Managing Hotel Reservations during the COVID-19 Pandemic

As borders are closed, events and gatherings cancelled, and general populations asked to stay home in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, our tourism and hospitality industries are being challenged like never before. Drastic measures are necessary to protect our global health and economy.

Lodging providers and other tourism businesses are having to make tough decisions as they navigate a unique and unexpected crisis that has had a profound impact on nearly every aspect of life. These are challenging and uncertain times, but the travel industry will recover—it’s just a matter of when.

In the meantime, analyze costs thoughtfully, communicate with your customers, and maintain sight of the upturn. When it comes to reservation management during the COVID-19 pandemic, lodging operators can use their property management system (PMS) to implement specific strategies to help manage cancellations, availability and customer communications. Here are some actions to consider:

Create a cancellation code for COVID-19

To help track cancellations due to the pandemic, and to assist with managing cancellation and refund policies, create a COVID-19 cancellation code that can be applied to relevant canceled reservations. A custom report can then be generated, collated by cancellation code, to track all COVID-19 cancellations.

In addition, identifying where the majority of canceled bookings are coming from (geographical regions and booking channels) is important for determining any required adjustments to marketing and distribution budgets and channels.

Convert confirmed bookings into gift certificates

Some properties are choosing to convert bookings into gift certificates or vouchers instead of cancelling bookings and issuing refunds to protect revenue and secure business for the future. When a booking is converted into a gift certificate, the reservation payment is held as a guest deposit for future bookings.

To help track reservations that are converted to gift certificates due to the COVID-19 pandemic, create a ‘COVID-19’ source code that can be attached to converted bookings.

Keep customers informed by email

During any crisis, it is important to keep in touch with customers to inform them of any changes related to your business that might affect them. Use your PMS or CRM to send customers a bulk email informing them of your property’s COVID-19 policy and reassuring them that their well-being is of utmost importance to you.

A customized pre-arrival email template should be created and sent to confirmed reservations arriving within up to 90 days, letting customers know about the steps you have taken to ensure their health and safety, detailing your cancellation policy, reassuring them that you are closely monitoring the situation, and inviting them to reach out with any questions or concerns they may have. Our partner Revinate offers good advice for writing COVID-19 emails to guests.

Apply temporary closeouts

Many properties are making the hard decision to temporarily close out part of their property or their entire property in order to control costs. This is a decision that should be carefully weighed in terms of forecasted occupancy and P&L.

Within your PMS, temporary closeouts should not affect any bookings already in place as a property could choose to honor those existing bookings. If a reservation during the closeout period is canceled, the unit attached to that reservation should automatically close out. Closeouts should also push a stop sell to OTAs integrated with your PMS.

Add COVID-19 messaging to your website booking engine

Use your website booking engine to help clarify your property’s COVID-19 status to customers. For example, if your property is open but some services such as the restaurant, gym and spa are closed, a customized message informing customers of limited operations can be added to your online booking engine, displaying for all availability searches. In WebRezPro this is executed through the ‘maintenance note’ feature, and can also be applied to all booking confirmation emails sent during the designated time frame.

If your property is temporarily closed due to COVID-19, update the “no availability” message that displays when a search returns no availability to let customers know that you are not accepting reservations at this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that you look forward to welcoming them in the near future.

No one knows how long the COVID-19 crisis will last, but we can all work together to stop the spread and eliminate the virus. When that happens, people will be eager to travel again and the hotel industry will recover. Until then, use your data and hotel technology to make informed decisions for your business and to implement procedures that will help you navigate evolving operations during these uncharted times.

If you require assistance implementing any of the above reservation management practices in your WebRezPro PMS, please don’t hesitate to contact our customer support team. Stay safe, and keep your eyes on the horizon.

A Guide to Mobile Keys for Independent Hotels

In the hospitality industry, mobile technology is rapidly modernizing operations and changing guest expectations. Our mobile phones can do almost anything these days, including unlocking doors!

Mobile key (or digital key) technology is no longer reserved for global hotel chains and luxury resorts. Thanks to a growing number of keyless access providers and ease of implementation, mobile keys are now accessible to independent properties, from hotels to vacation rentals to hostels.

How Do Mobile Keys Work?

Using Bluetooth or NFC (near field communication) technology, mobile key applications turn a guest’s mobile phone into their room key. Mobile key solutions work best when integrated with the property management system (PMS) to automate room key delivery for an efficient, secure and modern check-in process that elevates the guest experience.

It works like this: Once a booking has been made, a booking confirmation email is sent to the guest, containing a link to download the mobile key app before arrival. Upon guest arrival, the PMS automatically lets the mobile key platform know when the guest checks in and the mobile key platform responds by sending a secure digital key to the guest’s mobile phone. The guest can then use the mobile key app to unlock the door with the tap of a button on the phone screen, or simply by holding the phone close to the door. The mobile key can also be used to access other hotel facilities, such as the gym, elevator or parking garage. Upon check-out, the PMS automatically alerts the mobile key platform and the digital key is disabled.

Mobile keys can be implemented without replacing existing lock systems, making this exciting technology easily accessible to independent properties. Existing locks can be upgraded by installing a Bluetooth device, for example, enabling mobile key compatibility while also maintaining keycard functionality.

Advantages of Mobile Keys

Guests want mobile applications that enhance the guest experience through self-service and personalization. From convenience and efficiency to sustainability and security, mobile key technology unlocks various advantages for both guests and hotel operators.

An Efficient, Personalized Check-in Process

The check-in experience is a major contributing factor to overall guest satisfaction scores. Integral to a seamless hotel self-check-in process, mobile key solutions allow guests to skip the front desk entirely and head straight to their room upon arrival. While that might at first seem counter-intuitive to the concept of hospitality, self-check-in improves efficiency and reduces friction by removing the obligatory stop at the front desk, and results in a more personalized experience where guests gain immediate, secure access to their room without having to identify themselves at the front desk first.

