I just received the list of most popular articles from hotelmarketing.com and am republishing it here. I couldn’t find it on their site and emailed them to publish it but am not sure if that’s going to happen any time soon since they also announce that they’re on holidays until January.
Looking through the list is quite interesting. I wrote about it in a Google+ post (which has limited distribution) so am republishing the content of that post here:
Just went through the hotelmarketing.com‘s list of most popular articles in 2011. An excellent list, reading through the list alone is a great analysis of what’s happening in the hospitality world. Here’s my analysis of the scene: Feel free to add yours.
1. Hoteliers are more and more worried about their dependency on OTAs. Rate Parity problems, Cutting availability to OTAs being flagged and more.
2. Hoteliers still haven’t figured out how to yield results from social media. And nobody blames them. The stats talk for themselves: while social media brings lots of visits and can be used as a branding strategy the conversion of those visitors is much lower than on search. And what should we talk about?
3. Hoteliers want more direct. OK that’s nothing new, it’s the eternal problem of every industry, how to increase direct sales.
4. Hoteliers are searching for new marketing ideas. The posts with catchy headlines like Google+ will re-shape search… andGroupon and Expedia… are high on the list indicating that new ideas are definitely on their mind, even if many are just not mature yet. It leads me to believe that the common phrase that hoteliers are not up-to-date is just wrong, they are probably more careful and aren’t going to invest heavily into stuff that doesn’t work.
5. Big names still work best. I guess this isn’t limited to hotels but if there is Facebook, TripAdvisor, Google, Kayak or other big name in the headline it just gets much more readers. That’s just one of the PR laws, big names sell.
It’s probably more revealing as a trend to see what posts were most read and shared than the content of the posts. It gives a great crowdsourcing of hotel marketers interests (at least those that read hotelmarketing.com).
With the analysts at WIHP we’re constantly crunching numbers. How many visits before clients book, what countries book most, what links are the best, how do they find the hotel, what pages are most interesting, how fast the booking goes etc. Good marketing is based on lots of analysis and I think every good marketer out there knows that. I thought it would be fun to share some of the numbers, so I got an infographic made with some of them and it’s pretty cool. Here are the booking trends in the independent hotel market as an infographic.
Very interesting stats, and definitely reflective of our observations. Key takeaways: (1) Your home page MUST be optimized for conversions; (2) You need to be visible in conventional search, have good reputation with prior guests, AND be on the OTAs; (3) your website must stand out as providing something different.
To which I added that you need to have a booking engine that’s designed to convert. With 44% of user time spent on the booking engine if it’s somewhat complicated, slow or not representative of the hotel you’re going to lose conversion since the OTAs have some pretty good booking engines.
With no further ado, here is the hotel booking trends infographic:
There’s a project we’re working on at WIHP which I am quite excited about. It’s in beta, even though it produces quite well already, and we’re constantly adding features and correcting little things with it. It’s called www.explorotel.com.
The idea came about from a few different viewpoints, one a few of us had been booking hotels for vacations and found that existing OTAs are everything but user-friendly. If you don’t know what hotel you want to stay at and if you don’t know the city you are going then locating a hotel can be a drag. For example, you find a hotel in a city that is within your budget, the location seems OK, then you click on the hotel’s page to look at the photos and to your horror, the place looks like it was the set for an Alfred Hitchcock movie. When you click back your search criteria are gone and you can start all over again.
And this can go on for hours until you find the hotel you want. That was the user viewpoint.
Then came the programmer viewpoint, some of the engineers at WIHP are speed-freaks, and correctly so. They were tired of seeing sites that took forever to load the first page and wanted something well structured that could build into something large and remain fast on load. So they went to town as well.
And then was the hotelier viewpoint, the cost. They needed something that would give them a good return on investment. So we worked out two ways of subscribing to the system, one was a fixed price membership and for those that didn’t want to take the risk, the classical commission system.
We called it Explorotel because it’s sort of a new way to search and explore a hotel listing. The idea is that the user gets maximum control of the listing and can search with all the criteria he wants and in the end find what he is looking for.
For example some of us (me included) really want to see the room of the hotel before we book. Even more important than the location is the comfort of the hotel and will it be a proper comfort. We made a “photo search” tab where you put in your city, then price range and search for a hotel.
We also thought a fun and practical way to search for hotels is against the map of the city. But we wanted to do two things, one speed up map search – this is typically a tremendously long and complex loading procedure especially if you’re going to have prices showing immediately. And that was the challenge, to have dynamic pricing against the map of the city. While it isn’t yet perfect it’s pretty fast and works quite well.
