Hotels capitalize on the Royal Wedding

This month is set to be an exciting time for the UK hotel industry. And we are seeing a repeat of 2011. As it happened back then, Prince Harry and Megan Markle’s wedding announcement also led to huge surge in hotel prices in and around Windsor.

The rate shot up immediately after the announcement of the wedding date. Recent report by HotelsCombined suggests that hotel prices have trebled in Windsor. The mega event which is expected to bring some 100,000 domestic and international visitors – is undoubtedly the high point for the local hotel industry.

We did a quick hotel search for Windsor on Kayak for the third and fourth weekends in May. The same hotel which is quoting over £700 for a room during royal wedding is asking for £200 for the very next week! Dynamic pricing is clearly wreaking havoc!

 
It’s understood that during the time of high demand, prices will rise. The dynamics of hotel pricing has always been a classic case of offering the right rate at the right time to the right audience. With surge pricing becoming accepted by people, companies are combining real-time data, instant gratification and dynamic pricing – to make the most out of any situation.
Hoteliers in Windsor is following the ‘Uber’ model. Super high rates are applied with the expectations that people are desperate enough to book at any rate. Is the hotel industry justified in increasing the prices thinking it’s the time for the kill? 

The Royal Wedding of 2011 tells a different story. While millions flocked to see a commoner marrying the future prince, they opted out of staying overnight at hotels because of the high rates. In the end, the hotels had only themselves to blame for losing out on revenue and goodwill. 
Hotel pricing has always been a never-ending roulette for the revenue manager – balancing the high season vs low season, exorbitant rate vs customer loyalty, RevPAR vs Occupancy, and price optimization vs revenue optimization. Dynamic room pricing is a reflection of not only the customer demand, but what the customer perceives to be the value of your room.
 

Thanks to the competitive rate benchmarking tools available in the marketplace, most hotels now monitor real-time online rate performance and see how they can change their prices more frequently to increase revenue. Dynamic pricing along with real-time connectivity allows hotels to adjust rates constantly based on demand and supply. 

With rates getting more transparent, hotels are moving away from pricing only approach, and including availability, loyalty and personalization in their revenue management process. While there always is a provocation to maximize rates in a super-event like the royal wedding, there needs to be more strategy behind these rates to better align them with customer expectations, which in the long run, helps build strong brand loyalty. 

It is important for the visitors not to feel “ripped off’ as the peak period customers understand prices better and there instils a sense of loyalty. Even dynamic pricing can be transparent if the multiple factors behind the increased rate are clearly communicated. The key is to have a clear rate strategy in place based on demand as well as product to avoid extreme peaks and valleys. Past experience suggests that the peak in demand is usually for a short duration. 

If hotel rates fall by over 400% immediately after the peak rate, it shows the shoulder period is not covered. For the hotels, the biggest blunder could be to get too greedy and try to earn ‘quick bucks’ at the expense of long-term customer value and loyalty. 

The royal wedding in 2011 did not bring London hoteliers more guests or long-term returns. Rather, high value tourists and business travellers, wary of surge pricing and crowds, stayed away from the city during the period. There is a high chance 2018 would not be any different.

Learning from the past, hotels should use the event as an opportunity to showcase Britain to the world. UK is already the sixth most visited country in the world, and London is one of the most expensive cities for tourists. 

Analysts expect an influx of about £300 million to come from tourism as an effect of the royal wedding. Hotels can use this to build a legacy or compromise their tomorrow for a quick return today.

Hotel OTTO Berlin recommends RateTiger for channel connectivity

Hotel OTTO, an upscale property in Berlin has recommended RateTiger Channel Manager for stable and seamless connectivity with world’s leading OTAs. The hotel, which has been using eRevMax’s award winning distribution solution, has improved its online exposure resulting in positive revenue and occupancy growth.

Centrally located, Hotel OTTO is a modern property with 46 rooms catering largely to business travellers. Since 2010, the revenue management team has been using RateTiger to update rates and availability across online sales channels. Following the suggestion from RateTiger’s Connectivity Advisor, the hotel added top OTAs from China and South East Asia in their distribution mix. This improved the hotel’s exposure in upcoming markets and brought a positive impact to their online business

“We have been using RateTiger for the last 8 years and are very satisfied with the services that totally match our needs. Thanks to the diversity of their distribution portfolio (OTA, Wholesalers etc), we can connect with bigger number of distribution partners and have experienced a steady growth in our online business.  Amongst all the products I have used in the market so far, RateTiger remains one of the most powerful and efficient,” said Mihai Cucu, Revenue & Operations Manager, Hotel OTTO.

