How to Win Holiday Bookings

Here we are almost at the end of 2019! As the year winds down, business heats up for hotels all over the world. Both a joyful and stressful time, the holiday season brings a torrent of travelers into the market. While this typically means an increase in bookings for most accommodation providers, the ever-expanding selection of lodging options available to travelers (from new hotel brands to Airbnb rentals) also means that competition is getting hotter. It’s time to gear up your marketing efforts to ensure your property gets its fair share of holiday bookings.

Holiday Specials & Packages

Running holiday specials and packages is a proven way to attract guests. You’ve probably been doing it for years. But if you’ve been offering the same deals for years, you might want to consider changing things up a bit.

Due to the wealth of properties to choose from these days, holiday packages can all start to look the same to travelers. While Christmas is a time of tradition, try thinking outside the box to stand out by offering something a little different from the usual discounted-stay-with-dinner approach.

Perhaps your Christmas package could include an in-room Christmas tree, Christmas stockings and peppermint bath salts?

Look to seasonal local events and activities to inspire packages that could feature sleigh rides, snow tubing, or tickets to a celebrated Christmas concert. Consider partnering with nearby local businesses to offer unique seasonal perks like Christmas shopping discounts, craft beer tasting, ice-skate rentals, or even a small gift (locally made, of course).

Find out what your competitors are offering and try to top it—not necessarily by providing a bigger discount, but by putting a more creative spin on your promotions to stand out.

With a modern property management system that offers flexible rate management tools, your imagination can be the limit when it comes to designing holiday packages and specials.

Festive Menus

If your property offers onsite dining, have you tried spicing up the holidays with seasonal menus? There’s nothing quite like traditional holiday dishes to get people in a festive mood. Make sure all your guests can partake in culinary festivities by providing options for specialized diets, for example gluten-free and vegan choices.

For properties without onsite dining, consider partnering with popular local restaurants to offer your guests discounted meals over the holiday period, or simply compile a list of nearby eateries with exciting holiday menus that you can recommend to guests onsite, on your website and on social media.

Specialty Programming

For something extra special, why not arrange holiday events or activities on site? Think big, like Christmas markets, parties or performances—or think smaller, like cookie decorating stations and elf tuck-ins for kids, carolers in the lobby, card-making workshops, snowman-building competitions, or a toy drive.

Such activities can be marketed to the local community as well as prospective guests, and will contribute to a memorable holiday stay experience.

Festive Decor & Amenities

Christmas just isn’t the same without a little glitter and sparkle, so make sure your property is dressed for the occasion with some festive decorations—like a beautiful Christmas tree for the lobby, fairy lights for the patio, festive napkins for your breakfast bar… Just don’t get too carried away; there is such a thing as too much tinsel! (Really!)

Christmas-themed amenities will go down a treat with guests too. How about a hot chocolate and/or mulled wine station in the lobby, wish list kits for kids (free downloadable Santa letter templates are available online) or a gift-wrapping station?

Holiday-Themed Website

Make sure prospective guests know about all the fun festivities you have planned by spreading some holiday cheer to your website. Update property images to reflect the seasonal vibe at your hotel, and consider decorating your website too with a tasteful touch of festive graphics and messages (again, be careful not to go too far with the glitter and sparkle!).

Make sure holiday packages and specials are up to date and available through your online booking engine, promote your holiday menu, and for properties that sell gift certificates, now’s the time to draw some attention to them! Add a holiday spin to your local attractions page by highlighting seasonal activities and events, complete with insider tips like the best decorated street and the best spot to watch the NYE fireworks display from. Your blog is a great place for sharing the excitement of local and on-property holiday build-up and will help boost SEO too.

Social Media Marketing

Don’t forget to drum up some excitement for the holidays and drive traffic to your website through your social media accounts too. Post images and videos showing how your property is prepping for the holidays, from putting up that magnificent tree in your lobby to that drool-worthy new dish your chef just created for your holiday menu.

Consider boosting engagement with simple contests and polls. You could offer followers the chance to win a free Christmas package upgrade (for example) by simply liking, commenting on, or sharing your property’s post. Inspire user-generated content by creating and promoting a holiday hashtag for your hotel that guests can use to post their own on-property pics for the chance to win.

Setting a budget for boosting posts that are performing well will help gain even further reach.

Email Marketing

Last, but not least, let’s not forget about email. In our world of rapid technological evolution, email has stood the test of time and is still one of the best ways to communicate with customers.

In addition to sending holiday email campaigns to segmented mailing lists, booking confirmation and pre-arrival templates can also be updated to include information about holiday upgrade offers and seasonal amenities for guests staying over the holiday period. And why not send past guests a Christmas gift of a special discount or promo just for them? Property management systems that offer automatic emails (and/or integration with CRM platforms) and the ability to create password-protected rates, make holiday email campaigns a breeze.

You could even add a festive touch to the design of your holiday email communications—but be careful not to overshadow your property’s branding.

As temperatures drop and competition heats up this holiday season, try to offer guests something a little different for Christmas to stand out. Aim to spread holiday joy to your guests and you’re sure to win holiday bookings—and great reviews too.

