Going Desk-less: The New Hotel “Front Desk”

Traditionally an indispensable point of contact between a hotel and in-house guests, the front desk has always been the place where guests check in, make requests, stop to chat, and check out. But not anymore. From mobile concierges to chatbots, today’s hospitality technology makes it possible for hotels to dispense with their physical front desk.

In fact, the mobile self-check-in process, combined with keyless entry (via keypad or mobile key systems), allows guests to bypass the front desk entirely upon arrival. Self-check-in kiosks too, allow guests to check themselves in without interacting with staff.

While plenty of research shows that hotel guests want mobile and self-service technology that improves efficiency (no-one wants to wait in line), studies also show that guests desire authentic travel experiences—of which human connections are essential.

It’s important for lodging operators to stay current and use technology to improve operations and customer service, but when it comes to hospitality, technology should augment human interaction, not replace it.

Japan’s first robot hotel, Henn-na Hotel, illustrates this point beautifully. The high-tech property recently ditched half its robots because of frequent malfunctions and technical shortcomings resulting in frustrated guests. The hotel found that their robots just didn’t work as well as humans.

A hotel’s front desk customarily provides the first opportunity for the property to make a personal impression, but it can also be confining. Tied to a physical front desk, customer service suffers, especially during busy periods as the queue grows, the phone won’t stop ringing and smiles begin to wane under pressure. On the other hand, eliminating this key touchpoint with self-service solutions causes hotels to miss out on a valuable opportunity to make a personal connection with guests—the kind of connection that builds loyalty.

As always, success lies in finding the balance. Hotels can break free from the constraints of the physical front desk without losing their human touch. Here’s how:

A Welcoming Space

Think of how you might welcome a friend at your home, one you haven’t seen in a while. It would probably go something like this: you greet them warmly at the door, take their bags for them, invite them to sit down and offer them a drink. Contrast that welcoming scenario with this one: you stay seated at your table waiting for your guest to approach you, and then you spell out the house rules and tell them where their room is.

If you think about it, the latter scenario is similar to the way many hotels welcome their guests, but which scenario is more hospitable?

Hotels can greet guests in a more personable way by reducing or eliminating the focus on the front desk. A front desk is a physical barrier between hotel staff and guests, and reinforces the transactional element of the stay. Transforming a desk-based lobby into an inviting lounge area creates a more welcoming space and experience.

From comfortable sofas to indoor plants to complimentary tea and coffee, think about how your lobby can be made both welcoming and functional. Done right, your lobby has the potential to become a space your guests can enjoy, not just pass through. Read our tips for making the most of your lobby for inspiration.

If you’re not ready to eliminate your front desk entirely, consider downsizing your desk and moving it out of the central space. That way, staff can work on administrative tasks during downtime, ready to approach and assist guests as needed.

Mobile Technology

Shifting focus away from the physical front desk is of course dependent on the property’s front office software, particularly in regard to check-in/out and request resolution processes. For a successful desk-less “front desk,” mobile-friendly solutions are key.

Modern property management systems (PMS) are optimized for mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones, allowing staff to access and update reservation and hotel data from anywhere.

With a tablet or other mobile device in hand, roving hotel personnel can greet guests in the lobby, invite them to put their bags down and take a seat, offer them a cup of tea or coffee, and then continue to check them in, tell them a bit about the property and make any local recommendations. Or show them personally to their room and continue registration there, making sure everything is to their satisfaction. Such a check-in process results in a more natural, fluid welcome than one conducted across a desk, and is much more befitting of a hospitality business.

WebRezPro PMS includes electronic signature capture for a paperless check-in process, allowing guests to sign check-in receipts or registration cards electronically using a tablet or smartphone. Receipts can then be emailed to guests for their records.

Wireless EMV card readers for guest payments, keypad locking systems or mobile keys, and mobile ID scanning apps go hand in hand with mobile-friendly PMS solutions for a completely streamlined desk-less check-in experience.