Self-check-in with mobile key greatly reduces the manual administrative load on staff. Instead of looking up reservations, charging credit cards and assigning keycards for every guest, staff can focus on actual hospitality—any hotel self-check-in experience should be supported by personnel who are available to assist guests as required and to welcome every guest with a smile.

Eliminating the need to manage keycards, mobile key technology not only speeds up the check-in process, but also improves the entire guest experience and automates access management for more efficient, secure operations.

Guests appreciate the convenience and security of mobile keys throughout their stay. Physical room keys and keycards have a way of getting themselves lost, even if only in the abyss of a handbag, but our mobile phones are always within easy reach. Which leads us to our next point…

Improved Security

Offering several layers of security, mobile key technology is the safest form of hotel access today. Physical keys and keycards are easily misplaced or stolen and can be used immediately to access a guestroom, but guest’s mobile phones are unlikely to go astray. Even if a phone is lost or stolen, the mobile key is protected first by the password, passcode or fingerprint ID required to access the phone, then by the password, passcode or fingerprint ID required to access the mobile room key. On top of that, mobile keys are protected against hacking by the latest encryption technology and transmitted in real time (only within range of the door lock) via a secure channel.   

As much as for improvements in efficiency, hotels are adopting mobile keys to enhance guest and hotel security.

Sustainable & Cost-Effective

Magstripe keycards are still the cheapest form of hotel room access, but they are prone to demagnetization, negatively impacting the guest experience. For this reason, hoteliers have been turning to more dependable RFID keycard systems, despite the greater cost. While mobile keys are more expensive than magstripe keycards, they deliver a positive return on investment when compared to RFID.

Both magstripe and RFID keycards come with a high cost to the environment however, and this is where mobile keys beat all keycards hands down. Eliminating plastic keycard waste (it’s estimated that a typical 200-room hotel disposes of approximately 12,000 keycards per year), mobile key technology significantly reduces a property’s environmental footprint and is preferred by increasingly eco-conscious travelers too.

Mobile technology is changing the way we operate as we use our phones for managing more and more aspects of our lives. Elevating the guest experience and security, and saving hoteliers time by automating guest access, mobile keys are steadily becoming mainstream in the hotel environment. WebRezPro PMS integrates with a growing list of mobile key providers, including OpenKey, STAYmyway and Lynx, to automate mobile key delivery for seamless guest check-in and effortless access management.

How Independent Hotels Can Increase Direct Bookings

The popularity of online travel agencies (OTAs) in the online hotel market reflects a demand for convenience and simplicity from travel bookers. However, while OTAs increase occupancy and exposure, their commission fees also decrease an independent hotel’s bottom line. Creating a strategy for increasing direct bookings will not only slash commission rates and increase profit but will build customer relationships and loyalty by offering unique, personalized incentives and services for booking direct.

Employ a User-Friendly Online Booking Engine

To capture more direct online bookings it is essential for lodging operators to provide a user-friendly online booking engine that allows travelers to book directly through their property’s website. Because convenience and simplicity are two major contributing factors that determine with whom customers will book, an online booking engine must be easy to access and use. Look for a flexible solution that allows you to offer enticing incentives and packages that cannot be found on third-party booking channels to persuade customers that booking direct will give them the best value and travel experience for their money. WebRezPro offers a choice of two flexible, mobile-friendly online booking engines that can be used to drive commission-free direct bookings through a property’s website and that are also fully integrated with the property management system (PMS).Providing a flexible and accessible online booking engine directly impacts the success of your business in an industry characterized by online shopping and personalized services and experiences.

Use Data to Drive Direct Bookings

Recognizing your guest base and why they choose your property is key to creating effective marketing and sales content that generates direct bookings. Using information within your PMS to identify your property’s customer segments and unique selling points (USP) allows you to guide marketing and sales strategies effectively.

Rather than simply slashing rates, use this information to pinpoint what types of travelers you attract and their motivations to book with you, such as what services they enjoy (and spend their money on) and why they choose your property. Knowing this information is crucial for offering unique, personalized services and packages that will inspire new and repeat direct bookings.

Create Value-Added Packages

Encourage your guests to book direct by offering value-added packages that are only available through your website. While price greatly influences travelers, your guests will appreciate getting the most value for their money and may be willing to pay extra in exchange for useful products and services. Package deals offer your guests greater value while also highlighting your property’s strengths and features. Free parking, discounted prices, loyalty and reward points, free breakfast, or exclusive discounts to local attractions and events are some examples of incentives for travelers to book direct.

Reward Loyalty

As mentioned above, loyalty and reward points can be valuable incentives for guests to book directly with you. Simplicity is crucial when creating a loyalty reward program because travelers will not be motivated to book direct if doing so means they are required to complete numerous and inconvenient extra steps. WebRezPro PMS offers an integrated “Rewards Module” as well as integration with loyalty reward platforms, which simplify the reward management process for independent hotels and travelers. Offer points that do not expire and can be cashed in for short-term rewards (e.g., a small welcome gift or a coffee/tea gift card) as well as long-term rewards (e.g., free/discounted stays) to attract both new and frequent guests.

Take Advantage of User-Generated Content

The prevalence and success of platforms that share customer reviews proves that user-generated content (UGC) is a valuable and trusted currency that hoteliers can use to increase bookings and build good reputations. UGC is word of mouth in digital form.  Making it incredibly easy to spread and share positive evaluations of your property with various types of travelers, UGC provides great free sales and marketing content. Including guest reviews on your website and social media profiles is an effective way to help turn lookers into direct bookers.

