New hotel online sales techniques forcing offline agents “Go Fishing”


Hotel revenue managers are driving the advancement of sophisticated fishing techniques that are forcing the closure of traditional travel agents. Littered across South Africa are small high street businesses shutting shop plastered with “Gone Fishing”.


These travel agents made a grave mistake; they were fishing in the wrong pools. The fish had moved to newer waters, challenging the hotelier to find new ways to bring bookings. Hoteliers began fishing themselves. Hotels have had to understand how travel shoppers think, how they behave and how to sell direct to secure the best specimen, at the best price, from the right location.

Pre-2000
Pre-2000 hotel sales derived from the traditional ground travel agent, sales teams were outsourcing new business.

TODAY
Hotel operators have hundreds of OTAs (Online Travel Agents) to choose from. This choice offered both traditional as well as specialist OTAs. This brought forth the Revenue Manager!

Now selling is much like the Airline model. The fuller the plane, the higher the price! Then the global recession forced hotel operators to drop prices to create demand. Five star properties clawed into the four star market, the four stars worked its way into the three star market, etc. Sales strategies collapsed. Average rates plummeted, making it very difficult for the industry to reestablish the pre-recession rates.

New fishing techniques by “revenue managers”

If you ask me – they go fishing every single day! Revenue Management is now – know where to fish, what bait to use, and react to the weather. Follow these principles and your baskets will get fuller, giving a mixed bag of fish of different values. The heavier the specimen, the more it’s worth.

Revenue management is all about understanding and selling the right room, to the right person, at the right time, for the right price. Very much like our rule in hotel operations, pertaining to service delivery – do the right thing, at the right time, in the right place, for the right reason, the first time.

Airlines fish well. Seats that are sold on the same day of the flight have secured maximum revenue. It is not uncommon for two people, sat next to each other on the same flight, to have paid completely different prices. Airlines look at the purpose of travel and the flexibility of their potential passengers. A business traveler has less flexibility than that of holidaymakers. A person planning a holiday plan their trips in advance; a business traveler travels mostly on short notice, with very little lead time. Airlines also offer short-term specials to reward existing clients, attract new clients and fill as many of the empty seats as possible, during a time-specific promotion.

FISHING PONDS – here is where you find the fish, the more fish the higher the volume
You need a source for your fish, so you need ponds, rivers or seas. Consider the type of fish you want and the value each fish will bring from the different ponds, understand the volume of fish available to calculate the demand. Do you need a net or a single rod? Therefore select and subscribe to a portfolio of at least ten OTAs, which should cover your consumer bases across several different demographic and geographic areas/markets. This practice is crucial to stimulating and creating demand.

Having selected the right ponds that will bring the right type of fish for your hotel, you can now promote your presence. And in this case it’s good to have as many ponds (online distribution channels) as possible.

One fish caught is one fish you would not have had. One room sold is one room that you would never have sold.

FISH BAIT – what you use to attract the fish, the bigger the fish the higher profit available

Drop your bait in the wrong place and you may not get the type of fish you want. Therefore the location of your hotel plays a crucial part in selling and marketing the property appropriately. Highlight the main events and attractions surrounding your property and make this information prominent to all searching travelers. Emphasize the facilities you have to offer including those in your immediate surroundings. Understand where your customer-base comes from and where they go after their stay, this information will open other doors of opportunity to sell the right package.

The right bait is also essential, are your fish actually interested in what you’re offering? What are you presenting them with?  Managing your content on all online distribution channels is vital. Consistency is key! Always select a portfolio of pictures which is used on your brand website, promote the same on the OTA sites – never load different pictures on different sites as this creates confusion and displays untidiness! Your write-up about your property, rooms and facilities should be the same and consistent across all channels of distribution. Never forget content is marketing and marketing builds reputation, the consumer’s purchase decisions are based on reputation. 

REELING FISH IN the act to secure the fish on dry land

The right bait in the right pool with the right fish, once they bite its time to get them in fast before they let go. There is one key way to achieve this – Pricing your product in line with the current market conditions. Pricing should be seasonal and highly focused on adjusting rates during the troughs and peaks within the seasons.

Pricing should be kept in parity across the board without undercutting on selected platforms. Understand demand and forecast demand. Subscribe to the newsletters of all major airlines that operate in your city. Know when they advertise special fares into your area and “piggyback” them by promoting your own specials; your competitor is probably doing it already. You will find that when the airlines are in distress, Hotels are in distress. 

FISH WEIGH-IN – to get the best profit for your fish

Each fish now comes with its own associated value and you need to make sure it balances the books. Pay close attention to achieved rates, ADR (average daily rates) and your RevPar (Revenue per available room). Room rates should be set according to these achieved statistics and kept realistic in your market. Know what your competitors are doing.

