Hotelient seeking to disrupt the internet booking engine market

Hotelient seeking to disrupt the internet booking engine market

From €2000 per month in `booking engine fees to zero in less than five years while increasing direct bookings.

Yes, we know of one small 10 room boutique hotel in central London that was paying an average monthly fee of around €2000 per month to its booking engine provider. Today, Hotelient can service that need without charging commissions or a monthly subscription.

It used to be normal for software providers to charge a setup fee, a percentage of the booking and if they could get away with it, a maintenance fee.

With the advent of cloud computing, the cost of technology has plummeted, a bit like the London FTSE the day after Brexit. The only difference is that, unlike the FTSE index, the prices suppliers can charge hotels for technology will not recover.

The ongoing trend has been to lower the costs which are welcome news for all hoteliers.

Hoteliers have a desire to increase their direct online business. The first step is investing in a booking engine. There are some booking engines currently available on the market that, for a modest monthly fee can be integrated within your website. However, these tend to be limited in flexibility and often become outdated relatively quickly as technology advances. The costs can quickly rack up for a fully featured booking engine with a CRS and connectivity to all channels.

Furthermore, hotels are starting to realise that their online reputation is becoming an essential part of their marketing strategy. No longer is it enough just to rely exclusively on Tripadvisor as they are also targeting your guests to transact through their website, sell your rooms and charge you for the privilege of you sending them your prospect to see your reviews. That’s the best case scenario. Worse case, your prospect could end up booking with a competitor on Trip Advisor, thanks to you sending them there. A brilliant business model for Trip Advisor stockholders. Not so good for hotels.

Hotels should have a business process in place to follow up with guests and ask for feedback. They need an easy way to monitor and respond to reviews while making sure that positive sentiment is shared on the review sites that matter and social media. Ideally, this should be automated to avoid mistakes and to minimise costs. Set and forget reputation management and marketing.

The costs of guest acquisition have been steadily increasing while the cost of booking engines have been drifting down.

Hotelient is disrupting the booking engine market by offering hotels a booking engine that is commission and subscription free. The underlying booking engine technology is already in use with several hundred hotels ranging from 5-star city centre hotels to independent resorts. A number of hotel groups also rely on the technology.

Hotelient advocates that hotels should be investing in the attraction of guests to their web site rather than investing in technology which completes a transaction. Our new booking engine includes an industry-leading CRS that offers connectivity to OTA’s and GDS. The guest interface has been refined over several years to allow the guest to complete their transaction with the minimum of clicks on a desktop and mobile platforms. Hotelient works with its clients on guest acquisition strategies email marketing, reputation, targeted Facebook and Google ad-campaigns.

Hotelient founder John Kearney, said “Hotels by nature are slow to change technology. We still see some hotels on an outdated commission model paying thousands of euros per year. That all changes today. They can adopt our proven technology, without risk. We have created a strategy for hoteliers to optimise their direct bookings. Fundamentally the cost of booking engines has been coming down over the last few years to reach a point where offering this as free service is the next logical step. It is part of our strategy to increase our client base across Europe and the US. When you offer potential guests a seamless booking experience, with social proof at the point of booking, you maximise your direct booking potential. We also see an opportunity educating hotels on how they can drive relevant low-cost traffic to their branded website and receive direct commission/subscription free bookings.

Attend our webinar where you will discover how to obtain our “free for life booking engine technology,” and how to easily increase your average review rating in a week, without increasing your service levels.

If you would like to find out more, come and join our Webinar on the 26th July at 11 am clicking this link.

Is your hotel in need of a comprehensive marketing strategy to lower your hotel’s dependency on OTAs? Get in touch with us at info@hotelient.net

 

Why Independent Hoteliers should take note of hotel chains direct booking´s drive

Why Independent Hoteliers should take note of hotel chains direct booking´s drive

Over the past few months, we have started to see a shift in sentiment and resources from the major hotel chains to encourage their clients to book directly.  Loyalty programs that were once afterthoughts and in some cases did not have any meaningful benefits to its members are starting to be restructured to encourage and help guests, that chose to book from the brand website.  Over the past year, we had begun seeing compelling new ads from the chains actively seeking this, when once they were slightly cautious of going up against the all powerful Priceline & Expedia.  So much so that the former CEO of Priceline recently came out with warnings for the major chains, focusing on getting their guests to book directly, clearly a nerve has been touched.

Changing Times ahead

Hotel chains are focusing on direct bookings is due to a variety of reasons.

  1. Lower dependency on OTA´s
  2. Competition by OTA´s on loyalty programs,
  3. Millennials – with up to 64 percent stating that they sometimes book directly on supplier sites (Source: Phocuswright).
  4. More and more Business travelers are booking direct, 39% in the UK 33% in France and 35% in Germany and
  5. Potential threat from Airbnb.

We also see chains like Accor, openly targeting independent hotels to join their franchise programs.  With the technological purchases of companies such as Fastbooking they have made over the last 12-18 months, can now offer a credible offering to independent hotels looking to compete in the online travel space.  Accor´s CEO interview late last year is a compelling read

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As consolidation within the hotel industry continues apace, Marriott´s & Starwood merger can now offer the biggest selection of hotels who can benefit from their revamped loyalty program which drives direct bookings.  We are starting to see that not only loyalty program members getting free nights and other perks, such as free high-speed WIFI but also it allows the hotel chains to personalize pricing and marketing too.

