Category Archives: Reviews

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.

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.

Survey: Luxury Travel Trends in 2014

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Social media has become a dynamic way to attract guests in recent years with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and many other platforms exploding onto the scene.  Popular among Generation Y travelers, these forums are used as an online guest feedback tool, a place to share pictures while on a trip or even find recommendations for things to do on vacation.

However, when looking at Luxury Travel Trends in 2014, social media does not quite stack up to a review site or the traditional word of mouth endorsement from friends, family or an acquaintance.

Luxury Link, a leading luxury travel website, conducted a survey of 1,600 discerning and high-income (household income over $100,000) travelers to garner some insight about how these individuals will travel in 2014.  Here are some of those numbers, statistics and trends:

-Among global respondents, 29.7% stated they are most interested in visiting Europe, while 27.3% are Caribbean-bound.  Of those individuals traveling to Europe, 60.5% listed major cities like London, Paris and Rome as a primary area of interest.  Caribbean travelers will head to Turks and Caicos, the British Virgin Islands and Saint Lucia.

-Two countries, Croatia and Portugal, where tabbed as up-and-coming travel destinations in 2014.

-Staying active is important to high-end travelers with 46.3% of respondents planning to incorporate adventures such as hiking, sailing or SCUBA diving into their trips.

-Foodie-focused travelers make up 40.7% of the survey, and try to center their trips on fine dining and/or cooking classes.

-Travelers were asked to rank the relative importance of five travel resources in the vacation-planning process.  The results are as follows:

1) Review Sites (TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc.)

2) Booking Sites (Luxury Link, Kayak, Orbitz, etc.)

3) Word of mouth/personal recommendations

4) Media Content (TV shows, online videos, blogs, newspapers)

5) Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest)

 

-Must have hotel amenities in 2014 include:

1) Free WiFi (75.7% of respondents)

2) Early Check-In/Late Check Out (53.6%)

3) Free Breakfast (47.1%)

If you consider your property to be a luxury destination, you do not want to disregard social media as an advertising tool completely.  However, it is also important to dedicate your advertising dollars to mediums that will attract high-end guests.   A presence in a variety of mediums will keep your property visible, and hopefully keep travelers coming through your doors.

 

Five Ways Hotels can use Facebook’s Insights Platform

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Analytics software has moved to the social media platform as Facebook has released Facebook Insights, a new platform for all business listings.  With Insights, you have access to more data that shows just how likeable your brand is.  Here are five tips to keep in mind that will help you to better connect with your audience:

1. Follow Your Page’s Weekly Trends

The Overview section of the platform provides you with a quick look at Likes, Reach and Engagement over the past week.  You will also find a log of your five most recent posts.  Viewing this information on a weekly basis allow your to see trends and capitalize on the elements that are creating engagement in your campaign.  You will also have the opportunity to troubleshoot negative performance trends before they become an ongoing problem.

2. Figure out Your Optimal Posting Time

Marketers have put a substantial amount of research into discovering what the best times are to post on Facebook.  The Insights platform takes this a step further by tailoring this information specifically to your audience.  This is a great tool for helping you to organize your posting schedule during the days of the weeks, and hours of the day, when your audience is most reachable.

3. Customize Your Content for Your Audience

It is not enough to know only who is reading your posts, and when they are reading it.  The Post Types tab of Facebook Insights will show you what type of content your audience is responding to, as well as a post-by-post breakdown of recent posts.  It is still important to diversify your content, but focusing on post types that generate the most reach and engagement will certainly help your cause.

4. Make Sure You Are Not Alienating Your Audience

As with all forms of social media, your Facebook Page can never be all things to all people, but you do want to make sure your content is generating more positive reactions than negative ones.  The Reach Tab on Facebook Insight helps you determine when you are reaching people and how they are reacting.  Here, you will be able to see Hide, Report as Spam and Unlikes in a graph right below Likes, Comments and Shares.  These will all be a direct reaction to your posts, so if the negative reactions surpass the positive, you should look up that day’s content and avoid similar items in the future.

5. Get to Know Your Fans

You will be able to find a demographic breakdown for a wide variety of categories including those people checking into your property, those who are seeing or engaging with your content, or just your overall fan base.  This information will be helpful in tailoring your content to your audience, or planning future fan acquisition campaigns.

