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8 Online hotel booking trends to watch in 2017 and why!

Vineeth Purushothaman, White Sky Hospitality

Vineeth Purushothaman, White Sky Hospitality

The following is a fantastic, in depth article brought to you by HMA and HOSPA Member Vineeth Purushothaman. Vineeth is one of the UK’s leading minds on distribution and channel marketing and Director of White Sky Hospitality.   

Last year, I reflected on the counter-intuitive way of looking at growing clusters of businesses as a way of identifying new trends in the industry in “9 online hotel booking trends to watch in 2016 and why”. So, what is new this year and what is likely to take over the imagination of bookers online? Equally importantly what are the changes that are likely to impact the industry over the long term?

 

1.     Trip planning websites on a rocky path but stubborn in its intentions

Trip planning websites address the inherent need of a traveller to “book everything” at one go in one place. Travellers are keen to reduce time spent on travel planning.

Who are the key players? They range from direct to consumer trip planning portals to social booking platforms. Some of them look at business travel while others approach individual travellers. A few mix technologies with personal curation while another set focuses mainly on transport.

Trip planning portal TripHobo enables users to plan trips to over 14000 cities and secured $3 million in Series B funding recently. Google Trips, helps plan your holiday by using data from Google Maps and crowdsourced contributions.

Utrip creates itineraries in 37-plus cities throughout the U.S. and Europe combining artificial intelligence and human experience. Inspirock provides a detailed day-by-day plan of attractions you will see at the various destinations on your personalised itinerary. It also saw an investment from Make My Trip for USD 3 million and according to Tnooz, it has seen excellent growth recently.

Trip planning websites combining technology with human curation include Gojourny which creates tailor-made travel plans with recommendations from top chefs, sommeliers, and local experts for a small fee. Vayable offers a way to directly hire local guides for activities overseas. And the TripScout mobile app helps plan a local and authentic self-guided city tour.

B2B companies like Tripgrid puts everything you need for travel management into one place for quick access. And Whereforbusiness would like to be every employee’s personal booking assistant. It is an AI-powered corporate booking tool, designed to reduce both the hassle and cost of booking a trip.

B2B2C companies include Relovate, a technology platform that allows both travellers and content producers to manage trip saving, sharing and publishing. AXUS Travel App offers a web-based itinerary management and engagement platform that streamlines the way travel advisors and service providers communicate with clients from the initial planning process all the way through to their destination experience.

Social and group trip planning websites like Wetravel helps plan trips with friends. Let’s go there allows travellers to create and manage own group or exchange ideas through a fun, dynamic trip planner. Travefy offers a travel planning platform with tools to collaborate on trip details, build rich itineraries, and collect shared expenses.

Niche tools, apps and websites in this space include TripIt a well-established player that transforms your emails into a master itinerary for every trip so all your plans are in one place.

TripCreator enables users to plan and book their entire trip to Iceland in one place. It provides an instant itinerary checked for availability based on traveller preferences.

Transportation driven and multi-modal companies like Adioso offer a great tool to book flights starting with exploring travel ideas. Roadtrippers in the US helps people discover the world around them in an entirely new way by streamlining discovery, planning, booking and navigation into an engaging and intuitive process. Rome2Rio gives you every possible option for travel from point A to point B. whether by plane, train or city bus. Gopilli does that in the UK.

Mozio connects customers, local companies, and global travel brands to turn getting to and from the airport – into a delightful experience.

A more detailed analysis on this trend and companies applying this trend is here

 

2. The traditional hotel internet booking engine is dying

The massive proliferation of interactive technologies like messenger apps, chat bots, robots, cobots supported by machine learning and artificial intelligence is changing the way bookers interact with a product. Could this mean changes in the way one books a hotel?

Travel site Expedia released a bot for Skype recently. Dutch airline KLM became one of the first brands to use Facebook’s new branded messenger bots, powered by Nexmo last year.

Kayak has used natural language processing, to develop flight and hotel search in workplace-chat app Slack. Edwardian hotels uses ‘Edward’ its new AI driven chatbot for guest self-service.

Aviva has created messaging software for Airbnb hosts who want to automate their messages to guests so that vital, but repetitive/standardized details about the reservation can trickle out over time, at the optimal time.

Lola provides on-demand, personal travel service through a smartphone app connecting users to a team of travel agents who find and book flights, hotels, and cars.

Gartner predicts that by 2020, 30% of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen – one of the reasons to suspect that the booking engine as we know it will go away (and take on a back-end role).

Messaging apps and chatbots are a whole new reservation and distribution channel or should be treated as one. And it will change the hotel internet booking engine as we know it, one way or another, soon!

 

3.     Big data = Big (better) marketing

There are more visible signs of big data being utilised more effectively in marketing initiatives – and involves targeting the micro-moments (a google phrase) to maximise conversion.

Travel Appeal offers a real-time intelligent advisor for hospitality managers. Freespree places every conversation with bookers into its digital context and then feed the entire marketing stack to deliver relevant marketing actions. Marriott uses Freespee to achieve visibility and control over its inbound direct bookings.

Voyat uses data science to identify high-opportunity website users, and increases their conversion rates with a variety of segmentation and targeting strategies. SnapShot created by hoteliers is made for hotels of any size, from single hotels to large chains, to make the most of their hotel data.

LodgIQ’s revenue management system (RMS) analyses market variables when optimising forecasts and room rates – current supply and demand in the destination, room rates of direct and indirect competitors, historical room rates, flight patterns, meteorological patterns and local events, among many others.

Mabrian a travel intelligence platform uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies to provide DMOs and tour operators with insights on travel dynamics and tourist behaviour at the destination to optimise their decision-making.

In the hotel industry, we have never been short of data. The challenge has always been how to use it effectively. While the challenge of disparate systems (typically CRM, PMS, RMS) continue, solutions that assimilate and prepare data will become more widely accessible.

This, in turn, will drive the more static decision model driven by predictive analytics to a more prescriptive one. I see great potential for companies like Travel Appeal. I’d also expect companies like Freespree to help hotels market better with their data.

 

4.     An explosion in demand for boutique hotel experiences

You may well wonder why boutique hotels feature in an online booking trend list. Agreed that it is rather unusual. However, this massive transformation in demand for boutique hotels is having an impact on how hotels and hotel brands are perceived and booked online.

The traveller need that is driving this massive demand and growth in boutique hotels is the increased quest for authenticity, experiences and wellness. Booking.com lists “mind, body and soul” in its eight big travel predictions for 2017. It says, “in a hectic world people are increasingly seeing travel as a way to bring balance back into their lives. Almost half (48%) see going on holiday as a moment to reflect and make better lifestyle choices. The coming year will see many travellers prioritising health conscious trips, particularly those from India, China and Thailand.”

Almost every large hotel chain has also added a boutique hotel brand to their portfolio. Marriott’s Edition is “an evolutionary response to the desire for a sophisticated experience from the guest with a contemporary lifestyle.” And their Moxy is a boutique hotel with the social heart of a hostel. So Sofitel hotels are “a playful mix of sophisticated French elegance and the dynamic style of each locale”. Andaz Hotels by Hyatt. Luxury boutique hotels with sophisticated style, locally inspired cuisine, and vibrant social areas with a kaleidoscope of local culture. And Hyatt Centric hotels are “located in the heart of the destination, designed to be your launch-pad to seeing, tasting and feeling everything a city has to offer”. IHG’s Hotel Indigo “serves the curious – people who are inspired by new places, new people and new ideas”. Another brand from IHG EVEN Hotels helps travellers embrace wellness healthy lifestyles by providing choices that keep them on track. Their “Wellness Advisory Board”, studies latest trends and science behind staying well on the road inside and out. Canopy by Hilton promises “The energizing new hotel in the neighborhood. Where you’ll find simple pleasures, thoughtful extras “and nice surprises that go beyond a boutique-hotel experience. For a stay that’s positively yours. Two Roads Hospitality (previously Commune hotels and resorts) is making waves in the boutique hotel space with a range of unusual and authentic brands focused on design and the guest experience. Their brands include Alila, Thompson, Tommie and Destination.