Expedia must have seen the writing on the wall by the fact that Hilton & Marriott recent agreement with them no longer guarantees Last room Availability as well as a reduction in margins.  This has allowed the chains also to be bolder in actively targeting direct bookings.

Age of dependency for Independent Hotels

So for the independent hotelier, as I covered in a previous article are still sleepwalking into an age of increased dependency.  This though can be reversed if you take heed and start to learn from the chains, who are starting to take the OTA´s head on as well as introducing common sense practices to increase your direct bookings.

In reality, it could well be as loyalty programs become stronger along with the immense driving power of Marriott and their investment in content marketing strategies as well as personalized marketing, for some hotels in particular locations, joining as a franchise hotel to a chain could become the straightforward choice.

But what about if you want to remain independent, to provide that unique personal experience and differentiate from the rest?

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Then your choice could not be simpler.  You as a hotel have to map urgently out a clear marketing strategy that includes the answers to the following questions:-

  • Can Users find me online?
  • Does my web make it easy for a guest to book me?
  • Am I capturing guest data in the right way?
  • What am I doing to promote my brand online?
  • How to I communicate with my guests?
  • What incentive do I offer them to book direct?
  • What am I doing to convert OTA reservations into Direct ones?

Where I believe hotels, in general, have failed to do is to create value for their customers in the way they find you online and booking process for hotel rooms, with many solutions still aimed at appeasing the revenue manager rather than the client.

If hoteliers are going to start to turn the dial away from increased dependency, they firstly have to connect with guests and connect with the non-residents who already have an existing relationship with your hotel.  Technologies like Social WIFI and concierge apps are excellent tools in this area.

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Talking with a host of general managers, it is clear they pride themselves on the quality of service they provide to their guests.  It is something in their DNA which keeps them at the hotel to ensure that the Wedding or events goes off without a hitch and view those smiling happy faces of the participants.  Where independent hoteliers have failed though is showing the same pride for the first impression your give to any prospective client and which more and more of your guests are using – ONLINE 

The Major chains are starting the fight back, keep paying attention and learn how your hotel too can start moving the dial back in your direction, or risk becoming even more dependent on intermediaries and probably even irrelevant in the future.

Talk to our team at Hotelient today and let us help you devise your online fight back strategy! Email info@hotelient.net for further information.

 

 

 

 

Is bidroom.com, Europe’s fastest growing OTA about to disrupt Booking.com and Expedia’s stranglehold, by connecting hotels directly with guests?

Is bidroom.com, Europe’s fastest growing OTA about to disrupt Booking.com and Expedia’s stranglehold, by connecting hotels directly with guests?

As Priceline and Expedia continue their consolidation as the two dominant Ota´s, who are currently at present purchasing up all their competitors around them.  Dependency for hotels on these two major companies will continue, especially if the rumors of Priceline´s possible acquisition of Tripadvisor prove to come true.  So it was a breath of fresh air when I caught up with Michael Ros and Casper Knieriem who are the founders of a new and exciting company called Bidroom.com, offering hotels the opportunity to gain lower commissions reservations, which in some cases could be less than what hotels are paying for receiving bookings directly online.

I sat down with Michael & Casper to find out more:-

Captura de pantalla 2016-04-03 a las 19.49.23

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

We are both entrepreneurs with a proven track record in the hospitality and travel industry. Having already founded a successful travel company together, TravelService, we possess a wealth of insider knowledge about the hotel sector and plenty of passion for driving the business forward.

(Michael) I have a lot of experience in negotiating at a corporate business level. I started my first company when I was 18. From the age of 24 I worked for four years for a large international enterprise and was responsible for a turnover of 45 million euros per year. After that, I founded the online travel agency Travelservice.

(Casper) After studying Business Administration at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam,  I started my outsourcing company for financial services, which I sold in 2007.  I also founded the online travel agency Travelservice along with Michael.

Foto Bidroom founders

How receptive have hoteliers been to Bidroom? 

Hotels are fed up with high commissions, restrictive contracts, and loss of control of their brands, and are desperate for alternatives to these domineering OTAs. Bidroom is the solution, allowing hotels to offer lower prices direct to customers and yet make more profit – a win-win for both sides. Bidroom can become the ‘white knight’ of a stressed industry, as well as the cheapest booking channel for guests.  Bidroom disrupts the high commission model by introducing a standard 2% commission for all hotels. Due to our exceptionally small fee, hotels all over the world have been eager to join our platform. Every day we are getting around 100 – 150 hotels who are signing up!

Captura de pantalla 2016-04-03 a las 19.50.19

What has been your progress to date?

We have launched a minimum viable product in January 2014 and received extensive press coverage and an overwhelmingly positive reaction from both hotels and customers. Since the launch, we have received international press coverage and was nominated for the Accenture Innovation Award, Sprout Challenger Award, Zoover Awards, and The Next Web Startup Awards.

There is clearly a need for a platform such as Bidroom. The pilot website covered only 60 cities. Hotels made over 12,000 offers to guests in 5 months – with no marketing spend at all. Bookings have been made, and we have clients who have used Bidroom several times. We have been working on a brand new website that addresses all the issues and recommendations of hotels and guests using our current pilot site, from January 2016 this new website was launched. Some figures:

Members using Bidroom: 432.000

Hotel which signed up:  +/- 12670

How are travelers discovering Bidroom?

