How Facebook messenger can help increase guest satisfaction and RevPar performance

How Facebook messenger can help increase guest satisfaction and RevPar performance

Hotels have in general been slow at introducing new ways to connect and interact with their guests directly to their mobile, especially considering a vast majority of your clients are already using a smartphone daily!  Users spend more than one out of every five minutes on Facebook via their mobile.  Facebook also announced recently that more than 700 million monthly active users engage with Messenger. Think about how you communicate with your friends and family today.  From organising a night out to arranging a get together at Thanksgiving.  We have become so accustomed to Instant messaging being an important part of the way we communicate with others.

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Over the past couple of years, we have started to see major companies like Tesco, Audi and more recently El Corte Ingles in Spain beginning to use Facebook messenger as a new tool to connect with their customers.  More recently, Hyatt was the first hotel chain to announce that they were testing a new guest service channel using Facebook´s new “Businesses on messenger”, available currently only in the US

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Hotels & Resorts are also starting to be aware of a higher amount of guest interactions from a smartphone for complaints, questions or posting photos.  Clients want solutions in real time, from dealing with a complaint to booking a table in the restaurant,  or just finding out what they can explore within your local area.    Reservation confirmations, which are usually sent to emails are one-way forms of communication which don’t provide your guest an opportunity to personalise their stay further.  Facebook Messenger can also provide a better online booking experience by offering real time support for the user to navigate through the transactional parts of a booking and improving the overall user experience.   Interacting with your clients in real time is becoming a necessity for hotels, especially as it will help improve guest experience and satisfaction that leads to increased revenue performance.

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So how can you implement this into your hotel operation?

  • Which department should be responsible for responding to guests?  Offering messaging in real time needs to be available 24/7, so reception would be the logical choice.  They must ensure that the are always online on messenger, so having the page open on one of the back office computers is ideal.
  • Ensure that all your marketing material throughout the hotel, as well as online via your web, booking engines as well as your descriptions on Tripadvisor, Booking, etc., include that you provide 24/7 real-time guest support on Facebook Messenger.
  • Interact with your guests, rather than reacting will allow you to anticipate your clients wants and needs, sometimes before they even tell you!
  • Connecting with your guests on a personal and emotional level will also enable your team to build relationships and trust that will allow your hotel to increase guests satisfaction and reservations booked directly overtime.

All of us are so accustomed to using instant messaging,  so it should be only natural that hotels & resorts are exploring new ways to interact with their guests and offer that personalised experience that every hotel wants to provide.

Hoteliers should also be aware that as Google starts to become an OTA; Google Now will also be in the not too distant future, an important part of your guest communication strategy.

Hotelient provide guest marketing solutions to Hotels across Europe If you like to find out about more ways to connect to your guests and increase your RevPar performance, email info@hotelient.net for further information.

 

 

How to spot a dodgy reputation optimization company with 3 simple questions and keep TripAdvisor´s Steve Kaufer happy!

How to spot a dodgy reputation optimization company with 3 simple questions and keep TripAdvisor´s Steve Kaufer happy!

As Steve Kaufer CEO of Tripadvisor mentioned in his recent letter (see below) to hotel owners and managers that there are a number of companies in the market place that are promoting to hotels, offering  you lots of fake positive reviews on Tripadvisor instantly, without contacting a single original guest.

Companies like Tripadvisor are now actively clamping down on this type of activity called “Reputation Optimization”. This could lead to your account being suspended by Tripadvisor and other sites.  In order to help you spot one of these dodgy companies, I have come up with these 3 questions that you should ask them:-

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1.Will your company get my hotel higher up the Trip Advisor listings?

The answer  is no.  The only way to improve your rating on Tripadvisor is by your staff & marketing team being proactive, and asking your clients who have stayed at your hotel to write a review on their stay.  What you can do is direct your guests to leave their reviews on Tripadvisor and Google.  This can be simplified by using feedback pages and auto responders.  By organically growing the quantity & quality of reviews  to Tripadvisor & Google, you can improve your rankings and visibility. Ranking well on Google and Tripadvisor will help you get more bookings, as both of these channels allow guests to make reservations. This is how reputable companies like Hotelient help their customers.

2. How much will you charge me for each positive review to bump up my Trip Advisor rating?

You should NOT be charged for positive reviews. Every review you receive should be from a genuine hotel guest.  When someone leaves your hotel a great review on Tripadvisor or Google, it is because your team has worked hard to earn it!  What hotels should be doing is shouting a bit louder about their great feedback.  Reviews should be posted on your Web Pages, social media networks. Smarter hotels use companies like Hotelient to create review commercials for them to share on You Tube, social media etc.. Telling the world how great your hotel is, and by using creative ways to spread the word about your great reviews will result in you attracting more customers to your hotel.