Will the term “boutique hotel brands” become an oxymoron with its inherent contradiction? Can boutique hotels be scaled many times over?

The answer may well lie in the level of personalisation (without spooking the guest) using the power of big data. Applying prescriptive analytics throughout the customer journey to anticipate needs while training and empowering on-site hotel teams will drive success.

 

5.     Experiences in virtual reality and 360-degree video before booking

Travel has always been about the experience – and that helps explain the huge amount of time spent on research prior to travel. Until recently, there were limited options to experience tantalising destinations and hotels in great detail. But now, that is all changing!

Marriott’s experiment with “teleporters” seemed to have caught the imagination of travellers. With Best Western Virtual Reality Experience (BWVRE), travellers are able to view guest rooms, hotel lobbies and amenities prior to arriving at a property.

VIP Worldwide produce Virtual Reality experiences for Marriott (Autograph collection) Four Seasons and Rosewood.

Hilton launched a mobile campaign featuring an interactive 360° video that takes the viewer on a virtual vacation, using Opera Media mobile video ad unit designed to create a fully immersive and engaging experience. User moves the device to get a 360 degree experience. 

Thomas Cook opened concept stores with Samsung Gear VR headsets to help their customers experience their destination. They also experimented with virtual reality in its marketing mix, rolling out a “try before you fly” online campaign.

Ted Baker created a “shoppable film” directed by Guy Ritchie as well as the first-ever fashion retail application of the Google App’s voice search.

TimeLooper is a location-based virtual reality platform that delivers virtual reality content to consumers when they are at the most incredible sites in the world. The stories are intended to transform the onsite experience and therefore can only be ‘unlocked’ once onsite at the historic location.

While the current emphasis with Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) is to enhance the travel experience and inspire, it shouldn’t be long before we see an intersection with the “online booking process”.

Why not have travellers engage and book during the VR experience? If you are inspired by what you see, why not be able to say, show me the best prices (metasearch) and best periods to travel? And from there proceed to book – a completely immersive and natural simulation of a laptop or mobile booking!

The only difference being that you are “at the hotel” while making the booking and “speaking normally” to complete the process!

 

6.     Business travel is really, finally, truly ready for disruption

Business travel continues to grow, confuse and excite. Everyone gets excited about the still untapped opportunities in business travel, but it has been hard to pin down a great revolution. There are some drivers for change and signs, however, that it is beginning to change faster.

Bleisure is here to stay. Expedia has profiled the Bleisure customer here in great detail. Travelling to an exciting destination, additional costs to extend trip and how close the trip is to the weekend are the key factors. Another key takeaway is that the path to booking is short (1-4 weeks), especially the inspiration and research stage.

Flexibility and the shared economy – the continued evolution of the shared economy and its leading players are having an impact. Corporate company policies increasingly allow for ride-sharing and home-sharing services. U.S. corporations spent more than $282 billion on corporate travel last year, and the latest data from T&E company Certify says more of that money is going to the sharing economy.

Regional growth – China is poised to overtake the US as the #1 business travel market in the world. It will surpass US in spending by 2017. Overall spending on business travel that originated in India was expected to reach $33 billion in 2016, an increase of more than 11 percent compared to the previous year.

IATA’s new distribution capability (NDC) challenges the legacy architecture of Global Distribution Systems (GDS’s). NDC is a set of technology standards, which will give airlines the ability to distribute all their content through third parties while maintaining consistency.

In the legacy structure, airlines have limited opportunities to generate additional revenue through the GDS’s outside of passenger seats. For example, use of lounges, food, luggage options, preferential seating and more. While the sale of ancillary revenue can be achieved by selling through their own direct booking websites, it is hard to do through the GDS and their current infrastructure.

IATA, which represents about 240 airlines or 84% of total air traffic, recognises that selling ancillaries holds the key to its members becoming more profitable.

And as a large percentage of the Travel Management Companies (TMC’s) which book corporate travel and flights continue to use GDS, airlines are looking for better ways to generate additional revenue. Travel technology companies supporting this change include Farelogix, and Travel Fusion.

At the same time, hotel companies are taking an active interest in Bleisure. AccorHotels has a strategic investment in Squarebreak, which offers “hotel like homes” in France, Spain and Morocco. Accor is also buying Travel Keys, one of the leading players in the private vacation rental market.

Wyndham Worldwide invested $7.5 million in Love Home Swap, (a company that facilitates home exchanges for vacations), in hopes of expanding beyond hotels. There is a new wave of travel technology companies working to tap into lessons learnt from individual travel – and help travellers manage the entire booking process themselves while staying compliant.

Rocketrip is a travel management tool that provides employees with a real-time Budget to Beat and motivating them to save. Business travel management startup TripActions just raised $14.6 million in Series A funding according to Tnooz. It looks to reward business travellers for keeping an eye on spend.

Umapped is a collaborative B2B2C itinerary & experience solution that consolidates bookings, curated content and real-time context-sensitive content into a social tool for travellers. Travellers collaboratively build on their trip plans together, share recommendations with friends & discover curated content.

MagicStay offers private accommodation for the corporate market – a booking platform for short-term rentals dedicated to business travel.

Companies like Travog, an on-demand travel & expense management system with an integrated pre-book policy compliant system through an internal self-booking tool supports a high-level automated payment flexibility. Business expenses will be recorded and reimbursed automatically.

Another on-demand digital corporate travel solution like TravelPerk helps corporate travel managers to streamline travel quickly and drive business travellers towards compliance and self-bookings.

According to IATA, 15 of the top 20 airline groups (by revenue) including BA and Qatar Airways have either deployed components of the NDC standard or plan to do so during 2016/17. Most recently, Sabre announced it is using the NDC baseline standard to enable travel agents to have access to American Airlines’ Preferred and Main Cabin Extra products.

Considering the growth in Bleisure, increasing business travel from emerging markets like China and India, availability of prescriptive analytics and IATA’s new distribution capability to the equation and I’d say the time is ripe for disruption!

PS: Don’t miss out on the consolidation and mergers too!

 

7.     Companies leverage Uberisation to maximise bookings

The sharing economy model has made such an impact that it is increasingly being referred to as Uberisation – an alignment of supply and demand in a free internet enabled market.

It is important, however, to look beyond Uber and AirBnB and identify the underlying reasons for the success of the shared economy model. And to identify how related areas are evolving. Only then can hotels respond creatively and leverage its power rather than dread the decline in occupancy and average rates.

One of the main drivers of the shared economy is the ability it provides owners or managers to monetise excess or idle inventory. And buyers can take a practical approach to prioritising access over ownership. An equally important element is technology – access to people or other resources requires “portability”.

Despite the obvious challenges, several niche hotel booking companies inspired by AirBnB and Uber’s shared economy model success have emerged. Some of them are very similar while others leverage a related customer need.

Oyo and Zo in India and Nida rooms based in Malaysia follow AirBnB models for accommodation.

Innclusive and NoirBnB are responses to discrimination experienced by AirBnB users. MisterBnB caters to gay travellers. Handiscover is specifically designed for disabled travellers.

Auction sites like Bidroom and Tansler are part of a wider trend where accommodation providers sell inventory differently. Room Storm offers to protect your brand from the negative effects of overbooking.

