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The Magic Billboard Effect On Your Hotel Business!

The Billboard Effect

Hotels that reflect and feature on the websites of ‘Online Travel Agents (OTA)’ clinch an additional benefit of getting more reservations over and above direct sales. This advantage, in the hospitality industry, is often referred to as ‘Billboard Effect ’ through which hotels observe an upswing in the number of direct reservations through various connected distribution channels and hotel’s website. This effect not only quantifies the number of direct bookings but also enriches hotel’s online search. Numerous hoteliers over the globe have adopted this marketing technique to wangle an astonishingly great number of reservations through the middlemen.

Let’s see step by step what magic can the billboard effect do for your hotel business

Be as visible online as any other bigger brand

Modern travelers tend to surf dominant OTA websites before finalizing their travel plan for the sake of comparison between different hotels, locations, visitor reviews as well as best deals.Ultimately, this increases the chances of traveler visiting the hotel’s own website to seek more information once he finds it acceptable on the travel site. Essentially, Billboard effect is all about being present everywhere, as these travel giants splurge a huge amount of money in marketing and advertisements which eventually help you building your brand stature vis-à-vis the bigger established brands.

BILLBOARD EFFECT AND THE MAGIC IT CAN DO FOR YOUR HOSPITALITY BUSINESS!

Save yourself from extravagant marketing costs

Prominent OTAs spend a herculean amount on online advertising; this has significantly affected the increase in sales trend of the hotels. The precipitous rise of hotel OTAs is also because of the fact that these travel sites offer a wide range of hotels to bookers in a single place to select from instead of conducting a long and exhausting individual hotel search. Even though the booker found your reference on the OTA, many of them will still visit your website before finalizing the booking. You can easily take advantage of this opportunity to attract the guests directly while saving a lot on marketing expenditures.

Access reliance on the Billboard Effect can get a little sour

We all are aware that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Thus, use of the Billboard effect is a little bitter-sweet as trying to be present and managing a huge number of distribution sites can go little awry as well. Quite often, things go out of control when hotels receive a massive number of booking but are unable to update their inventory on all the associated site. It can lead to over-bookings which…. let’s face it, is a sticky and very unpleasant situation. Additionally, with an upsurge in the bookings through the OTA, the commission the hotel has to pay increases as well.

What should a hotelier to do? How can you take advantage of the billboard effect without facing the negative impact of the approach?

What you need to do is a complete analysis of the current situation and apply a few well-tested approaches that attracts more direct bookings compared to the OTA.

Offer the most competitive rate

When the bookers visit your website, make sure they are aware that they will get the best price while booking directly with you instead with third-party agents.

Take advantage of guest reviews

Make sure to have a lot of positive reviews on OTA portals as well as your hotel website, this will definitely impact your sales positively and attract new guests to experience your hospitality.

Responsive website and content marketing

One of most obvious methods of converting lookers into bookers is offering a smooth and user-friendly booking experience with your website. At the same time, don’t forget the importance of content marketing either through promotions, a fresh and new travel blog series or newsletter.

To conclude

Thus, it is beyond doubts that the ‘Billboard Effect’ can work in your favor enchantingly well to enhance your brand reach and online visibility. Part of the magic formula is to be unswervingly represented across all influential OTAs, succouring to strengthen your brand reputation while not losing control of the situation to maintain a win-win situation.

This article was originally published on ezeeabsolute.com

Hotel Management Software Buyer View | 2015

Hundreds of hospitality professionals contact Software Advice each year to find software that meets the needs of their properties. Digging into these interactions provides us with a great deal of insight into industry trends and buyer behaviors.

In this report, we analyze a random sample of buyer interactions from the past year to uncover the factors that drive new hotel management system (HMS) purchases.

Key Findings

  1. Hoteliers want to replace systems or automate daily duties: 34 percent are replacing a current HMS while 25 percent seek new software to replace pen-and-paper methods.
  2. Many buyers seek more advanced, integrated software: Those replacing an HMS primarily say it lacks functionality (13 percent) or doesn’t integrate with other systems (12 percent).
  3. Hoteliers seek to maximize their exposure to online travelers: More than three-quarters (77 percent) of respondents ask for online booking functions.