3 Things Hotels Can’t Do Without a Cloud PMS

Despite increased efficiency, scalability and profitability that cloud technology brings to hospitality businesses, many hotels are still running on outdated legacy systems—or, believe it or not, pen and paper.

We all have our reasons for making the decisions we make, but to approach the case for the cloud from a different angle, here are three things hotels can’t do without a cloud property management system (PMS).

Can’t Make Your Data Work For You

If you’re working with separate standalone systems or with manual ones (ledgers and spreadsheets) you probably feel a bit like a slave to your data. Manually cross-checking and compiling data from multiple sources is a time-consuming, error-prone process.

Without automated, integrated systems, hotels commonly suffer double bookings, under booking, rate and billing errors, slow check-ins and check-outs, and, ultimately, low customer satisfaction. With data stuck in silos or hardcopy, workflow and customer service are uninformed and disjointed.

When data is unified, the picture is very different. A PMS that shares information between departments and systems automates data workflow, eliminating the need for staff to manually duplicate data across those systems.

Through APIs (application programming interfaces), cloud PMS connect to other hotel systems (CRM, POS, online distribution channels, revenue management systems, mobile messaging platforms, electronic locking systems, room automation solutions, call accounting systems and more), consolidating data to automate administrative processes and improve the guest experience. Essentially, data integration allows systems to talk to each other so you don’t have to be the middleman.

Let’s look at some examples. When a PMS is integrated with a POS system, call accounting software or in-room entertainment platform, charges for restaurant meals, long-distance calls, and pay-per-view are applied to guest folios automatically, saving manual administrative time and improving billing accuracy. Integration with payment gateways and electronic locking systems allow payment acceptance and key coding to be facilitated directly through the PMS (instead of requiring staff to manually enter data into the credit card terminal or locking system) for a faster and more secure check-in process.

OTA, GDS and channel manager integrations allow you to conveniently manage rates and availability for all connected channels at once directly through your PMS, rather than updating each channel one by one, duplicating data each time. Integrations with CRM and guest engagement solutions can automate routine guest communications and heighten personalization.

In short, system integration automates data workflow for enhanced efficiency, accuracy and service. When the data takes care of itself, you have more time to focus on your guests.

Can’t “Mobilize” Your Front Desk

One of the most celebrated advantages of a cloud PMS is being able to access your data from anywhere, any time. Unlike legacy systems, which chain staff to the front desk (where the only access point for completing front-office tasks is the front-desk computer on which the PMS software is physically installed), cloud PMS are deployed online, conveniently accessible to authorized users via any computer or mobile device connected to the internet.

With a cloud PMS, managers can log in when they’re away from the property to generate reports, update room rates, or provide off-site assistance to on-site staff as needed. Accessing PMS data on the go via a mobile device, on-site staff can look up reservation folios, enter bookings, log and action guest requests, update housekeeping room status, and even check guests in—all without returning to the front desk, maximizing time and efficiency.

Using a cloud PMS, modern hoteliers can essentially take the front desk with them wherever they go to serve guests better and manage their business more effectively.

Can’t Stay Competitive

Legacy PMS require expensive licences and upgrades that do not inspire hotels to keep their systems up to date, eventually resulting in obsolete software that holds business back.

Key to remaining competitive in any industry is implementing current and innovative technology that helps businesses keep up with consumer demand and behaviour, like the desire for self-service options and personalization.

From improving mobile functionality to developing new integrations, cloud PMS are constantly evolving in an ongoing mission to improve operational efficiency, profitability and the guest experience for lodging operations. Technology that unifies and mobilizes data will put a hotel ahead of another employing systems that trap data in silos and staff behind the front desk.

Properties running on cloud technology usually enjoy standard feature updates and system upgrades free of charge as new features and upgrades are quick and easy to deploy online compared to legacy installations. This ease of deployment means that cloud solutions are easily scalable too, readily growing with your business, whether further rooms, locations or revenue streams are added.

Through connectivity, constant innovation and scalability, cloud PMS give lodging operations a sharp competitive edge that keeps them ahead of the game.

Still not convinced that a cloud PMS can help your business be more successful? Read 5 Ways a Cloud PMS Directly Increases Hotel Revenue next!

WebRezPro PMS Named in Capterra’s Top 20 for Hospitality Management Software

WebRezPro Property Management System is catapulting up Capterra’s Top 20 Most Popular list for hospitality management software, moving up to #7 this year! The leading online resource for business software buyers, Capterra combs through hundreds of vendors every year to determine the Top 20 most popular products based on user reviews and online search activity over the previous 12 months.

WebRezPro now has over 100 reviews on Capterra. We greatly appreciate the time our customers take to provide feedback that helps other hoteliers make a decision when implementing new software—and guides us in making WebRezPro even better.

According to the reviews, the top three things our customers love most about WebRezPro PMS are:

WebRezPro Customer Support Team

Based throughout Canada, our customer support team can be reached by telephone or email. Our customers consistently praise our support team’s responsiveness, knowledge and genuine helpfulness.