Bidroom’s marketing is based on a cheeky but forceful message of ‘kicking out the middleman’ and getting the cheapest deals – direct from hotels. We will be the whistleblowers of this industry, following the marketing approach of companies like Transferwise.com (Foreign Exchange) and Uber. Online marketing will include Facebook advertising and promotions. Offline marketing will include in-flight magazines, trade fairs and guerrilla marketing campaigns.

Captura de pantalla 2016-04-03 a las 19.48.50

About Bidroom

Bidroom provides a platform that connects travelers in need of a hotel with hotels in need of guests. A platform that stands for simplicity, flexibility, and openness. A platform that brings an end to the hidden costs and hassle of traditional booking websites. No more frustration from comparing prices on multiple sites and searching the internet for the best deals. With Bidroom, guests always know they are receiving the lowest available rate for their booking.  Users are granted a direct overview of the prices listed on competitor websites so that they can make the right choice. Transparency is the core principle behind Bidroom.

We are on a mission to reinvent the way consumers book their stay. We believe that consumers always deserve the best prices. We believe hotels have the right to remain in control of their inventory and pricing. We strive to make the world of online booking a little easier by putting guests directly into contact with hotels.

Bidroom is a revolutionary hotel booking platform that connects travelers directly to hotels at no cost, so both sides get a better deal. Currently, when guests book a hotel online, up to 25 percent of the price they pay goes to the booking website, and not to the hotel. That’s just not fair, and it is time to put a stop to it. We are building Bidroom as a highly disruptive, transparent, global booking platform that is set to revolutionize the travel industry and finally create a fair, open way for customers to find great hotel deals, by decreasing removing the commission tot 2 percent and giving the middlemen the boot.

From speaking to Hotel Directors across Europe and their frustration at having little alternatives should get them signing up to companies like Bidroom over the coming months.  A new way of thinking for a new generation of reservations.

Visit Bidroom.com or email Michael michael@bidroom.com or Casper casper@bidroom.com for further information

An overview of Europe´s fastest growing OTA – Bidroom.com

An overview of Europe´s fastest growing OTA – Bidroom.com

As Priceline and Expedia continue their consolidation as the two dominant Ota´s, who are currently at present purchasing up all their competitors around them.  Dependency for hotels on these two major companies will continue, especially if the rumors of Priceline´s possible acquisition of Tripadvisor prove to come true.  So it was a breath of fresh air when I caught up with Michael Ros and Casper Knieriem who are the founders of a new and exciting company called Bidroom.com, offering hotels the opportunity to gain lower commissions reservations, which in some cases could be less than what hotels are paying for receiving bookings directly online.

I sat down with Michael & Casper to find out more:-

Captura de pantalla 2016-04-03 a las 19.49.23

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

We are both entrepreneurs with a proven track record in the hospitality and travel industry. Having already founded a successful travel company together, TravelService, we possess a wealth of insider knowledge about the hotel sector and plenty of passion for driving the business forward.

(Michael) I have a lot of experience in negotiating at a corporate business level. I started my first company when I was 18. From the age of 24 I worked for four years for a large international enterprise and was responsible for a turnover of 45 million euros per year. After that, I founded the online travel agency Travelservice.

(Casper) After studying Business Administration at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam,  I started my outsourcing company for financial services, which I sold in 2007.  I also founded the online travel agency Travelservice along with Michael.

Foto Bidroom founders

 

How receptive have hoteliers been to Bidroom? 

Hotels are fed up with high commissions, restrictive contracts, and loss of control of their brands, and are desperate for alternatives to these domineering OTAs. Bidroom is the solution, allowing hotels to offer lower prices direct to customers and yet make more profit – a win-win for both sides. Bidroom can become the ‘white knight’ of a stressed industry, as well as the cheapest booking channel for guests.  Bidroom disrupts the high commission model by introducing a standard 2% commission for all hotels. Due to our exceptionally small fee, hotels all over the world have been eager to join our platform. Every day we are getting around 100 – 150 hotels who are signing up!

Captura de pantalla 2016-04-03 a las 19.50.19

What has been your progress to date?

We have launched a minimum viable product in January 2014 and received extensive press coverage and an overwhelmingly positive reaction from both hotels and customers. Since the launch, we have received international press coverage and was nominated for the Accenture Innovation Award, Sprout Challenger Award, Zoover Awards, and The Next Web Startup Awards.

There is clearly a need for a platform such as Bidroom. The pilot website covered only 60 cities. Hotels made over 12,000 offers to guests in 5 months – with no marketing spend at all. Bookings have been made, and we have clients who have used Bidroom several times. We have been working on a brand new website that addresses all the issues and recommendations of hotels and guests using our current pilot site, from January 2016 this new website was launched. Some figures:

Members using Bidroom: 432.000

Hotel which signed up:  +/- 12670

How are travelers discovering Bidroom?

Bidroom’s marketing is based on a cheeky but forceful message of ‘kicking out the middleman’ and getting the cheapest deals – direct from hotels. We will be the whistleblowers of this industry, following the marketing approach of companies like Transferwise.com (Foreign Exchange) and Uber. Online marketing will include Facebook advertising and promotions. Offline marketing will include in-flight magazines, trade fairs and guerrilla marketing campaigns.

Captura de pantalla 2016-04-03 a las 19.48.50

About Bidroom

Bidroom provides a platform that connects travelers in need of a hotel with hotels in need of guests. A platform that stands for simplicity, flexibility, and openness. A platform that brings an end to the hidden costs and hassle of traditional booking websites. No more frustration from comparing prices on multiple sites and searching the internet for the best deals. With Bidroom, guests always know they are receiving the lowest available rate for their booking.  Users are granted a direct overview of the prices listed on competitor websites so that they can make the right choice. Transparency is the core principle behind Bidroom.

