Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Mobile Websites For Hotels

Website design decisions made by any hotel are ultimately going to be determined by the specific customer-driven requirements of the individual hotel or chain. Only hoteliers can truly know their guests and what their expectations are for hotel brand interaction via the web. The case has been made that the best web design option available to hotels is responsive design, meaning a website that detects what device a user is accessing the site from, and then conforms itself to that format seamlessly.

This option can be seen as “the best for most”, but responsive design may not be the one size fits all solution for every hotel. Perhaps, for example, your hotel has concluded an overwhelming majority of the hotel’s customer base only interacts with the brand via mobile and would benefit from a “mobile first” approach. Whatever the reason, hotels that choose to create a dedicated mobile website should follow some best practices in order to deliver their customers the most rewarding mobile experience possible.

 

Design To The End User

The question must be asked, what are the hotel mobile website user’s objectives when accessing the site? The simplicity of the design must be paramount. Since mobile users are on the go and usually seeking to accomplish a simple task, the amount of content presented must be drastically scaled down. This is best managed by limiting the choices available on the landing page. Due to screen size, a user will look at a few pages at most and move on to something else. Speed and ease of navigation are vital. If the pages offered don’t load quickly, or the user can’t rapidly find what they are looking for, they will leave and probably not come back. Therefore, it is absolutely essential to have a clear understanding of the hotel’s customer base and what they require of your mobile hotel website.

 

Design To The Platform’s Strengths

Always take into account the platform, with its inherent strengths and weaknesses, and design to those strong points. Mobile devices empower their users with touch screens and fingertips are how they will interface with your website. Make sure all of your content is user friendly in that regard. Everything must be easily swiped, buttons and links must be clearly discernible and functional. Offer easy to follow drop down boxes where appropriate. No matter the user’s end goal, be sure they are confidently guided through the process using plainly visible “Next” buttons. 

A major strength of the mobile website which should be effectively leveraged is the geo-location capabilities of mobile devices. The hotel’s location page should easily interface with maps and other location based apps the user has on their device. Another strength of the platform for smartphone users is their click to call feature. Phone users can be easily funneled into calling the hotel directly through strategic use of this feature.

 

Design To Generate Revenue

For those users who have found your mobile website and are ready to buy, ensure that their pathway is readily available, with unmistakable calls to action. The process of booking the hotel from your mobile website should be as simple and intuitive as possible, so as to conclusively leverage every mobile website user who is ready to book. There cannot be any dead ends or obstacles that lead the user away from your booking funnel. Be sure that if the hotel is presenting any special offers or promotions, the users gaze is naturally drawn to them on the page and that site navigation will lead them there as well.

All of these factors will help monetize the mobile hotel website, transforming it into an engine of revenue for your hotel.  


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Monday, December 15, 2014

Mobile Apps For Hotels

The best web design solution for any hotel or chain to the mobile technology explosion, and its impact on the hospitality industry, depends on a number of factors. Responsive web design is the solution which probably works best for most hotels, covering most issues encountered by mobile users of hotel websites. But may not be the best or only solution for all hoteliers. Creating a mobile specific website or a native mobile application may be great substitutes or supplements to the responsive design website. 

In the case of the mobile app, this is often a valuable addition to other solutions. A mobile hotel app can be used to build up customer relations and loyalty through improved delivery of services to hotel guests. The dedicated hotel app can also drive repeat direct bookings from already satisfied and loyal past guests.

 

Customer Service

Most hotel apps provide the functionality to search for and book a room, some even allow users to track and manage their rewards points. But a few hotels are now beginning to utilize native hotel apps in any number of creative ways to improve the guest experience on their properties. Apps can offer hotels a platform from which to transform the means of communication and interaction between the hotel and their guests, particularly while they are on-property, but off-property as well. 

The hotel guest experience can be truly enhanced going forward with app features such as hotel check-in and out from the guest’s smartphone, while also using it to access their room in place of an actual key. Hotel services, like room service, can be ordered on some apps, as can amenities such as spa services along with in-app bill paying. One of the most popular hotel app services being offered by some hotels is virtual concierge service. Travelers can not only view maps and get directions to points of interest in the surrounding area, but can be provided with tips and advice as well. Other possible future services on the horizon include controlling the room TV and syncing it and the guest’s smartphones with streaming services for movies and other entertainment.

 

Direct Bookings

All of these unique uses for hotel apps can greatly further hoteliers’ efforts to improve customer hotel brand loyalty. Hotel apps can become an important driver of hotel bookings, both directly and indirectly. The past guests who are both satisfied and loyal will leave positive reviews and feedback regarding their stays, which in turn will bring more prospects to consider booking the hotel. Those past guests, already having the app on their phone, will be that much more likely to book a return stay in the future. 

Native hotel mobile apps are just in the early stages of their development, with many more possibilities yet to be explored. Imaginatively created apps in the future will increasingly be an effective tool for driving up hotel revenues through better customer satisfaction. 


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Friday, December 12, 2014

Hotel Social Media Strategy - 4

Creating content for and engaging with your hotel brand’s fans and followers is the real business of social media marketing for hoteliers. This should never be considered a chore, and can be fun and enjoyable for the individual or staff members that manage the hotel’s various social media accounts.  

 

Creating Engaging Content

The whole point of posting information to the hotel’s social media pages is to stir up conversation about the hotel brand. By recalling the audience targeting information previously gathered regarding the hotel brand’s social media followers, posts could be specifically tailored to them. The emphasis should be on original content that uniquely invokes emotions in the audience because it is centered on what they find interesting. The tone of voice used in the text writing should be of a more friendly nature than found on the hotel website. Remember social media is conversational.

Social media has become increasingly visually oriented in recent years. The hotel’s posts need to reflect this reality. Both high quality images and compelling video will grab and hold the audience’s attention. Even when a certain post needs to be text oriented, be sure to include a picture whenever possible. Always make posts relevant to the present and future as well. Images selected for postings and all text should be a reflection of current events at the hotel. Talk about what guests will experience now when they choose to book a stay with you.

Remember that social media is not the proper place for blatant, in-your-face promotion. The hotel guest and what is important to them should always be the central theme of the hotel’s social media postings. This is why it is so essential to truly understand the people who come to stay at your establishment. The main objective of social media content is to get people who love your hotel to share their experiences and engage with not only you, but others as well. Sparking conversation with and between fans and followers of your hotel brand is the intended goal of a social post.

Ideas for hotel social media content are only limited by your imagination. A few suggestions that work well for stimulating engagement:

 

  • Contests, particularly photo contests which can provide valuable hotel/destination imagery.
  • Asking opinion questions of hotel fans and followers. For example, favorite restaurants, sightseeing, attractions, etc. in the local area.
  • Upcoming hotel or local event announcements.
  • Special offers and promotions for fans and followers.

 

There are many more ideas for hotel social media content that can respond to the likes, wants, needs, and interests of any hotel’s clientele as long as they are truly understood by hoteliers.

 

 


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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hotel Social Media Strategy - 3

After first determining the specific relevance of various social media channels to a hotel’s overall marketing efforts, and choosing which ones to concentrate on, the real work of social media marketing begins. Targeting the hotel’s audience and listening for what is important to them, proper branding, creating content, and engaging with brand followers are all crucial pieces in any hotel social media campaign.