The customer support is the best that I have seen—quick and responsive, easy to understand and, more importantly, helpful.” – Liz I., Owner/Operator, Hessenland Inn

We really enjoy knowing that when we have a problem, question, or need to make changes, that our service team is so easy to work with and will help in any way.” – DeEtte V., Owner, Primrose Inn & Suites

I have worked with other hotel systems that were run by programmers. It’s obvious that WebRezPro is run by people who know the hotel business.” – Ben S., General Manager, Viamede Resort

Powerful yet User-Friendly Functionality

From reservations to housekeeping to reporting, WebRezPro is a full-featured cloud PMS for properties of all types and sizes. While WebRezPro offers comprehensive functionality, we also strive to maintain one of the most user-friendly systems on the market. And according to most of our customers, we’re getting this right!

WebRezPro does a great job at building a PMS that combines functionality with a user friendly UI.” – Rick G, General Manager, Rushmore Express Inn & Family Suites

This is, hands down, the easiest PMS system we’ve ever used. During implementation, our staff became comfortable with it almost immediately. It also significantly reduced training time for new hires because it is so intuitive.” – Lucy C., Director of Development, Riversage Inns

Our system is more complicated than most with different minimum number of nights, houses that can hold 18 people and rent only Sunday-Sunday, extra person charges, etc. but WebRezPro could do all of that and more.” – Michelle W., Stowe Motel & Snowdrift

At first WebRezPro was a little daunting, the scope of the program seemed so vast, but with all the instructional videos accessible from inside the program, it became increasingly easier to navigate.” – Kelley H., Owner/Manager, Alamos Hotel Colonial

Extensive Integrations

WebRezPro PMS offers over 100 integrations (and counting!) with other hotel systems, including GDS and OTA channels, payment gateways, revenue management systems, POS systems, lock systems, CRM solutions, reputation management platforms, and more. Our customers appreciate our extensive selection of integrations and the time saved by automating cross-system processes.

The integrations with other companies is outstanding and that’s what initially attracted me to WebRezPro.” – Christopher S., Owner, The Fred

Love that developers are constantly improving the software and are flexible, willing to listen to feedback and open to developing new interfaces.” – Jennifer M., Revenue Manager, Guest Services Inc.

Tremendous options for interfacing with OTAs as well as other operational systems.” – Scott T., General Manager, Nantucket Inn

I love how it connects with Expedia and Booking.com; makes my job so much easier and eliminates double bookings. – Chris L., Owner, McKenzie River Mountain Resort

For complete reviews of WebRezPro, visit the Capterra website. If you’re a WebRezPro user, you can even write one of your own!

Check out Capterra’s Top 20 Hospitality Management Software report for the entire list of most popular hospitality management software solutions.

The content for the Top 20 report is derived from independent research and user testing; end-user reviews and ratings; and vendor-supplied and publicly available product and company information applied against a documented methodology. The results do not constitute an endorsement by Gartner or any of its affiliates.

Best E-Commerce Practices for Independent Hotels

When you think of “e-commerce,” online retail sites like Amazon, eBay and Etsy probably first come to mind. But have you ever thought of your property’s website as an e-commerce site too?

E-commerce refers to commercial transactions that are conducted electronically over the internet, so if your hotel website processes bookings through an online booking engine then, technically, you should think of it as an e-commerce site, especially if your goal is to drive direct bookings.

Retailers have shaped consumer expectations of the online shopping experience. Today’s consumers are used to simple, seamless and secure shopping experiences online and hotel websites need to provide a similar booking experience to maximize conversions in an increasingly competitive hospitality industry.

Hotel websites must go beyond compelling visual design and great photos; a frictionless user experience is key to the success of any e-commerce site. So, start thinking about your property’s website from an e-commerce perspective and follow best e-commerce practices to ensure your website provides a simple, seamless, credible and supportive online shopping experience that turns lookers into bookers.

Simple

The most successful e-commerce sites keep things simple. Even online retail giants like Amazon that sell hundreds of thousands of products across a multitude of categories offer a straightforward and intuitive shopping experience.

Consumers prefer websites that are visually uncluttered and easy to navigate and understand. For hotel websites that means a clean, modern visual design, a clear USP (unique selling proposition), well-organized content (one topic per page), images that specifically support page content, prominent and relevant calls to action (CTAs) like “book now” and “view deals” buttons, and familiar menu formats for intuitive navigation. 

The online booking engine must also offer a simple, intuitive user experience that guides users effortlessly through the booking process. Avoid overwhelming users with too many options and reduce the steps to complete a booking as much as possible by only asking for the minimum amount of information required to make a booking. Personalization is important here too; your online booking engine should recognize repeat customers and auto-complete information as appropriate to simplify the reservation process.

An uncomplicated path to booking is key to converting website visitors into paying guests.

Seamless

A seamless user experience goes hand in hand with simplicity. It’s important to eliminate any obstacles to booking—you don’t want to give customers any excuse to bail. As mentioned above, simplicity helps pave the way to booking via an easily understandable and navigable website and online booking process. 

As well, look at your website from a more technical perspective to ensure a seamless user experience that eliminates friction.

Ensure pages load quickly; approximately half of website visitors abandon a page that takes more than three seconds to load. You can run your website through a page speed test (like Google’s PageSpeed Insights) to find out how your website performs and what you can do to make it faster—because every second really does count.