We are on a mission to reinvent the way consumers book their stay. We believe that consumers always deserve the best prices. We believe hotels have the right to remain in control of their inventory and pricing. We strive to make the world of online booking a little easier by putting guests directly into contact with hotels.

Bidroom is a revolutionary hotel booking platform that connects travelers directly to hotels at no cost, so both sides get a better deal. Currently, when guests book a hotel online, up to 25 percent of the price they pay goes to the booking website, and not to the hotel. That’s just not fair, and it is time to put a stop to it. We are building Bidroom as a highly disruptive, transparent, global booking platform that is set to revolutionize the travel industry and finally create a fair, open way for customers to find great hotel deals, by decreasing removing the commission tot 2 percent and giving the middlemen the boot.

From speaking to Hotel Directors across Europe and their frustration at having little alternatives should get them signing up to companies like Bidroom over the coming months.  A new way of thinking for a new generation of reservations.

Visit Bidroom.com or email Michael michael@bidroom.com or Casper casper@bidroom.com for further information

 

Independent European Hotels are sleepwalking into an era of increased OTA dependency

Independent European Hotels are sleepwalking into an era of increased OTA dependency

For over 15 years that I have been within this industry, Independent hotels here in Europe have been always dependent on agencies, initially offline which then became online.  From the days of GTA (Gulliver Travel Associates) who were all dominant in the early days to now where booking.com has to some extent replaced GTA as the agent where hotels have allowed them to take over their inventory.

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We are though entering a new phase, where it has been clear for some time that Booking.com & Expedia have been implementing two very different strategies to maintain growth and market share.  Expedia has been expanding by acquisition with its latest buys of Orbitz, Travelocity, and Home & Away while Booking.com has been diversifying with its purchases of Buuteeq, due in part to the competition on the horizon from Google & Airbnb.  The recently announced deal that saw booking.com providing global inventory to Tripadvisor Instant Booking effectively makes them now an OTA.

Over the last few years, Tripadvisor has been worked extremely hard in cultivating a positive relationship with hoteliers while reviews, thanks to them, have become an ever more important part for hotel directors to focus on to ensure excellent guest comments get published.  Some hotels have even gone as far as directing their hard-won traffic from their website to their page on Tripadvisor (which also sells your competitors).  Behind Reception, there are now certificates and plaques of excellence from booking.com and Tripadvisor occupying pride of place.  However great these actions are, hoteliers are feeding and promoting the very agencies online that send them business with a 15-20% commission bill.

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We have also seen that OTAs including Tripadvisor investing heavily in user experience, making it easier for you to book a hotel whether from a desktop or mobile device.  From confirmations sent straight to your phone to personalized marketing which provides you with useful suggestions based on your searches.  Due to their size and power, they have the resources and investment to take advantage of the amount of data available to ensure a great user experience.  Most hoteliers would be the first to use booking.com for their business travel as all their personal information is stored there.  Booking engines for the independent hotelier are also sometimes too focused on revenue management techniques rather than user experience.  Book your hotel on booking.com, then on your site, how does it match up?  There are some great products out there.  One of my personal favourites and internationally recognised as being one of the best is GuestCentric (www.guestcentric.com).  Its multi-award winning booking engine is focused on providing a unique user experience with data capture at its heart.

So why are hotels sleepwalking into increased OTA dependency?

The answer is simple – laziness.  With the changes within our industry I have mentioned, it is most likely that there will be an increase in competition within the OTA distribution space.  Tripadvisor becoming an OTA is a big game changer, especially as they are in the top 3 of most visited travel sites.  Google, being still the number one search tool and its total dominance on smartphones could become a valuable player.  These changes if left unsupervised, will allow them to eat into even more of your inventory, especially if you are openly promoting them from your own website.  Hotels can though be smart at collecting guest data via inexpensive methods such as Social Wifi.  Booking engines and websites can be improved to provide a better user experience and to interact with your guests using Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger can provide that special attention to detail.  All the above can be done cost effectively and implemented seamlessly, so you can focus on providing your guests a unique experience while starting the process of slowly decreasing your OTA dependency.

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Currently, in Europe, almost three quarters (74%) of independent hotel reservations comes from an OTA (Source: Phocuswright).  Now just imagine if we got that figure down just 10% by being smarter with how you connect to your guests and users on your website.  Marketing online is not just about PPC campaigns; it requires a more holistic approach which takes advantage of the very latest technology to improve your hotel in 3 ways 1)Data Collection 2)Online user experience and 3)Guest communication.

OTA´ s are a fundamental part of your online distribution, but they should not be your only focus.  Make 2016 the year your hotel started reversing the trend of increasing dependency on OTA´s and start building a solid platform to increase your direct online reservations.

Need help in planning the right online marketing strategy for 2016?  Talk to us, email info@hotelient.net

 

 

Investment in technology not a priority for Independent Hotels in 2016

Investment in technology not a priority for Independent Hotels in 2016

Last week was the premier tourism event in Spain, FITUR.  A good chance to take a check on what is the current sentiment with hotels towards the many changes taking place within our industry.  What was a worrying sign, at least for the majority of independent hotels at least, that are located in Europe is that they are totally unprepared and in some cases unaware of the importance of how they should be connecting with their future guests.