 

Targeting Audience

As stated earlier in this blog series, hotels cannot afford to have their marketing effort diluted in an attempt to be everywhere at once. In the process of selecting which social channels to build a presence, targeting to some degree should have been accomplished. Audience targeting must be refined even further.

The most important questions requiring answers are; just who the hotel’s guests are and why do they stay there. Past hotel guests must be broken down into increasingly smaller categories. Much smaller and more specific than say business, pleasure, or part of a group as in usual practice. Travelers must be divided up in order to reach them with the correctly relevant marketing messages in a timely fashion. Examples of such a breakdown may include such categories as, “male solo business”,” “young adventurous couple without kids,” “vacation couple with children,” etc. Additionally, keep track of their home address, income bracket, lifestyle, and any special needs or requests. All of this information will prove invaluable later.

 

Branding

Keeping hotel branding consistent across all marketing channels is vitally important. Hotel social media pages should have a look and feel in keeping with the hotel website and vice versa. Social media channel cover and profile photos should be updated in tandem with any changes made on the website. All online marketing for the hotel should be kept fresh with frequent updates and posts. Any comments left by customers, particularly remarks which put the brand in a negative light, should always receive a response from the hotel. This will be discussed further in the next part in this series.

 

Listening

It is always considered polite to listen first before joining a conversation already in progress. This applies as well to social media postings, especially from a business. Social media is not a soapbox from which to speak at people, like conventional advertising. Social media is rather an ongoing conversation that can be joined in progress. Listening first, before putting out extensive marketing information, is the best course of action for a hotel. In this way the hotel brand can better understand their customer base and become in-tune with what their wants, needs, and desires are. This is the best course of action before making assumptions, which result in posts that miss the mark.

The last part of this series will examine the process of creating relevant content for hotel brand followers and properly engaging with them.  


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Monday, December 8, 2014

Responsive Web Design For Hotels

The nature of travel itself, combined with the explosion in use of mobile devices, has made it completely necessary for any hotel’s website to be at least mobile-friendly. There was a push, for a time, for hotels to build a separate mobile version of their website. This is a concept which may still be an option for some hotels, however most likely not the best as we shall see. Some hotels have even created hotel apps which can only become a form of service offered to guests who are already customers. A dedicated, native app will not bring any new guests to stay at a hotel. The most effective choice for hoteliers, in terms of cost and functionality, is the responsive design website.

 

What Is Responsive Web Design?

 A website built with responsive design is capable of detecting and then responding to whatever device a user accesses the site from. The responsive website conforms itself to the screen size of the viewing platform whether desktop or laptop computer, smartphone or tablet, or even Internet TV. All data, both images and text, are correctly sized automatically for optimal viewing on the particular device the user is utilizing.

 

Why Is Responsive Design Important?

Statistics completely backup the necessity of hotel websites to be ready to book the stay for their customers no matter what device platform they choose. Research uncovered by Google, Sterling Research, and SmithGeiger found that 69 percent of all smartphone users are more likely to make a purchase on a mobile website. This is when compared to sites which are optimized, yet non-mobile. Furthermore, 48 percent of mobile users in Google’s study felt that companies, whose websites don’t perform well on their devices, really don’t care about them as customers. Hoteliers cannot afford to lose the revenue from mobile customers.

 

Advantages To Responsive Web Design

The initial investment in a responsive design hotel website may be somewhat higher at the start, however the cost is more than recouped in the form of increased direct hotel bookings. When customers and potential guests can plan and book their hotel seamlessly from any device during the different stages of travel planning, they are drastically more likely to book directly with confidence from the hotel website. 

The traveling public is increasingly making their travel arrangements on the fly and from virtually anywhere. Their expectation is to have the ability to easily navigate and use the websites of all the businesses they patronize, not just hotels, on all their devices. It is imperative for hoteliers to provide the user experience their customers have come to expect from all businesses. 


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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hotel Social Media Strategy - 2

More Hospitality Relevant Channels

 

In order for hotels to gain the most leverage from their online social media efforts, it is crucial that hoteliers carefully select which social channels to make their presence known. To that end, there are some social channels more relevant to the hospitality industry, while others are not very useful for hotel marketing.

 

LinkedIn

On the surface LinkedIn may appear to be nothing but a place for job seekers to post their resumes, but that assumption would be a mistake. LinkedIn is rather a social media gathering place of concentrated expertise on a myriad of business related topics.

LinkedIn has over 300 million users, according to their website figures. This amounts to a powerful force of knowledge and influence. The network provides hoteliers with a great way to maintain contacts with vendors, travel planners and experts, and corporations which may decide to become corporate hotel customers. This is highly effective for driving indirect business.

 

Google

The search engine giant’s own social media network claims over 500 million users. However, only about 300 million are regularly active on the network’s streams. The vast majority of these regulars are male, nearly 70 percent. The strength and importance of Google for the hospitality industry, lies not in engaging with users, but rather merely maintaining a presence on the network. A Google account has a potent effect on a hotel’s rank in the search engine listings because of its connection to Google Local. This is particularly important if, for example, a traveler was searching for a nearby hotel on their mobile device.

 

YouTube 

YouTube is the world’s largest video-sharing website. Owned by Google, the platform also features a search engine second only to its owner. Over a billion visitors per month come to YouTube to watch videos. For the age demographic 18-34 year olds, YouTube is their preferred platform for conducting travel-related searches. Videos of hotel property or the local surrounding area posted on YouTube, with hotel website cross-links, can be a powerful tool in driving hotel bookings. This is particularly effective with a younger audience.

 

Instagram

Owned by Facebook, Instagram is a photo and video sharing social network service with over a 150 million users. The combination of the platform’s integration with Facebook and its highly visual nature make Instagram a perfect choice for hotels to share rich imagery. Geared toward mobile users, the Instagram platform is ideal for travelers on-the-go. A great way for hotels to showcase their property is to run photo contests for hotel guests to share their images.


In future blogs we will take a look more specifically at social media strategies utilizing the various social network channels which are relevant to the hospitality industry. 


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Friday, November 14, 2014

Hotel Social Media Strategy - 1

Relevant Channels For Hospitality

 

Social media has been a transformative force in the hospitality industry, changing the manner in which hotels market themselves to the traveling public. With the medium itself in a constant state of change, adding new channels regularly, hotels run the risk of diluting their online marketing efforts by trying to be everywhere at once. It is therefore imperative for hoteliers to carefully select the most relevant social platforms for their hospitality marketing campaigns.

 

Facebook

A robust presence on the world’s largest social media network is of course absolutely essential to any hotel’s social media effort. With well over a billion users worldwide, Facebook opens up a hotel’s exposure level to a vast pool of potential guests. The social media giant provides an effective platform for hoteliers to connect with users through engaging in conversation, posting special promotional offers, running contests, and gathering customer feedback. As the public increasingly begins their exploration of travel options on Facebook, such social media activities will grab their attention.

 

Twitter

Although not as large as Facebook, the micro-blogging site Twitter has over 271 million active monthly users according to the network’s figures halfway through 2014. A sizable audience for a platform that can potentially make user’s Tweets go viral at the speed of light. Also according to the company, last year in 2013 the 55-64 year old demographic experienced the fastest growth in the amount of users. Twitter affords hotels with a useful platform for timely responses to questions and comments from guests and past customers. Twitter can also act as a conduit for hotels to connect with industry influencers, such as the news media and bloggers, to seek their assistance with promotions.

