Blue View Chalets

Blue View Chalets offers luxury chalet rentals in the heart of Blue Mountain, ON! Guests can choose to stay in one of the eight ski chalets around a seasonal outdoor swimming pool within a 10-minute walk of Blue Mountain Village, or opt to stay in a newly-built waterfront villa that overlooks Georgian Bay. Blue View Chalets has just started using our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help run their properties. Visit their website to see how WebRezPro enables them to accept online bookings!

The Sandpiper Inn

The Sandpiper Inn Carmel by the Sea is a small country inn in beautiful Carmel by the Sea, CA, that is just one block from the beach! The inn boasts stunning furnishings, complimentary breakfast, peaceful patios and a variety of modern guest rooms. The Sandpiper Inn has chosen to use our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help with their operations. Visit their website to see how they’re using WebRezPro to accept online bookings…you may also be inspired to book your romantic getaway…

Okanagan Crush Pad

Located in beautiful Summerland, British Columbia, in the heart of the Okanagan Valley, Okanagan Crush Pad is home to a winery, as well as The Club House @ Crush Pad, which sits on a scenic 10-acre apple orchard in the heart of Summerland’s Bottleneck Drive wine route. The Club House contains two separate two-bedroom suites, each with a private entrance, an open concept kitchen, dining and living rooms, laundry facilities and a patio area. Okanagan Crush Pad has just started using our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help with their operations. See how WebRezPro enables the property to accept bookings at the Club House by visiting their website!

Jack’s Landing Resort

Whether you’d like to stay in a cottage, a lodge room or settle into a campsite, Jack’s Landing Resort in Hillman, Michigan has the perfect accommodation for your getaway! The resort also boasts a full service marina and an onsite restaurant and bar, as well as all the amenities one would want in a campground. Jack’s Landing Resort has just started using our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help with their operations! Visit their website to see how WebRezPro enables the resort to accept commission free online bookings!

5 Tips for Making the Most of Your Hotel Lobby

The lobby is one of the most important spaces of a lodging operation. Whether they’re checking in, checking out, or waiting to meet friends, every guest spends time there. It’s where they form their first and last impressions of your property. So ensuring optimal design and functionality should be a priority. Here are our top tips for making the most out of your hotel lobby:

Utilize an integrated lobby layout

First and foremost, you want your lobby to be welcoming. It should be a place guests feel inspired to sit down and spend some time. And it’s a positive feedback loop. A welcoming ambiance will encourage guests to linger, and people relaxing and enjoying the space will create a welcoming ambiance. But how do you get the ball rolling? A lot of it has to do with layout.

The key to an inviting lobby is integration. Instead of designing a traditional lobby with a front desk and little else, try to blend in other functional zones. Places to lounge, places to eat, places to work—a variety of seating options will turn your lobby into a dynamic space your guests can enjoy, instead of just pass through. And if your staff are equipped with a tablet, you can skip the traditional front desk altogether.

Add more plants

There is a plethora of benefits associated with indoor plants. In addition to being aesthetically appealing, plants help filter pollutants out of the air, reduce noise levels, and alleviate stress. It’s the basis for the extremely popular trend of biophilic design. So add more plants to your lobby—it’ll be good for the wellbeing of your guests and staff alike.

Offer food and beverages

Nothing encourages people to sit down and relax quite like food and beverages. So consider having things to eat and drink on offer in your lobby space. It’ll go a long way in converting it from a simple transition space to the buzzing epicenter of your property.

Depending on the size and culture of your property this can take many different forms. Full cafe and bar service will make sense for some hotels while a complimentary tea and coffee station will be the most practical for others. Whatever you choose, try and a throw in a little taste of the local culture—that’s what most of your guests are there for after all.

Provide entertainment

In addition to offering things to eat and drink, providing entertainment can do a lot to make guests feel welcome in your lobby. Whether you go as big as hosting live music or as simple as providing board games and reading material, the presence of entertainment will tell your guests they’re welcome to kick back, relax, and enjoy the lobby.

Display useful information

As the hub of your hotel, your lobby is the perfect place to display information relevant to your guests. And including info about the hotel as well as the surrounding community will undoubtedly be appreciated by them. Consider presenting transportation information and weather conditions (near exits), content about hotel amenities and events (near the counter and elevator banks), and info about local attractions and businesses.

And in this day and age, you should consider doing it all digitally. Using screens to display content (instead of posters and brochures) will keep your property feeling current, allow you to make regular updates as things change, and reduce paper waste at your property.

 

Your lobby is an important space. Every single guest walks through it multiple times in a day. It sets the tone for the entire property, so make sure you do everything you can to get the most out of it.

