Monday, March 31, 2014

Building Hotel Brand Loyalty Through Ratings and Reviews

Online hotel reviews and ratings are the engine that drives hotel bookings, particularly in the low to mid-priced accommodation ranges. Higher ratings significantly impact the hotel booking decisions of the traveling public in a positive way for hoteliers, bringing in more revenue. Many research studies have supported this fact. The most notable a Cornell University study, which states a one point ratings, rise, on a scale of five, brings with it a rise in room rates by eleven percent.
It is essential for hotel websites to contain reviews of the establishment since more than half, according to research from PhocusWright, will not book a hotel without reading its reviews first. These reviews should come in three forms: links to hotel social media, links to external websites like TripAdvisor, and directly on the hotel website. Providing reviews from multiple sources builds trust because by so doing any appearance of bias is eliminated and the reviews maintain their independence.
The personalization trend in the hospitality industry is key in motivating hotel guests to write positive reviews of their stays. The encouragement of the writing of hotel reviews by past guests can be given by offering incentives. Guests can be should be encouraged to write a review and rewarded in some small way for doing so, whether the review is good or bad. Hotels that successfully implement customized changes to personalize the experience for their guests should have no trouble garnering positive reviews in the first place. Leaving behind comment cards in rooms and post-stay follow-up emails to guests are also both useful tools for the encouragement of reviews.
Ratings and reviews have become crucial in hotel marketing efforts. They both provide hotels with valuable feedback and inspire potential guests to book a hotel. Hotels need to consider the several specific types of travelers and what is required to gain their brand trust and loyalty.


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Monday, March 24, 2014

Driving Hospitality Revenue With Social Media - Foursquare

The explosion of mobile technology has been closely followed by the popularity of a social media network uniquely designed for smart phone and tablet users, Foursquare. With this location-based service, users can “check-in” or tag themselves at locations and establishments they frequent. Foursquare presents an opportunity to hotels, tailor made for the nature of the hospitality industry. Businesses that offer promotions to customers who check-in at their location can reap the benefits of Foursquare users preferring their establishment over another. Here are some things to keep mind to help leverage Foursquare for your hotel marketing campaign.

 

1. Complete Your Business Profile and Property Information - 

Make sure after going through the process of claiming your hotel’s Foursquare listing, to complete the profile as thoroughly as possible. Include photos and descriptive information about your property and its amenities. The more thorough a profile is the more likely people are to check-in there. Anybody can create a listing, so they’re probably multiple listings for your location. The Foursquare website has information to help you weed out the other listings.

 

2. Offer Hotel Marketing Promotions To Foursquare Users

You need to give users incentives to “check-in” at your location. Be creative and use your imagination to offer something to entice Foursquare users to become your guests and make hotel reservations. Whatever you come up with, the goal is to not only get them stay at your hotel, but also tell others about it by “checking in” on Foursquare. Friends in their social networks will see where they are staying and potentially think favorably of your hotel when they are visiting your city. Incentives can include such things as a free drink at the bar, complementary breakfast, or a free parking voucher in cities.

 

3. Monitor Foursquare Activity About Your Hotel

Foursquare allows users to post short reviews and give tips and pointers. Monitoring this information is valuable for several reasons. First, it gives you a heads up on any negative comments being made about your hotel, allowing you the opportunity to properly respond. Secondly, these reviews can provide you with marketing intelligence along the lines of a mystery shopper. There are tools available to assist with monitoring.

Location-based services such as Foursquare are a perfect fit for the hospitality industry and don’t require much interaction or engagement with users as well. In the next part of this series, we’ll look at what opportunities are available to hotels on the Google social network.

 

 


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Friday, March 21, 2014

Hotel Marketing and Technology - Social Media

Alongside the global explosion of social media in recent years, the hospitality industry has been forever changed by this medium. Hotels have learned that having a social media presence is critical to the process of gaining and keeping guest loyalty. The very nature of social media works extremely well for hotels, having relied to some extent on favorable word-of-mouth advertising all along. Social media is really nothing more than word-of-mouth advertising on a large technological scale. An ongoing and vibrant social media presence benefits any hotel in a variety of ways including:

 

  1. Higher level of brand recognition and visibility.
  2. Improved customer service.
  3. More direct and increased opportunity for guest interaction when they are not physically on the property.
  4. Building, managing, and repairing, if necessary, the hotel’s reputation both online and offline.
  5. Leveraging new revenue opportunities through direct booking on social channels.