Implementing tactics that motivate travelers to book direct increases your business’s exposure, occupancy, and profits. Take your customer relationships and loyalty to the next level by offering unique, personalized perks and services as incentives for booking direct.

Email Marketing Tips for Independent Hoteliers in the 2020s

Businesses are reaching out to customers today in more ways than ever before—by social media, chatbot, mobile messaging, SMS, phone call, email, online advertising, TV and radio ads, and print… Phew! But of any marketing channel, email still delivers the best return on investment (in both time and money) and remains the key strategic channel for 91 percent of marketers (DMA, 2019). For hoteliers, modern tools to automate and personalize guest email communications make email one of the most efficient and effective ways to acquire and retain new customers.

While email marketing has been around since the 1990s when the internet revolution changed our lives, email marketing strategies have changed a lot since then. Here are our tips for doing hotel email marketing right in this new decade.

Grow Your Email List

Since the introduction of anti-spam and data protection laws like CASL and GDPR that were designed to protect consumers, marketers have had to adhere to stricter rules regarding sending emails, like compiling permission-based email lists. Such laws have helped to ensure B2C communications are reaching more engaged and receptive audiences, which is a win for both consumers and businesses.

It’s important to keep growing your email list in an organic way. Allow customers and potential customers to opt in through your website (for example, newsletter sign-ups and through your online booking engine), and encourage them to do so via other channels too, like social media, mobile messaging, booking confirmations, on-property signage and even in person upon check-in. Make the value of joining your mailing list obvious, whether for exclusive perks and discounts or for local travel tips and advice.

Also very important is to make sure all email marketing communications include an opt-out (unsubscribe) option in the footer of every email.

Use Data to Deliver Relevant Content

When it comes to routine emails that are directly tied to guest reservations and focused on building a loyal relationship, like booking confirmations, pre-arrival emails and feedback requests, targeted communications can be automated by your property management system (PMS), whereby relevant content is triggered by booking data (such as room and rate types, and check-in and check-out dates).

When it comes to sending promotional emails (like specials and package promotions, birthday or anniversary offers, exclusive discounts, or property news and events), the key to delivering relevant content is segmenting your mailing list and tailoring content to fit those segments. This depends greatly on customer profile data stored in your PMS or CRM, including demographics, interests, previous stay and spend history, etc. Segment your list in a way that makes sense for your property, for example, by highest-value customers, industry demographics (business guests, leisure guests, families, etc.), purchasing history, geographic location, etc.

Keep To the Point and On Brand

In our era of digital media, attention spans have become shorter. Inundated with choice, online consumers have become adept at skimming and scrolling at top speed. If we don’t get the information we need instantly, we move on to the next site—or delete the email. We don’t have time for long-winded paragraphs of text.

Just like current hotel website design trends highlight simple, clean layouts, concise text and captivating images that do most of the talking, marketing emails should follow suit. Grab and keep your customers’ attention with well-written and to-the-point textual content, and a simple, visually pleasing design that reinforces your brand.

Include Strong CTAs

Make it clear what your customer’s next steps should be by including a strong call to action (CTA), whether you want to encourage customers to contact your front desk, or direct them to a dedicated landing page for more information.

For example, a booking confirmation email might also promote upgrades and add-ons with an “Enhance My Stay” button that takes the customer to the “Amenities” page on your property’s website, and/or directs them to contact your front desk via the provided email address or phone number. An email promoting your latest special package could include a “Book Now” button that takes recipients directly to your online booking engine, with the package pre-selected. An email requesting guest feedback about their stay should include an in-email survey or a CTA (such as a “Review My Stay” button) that takes them directly to the feedback form on your preferred review platform.

Ideally, customers should be able to achieve the desired result with a single click, so send them exactly where they expect to go upon click-through. And always include an email address and phone number for your front desk, along with an invitation to contact you with any questions or special requests.

Use Subject Lines That Make Value Clear

Over the years, email subject lines have become increasingly important for cutting through the chatter and they have a direct impact on open rates. It pays to put some thought into them.

Just like email content, the subject line should also be brief and to the point. It should clearly communicate the benefit or value to the customer. For example, the subject line for an email promoting a new package could read something like, “Wine, dine and recline in Kelowna.” The subject line for a special offer could go something like, “Enjoy an extra night in Brisbane on us.” A request for feedback, something like, “Help us make your next stay even better.” Pique curiosity about renovations with a subject like, “A sneak peek at our new pool… opening soon.” Avoid the hard sell and instead tell customers how what’s inside can benefit them. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself, “Would I open this email?”

Make It Mobile Friendly

Various reports conclude that more than half of all emails are now opened on mobile rather than desktop. And if an email doesn’t display well on mobile, it’s immediately deleted in more than 70 percent of cases—no matter how good the content is.

From booking confirmations to special promotions, all your emails should be mobile friendly. The easiest way to do this is by making sure your PMS or CRM solution offers responsive email templates. Then, think mobile-first when designing the layout of your email by keeping image sizes in check, keeping paragraphs short, using buttons instead of linked text, including image ALT text, and linking to your property’s social media accounts. Once your template is set up, send yourself a test email and check it on both mobile and desktop before sending it to customers.

Automate, Automate, Automate!

With modern PMS and CRM solutions, managing guest email communications is almost effortless. As mentioned above, templates can and should be set up for booking confirmations, upgrade offers, pre-arrival, check-in/welcome, in-stay, check-out and post-stay emails that are triggered by reservation data such as stay dates, and room and rate types. Pulling data directly from reservation information, including the guest name, automated emails save hoteliers significant time while personalizing communications.

Test & Track Engagement

Finally, make sure your email marketing is working by tracking engagement, and testing and tweaking to improve results. Customer engagement and ROI can be measured by tracking open and click rates and, of course, revenue generated by email campaigns. Test what works best by trying different subject lines, CTAs, message length, delivery times, and track those results too. Modern email marketing platforms provide real-time tracking and reporting that makes analyzing campaign success easy.