If, for example, you are seeing a demographic that is particularly engaged with your content or a demographic that is lacking on Facebook but is typically a strong market for your property, you can plan future campaigns to reach those users.

Top 10 Hospitality Industry Trends for 2014

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With the calendar changing to 2014 in the next week, many industry experts are attempting to project what will happen, what changes will be made and how they will affect your business over the next 12 months.  HospitalityNet’s Robert Rauch created a list of the Top 10 Hospitality Industry Trends in 2014 that focuses on the emergence of a key demographic in the travel industry:  Millennials.  Let’s take a look at a few of Rauch’s insights.

1) Millennials will become the core customer within the travel and hospitality industries over the next five to ten years.  Most travel companies, hotels and airlines will benefit as this group enters their peak earning, spending and traveling years.  Exploration, interaction and experience are the major focus of Millennials, as well as within the subsets of this generation.

Many travelers are willing to pay more for a greater experience.  “Foodies” are prevalent in this subset of the market and are looking for an overall gourmet experience for a reasonable price.  This will likely cause the industry to revamp lobby bars, restaurants and food service in general.  Other groups including Internet bloggers, culture buffs, LGBT and Multi-generational travelers are looking for that unique experience that will command change within the market.

2) Speed and precision will be a requirement when accommodating Millennials in upcoming years.  This group is looking for fast booking, fast check-in, fast WiFi and fast responses to customer service needs.  If these are not implemented within hotels and other properties, Millennials will have no problem speaking out over a variety of channels like Twitter, Facebook, Yelp or online travel reviews sites to voice their complaints.

3) WOW customer service will become even more influential in 2014.  Service today can be broken down into four levels:  basic, expected, desired and WOW.  Basic service can be found at a post office, whereas expected service can be found at most fast food restaurants and many standard businesses.  Good hotels will find a way to provide desired experience, but WOW service is really the only way to take that next step and ensure repeat business.

Creating an impressive, unique guest experience that exceeds all expectations will allow you to capture the customer.  It may also earn additional business when this guest announces their WOW experience on various social media platforms.

4) Leadership is showing your management team that there are more important things than just “talking the talk”; it is important to “walk the talk”.  Each and every employee has something that they can work on.  It is of extreme importance to form a connection with guests in a time where Millennials are looking for interaction and a unique experience.

Rauch states that it is his goal as a leader to instill the value of building relationships by sharing the knowledge he has while learning from both his employees and guests.  He runs with guests staying at one of his hotels, and offers personal training sessions for others.

5) Expectation of more international visitors.  Average rates and occupancy levels in the United States are likely to increase over the next few years, influenced by a very new market.  According to Arne Sorenson, President and CEO of Marriott Hotels and Resorts, leisure demand from abroad, fueled in part by the new Discover America campaign, will stimulate a new demand.

China is at the center of this international travel boom, preparing to send about 100 million leisure travelers abroad every year.  If the U.S. gets its typical share of this population, that will mean an additional 10 million visitors annually from China alone.  With the average Chinese travelers spending at least a week in the U.S., demand is created for an additional 70 million room nights in a market where prices are steadily rising.  Globalization in the travel industry will likely prove to be a massive force.

To read the remaining trends on this list, or to find our more information about Robert Rauch, click here.

Social Media, Concierge: A Natural Merger

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The hotel concierge was once a position that exemplified luxury.  These individuals offered their supreme knowledge of the local area and attractions as well as the ability to help plan activities, make dinner reservations or just to assist you along the way.

In recent years, the various electronic communications on a property’s social media platforms have replaced many of the tasks formerly attended to by the onsite concierge.  Past, present and future guests are able to send their digital queries and it is the hotel’s responsibility to respond with helpful information.

Larry Mogelonsky, President and Founder of LMA Communications, recently wrote a feature article about a natural merger that should take place at efficient hotels in the modern travel space: Concierge and Social Media.

Why the Merge?

In the past, helping guests was the primary duty of the concierge, but now that this role is being usurped by social media managers.  Wouldn’t it make sense to merge the two departments?

