Generating revenue from your hotel´s FREE WIFI will be key in 2017

Generating revenue from your hotel´s FREE WIFI will be key in 2017

For hotels and resorts over the last few years have always been faced with the same issue, which is the urgent need to improve their WIFI infrastructure so their guests can enjoy their favourite series on Netflix, upload and download photos or videos without waiting an age for the task to be completed.  Hotels, in general, have been extremely lax in providing quality of service, as the cost to improve the infrastructure could never be offset by the revenue it could generate.   Some hotels charge for the service which is not desirable, as according to Hotels.com who released a survey which stated that free WiFi was the most desired in-room amenity.  Also, from the moment of check-in, either you are giving a small piece of paper with a password on it, or written on your key card folder, or you are provided access without the need to introduce a password.  As we move forward into an era in which a guest will be able to check in, open their room door and pay their bill from their smartphone, interaction with your reception staff will become less and less especially in business hotels.

Bearing this all in mind then, how can a hotel generate revenue from their hotel’s FREE WIFI service?

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The answer is using Social WIFI technology.  So how does it work, let’s take it in 3 easy steps:-

Access

Providing simple and easy access to your FREE WIFI service is key.  By allowing your guest to sign in one time only to your service using their favourite social media channel which in the majority of cases will Facebook or just completing a simple form, whether a guest speaks with your reception staff of not, they will able to gain access quickly to your WIFI.  Clients will be encouraged as well to connect to your social media pages, which automatically increases your fan base and also provides increased visibility.  Guests will also be accustomed to connecting to WIFI using this method especially in Travel where this technology exists in the majority of airports across the world

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Analyse

Now, while your guest is enjoying your high-speed internet access, you are gaining an insight into your guests.  Demographics, guests interests, how long do your clients spend online and email addresses to name a few.  The statistics gleaned from your guests connecting to your WIFI service will allow you to be more targeted with marketing campaigns as well as design offers and services that suit more your guest requirements.  However data collection is only one part, you will also be able to see where in your hotel or resort guests are connecting to your service, how they move around your hotel which will allow you to correctly position marketing for promotions or events that will be taking place at your hotel or improve signage or layouts.  You will also be able to identify and collect data from conference attendees, Diners at your restaurant or spa users even if they are non-residents.  Again sourcing this information will allow you personalise your marketing campaigns.

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Action

So your guests are connected to your WIFI and you an understanding better your guest’s interests and requirements.  Now, it’s time to take action.  Here´s how.  Firstly, right from the sign-up page, you can promote any events or special promotions that your are currently offering.  By knowing at what time of day the majority of your guests are connected, you can also send via email and SMS personalised messages.   You can make them aware of what is going on at your hotel or just simply ask them to provide feedback on their stay which you can encourage them to share on Google, Facebook or Tripadvisor.  Another avenue to generate revenue is to allow companies that have products displays within your resort the ability to promote their offers via your WIFI.

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In summary, by using Social WIFI technology, not only are you making easier for your guests to connect, you are gaining a data capture & marketing tool that will allow you to understand your clients better as well improve your TrevPar revenue and direct bookings.  There is clear data to suggest that we are in the final days of rate parity across Europe, so it is imperative that any hotel or resort is wishing to build an extensive database of users to encourage them to book direct, Social WIFI should be an essential part of this.

If you would like to discuss with us how Social Wifi and generate revenue for your hotel, email info@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.

Push Notifications vs Emails vs Facebook, which offers better value to hotels, Resorts and Golf courses?

Push Notifications vs Emails vs Facebook, which offers better value to hotels, Resorts and Golf courses?

Hotels and Resorts are as usual being very conservative when it comes to adapting to the new realities on how to market to their prospective guests. Most European hotels will find it hard now to find a guest who is not in possession of either a smartphone or tablet.  This is the world we live in, where your guests are accustomed to using Apps from Facebook or Amazon.  They are also already used to receiving marketing messages via push notifications and most use Google maps to find their way around, so why are hotels & resorts being slow to react to this technological change.

Let´s take a look at 3 core marketing communication strategies that hotels should be planning to use in 2016:-

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Email Marketing

As part of your marketing strategy, emails campaigns are great at promoting your services, promotions, blog entries and general information.  You work hard with your front office staff to get the right email address, maybe run competitions both online and offline to increase your marketing database as well as use technology like Social Wifi within your hotel and landing pages on your website. These are all worthwhile exercises and should be continued but let’s get one thing clear, on average only 10-15% of your emails you send will be opened.  That’s an incredibly small number.  What’s more, the vast majority of hotels have not invested in creating a database that includes gender, date of birth, likes, dislikes etc so at least you can be slightly more specific when it comes to you email content.