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3.Is there any way I can get into trouble for engaging you to artificially bump up my reviews?

The answer is YES! Review sites like Tripadvisor will take the strongest action possible against you and the company you have paid for false reviews. Your hotel could be suspended by Tripadvisor and other sites which will have a detrimental affect on your hotel.  If Tripadvisor see that you suddenly have an abnormal amount of positive reviews over a short period of time, alarm bells will start to ring and they will investigate whether the reviews are genuine or not.  If your reviews are legitimate then you have nothing to worry about, but is they find your reviews come from an IP address in an unusual location for instance..then you’re in trouble!! Best practise is to implement a process to get a review from every single guest that stays at your hotel.

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Your hotels Reputation online is extremely important to increasing RevPar and continued guest satisfaction.

Companies like Hotelient info@hotelient.net, that offer Reputation Management & Marketing solutions will provide your hotel with feedback pages, auto responder’s and other tools targeted at your guests to encourage them to leave genuine reviews and feedback. This is the way to do it!! Be very careful that you do not engage with a company offering you fast solutions by providing fake reviews, it could end up costing you very dearly and your hotel may not recover from a suspension on Tripadvisor and other social media  outlets. Genuine reviews from  genuine guests obtained by the hotel through their own feedback system supplied by a reputable Reputation Management and Marketing company is the key to success.

If you would like to find out more on how Reputation Marketing solutions can help your hotel, visit our web or email info@hotelient.net

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?

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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.

Why Max Starkov’s Google/TripAdvisor nightmare is a blessing in disguise for hoteliers willing to embrace a new paradigm

Why Max Starkov’s Google/TripAdvisor nightmare is a blessing in disguise for hoteliers willing to embrace a new paradigm

Remember this? Steve Ballmer suggested in this interview back in 2007 that no-one would pay 500$ for a phone or that business people will not buy one, as the iPhone did not have a keypad. We all know how that prediction turned out?

Well, Max Starkov who is a leading voice within our industry wrote a recent article. He shares why “Book on Google” and “Book on Tripadvisor” will be a nightmare for the hospitality industry and it reminded me of Steve Ballmer´s infamous interview.

Max´s basic argument is that “book on Google” and “book on TripAdvisor” is three-fold:
1) Will increase OTA dependency
2) Lose control in creating demand
3) Worsening ROI.

He also recommended that hotels continue with meta search marketing ads as well investing in online marketing techniques to aid direct sales.

Let’s take these 3 points in hand.

– OTA dependency – Poorly managed hotels have high OTA dependency; They have allowed the likes of booking.com and Expedia to dominate their inventory. In a recent survey we conducted with European hotels, nearly 70% said that 60% or more of their online reservations come from OTA´s. So there already is high OTA dependency currently and two new major players in the market will only provide added competition. Google and Trip Advisor entering the market could result in lower OTA commissions if the market works as it should.  It does not automatically follow that two more players will increase OTA dependency from where it is today. Where Max is totally correct though is the need for hotels to invest in ensuring a higher % of reservations come directly. There are plenty of new technologies that if implemented correctly and with buy-in from the staff, offer many ways of increasing direct online reservations.

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– Lose Control in Creating demand – Using Metasearch to create demand is a good idea, but is just too costly and risky for many hotels. They just do not have the budgets to compete with the OTA´s. The independent hotel ROI model is different from an OTA’s ROI model. In meta search advertising, it is David versus Goliath, except this time Goliath wins ninety-nine times out of a hundred. If a hotel has, as Max suggests a robust marketing budget and meets some requirements to make it competitive against OTA’s, this can be a good way for hotels promote themselves during low and distressed periods. The reality though is that it is just not practical for the vast majority. Let’s also take it a stage further, if the metasearch model was working, then why are Tripadvisor and Google moving away from their respective programs that have been in BETA for many months?

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– Worsening ROI – Now here, Max explains that reservations that come from OTA´s have a higher cost of sale rather than ones that are reserved directly from meta search advertisements. They also impose restrictions like rate parity and LRA. I believe that the cost of sale will be pushed down by this added competition. In Europe where we already see that hotels are now not legally obliged to offer rate parity to OTA´s. We will see revenue managers increase their pricing where the cost of sale is higher. Likewise with these two major players entering the market and especially with Google´s dominance in mobile search this is likely force other players to reduce their % to maintain market share.