Sales strategies should be aimed at the customer, their needs and the current market conditions, considering what the achieved rate was for the same period. Budgets are the guidelines set out for us and forms part of the wish list for the year, however it is not and should not be the deciding factor for your sales strategy.

No man enters a fishing competition without trying to figure out what their competitors are doing. Understand what your local market is achieving, and aiming to achieve. Even more is crucial in understanding how to position your rates to create or stimulate demand.

FISH MARKET OPENING HOURS – knowing when to capture the best fish

Fish have routines, they sleep, eat and play, and each specimen has its routine. Knowing when to fish the best fish is essential. Understand your booking window. This type of information is easily obtainable from the different distribution channels. Promote early bird specials instead of last minute deals. Consumers have grown comfortable with this last minute selling technique, making it difficult for the Hotel Operator to stop (as I would refer to it) “chumming” for fish. Last minute deals are not about maximizing revenue; it is all about minimizing revenue.

YOUR FISH BASKET – how you carry your fish

Always know how much space you have left for more fish, and avoid having too many fish. Manage your inventory correctly. Offer different minimum stay and maximum stay promotions. Assign only the minimum required amount of allotments to Agents and Operators and take heed, along with allotments are fixed rates.

DON’T LITTER – telling people not to leave rubbish or belongings behind

Your pools need to remain clean; a visible amount of damage or pollution will keep the fish away. Manage your reputationand invest in all guest feedback you receive. Consumers shop and base their final decisions not only on price, but what people say about your property.

FISH WELL

The Revenue Manager certainly has a daunting task ahead if this is all still managed manually. Updating content, price and availability steals the focus away from strategizing, planning and making real decisions that will maximize your revenue. Begin automating your fishing techniques for the benefit of your business.

Fishermen need the right technology that is flexible to the changing needs of the waters, and that is adaptable to global markets and delivers access to the relevant pools when needed. Hotels need to manage all the aspects of online distribution, analyze the market, calculate rates, monitor rate parity and position, distribute rates and availability to multiple distribution channels and manage all online reviews. Hotels need to be connected to these pools 24/7 to send and receive the market data to make more intuitive pricing and distribution decisions, through a single source.

Fisherman haven’t been able to avoid technology, who have had to invest in depth-sounding and radar technologies to gauge where the fish are, the type and the quality, plus meteorology reports to understand the farming conditions. Therefore neither can hotels avoid systems to report on their market.

Go fish – before you’re Gone Fishing.

Evolution waits for no man Happy Fishing! 

Clinton Du Toit has over 16 years experience in the hotel industry. The former hotel General Manager, with experience in revenue management, as well as hotel sales and marketing  functions likes to educate the market on hotel online distribution. Clinton is based out  Cape Town and is currently working with eRevMax as Sales Manager – South Africa.

You can also bview this article on Tnooz

Selling Rooms


Check out where I am speaking as part of the Northern Ireland Hotel Federation on Wednesday 12th September. Very much looking forward to meeting the hotels in and around Belfast and finding out the challenges they face in their local market.

The travel industry is rather small in Northern Ireland, representing just 4.7% of its workforce and contributing to 2.1% of GDP. The region expects to attract between 1.5 -1.6 million visitors in 2013. For the hotel industry there is a great opportunity to stand out, 30% of all internet searches are related to accommodation for Northern Ireland, so there is room for growth and diversity.

Northern Ireland has fared well so far in 2012 with increases in visitors, holiday-makers and tourism revenue – could this be explained as a result of the Staycation in the UK?

I am interested to learn the scenario for hotels this year, according to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) hotel room sales were up 11% in June 2012 compared to June 2011 and occupancy hitting the 78% mark, up from 70%.

It appears from the statistics that 4* – 5* hotels fared well, infact showing some strong occupancy figures. Though potentially the biggest struggle for hotels appears to be ADR, this has fallen by 1.1% in the past year, it seems that occupancy may have to give way to ADR at this point.

The leading OTAs in Northern Ireland:
Ebookers.ie: One of Ireland’s leading online travel providers and offers flights, car hire and over 25,000 hotels worldwide.
 

HotelClub.ie: Offers over 48,000 hotels Worldwide for bookings up to 365 days in advance.

Laterooms.com: Offers over 500,000 hotel deals throughout the UK and Worldwide. EURO prices available.

Lastminute.ie: Offers a vast range of hotels and discount flights. EURO prices available.

Bookit365.com Offers you direct access to the Hotels.ie and expedia.com range of hotels.


