an easy-to-use marketplace these bundled packages and services can be found serves the traveler on a very personal level, but could lead to problems down the road between hoteliers and OTA’s.

To read the entire interview with Brett Keller, click here.

Making Your Search Results User Friendly

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A recent Econsultancy blog post examined search results on travel sites, and how user friendly some of these particular models are.  Although this particular study observed the flying segment of the travel industry, the same conclusions can be drawn for travel sites of all kinds.  Let’s take a look at some of the findings.

What are people looking for from travel search results pages?

The easy answer to this question is many different things, but more specifically travelers are looking for the best combination of price, timing and convenience.

There was a time when your only choice was to look at a full year calendar to see when a property had availability.  Now you can enter your dates of travel into a booking search engine, select the number of travelers accompanying you and you are off.

Within a brand.com website, travelers will typically see all of the room options available during the given time frame, but something hoteliers should also take into consideration is adding a price range limit as well.  Although you should always be eager to show off your premium rooms with top amenities, these options are just not in some traveler’s budget range.  Here are some of features of an effective search results page:

  • Ability to sort results – Users Should be able to order results according to their own preferences.  This may be price, duration of stay or even amenities included in a given accommodation.
  • Presentation of Results – The default display option should allow users to make sense of the information presented easily.  Users should also have options to alter the display to suit their needs.  For example, some travelers prefer to see a full calendar of availability as opposed to a list view.
  • Filtering of results – Users need a good range of options to refine their results.
  • Speed – Results should load quickly, and adding and removing of filters should also be a smooth and expedited process.
  • Clarity of pricing – This is not always easy for third party aggregator sites, but it can be very frustrating for a traveler to see what looks to be a good price, only to find lots of extras added by the time you reach checkout.
  • Quick link to change original search – Searches may produce a small number of results, or the user may not be satisfied, so make it easy for them to amend their search with a clear link.

To read the full analysis of the airline industry’s travel search results, click here.

UK Travelers Use Smartphones for Research

PHone

The mobile phone is proving to be indispensable in the United Kingdom when organizing a holiday, but there is still room for improvement when it comes to mobile bookings.

According a recent survey of 1,550 UK smartphone owners conducted by the marketing group Weve, nearly nine in 10 used their phones to research and plan their vacations.  Among this group, the most common uses were for searching for hotels (47%), flights (45%), comparing prices (44%), searching for holidays (44%) and checking in for flights (34%).

Despite the value the mobile phone has in organizing trips, the bulk of transactions were made on a desktop or laptop computer, and half of those who did not book on a mobile device said this was due to sites not being optimized for mobile use.

Similar results were found in polling by TNS Infrafest and Google, which found that smartphones were used the most during the middle of planning trips.  Nearly seven in 10 UK smartphone users said they researched via smartphone in the middle of the trip planning process, but only 17% of respondents used one of these devices to make a final purchase.

All of this data also aligns with a recent PhoCusWright study we discussed in a previous blog post that found U.S. travelers that projected mobile bookings will double over each of the next two years.  This study found that travelers were too often frustrated by issues like:

-Limited offerings by major travel industry players

-Limited capabilities of the mobile devices themselves.

A Matter of Functionality

Ultimately, mobile technology will go as far as its functionality will allow it to go in the future.  As major OTAs and hospitality industry players continue to commit large amounts of money to improving their digital tools, the ability to research and book trips on mobile devices will continue to improve.  However, these companies must be careful to not rush the process and put inferior tools out on the market.  This is far more likely to turn travelers off to planning on these ever important mobile devices.  

How Travelers View a Hotel’s Digital Experience

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We have discussed the role technology plays in the hospitality at length on the ResortsandLodges.com Business Blog, but the digital customer experience agency MCD Partners has taken this examination a step further.  They surveyed 1,000 American travelers about their views on the average hotel digital experience.

In particular, the agency breaks down digital experiences across three demographics:  Family, Leisure and Business travelers.

MCD presents four findings in their white paper, which is available to download here.  We will be discussing each finding in detail over the course of the next few days and let you know how you can incorporate these findings into your digital campaign.

Finding Number One:  Quality is King

For 70% of travelers surveyed, a hotel’s website and app influenced their decision to book a stay. Travelers often feel that a hotel’s digital offerings reflect what the experience will be like at the hotel itself.

Travelers were asked, “How much of an impact does the quality of the hotel’s website, app or other digital tools have on your decision to stay?”  These were the results:

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As you can see, quality digital tools play a moderate to strong role in the decision making process, regardless of demographic.  Family travelers in particular indicate that digital tools affect their hotel choice. One such traveler said, “If they take the time to have a great website, it tells me they will take the time to make sure I have a great travel experience.”

How This Applies to Your Website

You do not have to break your marketing budget trying to create a state-of-the-art website that is more confusing than effective.  At the same time, you do not want a website to look like it was constructed in the 1990’s.

Here are three things to keep in mind with your brand.com website, apps and other digital tools:

1) Functionality is the key – Make sure your website is easily navigable and that travelers can get to your booking platform with the least number of clicks possible.  Make sure your images look professional, or that you have a nice blend of guest submissions with your professional photos.

2) Mobile responsiveness across all devices  – Your standard website may not appear the same way on a mobile device as it does on a standard desktop or laptop computer.  Make sure your site is coded to be responsive to fit a wide variety of screens including tablets and smartphones.  That way travelers on-the-go will be able to use your site wherever they are.

3) Mobile apps are great…BUT – They are useless if the app does not work.  Many companies release their applications without beta testing them, leading to mixed results.  If you have to make a decision between releasing your app early, or ensuring it is the best tool possible, delay the release and get the bugs out.