Staying in touch with customers is critical to winning bookings and guest loyalty, and email is still one of the best ways to do it. Automating guest email communications, modern hospitality technology ensures hoteliers deliver personalized communications to each and every guest at the right time. Ask us about WebRezPro PMS’ automated email templates and direct integrations with hospitality CRM platforms that make guest email communications a breeze.

Mobile Musts for Modern Hotel PMS

As guest expectations evolve along with technology, it’s increasingly important for hotels to streamline operations and meet guest demand for mobile interactions with a mobile-friendly property management system (PMS). From guest profile and booking data to hotel performance reports, mobile-friendly PMS make data accessible on the go for improved workflow and guest service. Here are four important mobile capabilities that modern PMS should offer in this new decade and ahead.

Mobile-friendly Online Bookings

Hotel bookings on mobile continue to climb with Criteo research showing smartphone bookings are growing three to 10 times faster than desktop bookings, and approximately 70 percent of last-minute bookings are made on mobile devices.

The evidence is clear; accommodation providers of today simply must provide consumers with a mobile-friendly direct booking option, or lose customers to competitors and OTAs.

Your PMS should include a commission-free online booking engine for your website that works well on mobile devices too. This means an online booking engine with a simple and intuitive booking process that is easy to read and navigate on a small touch screen, and is compatible with various mobile operating systems. The booking process must give consumers confidence by demonstrating page and data security (https), and by delivering automatic on-screen confirmation that affirms the booking was successful.

Mobile Housekeeping Report

Modern PMS are all about improving workflow for greater productivity and guest service and this is especially apparent in mobile housekeeping applications.

Mobile housekeeping reports allow cleaning staff to view and update room cleaning status directly from their mobile devices as they work, boosting productivity and accountability. Integrated with front desk, mobile housekeeping reports improve inter-departmental communication too, displaying live room status to front desk agents and making early check-ins a breeze.

Last but not least, a mobile housekeeping report eliminates the need to print cleaning schedules, reducing paper and printing costs and your property’s environmental footprint.

Mobile Check-in

While baby boomers tend to prefer an efficient front-desk check-in experience, millennials are drawn to self-service apps and kiosks. Looking ahead, evolving guest expectations and technology will continue to move the check-in process away from the constraints of the front desk. In the meantime, hotels can accommodate the varied preferences and expectations of today’s guests by offering both conventional front-desk check-in processes and mobile check-in options. A future-proof PMS will equip you to do both with features like:

>>Paperless Check-in

Paperless check-in functionality allows guests to sign check-in receipts or registration cards digitally on a mobile device using electronic signature capture. Without the need to print and file check-in receipts in hard copy, the check-in process is faster, more cost-effective, and environmentally friendlier.

Paperless check-in also frees agents from the front desk, allowing for a more personable check-in experience within the hotel lobby or lounge. This can be especially welcome by guests during busy periods when queues are building at the front desk, or when guests require assistance at the self-check-in kiosk.

>>Self-Check-in App Integration

Just as pre-flight self-check-in has taken off in airports and online, hotel guests are calling for hotel self-check-in too.

Allowing guests to bypass the front desk if desired, hotel self-check-in is made possible through mobile apps (and on-property kiosks). Integration with the PMS ensures a seamless self-check-in (and out) experience powered by accurate reservation and availability data in real time.

The demand for frictionless, automated self-service options in the hospitality industry will only continue to grow, so it’s crucial your PMS supports such innovations.

>>Mobile Key Integration

Mobile keys play an important part in facilitating a frictionless mobile check-in experience. Using NFC (near field communication) or Bluetooth technology, mobile key apps turn the guest’s mobile phone into their room key.

Due to customer demand, the positive environmental impact (no more plastic keycards) and ease of adoption, mobile keys are rapidly becoming mainstream. Direct integration between PMS and mobile key solutions automates secure mobile key delivery to the guest upon check-in for a seamless mobile check-in experience—or a more efficient front-desk process.

Mobile Messaging Integration

Social media and mobile technology has changed the way businesses and consumers communicate, resulting in a business-consumer relationship that is much more personal than in the past. These days, consumers are inclined to reach out to brands just as they do to friends and family—via social media channels like Facebook and Instagram, messaging apps like WhatsApp and Messenger, and even SMS.

Businesses of all kinds need to provide mobile channels of communication in order to remain accessible and relevant to modern consumers.

A PMS that integrates mobile messaging platforms makes implementing and managing mobile messaging much more efficient and personalized. With a direct connection between your PMS and mobile messaging solution, guest and reservation data is automatically sent from the PMS to the messaging platform in real time to automate routine message delivery, and to match incoming guest inquiries with reservation data for more efficient and personalized responses and resolution.

These days it can be difficult to keep up with the pace of technology, but your PMS can help. Modern cloud PMS vendors like WebRezPro have their finger on the pulse of hospitality technology and already include relevant and exciting mobile functionality to support your business now and in the future.

Top 10 Things to Look For in a PMS in the 2020s

Here we are in the year 2020! At the start of this new decade, we are firmly planted in an era of AI, VR and IoT. Chatbots, smart room controls and mobile keys are no longer futuristic hotel dreams to look forward to—they are already here. Technology is evolving faster and faster; how do we keep up?

At the core of hotel operations, your property management system (PMS) is a key component of your hotel tech stack that you want to get right. Your PMS should streamline operations by automating daily tasks and of course it must deliver a healthy ROI, but in these high-tech times it’s also important to choose a PMS that maintains pace with technological innovation and changing guest expectations.