Then we needed wanted help guests with reviews, real reviews from people that have stayed at the hotel and we figured that being able to sort the hotels by the type of guests or reviews would be helpful too. For example, if you’re looking for the best value hotel in a city, you can find it. If you’re looking for the cleanest hotel in the city you can find that too.
These are just some of the features, as you navigate through the site you’ll probably notice a whole bunch more. For example every page and search mode has a real url which means you can link to an exact search criteria and send it to a friend. You can also create an anonymous listing of selected hotels and share that with a friend. The list goes on, try it out and have fun. As a hotelier you can submit your hotel to the list by contacting us, however for the moment we’re only accepting hotels that have Synxis booking engine or Availpro.
We’ve taglined the project with “Rethink hotel search” and I think it’s quite appropriate since many of these are new ways to make hotels more visible on the internet and thus help both hoteliers and guests.
If you’ve got ideas you want to share feel free to comment on this article, we’re open to everything. It doesn’t mean we will implement them all but we’ll definitely look at them and get in touch with you.
1. The more you respond, the more you are showing the world you are “addicted” to guest reviews. and the more the guests will use that as leverage to get free nights.
2. The more attention you pay to something, the bigger it gets. Following that logic, if you’re answering all bad reviews on your hotel, you are just making those reviews more important.
Now that doesn’t mean you should respond to reviews (I think that title might be a bit abusive) but respond to some reviews. Show that you care for the guest and those with valid points – acknowledge that the guest has a valid point and fix the problem internally.
Review sites have pushed us hoteliers to level up on our services and increase the care factor for the guests. It is a very healthy progress! But like anything a fixation in any direction isn’t healthy. So remember that you are there to care for the people in the hotel and make sure they’re having an excellent experience.
Here is a tip if you find you’re engulfed in online reviews, hang around the front desk every morning at the time of checkout and TALK TO REAL PEOPLE ask them how it went and get some real feedback from them, if something went wrong do something for the guest immediately to make it right. But stay real!
One of our clients in Rome (Hotel Abruzzi) was facing low season and instead of doing the usual thing of seeing his occupancy levels crash or lower his ADR to about a third of the usual rates he did something new and risky.
We had the idea of trying out a Pay-what-you-want rate in a hotel. None of our clients (independent hotels) had tried anything like this before and not many of them had the courage to risk it.
Faced with monthly bills and banks knocking on their doors your average independent hotel owner is pretty ADR dependent (or RevPAR for those that have realized it’s value).
Hotel Abruzzi decided he could face the challenge and so we went to their Facebook page and announced a new idea: See the article on Facebook here.
The idea isn’t just a pay-what-you-want but rather a “monetized review” of the hotel. As the guest leaves the hotel, he/she fills out a review form of the hotel and puts a value to each point he wants to pay most for.
See the form by clicking on the image to the right.
And unlike what we would initially think, this worked out great. Most people being honest people they did an honest review and paid a price comparable to what the hotel was selling on their site.
Of course there’s no safety net here. You could have those guests that just pay almost nothing and leave, well it’s a risk. But just like on review sites, if you do a good job, you’ll get a great reward!
If you want to start a heated discussion with an independent hotelier, talk to him about Tripadvisor. People either love it or hate it, and those that don’t do either, ignore it.
No doubt, hotel reviews on the internet has forced hotels to up their service level and care. In the past many could get away with mediocre service and mediocre rates. Now that’s not the case anymore, cheap or expensive, hotels need to service their customers and leave a great impression.
But what’s the future going to look like? Will we still have a single site directing so much of the public opinion? Well unlike sites like Google and Facebook that actually perform functions, Tripadvisor provides raw information. And many other sites provide similar information too.
This is where the future of hotel reviews (and other review sites as well) is likely to shift. For the end user, the best experience would be to have a glance on the hotel on a single page. Something similar to Google Places but with a better view.
And that’s where I think hotel reviews will go. Additionally, false reviews will not have such an impact on such a system since a single comment wont have such an impact.
- HotelMarketing.com’s most popular of 2011
- ZMOT and hotel marketing
- Where hotels should get new guests [INFOGRAPHIC]
- Hotel Booking Trends an Infographic
- Five ways a hotel can use Google+
- Top referring sites for Hotels by WIHP
- How to Successfully open a hotel
- How do they find us?
- Do’s and Don’ts for a Hotel Website
- The role of Interior design in Hotel Internet Marketing