Category Archives: Hotels

Discussing Hotel Distribution Strategies

parityrate 1 click logoIn a recent interview with EyeForTravel, Sascha Hausmann, CEO of Busy Rooms, discussed hotel distribution developments in 2013, as well as trends to monitor in 2014.  Here are some of the key points Hausmann covered in her examination of distribution strategies.

Major Developments in 2013

Alternative distribution, outside of the regular and traditional OTA business, was a hot button issue last year.  It is clear that travelers like the ability to compare products.  This is where metasearch engines have made great strides.  Allowing travelers to not only compare properties in a given location, but to find the best price from a range of OTAs has given metasearch channels a leg up on the competition.

Major Trends to Keep an Eye on in 2014

1) Continuous growth in mobile and a shift from web-based searching and booking to mobile web-based

2) A focus on direct distribution fostered by metasearch

3) Rate parity will become a tool used by hoteliers rather than forced by OTA/tour operators

How to Optimize Your Effectiveness

In recent years, the focus for most hotels has been which mix of OTAs will provide the most visibility for your property.  However, with the advent of metasearch engines and the growth of online advertising options, the right mix of OTAs is no longer enough.  Travelers do not easily group themselves around specific channels anymore, instead using a broad range of outlets.

The Role of Channel Management

The channel management industry came into existence to solve that problem of managing a variety of different outlets, both in terms of availability and pricing.  However, these channels have not progressed from being just another online travel agency management tool.

Hausmann predicts that the next generation of channel management will be able to go far beyond just managing the online booking sector, but will also allow for centralizing online marketing opportunities and direct consumer traffic while providing detailed performance metrics and market intelligence.

To read this EyeForTravel interview in its entirety, and to learn more about distribution strategies, click here.

Is Social Media the Best Customer Service Tool?

socialMediaCustomerService_v1.1In December, we talked about the natural merger of the on-site hotel concierge and social media manager.  Patrick Mayock of HotelNewsNow took this idea a bit further and examined whether social media is the best client service tool.

At the Fitur International Tourism Trade Fair in Spain, Mayock sat in on a presentation about social media as the ultimate customer service channel.  However, he has some reservations about that designation.

It is obvious that social media has become a key tool in managing a customer’s online requests.  An eDigitalResearch survey found that more than one in 10 respondents expected to be able to speak to a brand represented via social media.

A similar report by the Aberdeen Group, conducted in 2012, found that 12% of service requests originated in the social sphere, with that number projected to have risen to 22% in 2013.

Companies have dedicated additional resources to marketing and social media subsets, and in general have seen success in this area.  Contact through social media is the quickest and most reliable way to get in contact with a brand and currently the only channel that will guarantee a reply to your query or complaint.

Companies may be responding to these questions due to fear of publicized customer rants on Facebook or Twitter, a common trend among the seemingly “Silent Travelers” who may smile about customer service on-site, but unleash when they have the right social media platform.

Mayock’s belief is that social media may not be supporting the increasingly digital customer service exchange, but rather the proliferation of handheld devices.  Because of the rise in these devices, hoteliers are creating new applications to reach guests – both on and off property.

The nature of these apps varies from company to company, but the consistent idea is allowing hoteliers to stay connected with guests, and vice versa.  The most important aspect of the conversation is that these companies are circumventing social media entirely.

To read more about Mayock’s travel industry insights, and to the read rest of this article, click here.

Examining Metasearch Online Travel Agencies

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Online travel agencies (OTAs) are a vital part of the supply chain in the travel industry. They are widely considered one of the main factors behind rapid growth in online travel bookings across both mature and emerging markets.

New online channels have been created in recent years with the intention of lowering hotel distribution costs without decreasing occupancy levels.  Of these options, the metasearch channel has separated itself from the pack as a highly successful venture.

In a recent interview with HotelMarketing.com, Siteminder’s CEO Mike Ford illustrated the opportunities that metasearch channels present for hoteliers.

Ford begins the discussion by explaining that metasearch OTAs collect room rates from multiple online channels and displays them to the consumer in a single list.  This allows potential travelers an expedited process to find and compare hotels and pricing options.  Some of the most popular sites include Google Hotel Finder, Trivago and Kayak.

Those hoteliers that are taking advantage and becoming early adopters of new sales and distribution technologies stand out, but ultimately the name of the game is converting clicks to bookings.  No matter the type of property, the number of rooms, geographical location, star rating or amenities offered, the companies that are the most profitable will be those with a high click conversion.

Ford also discusses his feelings about TripAdvisor’s TripConnect in comparison to the other major metasearch OTAs as well as tips for hoteliers on how best to implement metasearch channels into their online visibility.