Max´s article is about Meta Search ads vs. OTA´s, the reality is, and our survey demonstrates this. Tripadvisor´s Tripconnect was a non-starter for hotels, with Instant Booking being far more acceptable. Google & Tripadvisor are just responding to the realities of the marketplace. Maybe to run meta search campaigns is financially beneficial for marketing agencies. However, for the majority of hotels, this is just not going to be an activity that makes sense commercially.

By no means am I an OTA fan. I did not achieve obtaining over 60% of my online reservations during my time as a hotel sales director by allowing them to take control of my inventory. What I do see though is that they are necessary for attracting clients to your hotel. The real trick is siphoning traffic from OTA’s and getting them to book on your website. Personally, this is where hotels have a major opportunity for getting some payback after years of feeding the OTA beast.

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

How concierge apps are transforming European hotels revenue performance

How concierge apps are transforming European hotels revenue performance

It is now a common acceptance within our industry that more and more of your guests are searching for a hotel using their mobile rather than a desktop.  In a recent study from the UK, 70% of travellers at some point during the buying process for flights and hotels used a mobile.  A further study revealed that 85% of mobile users prefer Apps over mobile webs.

Most hotels these days have the website optimised for mobiles and feel they are doing everything to ensure they are interacting with their guests via mobile but is it enough?  This is a common question and one that we will tackle today

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Apps are transforming hotels that have already implemented into their business, here’s how:-

  • Information – Hotels & Resorts are, in general, are notoriously bad at informing their guests on everything that is going to take place during their stay.  From the flyers that we leave next to reception, to the personalised letter they receive on check-in and let´s not forget the infamous hotel directory.  The majority guests are searching for information about the great services you provide before they even arrive, instead they need it when they are on the plane, train or just simply planning their holiday.  Many resorts offer excursions like scuba diving, children activities or trekking that are nowhere to be seen on the brand website but still offer an important part of someone’s holiday.  Having that information beforehand is providing your guests with useful information that they can plan their perfect holiday or stay with you which is available both when there online and offline.
  • Events – Most hotels these days are focused on providing experiences to their guests whether business or pleasure.  From offering yoga, cookery classes to a live act in your bar, these have always been difficult to promote for the hotel.  From publishing on Social media & website to producing a flyer which takes time and incurs costs for printing and designing.  One of the great functionalities about apps is push notifications – These are small notifications sent straight to the phone and appear on the front screen.  At present, these have 95% readability rates, far higher and more cost-effective than any other form of advertising.

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  • Revenue – Apps are proving a great way to increase incremental revenue by selling via your app for services like room service, Spa, Restaurant or promotions on food & drink.  Hotels that have implemented apps have already recouped their initial investment within 6 months of operation. From promoting your room service menus shown with pictures which is proven to increase demand  to Spa treatments which can be pre-booked, this can all be done via the app.  Guests can also interact with your staff instantly to organise transfers, housekeeping etc.  All this helps your guest have the right information at their fingertips at the right time.  From an operational point of view, you app can be connected to your PMS to automatically charge the guests room bill.
  • GPS – So you are a resort in Malaga with many of your guests flying into the local airport.  How great would it be for your guest to receive a welcome message when they arrive along with directions on how to get to your hotel?  Or if you are a golfing resort, how cool would it be for your golfers to know how far their ball is away from the pin?  All of this is possible with an App which offer those little details that set you apart from your competitors.

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  • Loyalty Programmes – Apps are a great way to incentivize multi-purchases as well as encouraging repeat stays.   Promotions like buy 5 beers and get the 6th one free can be controlled by the app, as well as promotions to ensure that your clients come back and stay with you by booking directly.

Apps offer much more versatility and can be an incredible source of direct income if used correctly. Once a client has reserved your hotel via any channel.  You should be informing them to download your app to receive special promotions/information etc that they can enjoy when they are staying with you.

Whereas Mobile websites are instrumental in the initial reservation, apps also provide a valuable tool that your guests will appreciate.  A key component is that all your staff is correctly trained to make sure that your staff are helping your guest take full advantage of the many features that the app can offer them, which also helps to increase your hotels overall revenue performance.

All this taken together establishes that Apps are a vital marketing strategy.  For the hotels and resorts that have already adopted them, they are already reaping the rewards.

Email us info@hotelient.net if you would like to find out more on how an app can be beneficial for your guests and revenue.

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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.

Simple handy guide that will help your hotel get the best out of social media

Simple handy guide that will help your hotel get the best out of social media

A lot of our clients come to us and ask always the same question.  “We have all been told to be on Social media, we have employed a community manager/social media manager who is publishing content across Facebook, Twitter.  So why are we not seeing results, nor increases in our followers?”

