Category Archives: Hotels

Are Metamediaries the Next Big Thing in Travel?

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Extensive online travel agencies (OTAs) have played a large role in the hospitality industry for the past decade, but the outcomes have not necessarily been positive for all parties involved.  They are a costly distribution channel for hoteliers, and have become a direct siphon for traditional travel agents.

The ultimate question to ponder at this time is what the next distribution giant will look like in the travel space.

Disruptive Forces

John Burns, president of Hospitality Technology Consulting, says that he does not see much change in hotel distribution in the near future.  Burns notes that OTAs have evolved over the past decade, incorporating loyalty programs into their business model, but these agencies are now fighting to compete with metasearch engines like Kayak and TripAdvisor as well.

What happens when a larger force, or a bigger name enters the travel arena?  How will this affect the traditional travel agent and OTAs?

The Big Names

Whereas Burns sees the current model remaining unchanged in the near future, Bonnie Buckhiester, president of Buckhiester Management, believes that OTAs could eventually become the “little guys” in the travel industry as larger companies emerge.

Buckhiester believes that OTAs like Orbitz, Hotels.com and Booking.com could struggle to keep with what are being called “metamediaries” – companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple – entering the landscape and creating their own category of intermediary.

Competition with these major names will be difficult because of one key factor:  money.

Buckhiester points out some eye-opening numbers when talking about market capitalization of these companies.  Marriott, a well-known name is the hospitality industry, capitalized at $13 billion, while Facebook is $60 billion, Google is $300 billion and Apple is $400 billion.  If these companies enter travel in a serious way, their presence will be overwhelming.

Where do Traditional Agents Stand?

Traditional agencies still have a very good relationship with the managed business travel sector of the industry, with hotels working hard to maintain these relationships.

Complex travel arrangements will also cause consumers to turn to a trusted travel agent when planning a trip, but niche sites including One Fine Stay, which books lodgings like castles, private homes and apartments, are trying to capture their own unique segment of the travel population.

Predicting the Future

Ultimately, it is up to the travel agents, both online and traditional, to continue to reinvent themselves and show their value.  Average commission costs that range from 15-25% across the market may require adjustment in order to keep pace when big names like Google, Apple and Amazon enter the travel space in a serious way.

Online Booking Now Available with RALBook

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The future is now at ResortsandLodges.com.

We are excited to announce the release of RALBook, a brand new product that will offer our nearly 10 million travelers the opportunity to find availability and book vacation accommodations online.

No longer will travelers be limited to researching and comparing properties on one of the world’s leading leisure travel websites.  Now, we are giving travelers the opportunity to book amazing and unique accommodations, including vacation rentals, cottages, cabins, lodges and more directly at ResortsandLodges.com.

Good Ol’ Days Family Resort, located in Brainerd, Minn., is officially the first property to list their availability online.  This four-season resort located in the heart of the Brainerd Lakes Region boasts 10 new cottages and an eight-unit lodge, which will all be available to book directly on our website.

Adding to the excitement of the day, Willow Point Resort, in Buchanan Dam, Texas, became the second property to list their availability on ResortsandLodges.com.  The resort, located in the heart of the Texas Hill Country Region, features 23 cabins that can now be booked directly on our website.

This brings the total number of unique accommodations with online booking and availability at ResortsandLodges.com to 41, and that number is expected to grow as the calendar turns to February.

“This is a monumental step for us,” said CEO Ryan Bailey regarding Friday’s big news.  “We are building technology solutions that help bring together these millions of fragmented rentals into one marketplace – ResortsandLodges.com.  We are currently in the process of integrating with partners which will give us access to an astounding 12,483 properties with over 936,225 rooms and rentals.”

Finding the Right Balance with Facebook Posts

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Too much of a good thing can be negative.  It goes without saying that you have heard a rendition of this phrase at some point during your life, but did you ever think it would apply to your social media account?  According to data accumulated from 2,121 resort and hotel Facebook pages by InsideFacebook.com, there is such a thing as too much of arguably the world’s most popular social media platform.

On average, hotels post on Facebook 32 times per month.  This is broken down into the following categories:

-1.9 links

-27.8 photos

-1 status update

-1.6 videos

Some top hotels including the MGM Grand, Aria or Sierra-At-Tahoe average more than 50 posts per month in an attempt to drive high interactions.  However, increasing the number of posts does not automatically guarantee that interaction.

If approximately 86% of your posts are images, links and videos, you have to ensure that the content you are creating is meaningful.  Showing the same picture once every three or four days is not going to do a lot to capture a new audience, and may make it difficult to retain loyal customers.