Other travel related areas where Uberisation has taken off include…

AviationBlade a short distance aviation company allows users to launch their own crowdsourced charter or book individual seats on flights already created through an app. Russia-based metasearch engine Aviasales has collaborated with private jet search platform JetHunter to start including its unfilled segments in search results for flights returning to base. Jetsmarter connects members to idle jets and unused seats around the world.

BoatsBoatbound allows you to discover and rent boats. So does SailoBeds on Board and Get My Boat.

Event SpacesSplacer Splacer is a marketplace where people can list, discover and book unique spaces. Other similar companies include Event Up and eVenues.

Tours and experiencesVayable allows providers to list experiences and Localeur provides access to local guides. So does Get Your Guide. Cookening allows you to attend or host home cooked meals and meet people from all over the world.

Transport: Swift, a new Uber-like taxi app, is run and owned by drivers themselves. Car pooling, renting a car and parking at a house are possible through companies like AmigoExpress, GetAround, Parkatmyhouse, RelayRide or Zimride.

What are hotels doing about it?

Hotel Schani in Vienna brings co-working to its lobby. Hyatt experimented with Hyatt has it! and Marriott collaborated with Liquidbookings to sell unused meeting space.

W Hotels partnered with Desksnearme and Candlewood suites have the lending locker initiative. “Smart business hotels where work meets play” lists a range of different hotels across the world which builds on the sharing economy.

The sharing economy brings challenges and opportunities. Innovative hotel companies will use the opportunities to strengthen their brand proposition and add value to their guests. Partnerships and collaboration with third-party companies will need to go beyond the traditional models and extend into a true understanding of guest needs and catering to them.

 

8.     Blockchain technology to transform loyalty programmes and improve booking margins

According to the Harvard Business Review, “Blockchains ensure integrity and trust between strangers. They make it difficult to cheat”. “In other words, it’s the first native digital medium for value, just as the internet was the first native digital medium for information. And this has big implications for business and the corporation.”

Blockchain technology is often confused with cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. However, blockchain technology is really the enabler and not the currency.

The discussion on minimising distribution costs for hotels has so far focused mainly on the OTA and GDS costs. Channelling direct bookings through the hotel’s own website has always been the holy grail.

At the same time, the financial costs of processing each payment directly have been rather a constant and marginally impacted by volume. What if that could change? And if there were to be little or no cost to almost all your financial transactions?

Webjet and Microsoft have today announced the creation of a new blockchain proof-of-concept [PoC] solution that they believe will transform the travel industry. They believe that the solution has the potential to change the way online payments are processed and managed for hotel bookings. The size of that market globally – a million transactions a day in a $100 billion industry. The total savings if the model worked could run into billions of dollars.

Another exciting impact of blockchain is on loyalty. “Imagine paying for your morning Starbucks with the American Airlines miles you earned from last night’s flight. Or paying for your Panera bagel with your Starwood points. Or how about a free Uber ride with your dinner tonight?

Loyyal has developed a universal loyalty and rewards platform, built with blockchain and smart contract technology

In the U.K., Curve has combined a payment card and loyalty card combined into one digital wallet. Curve Rewards are different from other loyalty schemes in that consumers can earn Curve Rewards with any card they select via the Curve app.

The most well-known product of blockchain technology to date, bitcoin, has had mixed success. However, adoption of blockchain technology more widely including by a consortium of nine of the world’s biggest banks including Barclays and Goldman Sachs has made it more mainstream.

It is very early days yet for blockchain technology applications in travel and hotels and for that matter in other industries. However, the fact that leading global banks are investing time and effort into developing solutions using blockchain technology is promising.

While the saving implications in terms of booking transaction costs are tremendous, I am equally excited at the possibility of a robust loyalty programme – one that allows easy exchange and use of rewards based on context and location rather than one that is unusable.

 

This is an extract from 8 hotel online booking trends to watch in 2017 and why!, published on the White Sky Hospitality blog. You will find a more detailed analysis explaining what is driving these changes, emerging customer expectations in the area, more businesses applying these trends and trend potential and takeaway here.        

 

HMA Spotlight on… Jakob Waern

Jakob Waern, Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa Edinburgh

Jakob Waern, Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa Edinburgh

We’re back with another of our popular featured interview in our Spotlight series. In this edition we meet Jakob Waern, Marketing Manager of Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa Edinburgh.

Hi Jakob – thanks for participating in our Spotlight series! Give us a quick intro about you and your background.

Hey, I’m delighted to be asked to contribute! I’m originally from Sweden and I started out working in hotel operations roles from as early as 15 years old, both in Sweden and in the UK. I moved into a role with one of the world’s largest OTA’s, Booking.com, in Stockholm and that’s when I truly realised that marketing, especially the digital marketing, is where I wanted to focus. But, since I am a hotel lover, I wanted to do it from the hotel point of view. I joined an independent hotel group, Hansar Hotels & Resorts, in Bangkok as Director of Marketing & Brand, working out of its head office. So, I guess you could say the Sheraton Grand is only my second marketing role, but I feel like an old dog already!

Tell us a bit about your role at the Sheraton Grand in Edinburgh.

Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa Edinburgh is now part of Marriott International, since they purchased Starwood. My role here is to oversee all our of marketing activity and support the overall revenue and business mix goals for the hotel.

‘Sheraton Grand’ is the new premier tier distinguishing exceptional Sheraton Hotels & Resorts around the world, for their enticing destinations, distinguished designs and excellence in service and guest experience. Sheraton Grand Edinburgh was announced as one of the first 10 hotels in Sheraton’s global portfolio to be part of this premium group and it’s evident as to why from the moment you walk through its doors.

We are the largest 5 star hotel in the city, both in terms of number of rooms and conference space. Even though we are big, it’s a very relaxed environment with a modern yet luxurious feel.  I’m very excited to be part of the team here working with incredibly marketable products, such as the award-winning One Spa and our well-stocked One Square bar which holds more than 80 different types of gin!

What are your main responsibilities when it comes to marketing?

It might be a massive cliché to say no two days are the same, but due to the nature of our business that’s really true. I enjoy that, because you are involved in so many varied projects. I never thought I would be interested in nail polish or eyebrow treatments but as we are currently launching a salon (Now by One Spa) I learn something new about beauty treatments every day. Who would have thought!

My overall responsibility is to create, programme and execute marketing activations for the hotel, its venues and outlets. It involves both on- and offline marketing as well as creating long-lasting, mutually-beneficial partnerships with like-minded brands.  Linked to that, I’m always focused on making sure that we have relevant market exposure to our different target audiences and to act as the guest’s eyes in everything we do.

What are the biggest challenges you face when it comes to digital marketing at present?

Finding innovative ways to drive traffic to our websites and generate direct bookings is a daily battle and a full time job in itself. Even though we have strong brand and field marketing support from our regional digital team we are always challenged to stand out within our local competitor set during this ever-changing digital era. It can also be challenging to keep up with different technologies that are being introduced to the market; new platforms and ways to interact with potential guests in the Asian markets, for example.

What is your most successful social media channel and why?

I think we’ve had the most success with Facebook so far. Obviously, Facebook’s paid social options allow you to target very specific markets and demographics really strategically. But, its also the best way to interact with existing and future guests. That said, Instagram and Pinterest will be our main channels when launching Now Salon as they will support our targeted marketing objectives in their ability to be more expressive for visual content that corresponds well to beauty treatments.

What do you see being the biggest trend or new innovation in hotel marketing in the next 24 months?

To attract the right demographic we see a lot of brands working with social media influencers. I think this is the new way of working with ambassadors for your brand and can be very cost efficient if you manage to pinpoint the right influencers with the right target audience, to create awareness about your products.

I also see a lot of innovative ways to tie in the customer to your brand or hotel and further build loyalty; mainly the different communication platforms and CRM tools that allow you to always be in contact with the guest pre-stay, during and post-stay.