These days, there’s no shortage of hotel property management systems to choose from, which only makes the decision harder. So to help, we’ve compiled a list of what to look for in a hotel PMS that will help drive profitability through this next decade and beyond.

An intuitive user interface

Choose a PMS that functions in a way that makes sense to you and your staff, even if you don’t quite understand every feature right away. Your PMS should quickly become second nature to use in order to fully benefit from the efficiencies it affords. A confusing user interface will only slow staff down and cause errors to be made that could result in lost revenue. 

Because the PMS is central to daily hotel operation, staff spend a lot of time using it—so look for a modern user interface that is easy on the eyes! The tape chart should be easy to navigate and to understand at a glance.

Guest engagement tools

The business to consumer relationship is growing closer than ever, in large part due to social media. Today’s guests expect personalized service that shows they are valued and recognizes loyalty.

From motels to B&Bs to vacation rentals, any property can personalize the guest experience with the right tools. Most importantly, make sure your PMS creates guest profiles to store guest data (contact details, stay and spend history, requests and preferences) that will help you recognize loyal customers and personalize future communications and stays. Automated email functionality for booking confirmations and pre-arrival and post-stay email campaigns is key to engaging guests and building customer relationships.

Loyalty program integration and integrations with CRM, mobile messaging and mobile app solutions also indicate a PMS that will equip you well to engage guests.

Commission-free direct online bookings

While OTAs sell rooms, the commissions can hurt, which is why every hotel should aim to increase direct bookings. Offering customers the ability to book online through your property’s own website is critical to any successful direct booking strategy. Look for a PMS that includes a commission-free online booking engine to improve your bottom line.

Completing a booking online should be quick and easy for your customers, to avoid booking abandonment. Choose an online booking engine with a modern, mobile-friendly user interface that showcases rooms with image slideshows, and displays rates in multiple currencies.

Your online booking engine should also make life easier for you; make sure it’s fully integrated with the PMS for live rates and availability and so that online bookings are automatically sent to your PMS. Can it sell your rooms and packages the way you want? Can you easily override availability, sell add-ons and password-protected rates, and generate online booking reports?

Integrated channel management

While it’s important to choose a system that supports your direct booking strategy, it’s also important to look for one that supports your wider distribution strategy too, through integrated channel management. Make sure your new PMS offers direct connections to the OTAs and channel managers your property works with so that rates and availability are automatically updated across all channels, directly from the PMS, saving a great deal of time and reducing the risk of overbooking.

Flexibility to fit your business

Competition has become hotter than ever for hotels, and properties have to work hard to stand out. As hotel stays have become less conventional and increasingly flexible, so has the technology used to run operations. Make sure your PMS fits the way your business works so you can provide the kind of unique experiences that today’s guests are looking for.

In addition to making sure your PMS offers the features you need (whether that be group booking functionality, activity bookings or centralized admin tools for multiple properties), look for a system that offers flexible rate and package management and supports ancillary revenue streams so that you can easily adjust to demand and aren’t limited in how to sell your rooms. It’s also important to find a PMS that provides the reports you need to make smart decisions. Does it offer custom reporting to generate the data you need for your unique business?

Finally, prepare for the future with a scalable system that will evolve and grow with your business. This means a PMS that can accommodate additional (or less) rooms, locations, integrations and revenue streams as needed.

Third-party integrations

Data is the key to elevating the guest experience, as long as it is unified and accessible. Breaking data out of silos that isolate and trap information, modern hotel technology puts data to work through system integration. When the PMS is directly integrated with other hotel systems—like distribution channels (as mentioned above), POS systems, payment gateways, revenue management solutions, CRM and guest engagement platforms—relevant data is shared between the systems to automate processes for more efficient, personalized service.

Look for a PMS that not only offers integration with your other systems, but has an impressive and ever-growing list of reputable partners so you can be sure that additional integrations can be implemented as needed down the track.

Mobile-friendliness

Just as we’ve become used to checking email on our phones, cloud technology has accustomed hoteliers to accessing their PMS remotely, first from offsite computers and now from mobile devices. This has always been one of the biggest advantages of cloud PMS; granting authorized personnel access to guest, reservation and reporting data on the go for improved efficiency, service and decision-making.

Freeing staff from the physical front desk and greatly boosting efficiency, mobile-friendly PMS boast features such as mobile housekeeping reports that allow housekeepers to update room status and maintenance requests in real time as they work, paperless check-in functionality allowing guests to sign registration cards electronically on a mobile device, and mobile key and mobile messaging integrations to support modern guest expectations.

Solid security

Unfortunately, with our online world comes online crime. Data theft is a serious and constant threat to hospitality providers. Keeping your guests’ data safe is a top priority so it’s of utmost importance that your software solutions employ robust security measures.

You want a PMS that stores and processes your data on secure servers protected by internet firewalls, intrusion detection, anti-virus protection and network monitoring. Look for a system that offers PCI-compliant credit card processing, EMV solutions for card-present transactions, and strong user access controls like two-factor authentication.

Accessible customer support

Whether you need help understanding new features, want to make a customization request, or something just goes wrong, an attentive, knowledgeable and accessible customer support team is a must-have for any future-proof PMS that is constantly innovating and evolving. You don’t want to be left high and dry in the thick of the busy season, so check plenty of software reviews to make sure the vendor you are considering takes good care of their customers—both large and small.

Expertise & innovation

It’s an exciting time for hospitality technology and new PMS vendors are popping up like mushrooms. Unfortunately, not all of them last. Make sure you choose a solution with staying power to maximize efficiency and revenue through the next decade and beyond.

A proven PMS will demonstrate experience and expertise through years of operation, a substantial and growing customer base, frequent upgrades and integrations, affiliations and partnerships, and, very importantly, reliability in terms of low downtime risk.