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On the technological side, Spain has seen an incredible amount of new starts up offering a range of services to the hotel industry.  From apps to social wifi, the new kids on the block are there to help the independent hotel formulate a strategy of building a solid foundation, to increase not only their direct business but also a unique personalised guest experience.  Powerful and convincing talks by Andy Stalman (@AndyStalman) during FITUR explained how hotels can achieve this.  There were also open discussions by the major Spanish hotel brands discussing how they are using technology to connect with their guests and providing unique experiences.  The technological advances and the embrace by major chains to adapt to this reality have clear benefits for an industry that has only in the past couple years, actually started to invest in a form of communication that guests have been using in the day to day lives for a while now.

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The above advances through contrast with a view of the majority of hotel directors of independent hotels that feel the cards are stacked against them.  That booking.com is all too powerful and that Tripadvisor is going to become their new revenue source.  In a nutshell, there is a overall sense of resignation that the 2 or now three main OTA´s if you include Tripadvisor holds all the cards.  As always, there are exceptions.  Some hoteliers realise they have to connect with Google to gain increased visibility online,  that Social Wifi can be a cheap and cost effective way of building a stable market database or Concierge Apps increase overall revenue as well as build guest loyalty, however, they are in the clear minority.

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Hoteliers, just like in the years when GTA (Gulliver Travel Associates) was the booking.com of today, times change.  Hotels who are dependent on booking.com will become just as dependent on quite possibly Google or Airbnb in the future.  What stays constant though is their has never been a better time for a hotelier to invest in technology that offers the best chance to increase a dwindling revenue stream for many – direct bookings.

As we enter a post rate parity era and the continued evolution of our industry, hotels can start taking the first steps to improving their direct bookings.  Here are few pointers to help you on your way.

  • Some Booking engines are perfect for revenue managers but a minefield for clients.  Compare yours with booking.com and see how it stacks up
  • Social WIFI – By getting you guests to connect to your FREE WIFI through their social media accounts should be a no brainer for hotels.  Not only do they get more followers, but you also get their email address, that can be added to your marketing database.
  • APPs- Concierge Apps should be a must by providing your guests information about your hotel including offers, events and much more.  According to recent surveys, 85% of smartphone users prefer apps to mobile websites.  They also reduce your printing cost on flyers and new guest directories
  • Reputation online is essential to increase your visibility on Google & Tripadvisor and drive business back to you directly

For a more in-depth guide, read this recent article

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Independent hoteliers need to react to these changes soon or yet again, we will be allowing major Agencies and companies determine our future.  For example, Tripadvisor is your frenemy,  they provide a page where they host your guest reviews and dish out awards too! However, they also sell your competitor on your review page and with the latest agreement with booking.com incentivise your guests to book via them too!  So stop sending your future bookers to TripAdvisor to see your guest reviews, let them read on your website and convert them into direct bookers whilst they are there.

For all the regular news that gets published on the latest advancements in new partnerships and advances in technology, it is clear that only the major chains have been listening.  The time is now that Independent hoteliers take note and start taking action before it becomes more and more difficult to increase profit margins as well as dealing with increased agency dependency.

Hotelient provides hotel & resorts with a strategy and vision based on experience and results achieved to increase your direct bookings.  Email us info@hotelient.netinfo@hotelient.net for more information.

 

 

 

How should the independent hotelier react to the latest changes in the online travel market?

How should the independent hotelier react to the latest changes in the online travel market?

It is a fascinating time to be part of an industry that is changing day by day.  Over the last few years,  it was about the explosion onto the scene of Airbnb, Hoteltonight and meta search ads by Tripadvisor and Google, to today where Expedia buys HomeAway and  booking.com integrates with TripAdvisor’s new platform – Instant booking.  To add further confusion, over the last 12 months, some countries in Europe started to state illegal, the rate parity clause that has helped the likes of booking.com and Expedia to enjoy the strength they have today.

Exciting times ahead but when all the dust has settled, where does it leave the independent hotelier?  What is the right strategy to take over the next 12-18 months with the major brands?

BoTAGroup

Tripadvisor

According to this recent article by tnooz.com, they are the number one visited travel site by far in the US & UK.  Their recent evolution from just being a review site to OTA has been taking place over the last few years. Tripadvisor clearly has power in our industry and the take-up of their instant booking in the US has been brisk by hotels.  Connecting to booking.com made sense, as they will getting the inventory of hotels from the rest of the world overnight,  which so far have not had access to the instant booking product.  We will also see over the next few months the other major hotel chains joining, following in the footsteps of Marriott.  At a recent conference in Asia, Tripadvisor was already signalling that they will be pushing forward quickly to implement this agreement with English speaking countries the first to be connected.  So what should you be doing to take advantage of this?  We will have to see how booking.com processes reservations from Tripadvisor.  One would expect that there will be an increase in commission to compensate for the % they are paying Tripadvisor.  If that is the case and you start to see bookings come from this particular channel, then it would make sense to connect directly with Tripadvisor, as most likely, the cost of sale will be less. Also, remove the Tripadvisor widgets from your website, do not give them free traffic, which could lead to a potential loss of direct reservations.  There are other ways to promote your reviews whilst keeping your users on your brand website.