Today’s online consumers frequently switch between desktop and mobile devices (and browsers), so a website that functions optimally across devices is key to a seamless online user experience. A responsive website and booking engine automatically detects and adapts itself to the screen it is being viewed on, adjusting layout, content and functionality accordingly to present an optimal and consistent user experience on all screens.

In addition to being mobile friendly, your online booking engine should offer a branded experience with a similar look and feel to your website to create a seamless booking experience and gain customers’ trust. Even basic customization of your booking engine with your logo and background colour helps support credibility of your business (which brings us to the next point)…

Credible

Successful online retailers earn consumers’ trust by establishing credibility. Professional product images, customer reviews, contact information, payment and shipping policies, affiliation badges and secure URLs are all important elements of an e-commerce website that help gain customer confidence.

Make sure your hotel website demonstrates your property’s authenticity and reassures prospective guests that it’s safe to book direct online.

Do this by investing in a quality website design and professional, high-res images of your property (avoid stock photos) that accurately portray the stay experience. Include guest reviews throughout your site or on a dedicated page, and add social media icons to your header or footer that link to your social channels, to provide your customers with the social proof that will convince them to book with you. Most review sites and social media channels provide widgets that display a live feed of your reviews, ratings and posts directly on your website.

Display trust symbols like a TripAdvisor badge (if your property is doing well on TripAdvisor), and affiliation badges for any relevant memberships you have, for example, with your local Chamber of Commerce, lodging association or eco-friendly certification, to show you take your business seriously.

Make sure you’re providing your customers with a safe shopping experience with secure URLs (secure URLs begin with https rather than http), and that goes for your online booking engine too. Display a Best Rate Guarantee and make booking and cancellation policies readily available for customers.

Supportive

Without easy and instant access to customer support, online shoppers are more inclined to abandon their shopping carts if they have a question about the purchase. The same goes for travelers booking accommodation online.

Live chat is a common element of e-commerce websites, allowing an agent to help customers via real-time messaging as they are shopping. Now, AI-based chatbots, which can handle basic queries well, are replacing live chat. An increasing amount of hotel websites successfully employ live chat or a chatbot to answer prospective guests’ questions and guide them down the purchase funnel.

Whether or not you use live chat or a chatbot on your property’s website, it’s crucial to display contact information—especially a phone number and email address—on every page of your website (ideally in the header) so that customers can reach out at any point. Including social media icons in your header too will catch those millennial customers who prefer to communicate with businesses through their social channels.

But it doesn’t stop there. Once a customer completes a booking through your website, continue to offer excellent customer support via booking confirmation and pre-arrival messaging that invites them to upgrade their stay, informs them of useful property information, or asks if they have any special requests. They’ll feel reassured about their choice to book with you, and you’ll have laid the foundation for a loyal customer relationship.

Much more than a pretty digital brochure, hotel websites today are highly functional e-commerce sites designed to drive direct online bookings. Make sure your hotel website engages proven e-commerce practices to maximize conversions.

8 Key Performance Indicators Hoteliers Should Be Tracking

Running a hotel is a complicated job with a never-ending list of responsibilities. It can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks that keep your property running smoothly and forget about taking time to assess your business’s performance. But, as they say, you can’t improve what you don’t measure – so start measuring.

Here are eight important key performance indicators (KPI) every hotelier should be tracking:

Financial KPIs

Average Occupancy Rate (AOR) >> The AOR measures the percentage of rooms that are occupied over a specific period. It is calculated by dividing the number of paid rooms occupied by the total rooms available (for the desired period) and multiplying that figure by 100.

Occupancy is an essential indicator of hotel success. Increased AOR typically means increased revenue, so you should pay careful attention to this figure. Check out our past blog post for ideas on increasing occupancy at your property.

In addition to providing insight into hotel performance, knowing your AOR is critical for operations. This metric can help you staff your hotel appropriately and manage inventory effectively.

Average Daily Rate (ADR) >> The ADR measures the revenue generated by each room on average. It is calculated by dividing total room revenue by the number of rooms sold. You should be comparing your ADR to the average costs per room to ensure profitable pricing decisions.

For tips on improving ADR at your property take a look at this past post.

Average Rate Index (ARI) >> The ARI indicates how your ADR compares to that of your immediate competitors. It is calculated by dividing your ADR by your competitors’ average ADR. This figure can help you determine if, and how, you should be adjusting your pricing.

Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR) >> RevPAR is often considered the most important figure for analyzing hotel success. Although similar to ADR, it includes the rooms that are sitting empty in the calculation (RevPAR = total room revenue / number of available rooms).  Because this ratio accounts for both revenue and occupancy, it serves as a good snapshot of success and profitability.

Revenue Per Available Customer (RevPAC) >> RevPAC (calculated by dividing the total revenue from hotel guests by the number of hotel guests) reflects the average revenue generated by a single customer. This figure accounts for ancillary revenue sources (from spa treatments to food and beverage purchases to pet fees) in addition to room revenue.