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Facebook

Like with Smartphones, nearly all your guests are going to have an account with Facebook.  In 2015, they are registering around 1 billion daily users.  In general, most users have been happy to provide Facebook with all kinds of information from their relationship status to age, interests etc so you will be able to use the Facebook Ads Manager to define a target audience. For ads, you are not limited to just your fans; instead you can choose your audience based on geography, gender, age, interests, and purchasing behaviours. For example, hotels can choose to target London business travellers between 35-45 who have returned from a trip within the last two weeks, or let´s say your hotel is a wedding venue, you could target all people within a 100km radius who are engaged.  This is by far a more effective marketing tool and with some major international companies planning to spend over 80% of their marketing budget with Facebook over the next 12 months, demonstrates that advertising with Facebook is providing them with much higher rates of return.

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Push Notifications

Now, for your guests to receive notifications to their smartphone, your hotel is going to need to invest in an App.  Now in my previous article, I laid out how apps are improving the revenue performance in hotels, so I am not going to cover it again here. Push notifications are unique because it’s short and sweet. Unlike traditional marketing, once your app is built there are no further costs.  Push notifications are received exclusively by guest’ who have opted in for your offers, so you will never come across as spammy.  They can be used to show specials that you currently offer in your F&B outlets or for example: If your hotel is in a part of the world known for its seasonal appeal a push notification can increase your revenue of outdoor activities in the offseason. If your hotel is known to be in a great area for skiing, and there is a fluke snow storm in early April, a push will allow you to quickly inform anyone with your app that the slopes are open. The same applies to beachfront properties- if the weather is predicted to be sunny in the high 20´s or 30 degrees in January that will be a great time for you to drive traffic.

Here is also a great example on how Push Notifications are providing new ways to connect with your target audience.    One of the functionalities that our hotelient apps offers is for a golf course that can add the round card to an app.  By using GPS, a user will be able to see how far their ball is from the green as well as a short note on how to play the hole.  So let’s assume an average golf course receives 20,000 golfers a year and 50% download the app.  With 90% readability rates, you will be connecting with 9,000 golfers per year via push notifications, maybe offering them offers from their pro shop, or F&B outlets.

This is an extremely powerful marketing tool that the OTAS are taking full advantage of, but as yet the majority of independent hotels and Resorts.

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Conclusion

So which one offers better value?  Email campaigns are a question of numbers, the more you send, the higher amount of guests that open.  Facebook offers hotels the opportunity to market specific messages to a specific audience, whilst push notifications have very high readability rates using technology that the majority of your guests are accustomed to now which are free to send once your hotel has purchased an app.  You should not discount any of these three strategies but what is apparent is that Facebook and Push notifications offer great value as they enjoy higher readability rates when compared with email campaigns.

The reality though is that the majority of hotels, Resorts and & golf courses in 2015 have been only using email campaigns as their communication strategy.  Hopefully, we have offered you something to think about when planning your 2016 marketing campaign!

Need Help?  Talk to us and we will work with you to optimize your 2016 marketing strategy.  email info@hotelient.net for further information

Simple handy guide to help you prepare your hotel´s online marketing strategy for 2016

Simple handy guide to help you prepare your hotel´s online marketing strategy for 2016

About this time of year, most Director of Sales & General Managers are sitting down to finalize their Sales & Marketing budgets and plan for 2016………..Best time of the year,  right before the RFP season begins!

So to help you all, here is a handy guide for you to plan your online marketing strategy.

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Website – The most important part of any online strategy is your own website.  Key things to take in consideration or at least be asking your providers or technical team.

  • Is my website mobile optimized? –  Google now penalizes non-responsive websites on searches from a mobile phone
  • Do I promote Guest reviews? – Showing off your great guest reviews increases your online conversions.
  • Are my photos up to date – Photos are key for hotels.  If they are more than 3 years old, update them.
  • Have I got any videos to show?- Videos are key in the selling process, a great video about your hotel on your homepage is a great selling point……..and google loves it too!
  • Can my content be updated quickly –  If you are relying on 3rd parties to update your content, this is not the best idea when we are living in an era where content is king.  Updating your website should be a question of minutes.
  • Is my website in my guests language? – Numerous studies have shown that when a hotel´s website is in your guests local language, they are more likely to buy directly from you.
  • Can my website add Landing pages and pop-up windows? – These are great for data capture and client retention.