Ryan C Haynes is VP – Marketing Communications at eRevMax and is responsible for driving all PR and Marketing activities for RateTiger and eRevMax brands globally. Ryan is based out of London and can be reached at ryanh@ratetiger.com

Boutique Hotel Summit: Post-Olympic debrief


On Monday 3rd September the Boutique Hotel News held a panel discussion to review the effect of the Olympics and the results for Independent and Boutique hotels during the period. Held at The Hempel, the session looked at what can be learned from the London Olympics and what to expect over the next 12 months.

The panel consisted of:
Gareth Banner, General Manager, The Hempel
Marie Baxter, General Manager, Town Hall Hotel
Chris Foy, Head of 2012 games unit, Visit Britain
Ruth Mortimer, Editor, Marketing Week
Moderator: Jonathan Langston, Managing Director, TRI Hospitality Consulting

The overview
The London Olympics 2012 is about the long game; promoting and reintroducing Britain back to the world, building the profile of the country across the world. The panel noted that it drew the best of Britain through the media, that was replicated across the world. The mass number of volunteers demonstrated the country’s hospitality and the ability to be welcoming hosts.

Ruth Mortimer said it is hard to say yet how the legacy will be fulfilled, “however the immediate success can be seen in the interest in the Paralympics.”

For The Hempel, the hotel sold out to a single booking which helped them meet their revenue needs. While Town Hall Hotel experienced good occupancy and ADR, but “in all honesty conferencing and banqueting took a dip – we had no weddings or other entertainments because of so many events were happening with the Olympics.” However Marie Baxter noted that the hotel could continue to get success “off the back of marketers, who will bring more people into London.”

The panel noted how boutique properties are good for hospitality events with the right amount of space (40-60 rooms) that adds character and history of London through the original building structure that feels historically different.

The underlying theme though was to truly understand what the customer wants from you! With thousands of hotel room nights opening in London that have more luxury capacity and as the Olympic spotlight fades hoteliers need to begin being creative rather than taking everything for granted.

Boutique hotels will need to work hard and be very smart and creative otherwise 2013 will be a difficult year. The UK has had its fair share of international events over the past couple of years with few to come except the Rugby World Cup 2014.  


As hotels in the UK will need to market rates inclusive of VAT, at 20%, the country may start to look expensive, especially to Europeans with the low value of the Euro.

#empty13
The panel talked of the year of 2013 that has little to look forward to. More budgeting, people needing to work harder and hotels to find those hidden gems and stories. The industry will need to look closer at the potential of providing a more personalized experience. By 2014 the country is expecting an additional 4.5 million visitors, a commitment made by VisitBritain.

Distribution
For the hotels, OTA is a dirty word as direct sales are more profitable. However OTAs are needed in January, February and Sunday nights. The Town Hall Hotel works with the Kiwi Collection, Mr and Mrs Smith and other very specific boutique brand agencies, doing the marketing on their behalf. Marie said she works hard to qualify whom they work with and there is a growing understanding with consumers that the best rate is a direct rate with the hotel.
For working with the large OTAs like Expedia and Booking, for them it is a listing, to be on the hotel search engine, but keeping an optimum price on these channels positions them correctly in the market.

Ruth talked about how other industries have lost control over their inventory Insurance for example – where everything is done through price comparison websites. “People’s behavior in how they look has altered and what the hotel suffers from when people are just looking at the big number. It is totally rate driven.”

For the hoteliers in the room being a boutique hotel means they can stand above the rest because they are unique. “We have a unique quality, an independence. We shouldn’t be competing on rate but marketing ourselves on distinct differences. We’re not cheapest out there and this is why we are not being ashamed of it because we give out more than others.

As for Social Media, Ruth believes it is great if using it for the right reasons. Some for specials, some quick enquiries, some as communities. Such an individual aspect for each business it needs to be considered on how it works best.

There’s a lot more to come from the Olympics, if hotels, the country and everyone works hard enough to bleed as much from the international profile gained as possible.


Ryan C Haynes is VP – Marketing Communications at eRevMax and is responsible for driving all PR and Marketing activities for RateTiger and eRevMax brands globally. Ryan is based out of London and can be reached at ryanh@ratetiger.com

Social Media Monitoring: Why Guest Review Matters?

The world is now online. Your guests are talking to each other, sharing their experiences. Information has never been so easy to create or access.

You too need to wake up – Monitor, Respond and Engage with your guests!

Good hotel reviews bring increased ADR and direct bookings. Consider this – 

  • 33% bookers change their hotel based on reviews 
  • 1 point ranking is a difference of 9% ADR
  • Increased engagement with reviews brings 5% more direct bookings

Now is the time for you to check out the video below and start managing reviews smartly to improve your hotel ranking.


Manage your online reputation with
RTReview, your simple and efficient guest review management tool.