 

Facebook

Facebook, with its more than 1 billion worldwide users, is at the top of the social media world. The world’s most popular social network not only provides hotels the most exposure, but offers the opportunity for direct bookings as well. A hotel’s Facebook presence must be both attractive and engaging, while also staying fresh and useful to its followers. Facebook apps specifically designed for hotels can highlight the best features and important information needed by potential guests. The hotel Facebook page must have a hotel booking engine and offer the audience the opportunity to see rooms, rates, and availability. This is essential to converting a fan or follower into a paying guest. Specific Facebook hotel apps are available to make this a smooth and easy transaction.

 

Twitter

The sheer volume of tweets on the social network Twitter and its resulting highly viral nature, make it vitally important for hotels to have an active presence on the platform.

Since Twitter is all about people communicating in real-time and the hospitality industry is naturally operated in a time-sensitive manner, the two are a good fit. A hotel should start out by just listening at first, then join in the conversation. Make sure the hotel’s Twitter profile is complete, visually attention grabbing, and keyword-rich. Monitor everything said about the hotel as often as possible. Twitter’s advanced search features can help accomplish this. Besides comments directly about the hotel, related search terms can be monitored, such as “beach hotel” for example. Twitter can be a surprisingly effective marketing tool for the hospitality industry, if used properly.

Hotels that choose to ignore social media do so at their own peril. The public has shown its willingness to unleash their wrath on brands that have proven themselves or have been perceived to be somehow less than satisfactory to their customers. Given the nature of the hospitality industry, it is crucial for hotels to stay ahead of any negativity on social media.

 

 


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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Driving Hospitality Revenue With Social Media - Facebook

Facebook, with its more than 1 billion worldwide users, is at the top of the social media world. The world’s most popular social network not only provides hotels with the most exposure, but offers the opportunity for direct hotel bookings as well. A hotel’s Facebook presence must be both attractive and engaging while also staying fresh and useful to its followers. Facebook apps specifically designed for hotels can highlight the best features and important information needed by potential guests. Here are some guidelines for an effective hotel Facebook page.

 

Visually Appealing

Facebook’s relatively new Timeline format is perfect for showing off your hotel beautifully, creating the all-important positive first impression. The cover photo is the first thing people will see when they come to your page. Choose an image of high resolution that projects the message you are trying to make with your audience. Remember, the cover photo can be changed at anytime and it is a good idea to switch it out periodically. The trend across all social media networks is toward highly visual, image-oriented content. This works in any hotel’s favor for obvious reasons. Be sure every post includes colorful, eye-catching images or even videos.

 

Engage With Your Audience

You need to give your followers compelling reasons to come back to your page. Respond to their comments and make them feel like you are listening - make it a conversation. Show them you care about your opinions and don’t be afraid to give some of your own. Social media is about real people interacting. Keep your audience engaged and entertained. A little light-hearted humor can go a long way. Ask them questions in addition to answering theirs. Conduct polls of things they love about your locale, for example. Make them think about what they enjoy when they stay with you. Promotions and giveaways will keep them coming back as well.

 

Keep It Alive With Fresh Content

Providing your followers with fresh, new hotel content will also bring them back again and again. This doesn’t have to necessarily be done everyday, but once or twice a week at least. Include photos in all your updates and encourage the fans to share theirs. This will keep the traffic and interest level up.

 

It Should Be Useful For Fans

Your hotel Facebook page must have a hotel direct booking engine and offer the audience the opportunity to see rooms, rates, and availability. This is essential to converting a fan or follower into a paying guest. Hotel specific Facebook apps are available to make this a smooth and easy transaction.


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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Building Hotel Brand Loyalty -The Special Needs Traveler

Anyone who has special needs or is close to someone with special needs knows how challenging travel can be. The parents of an autistic child, the wife of a man with Alzheimer’s disease, the person who is wheelchair bound. These are just some examples of people who deserve to travel and go on vacation as much as anyone else, but often find the process of traveling more difficult than the reward. Hotels, like all businesses, must follow the guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but there is so much more hotels can do to earn the loyalty of the special needs traveler.