When it comes to guest requests, they can be logged and resolved on the go, without having to return to the front desk. Armed with modern mobile solutions, hotel personnel can essentially take the front desk with them wherever they go for improved efficiency and customer service.

Attentive Personnel

Getting rid of your front desk is a bold but exciting move that results in a more personable and memorable stay experience. But it only works with a welcoming, comfortable space, the right technology—and attentive personnel.

Removing the front desk will catch some guests off guard, especially those from older generations, so it’s critical that staff are always available to greet guests as soon as they arrive. No guest should arrive confused, wondering where to go. Even the most meticulous staffing schedule can fall short during periods of high occupancy, but guests can still be invited to take a seat and help themselves to a drink while they wait—a much more appealing scenario than standing in a queue.

Roving personnel should be available to greet guests and check them in, answer questions, respond to requests and make local recommendations. Even properties with a self-check-in option should have staff at the ready to welcome all guests with a smile upon arrival and provide assistance as needed.

While technology is essential for streamlining hotel operations and enhancing the guest experience, it can never replace human hospitality (as Japan’s Henn-na Hotel has shown). Hospitality will always be about people and hotels will always need their human frontline—they just don’t need the desk.

3 More Sleeps! How to Upgrade the Pre-Arrival Experience

Customer service is the name of the game in the hotel industry, but it starts well before the guest checks in. The days leading up to check-in are an exciting time for your guests. Anticipation builds as travelers start dreaming about and researching destinations, choose a place to stay, then count down the days until they get there.

A recent study from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration found that savoring an upcoming experience heightens the enjoyment of the actual experience when it happens and when it’s remembered.

In the quest to deliver a high level of customer service to guests on site, the pre-arrival experience is often overlooked, but it’s an important part of the guest journey. The pre-arrival stage offers lodging operators a prime opportunity for increasing guest engagement, personalizing the guest experience, boosting ancillary revenue and improving guest satisfaction.

Upgrading the pre-arrival experience isn’t hard to do and is well worth the effort!

Start with Your Website

Inspire prospective guests in the dreaming stage of their journey with an engaging website design that reflects your property in its best light. Promote not only your property’s features, amenities, location and what makes it special, but also your local destination from an insider’s perspective. Portraying your property as an experience, rather than just a place to stay, will appeal to your customers’ sense of discovery and fuel their excitement.

Simple design, big, beautiful images, intuitive navigation, mobile friendliness and easy online bookings are some key elements of a hotel website that converts lookers into bookers.

Social Media

Social media networks like Facebook and Instagram are ideal platforms for inspiring travel plans and building excitement. Approximately 30% of U.S. travelers turn to social media to find travel inspiration. Once a trip is booked, consumers turn to social media to feed their excitement, with 52% liking pages related to their vacation and 59% posting a status update about their upcoming trip.

Sharing positive user-generated content and posts about special experiences at your property and local destination will help build anticipation and encourage pre-arrival engagement, whether in the form of a like, a follow, a comment, or contacting your property directly to find out more.

Pre-arrival Communications

Once the booking is made, direct communications by email (mobile-friendly) and mobile messaging are the best way to build guest excitement, promote upgrades and upsells, and gather valuable guest data for personalizing the guest experience. Pre-arrival emails have an average open rate of 57% according to Revinate. There’s an audience you don’t want to miss!

Many properties send a booking confirmation email and then stop there. But the time between booking and check-in is ripe with opportunities for boosting engagement and revenue. We recommend reaching out to future guests three or four times before they arrive.

>> Booking Confirmation – Your booking confirmation email should thank the guest for their booking and contain details of the guest’s reservation as well as helpful information about your property and amenities too. Your property management system (PMS) should recognize repeat guests and trigger booking confirmation that acknowledges their loyalty.

Invite guests to let you know in advance of any special requirements, and offer ways to enhance their stay through upgrades and add-on services.