“Providing hotels with stable connectivity have remained our priority for the last 17 years. We have developed our channel ecosystem for hotels to improve exposure and tap new markets.  We are committed to adding value to our customers, and this recommendation shows how well we deliver when it comes to best-in-class technology and premium customer service,” said Alin Lazar, VP – Sales, Europe & Americas, eRevMax.

eRevMax offers strong connections with over 350 OTAs and 70 technology providers. The company provides channel management, business intelligence and connectivity solutions to hotels, groups and serviced apartment globally.

JJW Hotels subscribes to RateTiger channel manager to increase online bookings

JJW hotels has selected RateTiger by eRevMax as the channel manager of choice across 23 of its European hotels.The hotel chain will be able to update rates and inventory at property level through RateTiger’s vast distribution network, whilst simultaneously optimising the performance of available inventory from connected channels.
“We require a reliable solution that will meet our demands for price shopping as well as channel management. Having seen the success RateTiger has brought to other hotels with their streamlined approach to revenue management, we’re sure that our new partnership with them will increase revenue, as well as the customer’s booking experience,” said Guy Marwood Finance Director for JJW Hotels & Resorts.

The hotels will benefit from eRevMax’s recently released RateTiger RTSuite 3.0; this latest version comes complete with a new user interface and integrated channel management functionality, and is designed to maximize usability and effectiveness.

For more, read here.

RateTiger presents at HSMA’s Pricing & Distribution Day


Germany’s Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association (HSMA) hosted its annual “Pricing & Distribution Day” in Frankfurt recently. An audience of around 300, consisting for mostly hotel executives involved in distribution and revenue management, was keen to learn about the latest trends and strategies in their sphere of action.

In the light of rising distribution costs and the increasing feeling amongst hoteliers that they are no longer in control of their own rates, sales channels and products, the guiding theme of the event was how to find and apply the right balance between direct and third party distribution. Clever online marketing, a strengthening of direct distribution channels, Web 2.0 applications and mobile technologies were among the options discussed to lower the costs of distribution. Speakers included top managers from major hotel brands such as Accor and Best Western, HRS CEO Tobias Ragge, consultants and industry experts. Amongst the latter, Ragnar Strerath, Division President RTConnect at RateTiger, was invited to share his expertise.

His presentation titled – “Learning against helplessness – How hoteliers can rid themselves of feeling dependent on their distribution partners” – dealt with options to get back on eyelevel with OTAs and other sales channels. The key message: it needs both distribution management technology and market insight, none of these two will do the job alone. Ragnar explained which competencies are essential, these ranging from insight in the distribution landscape and its options and conditions, product development and placement skills to revenue management, online marketing and competitor analysis. But how can hoteliers obtain this knowledge? While technology can be bought – and Ragnar pointed out relevant features for channel managers and the most important questions to ask possible suppliers – the latter can be acquired in various ways: by training existent staff, by employing specialists, or by working with external experts.


Ragnar listed the pros and cons of each option: while in-house training takes time and hardly ever reaches the level of focused experts, it might also be too expensive for smaller hotels to employ a specialist. For these, consultants who help setting up a strategy and choose suitable technology can be a promising alternative, particularly if these consultants are largely paid per booking and consequently interested in the hotel’s success. Ragnar concluded with some statistics on Ramada’s performance, which has improved significantly since implementing RateTiger, quoting hotel’s Regional Director Markus Barth as testimonial.

The presentation was followed by an intense discussion, which showed that the speaker touched the needs of today’s hoteliers and that his insights were well received.

Jasmin Keller is PR Representative for the German speaking markets and is responsible for driving all PR activities for RateTiger and eRevMax brands in the region. Jasmin is based in Hamburg and can be reached at ratetiger@jasminkeller.com

Newshound: Trends and Reports – Hotel Online Distribution


Are Travel Agents Really Making a Comeback?