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Google

They have been recently working on their new offering that will likely be called “Book on Google.”  At the moment, this is only available in the US and again, hotels have been signing on steadily as well as the recent deal to connect with Sabre which provides them access to 20,000 properties.  Hotels in Europe can still connect manually or through solutions such as Siteminder for their Meta Ads “Google HPA” however, this has not proved very popular with hotels, like Tripconnect wasn´t for Tripadvisor, hence the change.  We should not underestimate Google.  Should they wish to turn on the taps, they can.  They are totally dominant on Mobile, 70% of Europeans use Android, most smartphone users use Google Maps and Google search is still frequently used in hotel searches.  You should be attentive to the industry news, Will Expedia integrate with Google, now that Priceline is with Tripadvisor?  Which chain will be the first to connect?  Once book on Google gains traction, as with instant booking by Tripadvisor, your hotel should get connected.

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Trivago

They have been testing their express booking product currently testing in the German market.  Trivago´s owners – Expedia, have been very insistent on not going down the same path as Tripadvisor & Google and will maintain the cost per click meta ad model.  The cost of sale usually using this method is less for a hotel, although as their main rivals found out, not exactly the most popular with independent hotels who have to compete with OTA´s and who have limited marketing budgets.  The upside for Hotels though is that the transaction is done on your brand website and with the European market entering the post rate parity era,  should present some interesting pricing opportunities for hotels who have the budget to invest in Meta ads.

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Expedia/Priceline

With the majority of hotels according to numerous surveys enjoying over 70% dependency for all your online reservations from these two giants, this is not going to change overnight.  With Expedia´s recent acquisitions, they now own 75% share of the online travel market in the US.  What we are most likely to see over the next couple of years is the new players in the OTA space gaining traction which could force Expedia & Priceline to review the % of commission they offer your property.  Hotel revenue managers will also start to take the cost of sale into consideration when setting prices, especially in Europe where rate parity is no longer obligatory in some countries.

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HotelTonight/Booking Now

The last minute booking market is becoming enormous and the competition is getting fiercer with Priceline recently launching the Booking Now app.  Proving to be very popular is Geolocation offers with some city hotels seeing big increases in last minute bookings and the commission rates are roughly in line with other OTA´s  These are great apps for travellers who need to organise at the last minute, so if you are based in a city centre, you should make sure that your hotel is visible.   These guests are also great targets in converting to direct bookers so if they have a great experience, the next time they travel to your city they’ll more likely book directly with you.

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Airbnb

Still not quite on the hotel scene but a big hit with Millennials.  Airbnb is also starting to actively target business users. Some hotels in the US are already offering their rooms on this portal and with a 3% commission level, offers an interesting cost effective option for hoteliers.  The three big questions still to be answered though will be 1)Will Airbnb start to actively recruit hotels? 2)Will any major hotel chain sign on? 2)Will any OTA follow their strategy of charging both the client and the hotel commission? Early days but watch this space……

We are in an evolving market and it is important as an hotelier to understand these changes going on within our industry, but never lose site of the following:-  All the above companies provide your property with added visibility to drive guests to your hotel.  Your job is then to convert these guests that come through your door to book next time with you directly.  Incentivize them, take advantage of technology to capture data, make sure your web is intuitive and shows off your property with great photos and videos, and finally do not over complicate the booking process with an engine that is great for your revenue manager but your clients find long winded and slow. Read this recent article on how to improve your guest experience online.

For further information relating to this article,  email us at info@hotelient.net or visit www.hotelient.net

Why hotels should be focusing on improving their online user experience to increase direct reservations

Why hotels should be focusing on improving their online user experience to increase direct reservations

The recent announcement that Booking.com was integrating with Tripadvisor’s Instant Booking has been filling our industry news for the last week.  This news though should be another wake-up call for hotels to start taking seriously the user experience on their website and online booking process.

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The likes of booking.com are continually investing in improving their user experience across all devices. This is especially critical when considering 47% of all last minute hotel bookings are done from a smartphone which apps like Hoteltonight and Booking Now from booking.com, with their slogan that you can reserve within 4 clicks, are focusing on.

For far too long, independent hotels have not invested in improving the user experience on their website.  More users are booking online than ever before across all devices and as this recent study suggests, more business travellers are booking their hotel and flights by themselves which also is backed up by booking.com and Airbnb´s focus in this area.

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So with OTA´s investing heavily in user experience across multi-platforms along with their huge budgets in online advertising spend, how can an independent hotel compete with this?

Here´s some helpful pointers to get you going in the right direction:-

  • Booking Engine – This is where the OTA´s have invested heavily in the user experience and hotels just have not improved in this area.  There is a reason that the OTA´s do not offer extras or added value like roses or champagne during the booking process, users want the final price in the fewest clicks.  You will have plenty time once you receive the reservation to promote these automatically and the client will be much more receptive too!  It is also critically important that your booking engine is visually great and easy to use for your guests. Sounds obvious I know, but there are many engines out in the market that have been designed for revenue managers, not users!  View your hotel in booking.com from a client’s perspective and see how they sell to you and make it easy to complete a reservation, then look for a supplier that best replicates this.  Also, you need to make sure that your booking engine backend can provide you with good analytical data, how many visitors and from which countries are coming to your booking engine, what dates are they searching for, how many days in advance are they looking to book and from which websites are they visiting you from.  With this, you will be able to determine the right promotions at the right time to optimize your online conversions.