>> Pre-arrival / Upgrade Offers – About one week before arrival, reach out again to take advantage of the guest’s growing anticipation. Remind them of the details of their stay, invite them to ask questions and make requests, and offer ways to upgrade their experience—through room upgrades, add-ons, restaurant bookings, early check-in, etc. as appropriate.

Help build excitement by letting future guests know about relevant events happening around town while they are visiting, what the weather is like, what to bring, and that you are looking forward to seeing them!

If you are comfortable with it, consider sending another similar (yet briefer) message approximately three days prior to check-in to give guests another opportunity to ask any questions they may have or let you know of any special requests.

A pre-arrival questionnaire provides an easy way for guests to convey their needs and preferences, and can cover questions like, “Are you traveling with kids?” “Do you have any special dietary requirements?” “Are you interested in activity bookings?” “Do you need a ride from the airport?” etc. that will help you personalize their stay.

>> Check-in Day – On check-in day, reach out again to let your guest know you are looking forward to their arrival and to offer any helpful check-in information, like self-check-in options, where to park and when their room is ready.

Some guest engagement platforms like Guestfolio and Zenya enable hotels to send pre-arrival messages that link guests to pre-arrival surveys and/or a personal mobile concierge, allowing guests to personalize their upcoming stay. But even without such technology, your pre-arrival communications should always invite future guests to let you know how you can make their stay perfect.

Any guest information garnered from pre-arrival communications should be added to the guest’s profile and used to personalize their experience going forward.

PMS + CRM & Mobile Messaging Integration

Through customizable templates, personalized pre-arrival communications can be automated through your PMS, CRM or mobile messaging platform, greatly reducing the burden on staff (we’ve yet to meet a lodging operator with the time to personally write to each and every guest!).

But the real magic happens when you integrate your PMS with a CRM or mobile messaging solution. Direct integration allows your PMS to send live reservation data to your CRM or messaging platform, eliminating the need for staff to input that information manually, and resulting in fully automated, highly targeted communications that boost your brand and guest engagement.

Upgrading the pre-arrival experience is something you can achieve today, so don’t hesitate to get your guests excited about their stay and reap the benefits of higher guest engagement, richer guest data, more incremental revenue and more satisfied guests!

Small Things Hoteliers Can Do that Make a Big Difference to Guests

Customer satisfaction is a top priority for any business, but for those in the hospitality industry it’s the entire purpose. Most hoteliers do what they do because they are passionate about making every guest’s stay special. And what makes anyone feel special? Simply feeling valued. From a warm greeting to a good cup of coffee, the smallest things can make a big difference to your guests, elevating an average stay to a memorable experience that will help earn their loyalty.

We all get busy and distracted from the main goal from time to time, so read on to make sure you are doing these small things all lodging operators should be doing to make a lasting impression on guests.

Remember Your Manners

In a world of chatbots and mobile check-in, good “old-fashioned” hospitality is still so important. All staff should be encouraged to be courteous hosts, getting the door for guests and helping with their bags, greeting guests with a genuine smile at every interaction, and using guests’ names whenever possible. Such courtesies are expected at luxury hotels, but should be a part of the service at any property—after all, what is hospitality without good manners?

Get to Know Your Guests

Being a good listener is an important skill for getting to know someone in any relationship. Hospitality professionals especially tend to have very well-trained ears for garnering information during interactions with guests that will help them personalize service. Pay attention to your guests’ preferences when it comes to menu items, amenities, activities, room preferences, etc., and special dates like birthdays and anniversaries, then record relevant data in guest profiles to help staff tailor guests’ stays and anticipate their needs.

Show Appreciation

Showing your customers in a tangible way that you appreciate them—for example, with a little gift or note—is always well received. Such small tokens of appreciation surprise and delight guests and make them feel extra special.

Even a simple, personalized note left in the guest’s room, welcoming them to the property upon their arrival, is a thoughtful touch that will make them feel appreciated and invite them to reach out should they need anything. If finances allow for including a small welcome gift as well, even better! From locally made chocolates, or vouchers for a couple of free drinks at the bar, to small souvenirs, welcome gifts don’t have to cost much—but to be extra memorable, try to choose them to reflect the personality of your property. Gifts for returning customers can even be tailored especially for them, based on profile data.