At the start of this new decade, we look forward to an exciting era of hospitality technology. Make sure you are well-equipped to meet and exceed guest expectations now and in the future with a reputable, innovative cloud PMS that will help drive profitability through the 2020s and beyond.

How Independent Hotels and B&Bs Can Take Advantage of the Off-Season

Whether you completely shut down over winter or have fewer bookings, low travel seasons can prove just as advantageous as peak travel times if you remain proactive. Creating a strategy to adapt to your business’s changing seasons will ensure that your off-season is as successful as your busiest periods.

Be Active on Social Media

There is never an off-season for social media. Social media presence plays a large role in where today’s travelers book their next stay and is an integral part of your marketing strategy. It is important to regularly engage with your customer base through online posts and stories. Promote local events and attractions, special rates and packages, create contests for a chance to win exclusive extras during a stay (for likes, shares, and comments), or share new features and renovations made to your property, for example.

Also, encourage guests to share their experiences online, producing free advertising for your business, by promoting a hashtag (so you can view and engage with everyone who mentions your property) and your social media accounts on your property and website.

Review Performance Statistics and Reports

Your business’s off-season can be a productive and beneficial time for evaluating your past year and preparing for your busy season. The Property Stats Report and Monthly Report within your property management system (PMS) automatically track and display performance and reservation statistics and present them alongside the previous year’s numbers for comparison, giving you a clear picture of your business. Reviewing your business’s analytics allows you to easily identify your reservation trends and customer base throughout the year and adapt to the changing seasons, maximizing revenue and occupancy.

Know Your Guests

Adjust your marketing plan to recognize and cater to the types of clients that travel during the off-season. If you notice that your property attracts business travellers during the off-season, offer free and fast WiFi for them to complete their work, a mobile-optimized website and online booking engine, and resources that will help make their stay productive (where to reserve a meeting room, restaurant reservations for meeting with clients, etc.).

The off-season is also an especially good time to market towards locals and grow a loyal customer base. One way of doing this is to organize and promote your own onsite events (live music, poetry / short story recitation night, Christmas markets, art exhibitions, etc.) so that locals can familiarize themselves with your property and remember you when they book their next staycation.

Analyze Customer Reviews

While analyzing statistics for performance and reservations is important, it is also a good idea to review how happy your guests were throughout the year. During the off-season, hoteliers can use the extra time to respond and find solutions to guests’ comments and criticisms by analyzing online reviews.

Choose the set of dates that make up your busy season and your quieter season and identify positives and negatives, especially paying attention to repeated patterns. Creating a visual may also help evaluate this data by logging guest reviews into a spreadsheet and highlighting each positive and negative word or phrase. Or consider streamlining this process with an automated reputation management solution like Revinate or BlueJay Reviews, which not only helps generate more reviews but to analyze guest feedback too, and can be integrated with your PMS to automate review requests.

The off-season is not only a time for rejuvenation and preparation for the busier travel season but can also be a lucrative and productive period. Implementing a strategy that adapts to the changing seasons will boost occupancy, maximize revenue, and offer an elevated, personalized guest experience year-round.

How Independent Hotels Can Show Guests Some Love This Valentine’s Day

The month of love is almost upon us—is your hotel ready to woo guests? Whether you personally relish the romance of Valentine’s Day or think it’s nothing more than a marketing tactic, Valentine’s Day is a prime opportunity to boost the bottom line of any business in the hospitality industry.

Here are some ideas to make guests fall in love with your property this Valentine’s Day!

Offer Something Special

It goes without saying that romance packages do well during February. From wine and chocolates to spa treatments and candlelit dinners, romance packages are popular throughout the year. Consider spicing things up by offering something a little different to stand out this Valentine’s Day. Some ideas that go well with accommodation include couples classes (think painting, pottery or surfing lessons), tours and activities, event tickets, and in-room extras like massage kits, fairy lights and cocktail stations—and consider including babysitting for couples with kids. You could even go all out and put together a customizable proposal package!

Have you thought of offering something special for those without partners too? A self-love spa package could be promoted to singles, complete with a free drink at the bar during singles’ happy hour. Or perhaps an anti-Valentine’s Day package for groups of friends that could include tickets to a show, party or speed-dating event.

From activities to in-room extras, ancillary products and services that can be included in packages can also be offered as add-ons, allowing guests to customize their stay whether they book a package or a standard rate. People are inclined to indulge on occasions such as Valentine’s Day, so take the opportunity to offer relevant upsells to boost your bottom line.

Your imagination is the limit—just be sure to tailor packages and add-ons to your property’s key guest segments and to reflect the personality of your brand. Once you’ve created your special offers, make sure those packages and add-ons are available to guests on your property’s website through your online booking engine.

Celebrate in Style

Dressing up for special occasions makes us feel good about ourselves and Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse for doing just that. If your property has the space and facilities, why not throw a party to celebrate your guests? The glamour and mystery of a masquerade ball, the seduction of a salsa dancing night, or the fun of a speed-dating event will attract both travelers and locals looking to celebrate Valentine’s Day in style.

Look to your locale for inspiration. Today’s travelers enjoy authentic experiences so injecting some local flavor into your event will help create a memorable affair. Whatever event you plan, make sure it fits your brand and clientele, and incorporate it into a swanky date-night package your guests can’t resist.

Set the Mood

Nothing sets the mood for romance like soft light, seductive music and succulent food, so dim the lights, choose a romantic playlist and add some aphrodisiacs to your menu.

When it comes to decorations, both common areas and guest rooms can be dressed up with fairy lights, flowers, heart garlands and such. Choose decorations that complement your property’s décor to avoid coming across as tacky, and resist the urge to go over the top—you don’t want to alienate guests who aren’t there to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

When choosing a romantic playlist, it’s important to select a soundtrack that also reflects your brand identity. Consider incorporating local artists and if you can host them live, even better. Imagine the elegance of live piano music or the soul of an acoustic guitar in your lobby.

Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse to spice up your menu with irresistible limited-time specials that will also attract local customers. Let your chef express their passion through creative and adventurous dishes like oyster shooters, sweet and smoky cedar-planked salmon, shakshuka, black truffle ravioli, and chocolate and raspberry torte. Don’t forget cocktails!

It’s important to set the mood even before guests set foot on your property—you’ve got to lure them through your doors via your website first! Do this by making sure your Valentine’s Day specials and packages are promoted on both the packages page and the homepage. Consider adding a popup, inviting guests to take a peek at your romantic specials. Update photos to include images that portray your romantic side, like an intimate table setting for two, a rose-petal-covered bed, a couple enjoying a drink at the bar.

Share the Love

Once all your Valentine’s Day plans are in place, shout it from the rooftops! Make sure customers know what your property has to offer.

In addition to promoting your Valentine’s Day specials and events on your website as mentioned above, send targeted email campaigns to segmented mailing lists. (Here are some great examples from our partner, Revinate.) Consider offering discounts or exclusive deals to guests who have stayed before or just to your most loyal customers. Send two rounds of emails—one a few weeks in advance to remind customers Valentine’s Day is coming and let them know what you have to offer, and another about a week before the big day to catch those last-minute bookers! Managing email campaigns is a breeze with a property management system that offers automatic emails and/or integration with CRM platforms.

If you are hosting a themed event, create posters that can be put up around town, and start promoting it on social media weeks in advance.

Speaking of social media, occasions like Valentine’s Day generate plenty of fun and photogenic content to share on your social channels. As well as promoting your property’s special offers, take the opportunity to create themed content that strengthens customer relationships and attracts new ones. Contests and campaigns asking guests to share their own stories and content are good ways to drive engagement. Put effort into creating enticing images that provide a glimpse of what awaits guests at your property.

Run targeted Facebook ads, bid for online advertising terms like “Valentine’s Day hotel deals,” and make sure you communicate special packages through your OTA channels too. Selling special rates and packages on multiple OTAs is simple and automated when your property management system is integrated with a channel manager.

Whether or not you’re a lover of Valentine’s Day, it’s an occasion that lodging operators should embrace. With Valentine’s Day spending totaling approximately 20 billion dollars in the U.S. alone, this romantic holiday can be a lucrative one for hoteliers. We hope some of the above ideas help make guests fall in love with your property this Valentine’s Day.

An Independent Hotelier’s Guide to Upselling & Cross-Selling

If you’ve only ever thought of upselling as a way to increase revenue, think again. First and foremost, upselling and cross-selling are effective ways to enhance the guest experience. Done right, upselling offers more value to your guests, increasing guest satisfaction and loyalty. A rise in revenue will follow naturally.

Technically, there’s a difference between upselling and cross-selling, but the two go hand in hand:

>>Upselling is the process of selling a more expensive version of a product or service that the customer is buying.

>>Cross-selling is the process of selling a supplementary product or service to complement the product or service the customer is buying.

Both approaches result in providing the customer with greater value and enhancing the guest experience—as long as the offers are relevant and presented at the right time, in the right way.

What Can You Upsell and Cross-Sell?

From basic hotels and motels to luxury boutique inns and resorts, any property has what it takes to upsell or cross-sell.

Upsells

>> Room upgrades: Customers are often open to upgrading their room choice during their booking, or even after they have made their booking.

>> Packages: Same goes for packages. Make sure your customers are aware of available packages and the added value they offer compared to standalone room bookings.

Cross-sells

>> In-room extras: You don’t have to get fancy to enhance the in-room experience with additional in-room amenities. Baby high-chairs and cribs are as much appreciated by young families as champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries are by couples celebrating an anniversary. Yoga mats upgraded bath amenities and in-room massage services are other examples.

>> Activities: From bicycle rentals to organized tours and activities (whether provided by your property or by local partners), activities are a popular cross-sell that make organizing such adventures hassle-free for your guests.

>> F&B: On-site food and beverage services can be cross-sold by offering dining discounts and packages, promoting your happy hour, or simply having your serving staff recommend meal accompaniments.

>> On-site spa services: Spa services are hard for weary travelers to resist, especially when you can take the hassle out of booking them, and even more so if they’re discounted for guests.

>> Other hotel services: Think parking, babysitting, transportation…

How to Upsell and Cross-Sell Successfully

The secret to successful upselling and cross-selling is to put the customer’s needs first. Remember, upselling (and cross-selling) is a means for enhancing the guest experience. If executed correctly, upselling results in satisfied, loyal guests and, consequentially, improved profitability.

Be relevant

Upselling and cross-selling are practical ways to personalize service, but it only works when offers are relevant to your guests.

Use data from your property management system and CRM to learn about guest preferences, requests and booking history to target offers more effectively. Sending automated pre-arrival emails asking guests to let you know of any special requests or preferences is an effective way to gather valuable information that can be used to identify relevant upsell/cross-sell opportunities.

Don’t be pushy

Remember that as consumers we hate to be sold to but we love to buy! Employ a soft-sell approach that conveys your effort to improve the guest’s experience (rather than to make more money). That means not bombarding guests with messages promoting upgrades and add-ons, and training staff to suggest relevant offers at the right time (more on that below) and in the right way (more on that below too).

Make the value clear

In order to convert upsell/cross-sell offers, the value represented by the additional spend must be clear. In addition to clearly listing room amenities, photo slideshows are an effective way to sell more desirable rooms on your website and within your online booking engine. Make sure room and package descriptions emphasize added value and use emotive language to convey the actual experience (“…wrap yourself up in one of our plush robes and enjoy your Netflix favorites on a big-screen TV”).