Introduction

In response to increased demand for lodging, bolstered by a growing class of millennial travelers, the U.S. is in the midst of a hospitality construction boom. This boom began a few years ago, as the recession tapered off: New hotel construction jumped by nearly 50 percent between 2012 and 2013, increasing about 16 percent more in 2014.

Overall travel spending has slowed in the first quarter of 2015, but it’s still rising by 2 percent annually, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. And U.S. business travel is expected to reach $295.7 billion in 2015—in due to the growth of millennial travelers, who take an average of three more trips each year than older age groups, and are 62 percent more likely to extend business trips into vacations.

This data paints a lucrative picture for hospitality companies—but without adequate software in place, they’ll be ill-prepared to handle the growth. Using an HMS can help:

  • Streamline daily tasks, such as checking guests in;
  • Manage reservations effectively; and,
  • Facilitate online bookings.

In this report, we’ll explore these and other benefits by looking at the current methods, common pain points and most requested functionality among a sample of prospective HMS buyers.

34 Percent Use Software, One-Quarter Use Paper-Based Methods

When asked what methods they use to manage their hospitality business, the largest percentage of buyers (34 percent) say they already have a hotel management system. Another one-quarter use pen-and-paper methods and 16 percent say they have no system in place at all.

Prospective Buyer’s Current Methods

Prospective Buyers’ Current Methods

Travelers today expect a certain degree of personalization when staying in a hotel. Many companies use software to handle daily tasks so they can focus on adding a human touch to guests’ stay. A software can streamline the check-in and check-out process, generate financial reports, manage housekeeping staff and more—freeing the general manager to greet guests and address their needs.

A PMS can also store and organize guest data to help hotel staff provide personal touches. A general manager might notice, for example, that a guest orders a particular wine during their stay. When that guest books another stay in the future—even if it’s at a different location of the same hotel brand—the manager can review the guest’s information and leave a bottle of the wine in their room.

Scott Sussman is the hotel and marketing director at The Peacock Inn; a 16-room independent luxury hotel with a fine dining restaurant in Princeton, New Jersey (part of the Ascend Hotel Collection by Choice Hotels). He says he’s surprised that so many buyers are using manual methods because software offers so much in terms of the “sheer organization” of reservations, guest information and distribution of hotel rates.

“[Software offers] organization not just for today and tomorrow, but for months ahead,” he explains. “It gives you the ability to handle rates and see what’s coming up.”

In this way, an HMS can help hoteliers prepare for the growth that’s expected to continue in the market.

Many Buyers From Independent Hotels Seeking Online Booking Engines

Among those replacing an existing HMS, the top response, at 14 percent, is that it’s missing necessary features and functionality.

Others say their system isn’t user-friendly (13 percent), or note that they would like an integrated system (12 percent)—meaning they want a comprehensive HMS that can perform all necessary functions, instead of using different systems for different tasks.

Top Reasons for Replacing Existing Hotel Management SystemTop Reasons for Replacing Existing Hotel Management System

Of those who cite missing features, one-quarter says they would like a system with an online booking engine. Our demographic information may help explain why an online presence is so important: 34 percent of buyers in our sample are from independent hotels while those from motels make up the second-largest percentage (16 percent). A combined majority of buyers’ properties also have fewer than 50 rooms. (Charts can be found in the Demographics section below.)

As we’ve noted in past reports, millennials are the travelers hotels want to attract most. According to data from the Pew Research Center, they also make up the largest age group in the U.S. workforce—and many of them have now reached a comfortable position in their careers, with more time and money to travel for both business and pleasure.

Boutique and independent hotels offer the type of authentic experience millennials seek, as opposed to the corporate luxury hotel offerings that dominated the hospitality industry decades ago. In response to this demand, the boutique hotel market is booming: It’s expected to grow by about 6 percent per year through 2019, according to a report by IBISWorld.

So, we can see that independent hotels are aware that having an online presence is important to attract new guests, especially millennials. They must maintain consistent rates across all online travel websites, where millennials are likely to read hotel reviews before booking. An HMS with functionality to add an online booking engine to the hotel’s website can help achieve these goals.