Check out our past blog post for ideas on increasing ancillary revenue, and therefore RevPAC, at your hotel.

Customer Acquisition Cost >> This metric indicates how much cost is invested in acquiring each new customer. You can compute it by summing the total amount spent on sales and marketing and dividing that figure by the number of clients acquired through those efforts. Calculate the CAC for individual channels to determine which ones are worth continued investment.

Guest Satisfaction KPIs

Online rating >> In the age of the internet, hoteliers no longer have to wonder how their guests felt about their stay; online reviews provide explicit and measurable feedback. You should be aware of the number of reviews and overall rating your hotel has on sites like Google and TripAdvisor, and making efforts to improve both.

Read this blog post for tips on improving your ratings online.

Guest engagement >> People engage with the brands that they trust and love, so how much engagement you get online can be a good indicator of overall guest satisfaction. Track the number of likes, comments, and shares your content is getting on social media platforms for a sense of how contented and loyal your guests are.

Running a successful business requires constant self-assessment and adjustment. Track, and regularly assess, these KPIs so you can run a more efficient and profitable property.

Congrats to 6 WebRezPro Clients Voted Best in 2019 by Condé Nast Traveler Readers

The results of the 2019 Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards were announced this month, and we are proud to congratulate six WebRezPro clients that were voted among the best hotels and resorts in the world!

This year a record 600,000 Condé Nast Traveler readers cast their votes in the 32nd annual Readers’ Choice Awards survey of nearly 10,000 hotels and resorts, as well as destinations, airlines, airports, cruises and tour operators.

A big congratulations to our clients who were selected among the top! Well deserving of their places on the prestigious list, each of the outstanding properties below is recognized and celebrated for their unwavering commitment to the guest experience.

Kamalame Cay – #32, Best Resorts in the World; #1, Top 25 Resorts in the Atlantic Islands

Kamalame Cay is a private island resort offering an idyllic setting of tropical jungle and endless stretches of sandy beaches just off the Andros Great Barrier Reef in the Bahamas. After enjoying a range of ocean adventures, fine dining, the overwater spa or barefoot strolls along the beach, guests can relax in their private oceanfront villa, perfect for families and friends.

The Lodge on Little St. Simons Island – #7, Top 20 Resorts in the South

The Lodge on Little St. Simons Island helps nature lovers discover the pristine wilderness of a secret island paradise among the state of Georgia’s famed Golden Isles. Accessible only by boat, this sustainable resort accommodates no more than 32 overnight guests at a time in charming guest rooms and cottages, and serves up fresh local seafood and organic produce grown onsite, not to mention plenty of outdoor activities, from beach combing to boating.

Nisbet Plantation Beach Club – #41, Top 50 Resorts in the Caribbean Islands

Imagine a beautifully restored 1778 plantation house on 30 lush acres of lawns, coconut palms and gardens, accompanied by cheerful stucco cottages tucked amongst the foliage. That’s Nisbet Plantation, a welcoming resort on Nevis—the island that time forgot. Here, guests can enjoy an authentic Caribbean island vacation experience, complete with gourmet dining, fun outdoor activities, beachfront hammocks, and endless sandy beaches.

Secret Bay – #42, Top 50 Resorts in the Caribbean Islands

Located on the island of Dominica, Secret Bay is an eco-luxury resort comprised of six secluded villas perched on a clifftop, surrounded by rainforest, overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Dedicated to preserving the nature that surrounds it and supporting the local community, this special hideaway provides an unforgettable guest experience with five-star service, luxurious accommodation and a range of activities from yoga to snorkeling. 

The Cove – #15, Top 25 Resorts in the Atlantic Islands

Set on the unspoiled shores of Eleuthera in the Bahamas, you’ll find The Cove, an irresistible boutique island resort. Surrounded by palm trees, The Cove’s gorgeous seaside cottages, villas and guesthouse rooms put guests within steps of white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, gourmet dining, relaxing spa treatments and a spectacular hilltop infinity pool.

Turtle Island Fiji – #7, Top 20 Resorts in Australia and the South Pacific

Turtle Island, a private 500-acre island eco-resort set among the Yasawa Islands in Fiji, beckons visitors to experience its sandy beaches, lush rainforest, beautiful villas, local cuisine, the famed Blue Lagoon—and the joy and culture of Fiji. Guests are welcomed to learn about the island’s turtle conservation efforts, local village life, and how to live a life of balance.

We are proud to provide these extraordinary properties with the tools to help streamline daily operations and deliver unforgettable guest experiences.

WebRezPro is committed to helping all clients exceed their guests’ expectations with a flexible property management system that can support the most unique operations. Complete with guest profiles, reservation reminders, group booking folios, automated guest emails, package rates, booking options, activity bookings (optional), a choice of two beautiful online booking engines, integrated accounting and reporting, mobile accessibility and 100+ integrations, WebRezPro is an ideal solution for special properties.

Bizarre Hotel Guest Requests (and How to Handle Them)

From demanding a meal after the kitchen is closed to requesting a room change because the feng shui isn’t quite right, most hotels deal with challenging guest requests on a daily basis. But we bet most requests pale in comparison to the following real-life examples…

We’ve scoured the internet for some truly bizarre guest requests that were actually granted. Read on to find out how far above and beyond some properties will go for their guests—and how your property can too.