Parents of children with autism have difficulty just relaxing at all when they take their child into the unfamiliar surroundings of a hotel. Thankfully some hotels have made progress in providing a safe and comfortable environment for both child and parents. The Center for Autism and Related Disabilities is now giving autism friendly ratings to hotels that train their staffs to be sensitive to the needs of people with autism, in addition to other special needs. There are a number of hotels going a step further by offering safety door alarms and padding for furniture corners. These come in a safety kit available to special needs travelers upon request. These safety measures, like door alarms, can benefit other types of special needs travelers as well, such as those with Alzheimer’s disease.

The ADA offers broad descriptions of its requirements, some of which are open to interpretation. Hotels can, particularly during building or remodeling, go above and beyond the law to create hotel facilities that truly make the special needs traveler feel at home. For wheelchair and easy walking access here are some guidelines:

 

  • Lobby check-in desks have some space low enough for a wheelchair bound guest to be fully accommodated.

 

  • Guest rooms should be large enough for easy wheelchair access, with beds at the height, television controls and desks easily accessible. All bathroom fixtures must be easily reached with a fully accessible shower on a level floor.

 

  • All hotel elevators should have controls that can be reached easily. Level floor upon entry and exit of elevators.

 

Hotels should welcome the special needs traveler with the same level of care and quality of service and accommodation that they would any other hotel guest. To gain their trust and repeated hotel bookings, requires stepping beyond what is mandated by law and doing the right thing.

 


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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Building Hotel Brand Loyalty - The Pet Traveler

For hotels that are becoming pet friendly, there are many opportunities for increased revenue available based on making such a change in policy. But there are many preparations that must be made before the first pet friendly hotel reservation is made. Planning the specifics of exactly what the hotel’s policies are going to be regarding the pets of their guests must come first. Also, the physical property must be readied and made safe for animals and hotel guests. In addition, any special services and amenities, such as pet sitting, need to be decided and planned.

Hotel Pet Policy

What types and sizes of domestic animals will be allowed on hotel property? Will there be breed and/or weight restrictions? These and other crucial questions must be decided and then clearly stated to pet owning hotel guests. Any special pet specific fees or deposits needed to cover the extra cleaning or damage expenses incurred by the hotel in allowing pets must be specifically laid out for guests in terms they will understand. This goes for any and all legal issues as well, which need to limit the hotel’s liabilities as much as possible.

Placing size restrictions on dogs is common in many hotels that allow pets, but this limits the pool of hotel customers as well.  This is probably better handled through refundable deposits rather than limits. Many hotels will not allow cats because of their dander and its potential for causing allergic problems in future room guests. However, if a little extra time is spend thoroughly vacuuming the room and cleaning with specialized sprays this can be avoided. The extra effort and expense can be easily made up by charging higher pet fees to guests with cats, which they will understand.

 

Hotel Property

The physical layout of the hotel property must be considered in the planning as well. Designated pet exercise and walk areas must be isolated from and not interfere with other guests who don’t have pets. Fencing in these areas will help and be much appreciated by pet owners also. In hotels with multiple floors, it is best to limit pets to rooms on the ground floor level, near any outdoor facilities provided for them.

Rooms must be floored and furnished in a durable, easy to clean fashion. Hard floors will prove better than carpeting for pet designated rooms. Furniture must be made of materials that can be thoroughly cleaned with minimal effort to make ready for the next incoming guest. Breakable items in the room should be limited to only that which is necessary. The safety of the pets must be taken into account regarding items such as electrical wires, which should be protected.

Hotel Pet Services and Amenities

The hotel may want to consider offering specialized pet related ancillary services, including pet sitting and walking for those guests who may desire or need time away from their animals. For hotels that want to go the extra step, available grooming services, hotel provided doggie beds, and a welcome basket of treats and toys will go far in assuring guest loyalty of pets and their owners.

Hotels should additionally ensure their staffs are fully trained in animal safety for the well being of all concerned. This includes the greeting and approaching (or not) of animals unknown to them.

Hotels can clearly benefit from a revenue perspective from going pet friendly. Each hotel must determine if this is a truly beneficial move for them and will not be damaging to their reputations with past or future guests who don’t bring pets for a hotel stay.