If I gave you £10,000 right now to spend on your marketing, what would you do with it?

Digital! I would spend it wisely on SEO to increase our online visibility and chuck in a bit of targeted PPC and paid social with what’s left!

What are you currently steering clear of with regards marketing strategy or implementation?

We are trying to move away from print advertising that is not measurable or easily trackable. From an environmental point of view we are also trying to minimise the amount of print collateral for our outlets and general in-house guest communications.

What can you tell us about the plans for Now by One Spa and what is it like to start marketing such an exciting new service for locals in Edinburgh?

So, this is the latest exciting project from our award-winning One Spa. In mid-March 2017 we will launch Now by One Spa which will be positioned as the quirky little sister to the already much adored and established One Spa. Now will focus on express treatments, open from first thing in the morning till late at night. It’ll be a little piece of cool in the heart of Edinburgh’s financial district. So the marketing strategy is heavily social – almost tribal – with the aim that Now becomes as synonymous with prepping for a powerful business meeting as it does for a little self-indulgence. I need to make a mark on metropolitan Edinburgh lifestyle with Now and if marketing it ends up being as fun as we’ve had in the planning stages, then we’re in for a great year!

What’s your ultimate career goal?

I’d love to open a hotel from scratch – to start working with a clean slate, to implement structures and procedures and work on its branding would be a great challenge. In the short term, I’d like to earn my stripes here in Edinburgh, then move into a cluster role overseeing multiple hotels within a region or a brand. You have to start walking before you start running!

What piece of advice would you give marketers entering the hotel industry now?

Research and research some more! Research your market and research the digital landscape and don’t feel limited to the traditional ways of working. Internal networking within your organization will also make your everyday work a lot easier. An understanding of how different hotel departments work and are dependent on each other is so crucial; I’m a firm believer in cross-training and cross-exposure to other departments being so beneficial, really a win-win.

 

 

 

How MICE Demand Management Influences Your Hotel’s Revenue, by Sunny

Sunny Arora, Product Marketing Manager, Cvent

Sunny Arora, Product Marketing Manager, Cvent

 

Sunny Arora is Product Marketing Manager with 10 years of experience working at Cvent and passionate about the Hospitality Industry. Here, Sunny introduces hotel sales and marketing professionals to technological developments that should be embraced as a matter of course in today’s fast paced Meetings market.

The days of flooding sales with fruitless leads are gone. Today, every hotel professional in the industry needs to know the bottom line revenue they’re seeing, rather than just the number of leads the sales team responds to.

The hotel industry is truly dependent on identifying profitable customers by their propensity to book venues. However, the enormous industry means meeting planners always have a plethora of venue options to choose from. To ease the RFP process, meeting planners prefer sending theirs online all at once. Without a streamlined way of managing this huge RFP demand, it’s really difficult for hoteliers to prioritize and identify profitable proposals.

Unfortunately, hoteliers spend far too much time and energy drafting proposals, and as a result, lose other opportunities in the pipeline. Most hoteliers need one useful platform that can take care of their MICE business needs – from generating demand to managing it.

The need of the hour is a solution that can primarily address these top three pain points:

Effectively Prioritising RFPs

There is a constant fear among hoteliers of missing out on business by not replying to RFPs quickly enough. Thankfully, solutions like Cvent’s Group Demand Management can help prioritize and evaluate these RFPs.

With the help of this simple yet effective scoring methodology, hotels and venues can evaluate any business lead and overcome the anxiety of losing profitable business.

Sending Competitive Bids

On average, planners usually receive 12 to 15 proposal bids. So creating a winning quote is always a time-consuming task for the Hoteliers. The need in the industry is to get that one platform, that provides the intelligence hotels want in order to send market competitive bids and make informed business decisions.

Managing Multiple Channels

More and more hotels have developed their websites that allow guests to book their property directly. However, these websites also offer huge business opportunities if deployed with a simple widget, which works as a hub and connects hoteliers with planners coming from different channels, all while keeping these demands centralized in one common platform.

Opportunely, today the Industry has Cvent’s Group Demand Management, which can take care of all this and much more, and offers a range of features that provide flexibility & enhanced efficiency to hoteliers.

 The Cvent Hospitality Cloud is an end-to-end platform that enables hotels and meeting venues to generate, manage, and measure group demand. In a nutshell, the Hospitality Cloud platform combines software and digital marketing solutions that enable hoteliers to manage and assess their group leads, while connecting them with event planners looking to source venues.

Cvent is headline sponsor at the Hotel Marketing Awards 2017. 

 

Time to Mowgli-up your hotel’s and restaurant’s digital game… or Louie-away!

Hannah Béraud-Hindi, HB Digital Marketer

Hannah Béraud-Hindi, HB Digital Marketer

 

Remember childhood Disney classic the Jungle Book?

“I wanna be like you ouhouuuu, walk like you, talk like you, that’s true ouhouhhh” …

In this crazy scene, the monkey King Louie – which is part of the ‘bad guys’ – is singing “I wanna be like you”, referring to his wish to look, behave like, and in the end, become human like Mowgli – the main character.

The ‘King Louie Effect’ – or how strong brands are dying

Too many independent hotels and restaurants, when they identify a need to communicate online – using digital toolsor social media – suddenly turn into King Louies. Their first reflex when starting to think about what they need: look at what competitors have/do online and ask for the same – same type of website as hotel/restaurant X or Y or same style of content as the Instagram page of hotel/restaurant X or Y.

Looking for inspiration, why not. But every business is different! Hotels and restaurants do not have the same clients, are not located in the same area, do not serve the same food. So why even try to look like one another?! Have hoteliers and restauranteurs forgotten all about their brand USPs that they suddenly need to copy/paste what others do?

Let’s do a very simple test, in order to show you what we mean: take two hotels’ Instagram pages or two restaurants’ websites and compare them.

 

  • First observation: they all look the same!

IMG_6235-400x711      IMG_6234-400x711

  • Second observation: their real life brand image has been wiped-off their online platforms, leading luxury hotels to resemble a Formula 1 property online.

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The worst part is that this King Louie Effect has reached the most high-end hotels and restaurants in the industry, recently including the hotel collection Relais & Chateaux for instance. R&C threw 60 years of strong brand positioning to the bin for a quick deal with Air B n B (BFM TV).

Maybe this short-term move is not a problem, especially if used in addition to additional long-term strategies.

Unfortunately, independent hotels only implement the short-term pieces. And when luxury hotels, 5 star properties, which are known for selling unique, personalised, memorable experiences to their guests for very high budgets are suddenly ending-up looking and feeling like ‘just another hotel‘; then what is the point in picking these luxury hotels over a Formula 1 ?!

Hotels & Restaurants have reached the ‘Baloo Moment’

The hospitality sector was one of the first to become 100% Uberised:  relying on the Internet to generate bookings and sales. With this radical change of game rules, the number one priority was to get on board the digital wagon as quickly as possible, not to miss any business opportunity.

The result of that was the rise of OTAs and other referral websites, offering ‘easy’, ‘quick’ solutions for hotels or restaurants to boost their visibility. The joke is that no one really thought about the longer-term challenges brought by this new online game, including the trap of relying 100% on OTAs to get any sort of revenue!

Same story on the social media side: restaurants and hotels’ number one priority these past 10 years was their number of fans, number of likes. Fake digital gurus, social media geeks and other fake geniuses who noticed the trend, came up with a little magic trick of their own to please hotels’ and restaurants’ ‘sugar cravings’: algorythms! Running after big numbers, not a problem at first. But on the long-term, what is the point of having 100K Instagram followers and only 1 real person in your restaurant during rush hour? A big restaurant group will not have any problem spending huge budgets on digital, implementing every shiny new tool, or setting up x amount of algorithms. It is another story for independent restaurants/hotels who have limited budgets and can’t afford the same method if they want to have any sort of return. Their only asset: their independent brand, their personality.