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  • Cart Abandonment –  A re-engagement strategy can be what makes the difference. An email campaign shouldn’t bombard or annoy customers; it should be treated as an extension of your customer service.  It is perfectly legitimate when users have left your booking engine to send them an e-mail (even without completing a reservation) with a personalised follow-up message. This demonstrates an appreciation of their interest, shows users that you value their custom and that yours is a hotel worth booking.  Some hotels offer promo codes or incentives to stimulate impulse buying, however, this is not always necessary, as the email itself demonstrates that you value their business. It can also serve as a helpful reminder and quick route back to a room they had seen earlier and liked.
  • Website – We all know that users tend to visit around 20 websites before making a hotel reservation, so by being the first website is not necessarily the best.  What is important though is creating a bigger marketing database in which to target and to convert into potential future business booking directly.  A) Invest to get them to visit your website, B) Gain their contact information and C) Target them afterwards.  An average mid-size hotel has around 15,000 visits per month to their website.  How great would it be that even a mere 10% of those visitors is leaving their details with you. That´s 1500 more people per month that you are connecting with, which is 18,000 more people in a year than you are gaining today.  By asking potential clients to provide you with their email address, will allow you to reconnect with them automatically, making the investment you are doing in online advertising offer better value for your hotel and increase your online conversions. As Google is evolving to become the new OTA online, not only is it important to understand what you need to do to maximize your visibility, you also have to capture the clients once they get to your website

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  • Reputation Marketing – In 2015, just monitoring your reviews by Tripadvisor and other review sites is not enough with management products largely becoming redundant.  Users seek out independent reviews before making a reservation, with 95% claiming to read reviews before booking.  OTA´s understand this, so they make customer ratings and feedback a prominent part of the hotel research process, offering millions of reviews directly on the site, so it is incredibly important that you are actively asking for feedback from your guests whilst helping them to promote them on your website as well as other key sites that will aid your visibility such as google, facebook and of course Tripadvisor. Here are some good practices:-
    • Website – Showing good reviews from a variety of places show you care about your reputation on your brand website will help increase your direct bookings and show to your users that you value feedback.
    • Stop giving Tripadvisor a free lunch and remove their widget from your website.  Yes, promote your reviews, just don´t make it easy for you guest to click off to Tripadvisor.
    • Proactively seek guest feedback – Ask your guest for feedback, understand better what you do well and what you can do better.

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Now doing the above is going to help your direct bookings but a good percentage of your guests will still come from OTA´s no matter how good your digital marketing strategy is, so here are a few more cost-effective ideas that will help you connect with your guests and allow you to understand their requirements to further personalise your marketing message to attract more guests to book directly.

  • Social Wifi – Allow your guests to connect to your free Wifi using their social media channels.  This is a great way for you to connect with everyone coming through your door (Conference Delegates, Wedding guests, Non-residents in your bar) not just one guest per room.  You will also increase your Social media fan base as well as your marketing database!
  • Upselling – This is a great way not only increase your revenue but also learn what kind of experience your guests want from your hotel, which will help you personalize even further.  Having a PMS (Property Management System) or CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software that records the buying habits will allow you also to customise your marketing messaging.
  • Concierge APP – Make it easy for your guest to interact with you.  Apart from promoting your services, apps can offer loyalty programs that provide your guests value and provide you with a great new marketing technique – Push Notifications & GPS Marketing.  Read more here on how apps are beneficial for hotels.

None of the above are going to break your budget and will help set you on the path to increasing one of your most profitable reservations channels.  OTA´s are constantly improving their user experience, it is about time that independent hotels focus on this too.

5 simple steps to keep your hotel ahead of the rest in online marketing and distribution

5 simple steps to keep your hotel ahead of the rest in online marketing and distribution

It´s tough being a Director of a Hotel or Resort, not only over the last 10 years hotels have had to deal with their relationship with OTA´s, they are now being told to connect with meta search agencies such as Google and Tripadvisor.   Whilst on the horizon, companies such as Amazon are lurking in the background ready to enter the market and Airbnb that is due to become a big competitor in the business travel market

So how can we help you make sense of all these changes in order for you to take right decisions for your hotel or resort?

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Here are 5 simple steps to keep you ahead of your competition:-

1st Step – Your current technology.

The majority of independent hotels have a channel manager and most (especially in southern Europe) have them with the same provider as their booking engine, which may or may not be providing you with a good conversion rate.  We recently conducted a survey where we ask European hotels what percentage of bookings came via their own website, Over 75% received less than 40% of their reservations, which is low.  I have demonstrated in many hotels that with a good converting booking engine and visibility, you can gain over 50% of your online business via your web so it pays to choose one carefully, look at the booking engine from a client perspective, not a revenue manager one.  Our advice is to always separate your booking engine from your channel manager as you do not have the hassle of constantly changing your connections from one provider to another and it provides you with flexibility should your booking engine provider stop investing and improving their technology.  Connectivity is one thing, selling is another.

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2 Step – Meta-search & OTA´s

Do you need to contract with everyone? The answer is no, with the introduction of sites like Trivago, clients will always find your best price through searches.  Giving your guests not as many options is not a bad thing and it is a better way to control your rates. You can also stop connecting to agencies that have the highest commission. I closed off Expedia in a hotel where I was paying 25% and I kept booking.com at 17%, the business moved from one to the other, demonstrating that hoteliers to a certain degree can control where their clients buy from.