Posting 30-50 times in a month will provide your followers with a steady stream of information that they can easily digest without overwhelming them, but this is not the policy for all hotels.  Some companies are posting close to 30 times per day, and have only one-sixth of the engagement of some of their competitors.  That means your followers are being buffeted with nearly 1,000 posts per month, far too many to actually track and follow for the typical consumer.

The “sweet spot” for number of daily Facebook posts is somewhere between three and seven posts per day.

To learn more about what types of posts garner the most customer feedback (likes, comments and shares), click here.

Vacation Rentals: A Growing Travel Market

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The vacation rental industry has experienced tremendous growth for more than a decade – nearly doubling in size from 1999-2011 (98%), and that trajectory should continue if recent travel trends offer any insight into the future.

Current travelers are planning their trips further in advance, staying longer during these trips and often making those trip in larger groups (despite the transient segment still leading the way in travel growth).  Let’s take a look at how each of these factors influences the vacation rental industry.

Planning Ahead of Time

Why is it important to vacation rental managers that travelers are now planning trips ahead of time (35% of travelers surveyed by Sojern booked their vacations more than 30-days in advance during Q3 2013)?

A rushed traveler booking at the last minute will typically choose more traditional accommodation options including hotels and motels.  However, travelers with more time to plan tend to be more creative, no doubt contributing to the ever-increasing trend of Americans who stay in vacation rentals each year.

Longer Stays

Sojern’s data also revealed that over 60% of leisure travelers searched for vacation stays of six days or longer in the third quarter of 2013.  The economics of vacation rentals, and their superior convenience with all the amenities of home, become more pronounced during a longer stay.

This trend was not limited to the leisure travel market.  Business travelers stayed at their destination for six days or longer 40% of the time, signaling that business travelers may be attracted to many of the same benefits vacation rentals provide.

Larger Groups

Large group travel trends tend to fluctuate depending on seasonal travel patterns, but in general hotels simply cannot compete when it comes to the convenience offered by vacation rentals for large groups.  The ability to keep an entire family under the same roof, especially groups with young children, without the headache and hassle of room roulette.

Vacation Rental Industry Growth

A recent PhoCusWright report shows that vacation rental revenue totals nearly $55 billion.  Market penetration is estimated at only 4-6% leaving ample room for growth within the industry.  Here are some other intriguing numbers that will make vacation rental owners and managers happy:

-From 2007 to 2012, the percentage of vacation rentals booked online increased from 12% to 24%.

-By 2014, it is projected that 3 out of every 10 U.S. dollars spent on vacation rentals will be booked online.

-Vacation rental management companies are quickly moving toward online listings.  In 2008, less than half of VRMCs offered live online booking.  That number has increased to 70% since that time and is still growing.

Report: Transient Channel Leads Hotel Growth in Q1 2014

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According to a recent TravelClick report, the North American hotel sector started the first month of 2014 with moderate increases in room rates and bookings.  The transient segment (individual business and leisure travelers) was the group leading the way in occupancy growth.

“After strong group sales pace early in the fourth quarter of last year, it is a bit disappointing that group bookings have lost some steam heading into the New Year,” said Tim Hart, executive vice president of business intelligence at TravelClick.  “That being said, the group segment is still ahead of where it was this time last year, and strong transient demand and ADR growth continues to drive a positive overall outlook for the first part of 2014.”

Here are highlights of some of the key numbers and statistics presented in the report:

-Transient bookings are up 5.3 percent year-over-year and the Average Daily Rate (ADR) for this segment is up 5.2 percent.

-When examining the 12-month outlook more closely (January 2014 – December 2014), it shows overall committed occupancy has increased by 3.3% compared to the same time last year.  This is also an increase of one percent from TravelClick’s July 2013 survey measuring the same information.

-The 12-month outlook also shows that ADR are up 3.9 percent based on reservations currently on the books.

The read the TravelClick report in its entirety, click here.

Push Mobile Marketing – What You Need to Know

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Are you getting the most out of your marketing campaign?  Do you have a portion of your marketing budget dedicated to mobile marketing?  Is it making a difference or are there improvements you could make to increase your ROI?

A recent Marketing Land column takes a closer look at the difference between push and pull mobile techniques, and how push mobile marketing may be the answer in connecting with guests both on- and off-site.

Defining Pull Mobile Techniques

When customers or consumers are proactively trying to attain the goods or information they need, this refers to a pull mobile technique.  Accessing a responsive mobile website or mobile application allows a traveler to compare availability and rates, but this is not the only way they can acquire this information.

Effective Push Mobile Marketing Techniques

If pull mobile techniques involve a user-driven model, than it makes sense that push mobile techniques originate on the business side of things.  It is important for companies to develop a conversation with consumers, hopefully allowing this to blossom into full-blown brand loyalty.

