Category Archives: Online Resources

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.

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.

Mobile Travel Market Set to Double in 2014

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Regular readers of the ResortsandLodges.com Business Blog have probably noticed that we dedicate a fair portion of content to emerging technologies and maximizing the tools available to the modern traveler.  Your website’s visibility depends heavily upon receiving views from a wide variety of sources, including smartphones and tablets.

How important are mobile devices for the future of the travel and hospitality industries?  Recent projections by PhoCusWright predict that U.S. mobile bookings will almost double in 2014 to $24.3 billion, up from $12.3 billion in 2013.  This means that mobile bookings – which include both smartphone and tablet bookings, but not reservations made under a “click-to-call” function – will account for 18% of the online travel market, and that $1 of every $12 spent on travel bookings will be generated via mobile.

With these numbers in mind, ResortsandLodges.com released a newly enhanced version of its mobile website at the beginning of the year, and has instantly seen positive results.  Nearly 30% of website visitors through the first three weeks of 2014 accessed ResortsandLodges.com through a mobile device.  Just over half of this demographic (15.9%) accessed the site on a tablet, while 14% of customers hopped on from a smartphone.

“I’m excited that our website now has an outstanding platform that caters to mobile users,” said Bryan Vargas, Director of IT.  “It is always important to deliver a first-rate experience to such a significant portion of our traffic.”

More Key Facts and Figures

-Despite having a similar visit duration time (2 minutes 48 seconds) as desktop (2:56) and tablet users (3:26), smartphone visitors at ResortsandLodges.com view more than three times as many pages (9.38) as those using a desktop (2.58) or tablet (2.77).

-Travelers from New York, Chicago and Minneapolis have been the most frequent users of the mobile site from smartphones.  The top three cities from which tablet users originate are New York, Houston and Chicago.

-Apple products dominate the landscape for mobile visitors at ResortsandLodges.com, with the iPhone (44.4%) and iPad (27.3%) making up 71.8% of the mobile viewing audience.

Marketing E-mails Going Mobile

Having mobile capabilities is not just important for a company’s website.  It is also important for marketing purposes.  According to a report from Movable Ink, an e-mail marketing provider, 65% of marketing e-mails were opened on mobile devices during the last quarter of 2013, up from 61% during the third quarter.  These percentages skewed heavily in favor of e-mails opened on smartphones (48%) over tablets (16%).  To see more data from the Movable Ink report, 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.