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).
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.
Probably 60% of all the hotels are to some degree dependent on OTAs. Meaning the OTAs are bringing them more than 40% of their business.
The common problem for hoteliers is how to increase their revenue with a limited stock of rooms per day and any day lost can’t be recovered. Once they have worked out how to fill the hotel, the dilemma is often how to decrease the market share of OTAs and increase their direct bookings. For those of you who aren’t hoteliers OTAs take up to 30% commissions on the bookings they send to hotels. That is a large part of the hotel’s profit.
Back in 2008 when I was the director of Hotel Taylor in Paris (a three star boutique hotel) I was living that dilemma every day. The hotel had just been renovated and was becoming quite popular on OTA sites, so much so that I had month where 80% of my revenues came from OTAs. While I welcomed the revenues it was obvious that this model would not last. It became urgent to work out a strategy to shift to direct bookings. Here is how we did it (and I say we because this was a teamwork between the hotel and our internet marketing agency).
We contacted the best webmarketing agency in our area (WIHP, which is where I work now) and told them to make the best website they could. We gave them carte blanche and told the designers that the site has to be better than anything on the market. The site they made was this one www.paristaylorhotel.com some key elements where, full-screen images, easy navigation, easy to book from anywhere in the site.
2. Invest in your online marketing strategy
We took two thirds of the OTA commission budget and invested it into online marketing. Working with pay-per-click advertising, blogs and every possible means of direct marketing they had to offer. We weren’t going to make much more profit, but we wanted to be independent.
3. Use Social Media
We started working Social medias, blogs, Facebook and any other medium we could find to get in direct contact with future guests. We had to get out there and make the hotel known to real people that were all potential guests for us.
4. Print advertising
To make things worse, aside from the OTA dependency we also had a recession well on the way. So we went even further and bought print advertising signed contracts for full page ads in travel magazines. It was expensive and the smaller hotels had not tried it before. Most of our friends thought we were crazy, but we trusted our strategy.
5. Keep working with OTAs
OTAs are not evil, they’re just expensive. So of course we didn’t shut them out and start some kind of revolution. But since our direct bookings took over most of our inventory, we didn’t have much to sell through them anymore. However we kept them all going and paid our commissions. Even if they were rather small.
6. Best Rate Guarantee on your website
This is always a heated subject, but you need to decide where you’re going to put your future.
With about one year of work, applying the strategy, spending the money, we created a reputation for ourselves and currently have a hotel that is known by the public and booked at an average of 88% over the year. With an ADR that doubled on 24 month. It’s not undoable, but it takes some courage and it takes being backed by a strong marketing agency that knows what they’re doing.
Some month ago I posted about the importance of a booking engine. At the time it was based on the fact that we (WIHP) had analysed the average time spent on a booking engine often exceeded the time spent on the website.
And that fact hold. Over 50% of the time spent (and pages viewed) by clients is on the booking engine.
This means booking engine’s better be easy to navigate and fast to close the sale. The design factor is key, anything complicated and your chances of loosing the sale multiply per second.
We recently did the test, taking the former booking engine from a hotel which wasn’t much of a design feat and then putting on a properly designed version of Synxis on the same hotel. Almost one for one the conversion rate increased on average about 25% increase.
Why? because those customers that you would previously have lost to booking.com or expedia suddenly find the booking process so much easier that they decide to book with you.
So if you think any booking engine will do the trick… take another look at that idea. You need something well designed, smooth, and quick. If you have to pay a little more for the booking engine, it wont matter you will make that money up with increased direct sales.
Could iTunes becomes the new Paypal? In mobile shopping, it is quite hard to imagine someone pulling out their credit card in the metro and entering it on their mobile to complete the purchase of their hotel room. Not too many people would feel comfortable with that.
But what about all those people that have an iPhone who already have an iTunes account. All the booking engine would need to do is connect to iTunes, the user puts in his password and the purchase it done.
I can’t imagine that our Apple friends haven’t already started planning to change iTunes into “Apple Financial Services” or something like that and become a direct competitor to Paypal. If they do it would be that much easier for us to sell our hotel inventories to mobile users.
And all those potential guests that are wasting their time waiting for a bus or the metro could spend it searching for and booking their hotel rooms.
Maybe that’s all part of iTravel.
Aside from a very over-used marketing term, USP just means: Unique Selling Proposition or Unique Selling Point.
It is what makes you different from the rest of the competition.
A USP is not a catch phrase or a marketing tag-line. It is also not your marketing slogan. The USP is what separates you from the others. Why are you better than the others.
The tag lines and slogans are worked out afterwards to communicate that USP to the end user.
Now what many people get wrong when they try and figure out a USP is that they are not taking it from the end-user’s viewpoint. A USP has to be a benefit to the end-user. For example that your hotel has been the home of some famous person is NOT a USP. Because it just doesn’t appeal to the end-user as a personal benefit.
There are three main factors that you should analyse to work out your USP they are:
3. Value for Money
With a careful study of these three points you will be able to determine your USP.
And remember, USP is all about customer perception – it’s not necessarily an objective statement of your hotel, it’s how the customers perceive your hotel that counts.
- A viewpoint on advertising history
- 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