 

 

Over, Under, and Double: A Hotelier’s Guide to Booking Crises

Managing reservations to maximize revenue can be a complicated task. Trying to minimize the damage of no-shows and cancellations can result in more reservations than available rooms—while playing it safe to avoid double-bookings can leave units unnecessarily vacant. Here’s a quick guide to dealing with and reducing booking crises.

Overbooking

Overbooking inventory is a strategy used by many hotels to account for no-show guests and cancellations. When it works, it saves a lot of revenue, but there’s significant risk associated with the practice— particularly for smaller, independent properties which have fewer rooms to play around with. When it backfires (i.e. when you find yourself in front of a confirmed guest with no room to offer) it can be extremely stressful and cause a lot of damage to your brand. Unhappy customers have a tendency to express their dissatisfaction online after all.

For many independent hotels, the risks of overbooking are just too high. But that doesn’t mean you have no options. The first thing you can do to mitigate the damage of cancellations and no-shows is to include a fee in your cancellation policy and take credit card information upon booking. Not only is this an incentive to commit to a reservation (likely reducing no-shows and cancellations overall), but it means when a guest does choose to cancel, less damage is done to your bottom line. Check out our recent post for more strategies to deal with no-shows and cancellations.

All that being said, you should always have a prepared strategy for dealing with over-bookings. When you find yourself with more guests than rooms, you’ll need to choose which guest to walk (consider the loyalty of—and revenue being brought in by—each guest), find alternate lodging for them, and then do something to make amends (perhaps a free meal at your on-site restaurant).

Double-Booking

Unlike over-bookings, double bookings are never intentional, but rather due to errors made in inventory management. Hotels need to sell their inventory on a collection of distribution channels (their property’s website, numerous online travel agencies, and the Global Distribution System, for example) in order to maximize occupancy. But if inventory isn’t updated in real time, the same room could be sold by multiple distribution channels.

Obviously, it isn’t reasonable for a hotelier to update all channels as new reservations come in. It’s a time-intensive process prone to manual errors. That’s where technology comes into play. Having a property management system that interfaces with all your distribution channels means inventory is updated automatically across all systems, vastly reducing the possibility of a double booking (and all the headaches that come with it).

Underbooking

Some hoteliers try to reduce double-bookings by allocating separate inventory for each distribution channel. While this does eliminate the potential to sell the same room twice, it can also easily result in unnecessarily vacant units. One channel could sell all of their allocated inventory and start turning customers away while other inventory is sitting unsold on another platform. It’s not a recommended practice and luckily one that can be avoided with a pooled inventory model (all units available to be sold by all channels at the same time) and PMS-to-distribution channel interfaces (to reduce risk).

 

Reservation management can be tough. The task of balancing the need to fill rooms and the desire to provide a flawless customer experience is a delicate one. Make your life simpler by ensuring you have a property management system that takes credit card information at booking and interfaces with all your distribution channels.

Celebrate Spring with Style: A Hotelier’s Guide to Easter

The last of Valentine’s Day chocolate has barely been finished and there’s already another sweet (and potentially profitable!) holiday around the corner. Easter is celebrated by 80% of all Americans, and if you play your cards right, they could be celebrating with you. Here’s a quick guide to help independent hotelier’s make the most of this Easter holiday.

Host Events

Easter weekend is all about spending time with family. Hosting events and offering Easter-related activities for all ages is a great way to not only score over-night guests but build relationships with local families as well.

Easter brunch >> If your property has an on-site restaurant, hosting an Easter brunch is a no-brainer. You likely already offer the trendy meal on regular weekends, which means all you need is a little Easter-themed spruce for the special occasion. Think about using spring flowers in your centerpieces, including hints of pastel, and maybe even folding the table napkins into little Easter bunnies.

Easter egg hunt >> Interested in going beyond a traditional Sunday brunch? Easter egg hunts are an excellent activity to get the family outside and moving around after filling them up with eggs Benedict. And they can be exactly as elaborate as you choose to make them. Depending on the time and resources you want to invest in the event you can go as simple as hiding plastic eggs filled with candy on-property or as complex as an off-site, technology-mediated hunt.

Other ideas >> Looking for other ways to make the holiday special for your guests? Egg decorating and petting zoos are always a hit with the kids (and many adults!). Regardless of what activities you decide to offer, make sure to take pictures! They can be used for social media posts just following the holiday as well as in marketing collateral for the next year.

Create a Special Package

Whatever events and activities you decide to offer at your property (or even if you aren’t offering any), you should consider creating a special Easter package to capitalize on the holiday. If you’re hosting an event, include tickets to it. If not, spruce up the package with Easter chocolates and breakfast at your restaurant.