On an average, a traveler reads between 6-12 reviews before making a booking, making the online booking engine a crucial part of the PMS. The brand promise and expectation should be carried onto other travel websites, and it’s important for them to have a booking engine to maintain rate parity. Rate parity—meaning a hotel’s rates are consistent across all distribution channels, such as Expedia and Orbitz—is especially important when competing with other hotels in the same area.

Majority of Buyers Seek Online Booking, Reservation, and Housekeeping

Overall, more than three-quarters of buyers in our sample (both those with and without software) are looking for an HMS with online booking capabilities, while 75 percent request reservation management.

Housekeeping management (61 percent) and front desk management (58 percent) rank third and fourth in terms of desired functionality. Top-Requested Hotel Management Software Functionality

Top-Requested Hotel Management Software FunctionalityTop Reasons for Replacing Existing Hotel Management System

Reservation, housekeeping and front desk management are all core applications every hotel needs to access on a daily basis. Hospitality staff must ensure that reservations are entered into the system, that housekeeping staff is organized and on-time and that guests are checked in quickly. Aside from pure organization, these HMS applications offer several additional benefits.


Use Case: For example, below we see the reservation Stay View in eZee FrontDesk color codes for reservations can be customized—here, we see in-house guests in purple, future reservations in green and out of order room in peach. This offers a high-level look at reservations for a month ahead, allowing management to make decisions based on occupancy. Maybe a manager sees that multiple corporate groups will be arriving in a few weeks. This could prompt him to divert some housekeeping staff to clean and prepare an additional conference room. Alternatively, she might notice that many families with children are staying soon, and add more kid-friendly options to the breakfast menu.

A color-coded Stay View in eZee FrontDesk

eZee FD Stay_View

Managers can use housekeeping management functionality to keep track of which rooms are clean and ready for check-in, which are currently being cleaned and which haven’t been attended to. Overall, this helps hotels more efficiently prioritize cleanings, so guests always arrive at a clean room on time. Also, with mobile devices in hand, housekeeping staff can update a room’s status immediately after cleaning, adding to the real-time data in the system. Below, we see a PMS screen showing the status and availability of rooms and which worker is assigned. This allows managers to make informed decisions so that guest satisfaction isn’t impacted by a dirty room.

Housekeeping view in eZee FrontDesk

eZee FD House Keeping View


Finally, online booking engines give potential guests the ability to book a room from a hotel’s website, which feeds the reservation data directly into the HMS. As an added bonus, online bookings made directly through a hotel’s website allows the hotel to avoid the 15 to 25 percent commission it must typically pay online travel agencies for each booking.

Sussman reiterates how important online booking is in today’s hospitality industry.

“No one wants to call anymore,” he says. “People want to do things online, without talking to anybody—so having that option available is huge.”

Conclusions

The data provided by the HMS buyers in the sample confirms overall trends in hospitality today: Independent hotels are popping up to attract the millennial crowd, and they want to aggressively market themselves online.

Buyers should make sure the software they purchase can help them stay on top of daily responsibilities, such as managing check-ins, room cleanings, and reservations while also offering crucial online booking engine functionality.

With daily tasks streamlined by software, hotel managers can spend more time on increased personalization, which requires careful attention to individual guest behavior and habits. Travelers today expect a seamless experience—one that hotel management software can help provide.

Demographics

As mentioned above, the demographic breakdown of the sample shows that 34 percent of buyers are from independent hotels, followed by 16 percent from motels and 14 percent from inns.

Prospective Buyers by Property Type

Prospective Buyer Size, by Number of Rooms in Property

Prospective Buyer Size, by Number of Rooms in Property

Prospective Buyers by Property Type

The statistics in the above article were originally researched and analyzed by Software Advice.

[This article originally appeared on ezeefrontdesk.com]

How to Increase Bookings with TripAdvisor

Everyone knows and most likely have heard of TripAdvisor at this point in time. For the uninitiated, TripAdvisor is the world’s largest travel site with up to 280 million unique visitors each month, 32 million members and over 150 millions reviews and opinions available online.

