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 However, these tend to be limited in flexibility and often become outdated relatively quickly as technology advances.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.

 

 

 

 

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:-

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

5 simple tips to increase your reservations with photos & videos

5 simple tips to increase your reservations with photos & videos

We all know that photos and videos are a great way to sell your hotel or resort right?  So why is it one area where the majority of hotels have under-invested!  We are living in an age where photos and even more so videos are taking on a greater importance.   The way we all connect and interact online makes it difficult for you get your hotel to stand out from the crowd and show why you are different and better than your competitors.

In 2015, just having a picture of your exterior, lobby and bedroom doesn´t cut it.  You have to entice your prospective guests through original photos and videos.  What are your unique features?  Why are you different?  Do you have unique personalities within your team that your clients love?

Here are five simple tips to show you how to get the most from your photos and videos which will help increase your visibility and reservations:-

  • Planning – Before you even call a photographer, you need plan what photos you think the best show off your hotel.  Look at guests comments to gauge how clients see you, which parts of the hotel do they think are your strong points?  Preparation is key by having Flowers,  extra amenities.  fruit platters, suitcases, cocktails or champagne ready to decorate your rooms, bars lobbies etc.  If you have the budget, organise for a professional to decorate the spaces you want to photograph.  Warm, open faces speak thousands of words in a picture,  ensure your staff are aware that there is photo shoot taking place.   Again, if you have the budget, use models who can help you show what your guests can enjoy when they are staying with you. From drinking a glass of champagne on the terrace overlooking your swimming pool to enjoying a dessert at your buffet restaurant.  By being clear beforehand and knowing what you want, will allow you get the most from your photos.  Also, if your hotel boasts MICE facilities, Spa, Golf, etc., these also need to be prepared and decorated.  A photographer does not know your hotel; you do!

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  • Investigate – We would all love to have a big marketing department helping us, coming up with great new original ideas for creating photos and videos for your hotel or resort.  The reality is that most of the independent hoteliers cannot afford that luxury, but what we can do is look on the web and source ideas that can be adapted to your hotel.  One of my personal favorites promotional hotel videos (Shown below) was Nobu Hotel @ Caesars Palace.  They show off the whole hotel in a video that is original and engaging.   The key is to explain to your video producer is a concept that suits your target audience (business, couples, families, etc.) so that they can translate it into a video for you.

  • Editing – Once you have an excellent selection of impacting and beautifully presented photos.  The next stage is to get them adapted for your various social media pages, website, and other pages which publish your hotels photos.  Another great technique is to add a few words to each photo to perfectly describe them and show off your major strengths for example “Deluxe Room with fantastic views” or “Free High-Speed WIFI.”

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  • Publishing – With your selection of photos and videos now ready, ensure that all your agents, website, OTA´s and social media update their pages with these new images.  There are services that you can contract which can help you with this process.  The key is that wherever your prospective guest finds you, they see the same photo.
  • Don´t Stop there!! – Once you have your hotels, official photos and videos completed, which you should update once every couple of years.  You can now start to build an excellent collection of pictures of some of the many significant events, celebrities that you host at your hotel.  Videos of guests commenting about their stay are also very compelling.  If you have a cocktail bar then why not a quick  1 min video showing your guests on how to make the perfect cocktail like shown in this video below from Iceland Air Hotels.  Be creative and original, videos and photos are great at promoting what kind of guest experience your future clients can enjoy.  We all have a fantastic camera and video recorder on our smartphones, just hook them up to a tripod and with a little help from programs such as Camtasia and you will be well on your way!

Have fun, allow your staff to participate, they can also be a source of new ideas.  By updating your current photographs and videos as well as generating fantastic new content, will provide your guests who are viewing your hotel to understand in greater depth why you are unique and why they should choose to stay with you rather than one of your competitors.

Are you frustrated that your online bookings are not increasing?  Email us at info@hotelient.net for more information on how Hotelient can work with you to implement a proven online strategy that delivers results.

 

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

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.

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