Promote

Once you’ve done all the hard work of putting together special Easter events and packages, you need to promote them! As usual, promotional efforts should include strategies for social media and email.

Social media >> As the holiday gets closer, begin sharing Easter-themed content that shows how excited your property is to celebrate. This can even include behind-the-scenes photos or videos of staff preparing for the weekend (social media is all about personal content after all). In addition to posts that promote your special packages and on-site activities, you could also hold a social media contest (where participants must like and comment on your content for a chance to win).

Email campaign >> Never miss the opportunity for a good email campaign. Holidays are a great reason to send a note to all the guests in your database. Wish them a happy Easter and invite them to come down and celebrate with you.

Decorate

Decorating your property is the final (and most fun!) step for Easter weekend preparations. The guests have committed, so now you just need to make the place festive. Embellish the front desk and guest rooms with fresh flowers, Easter eggs, and complimentary chocolates.

 

Holidays are an excellent opportunity to attract overnight guests and build strong local connections at the same time. Whether it’s a special brunch or an extravagant egg hunt, offering families a place to spend the Easter weekend together can be great exposure in your community and a lot of fun for everyone.

Five Habits of a Successful Hotelier

Whether you’ve been running a hotel for decades or are brand new to the game, reflecting on your practices as a hotelier is always a valuable exercise. Nobody’s perfect, but taking the time to consider your methods, and making improvements where you can, will get you pointed in that direction. Curious if you’re doing everything in your power to help your lodging operation prosper? Read on to discover five habits of a successful hotelier.

Focuses on communication

Hospitality is an industry about people, which makes communication particularly important. It’s not just about being professional and engaging with your guests, but also being open and approachable with your employees. A hotel staff is a team, so everyone is (and should feel) valuable. Great hoteliers have safe, open lines of communication with their employees, offer regular feedback, and often involve staff in decision-making. A healthy company culture will directly affect the experience you provide for your guests.

Knows their customers

It’ll surprise no-one that prioritizing customer relations is essential to finding success in the hospitality industry. But it’s not just about having genuine in-person interactions with your guests (although that’s certainly important!).  Great hoteliers go above and beyond by learning about and keeping track of who their customers are as individuals. With a powerful PMS or CRM, it’s possible to log details about returning customers’ interests and preferences to surprise and delight. Is a guest consistently traveling on business? Throw in free Wi-Fi or offer recommendations for comfortable workspaces. Do you know a customer’s birthday? Send them a quick email wishing them a happy day. Personalized experiences make guests feel appreciated, and go a long way in nurturing loyalty.

Assesses the competition

Lodging operators have a lot of competition. But instead of seeing that as an obstacle to overcome, successful hoteliers use it as a means to make their operations better. Make a routine of checking out competitors’ websites, social media platforms, and physical property. What are they doing well? Where could they improve? Noticing patterns across successful operators (or similarities between unsuccessful ones for that matter) can offer critical insights which may prove exceedingly beneficial for your own business.

Keeps their head in the game

Even when their property is running smoothly, great hoteliers don’t get complacent. Hospitality is an ever-changing arena, and it isn’t good enough to simply play defense. Read articles and network with other professionals to stay on top of new trends, changes in the market, and emerging technology. And be proactive about evolving and improving your business. It’s important to set long-term goals and construct a step-by-step action plan to realize them. The most successful people (and businesses) are never satisfied merely resting on their laurels.

Recognizes the role of technology

There is a lot that technology can do for a business, and a good hotelier embraces that. Property management, reputation management, and revenue management software are only a few examples of what’s available to help streamline operations and maximize revenue. And let’s not forget the marketing potential of social media platforms. A hotel that shies away from all new technology misses out on some unbelievable opportunities to improve their business.

Now, that’s not to say you should be adopting every new system that crops up. Every business is different, and using tech for tech sake doesn’t do anybody any good. What makes an hotelier successful is their open, yet discerning, consideration of new technology that becomes available.

It’s never a waste of time to reflect on your habits as a business owner. If you’re looking to improve your practice (or are just starting out and need a few tips), consider adopting these five strategies of highly successful hoteliers.

Marketing 101: A Guide for Independent Hoteliers

There are a lot of moving parts to juggle when running a hotel. From property maintenance to managing staff to ensuring guest satisfaction, it’s easy to spend all your time attending to on-site matters. While it’s obviously critical to ensure a quality experience at your hotel, you won’t have any guests to impress if you’re ignoring your marketing duties. We recognize that marketing can seem overwhelming and unwieldy (chain hotels employ entire departments for the task after all), so we’ve created an outline summarizing the platforms you need to prioritize. Welcome to our crash course in marketing for independent hoteliers!