It is traveler’s first stop to learn about a hotel they are looking into and see what other people have to say about it. And it is only growing with 90 user generated reviews per minute allowing travelers around the world to be make more informed decisions.

TripAdvisor with its Business Listing service give options to hoteliers around the world to take complete advantage of the exposure they can receive. With a Business Listing you can share your hotel’s contact information, special offers, website link, and directly connect with your guests. In addition, your contact information will be displayed on your mobile listing page as well.

Business Listings will give hotels access to:

  • Direct Contact Information:

Add up-to-date contact details to your hotel’s profile page making it easy for your travelers to book directly.

  • Special Offers:

Perfect place to highlight special promotions and offers attracting more travelers.

  • TripConnect:

This service will allow hotel subscribers to appear in Hotel Price Comparison search showing rate and availability to users.

  • Property Dashboard:

As a Business Listings subscriber, you get exclusive access to Property Dashboard which lets you access important analysis such as competitor metrics, local market trends, visitor details and overall performance of hotel on TripAdvisor.

  • Sideshow and Announcements:

This will let you post important updates and news for the readers. In addition, the photos uploaded will automatically be converted into a slideshow for your travelers viewing pleasure.


So now you got your hotel in Business Listings, So how can you make the best use of the tools provided? Read on to find out

  • Reply To Reviews:

Probably the single most important thing you can do is to reply the reviews posted by users, after all that’s what people read the most on TripAdvisor. Regardless if your hotel has received a positive or negative review, it is very important that you reply to it no matter what. Just a simple a reply can put big impressions on travelers. If possible, have a dedicated person who looks after reviews online and establish the practice for managing online reviews.

  • Update Information:

It is more common than you think that many times hotels might have the wrong number listed or the page has not been updated. This is probably the worst thing you could do, the traveler will most likely avoid your hotel if the information is wrong or is not up to date.

  • Write Proper Descriptions:

Spend quality time on the description which potential guests are going to read. It is very important write a proper and detailed description of your hotel, as you are the best person to do so. Description should Speak the strengths of your location and services you provide, setting yourself apart from the competition.

  • Right Photos:

The best way to showcase your hotel is to have the right combination of high quality photos of your property. Have a diverse collection of pictures that not only show your rooms and lobby but also other facilities. Get creative with your pictures, take pictures of art and decor in your lobby, show case rooms with different view points, pictures of views from your hotel rooms etc.

  • Showcase Awards:

TripAdvisor regularly rewards hotels with their Travelers’ Choice Awards which cover various categories. If your hotel has received one, make sure to highlight that on your hotel website and TripAdvisor page.

TripAdvisor with various options available for hoteliers, allow them to maximize their online presence. Hoteliers with the right practice in place can have the same exposure like big brands and increase their bookings.

This article was originally published on ezeetechnosys.com

Survey: What Travelers Are Looking For In Online Reviews

Online reviews play an important role when travelers are choosing a place to stay for their travel. The rise of travel sites, review websites, and social media has made it easy and convenient for travelers to look at others travel experiences and opinions. In one of the latest survey conducted by Software Advice, some of the results were obvious and some very surprising. This information can help hotels to understand customer behavior and changing trends among travelers.

In the latest survey conducted by Software Advice in which they chose 2,500 travelers to find out exactly what they look for in hotel reviews when booking a hotel. Staggering 79% of respondents said that they trust online reviews by other travelers on various travel and review websites as much as they trust recommendations coming from close family and friends.

One of the main objectives of the survey was to find out exactly how and why travelers use online reviews and what other aspects of these reviews they find most convincing when booking a hotel. You can read about the findings with important aspects with corresponding charts highlighted below.

Large Number of Young Consumers Use Reviews Before Booking

When the survey asked travelers how often they checked online reviews of a hotel before booking a room, 46 percent of them used online reviews “sometimes,” “most of the time” or “always”.

How often do you check online customer reviews for a hotel before booking a room?
How often do you check online customer reviews for a hotel before booking a room?

Among the respondents, the largest group said they never checked online customer reviews and those who did use online reviews skewed younger: 30 percent of them belong to age group of 25 to 34 years old who used reviews most of the time, and 28 percent in the age bracket of 18-24 always use reviews.