Celebrity Requests

Apparently rock star Don Henley has his bed follow him by truck wherever he goes. When staying at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver, Colorado, he requested that his bed be moved into his hotel room. He then later asked for it to be removed as the hotel bed turned out to be plenty comfortable enough after all. Sure, why not? Moving large beds in and out of hotel rooms is a piece of cake!

You often hear of celebrities complaining about their lack of privacy, but it seems some complain when they get too much of it too. The staff at Tides Inn in Irvington, Virginia, were trying to respect an unnamed celebrity guest’s privacy, but after three days of giving the special guest space and refraining from asking for autographs and photos, they were asked by the guest’s assistant to drum up some fanfare. The hotel’s concierge organized staff into three groups—one to request autographs, one to request photos, and one to learn all they could about the Very Important Person in order to gush about their past roles, award wins and charity involvement. Perhaps it’s really the staff at Tides Inn that deserve an Oscar?

Spanish artist, Salvador Dalí (1904 – 1989) once requested a small herd of sheep be sent to his hotel room at Le Meurice in Paris so he could shoot at them with a pistol filled with blanks. The mind simply boggles.

Requests for Animals

Thankfully not quite as disturbing as shooting at sheep, the following animal requests go way beyond a bowl of water and dog treats.

Twenty pounds of ice was requested for penguins staying at the Seaport Boston. The penguins were traveling as part of the Boston Globe Travel Show—and staying in a hotel room bathtub. Of course.

The concierge team at the Fairmont Copley Plaza, also in Boston, sourced a large egg incubator for a guest’s ostrich egg! At least it might come in handy for other guests traveling with ostrich eggs…

A guest requested the Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris to find two lion cubs for their daughter’s birthday party. (Miniature ponies are so passé.)

Requests for Special Occasions

It’s not just birthday parties that warrant special attention… Just four hours before her wedding, a bride staying at the Hotel Vintage Park in Seattle asked hotel staff to have her wedding dress dry cleaned as she had only just realized she got it dirty celebrating out on the town the night before. The hotel concierge managed the urgent feat just in time, meeting the bride at the wedding venue with the freshly cleaned dress. Phew!

The concierge team at the Sofitel Chicago Magnificent Mile staged an early Christmas for a couple staying in December, right before the husband shipped out for military service. The wife sent gifts and tree ornaments in advance, and the concierge team set up a real tree in the guests’ room, decorated it, hung the stockings and wrapped the presents—all ready for the guests’ arrival. Awwwww.

Upon-Arrival Requests

Speaking of in-room items requested for guest arrival, photos of famous people are popular. Staff at the Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica, California, filled a couple’s room with photos of Jeff Goldblum, as requested. The satisfied guests arrived to find framed photos of the star on the desk, in the bathroom and beside the bed.

A woman staying at the Hotel Indigo in San Antonio, Texas, for a boring work conference thought she might spice up her stay by requesting a photo of Nicolas Cage from Con Air. Hotel staff happily complied, placing the framed photo beside the bed with a note that said, “Sweet dreams!”

Pillow forts are another popular request made by bored guests. Staff at the Fairmont Winnipeg left a DIY fort kit in the room of a guest who made such a request. The W, Seattle also fulfilled a guest’s request for a pillow fort—along with a towel folded into the shape of an elephant and a picture of fruit on the night table. Yes, a picture of fruit.

Particularly Narcissistic Requests

While many of the previously mentioned requests are undeniably narcissistic to a degree, the following requests really take the cake.

A guest at The Savoy, London, apparently thought they were Cleopatra reincarnated and asked for a bathtub of wild goat’s milk to bathe in. Another indulgent bath was requested by a guest staying at The Ritz (also in London) who wanted to bathe in fresh seawater. Hotel staff had to bring the seawater all the way from Brighton, 56 miles away. Is there something wrong with London’s tap water?

An Australian couple planning their wedding at the Towers of the Waldorf Astoria New York requested near life-size statues of themselves—made of chocolate. The Waldorf’s pastry chef stepped up to the challenge. Working from photos and communicating with the couple by email, it took several months to create a likeness that met the guests’ satisfaction. For the Waldorf’s sake, we hope these guests were as sweet as their statues.

Granting Your Own Guests’ Special Requests

Thankfully, such extravagant requests are uncommon, but going above and beyond for your guests is the best way to earn their loyalty and advocacy.

While the practical side of fulfilling unusual guest requests (like finding lion cubs or creating chocolate copies of guests) can be complicated, the administrative side doesn’t have to be. With the right systems in place, all kinds of requests can be logged and tracked efficiently for quick resolution that leads to satisfied guests.

A modern property management system (PMS) features a range of practical tools to help ensure no request goes unaddressed.

Reservation reminders and alarms that can be attached to guest folios or set as daily reminders help staff keep on top of all time-sensitive tasks—whether it’s to call that ostrich farm about an egg incubator as soon as their office opens, or to send someone to fetch some goat milk in time for a guest’s bath.