 

Pinterest

Having more than 70 million users, most of whom are women, makes Pinterest a vital piece of any hotel social media marketing campaign. Pinterest is largely visual in nature, making the platform perfect for hotel properties to share gorgeous images of their accommodations, amenities, and surrounding area as a destination, etc. The largest demographic base of Pinterest consists of women between the ages of 18 and 35, important decision makers regarding travel arrangements. Another advantage of this platform is the high conversion rate of Pinterest users afforded to brands with a presence.


In the next part in this series we will take a look at a few more social media networks for hotels to consider for their marketing campaigns on the medium.


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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Social Media For The Hospitality Industry - 3

More Methods for Hotels to Leverage Social Media

 

1. Customer Reviews

Customer reviews on social media networks and review websites can become an opportunity for hotels to really shine, if handled properly. Hotels must diligently monitor online channels for reviews and commentary regarding their property. All must be responded to as there is potential for grave damage to a hotel’s reputation in not responding. But the real opportunity lies in the response from a hotel to a review, particularly if negative.

If handled professionally, without becoming overly defensive, a negative review can showcase excellent customer service. After apologizing to the reviewer and thanking them, explain how the situation will never happen again, and then point out the measures being taken to ensure a positive outcome. By following these steps, hotels can turn a negative review upside down. Additionally, hotels benefit from the unprecedented level of customer feedback available to them from such reviews.

 

2. User Generated Content

By giving guests the forum to share their own content about their time at a hotel property, hoteliers accomplish several things. Hotel content can be self-generating to some degree and relationships are built between customer and brand, leading to a deeper level of brand loyalty. User generated content, especially in the form of pictures and videos, has tremendous value to the hotel. It can clearly be utilized in such a way to drive hotel lodging sales. The content can be moderated in the form of a contest, with winners receiving a prize in exchange for allowing hotel usage of their images. This is another driving force of customer loyalty.

 

3. Videos and Pictures

The online and social media world is becoming increasingly visually oriented. This is probably a reflection of our 21st century society’s rapidly decreasing attention span. Hotels can leverage these trends however by sharing a larger degree of visual content in the form of both videos and pictures. Videos must be kept brief and on point, only 15 seconds is allowed on Instagram for example, in line with the user’s attention. High quality images of the hotel, its surroundings, and guests savoring its comforts can become compelling selling points to potential guests.


Social media should be viewed by hoteliers as a tool for building relationships with their customers through online engagement. If utilized properly, social networks can instill brand loyalty in their hotel’s guests and prospects. Something which is exceedingly difficult to measure strictly in return on investment terms.


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Friday, November 7, 2014

Disruptive Technologies And The Hospitality Industry - 3

Disruptions Yet To Come For Hospitality

The wave of disruptively transformative forces carrying the hospitality industry into the future shows no sign of breaking anytime soon. The industry, generally speaking, is holding on to antiquated legacy central reservation systems and still relying on locally stored data infrastructures, with their attendant high costs in hardware, maintenance, and staff. Cloud-based systems featuring all the functionality required by hotels to successfully operate are available to the industry at present and going forward. These systems are hosted entirely in the cloud and require very little in the way of dedicated hardware. They also feature lightning fast response times while offering immense scalability.

 

The Next Disruption

Above Property, based in Naples, FL, is one of those on the edge hospitality technology companies moving the industry forward.  They have taken the traditional monolithic central reservation system and have distributed it across multiple data centers as well as cloud providers.  The Above Property platform is a multi-cloud always-on distributed reservation system.  The result of this innovation is a platform of unparalleled speed, scalability, and cost savings.  The requirement of third party license fees, traditional disaster recovery, and owned data centers are no longer required. The platform also has modern features such as real-time revenue management, dashboard, alerts, and notifications. A mobile-first approach that includes responsive design allows for productive access on any device at any time. As hotels accept and adopt this technology, their focus can be on their business versus being held captive by today’s 25-year-old to 49-year-old technology.

 

Disruption’s Curve - PhoCusWright

The annual PhoCusWright conference will be held on November 11-13 in Los Angeles, CA.  The theme of this year’s conference is Disruption’s Curve.  While many other industry verticals have adopted new technologies over the past several years, the consensus is the time has come for the travel industry.  Above Property along with 31 other innovators will be participating and competing in the PhoCusWright Innovation Summit.  Each participant is looking to bring disruption and forward progress to the travel industry.  

Representing Above Property and speaking at the conference will be noted hospitality technology authority, Aaron Shepherd, the company CEO. Aaron brings over thirty years of expertise to AboveProperty as a recognized industry innovator.  Legacy based central reservation systems is clearly an area where innovation is required.  Above Property is answering that call and leading the way to an open transaction grid that will bring a level of speed, reliability and cost savings never before seen by hoteliers.

As the hospitality industry progresses further through the 21st Century, these disruptive technologies will gain traction and eventually become standard operating procedure. Yet innovation never ceases as long as forward thinking people, at companies like Above Property and individuals as well, are willing to realize their dreams of disrupting the technological status quo by challenging our world with bold new innovations.


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Monday, November 3, 2014

Disruptive Technologies And The Hospitality Industry - 2

Disruptions in Hospitality

Like any other industry, hospitality is continually affected by new and sometimes disruptive technological developments. Over the course of the last 50 years or so these developments have shaped both the manner in which hotels conduct their business and how guests experience a hotel. Most of the forces of disruptive change have come from outside the industry, but a few have come from within as well.

 

Holidex

Beginning in the early 1960’s, the hotel industry experienced its first real disruptive innovation that was to transform the hotel booking process forever. Holiday Inn, close on the heels of the establishment of the Sabre global distribution system, introduced its proprietary hotel central reservation system it called Holidex. This system was revolutionary in that it was the first time hoteliers had a reservation system that was automated to some degree, at least from the customer’s perspective.

As time went on, over the course of decades, Holidex was improved upon and went through a number of iterations before becoming what is now called Holidex Plus by Holiday Inn’s parent company, IHG. The system followed and changed with innovations from outside the hospitality industry. In the 1970’s directly interfacing with travel agents, the digitalization of the system in the 80’s, to becoming the first to be web enabled in the 90’s. During the evolution of Holidex, system improvements were steadily increasing the number of transactions it could manage simultaneously.

In 2011, IHG announced its plan to retire Holidex and modernize their reservation system through project REVolution.  To date, the project is not complete, demonstrating the technical complexity of hotel reservation systems.

 

Disruptively Transformative Forces of Today

The entire hospitality industry of the future is being shaped today by a myriad of both inside and outside forces. The explosion of online travel agencies, social media, and travel review websites has had a profound and ongoing influence on the future of hotels. All of which has made for an increasingly transparent guest experience. Pricing is available at all times and via multiple channels/devices to all customers. Mobile technology is driving the industry into improved guest relations through such concepts as “virtual’ concierge services and mobile check-in for example. Hotel guests fully expect to have the ability to book their stays on their smartphones and tablets from anywhere. Hotels, whose websites are not designed responsively, can expect their customers to either book through an outside channel or in the worst scenario go elsewhere.