To read this entire interview, and to learn more about the importance of metasearch OTAs going forward, click here.

Emerging Travel Trends: The Silent Traveler

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The rise of digital technology and marketing in the hospitality industry has created a new kind of traveler who is adept at all available online and mobile tools.  They use these tools to jump across all industry-defined silos.  These new travelers do not require a lot of handholding, they shun human interaction and know their way around everywhere they go.

These travelers were documented in a Skift report titled, “14 Global Trends That Will Define Travel in 2014.”  How can you reach these travelers and keep them satisfied during their stay at your property?  Let’s take a look at some options that are geared towards the newly emerging “Silent Traveler”.

Mobile Check-in Opportunities

No traveler really enjoys the tedious process of a front desk check-in.  Waiting in line can be a hassle, and Silent Travelers do not always feel comfortable with extended amounts of face-to-face interaction.  One of our recent blog posts, “Hotels Expand Mobile Check-In Options” discusses steps hotels are taking to make the check-in process simpler and mobile-driven.

Third Space Creativity

Silent Travelers still need a place to be able to operate the technology they travel with, putting a premium on creating a usable third space on your property.  All travelers are looking for Wi-Fi connectivity, and most of them believe this should be a complimentary service.  Click here to learn more about third spaces.

Response to Feedback

If the hospitality — the actual human to human interaction — part of the travel industry becomes less and less important, how does the industry define itself? How does it understand the needs of its customers and fulfill them?

Although these Silent Travelers may not be talking to people face-to-face, they are often jumping on review sites, or a property’s own website, to leave feedback about their stay.  It is important to manage these channels and respond to this feedback as soon as possible.  This ensures that the voice of the Silent Travelers is being heard, and their concerns are addressed like those of any other guest.

Roomer Travel: The Resale Marketplace Dynamic

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Have you heard of StubHub and EBay?  These well-known sites provide a secondary marketplace for buyers and sellers of valuable products.  What would happen if there were a secondary marketplace for hotel rooms bought in advance, that need to be sold because of unforeseen circumstances?  Welcome to the idea behind Roomer Travel.

Richie Karaburun, Roomer Travel’s United States Managing Director, was recently on the Emerging Market Trends Panel at the Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association (HEDNA) conference, and he discussed the business model behind the startup.

Here is how Roomer Travel works:  travelers who have booked, and prepaid, for a non-refundable room can put their room up on the site, where they can re-sell it to another person.

On the surface, there is some fear from hoteliers and room suppliers that “hotel scalping” will become the norm, creating a potential disruption in the hotel supply chain.  For example, what is stopping a person from buying a room at $100 six months in advance, and then selling in later when the Best Available Rate is higher than the price originally paid – thus making a profit? Shouldn’t this profit be going to the hotel whose inventory is being re-sold rather than the customer?

Karaburun pointed out, the average discount they have seen on their platform is 37%.  He claims this is a far cry from scalping, and more of a way to help customers with not having to eat the cost of the pre-paid hotel room when plans change.

The main goal of the company is to connect sellers – traveler who can no longer use their hotel reservation, but do not want to pay the cancellation fee – with other travelers who are willing to buy the reservation for them.  This creates value for the hotels – which do not need to re-market the room and sell it for less (the hotel still gets the full price for a reservation).  Hotels also have the opportunity to capture the incremental revenues (WiFI, minibar, etc.) which would be lost if the room is not re-sold.

Four Immediate Challenges Facing Roomer Travel

1) The true size of the market remains uncertain.  Although Karaburun estimated that there are 80,000 hotel daily no-shows in the United States in an NBC News interview, this may be a slightly exaggerated figure.  The key here is that not all hotels are offering a resale market option, and some of these rooms may not be non-refundable.

2) Unlike airlines, hotels allow name changes on a reservation now.  If a consumer finds himself or herself unable to use a prepaid reservation, he or she can reach out to others using social media to see if anyone is interested in using a room.

3) Hotels may resist using Roomer if they believe it will have a negative effect on their revenues.

4) Simple convincing hotels to participate in this new marketplace will be a tough sell.  Roomer could find it difficult getting branded hotels to participate.  An easier angle to work may be independent hotels, but this reaches a limited consumer base.

The Declining Value of Social Marketing

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Is social media a marketer’s dream, or a dreadful nightmare that just does not seem to go away?  Is everybody using it, or are people just hopping on board right as the calendar changes to 2014?  NextStage surveyed 1,700 U.S. and Canada-based companies about their own social media use, and the results may surprise you.

It is first important to get some context on exactly what social marketing entails.  Social marketing means creating a social presence and using that social presence to drive conversions.  Conversions cover everything from loyalty to acquisition to retention, and even customer service.