Newshound: Trends and Reports – Hotel Online Distribution


Making hotels comfortable with the notion of confirmed demand

A start-up called BackBid is offering hotels the ability to reach confirmed travelers – in other words, travelers that are definitely going to be traveling, not just those who are doing research or comparison-shopping online. With such offering, hotels can assess who is coming to their market, how much they are willing to pay, and what their travel preferences are, whereas consumers get to choose from personalised bids designed to meet their needs/ preferences.

TripAdvisor expands Facebook integration
Trip Friends will now start showing links to reviews from people within their friend’s network. This is probably the biggest development to the Trip Friends channel on TripAdvisor so far and plugs into where TripAdvisor is heading – tapping into the social graph of users so that they can rely on reviews from people they trust or like-minded travelers that may share similar interest by virtue of being within an existing social circle.

Room 77 grows up, adds loyalty points
In addition to searching multiple online travel sites simultaneously, Room 77 now helps travelers uncover special rates, including advanced purchase, AAA member rates and senior discounts – saving travelers up to 50% off other online travel providers. 


Top three hotel marketing myths (and the truth behind them)
The way consumers shop for and book hotel accommodations has evolved and disciplines such as social media and mobile have entered the picture, and likely won’t be leaving it any time soon. The article identifies and explores these myths and reveal the truths behind them.

Major markets enjoy the benefits of raising rates
Rising occupancy levels will enable hotel managers in the nation’s major markets to significantly raise their room rates in 2012. The average daily room rate for hotels in the 50 metro areas for which PKF Hospitality Research prepares a Hotel Horizons fore- cast is projected to increase 5.3 percent in 2012. This compares to an ADR increase of just 2.7 percent for all other U.S. hotels located outside of these 50 markets. Favorable supply and demand conditions in the large metro areas during 2010 and 2011 have set the stage for the strong 2012 ADR forecast.

Newshound: Trends and Reports – Hotel Online Distribution


The Evolution of Online Travel

Since the rise of online travel in the mid-1990s, it seems that there’s an endless well of ways to get your travel fix.  It’s projected that within the year 2012, there will be 98.3 million bookings on the Internet, which translates into major profit for online travel companies. In Mashable’s infographic, you’ll see the progression of online travel, from its roots in old electronic booking systems to the newest and shiniest deals websites. Plus, get an inside look at how users behave while on online travel sites — and where they love to go.

The 5 Golden Rules of Social Media ROI

Facebook page? Check! Twitter account and dedicated hastags? Check! Competitions, discounts and giveaways? Check! Any real, measurable and abundant ROI from social media campaigns? A recent Eye for Travel survey of APAC travel brands shows that despite 67% claiming to have deployed social media initiatives, more than half admitted confusion or inability to effectively rack and measure ROI.

A hotelier’s viewpoint on the current status of the flash sales model

Social buying/ Group buying and flash sales sites will undergo a saturation stage in their lifecycle. Many will reach the end of the road but a few strong ones will survive – albeit with some innovative add-ons to the existing business models, says Ricky Ang, vice president – Sales & Marketing, Hotel Equatorial Group.

Global business and leisure hotel rates up

Global average daily rates (ADR) for both business and leisure hotel rooms continued to climb in January, according to Pegasus Solutions’ data. Following a record increase over 2010 in December 2011, January 2012 saw business rates grow +3.8 percent and leisure rates rise +7.0 percent over January 2011, shared The Pegasus View January edition.

Newshound: Trends and Reports – Hotel Online Distribution

Social Media and Review Analytics Guide for Hotel Marketing
While online reviews understandably receive a lot of attention in the hotel industry from a reputation management perspective, there is another use that is equally important: setting the direction of your marketing and advertising campaigns.
The TripAdvisor effect: Are online reviews making hotel brands irrelevant?
Take a destination based Google search for Super 8 Motels, for example. On the front page, you’ll see ratings that hotel guests have written about particular Super 8s on TripAdvisor, Yahoo Travel and Yelp. Importantly, the reviews vary widely.

The Smart Hotelier’s Guide to 2012 Digital Marketing Budget Planning
2012 is quickly approaching and budget-planning season is upon us. Whether you are just starting to think about where you are going to allocate your dollars, or are moving towards finalizing your budget for next year, this is the perfect time to take a step back, review the state of the industry as well as your property’s successes and failures in 2011, and prepare for a year of driving the most revenue ever through your most cost-efficient channel – the hotel website.
ADR, guest satisfaction: Opportunity and action
This is the first in a series of columns from J.D. Power’s Stuart Greif that analyzes and provides deeper insights into the company’s 2011 J.D. Power and Associates North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Study.