Emerging technologies are available to the hospitality industry involving the utilization of cloud-based technology for data storage without the investment in elaborate hardware or extensive staffing requirements. Systems that perform all the functions necessary to successfully operate either a single hotel or the largest chains, and do so quickly and efficiently, will streamline hotel operations in the future. In the last part of this series we will examine these innovative technologies further. 


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Friday, October 31, 2014

Disruptive Technologies And The Hospitality Industry - 1

A Short History of Disruption

The history of humankind is replete with examples of discoveries and innovations that proved to be so transformative, that life was never the same once the permanent change it brought about gained traction. Disruptive technologies come from developments that completely displace a previous technology considered the standard. Disruptive technologies can sometimes transform our lives, but always have the power to radically change markets or even create whole new markets. Over the last one hundred plus years these disruptions have become more frequent and undeniably profound.

 

The Airplane

Without a doubt the first flights by Orville and Wilbur Wright over the sand dunes of coastal North Carolina in 1903 amounted to one of the most disruptive technological developments of all time. It did not take very long after the Wright brother’s flights for airlines to be established that were not only flying people across country, but around the world as well. These disruptions made the world a significantly smaller place, with anywhere on the planet only hours away instead of the days, weeks or months previously endured by travelers. Not only did the airplane shrink down the relative size of our world, but also it also completely displaced two established industries. Since the advent of manned flight, railroads and ships have been predominantly used to transport only cargo and not people.

 

The Microprocessor

Measured against the timeframe of the history of humankind, the development of the microprocessor is a recent event. It was not long ago that the space required for the computing power of today’s laptop was a whole roomful of computer hardware. The microprocessor enabled everyone to have the computing capability that was previously only reserved for large corporations or the government. CPUs, as microprocessors are also known, continue to evolve by getting smaller while gaining in computing power. The ongoing developments with CPUs provide an example of what is called a sustaining innovation. With this disruptive technological advancement the groundwork of the future was truly laid.

 

The Internet

This disruption was made possible by the development of the microprocessor as well, but is a separate disruption unto itself. Also, like the airplane, the Internet has served to shrink our world even further from the perspective of shared knowledge and the free flow of information across our planet. The development of the Internet has had wide ranging impact beyond mere communication. The rise of eCommerce has changed the face of business forever. This in turn has caused the demise of some conventional sales methodology, particularly brick and mortar store locations. The best example of this probably is the business powerhouse, Amazon. This is a company with a stated a goal of selling and delivering virtually anything consumers would need or want to buy. Their ongoing success, entirely made possible by the Internet, has probably displaced innumerable businesses of all sizes.

The Internet has also made possible the social media explosion over the last ten years or so, with its own significant influence on our society. The internet continues to grow and evolve in areas unforeseen at its inception in the forms of mobile technology and the interaction between machines themselves, the so called “internet of things” The development of an electronic internet, which connects every corner of the world, may very well be the most dominant disruptive technology of the last century.

These are merely a few examples of importantly disruptive technological developments in relatively recent history, there are others from our past and there will be many more going forward. Each those mentioned has had far reaching repercussions for the travel and hospitality industries. In the next part we will look back at disruption specifically related to hospitality.

 


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Friday, October 24, 2014

Social Media For The Hospitality Industry - 2

Methods of Leveraging Social Media for Hotels

 

Social media is not at all like traditional marketing tools and is not conducive to being utilized for direct sales of hotel lodging availability. Return on investment for social media marketing is nearly impossible for hotels to measure, yet the alternative of not having a social network presence is almost an unacceptable situation in today’s marketing environment. That being a given, some other methods must be applied by hoteliers to effectively leverage the online social medium. These methods should be centered around building relationships between hotel brands and their customers through engagement and the sharing of content on both sides of the sales equation.

 

  1. Promotions and Offers

 

Facebook and other social networks are not effective tools for the direct sales of hotel lodging. However, they can make great platforms for the offering of special promotional deals for followers of the brand. This technique is beneficial for a hotel in several ways. To begin with, every time a follower clicks “like” for a hotel’s Facebook page or anything posted by the hotel, this is then passed on to the follower’s friends who in turn see the brand and the offer. This process acts as a recommendation coming from a trusted friend, rather than an in-your-face advertisement. Over time, promoting hotel brands in this manner can prove to be a powerful device for building brand loyalty as well.

 

2. Customer Service

 

The hospitality industry is built around providing exceptional customer service. The hotel brand social media accounts should not be any different. Customer service begins with listening to what customers are saying, followed by the promise of improvements to come and then delivering on those promises. This is the progression to be followed when implementing excellent service through social media just as much as practiced on hotel property. Customers both online or in person respond positively to such service. Once again, in time this will serve the hotel well by instilling loyalty to the brand in its customers. It is also a way of indirectly promoting the hotel to others that see customer service excellence in action.

 

3. Communicate With Guests

 

Some hotels are even taking customer service through social media to new levels of excellence. They are accomplishing such outstanding service by offering online concierge services via Twitter, and keeping their guests updated with events being held at the hotel and local area as well, through Facebook. These services provide the hotel with outstanding platforms for direct communication with their customers both on and off property, building customer loyalty even further.


The last part of this series will examine a few more methods for hoteliers to leverage social media for their hotel brands.


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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Social Media For The Hospitality Industry - 1

Why Social Media Matters

Social media has had a tremendous impact on, not only the hospitality industry, but virtually all businesses across the globe. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have transformed interpersonal communication and provided a new means for consumers to connect and interact with the brands they patronize. The medium is here to stay and has proved to be not a fad as some would argue. But just why it is so imperative for hotels; to not only have a social media presence, but be actively engaged; isn’t always clear to hoteliers struggling with return on investment. A recently released study by PhoCusWright called “The State of Social Media in Travel” sheds some light on social media’s importance to the hospitality industry.

Social media marketing cannot be thought of in a traditionally rigid, direct sales approach. One of the major findings of the new PhoCusWright research is the fact that over 70 percent of travel companies with an Internet booking engine on Facebook receive less than 5 percent of all their bookings from the platform. Furthermore, 64 percent gather less than 1 percent of their direct bookings from Facebook, which is the most popular social channel. Clearly, direct sales is not where social media’s significance lies for the hospitality industry. Measuring every click a potential hotel customer makes on any social channel, leading to a direct transaction, will not yield much in the way of return on investment numbers.

What is significant for hotels is the fact of their guest’s presence across a spectrum of social media networks. These hotel customers are on their favorite social platforms talking about their travel experiences with their friends and sharing photos. They are going on review websites and sharing their thoughts, both positive and negative, regarding their hotel stays. They are looking for and expecting to find the presence of their favorite brands, including hotels and other travel related companies, on social media. The traveling public seeks a connection with the hotel brands they love as they engage with them. Additionally, travelers like to plan their trips around reading reviews and comments from other travelers.

These statements are all supported by and revealed in the new PhoCusWright study. According to their research, Facebook is still the most favored social network by far, at 80 percent with U.S. respondents, for travelers to share their experiences. However many other platforms are gaining usage as well. Over 30 percent of all travelers post to social networks during their travels. While nearly that many are looking for travel related deals on those platforms. As far as connecting with travel related brands, nearly one out of every five “like or “follow” travel brands on their social networks.