Meta searches are where it allows your guests to shop for rates in one place and by placing ads, your hotel can compete with the likes of Booking, Expedia etc.   We view Google Hotel Price Ads as fundamental and will become a revenue stream for hotels especially from mobile devices.  If your hotel is investing in Adwords, you should be connected already.  Most marketing companies are Google Partners and can help you get up and running.  It is also key that you focus on your google reviews as this will also effect your positioning on search results.  Tripadvisor has introduced Instant Booking which will charge a commission on every reservation.  This is also worth considering but bear in mind to stop sending your clients that visit your website to go off to visit your review page on their site.  Your conversions will go down.  We can show how you can publish your reviews from Tripadvisor, Google, and Facebook without them leaving.

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Step 3 – Pricing

Ok, so you have a booking engine that is giving you good conversions, you have a channel manager such as Siteminder that connects you with your best performing and cheapest commission OTA´s.  You are using Google Hotel Price Ads and you are receiving bookings from TripAdvisor Instant Booking.  Great, you offer price parity to everyone, however, Booking and Expedia recently announced they were getting rid of the price parity clause in their contract, meaning that a hotel can sell cheaper with an OTA of their choice. So what do you do now?  Well depending on the rate of commission you pay, you can analyse from which agency you can gain the best Rate from and adjust the rates accordingly.  This will allow you another way to condition from which agency your guests book you.  Bear in mind though that OTA´s like booking make it very easy for their clients to book with saved credit card details etc, so this has to be analysed also.

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Step 4 – Improve your booking engines conversion rate

So with your rates  and connectivity all set, it is time to sell!  Now your cheapest channel is always going to be your website.  So here are some great tips to help you improve your conversion rates:-

1) Pop Ups – Hotels have been using this successfully where a client who has checked a rate on your site, click off to booking.com to compare.  Up pops a window offering them a chance to book 10% cheaper if they reserve in the next 20 mins which are a great for you on improving your rate and the guest is getting a better deal. You also get their email address too!

2) Add-ons – Does booking.com offer add-ons or extras? so why do hotels offer this before checkout?  Guests are also more open to spending more on add-ons or extras once they have already made the decision to buy from you.

3) Retargeting for search ads – A massively underused marketing resource from google that promotes your hotel to you guests searching specific keys words after they have visited your site. This method is getting very good conversion levels and is more cost effective that AdWords.

4)Reputation Marketing – I explained this earlier, but good to mention this again.  promote your reviews without your visitors needing to click off your site.

5)Most hotels now have a mobile responsive website -If you don´t, you better get one quick, 70% of travellers in the UK use their mobile to either research or reserve hotels.

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5 – Watch the Market

The final point is to make sure you are aware of what is going on.  Amazon could be an important entry into the market especially considering the client database as well as they way their clients pay for products on their site.  They are currently doing trials in New York. Airbnb could also be a danger for hotels especially as they are actively targetting business travel.  Hotels will need to be on their toes to react to this challenge

Need more help?  Hotelient can provide your hotel with a free, no obligation review of your current online setup in order to maximize your online marketing and distribution.  Email us for further information:- info@hotelient.net

Tripadvisor´s Instant Booking – A great new tool to increase RevPar or just another channel?

Tripadvisor´s Instant Booking – A great new tool to increase RevPar or just another channel?

What is TripAdvisor’s Instant Booking? Instant Booking from Tripadvisor allow hotel chains, independents, and online travel agencies (OTAs) to use an auction bidding tool to fight over the coveted top spots in its metasearch results.  For any given search result, the topmost button of three hotel rates may be large and in gold and say “Book with TripAdvisor.”    Before instant booking, travelers who ran searches for hotels on TripAdvisor’s metasearch tool saw three potential room rates at a time. Each button displayed a price and the label of a third party, like Booking.com. He or she would click to the OTA to complete the transaction. The rollout of TripConnect Instant Booking has been slow across Europe,  but it’s starting to ramp up.

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Changing from Cost per Click (CPC) to Cost per Action (CPA) The CPA (Cost per Action) model is similar to what OTAs charge hotels: a % commission per reservation. For a hotel owner, this model can have some advantages. The CPA fee can be tracked to an actual stay, so the hotel owner is paying for real revenue.  Hotels, in general, do not have the budgets to compete in the CPC (Cost per Click) model with the big OTAs, but they are more than willing to pay for actual bookings, even at a slightly higher commission rates.  Unlike most other travel websites “instant booking” options, TripAdvisor’s auction model is making it affordable for independent properties and small chains to compete against other travel websites.

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Large OTAs are sitting on the fence The two major OTA´s Expedia and Priceline according to analysts, spend around 12% of their total advertising budgets on TripAdvisor. Yet it seems they have steered clear of participating in the company’s new Instant Booking in a direct relationship.  Perhaps they will do at some point in the near future,  Even if a hotel may bid for only a third-place position in TripAdvisor’s ordinary CPC metasearch ads and even if they may manage that to a really low commission rate on an effective basis, the instant booking option could seem an attractive option.  While hoteliers would like to pay less commission than they do with an OTA, they also don’t want to overpay for something that was supposed to be a bid-based product. It’s not the hotel´s fault if the newly created marketplace is inefficient from a revenue optimization perspective.  If the CPAs are too high,  the model may not work and what could have been a quality, and more cost-effective source of reservations for hotels will wind up being grossly underutilized.

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What do you think? How do you view Tripadvisor?  Do you see it becoming a major source of reservations over the next 12 months?  Is your hotel connected to Tripconnect?  We will be launching a survey soon to find out what you think………..with a chance to win an Apple Iwatch or Ipad PLUS An Guest App for your Hotel. If you would like to take part, email info@hotelient.net with “Tripadvisor” in the subject line. or contact us via www.hotelient.net