A modern PMS will include an integrated housekeeping report too, allowing notes and/or alarms to be attached to individual units to help both housekeeping staff and front desk personnel keep up with in-room requests, from extra pillows to full-blown pillow forts.

Fulfilling guest requests, especially extravagant ones, can come with additional costs that are passed on to the guest. A PMS with point-of-sale functionality greatly simplifies invoicing (and accounting), allowing you to set up miscellaneous products and services, apply a cost, and easily add these incidental charges to reservation folios.

Some properties use hotel/guest communication management solutions like Nuvola and Zenya that provide guests with a convenient way to communicate with the property and make requests. Designed to personalize the guest experience and more effectively meet individual needs, these solutions streamline guest communications, tracking requests in real time and simultaneously coordinating all action items. When your PMS is directly integrated with guest engagement solutions like this, the administrative side of tracking and managing requests and tasks becomes fully automated for maximum efficiency and guest satisfaction.

In the hospitality industry, customer satisfaction is paramount. We think the above-mentioned properties—who handled such bizarre guest requests with grace and aplomb—are at the top of their game. Backed by a modern PMS, your property too will be equipped to manage all kinds of requests, increasing customer satisfaction and winning the loyalty of even the most demanding guests (whether you want to or not!).

Boost Off-Season Occupancy with Staycation Bookings

As we leave the peak travel season behind us, it’s time for hoteliers to implement strategies to maintain occupancy as best as possible. Beyond dropping room rates there are more resourceful ways to boost reservations—marketing your property to staycationers is one of them.

A staycation is a vacation taken close to home, normally within a comfortable driving distance. As our lives are becoming increasingly busier, staycations are becoming increasingly popular. Whether it’s an overnight stay in a local hotel or a camping trip at the beach, a quick getaway that doesn’t require getting on a plane is an attractive option for families, friends and couples who are short on time and looking for an easy, budget-friendly escape from their daily routine. In fact, staycationing is such a convenient way to get away from it all that staycationers tend to get away more often—at any time of year.

Attracting locals to your property not only helps maintain occupancy rates during the off season (and all year round), but offers the potential to grow a loyal customer base. Show local visitors a great time and they’ll come back again and again.

Focus on Food

A big part of travel and escaping the daily routine is enjoying local cuisine—and not having to cook! While staycationers are most likely already familiar with the local fare, the luxury of having it prepared for them is a compelling reason in itself to book a weekend away. Take advantage of this by promoting your property’s dining services and/or culinary hotspots in your neighbourhood through packages and discounts, or simply by highlighting recommended restaurants on your website and social media channels.

Cooking classes and wine tastings can attract locals looking to do something a bit different.

Promote Local Events

Staycationers often look for activities and events to spice up their normal routine, so get involved with what’s happening in your community to provide a stay that excites and refreshes. In addition to recommending local restaurants, promote local events and activities too. Consider partnering up with tour operators and event organizers to offer packages or discounted tickets.

Organize & Promote Your Own Events

If you have the space, consider organizing onsite events that attract locals. Think markets and fairs, snowman competitions, art exhibitions, live music, etc. Even locals who only turn up for the event but don’t stay the night will get the chance to familiarize themselves with your property and may then follow you on social media (where you can inspire them to try a staycation with you).

If your property caters to private functions such as weddings and corporate events, boost marketing efforts for these services to attract local clientele.

Create Packages

Long-distance travelers aren’t the only ones who enjoy value-packed and hassle-free vacations afforded by packages. Bundling accommodation with activities (from dining to spa treatments to boat tours) provides guests with an experience that allows them to save money and time compared to organizing everything themselves, and that appeals to locals looking for a quick getaway too.

Offer Free Parking

If you typically charge guests for parking, consider including it as a perk for staycationers. Because staycationers are more likely to arrive by car than long-distance travelers, free parking is a very relevant amenity that will be much appreciated.

If you typically charge guests for parking, consider including it as a perk for staycationers. Because staycationers are more likely to arrive by car than long-distance travelers, free parking is a very relevant amenity that will be much appreciated.

Highlight Local Gems

Vacationing close to home gives people a chance to get to know their region better. Help them discover experiences that might be new for them, from tourist-centered activities like Segway tours and wildlife viewings to hidden local gems like the new cat café or a family-friendly nature trail.

Reveal neighbourhood hotspots in a local guide section of your website, on social media and share local recommendations with guests on site.

Welcome Pets

It’s much easier (and cheaper) to travel with a dog in a car than on a plane, so many staycationers will choose to bring their pets. If you don’t want to rule these travelers out, welcome their fur babies with pet-friendly rooms and amenities.

Reward Loyalty

Because staycations are typically easier and more budget friendly than vacations in far-off lands, travelers staying close to home are more likely to staycation more frequently, whenever their schedule allows for two or three days away. Reward them for their loyalty to keep them coming back and inspire them to tell their friends about you.

Think discounted rates, a free drink, and personalized service and communications that cater to their preferences and needs—from dietary restrictions to their preferred room type to the special occasion they might be celebrating.