Social media matters to the hospitality industry because it is where their customers are present, seeking to connect with and be engaged by hotels as a travel destination. If hotel brands, both large and small, are not to be found on social channels the conversation will go on without them. In the next few parts of this series we will explore ways for hotel brands to most effectively leverage social media and achieve their objectives for the medium.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Website Design For Independent Hotels - 3

When potential hotel guests find the website of an independent hotel for a location they are interested in staying, it would be a shame if they were driven away by a clunky, outdated website that is nothing more than an old fashioned travel brochure. The usability of a hotel website can be the decisive factor in determining its success. Travelers have come to expect user friendly websites for the planning and booking of their hotel accommodations, and have little patience for sites that don’t meet their needs in short order. High expectations are also extended to the appearance of hotel websites from an aesthetic perspective as well.

Usability
Mobile technology and its rate of usage by the traveling public have skyrocketed in just the last few years. Internet users demand and expect to have the ability to view and effectively use websites from any type of device with access to the web. This means an independent hotel needs to ensure that their website not only looks good, but functions well whether the user is viewing it from a desktop, tablet, or smartphone.
The answer to this situation for website designers lies in what is called responsive design. Websites utilizing responsive design can detect and then conform to the device or browser of the user’s choosing. An independent hotel website that does not look and function properly across the wide spectrum of devices and formats will give up potential revenue when customers are driven to book their hotel elsewhere.

Visually Engaging
Many of the types of potential hotel guests that would be likely to book a stay at an independently owned and operated hotel, make those decisions based on an emotional response. Independent hotels should tap into that potential to the fullest by giving the customer what they seeking - a visually emotional experience.
Website users should be engaged with high quality and resolution images that are pleasing to the eye in an artistic manner. Use professional photography to capture all that is appealing and outstanding about the hotel property, its surroundings, and amenities. Make sure all the various rooms and suites by price are attractively presented in the hotel website booking engine. Also maintain a consistent brand image across all website pages and through the entire process of booking the hotel to completion.

Independent hotels are in a unique position of being a truly local hotel brand in their respective communities. Using that position as leverage to gaining market share and keeping pace with the large hotel chains should be their forte.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Website Design For Independent Hotels - 2

Even if an independent hotel website has at its heart an online booking engine, it will not be very effective for driving hotel revenue if no one can find it. Being present online, yet invisible to potential guests, is certainly not a feature of highly successful independent hotel websites. Website visibility is attained a number of different ways, all of which should be practiced for full effectiveness.

 

Search Engine Optimization - SEO

With the overwhelming majority of travelers looking for hotel accommodations via search engines, it is absolutely critical for independent hotels to rank at or near the top of search results. Additionally, most Internet users will never look beyond the first page of listings, making SEO even more important to an independent hotels website marketing efforts.

Google is by far the leading search engine and will change its search algorithms from time to time, which makes SEO an un-exact science. However, Google AdWords, is a helpful resource for finding relevant industry keywords to sprinkle throughout website content. Beware of overdoing the keywords or the site will be penalized by Google in the form of lowered ranking for “keyword stuffing”. Keywords centered around useful content that adds value to the user’s experience is rewarded by the search engine. These should include broad search terms mixed with highly specific keywords.

 

Content

Providing website users with fresh, relevant, and engaging content on a consistent basis will always pay off in the search rankings, while bringing users back again and again to the site as well. An independent hotel should be blogging regularly about a wide range of topics of interest and relevance to hotel guests. A local hotel can establish for themselves a reputation as an authority about their local area as a travel destination. This provides a both a service to website users and a clear marketing benefit to the hotel.

 

Social Media

Having a varied mix of social media network accounts and using them to engage with followers is essential for independent hotels to build a relationship with their customers. But there are other less obvious benefits for building a hotel presence on social channels. They can be a useful tool in link building and social sharing buttons can be offered which will spread the virtual word about the hotel in many directions. Also Google’s own social network, Google , offers a free platform called Google Local. A presence there for a local independent hotel is practically a requirement since Google will merge the Local page with the website, while simultaneously raising the website’s search ranking.

 

OTAs - The Billboard Effect

Although they may charge very high fees for the hotel bookings they do make, online travel agencies (OTAs) do provide a platform for showcasing a hotel property to traveling public at large. This often leads to what is called the “billboard effect”. The hotel is seen by large numbers of potential guests as if it posted atop an online billboard. Many times, but not always, this leads to customers who are ready to buy to visit the website and book their stay on the hotel’s own website.


In the last part of this series we will delve into both visual and usability aspects of website design for independent hotels.


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Friday, October 3, 2014

Website Design For Independent Hotels - Part 1 of 3

Travelers are now making the overwhelming majority of their travel decisions online, many via mobile devices. But whether the booking decision is made on a desktop computer at home, or on-the-go via smartphone, these transactions have one thing in common - a website. Independent hotels must offer their customers a viable online booking alternative to the online travel agencies. Antiquated websites that are nothing more than travel brochures, featuring poor quality images and lacking a direct booking option, are not going to help independent hotels keep pace with the big brand chains. There are a number of features always found on effective hotel websites and this series will analyze each of them.

Call To Action/Booking Engine
It is imperative for every independent hotel website to have, at its heart, calls to action pointing the way for users to book their stays directly onsite. The ultimate goal of any hotel website design should be to drive direct hotel bookings. Anything short of reaching the objective of conversion is missing what should be the point of having a website. So the focus of any independent hotel website needs to be on converting the site visitors into paying hotel guests.

The website booking engine must be present on all pages of the site. Potential guests can be anywhere on the hotel’s website when they complete their decision and decide to book now. Their booking process should always begin from the page they are currently viewing. Therefore a button, and associated calls to action, taking users directly into the buying process is required on every page. The booking engine should give the hotel the flexibility to make changes easily so specific offers and promotions may be presented to users. Availability must be readily apparent as well to customers.  This is best displayed in an interactive calendar format. Availability and pricing need to be tied to high quality property images of individual room selections. Specific calls to action can also be added based on availability, for example “only 2 rooms left at this price”.

It is critical for the entire booking process to be simple and straightforward, requiring minimal steps along the way. Nothing should obstruct the pathway for future guests to book their hotel stay directly. The user must have the ability to not only book on the website, but make changes to their itinerary or cancel all together as well. It is also equally vital for an independent hotel to maintain strict rate parity across all online channels, between their website, and on the property. It is acceptable to offer channel specific promotions, but extremely important to identify them as such. If the potential hotel guests find a rate disparity they will book elsewhere or maybe even not at all.

The presence of an Internet booking engine (IBE) on an independent hotel website can be the ultimate deciding factor in its success or failure. As crucial as the IBE is, there are many other features which go into making an effective independent hotel website which will be discussed in the up coming parts of this series.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Marketing For Independent Hotels - 2

There are a number of perceived disadvantages to marketing an independently owned and operated hotel in competition with large chain hotels. The assumption is that an independent hotel should suffer from a lack of brand recognition, combined with marketing budget shortfalls compared to their competitors. However, these and other factors are part of what make independent hotels uniquely attractive to begin with. By effectively leveraging their connection to the local area and its surroundings, and showcasing aspects of their property which distinguish them as extraordinary, independent hotels can establish their market niche.