According to a recent PhoCusWright study, travel agents have successfully tapped into a market PhoCusWright describes as the “oldies but goodies” segment of travelers – 67 per cent of their sales come from clients age 45 and older, and 32 per cent come from customers who are at least 60 years old. Leisure travel agents said that 70 per cent of their bookings have per-person spending of at least USD 1,000, and that 35 per cent spend at least USD 2,000. By comparison, the average U.S. traveller’s per-person spending is well below USD 1,000.

Pricing power becomes evident in hotel metrics
The hotel industry is back on the recovery race with rate leading the way. The global corporate rates were up 3.7% year over year and global leisure rates were up 7.6% in February, according to Pegasus data. The hoteliers needs to have a clear rate strategy to take advantage of the strong demand and continue rate growth.

Expedia’s social journey into the ‘recommendation age’
Expedia is thinking very seriously about its plans for an integrated social media strategy. According to an independent research commissioned by the agency, there is a strong correlation people actively engaging with Expedia on Facebook and those going on to book a holiday with the site. Expedia also wants to engage more closely with social media for brand-building exercise and generate more transactions.

Distribution Strategies: Working on mobile offerings as per your customers’ behaviour
The usage of smartphones by leisure and business travellers is on the rise and this growth makes the whole talk about mobile product strategy more fascinating. Consumers’ expectations and behaviour on mobile phones and tablets are different than on a website. It is important to understand and accept that people will access many channels and you should be consistent in your branding and experience.

Rate Strategy: Savvy pricing strategies mitigate risks
Since today’s customers are able to shop around more easily, rate integrity can be elastic. They expect high rates during peak seasons opposed to shoulder periods, but they don’t expect a higher rate during the off season. Business mix is especially importuning in pricing, understanding gross-operating-profit-per-available-room metrics and channel cost can increase top-line revenue and profitability.

Newshound: Trends and Reports – Hotel Online Distribution


Hotelier’s 2012 Mobile Marketing MUST Dos and Don’ts

Max Starkov, HeBS Digital’s President and CEO, was interviewed recently by Michelle Renn, Managing Editor of “Inside Hotel Online Today (Hotel Online)” on this year’s hottest topic: mobile marketing and mobile distribution channel in hospitality.

Asian hotel revPAR continues to rise
According to the latest data from STR Global, the region’s occupancy increased 3.6% year-on-year to 66.5%, average daily rates (ADR) climbed 2.8% to US$146. This pushed revenue per available room (revPAR) up 6.5% to US$97. STR Global said however, that the year-on-year comparisons were impacted by Chinese New Year falling in January this year compared to February in 2011.

Search weighing down CRS

The continually increasing volume of booking options is causing growing stress on hotels companies’ central reservation systems, according to a study undertaken by Pegasus.

Average Hotel Rate in the UK Drops!A global report demonstrating how the cost of a nights stay in a major city can reflect the country’s economic health, has revealed that hotel prices in the UK are stagnating, with only London’s hotels being able to report a rise in the average hotel rate.

The Park Hotels Installs RateTiger To Gain Competitive Price Intelligence

The Indian hotel chain with nine luxury properties in major Indian cities has implemented RTSuite Shopper, RateTiger’s online real-time rate shopping tool in five of its leading properties. The tool helps them analyze their market position by comparing competitor rate information across various OTAs as well as the GDSs. These rate reports help the hotel make informed decisions and react to market conditions in a timely and effective manner.

Rohit Arora, Corporate Director Sales & Marketing, The Park Hotels commented, “We have been using RTSuite Shopper for around two months and are very satisfied with it. RateTiger’s pricing reports are always accurate and up-to-date to the minute. We have so much confidence in the reports that we don’t want to look back. Earlier we gathered pricing data manually which took us around two – three hours for each hotel. With the implementation of RTSuite Shopper, we have saved a lot of time spending just ten minutes to monitor data for each hotel. This, in itself, speaks a lot about the tool’s efficiency and importance.”

Mr. Arora further states, “RateTiger’s easy-to-use functionalities make it a product of choice for us, while the different formats in which we can export reports further make it valuable. And the Rate Alert feature is simply amazing. You do not have to keep checking, whenever any competitor’s price goes beyond a defined threshold, the tool gives you an Alert and you can act instantly. RateTiger truly makes technology work for you.”