Be Active on Social Media

Guests from nearby are more likely to follow your property on social media. Because your property is part of their local experience, you have the power to be especially relevant to them. They will be eager to learn of specials, events and activities you are promoting, and to be reminded of the wonderful time they can have at your property.

Keep your property’s social media accounts active with regular posts and stories that highlight the distinctive local experience you offer.

Staycation bookings help properties reduce reliance on seasonality, and offer a great opportunity to develop a loyal customer base. Show local guests they can experience something new and special when vacationing close to home, and your property is bound to become their go-to weekend getaway.

With all these bookings coming in, you’ll want to make sure your reservation system can keep up! Read our recent article on what to look for in an online booking engine.

A Quick Guide to EMV for Independent Hotels

It has been a while now since U.S. consumers switched from swipe-and-sign to chip-and-sign (or chip-and-PIN) credit cards back in 2015. And there’s no looking back.

EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, and is a global standard for debit and credit card security. Designed to make card-present transactions more secure, EMV cards feature a small computer chip (microprocessor) that must be inserted into an EMV-enabled terminal (chip card reader) to authenticate and encrypt the transaction, and to prove that the card is present.  

Credit card featuring an EMV chip

Protecting cardholder data from theft and reducing credit card fraud, EMV helps lodging operators and other merchants to provide customers with a safer card payment environment on site.

It’s also important to know that with the transition to chip-and-sign/PIN cards there has been a liability shift away from the card issuer to the merchant. While at this point it is not a legal requirement for merchants to adopt EMV, the merchant can be held financially responsible for fraudulent card-present transactions if an EMV payment acceptance option is not available to a customer who presents an EMV-enabled chip card.

Merchants who do provide an EMV payment acceptance option are protected from financial liability resulting from fraudulent transactions, so implementing EMV technology is not only safer for your guests, but it protects your business too.

How does EMV actually work?

While on the surface it might not seem like a big deal, inserting a credit card chip versus swiping a credit card stripe makes a big difference to payment security.

With a traditional magnetic stripe swipe card, only the card number and expiration date is needed to complete a card-present transaction. Because this information is static (it’s always the same for every transaction), it’s relatively easy for credit card data to be copied via compromised credit card readers and used to make counterfeit cards.

When making a payment with an EMV chip card in person, the card is inserted into an EMV chip card reader to validate the card and create a unique, encrypted code for that specific transaction (a different code is created for each and every transaction). The dynamic nature of single-use codes makes it virtually impossible for thieves to steal credit card data that can be used fraudulently—even if the encryption is unlawfully captured and decrypted, it wouldn’t be valid for future transactions.

A chip card inserted into an EMV-enabled terminal

Combined with point-to-point encryption (P2PE) and tokenization, EMV is part of a robust solution that not only increases payment security but keeps credit card data out of the hotel’s property management system, greatly reducing hotel liability in case of a system breach.

To accept EMV chip cards on site, hoteliers must use an EMV-enabled terminal (chip card reader) that communicates with an EMV-certified payment gateway and processor.

WebRezPro PMS is EMV certified with Shift4 and USAePay payment gateways, which support a variety of EMV-capable terminals (chip card readers) that make it easy for hotels to implement EMV within their current operations. Both gateways are certified for EMV with various major payment processors, so it’s possible for lodging operators to adopt EMV without changing service providers, allowing properties to negotiate the best rates or make a switch if preferred.

Advantages of Implementing EMV at Your Property

EMV is currently the most secure method for accepting card payments on site, and significantly reduces card-present fraud and the associated costs. Lodging operations that adopt EMV are protecting both their guests and their business.

Providing an EMV payment option helps reinforce your business’s credibility and gain the trust of your guests, which impacts the overall guest experience of your property.

As mentioned earlier, the shift to EMV has also shifted liability from the card issuer to the merchant if the merchant doesn’t support EMV chip transactions. This alone is a big incentive for hotels to implement EMV to protect themselves from the very real possibility of financial losses due to counterfeit credit card transactions.

EMV reduces the risk of costly chargebacks too. Charges are harder for guests to dispute when EMV card-present transactions are considered proof that the customer was actually there.

Last but not least, because card-present transactions pose less risk of credit card fraud and chargebacks compared to card-not-present transactions (online purchases and any time a credit card number is manually keyed in), EMV transactions incur lower credit card processing fees, which can potentially save a hotel thousands of dollars per year. (The higher the security risk you pose as a merchant, the higher your fees.)

If you haven’t already adopted EMV at your property, seriously consider the benefits of doing so. Significantly reducing card fraud and counterfeiting, EMV technology protects your business from losses due to fraudulent card-present transactions, reduces credit card processing fees, and shows your guests you care about the security of their data.

What’s next? ​Contact your merchant provider to see if they work with either Shift4 or USAePay. Once you’re set up with an EMV terminal, contact WebRezPro to complete the integration process with your PMS.

YMCA Camp Keanae – Maui

Located in Kahului, Hawaii, the YMCA Camp Keanae – Maui is set along the northern coastline and offers a variety of accommodation types including dormitory-style cabins, suites, tent and van camping and cottages. This unique property has just started using our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help manage their operations. Visit their website to see how they’re using WebRezPro’s integrated web reservation software to accept online bookings!