Local Connection
An independent hotel should make every effort to establish their expertise regarding their local area. Particularly in regards to the services and activities of importance to hotel guests such as attractions, restaurants, entertainment, and transportation. An independent hotel can provide a helpful connection to their surroundings, in the context of a travel destination, for their customers. For example, some hotels are even utilizing technology to perform these services in the form of mobile concierge assistance.
Another effective approach to building a strong connection between an independent hotel and its local area is to network with other local businesses. Working together with other nearby establishments, to offer discounts to each other’s customers is a means to building a firm relationship with the local community. Provide content regarding these arrangements on each business’ website along with links between them. Inter-business connections such as this often prove to be mutually beneficial.

Emotional Experience
Travel is an emotional experience and human emotions are constantly being engaged when people stay somewhere away from their homes. Most of their travel decisions are made based on emotions as well. How a hotel makes a person feel while staying on the property is critical to the guest’s decision-making process regarding whether they will ever return. These feelings are affected by everything from the hotel design to how well their every need is met during their stay. It is extremely important for independent hotels to gain an intimate understanding of their customers and what motivates them. For example, a hotel located in a tropical location, which attracts a large contingent of scuba diving enthusiasts, could offer specialized tour packages in cooperation with local dive shops and boats. Offerings such as this help enhance the hotel guest’s emotional experiences.

Personal Touch 
Finally it is the more personal touch which can be provided by an independent hotel that will endear their guests to the property. Independent hoteliers would be smart to invest in their staffs to find personnel of the highest level, efficient at their jobs while also being outgoing and personable. Outstanding staff members should be rewarded and featured on the hotel website and business blog as well, this will help build personal connections with guests. Independent hotels have an advantage over chains in their ability to deliver a much greater level of personalized experience for their guests. Independent hoteliers should leverage their advantage over chain hotels to the fullest extent.

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Friday, September 26, 2014

The Travel Innovation Summit@The PhoCusWright Conference - presented by Brand USA - showcases the next wave of innovation in travel.

The Most Innovative Companies in Travel

Travel Innovation Summit attendees come prepared to discover the next market-changing innovations, seeking fresh ideas, new partners and investment opportunities. The thirty-two global innovators who take the stage represent the best of the best, and the event's demonstrations of each innovation deliver an attendee experience like no other.
PhoCusWright's experienced analyst team carefully screens each candidate to find the best and eliminate the hype. There are no "speakers" or "presenters" at The Travel Innovation Summit. The innovators demonstrate their products through onstage walkthroughs of their technologies and tools. Attendees have open access to the innovators and are encouraged to connect and provide feedback throughout the event.

A World Class Event
Each year, thirty-two global innovators demonstrate applications, technologies and solutions with the potential to transform travel planning, purchasing and memorializing. The demonstrator package provides innovators with more than just marketing and promotion, they get business development opportunities, on-site meetings, critics' feedback, and a chance to wow the audience during Center Stage@The PhoCusWright Conference later in the week. Startup, emerging and established companies (including past demonstrators!) are invited to apply based purely on their innovative accomplishments, regardless of organizational size, age, sector or location.

Above Property will present on November 11th.

                 



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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Marketing For Independent Hotels - 1

Independently owned and operated hotels, although lacking the big brand name recognition and budget of the hotel chains, can still achieve success within their market. This is accomplished through a comprehensive marketing strategy built upon a number of key elements. These include: Smart leveraging of their marketing budget by utilizing the Internet in a number of ways to level the field of play. Combined with approaching their market from the position of strength provided by the factors that make them unique and independent to begin with.

 

Social Media

It has become absolutely essential for independent hotels to have a presence across various social channels. At the very least, a hotel must have a Facebook and Twitter account. Social media not only gives independent hoteliers a viable platform from which to connect with their customers and promote their properties, but also provides an air of credibility in the public’s mind. To build brand integrity and recognition, the hotel’s name and logo should be distinctly visible to users.

 

Just merely establishing hotel social media accounts is not enough. Keep both past and potential guests up to date with everything going on at the hotel. Engage with the property’s fans and followers by posting fresh content that they will find relevant, informative, and maybe even entertaining. Photos, upcoming events, local information, and travel news are examples of content that users will find useful. Hotels should always be sharing compelling photos of their property, its amenities, and surroundings. Visually oriented social media networks such as Pinterest and Instagram are excellent platforms to showcase hotel properties.

 

Internet Booking Engine

 

Any independent hotel that does not have an online means for their potential guests to book a stay directly with the hotel is just letting revenue get away from them. All the effort that goes into bringing a possible paying customer to the hotel’s website, can be squandered if the user cannot book their stay on the hotel booking engine. Website conversion is critical to the success of all hotels, whether independent or a chain. Giving customers the ability to smoothly book online, increases the chances they will buy on their first impulse.

 

Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of raising the ranking, or visibility, of a business on popular search engines. Through a combination of techniques it is possible for an independent hotel to rank very high in search page listings. This in turn can drive greater numbers of traffic to the hotel’s website. Factors influential to search engine results include providing relevant, valuable content to users, including a number of proper industry-related keywords, and embedding links and backlinks to information of relevance.


There is much that determined independent hoteliers could do to keep pace with the large chains. In the next segment, we will explore a few more marketing possibilities and tools at their disposal.


Posted via OnFast - http://www.OnFast.com

Marketing For Independent Hotels - 1

Independently owned and operated hotels, although lacking the big brand name recognition and budget of the hotel chains, can still achieve success within their market. This is accomplished through a comprehensive marketing strategy built upon a number of key elements. These include: Smart leveraging of their marketing budget by utilizing the Internet in a number of ways to level the field of play. Combined with approaching their market from the position of strength provided by the factors that make them unique and independent to begin with.

 

Social Media

It has become absolutely essential for independent hotels to have a presence across various social channels. At the very least, a hotel must have a Facebook and Twitter account. Social media not only gives independent hoteliers a viable platform from which to connect with their customers and promote their properties, but also provides an air of credibility in the public’s mind. To build brand integrity and recognition, the hotel’s name and logo should be distinctly visible to users.

 

Just merely establishing hotel social media accounts is not enough. Keep both past and potential guests up to date with everything going on at the hotel. Engage with the property’s fans and followers by posting fresh content that they will find relevant, informative, and maybe even entertaining. Photos, upcoming events, local information, and travel news are examples of content that users will find useful. Hotels should always be sharing compelling photos of their property, its amenities, and surroundings. Visually oriented social media networks such as Pinterest and Instagram are excellent platforms to showcase hotel properties.

 

Internet Booking Engine

 

Any independent hotel that does not have an online means for their potential guests to book a stay directly with the hotel is just letting revenue get away from them. All the effort that goes into bringing a possible paying customer to the hotel’s website, can be squandered if the user cannot book their stay on the hotel booking engine. Website conversion is critical to the success of all hotels, whether independent or a chain. Giving customers the ability to smoothly book online, increases the chances they will buy on their first impulse.

 

Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of raising the ranking, or visibility, of a business on popular search engines. Through a combination of techniques it is possible for an independent hotel to rank very high in search page listings. This in turn can drive greater numbers of traffic to the hotel’s website. Factors influential to search engine results include providing relevant, valuable content to users, including a number of proper industry-related keywords, and embedding links and backlinks to information of relevance.


There is much that determined independent hoteliers could do to keep pace with the large chains. In the next segment, we will explore a few more marketing possibilities and tools at their disposal.