Even before the advent of the internet, guests were able to find key information about a property, but it could be a straining and time consuming process.  Enter the onsite concierge and guests’ stress levels were alleviated with immediate and specific advice that better helped travelers to enjoy their stay.

Today, guests have more resources to choose from in searching for hotel information, but the preference is to have a local expert who will be able to give a customized response tailored exclusively to them.  You are doing the leg work so that they don’t become fatigued from research, and the interactions build rapport and trust with potential guests.

The only real difference between these roles is the face-to-face communication with a concierge, a more emotionally driven form of communication that is more likely to spur guests to develop an actual bond with the hotel.

Social media has scattered communication across multiple channels and personnel, making it difficult to track in some cases.  Now, everyone is carrying around a cell phone or tablet and can contact a property wherever they happen to be situated at the moment.  Consequently, if true rapport is to be gained, there needs to be a coordination and integration between online and onsite staff-to-guest communication.

Inbound Versus Outbound Social Media

Mogelonsky is quick to differentiate between the two types of social media handled by a given property.  Outbound social media includes the advertising, marketing and public relations materials that disseminated to potential guests.  Inbound social media, on the other hand, concerns the communications received from consumers and your response efforts.  Developing a sound connection between your inbound social media manager and on-site concierge will help guarantee there is no breakdown in guest-to-staff communication.

The Guest Relations Department

Social media efforts can be divided across your PR and marketing departments, alleviating the pressure on your social media manager to dedicate his or her time to inbound consumer demands.  In order to build positive and genuine relationships with guests, there should be constant contact between the inbound social media team and the concierge staff, or the aptly named joined department:  the Guest Relations Department.

In this respect, you are not simply combining responsibilities, but you are also pooling your resources.  Given that the future of the concierge and all communications with guests are heavily dependent on technology, it is crucial that you give guests the most straightforward methods of reaching you.  There needs to be a base proficiency in both social media and dealing with guests face-to-face, in addition to a working familiarity with the area and access to the resources that can improve this foundation.

Take advantage of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.  Live chatting has become a great way to receive real-time feedback from guests.  You can also encourage people to post their own pictures, comments and reviews of your location.

Mogelonsky summarizes his argument by explaining that the core of social media is two-way communication.  In the hospitality world this involves telling your audience about news, events and upcoming promotions, while also remaining accountable to them when they send a digital request, question, picture or anecdote.  Companies that cannot respond effectively simply are not using the medium properly.  The convergence of the concierge staff and social media will ensure a seamless guest experience for future travelers.

Defining the Role of Social Media Manager

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When creating the coming year’s marketing plan, the ever expanding presence of social media platforms must enter the discussion.  Specifically, the role of the Social Media Manager and what the ideal candidate should look like.  Are you going to hire these services out to a third-party company that will manage these platforms on your behalf?  Will this be a junior or senior position?  These questions and more are addressed by Julie Lepp, Director of Marketing for White Oaks Resort in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, in a recent HotelExecutive.com article.

The current trend seems to be heading towards companies bringing on a social media manager as a junior position, typically a new graduate satisfied with a lower pay scale and very familiar with the various platforms.  You’ll be able to take care of what you perceive as more pressing marketing tasks knowing that the social media issue is under control.

The Voice of Your Brand

You should take into consideration that the voice in the conversation between guest and hotel should be warm and welcoming, presenting a friendly place to do business.  Is it right to trust the voice of the brand, with the potential to reach the entire world, to a new hire right out of school who has little to no experience with your hotel, customer service and the way you handle complaints?

Customer comment cards need to be taken very seriously in the travel industry.  They are an indirect way of having a conversation with your guests which may lead to return business in the future.  Print comment cards are still circulated to guests throughout their stay, but your new social media manager may, in a sense, be conducting online comment cards on a daily basis in the form of tweets, reviews and social media posts.

Because the return on investment is perceived to be low from social media, there has been some hesitance to hire Social Media Managers as key strategists in the hospitality industry.  The position is handed off to a junior person to simply manage.  The potential for a PR disaster with so little control or supervision is unprecedented.