Booking engine

  • Is my booking engine easy to use from a client´s perspective?  Many booking engines are great for revenue managers but a minefield for clients.  Compare yours with booking.com and see how it stacks up
  • Add-ons or extras to be shown after initial reservation? – This is proven to increase your revenue against showing them during the initial process.  Does booking.com show extras or Add-Ons?  So why do you let your guest choose one, when they are more likely to be  looking to compare your prices with an OTA?
  • Create separate booking engines for unique offers – Putting your booking engine in more on more pages with only some of your great promotions is key to driving revenue.  Ask your provider whether they can create this for you

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Connectivity

  • Can my channel manager connect to Google/Tripadvisor /Trivago and other meta search agencies? –  If they cannot, look for alternative solutions.
  • Should my Channel Manager & Booking engine be separate? –  The success of your booking engine will depend on how much your provider is investing to keep up with the industry trends, so by separating them, will allow you to move between providers more freely without the hassle.

Advertising/SEO

  • If your hotel already investing in Adwords but not connected to Google HPA? If the answer is no then you need to get this sorted.  Also, Google RLSA has a better rate of conversion and could be a smarter investment.  Talk to your provider about RLSA or read this recent article.
  • Retargeting Ads are a worthwhile investment, as studies have shown clients visit about 20 web pages before deciding on where they are going to book.
  • Ensure your website has up to date Keywords, SEO Description and Titles on every page.
  • SEO is now not just about backlinks, Google users over 200 algorithms now so just doing one thing is not enough

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Reputation

  • Your reputation is key, not only from a point of monitoring but also to incentivise direct reservations.
  • Generate online feedback for your guests to complete and promote it across your social media, website and Videos.

Social Media

  • Is your Community manager or Social media manager just promoting offers and showing pictures and videos of your hotel?  If they are, tell them to stop or look to replace them.
  • Social media is all about telling stories, interaction, and conversation.  One golden rule, only 20% of your content should be your promotions, the rest should be about your destination, events, interesting stories, interviews etc.  Read this article on how to get the best out of your social media.
  • Building your youtube channel with videos of your hotel, interviews, guest reviews is also a great tool.  40% of all global searches are for videos which are set to rise to nearly 70% by 2018.

Other Technologies

  • Social WIFI – By getting you guests to connect to your FREE WIFI through their social media accounts should be a no brainer for hotels.  No only do they get more followers, 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!.

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I am sure there are many more ways you can all think of, however by doing the above is a great start.

According to a recent survey we conducted, over 70% of hotels receive less than 35% of their total online reservations directly.  Every point that I have written above, I have implemented and was able to achieve 60% of my online reservations directly in my previous roles within hotels.  It can be done and it also does not need to break your marketing budget in doing so.

Talk to your providers or your team today and see how you can implement these during 2016, or alternatively, allow Hotelient to provide you with a free review on your general online positioning to ensure you are checking all the boxes.  Email us for further information info@hotelient.net

I am passionate about direct sales for hotels and I have put into practice what I believe. We cannot live without OTA´s, but we can take advantage of the many great technologies to ensure the hotel that we work for is getting a fair share of direct reservations.

AccorHotels goes toe to toe with Priceline to target independent hotels online distribution

AccorHotels goes toe to toe with Priceline to target independent hotels online distribution

The next few months are going to prove very challenging for Independent hotels as they make sense of the changing landscape, on one side you have the announcement this week of AccorHotels opening it´s distribution channel to independent hotels which comes off the back of their recent purchases of Fastbooking (a distribution, digital marketing & Revenue management company) and Wipolo (Mobile Developer), whilst on the other side, you have lasts years acquisition of Buuteeq, which was rebranded to Booking Suite (CRM & Digital Marketing) and PriceMatch (Revenue Management) by Priceline.

So, what we have here is a hotel chain that wants to act like an OTA…………and an OTA that wants to act, as a hotel distribution provider.

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AccorHotels

The French hotel giant is continuing its fight in the online wars on several new fronts by changing its name to AccorHotels, adding staff to its digital platform team and opening its distribution channels to independent hotels. Accor say that by pulling in global independent properties does not constitute a soft brand, and they are not looking to transform itself into a model that resembles an online travel agency but they will clearly be up against Booking.com, Tripadvisor and quite soon Airbnb

In terms of commission charges, it is anticipated that It will be lower than on other channels, competitive with OTAs and adapted to each market due to dynamics.