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Monday, September 22, 2014

Technology For Independent Hotels

Independent hotels seemingly suffer from a distinct disadvantage in competing with the chains in their market, however many are not. Some are actually thriving and out-performing their equivalent chain competitors. A great equalizer for independent hotels is the exciting new technologies many have adopted in recent years. These new technologies have transformed the independent hotels that utilize them, providing a completely new business environment.

 

Website

Smartly designed hotel websites have become a virtual window through which the worldwide public at large can find and see independent hotels. To be most effective, a hotel website must be both visually appealing and easy to use. The site must duplicate the user experience across the myriad of devices available to potential guests. This is best accomplished through responsive web design, which can detect and then conform itself to whatever device or browser the user chooses.

Images and website copy must inspire a positive emotional response from users, hopefully leading them to booking their stay on the site.

 

Internet Booking Engine

Any independent hotel website must have an Internet Booking Engine (IBE) to be successful. The IBE should be as simple and clear as possible to avoid users becoming confused and leaving the site. An independent hotel should not go through the effort and expense of creating a website, only to have users end up booking their stay at the hotel on some other platform. On a smaller scale, at least one member of the staff should be tasked with keeping inventory, rates, and any special offers and promotions accurate and up to date. A potential guest should be able to easily book a room and modify or cancel a reservation from the hotel’s IBE. Offering customers a way to book directly is crucial for independent hotels trying to compete with chains.

 

Mobile

With the explosion of mobile smartphone used by the traveling public, it almost goes without saying that customers should be able to view and book their hotel stays from their mobile devices. The user experience should be every bit as seamless for customers on a smartphone or tablet as it is on a desktop computer. But some hotels are utilizing mobile technology to take their guest’s experience to new heights. Mobile apps give hotels the opportunity to interact with their guests and offer services directly through their devices. Mobile concierge service can provide a convenient means for hotel guests to plan their activities during their stay. Other mobile services include making dinner reservations, ordering room service, and in-room entertainment such as movies.

If properly implemented, technology can clearly level the playing field between independent hotels and their chain competitors. It is imperative for hotel owner-operators to step up and adopt these technological innovations, or risk being left behind by the traveling public’s new level of expectation.


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Friday, September 12, 2014

Distribution For Independent Hotels

The delicate balancing act of room inventory distribution, essential for all hotels to successfully perform, must be even more precisely executed by independent hotels. Always in competition with the chain hotels and their more bountiful resources and greater brand recognition, independent hotels face considerable challenges at every step in their process of finding customers to fill their accommodations.

Independent hotels are charged higher commission rates by online travel agencies (OTA), over chains, and therefore incur greater cost in customer acquisition through in-direct channels. This, combined with the difficulties in gaining customers via direct channels such as a hotel website, showcase the high wire act independent hoteliers are walking. However, the answer for independents seeking to keep pace with the chains lies in striking a balance between all of their distribution channels.

 

Inventory Management

It is vitally important in any business to know your customers; this is especially true for an independent hotel. Valuable resources must be allocated to the proper channels, be they direct or indirect, at the right time. Investigate where each of your guests were inspired to book their hotel stays and concentrate efforts on the best yielding channels.

 

Expand Your Horizons

Independent hotel distribution must be spread across a wider array of in-direct channels. This includes smaller, lesser known online travel agencies, which may be more willing to negotiate and deliver hotel bookings at a lower cost to the hotel. Never be too dependent on any single OTA.

 

Greater Focus At Home

It is a well established fact that the majority of hotel guests prefer to book their stays directly with the hotel, either over the phone or online via the hotel’s website. It is absolutely necessary for any independent hotel to have a simple and easy to use Internet booking engine. Hotel websites should be designed to do one thing only, steer the potential guest down the virtual pathway, that ends with them becoming directly booking customers. However, never forget that the hotel’s website is just one channel bringing in guests, among many in the hotel room distribution funnel.

 

Strategize Distribution

Finally, creating a clearly planned and executed strategy is fundamental to the profitability of independent hotels. Don’t lose sight of the fact that OTA’s are as much reliant upon their revenue stream coming from independents as the hotels are for bookings from OTA’s. OTA’s leverage independent hotels into their greatest revenue source. Remember, if the rates are not up to the hotel’s expectations, independent hoteliers do not have to agree with them and sign away control of their market.

 


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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Collecting Hotel Guest Feedback - 2

Study Provides Some Solid Answers For Hoteliers

The difficulties in the process of gathering past guest hotel feedback is well known throughout the hospitality industry. A study directed by Software Advice has compiled some useful figures around the most effective means for hotels to collect the necessary data from their guests. This part two is the continuation of their report findings.

 

Women More Likely Than Men to Offer Feedback

By the margin 59 to 41 percent, women are more likely than men to provide feedback to hotels regarding their stay. The importance of women for hoteliers is further illustrated in another study, this one commissioned by the Journal of Consumer Research, which found that women are also more likely to report bad service as compared to men.

 

Source: Software Advice

 

 

Online and Paper Surveys Most Preferred Feedback Methods

By a 41 percent majority, guest’s preferred method of completing a hotel survey is one sent via email and completed online. Following at 32 percent are those who would like to fill out a paper form that has been left in their room. The preference of 22 percent would be to complete the form on a tablet at the front desk at check out time. Only 5 percent would like to complete a form on a mobile app. The most likely reason for the wide disparity in responses to this question is due to age differences.

 

Credit for Food or Drinks Is Top-Preferred Incentive

As an incentive to completing guest feedback forms, respondents would prefer to receive credit for food and drinks at the hotel. This at the rate of nearly half, at 46 percent. Other alternative options were very nearly evenly split. Hotel loyalty points at 22 percent, entry into a prize drawing at 17 percent, and a donation to charity coming in last at 15 percent. If it is deemed necessary to offer incentives to gain feedback, the prize drawing option is the best choice for hoteliers as it gives away the least value.

 

Highly Satisfied and Unsatisfied Guests Likely to Give Feedback

 

Both extremes of satisfaction level are more likely to share their experience with hoteliers. Each group is extremely likely to, at 39-40 percent. A quarter to nearly one-third are moderately likely at 28-29 percent. Emotions are driving these numbers and can also skew results for hotel feedback research. The guests whose opinions lie between highly satisfied or unsatisfied generally provide the most reliable feedback about their hotel stay.

 

Source: Software Advice


The major takeaways from this research appear to be that it is most beneficial for hoteliers to request feedback from their guests either during or soon after the hotel stay is completed. Hotels should try to avoid offering incentives for guests to provide their feedback, especially at the expense of value. Lastly, good results can be gained by offering guests on-site feedback access points utilizing paper forms or a tablet format computer.

 


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Monday, September 8, 2014

Collecting Hotel Guest Feedback - 1

Study Uncovers The Most Effective Methods

The hospitality industry, by its very nature, is highly customer service oriented. Gaining valuable customer feedback information is important for any business, but is absolutely essential for hotels. Guest feedback can highlight hotel management issues and conditions, which they may not have been aware of, but require their attention. Honest feedback can also showcase areas of hotel excellence, informing hoteliers when they are on the right track.