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Friday, March 7, 2014

Building Hotel Brand Loyalty More on Personalization

Expectations of hotel customers are higher than ever before. Hoteliers now need to deliver a unique experience to each of their guests, both on-property and off. With travelers having a myriad of choices, providing a personalized guest experience is crucial for hotels in today’s fragile economy. The guest experience on hotel property is where hotel personalization can have its biggest impact and leave a lasting customer impression.
Everyone appreciates being made to feel special and to be treated accordingly makes for a truly memorable experience. There are so many little things that hotels can do to make their guests feel important. It is very easy to make note of such things as preferred room temperature settings and requested items for the room refrigerator.  Ensuring their presence in the guest’s room in future stays is how guest loyalty is built on a very personal level.
Hotels are becoming very engaging with guests in the effort to gain their repeated business. Giving travel points is the old way of accomplishing this goal. Rewarding repeated stays with the guest’s favorite specialty service personalizes the reward for each individual. For example, a hotel that features a golf course could reward a business traveler who always enjoys a round of golf after the meetings are over, by picking up the tab for one round. Customizing the hotel experience around the preferences of each guest builds trust in the brand, resulting in customer loyalty.
Particularly for the business traveler, making the hotel guest feel at home is essential. In the absence of their real home and missing the people there, personalizing the room space and socially engaging the guest are means to realizing that goal. Hotels can allow guests to customize their rooms in new ways according to their tastes and needs. These options can include offering bedding choices, loaning appliances like coffee makers or hair dryers, or even the choice of flower arrangements. These and other customizations can also be offered in menu form when the customer books the hotel. Social engagement can be provided through activities like yoga classes or a golf school.  Offering these and other activities gives the solo business traveler more opportunities for social interaction away from home.
Travelers today are looking for a more personalized experience from a hotel stay built around their likes and preferences. Hotels that give guests a level of customization not previously available will earn their brand loyalty.


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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Building Hotel Brand Loyalty - The Budget Traveler

While the world has seen a steady growth rate in the numbers of genuinely affluent travelers, many individuals and businesses have had to tighten their budget belts in recent years. A reflection of the economic conditions of the last several years has been behind the trend toward budget conscious travelers seeking so called “last minute deals”. These budget travelers diligently search online for reduced price hotel inventory in order to find bargains on the highest quality accommodations that they or their company can afford. There is a desire to not give up a certain level of lifestyle standard,  while budgeting for a hotel stay, both of which are really driving this trend.

Lower budgets should not have to necessitate booking a hotel and enduring a stay at a distinctly lower caliber of accommodations. Also, lower cost does not necessarily have to equate to cheap. For those travelers on limited budgets who do not want to downgrade to an economy hotel and sacrifice comfort, amenities, or services, something new is in order. This is the thinking behind a relatively new trend in the hospitality industry around the world, the budget hotel.

 

The Budget Hotel

The budget hotel is specifically designed to appeal to travelers who have cost limitations, but who wish to stay in hotels with the features that are important to them and are willing to give up those that they consider superfluous. Generally, budget hotels offer rooms of a smaller size than found in the next class up, yet are very comfortably furnished. Many budget hotels provide furniture, room styling, and architecture which are very modern and chic, to appeal to the target market Millennials. The so-called “Millennial” generation and their likes, desires, and travel habits are the real force shaping the image of the new budget hotel.

In keeping with the priorities of younger travelers, extra amenities made available often don’t involve much more than excellent Internet connectivity. The connection is usually very high speed since that is often a deal breaker for Millennials. To many of these travelers spacious accommodations are a lower priority because they prefer to spend time, and in particular work, in the open common areas which are often another feature of the budget hotel. Some budget hotels offer their amenities in an a la carte fashion. By charging guests only for the amenities they want, the cost can be kept down. What budget travelers are looking for most in a hotel is smartly appointed and comfortable rooms which reflect their modern sensibilities that are affordable as well.

The concept of the budget hotel can only grow and expand as the Millennial generation gradually comes to dominate the travel and hospitality industries. The budget traveler offers hotels an opportunity to gain the brand loyalty of younger and cost conscious  travelers while potentially reducing the downward rate pressure from “last minute deals”.

 


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