In this extract of the Jungle Book, Baloo wanted to distract King Louie by dressing up like him and dancing with him, in order to give a chance to Mowgli to escape. Hotels and restaurants settling for short-term solutions, dressing-up like one another, spending their (already limited) resources to create a distraction and make their consumers/guests believe they have upgraded their strategy and adapted to their new behaviours, have reach the “Baloo Moment”: they are being uncovered and are paying the price for it!

Time to Mowgli-Up !

The next generation of consumers is demanding, super-informed, and super-connected. You can’t fool us. We are no King Louies ! Time for hotels and restaurants to realise they won’t be able to hide under their Baloo costume much longer. Time to translate the unique customer relationship hospitality is known for online and bring back that human touch to your digital strategies:

  • Revise your marketing investments to communicate online AND offline
  • Setup a proper short-term AND long-term communication strategy!

A new year has just begun, what better time to set some new digital strategy resolutions?

You can read about how HB DIGITAL can help you create more human digital relationships over here – consider it her 2017 gift to the Hotel Marketing Association community!

 

Digital Marketing for the modern day hotel marketer by Karla Pearce

Karla Pearce, Cvent's Product Marketing Manager EUROPE

Karla Pearce, Cvent’s Product Marketing Manager EUROPE

After spending ten years in marketing for hotel chains, I have never seen a bigger change in digital marketing than in the last five years.

In a bulletin by Adobe, it was mentioned that marketing has changed more in the past two years than in the past fifty.

Based on a broad survey of marketing by Adobe, less than half (48%) of professionals who consider themselves primarily digital marketers feel highly proficient in digital marketing. A majority of digital marketers haven’t received any formal training in digital marketing, and 82% report learning on the job.

The hotel industry has remained, in my opinion, a bit in the dark ages regarding digital marketing, mostly because a lot of it was outsourced to agencies. This left only a few positions within the hotel exposed to the information and trends the agencies brought to the table.

The solidification of the revenue and marketing manager role helped the hotel industry keep up with technology, making the two relatively new roles a necessity to every hotel. More hotels now have a consolidated marketing and revenue strategy and are growing these departments to stay competitive.

It isn’t a surprise that key stakeholders like the director of sales and general managers struggle to keep up with digital marketing trends generated by other hospitality companies. It is clear to me that hotels that are open to new ways of selling their property are usually the ones thriving.

Take video marketing as an example, in my opinion, the star of digital marketing. This tool is essential to any hotel’s marketing strategy. Thanks to simple tech tools and social integration, it’s easier and more cost-effective to promote your brand, drive traffic and engagement, and convert leads into booked business.

The key, in my opinion, is education – directors of sales and general managers are extremely busy and have an enormous weight on their shoulders to make the hotel profitable, leaving them with little time to catch up with the latest trends in digital marketing.

At Cvent, we acknowledge this and decided to create an educational white paper that will help sales, marketing, and management teams to better understand digital marketing.

We have included the essential topics below, designed especially for the MICE business, but can easily be rolled out to digital marketing in general.

  • Website experience
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Mobile Marketing
  • Digital Advertising
  • Video Marketing
  • Trends

We have also included a glossary that it is crucial for every sales, revenue, and marketing professional, including terminology such as CTR (Click through Rate), SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), and SEM (Search Engine Management).

Click here to download our whitepaper and start learning more about digital marketing!

About Karla

Karla Pearce is Cvent’s Product Marketing Manager EUROPE and previous winner of the Young Marketer of the Year Award. She has held on property and regional marketing positions with Melia Hotels International and Wyndham Hotel Group.

About Cvent

The Cvent Hospitality Cloud is an end-to-end platform that enables hotels and meeting venues to generate, manage, and measure group demand. In a nutshell, the Hospitality Cloud platform combines software and digital marketing solutions that enable hoteliers to manage and assess their group leads, while connecting them with event planners looking to source venues.

 

HMA Spotlight on… Steve Manfield

 

Steve Manfield Carlson Rezidor

Steve Manfield, Area Marketing Director UK & I, Carlson Rezidor

Next up in our HMA Spotlight series is Steve Manfield, Area Marketing Director UK & Ireland for Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group. Steve also won the Wild Card category at the Hotel Marketing Awards 2014 for Radisson Blu’s The Experience Meetings Roadshow. 

Tell us a bit about yourself and your history in hotel marketing

I’m Steve Manfield and I am a hotel marketer! I have been working in hospitality marketing for virtually my entire career. I started as a junior co-ordinator for the Special Events department at Hilton, creating and marketing specialist event packages for the UK leisure market. This was a great role to cut my teeth in the industry, in everything from direct marketing to revenue management and operations. I then held various roles in both the International and UK marketing teams at Hilton before moving to my current role at Carlson Rezidor.

What’s your current role?

I joined Carlson Rezidor 4 years ago as Marketing Director for the UK & Ireland.  My role is essentially marketing our global proposition to the domestic audience, and covers everything you would expect from a full mix role – from brand marketing to tactical promotions, e-commerce, loyalty, F&B, product..….it’s quite broad!

What style/type of hotels are they?

With over 1400 hotels globally, we have brands that cover all market segments – from luxury with Quorvus Collection through to budget with our latest brand Prizeotel. Style and design is the common thread through all our brands, our core brand Radisson Blu having a strong design heritage and a reputation for hotels with iconic and stand-out features – not many brands can boast of hotels with wine towers or 25m tall aquariums in their lobbies! We opened our first Radisson Red hotel this year which is a brand built upon bold design, taking inspiration from the worlds of music, art and fashion.

What are your main responsibilities when it comes to your company’s marketing?

My responsibilities are split between developing and executing the broader marketing strategies for the leisure, business and MICE segments in the UK and Ireland in line with the global plan, and managing a team of local marketing managers responsible for the hands-on execution of all marketing activities for the individual hotels in the region. And I make the tea…!

What are the biggest challenges you face when it comes to digital marketing at present?

Put simply, reach. With the ever-growing cost of online acquisition and the dominance of OTA marketing spend, maintaining good visibility across all stages of the customer journey and driving cost-effective traffic is a major challenge, of course not just for us but all hotel companies.

Understanding the true value of digital channels is also a challenge and an area of particular focus for us currently. Getting a real view on what role a channel plays in an online sale is critical.

What is your most successful social media channel for the company and why?

We’ve had good successes on Facebook from a paid advertising perspective due to the huge audience opportunities and targeting capabilities. This has also been the social media channel that has had the biggest organic audience growth by far – it’s the most natural for a hotel brand to be present on – and we have been steadily growing referral traffic and interactions.

Going beyond using social media purely as a promotional platform, we see how our guests tell our story better than anyone, so we’re focusing on turning guests into ambassadors and amplifying guest content from social media channels through our owned channels.

What do you see being the biggest trend or new innovation in hotel marketing in the next 24 months?

Virtual Reality (VR) is starting to feature more in campaign strategies by certain brands, and think this will continue to be a growing trend as technology improves and becomes more accessible and cost effective. We have been using VR successfully already, producing virtual experiences to showcase new hotels and design schemes to investors and clients. 

If I gave you £25,000 right now to spend on your marketing, what would you do with it?

Research. Dedicating budget to test market assumptions or creative, or to learn more about a customer’s underlying needs, is seen more as a luxury than a necessity and I don’t think you can ever have enough customer insight. Where do I send the invoice?!

What are you currently steering clear of with regards marketing strategy or implementation?