All interviewees were director level and above, knowledgeable social managers with two or more years’ experience in social, with more years in marketing in general.  Companies ranged from mom and pop shops to Fortune 100 corporations.  Wide varieties of tools were used to glean information about social campaigns including Expion, Google Anayltics, HootSuite and ReviewAnalyst among others.

So what did these businesses think?  Would they do it all over again?

Marketers who said they are new to social media: 6%

It almost seems like a cardinal sin for a marketing manager to have at least two years of experience on the job and still claim to be new to social media.

That being said, with so many social media platforms out there, it stands to reason that some marketing managers may be new to outlets like Pinterest, Instagram or Reddit.  Part of people’s newness claims did amount to an inability to keep up.  One respondent even said, “We’re not sure the platform we need is out there yet.”

That “which platform” question will be a considerable challenge for marketers in 2014 and beyond.

Marketer who said they were happy with social media: 7.75%

This low a percentage should not be a real surprise to marketers.  All successful efforts came down to four essential details.  The top two spots in this regard were knowing and respecting their audience.  Those who claimed success talked about knowing their audience and showing it respect.

Respect came in several forms including shared interests, shared social causes and shared social beliefs.  Letting an audience have a say and digital transparency that was seconded on non-digital channels were also highly ranked.

The third basic element for success was the old “location, location, location” slogan.   You want to go where your audience is, while not trying to push them in a direction where they do not wish to go.

The final element was deciding what to measure and then finding or making the tool that could accurately measure it.  A marketing manager’s office is a revolving door of vendors with lots of solid products, but they have to be the correct product for what you are attempting to measure.

Marketer who said they are going to “do something else”:  10.5%

This can include everything from revamping social marketing campaigns to completely rebuilding social teams to everything in-between.  Although these people are unhappy with their results, they are not unhappy enough to abandon social media altogether.  However, they are just unhappy enough to consider alternative spends.

Did these companies consider this social spending a waste of money?  Definitely not.  All of them considered their social campaigns learning experiences, and most believed that the campaigns simply did not succeed as well as they would have liked.

To find out what percentage of companies were dissatisfied with social, and where the rest of respondents fell on the survey, click here.

Modern Travelers: Smile Onsite About Service, Irate on the Internet

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Picture this scene:  You are traveling to see family during the holidays, and you decide to stay at a hotel for a few days.  The building itself is beautiful, with a nicely decorated lobby filled with incredibly friendly and helpful staff members.  You walk into your room and instantly notice it is bright, clean and big.

This was the travel experience of TrustYou’s marketing director Margaret Ady, and despite all of these positive aspects of the hotel, she gave a mediocre review.  What was her reasoning behind this decision?  She had to pay nearly $22/day for internet service.

Her frustration in having to pay for the internet service is not unique in today’s travel landscape that offers Free WiFi nearly everywhere you go.  To go online and voice one’s concerns with an average, or below-average review has also become the norm in the hospitality industry.

TrustYou worked with New York Univeristy’s Donna Quadri-Felitti PhD, from the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management, to release its first annual global reports, based on an analysis of over 14 million reviews written in 2013 to identify key trends in user reviews.

The consensus from the data matches Ady’s experience:  in most destinations, travelers were smiling about service, but irate over the internet in 2013.

As travelers turn increasingly to reviews to help with their hotel booking decisions, hotel management is under constant pressure to focus on improvement of review scores connected to their hotel portfolio.  In 2013, hoteliers rose to the challenge, with a majority of regions/countries (including leaders the United States, Spain and the United Kingdom) posting an increase in scores.

To read more about this report, including the recent drop of five-star reviews in major markets across the globe, click here.

Top Weekly Travel Ads: A Family-Friendly Summer

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As companies begin to gear up for family-friendly summer in 2014, travel ads use children and parents to capture a large and profitable portion of the traveling public.  Skift.com put together a list of the five top travel ads from the past week, which you can view here.

You may not have advertising budgets that allow you to create and distribute commercials like this, but capturing the family message is important because it is such a key travel demographic.

Priceline’s latest ad features William Shatner reprising his role as the Negotiator.  He plays the role of a protective parent after his daughter’s date books a room using Priceline’s no-bid Express Deals hotel booking tool.  Negotiator Rises

Disney Theme Parks is not marketing to protective parents, but they do encourage them to create unforgettable memories with a child’s first trip to this vacation wonderland.  Disney’s message is simple: Take your children to a Disney theme park if you want to make them happy.  Magical “Firsts” at Disney Theme Parks

Expedia’s new ad tugs at a parent’s heartstrings, following a young boy whose bedtime storybook seems to come to life when on vacation with his mom.  The ad encourages would-be travelers to discover their real-life fairy tales via travel.  Create Your Storybook