When staff make upsell offers directly, highlighting the added value gained for an incremental cost can be very persuasive. For example, “For just $20 more, you can enjoy more space for the kids in our family suite, with a kitchenette for preparing snacks, and a pretty great view over the lake…”

Position offers at the right time

Timing is everything when it comes to upselling and cross-selling. If an offer isn’t timed right, it will fall flat at best, or at worst, annoy customers.

>>During booking: During booking is a great time to upsell room upgrades and packages. Including photo slideshows in your online booking engine within room search results lets your customers easily compare rooms during the booking process and visually portrays the advantages of more desirable rooms. As well, package rates should be displayed alongside standard rates within search results, clearly outlining added value, and with the ability to book. Emphasize the value of discounted rates by displaying the strike-through price alongside the lower price.

When it comes to cross-selling, be careful not to overwhelm customers with options at the booking stage. Forcing customers to choose or decline added extras at this point can put customers off, resulting in abandoned bookings. If you do choose to offer add-ons during the booking process, keep things simple with limited options and ensure add-ons are presented directly within the booking form (rather than within a separate page or window), without requiring the customer to accept (or decline) offers in order to progress with the booking.

>>Pre-arrival: The time between booking and arrival is perfect for both upselling and cross-selling. During this stage of growing anticipation about their trip, many future guests are open to upgrading and enhancing their stay experience.

With high open rates, email and SMS are the best way to communicate offers prior to arrival. Targeted offers can be automated by creating pre-arrival email templates that are attached to certain room types and/or rates. Read our recent post about how to upgrade the pre-arrival guest experience for some pre-arrival email tips. Emails can point guest requests to the front desk, or direct guests to your hotel app where they can purchase selections directly.

>>At Check-in: During guest check-in is another ideal opportunity to upsell and cross-sell, and can come across very naturally as front desk staff learn a little more about the guest’s needs. Remember to highlight the advantages of the upgrade or add-on, and don’t be pushy. Upgrades and add-ons can be promoted within self-check-in apps too.

>> During stay: Cross-selling opportunities abound during the guest’s stay and can be communicated through mobile messaging, email, your hotel app or in person—as long as they are relevant to your guest’s needs and/or interests. When communicating offers to guests digitally (by SMS or email), be careful not to bombard them with various offers and don’t push the same offer more than once.

Upselling and cross-selling are important strategies for personalizing the guest experience, adding value and increasing customer loyalty. When implemented successfully, offering relevant upgrades and add-ons to your guests at the right time, in the right way, not only results in more satisfied guests, but increased ADR and incidental revenue too.

5 Hospitality Technology Trends for 2020

The rise of mobile devices may appear threatening to an industry where face-to-face interactions and human connections are its defining characteristics. Even most movies and books recognize this, with characters meeting and developing relationships with each other on planes, trains, in taxis, and in hotel lobbies. Human interaction is integral to the travel experience.

However, technology is equally important in maintaining guest satisfaction through increased efficiency and personalized service. As a result, time is freed up for hotel staff and guests to participate in other services and activities that enhance the hospitality experience. The following mobile hospitality technology trends decrease the amount of time spent waiting in line at the front desk and elevate the guest experience to the next level.

Mobile Device as Door Key

People are more prone to make sure they have their mobile devices rather than their room key, so combining the two into one ensures that guests don’t need to spend their limited holiday time waiting to receive their door keys or replacements for their lost keys.

When mobile key solutions and smart technology systems are integrated with the property management system (PMS), guests can enjoy seamless access to their room by using their mobile phone as their door key. Integration with the PMS automates mobile key delivery upon check-in and deactivation of the mobile key upon check-out.

Integrating mobile key platforms with the PMS allows for a completely mobile self-check-in process for guests wanting to skip the front desk entirely.

Broaden your Bandwidth

Door keys and checking-in/out are not the only purposes for which guests wish to use their mobile devices while travelling. Being able to stream shows and movies, browse the internet, and access emails and apps quickly and for free are just as important to guests during their stay, so make sure that your bandwidth is adequate enough to accommodate this.

Make your rooms mobile-friendly by including amenities like casting devices or smart TVs and integrating internet systems with the PMS to allow your guests to cast and stream their favorite content on the room TV from their mobile devices.

Paperless Check-In and Check-Out

Paperless check-in allows for a mobile front-desk check-in experience, allowing guests to sign check-in receipts or registration cards on an electronic signature capture device such as a tablet or smartphone. This paperless feature not only frees up your guests’ time and your staff’s time, but it saves on paper and printing costs and reduces your property’s environmental footprint too.

Mobile Guest Engagement

Respond to and solve your guests’ needs and issues while they are staying with you, not after they leave. Engaging your guests through SMS messaging allows for a proactive response rather than a reactive response and creates a deeply individualized style of service and memorable experiences for your guests. Plus, resolving potential issues before your guests leave avoids negative online reviews (and guest experiences). These interactions also aid in getting to know your guests and further build loyalty since you can record their preferences, special requests, and needs in their guest profiles for future stays.

Mobile Housekeeping / Maintenance Reports

Improve not only staff productivity but also guest service by using the PMS housekeeping report on the go. Fully integrated with the PMS, mobile housekeeping reports allow housekeepers to view live room and occupancy status, and to update room status and add notes and maintenance requests in real time as they work, streamlining internal communication and ensuring timely resolution of maintenance issues (e.g. chipping paint, ragged bedding, discolored carpet, etc.).

While technology can distract from the human connection and interactions that are essential to the true travel and hospitality experience, using it in these productive, efficient ways allows for elevated, personalized service. Investing in these trends means investing in customer satisfaction and building loyalty to the travel experience you offer.