This is a common question especially as many hotels view that their social media channels are an extension of their website, where you place your offers, photos or videos, recent interviews, ads or a great picture of a recent event that took place.

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Having worked in hotels as Sales & Marketing Director, the general guidance for hotels on how to maintain their social media has been constantly evolving.  There is though a coalescing around the general view that to maximize your leverage on your social media, Content Marketing will be key for you.  Now Marriott, since last year has been using this strategy and from the excellent financial results they recently announced, it is clear that it seems to be working.  However, the bad news is that most hotels do not have the budget, nor the infrastructure to compete with the likes of Marriott or the other major chains.  The good news is that you do not have too!  There are plenty of ways you to post great content without any major investment which will lead to better interactions with your followers and increase in direct online reservations.

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So here is my 5 point plan on generating great content for your social media:-

  •  Planning – Great content will be essential to succeeding at social media. Your marketing plan should include a content marketing plan, comprised of strategies for content creation and content curation, as well as an editorial calendar.  Critically important is how you divide up your content.  You should focus on the following

⅓ of your social content promotes your hotel, converts readers, and generates profit.
⅓ of your social content should be focused on your local destination.
⅓ of your social content should be based on interactions with your guests and building your brand.

  • Capturing – Not all your content is going to be generated by you.  Sharing interesting content about your destination, local restaurants, as well as local events is going to be really interesting to your clients.  Get your team to find great local websites.  In my experience, your reception team is a great source of information that you can tap into.   Get all of the hotel staff involved.  At the next head of departments meeting, ask each department to source some great articles.  You will be amazed at what they find for you to post.

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  • Creating – We have all been here, sometimes it is really difficult to create content.   Bear in mind that Google really loves videos, so creating great HD videos does not have to be expensive with your iPhone or Android and will be great for your SEO. You will only need to purchase a tripod stand for around £30.  Here are some ideas that I have used in the past that have proved to be very successful.
    • Staff reviews of local restaurants – Guests ask your reception staff all the time, why not put it in a video or a blog?
    • A day in the life of the Front Office manager. (Great blog title or video)
    • How to prepare your signature dish in your restaurant with recipe (Blog & Video)
    • Guest talking on a video about their stay. (Video)
    • 5-star guest reviews taken from Tripadvisor. (Image)
    • Video series on how things work in your hotel like the remote control, shower etc

I am sure you can think of many more ideas.  The key thing for me was that everyone within the hotel participated.  This is not a Sales & Marketing job only!

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  • Posting – OK, you have created some great content and found some great information about your destination, now comes the fun part – getting it out there.  Now, I came across a brilliant platform which will allow you to schedule when and where you post too.  It´s called Buffer and it is great at allowing you to not only program your posts to when most of your connections are online, it also allows you to add feeds from sites that your guests may find interesting, so from their app, you can choose what to post 24hrs a day, making sure that you are always posting fresh, interesting and exciting content.  Check it out, quite a lot of the functionality is available free.
  • Analysing –  To find out what adjustments need to be made to your social media marketing strategy, you should constantly be testing. Build testing capabilities into every action you take on social networks. Track your links using URL shorteners. Use Buffers social media analytics to track the success and reach of social campaigns. Track page visits driven by social media with Google analytics. Record and analyze your success and failures, and then adjust your social media marketing plan accordingly  Surveys are also a great way you can gauge success. these work both online and offline. Ask your social media followers, email list, and website visitors how you’re doing on social media. This direct approach is often very effective. Then ask your offline customers if social media had a role in their purchasing. This insight might prove invaluable when you look for where to improve.

Conclusion – The most important thing to understand about your social media plan is that it should be constantly changing. As new channels emerge, you may want to add them to your plan.  The key thing is not to turn your social media into an extension of your website.  It is about creating social interactions online –  The reason why we all employ Community Managers!!    For me, Content Marketing evolved into becoming one of the key elements in increasing my direct online reservations and RevPar and cannot be underestimated.

Do you need a helping hand in creating great content?  Email us info@hotelient.net and find out how Hotelient can help you get ahead of your competition.

How Hotels increase RevPar with online guest surveys

How Hotels increase RevPar with online guest surveys

Most hotels spend hundreds and in some cases thousands of euros every month on ensuring that they promote their website either with google AdWords campaigns, SEO optimisation, and general online marketing techniques.  This is good practice, but Google has been saying over the last few years that REVIEWS to them matter and have been making it key that Hotels focus in this area.

So how can online guests surveys increase RevPar?  