Demographics: Online Review Usage by Age
Demographics: Online Review Usage by Age

Taylor Short of Software Advice, a company that evaluates hotel booking software had to say this regarding the trend among young travelers, “ Younger age groups between 18 to 34 are the most frequent users of online hotel reviews, most often to initially identify hotels to consider booking.”

These trends are a result of increasing internet access and mobile use, specifically among young travelers. The rise of review websites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp is due to in large part to the increased use of Travel Apps and mobile browsing.

Majority of Reviews Are Used to Identity Possibilities

Next, the survey asked respondents on what exactly they were looking for when looking at online reviews before booking a hotel. 35 percent of them use to identity hotels to consider, while 28 percent use them to narrow down their choices to selected few.

What is your most common reason for checking online customer reviews of hotels?
What is your most common reason for checking online customer reviews of hotels?

19 percent of respondents use reviews to find the best price for their choice of hotels and rest 18 percent to confirm their final choice of hotel.

Internet is the first place to look for hotel and travel information for majority of the travelers today. The popularity of review websites providing all the information and photos can be easily accessed today via various devices easily. Today’s traveler directly search for for hotels on a review site instead of directly checking the website of the hotel or even calling the property.

Expedia is the Most Popular Online Hotel Review Website

Expedia came on top as the most popular online hotel review website when travelers were asked which site they use most often, with 38%. Popular travel review site TripAdvisor came in second with 28 percent and third was Hotels.com, at 25 percent.

When viewing online customer reviews of hotels, what website do you use most often?
When viewing online customer reviews of hotels, what website do you use most often?

Among other options, Booking.com, received 6 percent. Two percent of the travelers chose none of the above and entered their own choice of website, including Hotewire.com, Kayak.com or just a Google search.

TripAdvisor and Expedia generate traffic of 260 million and 60 million visitors per monthly respectively, both of the websites offer different services to the travelers, which accounts for these numbers.

TripAdvisor offers reviews and hotel information for travelers and directing them offsite to complete a booking. Expedia on other hand operates as a full-service travel site, selling multiple types of travel arrangements such as flights, car rentals and hotels from a single point, in addition to offering reviews.

TripAdvisor and Expedia Are the Most Trusted Review Websites

Now we know which websites were used by travelers, next was the question of which websites were the most trustworthy? Surprisingly even though most of the respondents used Expedia more than TripAdvisor, both websites were equally trusted, at 34 percent.

When viewing online customer reviews of hotels, what website do you consider most trustworthy?
When viewing online customer reviews of hotels, what website do you consider most trustworthy?

The rest of the results were pretty much the same as last set: 24 percent trusted Hotels.com, and 6 percent predominantly trust Booking.com

TripAdvisor was one of the first travel websites to embrace and promote user-generated content back in 2000, it is evident from their growth that majority of the travelers may prefer unfiltered reviews. In case of Expedia, it might not receive the same level of engagement but it does verify reviews with hotels by checking sales record ensuring that reviews are real. However, at the end the type of reviews come down to personal preference.

Taylor Short further adds “Travelers say they most often use Expedia over TripAdvisor to check online hotel reviews, but results show they trust both equally. This may be a result of each website offering different types of reviews.”

Most Important Review Information Is The Hotel Price

When travelers are looking at these online reviews, what is the most important information that they’re looking for? 58 percent responded say that the price of the room is important to them.

When reading reviews of hotels online, what’s the most important type of information you’re looking for?
When reading reviews of hotels online, what’s the most important type of information you’re looking for?

Other important information travelers look for in reviews includes proximity to local attractions (16 percent) and aesthetic features, such as the size of the room or the view (15 percent). Description of on-site amenities, such as a gym or restaurant received 10 percent of the vote.

In “Other” category, respondents were given a chance to enter their own answer, and everyone stated that information about room cleanliness was a big factor for them. Among rest of the comments mentioned “Safety,” “Quality” and “Overall Experience.”

There is, however, a significant difference when looking at how each gender answered the question. Out of 15 percent travelers for whom aesthetic features was important, 63 percent were female and rest 37 percent male. Conversely, of those who said on-site amenities were most important, 59 percent were male, versus 41 percent female.