Although social media remains a hugely important part of the overall brand strategy, we are actually moving away from running property specific social media channels. Perhaps controversial as social media is seen by so many as being critical, but I would question the true value in an individual hotel being on social media and dedicating the resource to maintain the desired quality and frequency of messaging – just look at the interactions as a percentage of total audience for the average hotel Facebook post. Not to say that for certain types of property this can’t work, but from a portfolio perspective we have other priorities currently.

What can you tell us about the plans for Radisson Red and what is it like to market such an exciting new brand?

There are ambitious growth plans for Red and we are aiming for 60 hotels in operation by 2020. With the second hotel about to open in Minneapolis and 14 already signed, it’s had tremendous investor interest across all markets. Red is definitely a “marmite brand” but is gaining a lot of cut through already, it will be exciting to bring to the UK. Our first hotel is scheduled to open in early 2018 in Glasgow.

What’s your ultimate career goal?

To develop and launch a new brand from conception. That would be utopia for me! I’m a hotel boy through and through so hopefully one day will get that opportunity within the industry.

What piece of advice would you give marketers entering the hotel industry now?

To not get pigeon holed in one specific discipline, and to develop a good understanding of the operation, not just the marketing function. It’s too easy for marketers to sit in the office and lose sight of what happens day-to-day in the hotels – get out there and experience the customer in their environment!

Many thanks to Steve for sharing his experiences and some top tips for modern day marketers in our industry. If you would like to participate in a future “Spotlight” feature, or would like to nominate a colleague, please email us with full details at hma@hospa.org

 

HMA Spotlight on… Caroline Cockell

Caroline Cockell, Marketing Director, Interstate Hotels

Caroline Cockell, Marketing Director,
Interstate Europe Hotels & Resorts

In the latest of our Spotlight series, we interviewed Caroline Cockell of Interstate Europe Hotels & Resorts, a leading operator of hotels, resorts and conference centres of all major franchised lodging brands throughout the UK,  Europe, and Russia/CIS.: 

Tell us a bit about your history in hotels:

This is actually my first role in hotels! My career to date has been incredibly varied, with posts in travel, retail and leisure over the last 12 years, but in terms of hotels per se, this is my first and I’m loving it.

Tell us about your current role and main responsibilities?

I’ve been in my current role as marketing director for around two years now. It’s a hugely varied role, with a large part of my job to inspire and empower our hotels to maximise their own marketing plans and activity.

My role is about trying to ensure our hotels are taking advantage of the marketing opportunities available to them, and provide them with the tools they need – be it social media or website support, PR advice or by using the relevant brand tools.

There’s not always somebody with marketing experience or expertise in every hotel team, so we’re here to make it easier for them and provide that support.

Most weeks I’m out and about, travelling between our properties to meet with hotel teams, share marketing ideas and advise on any challenges they’re facing.

What are the biggest challenges you face when it comes to digital marketing for your organisation at present?

There are numerous challenges when it comes to digital marketing, firstly the challenge of persuading people to book direct – an issue hotels and other management organisations across the country are facing, too.

The big online travel agents have a wealth of resource – both in terms of budget and marketing team size – and therefore can be everywhere at once, targeting both business and leisure travellers through multiple channels, in creative and engaging ways.

Competing for travellers’ attention and securing a direct booking is very difficult with less resource at your fingertips, but we are working hard to find more creative yet cost-effective ways to meet this challenge.

Additionally, a challenge we personally face at Interstate is the huge diversity of our portfolio. We are a white label hotel management company. We don’t own any hotels.

Every business is of equal importance to us and managing the very different marketing requirements of the brands and independent hotels we operate is a big task, but we have a great team on hand with widely varied expertise to drive performance in each scenario.

What is your most successful social media channel for the organisation and why?

Twitter is certainly our most successful channel at Interstate, due to the fact it allows us to engage directly with people and organisations.

Our properties use a variety of platforms, from Instagram to Facebook and LinkedIn. The latter are certainly useful, but it’s becoming very tough for our properties to get the organic reach they want on those platforms without putting budget into promotional posts and page boosts.

What do you see being the biggest trend or new innovation in hotel marketing in the next 24 months?

Video, in all its guises, is set to continue being an impactful marketing tool. It’s the way people want to consume information at the moment and I can’t see that changing for the foreseeable future.

However, as we’ve seen already on Facebook and Instagram, videos with subtitles are set to increase in popularity, as people continue to view content on mobile devices, often in public places, and therefore don’t necessarily want the sound.

I think this evolution of the way we use video will continue and we’ll see further innovations in the coming months and years.

If I gave you £30,000 right now to spend on your marketing, what would you do with it?

Make more videos! We’d love to create more walk-through style videos of our properties and bring what we do to life with truly engaging content.

What are you currently steering clear of with regards to marketing strategy or implementation?

In this industry, we’ve become very reliant on printed marketing collateral and so, as a team, we’re making a conscious effort to move away from it wherever we can.

For some hotels and their markets’, it may still be relevant but we’re finding, more often than not, it’s digital all the way, be it a shift towards online customer service tools, apps or simply e-mailing rather than printing documentation.

What’s your ultimate career goal?

In my current position, it’d be fantastic to be able to do more, for more hotels. I work within a very talented marketing team, but it would be amazing to have specialist areas and members of staff within the team to provide an even better, more focused marketing support service to our properties.

I very much believe that our hotel owners’ businesses come first, and so to be in a position with my career to deliver even more for them would be a great feeling.

What plans does Interstate have afoot?

We’re experiencing a period of strong growth at the moment. Just recently we announced another 13 hotels in our signed pipeline, taking our UK portfolio to more than 70 properties nation-wide.

In line with this growth, we’re working as a marketing team to continue raising the organisation’s profile and reinforce our position as a leading third-party hotel management company.

Thanks to Caroline for a fantastic overview of her strategies, challenges and opportunities. If you would like to participate in a future “Spotlight” feature, or would like to nominate a colleague, please email us with full details at hma@hospa.org

 

POKÉMON GO: WHAT IS IT, AND HOW CAN MY HOTEL PROFIT FROM IT?

Jamie Patterson is trivago UK’s Global B2B Marketing Blog & Communications expert. All hail Jamie as she puts us in the picture on WTF is Pokemon Go and how the hotel marketing community can get in on the action. 

 

jamie patterson

Jamie Patterson, trivago

As I’m writing this, Pokémon GO is being downloaded in the UK faster than you can say “Bob’s your uncle.” Chances are pretty good that by the time you start reading this, your street is enjoying an increase in foot traffic. Not because it’s summer, but because there’s something bringing people (and their cell phones) together, and luring them all out into the streets.

Not sure what I’m talking about? Take a look out of your front window or down the alleyway. Notice a bunch of people huddled together looking at their phones? How about over by the old church or next to the statues in the centre of town?

Ah, yes. Now you see them. Those packs of people leaning on the wall by the town’s ashen war memorial, looking at their smartphone and chatting animatedly.

Those people represent the biggest opportunity for your hotel business this summer. So take a good look at them.

They’re probably at a PokéStop or a PokéGym. And if you don’t know what that means, don’t worry, I’m here to explain.

Rather than just writing off Pokémon GO as some fad for teenagers who think socialising is taking selfies on Snapchat, pay attention. I am going to walk you through the basics of Pokémon GO as it relates to your hotel, and then I’ll give you a couple ways to directly capitalise on its soaring popularity.

WHAT IS POKÉMON GO?

Pokémon GO is a free-to-play game available via a mobile app that leverages GPS and AR (augmented reality). The game is being released in stages by gaming tycoon Nintendo and is being developed by the Google-backed joint venture Niantic.