The Social Media/Customer Service Relationship

Customer service is the cornerstone of the travel space, and social media should be seen as an extension of good customer service rather than some ambiguous marketing element that produces little ROI.  Conversations on social media platforms include anecdotes about the excitement of arrival to your property, disappointment in something that has gone wrong and even promoting the brand.  Because of this, the main criteria for managing your social brand is not just being familiar with these platforms, but having a strong understanding of the strategic plan for your company.  How, when and what you post, and how you respond to guest posts, should all reflect the company’s position, beliefs and goals.

Lepp points out that the argument can be made that a person interacting daily with your customers, who is directly affecting your sales and presentation to the world, should be a senior experienced member of your team.  At the same time, no experienced marketer is going to take on social media management for a junior salary, or be seen to be taking a step backward in their career development.

Until social media is seen and understood as a flexible marketing and communication tool as well as an extension of the customer service standards, little will change.  So you may just continue to see “Sally from the front desk” tweeting and posting away on behalf of major brands, composing whatever Sally dreams up that day.

5 Social Media Strategies for 2014

Taiga-Site_Social-Media-StrategyAs the calendar turns from 2013 to 2014, many companies have new goals and strategies ready to be implemented.  The evolving world of social media is no different.  However, the ultimate goal of those strategies remains the same:  to increase brand awareness, to enhance guest satisfaction and to drive revenue.

To help hoteliers reach these goals, Daniel Edward Craig, founder of the online reputation management firm Reknown, and his panel shared a list of social media strategies to adopt in 2014.

1. Identify and Target Social Media Personas

Historically, hotel marketers have been quick to segment guests into familiar buckets that commonly included group, transient and business.  However, these groupings are simply too broad to reach with a targeted, captivating message via social media according to RockCheetah’s CEO Robert Cole.

The who, what, when, where and how still matter, but the real question to delve into is why.  Why are travelers visiting a certain destination under certain parameters?  Why should they choose to stay with you?

To find those answers, it helps to create personas that represent a subset of travelers, giving each persona a name and detailed characteristics or traits.  Things to consider include age, income levels, interests and where your personas live.  With all of this specificity, marketers are able to tailor communications that are more likely to drive engagement with a specific cohort.

Although this example may represent a deviation from the high-volume aspirations of most hotel marketers, there is one thing to keep in mind:  You can’t be all things to all people on social media.

2. Integrate Paid, Owned and Earned Content

Paid content, including display ads, cost-per-click campaigns and online travel agency listings give marketers a high degree of control.  However, it typically has a low influence on traveler booking choices.

Owned content, such as a brand website, Facebook page or Twitter feed allows you to connect with a wide range of potentials customers, but still packs a rather feeble punch.

The third and most influential content is earned content such as user-generated reviews, views, media coverage and blogs.  Although traditional marketing has focused around owned and paid content, there needs to be a shift towards developing strategies around earned content.

To garner exceptional earned content, hoteliers must provide exceptional guest experiences.  Another way to encourage feedback is throwing out small pieces of content designed for engagement with guests and can be shared easily across multiple channels.

3. Make Reviews the Priority

Reviews, both good and bad, can be used as a tool to improve the guest experience for all of your future customers.  Imagine the type of reviews you want to have and become the hotel that inspires those reviews.

Positive reviews can act as a free advertisement for your property and encourage additional travelers to stay in the future.  If guests have negative feedback, changes should be made to remedy this issue immediately so that the same reviews are not recurring.

4. Get Social with Google

Google’s algorithm is currently placing an increasing emphasis on user-generated content, including reviews.  With the development of Google+ and Google Places, the company now has its own social media brand they can use in the search engine’s organic search results.  For example, if you want your hotel to feature more prominently, marketers should focus on capturing at least five reviews through Google+

Keep in mind that you can’t simply create a Google+ account and be done with it.  Like Twitter and Facebook, Google’s platform requires a constant stream of fresh content that will continue to drive traffic to your site.

5. Optimize Facebook for Graph Search

A number of recent changes have turned Facebook into a very important marketing tool for hoteliers.  Graph Search, one of the newer developments in the social network, is like a search engine within a user’s friend network.  For example, a user can use Graph Search to look for friends who have “liked” resorts in Cancun.

How do you get your properties showcased higher on these results pages?  The more guests who visit a hotel’s Facebook page, leave comments, take photos or just mention that page elsewhere, the more likely it will show up on Graph Search.

To see the rest of this list, click here.