Demographics: Most Important Hotel Review Information by Gender
Demographics: Most Important Hotel Review Information by Gender

Guest-Submitted Comments Most Enticing Review Element

We know price is an important factor to consumer looking at online hotel reviews, but we wanted to know other factors convinces them to book a room. We asked travelers what element would most entice them to book, and 40 percent say specific, guest-submitted comments in the reviews are most effective at driving their decision to purchase.

Which element of an online hotel review would be most likely to entice you to book a room?
Which element of an online hotel review would be most likely to entice you to book a room?

The next most enticing feature was the hotel’s percent or star rating according to 29 percent of the respondents and 18 percent sighting guest-submitted photos of the rooms. The least enticing element of a review, according to the results is the hotel’s ranking relative to other hotels in the area for 13 percent of the travelers.

While the last question revealed that price is a huge factor, this data shows that, with the amount of information available online, travelers are looking at the bigger picture to make decisions.

Nearly Half Wouldn’t Pay More for a Well-Reviewed Hotel

As much as travelers claim they value online reviews, our findings show they might not necessarily want to pay more for a room just because of positive reviews. 47 percent replied that they wouldn’t anymore for a hotel with positive reviews over one without positive reviews.

How much more might you be willing to pay for a hotel with positive online guest reviews over one without?
How much more might you be willing to pay for a hotel with positive online guest reviews over one without?

30 percent of respondents say they would pay a “a little more” and other 17 percent said they would “moderately more” for rooms with positive reviews. Very few of the travelers said they would pay “much more” or “twice as much or more”.

As we can tell from the survey that online comments can entice consumers to book a room, it seems like they do not feel like paying much more for one with positive reviews. Many consumers tend to for the overall value which could be a result consumer behavior changing from the recent economic slump.

Conclusion

The survey results clearly show that 18 – 34 year-olds tend to use online reviews to find potential places to stay. TripAdvisor or Expedia generally used by this age group for looking at the price and user reviews. But they won’t spend much more for a hotel with positive reviews over one with without.

A majority of hospitality professionals today realize the impact of authentic guest reviews, and their primary target is the younger age groups, who are willing to spend more of their disposable income on travel.

Taylor Short stats “Many hotel brands have discovered the fact that using reputation management software helps them keep an eye for negative reviews across the Web. Having that information quicker means hotels can respond sooner and have more proactive presence online.”

As the survey concludes that knowing the most important aspects of your hotel’s online reviews and how consumers use them can really help your hotel’s marketing campaigns more efficiently. The marketing team can perform reputation management more effectively and entice the travelers to book with your hotel.

Custom Hotel Applications will be the Key in Engaging with Customers in 2016

2013 was the year when people using the internet on their mobile phone outnumbered the people using the internet on personal computers. Connecting with customers will be easier and faster that it has ever been.

The hospitality industry has already been experiencing the trend for the last couple of years with the rise of mobile booking engine, mobile websites, and custom hotel apps. In 2016, custom hotel apps and other travel apps will be leading charge when it comes to researching, planning, and booking a holiday.

With a majority of the travelers now using smartphones, it has become imperative for the hotel to have a mobile app. Travelers have become so accustomed to a variety of travel apps on their smartphones that they naturally expect hotels to have one as well. This is a great opportunity for the hotels where they can have total control over their content as well as engagement with guests is more personalized. Mobile App makes it very easy for the customers to do bookings, connect with the hotel, find out directions with Geo-tagging and continually keep in touch with their favorite hotel.

Hotels can control and transfer huge amounts of data directly to their guests via video sections showing events and updating gallery showing new amenities in the hotel. Such features not only help hotels to connect with customers but also promote the location tourist friendly.

Hotels can collect a huge amount of data when it comes to understanding their guest’s behavior without having to do major campaigns and not to mention the long-term loyalty it could build among the customers. This is crucial as the new generations of users offer a new behavioral pattern which is constantly evolving and Application can be the main tool through which a hotel can understand that change.

Mobile App will become a major tool for hotels in their marketing strategy and reaching out to the global audience in 2016.

This article was originally published on eZeeTechnosys.com