This modern take on the classic RPG (role playing game) Pokémon is called Pokémon GO. It utilises Google’s GPS, bringing the gaming world and real life together through AR. This makes it exceptionally unique. Contributing to the hype is the fact that the average person can access this AR experience free of charge. What’s more, is that it’s based on a relatable set of characters brought back to life from the nostalgic childhood of the Millennial population.

The gateway to it all is the app. Through it, Pokémon trainers (players) are brought together and sent off to rediscover their hometowns and to explore new locales on their quests to virtually “catch” Pokémon (mystical cartoon creatures).

ARE ANY BUSINESSES BENEFITTING FROM THIS CRAZE?

Pokémon GO may have just been released in the UK and in Italy mid-July, but it’s been available in Germany, the USA, Australia, and New Zealand for a week now.

That’s right. Just one week. And the impact it’s had on local businesses, particularly in the hospitality and travel sector, is inspiring.

First of all, the game revolves around the goal of collecting all of the Pokémon by “catching ‘em all.” Because it’s an AR concept, players have to use the app to see where Pokemon are hiding in everyday life. Pokémon are now found in and around various pre-existing POIs (points of interest). You know, like historical monuments, museums, public works of art, and the like.

These areas are known as PokéStops.

WHAT ARE POKÉSTOPS AND POKÉGYMS ANYWAY? 

pokemon-go-casa-do-outeiro-tuiasHere players can collect in-game goodies like “candy” to make their Pokémon stronger. The stops have been pre-determined through Ingress, another AR game by the same development team. Although many stops are significant cultural POIs, there’s also a host of public buildings, cafes, bars, and even homes that are PokéStops.

And your hotel might be one too. If so, you’re sitting on a mini goldmine.

Some restaurants in the US (Pokémon GO became available there last week) realised very quickly that their businesses were PokéStops and have been quick to capitalise. Other companies are benefiting just by having mere proximity to a stop.

One such venue reported that it’s seen a significant increase in foot traffic since the game released and that drink sales are up by 30 percent.

If your lodgings are a stop, you’ll know. There will be people coming by in droves soon enough.

In addition to stops, there are PokéGyms. These are places where gamers can train their Pokémon and make them strong and “battle ready.” They can compete in friendly competitions with other trainers (players) of the same team (there are three teams worldwide) or can engage in “battles to the death” with opposing forces.

Either way, Pokémon GO and PokéGyms provide a huge business opportunity to you.

HOW DO I GET MY HOTEL IN ON THE POKÉMON GO ACTION?

There are numerous ways in which you can join in on the fun and grow your profits at the same time. First things first, I suggest that you download the app and see firsthand what it looks like. After you’ve got a better idea of what the hype is about, try the following in and around your hotel.

Let locals Know with a Sandwich Board and classic advertising. Sometimes the simplest approach to advertising and marketing is the best.

Although this game is available from everywhere from Down Under to America to Europe—with plans to launch in Asia soon—it’s still highly local. It’s encouraging people to get out of their homes (and offices) and into the streets of their communities to rediscover cultural assets, where subsequently, they may find Pokémon.In the US, museums that had been struggling to survive have enjoyed surges in guests and foot traffic because they happen to be stops.

Let passers-by know if you’re a stop or a gym. If you’re not, offer deals to game players to encourage them to visit.

For example: On your quest to “catch ‘em all”? Stop by for a refreshment in our hotel bar and enjoy a Pokémon trainer exclusive discount.

You can try other messages too. This game is played on smartphones and presumably, takes up a considerable amount of battery power. Encourage players to recharge at your hotel with a message like this: En route to the next PokéStop and your battery’s about to die? We’ve got charging cables for (enter phone types here). Come on in and borrow one for a while.

Phone chargers have never been more affordable, so I suggest you stock up on several major varieties.

LURE IN PROSPECTIVE GUESTS

Slack-for-iOS-Upload-1Though the Pokémon GO game is free to play, there are a couple things that can be purchased. One of these things is called a Lure Module.

Lure Modules can be gained through regular gameplay for free, but if you’re looking for some more immediate action, you can affordably buy and drop a Lure.

I highly recommend that you do this for your business. And tell people about it. Each Lure Module costs about US$1 (75p) and gives you 30 minutes of Pokémon luring. Buy several and set one every hour on the hour for the duration of your opening hours. If you do go this route, try a message like this on your Hotel News feature: We’ve heard there’s Pokémon around here, so we’ve got our Lure Module set constantly.

You know the restaurant I mentioned earlier, the one that saw beverage sales increase by 30 percent? They spent US$10 (£7.50) on Lure Modules to encourage that extra business.

So, are you out to “catch ‘em all” when it comes to converting players into patrons?

 

You can get more tips from Jamie and trivago by following the trivago Hotelier Hub UK blog.

 

 

 

 

 

Five step guide to generating direct hotel bookings

In this month’s Branding Notes, Harry Fielder of Umi Digital shares his must-do tips for hotels seeking greater direct booking engagement. Over to you, Harry….

Harry Fielder, Umi Digital

Harry Fielder       Umi Digital

Umi Digital was set up in 2010 for one major reason, which was to empower hotels and hospitality business to drive direct revenue online. Since then we have seen the competition for online dominance explode with the OTAs, now becoming some of the largest marketing companies on earth, spending inordinate amounts on advertising every year. Over the last six years there have been a great many changes on and offline, but we have seen the five pillars of achieving competitive advantage remain largely the same. Across the Umi network we get the chance to see all sorts of marketing approaches but without fail, the best hotel marketing efforts follow the following points closely.

1. Cohesive Online Presence

A hotel’s online presence has a great many touch points online and offline. The online touchpoints may cover:

  1. Website
  2. Booking Engine
  3. TripAdvisor
  4. OTA Listing
  5. Social Media
  6. Newsletters
  7. Google Maps

A prospective guest will usually experience at least three or four of these touch points prior to every booking they make, so it is essential that all the information across these mediums is consistent. While consistency in information is crucial, so too is the consistency in brand and voice. If your facebook page is super jovial and casual and your newsletter is written in prosaic formal language then the prospect will experience something called cognitive dissonance, or a clash in meaning which will leave them confused.

Google have recently shown that guests actually visit an average of 21 different websites before making their decisions and 87% will check and be affected by the social media presence of a hotel. These two statistics combined show that it is absolutely essential to have highly converting, sticky website and cohesive and holistic approach to all brand display online.

2. Multiple Booking Methods

Catering for absolutely everybody is often a sure fire way of confusing things, but you are shooting yourself in the foot if you do not offer at least a few different ways for people to book. At a minimum a guest should be able to:

Clearly see a phone number to make a booking.
Clearly see an email address or contact form to enquire further.
Book online using a non-OTA booking engine.

Choosing the right booking engine is a topic for another day, but there are certainly a number of cost effective solutions out there. One we highly recommend is Globres, which is a version of the Synxis engine but tailored to independent hotels.

So this is your minimum. To go further, you may wish to implement Live Chat on your website so people can book through an instant message or support WhatsApp so they can simply text the reservations desk. We all have our favourite means of communications and your guests will as well. Different demographics are more familiar with different types of technology so don’t leave potential guests struggling to book if they find themselves wanting to come direct!

3. Leverage the OTAs

While Umi Digital are fairly guilty of OTA bashing most of the time, there are occasions where we need to step back from our intolerance of the 20% commission rates and over-reliance hotels have on them. They are damn good at one thing. Marketing. They will get your hotel in front of more people that is reasonable to achieve on your own and this does not have to be a bad thing for direct bookings. We are seeing that a great many people that visit your listing on the likes of booking.com subsequently visit your webiste. This is the opportunity to capture them directly! Too often it is the case that the guest simply returns to the OTA because of the easier, more intuitive booking process.