 
 
 
 
 

Channel Connectivity: The Changing Trends, Part 1: Yesterday v/s Today


Heads in beds is the key driver for all hotels – you need good daily occupancy to meet your property’s running costs and thereafter make profits. With thousands of hotels listed online, how can you ensure your property stands out from the rest?

As online travel grows, accommodation owners need to position offerings appropriately, using the right channels. Google’s success is based on page ranking through keywords and relevance, all searchers will type in what they want to see and results will be made of popular channels. In other words, on the internet, the more visible and optimized you are, the more customers you will attract to your hotel!

Just 10 years ago the environment was wholly different. Booking a hotel room over the telephone or through a travel agent was the norm as only less than 5% of all travel was booked online. Today the travel booking landscape has changed significantly:

We used to distribute inventory evenly between tour operators, corporate contracts, telesales and the GDS. Most of our business was stable and regular rate changes and inventory changes were not required. Sales departments were busy but not overloaded.

However in recent years the internet has taken over GDS and telesales; a 2010 eTRAK Reservation Sources for Major Hotel Brands Report shows that major hotel brands experienced 52.3% of all reservations coming from the internet compared to 22.9% from GDS and 24.7% from Voice (2006 figures show Internet: 37.6%, GDS: 31.3% and voice: 31.3%).

In this respect let’s take a peek into the developments of Y2K, a significant period in many ways. The internet has been growing at a fast pace with the likes of Expedia, Travelocity, and Priceline having launched in mid-late 1990s during the dot-com boom.  The bubble burst and many online industries had to rebuild their sales model. Online travel was not greatly affected, on the contrary it started to grow – though it meant the offline hotel industry had to start paying attention and, more importantly, hotels had to realize that something was changing.

By 2000 the total annual online hotel booking rate was around 4% of total bookings. In only 10 years this has reached around 35%, according to a report by PhoCusWright’s Global Online Travel Overview Second Edition, 2011.

This goes to prove the ongoing importance of the internet and the changing consumer buying trends. While it took almost a decade to achieve this level of sales, within the maturing APAC market there has been increasing focus on mobile internet as this is adopted faster than the traditional computer access. This is deemed to grow at a faster rate than the internet over the next decade.

With such changes comes the necessity to adapt. Business has become more volatile and requires adequate planning. Product has to be constantly optimized, prices analyzed and yielding performed. Tasks that do sound natural to hotel operation but are still not honed to perfection.

Staff needs training but not only sale is affected. All departments within a hotel need to brush up as the consumer has options to review services with the general public. From rooms division to management, the hotel has to be organized and prepared.

Another factor, often not recognized enough, is that marketing has changed too. Gone are the expenses for costly brochures. Not that we can spend less now, but the likes of Google, Kayak, trivago, Groupon have taken their place, still marketing but a different caliber with different rule sets. Also, some OTA’s require additional commission for better placement. One could argue that this is not just cost of sales but to a degree brand marketing too. A battle the two departments will need to have in order to best place the house.

Check out Channel Connectivity: The changing trends Part 2 next week.

Newshound: Trends and Reports – Hotel Online Distribution


What’s Around the Corner for Hospitality Distribution & RM?

As the hospitality sector continues to morph and be shaped by forces old and new, I caught up with Mark Molinari, Vice President of Revenue Management & Distribution at the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, to find out what key issues lie ahead for the hospitality and gaming industries. 
http://www.eyefortravel.com/news/europe/what%E2%80%99s-around-corner-hospitality-distribution-rm

Paid search producing positive results for hoteliers

Paid search advertising is becoming more commonplace by hotel marketers as a cost-effective, high-yielding e-marketing tool to help drive consumers to their respective website booking engines.
http://www.hospitalitynet.org/news/154000392/4052649.html

European hotels on recovery track

The European hotel performance picture is a positive one, according to STR Global’s Konstanze Auernheimer. “Hotel performance is doing really well,” said the director of marketing and analysis at STR Global, a sister company to HotelNewsNow.com.
http://www.hotelnewsnow.com/Articles.aspx/6255/European-hotels-on-recovery-track

Demand records are made to be broken

Last summer, in July 2010, you probably heard a lot of hype about the U.S. hotel industry selling the most hotel roomnights ever, breaking records and setting milestones. http://www.hotelnewsnow.com/Blog.aspx/6258/Demand-records-are-made-to-be-broken