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Priceline

With over 6000 hotels enjoying the digital marketing solution provided by Buuteeq when it was brought out by Priceline last year, they strategy was clear, whether the client books through Priceline, Booking.com or Directly with the Hotels – Priceline wins. The Hotelier receives a great looking website with Revenue Optimization. Booking.com will also provide search engine optimization for their hotels online presence and we could arguably see in the future that Booking.com uses its reach and distribution to promote their hotel direct sites, with the recent announcement of their new business service for example

Commission payments for direct hotel bookings being set at 10%

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So what’s going on?

By having a Hotel chain, that actively targets independent hotels to support them and act as an OTA is just another indication on how all the focus is on a very fragmented market where currently there are hundreds of solutions to choose from. Everyone expects that will be consolidation in the hotel world … but speed and size are going to make the difference. We can expect new players who simply did not exist 10 years ago, will have the same value in the next 10 years, that took a chain like Accor 50 years to build.

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Hoteliers are eager for alternative distribution platforms, as their love-hate relationship with booking.com continues, however, independent hoteliers have a fantastic opportunity to go it alone, for example:-

A) Google HPA will allow hotels to gain a level playing field as OTA´s as well as Google´s clear strength on mobiles via Google Maps
B) Recent European court judgments have set in motion a series of events that will eventually lead to hotels offering the best price directly on their website
C) Hotels can use technology which is available now to become smarter in increasing their marketing as over the next few years reacting quickly to changes in the marketplace is going to set you apart.
Search around, there are a lot of great CRM providers that offer better functionality and better value, Booking engines that increase your conversion and new revenue optimization tools that do not cost the earth.
With the anticipated growth in bookings coming directly to hotels and Google becoming a big player within the travel market, hoteliers have to be aware that these solutions that may save money in the short term, might not be such a great idea in the future as the market evolves.

Hotelient can help your hotel make sense of this constantly changing landscape, we’ll let you concentrate on ensuring your guests have a great stay with you while we build your a digital marketing strategy to compete with the big boys. Email us for further information.

Can your Hotel´s Free WIFI be a better revenue generator without major investment?

Can your Hotel´s Free WIFI be a better revenue generator without major investment?

It is has been clear for some time now that guests all seem to be keeping one major criteria as their deal clincher when choosing a hotel or resort; there has to be free Wi-Fi!

Some of the common guests’ reactions:

“Location – negotiable

Complimentary Breakfast – flexible

Airport transports – doesn’t matter

Swimming pool – preferable but can work around it

Free Wi-Fi – absolutely

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Both business travellers and leisure guests give topmost priority to their laptops, ipads, and smartphones while packing their bags. There is always an urgent need to be “connected” at all times possible, whether it is to know your synchronised meeting schedule, send/receive emails or give timely updates on social media – you just need to have good connectivity.

“Hotels.com released a survey where hotel guests ranked free WiFi as the most important in-room amenity.”

For solo travellers with limited budget, taking an international data pack tends to be quite expensive hence they prefer to frequent hotels/restaurants where they can find free Wi-Fi. Apps like Square Register, Viber, Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, Yelp!, Office Mobile, Google Maps help travellers keep up-to-date with information. If they have to function without them, they wouldn’t know where to go, what to do, which meeting to attend etc.

Hotels across the globe have changed their modus operandi and are offering free Wi-Fi to their guests, since they realized that guests don’t look so too happy when charged extra for Wi-Fi. Independent hotels can benefit immensely if they offer free and effective Wi-Fi to their guests.

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But ok, most of you reading this have already done or in the process of providing Free wifi, but what most hotels have not done is turn their wifi into a revenue generator!

Lets take this example, you are waiting to start boarding your plane home at an airport, desperately trying to connect to the free 15 or 30 mins of WIFI that the majority of airports provide.  You connect to the service via a social media channel or via an online form to get you up and connected.  You do it in seconds and in return you get your free surfing time, fantastic!!

But hang on a minute though, why can´t hotels do this?  So when a client checks in, he connects to your free WIFI service via his social media or a online form.

With this information, not only could you interact in a different way with your clients, you also gain important information that you can feed into marketing database.

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Just imagine this scenario.  A couple are enjoying a morning coffee at your cafe bar, they are non residents, so have not registered at your reception, so you do not have their email information in order to promote your great food and drink promotions you may have.  By allowing these clients to connect to your hotel´s or Resort´s WIFI via their social channel or online form, you now can and to both of them!!  You could also ask them to review your service and installations.

So take your Free WIFI to the next level and start generating more sales, interact with your clients in new and dynamic way whilst increasing your marketing database.

Now on to the great news, It will not break the bank to get this installed as well as up and running at your hotel.  Contact Hotelient to get a quote for your own branded social wifi. Starting at less than a euro a day to capture contact details of everyone that accesses your WIFI!  For further info email us info@hotelient.net