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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