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Reviews Matter

Google invites anyone who cares to post a review of any business that they have used. Who cares most? People who have had a bad experience. We estimate that a dissatisfied guest is up to twenty times more likely to post a review.

Studies too numerous to mention, as well as massive amounts of anecdotal evidence, show the effect reviews have on guest behavior. Great reviews drive RevPar, bad reviews drive guests away.

Combine those two factors alone and it rapidly becomes apparent how important it is for all businesses to engage where reviews are concerned.

Google – the major player

This has been (and continues) a major subject for debate. Google has not made life easy for any of us: constantly moving the goal posts. But what is now called Google My Business is well on its way to becoming the dominant force in reviews, for a host of reasons, here are just some which stand out…

  • Verification: since Google introduced mandatory registration all Google reviews are attached to a verified account (YouTube, Google+, Gmail etc.).
  • Coverage: Google provides a ‘one stop shop’ for reviews – of any business or service. Guests will soon tire of looking up different specialist sites depending on what kind of reviews they need.
  • Ease: once registered, writing subsequent reviews is simple.
    Google is the gatekeeper: their reviews will always be shown before any others
    The new Google layout: providing much more information about each individual business, by default this drives other review sites down below the fold (or onto page two – the graveyard)

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So if Google is focusing on Reviews, are they enhancing the visibility of those hotels in their searches who have great reviews, which leads to a higher level of reservations and increase in RevPar?……..You Bet!

1). More reviews = better Search Engine Rankings

Hotels using online surveys have significantly more reviews, and the search engines eat this up. Search engine algorithms are fine tuned to pick up nuances in score and number of reviews. In search world dominated by OTAs, this can make the difference in whether a hotel appears for its own brand.

2). More reviews = increased confidence with travelers

The volume of reviews influences the level of trust a traveler has in the feedback. The difference between a hotel that has 300 reviews and a hotel that has 3,000 reviews is noticeable unless scores are the highest of the high.

3). Higher rankings (Enough said!)

Anything that pushes up rankings is pure gold for hotels in this day and age when 95% of travelers use reviews to make a booking decision. Hotelient surveys easily integrate with your website and can be pushed out to third-party travel sites to help drive higher rankings exactly where you need them.

4). Surveys = guiding the conversation

On review sites, the traveler controls the conversation; in a survey scenario, the hotel guides the conversation. Choosing which questions to ask and how they are asked can influence the way travelers recall their experiences and how they respond. Actionable feedback is still the goal, but framing a survey so that it taps into a traveler’s positive experiences at the very beginning makes sense.  Once completed, the guest will view a short video either in response to a positive review or a negative one.

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Now many hoteliers express resistance regarding post-stay guest surveys; they say it risks the hotel becoming a nuisance. Hotelient suggests that hotels reconsider surveys as a guest service rather than a request—and they really can be, when presented the right way.

Hotelient has touted the benefits of surveys, knowing there’s a reward to hotels reaching out proactively for guest feedback. Just the act of sending a survey lets guests know you care, and when surveys are sent within 48 hours of departure which can also be done automatically saving your team time, guests are still fresh on the experience, making them better able and, perhaps, more willing to give feedback.

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But what about Tripadvisor, is there any correlation between reviews and their ranking on their site? 

In the table that follows, hotels that rank across the spectrum, calculated the number of reviews each has and then divided that by the number of rooms. This gives a figure that enables you to fairly compare any hotel with another.

Ranking Reviews per room per year

Top 10 –  7.4

Top 25 –  4.3

Top 50 –  2.2

75 –  1.4

100  – 1.1

250  – 0.7

500  – 0.5

750 –  0.3

The key question is: can we draw any conclusions from these numbers?

Yes. The more reviews you can get the better your ranking on Tripadvisor & Google will be.

For every hotel? Yes. in one of two ways:

  • You can invest in better facilities and staff training and invite reviews, or…
  • You can invest a fraction of that amount in a professional review management system and invite reviews

Hotelient Reputation Surveys will:

  • Get you more positive reviews to TripAdvisor, Google & Facebook (at least 25% more – based on results for our clients)
  • Enable you to manage at least 75% of the negative reviews you are currently receiving before they are ever posted to TripAdvisor, Google & Facebook
  • Without any radical restructuring in-hotel, you begin to get more positive reviews per year per room, and your ranking begins to climb which leads to increase in RevPar

Hotelient is also offering the following Summer offer:-

If you contract our reputation package before the 31st October 2015, we will design, configure and host for your hotel  a fully customizable App ready for Iphone and Android Smartphones completely FREE and with no hidden charges or obligations.

If you would like to find out more call +44 (0)203 287 1276 or email info@hotelient.net