Website

Creating and maintaining a website is the most important thing you can do to market your property. This is the first place a potential guest will go to find out more about, and judge the legitimacy of, your hotel. When attending to your property’s webpage you should consider:

Design >> Considering your website will likely be the first point of contact, make sure it looks professional. People expect sites to be visually-pleasing, intuitive to navigate and mobile-friendly. If they don’t like your page, they’ll navigate away without a second thought. First impressions matter!

Content >> As an independent hotel your strength is your individuality. Use your website to highlight your property’s unique charm with professionally shot images and personalized copy.

Functionality >> Getting a browser’s attention with your website is the hard part, so don’t miss the opportunity to turn it into a sale. Incorporate a booking engine directly into your web page to maximize conversion rates and score direct bookings.

SEO >> Now that you’ve expended so much time and effort on your website, you need to make sure people can find it! Optimize your placement in search engine results by (authentically) incorporating keywords throughout your website copy and in your meta-description.

The previous tips are essential for an effective site, but like anything in life, there is always room for improvement. If you’ve tackled the primary aspects of your website and want to take it even further, think about upping the ante with these advanced options:

Blog >> An excellent way to get traffic on your site, and inch your way up search engine pages, is to add and update content continually. Blogging can be a powerful way to keep your site dynamic and showcase your hotel’s unique personality. Bear in mind, a blog can be a big commitment and will only be effective if you give it the TLC it requires.

Landing Pages >> Using landing pages can have a huge effect on your conversion rates. Start by creating a ‘Book Now’ landing page and work up to creating pages for special packages, upselling, and targeted campaigns. You can never have too many landing pages!

If you need help designing (or revamping) your website, feel free to contact our design team today.

Social Media

Effective marketing is all about reaching potential guests. You need to bring your brand to the people, and the people are on social media. When constructing your social media presence, start with Facebook (which has over two billion monthly active users!) and then consider incorporating other popular sites as you see fit. Regardless of the social site in question, make sure you:

Understand the platform >> Each social media platform is different and should be utilized in a different way. Whether it’s Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, or Snapchat, not every vehicle is going to be suited to your marketing needs. Understand the value of each platform, choose the ones that compliment your business, and then use them appropriately.

Don’t seem corporate >> Social media is by nature very personal. People are using it to express themselves and engage with one another, so your business’s activity should reflect that authenticity. Posts can be funny, sincere or even silly, but overt advertisements will not be effective on these sites.

Engage >> Don’t think of your profiles as a one-sided conversation. Social sites are dynamic communities. Actively engage with your guests by replying to comments, liking their posts and sharing content you think they’ll like (not just specifically about your property). You may even want to consider holding social media competitions which will have users interacting with your brand (and expanding your marketing reach).

Online Travel Agencies

Whatever your opinion of Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), they are an integral part of marketing for all hotels (independent and otherwise). While you should be doing what you can to maximize direct bookings, it’s a good idea to make the most out of your OTA presence. Take some time to:

Manage your profile >> There is a lot of competition on OTAs. Stand out by completing all the fields on your profile, curating a collection of professionally shot images, highlighting special promotions and keeping all information and inventory up-to-date.

Optimize your placement >> Each OTA has a unique search algorithm and will typically offer suggestions for optimizing your placement on their site. Do what you can to capitalize on this advice.

Review Sites

The internet is littered with websites dedicated to reviewing products, services, and businesses. This matters because 92% of shoppers read online reviews. While you can’t control what people post about you online, that doesn’t mean you should ignore these sites. On the contrary, there is a lot you can do to manage your reputation on these platforms. There is no way you can address every review site online, so pick the major players (like Trip Advisor) and be sure to:

Claim your profile >> The first step to making review sites work for you is to claim your profile. This will allow you to keep the information on your profile accurate and up-to-date, and add a link to your online booking engine (yay for direct bookings!). These sites also typically include analytics that you can use for your own marketing analysis.

Respond to reviews >> Claiming your profile will allow you to take one of the most important steps in managing your online reputation: responding to reviews. Every property will experience negative reviews; that just comes with the territory. But the fallout associated with a negative review can vary dramatically depending on how you deal with it. People want to feel heard, so responding (as long as you are polite) will go a long way in rebuilding burnt bridges. Offer your apologies and contact information for further concerns and communication. Remember: your responses are public and will affect the way your property is viewed by general browsers as much as the individual reviewer.

Marketing can be scary—we get that. Take it one step at a time and try not to be overwhelmed. You’ve got this!