Mobile applications are a great way to send push notifications to travelers who have already downloaded your app, and getting users to download your app successfully is the first step.   App alerts are a great way for brands to inform consumers of any new app updates or features, as well as notifying users of promotions or other activities.

One thing to keep in mind with app alerts is that all push notifications can be turned off.  Consumers with dozens of apps on their smartphones tend to avoid being inundated with annoying alerts by disabling one or two push notifications.  Depending on the smartphone, push notifications could be disabled as a default setting.  Unless consumers are enabling this feature on their own, your message may not reach them.

Another way to reach consumers is the use of mobile messaging.  Here are three keys to building the right mobile message for your brand:

-Decide whether your message requires a short message service (SMS) involving just text or a rich message service (RMS), which also includes some type of media (photo, videos, etc.) as well.

-Make sure your message is timely (90% of text messages are read within three minutes of delivery)

-Include a strong call to action.  If you are offering a deal or promotion, include a deadline to increase the urgency of the consumer.

Regardless of what type of push mobile marketing your business is using, the key to its effectiveness will be a continued development of a more personal relationship with potential buyers.  This will help to increase brand loyalty, and should result in future business down the road.

Amplify Your Hotel Story on Instagram

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One of the most rapidly growing social media channels, Instagram, is taking advantage of the idea behind this famous Walt Disney quote:

“Of all our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.”

Taylor Short, who reviews hotel management products for Software Advice, was interviewed by the Leonardo travel blog and gave some insight into how hotels can use Instagram to amplify their story online.  After all, storytelling is one of the oldest forms of human communication.

Why the popularity surge?  Why should hotels care?

Short discusses Instagram’s appeal in its strictly visual nature.  People love taking pictures, and smartphone cameras make the process quite simple to accomplish.  Recent improvements in technology have enhanced the quality of the cameras in these phones.  Because of this, a platform based on photo sharing is, by looking at Instagram’s 75 million daily users, a platform people want to use.

Hoteliers have the opportunity to reach millions of potential guests by frequently posting quality content and engaging users with strategic campaigns that call for participation.

How to maximize your Instagram impact

There are three keys to creating an Instagram post that will attract potential travelers:

1) Be Creative

2) Be Genuine

3) Post Frequently

Engaging other users and gaining followers will help grow a hotel’s presence on the platform.  Make your communication authentic and avoid communication that constantly feels like a hard sell.

Instagram vs. other social media channels

Short explains that each platform should be viewed as an individual opportunity to tell your hotel’s story.  Facebook is a great tool for gathering guest feedback, while Twitter may work well as a customer service platform.  Instagram allow you to show off a visual story and the aesthetic appeal of your property.

To read this interview in its entirety, click here.

To learn more about creating your own Instagram account, head to the Instagram Help Center.

Bidroom Utilizing Reverse Auction Model

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Auctions are a great place to find amazing values on goods or an object being sold to the highest bidder, but what happens when this model transitions into the hospitality and travel industries?  A new hotel booking site, Bidroom, is attempting to re-create the current Online Travel Agency (OTA) model by introducing the reverse auction model.

You may be asking yourself, what is a reverse auction model?  Well, instead of a group of travelers bidding on a vacation accommodation, these individuals are asked to fill out the basic details of their stay (arrival/departure dates, number of rooms required, etc.).  This information is passed along to local hotels in real time, inviting them to provide their best offer, essentially bidding against other properties for a customer.

A 24-hour countdown clock helps both the traveler and hotel stay focused on making a deal.  Typically, these prices are lower than those offered by big booking sites and hotels are receiving direct bookings in the process without a commission charge.

As if the bidding process were not innovative enough, Bidroom is attempting to wipe the slate clean by being the first to offer this model to travelers FREE-OF-CHARGE.

Free Service

How can the company expect to make any money it the service is free?  Co-founder Mark Bradshaw explained that because Bidroom is a platform, rather than a typical travel or booking agency, the running costs are much lower than those of a traditional OTA.

In the future, Bradshaw hopes to consider following the lead services like Gmail, Skype or Facebook, whereby small advertisements run alongside the content or the webpages.  Ultimately, he expects to keep the core service free of charge.

Why the New Business Model?

Over the past decade, the presence of OTAs has grown considerably.  Many hoteliers recognize their marketing benefits and find them to be a great way to fill rooms.  However, high commission rates and a lack of loyalty from direct bookings make it a challenge to compete in such a busy online marketplace.

Bradshaw believes that if hotel prices through Bidroom are 10% cheaper than a traditional OTA, both customers and hotels will be better off, and his independent platform will grow.