However, due to the transience of travelers, this data can be extremely difficult to gather from hotel guests, either during or anytime after their stays. During the checkout process guests are usually in a hurry to get home or to their next destination. After a trip is over and past guests are back home, people tend to disregard emails and printed matter from the hotel. Lacking any incentive to take the time to answer, many do not respond. This can be a very serious dilemma for hotels across the board.


A study conducted by Software Advice, a source for reviews of hotel reservation systems, sought to find some concrete answers for hotels in their quest to garner the greatest number of completed guest feedback surveys. In a random online survey of 1,936 U.S. consumers, the company revealed a number of beneficial insights into the motivations of past hotel guests and potential customers regarding the completion of feedback surveys.

The Study’s Important Conclusions For Hoteliers
  • Checkout is the most likely time guests will complete a feedback form. Women are  more likely to respond and may be more critical than men in their assessment of a hotel.

  • Guests prefer and are more likely to complete feedback in the format that they are most comfortable using. For example, online or on paper.

  • Offering incentives for guests to fill out feedback forms can skew the results and is not recommended. If offering an incentive, the best method is to enter the guest into a drawing.

Times Guests Are More Likely to Complete Feedback Forms
As the accompanying chart clearly illustrates; the sooner, the better; regarding the completion of feedback by past hotel guests. After a week or two it is extremely unlikely a hotel will ever gather any feedback information from their guests. Checkout is the best time, since completion falls dramatically afterwards and the customer is still on the property.




Source: Software Advice

In part two we will continue to examine in more detail the results of this interesting and informative study from Software Advice.

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Cloud Computing For The Hospitality Industry - 3

Hospitality Applications For Cloud Computing

 

Cloud computing truly is the future of data management for the hospitality industry, with many opportunities for hoteliers to leverage. The benefits of a cloud based central reservation system are quite clear, but there are a number of other practical applications for cloud driven hotel systems. Many of the opportunities afforded hoteliers by cloud technology are centered on improving the hotel experience for their guests.

 

1 - Personalization of Service

Cloud computing can help facilitate at a low cost, greater levels of personalized service for hotel guests. Individual preferences, likes and dislikes on everything from dietary needs and allergies to pillow preferences can be better managed from the cloud. Special offers and promotions built around a guest’s passion for fishing, for example, can be tracked with offers being sent to particular past guests at just the right season. These are but a few ideas of personalized customer service which can be better managed from the cloud.

 

2 - Connection with Guests

It is expected that by 2015 over 80 percent of mobile phones will be smartphones. Travelers are increasingly booking their hotel stays via mobile devices as well. When staying at a hotel, guests expect excellent Wi-Fi connections for all of their mobile devices and laptops. A cloud driven central reservation system gives hotels the platform to best leverage today’s traveler, who is routinely connected to the Internet.

The cloud also gives hotels the ability to better stay connected with customers, even when they are not on hotel property. Mobile concierge being one prime example. Also, cloud technology gives hoteliers the capability to effectively forge partnerships with companies which provide transportation, entertainment, recreation and other services to their guests.

 

3 - Hotel Operations

The day-to-day operations of hotels can also be more effectively managed from the cloud. Property maintenance, tracking and ordering of hotel inventory, and human resources can all be administered through cloud technology. Many points of daily interaction between hotel staff and guests can be conducted via cloud technology. Guests can easily order meals from the hotel restaurant or room service, make appointments at the spa, or get a tee time on the golf course. Guests can easily access any number of hotel amenities or services through their mobile devices and computers.


Ultimately, it is lowered costs and increased efficiency that is driving the hospitality migration to cloud technology. Storing, maintaining, and accessing data through the cloud offers hoteliers significant savings, while improving the levels of customer service offered to their guests.


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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Cloud Computing For The Hospitality Industry - 2

Benefits of Cloud Computing for Hoteliers

Cloud computing is the future of all business data management, especially in the hospitality industry. The hotel sector cannot allow itself to be left by the wayside of commerce as new beneficial technologies emerge. There has been a growing acceptance and adoption of cloud computing solutions within the industry, however some degree of resistance still exists. Whether it is due to organizational resistance to change or cost concerns, the cloud offers considerable benefits at lower cost to be leveraged by hotels in the process of their planned growth.

 

1 - Cost 

Cloud computing services are usually provided on an as needed basis, resulting in lower initial investments and reduced costs over time. The client pays for only the required amount of power and storage. Additional servers and staff are also not needed, further reducing both start up and long-term costs.

 

2 - Time

When a client signs up for cloud computing services there isn’t any deployment lag time, as the software is ready at the outset. Since data is stored remotely in the cloud, time consuming tasks such manual backups and system updates are no longer necessary. The cloud provider is responsible for software updates and infrastructure capacity, thus data won’t be lost in event of a computer failure as information is automatically backed up.

 

3 - Accessibility

Users can access cloud software from anywhere, using any device with an Internet connection, including mobile phone, tablet, or a laptop. This empowers owners or management, for example, to keep tabs on their properties from wherever they are. Also, cloud software is designed for the level of the end-user, eliminating the need for technical proficiency to access data.

 

4 - Security

Despite some opinions to the contrary, data outsourced and stored with a provider in the cloud is safer than it would be on a local server. The provider who is always vigilant, and protects vital data for clients can easily manage varying levels of access to information. Data is safe from physical harm as well with robust off-site redundancy.

As an added benefit, cloud computing services are friendlier to our environment than conventional, locally hosted servers. Since servers in the cloud are shared by multiple users, less energy is consumed. This reduces the carbon footprint for hoteliers who wish to go green. The benefits for hotels to move their data to the cloud are clearly abundant.

In the last part of this series, we will see the cloud in action with specific cloud applications for hospitality.

 


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Friday, August 29, 2014

Cloud Computing For The Hospitality Industry - 1

What is Cloud Computing?

 

There is no question that cloud computing technology is beginning to gain traction in the hospitality industry. However, there is a lack of full comprehension, accompanied with a number of misconceptions, regarding this technology. In this three part series we will attempt to explain cloud technology in the most non-technical terms possible, weigh the benefits the cloud can bring to hoteliers, and examine how computing in the cloud can be applied to the hospitality industry.

The “cloud” is a computer system that has its data distributed across the Internet and stored by a hosting company or Internet provider. The data can be distributed as part of either a public or private network. The Internet host acts as a traditional hard drive that, in a sense, can be thought of as being in “the clouds.“ Whether people recognize it, or not, most have used cloud services many times already. Facebook accounts, Google Gmail, and Apple iTunes are all examples of commonly used cloud services. For example, a photo on Facebook, an email from Gmail, or a song from iTunes are actually not stored on a user’s computer, but are accessed from the host in the cloud. A person’s photos and music at one time were stored on a computer hard drive, CD, or a floppy disk; now they are predominantly stored in the cloud.

Data stored with a cloud vendor can be accessed from any user’s device with an Internet connection. Users can utilize cloud services from anywhere and are no longer tied to a desktop computer. There are a growing number of cloud vendors available to the hospitality industry with Google, Amazon, IBM, and Oracle among the major players.

Hoteliers have, as a matter of course, relied on locally stored data infrastructures, but the industry can no longer bear the cost of such outdated technologies. Cloud technology is the future of computing and data management. Hoteliers can embrace to the benefit or lag behind the innovation curve to their detriment. The next part of this series will examine specific benefits to be gained by the hospitality industry in the adoption of cloud computing.


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