Hotel Website Design Trends for 2016

For lodging operators who are thinking about sprucing up their property’s website in the year ahead, here are some important current and emerging website trends that are particularly relevant to hospitality and tourism businesses.

Each trend highlighted below helps to tell a hotel’s story — which, due to travelers’ desire for unique experiences and personalization, is now more important than ever.

Clean, Simple User-Oriented Design

The user experience (UX) is a core focus of Web design. According to Google research, websites that are visually complex are less effective; users prefer websites that are easy to use and understand, and this means uncluttered visual design, simple and intuitive site navigation, easy-to-read copy, clear calls to action, and a smooth online booking process.

Flat and semi-flat design, large images, clear typography and lots of clean space are popular elements of simple yet striking websites. The Calgary Attractions website is a great example of a simply beautiful design, created with the user in mind.

Hero Images

As mentioned above, big images work well with simple, clean designs and are excellent at telling stories too. Whether it’s a full-screen background image or an image slider spanning the width of the page, a hero image is basically a large banner image placed front and center on a webpage and is the first thing a visitor sees when they land on your site.

The beautiful centrepiece photos on the Galapagos Reservations website have stolen our hearts!

Galapagos Reservations

Hero images should relate directly to the content of your website and should ideally be professional photos of your business rather than stock photography. It’s important to use sharp, high-quality images when photos are displayed so prominently, but don’t forget to optimize image files for fast page-load times and mobile devices.

Video Headers and Backgrounds

The practice of using video (without sound) for page headers and backgrounds has been gaining popularity over the last couple of years as browser technology has advanced and Internet speeds increased. Video is dynamic and engaging and perhaps the very best way to convey an experience — so it makes a lot of sense for lodging and tour operators to adopt this trend on their websites.

When adding a video background or header to a website, it’s important to use a widely-supported video filetype for compatibility with various browsers. And test video backgrounds on mobile devices; if the user experience is degraded, it’s better to automatically substitute the video for a still image on mobile.

A Personal Touch

Have you noticed that modern websites are all starting to look similar? This is in part due to popular patterns and themes emerging from responsive design and content management systems like WordPress. It’s not necessarily a bad thing — in fact, the Google research mentioned above found that people prefer sites with familiar design principles.

However, we do also appreciate uniqueness and creativity. Adding a personal touch to your website — like clever customizations to a WordPress theme, custom-drawn illustrations, or simply professional photos rather than stock photography — adds authenticity and personality to your site and makes you stand out from the crowd.

Wyatt’s Hotel takes a simple yet effective approach to showcasing its character through beautiful full-screen photos of the property. And we love their pretty peacock illustration (scroll down on their homepage).

Wyatt's Hotel

Captivating Animation

Movement is another effective way to engage and captivate viewers (and we’re not talking about garish flash animations or GIFS like the dancing banana).

We’re talking about animation that enhances storytelling and is more interactive.

Scrolling websites lend well to animated scrolling effects. Subtle scroll animations, such as elements and objects that slide or fade into place as the user scrolls down the page, as well as parallax scrolling (where background elements move slower than those in the foreground, creating an illusion of depth and movement) result in a smooth and memorable user experience.

The Inn of the Rockies website is a nice example of subtle scrolling animation, with headings and content blocks that slide in smoothly as the user scrolls down the page, as well as eye-catching hover effects.

Cinemagraphs (photos with moving elements) are becoming trendy too. Created in GIF format (yes, the GIF is actually back, but better than ever), cinemagraphs use less bandwidth than videos and are quite spellbinding. We love how the Island Plantation website uses cinemagraphs to magically transport you to their resort.

Cool Typography

The visual presentation of words is getting more attention with strong fonts, bold statements and the integration of text and images.

Google Fonts makes cool typefaces accessible to all. When choosing fonts and getting creative with text, make sure that typography reflects the style and personality of your business, is easy to read, contrasts adequately with the background, and is consistent throughout your website (don’t use too many different fonts).

The Calgary Attractions website places words on hero images, the bold font matching the style of the website and prairie city perfectly. Using words in this way makes it instantly clear to visitors what the website is all about, and it looks great too.

Calgary Attractions

So there you have it — our rundown of popular Web design techniques as we head into 2016. As with all trends, don’t just follow along because it’s cool; try out the ones you like and that work for your brand and your customers.

You may have noticed that responsive design is not included on the above list. That’s because by now responsive or mobile-friendly website design is more a rule than a trend. If a website isn’t mobile-optimized, it’s simply missing out on a big chunk of business.

Need help getting your website ready for the year ahead? Please don’t hesitate to get in touch.