If you understand that OTA visitors will visit your website then you can get into the mindset of what you might like to see to draw you to book direct as opposed to going back to the OTA to book. The first and most important part of this is to offer something the OTAs cannot.

4. Compete on Value

Price parity rules state that neither party can undercut the other, but this works in two ways – you can offer a best rate guarantee and claim that you are the best price on the internet. All of which is technically true! Price parity works in two ways.

Aside from price, the advantage that you have over the OTAs is that they cannot be as creative about added value. There is absolutely nothing stopping you advertising things like a free breakfast to those who book direct or a bottle of wine if they stay two nights. The reason that ‘best price guarantees’ and added value should be so front and center is that 76% of guests genuinely believe they can get a better deal through an OTA. You need to show prospects that this is not the case. It has also been shown 85% people (Google, 2016) are actually brand agnostic and will consider many different options every time they book. This shows the opportunity, you just need to showcase your product in the right way.

5. Adapt Over time

Even if all your efforts on the four points above have generated success in the short term your performance will decline if your online presence goes neglected. Websites are no longer billboards or static catalogues, they are living breathing things that are meant to be changed frequently. The first step is to ensure your menus, galleries and other text is always up to date, remembering that this information often features on mediums like Google Places, Facebook ‘about us’ and more. There is nothing more frustrating to a guest than unmatched expectations and incorrect information.

Building on this, the successful hotel will also be proactive in making sure the entire online presence is kept fresh by taking advantage of:

  1. New booking technologies.
  2. New engagement opportunities like Live Chat.
  3. New content mediums such as videos, drone photography, 360 virtual experience etc.
  4. Keeping on top of design trends and making sure the design  caters to the way your guest uses your website.
  5. Fresh perspectives on hotel marketing and never being afraid to try something new.

 

NB: This is advertorial content. To enquire about placing advertorial content with the HMA please email hma@hospa.org 

 

HMA Spotlight On… Patrick Farrell

Patrick Farrell

Patrick Farrell

In the first of our new Spotlight series, we interviewed Patrick Farrell, presently with The Wellesley in London: 

To kick off, tell us a bit about your history in hotels

Originally from Galway in the west of Ireland, I have worked in hotels for the past ten years. I received a diploma in International Hotel Marketing from Shannon College of Hotel Management in Ireland, paired with a Bachelor of Commerce, specialising in Marketing from National University of Ireland, Galway. I began my first marketing based role whilst in Dubai working for Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts. I began as a Rooms Marketing Executive which involved assisting each Jumeirah hotel and resort in Dubai with rooms marketing activities, which included major revenue generating campaigns, such as ‘Winter Flavours’ and ‘Summer Flavours’. I then progressed to become a Digital Marketing Executive, focusing on one hotel, the iconic Jumeirah Beach Hotel. This was at a very exciting time as social media played a big part of that role, whereas it didn’t exist a few years previously. I then moved to London with Jumeirah, to be Marketing and PR Executive at Jumeirah Carlton Tower and Jumeirah Lowndes Hotel in Knightsbridge. I worked there for two-and-a-half years before moving to The Wellesley to lead the marketing and communications for the hotel.

Tell us about The Wellesley and your current role?

The Wellesley is known as London’s finest-boutique grand hotel located in Knightsbridge/Hyde Park Corner. The hotel is young in comparison to its long-standing neighbours, having opened in December 2012.  As Marketing and Communications Manager, I am responsible for managing and delivering the day-to-day marketing and public relations activity, online and offline, for the hotel whilst being required to support the delivery of hotel revenue targets. It’s an exciting role for me, and my first independent hotel to work for in a marketing capacity.

What style/type of hotel is it? 

The hotel is classed as ‘boutique-grand’. Some might find this a juxtaposition, but I find it really explains what The Wellesley truly stands for. With just 36 bedrooms, it really is a ‘boutique’ hotel, but guests experience the ‘grand’ element the minute the door is opened by our doorman. Attention to detail in the construction and finishing touches was paramount to our owner and this has served extremely beneficial to me and the wider teams, in terms of promoting what is a real unique find in London.

What are your main responsibilities when it comes to your hotel’s marketing?

I oversee the promotion and awareness of the hotel across all markets, which I often refer to as ‘reputation management’. PR is still a very important and influential channel for us so I employ an agency to attract key media from the UK and US markets. The value of a good online review from a prominent media outlet online can last a very long time so ensuring we are targeting relevant media outlets is key to us at The Wellesley. ‘Traditional’ marketing, such as print brochures and leaflets for distribution within the hotel, are still quite important to us as many of our guests and visitors like to take something with them, as a memory per se. Working with quality printers is key. I’d much rather create artwork in-house, rather than outsourcing as you save time and money. But this isn’t always possible, as you cannot beat the expertise offered by (some) agencies. I work with a digital agency to ensure our PPC and SEO efforts are performing efficiently. Social media also falls under my remit, which I am a big fan of and very protective of!

What are the biggest challenges you face when it comes to digital marketing for your hotel at present?

The largest chunk of my marketing budget is currently spent on digital activity: everything from search and display ads, selected social media advertising and also third party partnerships. I am always aiming to improve the ROI with digital spend and this is easily trackable, which makes my role justifiable!
At The Wellesley, our key source market is the Middle East, so creating relevant, compelling offers for those countries is very important. Not having the resources in place in those countries to support our marketing activity can sometimes be a challenge. For example, I do not employ a dedicated Arabic translator or team in the Middle East, so I’m potentially missing out on new audiences there. Another challenge which I sometimes face is convincing my Executive Team internally the value of digital marketing and the importance of being digital savvy and investing in the right areas.

What is your most successful social media channel for the hotel and why?

I would say Facebook is our most successful channel to date, based on the number of referrals we receive. We are active on the other main channels, (Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ and YouTube), however, I find the targeting and scheduling options on Facebook a real winner. From a visual point of view, Instagram wins hands down, and we do maintain quite a healthy engagement rate there but as with anything, there is always room for improvement and optimisation, which reminds me of a quote in the back of my mind an esteemed General Manager told me years ago: “The largest room in any hotel is the one for improvement”.

What do you see being the biggest trend or new innovation in hotel marketing in the next 24 months? 

Mobile messaging and targeting. Users (guests) are spending more and more time on their phones. At The Wellesley, we have implemented a WhatsApp reservation service, which connects guests directly to our reservations team via mobile messaging. I have found this a very popular channel with a fantastic ROI. At the end of the day it’s all about giving potential (and current) guests a choice, a convenient way to book their stay with us.

If I gave you £10,000 right now to spend on your marketing, what would you do with it? 

Mobile optimisation and investing in website translation / adaptation per market. It’s so important to realize that not all users read your content the same way. Some markets prefer image-led displays whilst others, (particularly in Asia), prefer facts, which generally means straight-to-the-point text about your hotel. I would also invest more in subtle, dynamic marketing and remarketing via online channels and try to be on the top of the users’ minds when they decide to book their stay in London.

What are you currently steering clear of with regards marketing strategy or implementation?

I’m not a fan of the pushy pop-ups asking the user to fill in their details before they leave a website. Specifically, in the luxury market, we need to be very careful. In order to keep users on a site, it’s my job to devise an experiential journey on our website.

What’s your ultimate career goal? 

I have some exciting projects that I’m currently working on and one big one just about to begin, after which I would love to be in a position where I am leading the marketing function across a brand and providing inspiration for the younger generation of hotel marketers. Taking all the experience I’m building up now, I aim to open my own marketing consulting agency, but I have a lot to learn until then…

Thanks to Patrick for providing our members with such great insight into his role and career to date. If you would like to participate in a future “Spotlight” feature, or would like to nominate a colleague, please email us with full details at hma@hospa.org 

 

 

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