Offer Free Amenities That Matter

According to various surveys, free WiFi is considered one of the most important amenities to travelers when choosing accommodation. And lots of travelers get excited about free breakfast. We all love to get freebies, but only if they are of value to us. For example, if you choose to offer free WiFi (and you really should), make sure it’s good and fast. Slow, unreliable internet access will only frustrate guests and result in negative reviews, even if it’s complimentary.

When it comes to choosing amenities to offer your guests for free, pick those that are popular at your property to ensure they add value to the guest experience. In addition to WiFi, in-room tea and coffee should always be included, and filtered water is always appreciated (think about using a dispenser or refrigerated pitcher, not plastic bottles). Free use of cellphone chargers and universal adapters is another convenient amenity that will save the day for many guests.

If you’re worried about the financial implications of offering certain amenities for free, consider slightly increasing room prices; it’s better to raise rates by a few dollars than charge for staple amenities. And make sure to promote free amenities on your website.

Be Inclusive

Traveling can be stressful at times for anyone, but especially for travelers with disabilities and specific needs, from alternative dietary options to amenities for young children. Even small efforts to be inclusive can make a really big difference to some of your guests.

Providing simple gluten-free and vegan options at the breakfast bar and on menus, and adding ingredient lists and allergen warnings to menu options will be much appreciated by guests with food allergies and intolerances. Travelers with young children will always be grateful for diaper-changing facilities, use of playpens and highchairs, kids’ activity packs, and family-friendly local recommendations. Thinking about the placement of furniture and amenities so that people using wheelchairs and walking aids have space to move around easily and being ready with local recommendations that are wheelchair accessible, will make the traveling experience much easier and more enjoyable for guests with mobility issues.

Share Your Local Expertise

A quick online search will show your guests the main attractions in town, but what really makes a stay special are the authentic local experiences they won’t find in the travel guides. Let your guests know about the local gems in your neighborhood, and tips for enjoying main attractions as the locals do, like best times to visit, cheapest tickets, best places to park, best places to eat, etc. It’s the pleasantly unexpected local experiences that make for a truly memorable trip.

Share your local expertise in person, on your website/app, and within in-room information as well.

Be Responsive and Available

Finally, make sure you deal with complaints and requests immediately and diplomatically. Even the most seemingly petty complaint can make a big difference to a guest’s experience. Addressing and resolving complaints and requests quickly shows guests you care and makes them feel valued. Your property management system should help you keep track of guest requests, and free up your staff’s time to be available for guests.

Showing your guests they matter doesn’t require a big budget, just some good old-fashioned hospitality. Even simple efforts to make guests feel welcome can help create a memorable experience that will bring them back for more.

7 Tips to Reduce Booking Abandonment on Your Hotel Website

From redesigning your website to rolling out new marketing campaigns, you spend plenty of resources boosting online traffic. And you should—your property’s website is your store-front to the world. But just getting traffic isn’t enough. It might feel like the battle is won, but you need visitors to make a booking for it to matter. So what’s the final hurdle? Booking abandonment. It’s a big hurdle too; the travel sector experiences booking abandonment at a rate of 81%. Of course, a portion of that abandonment is due to forces outside of your control (many users are doing casual research, with little immediate intent to make a purchase) but a lot can be addressed by making simple changes on your end. Here are eight tips for reducing booking abandonment on your hotel website:

1. Simplify the process

The more steps and confusion involved in making a booking, the more likely a user is to abandon it altogether. In fact, one study suggests that every unnecessary step in the booking process costs you 10% of your customers. Reduce the fatigue and frustration felt by bookers by shortening the sales funnel. Try aiming for a two-step booking process.

2. Optimize design

If your website isn’t optimized for mobile yet, it should be. Over half of all internet traffic in 2018 was generated through mobile phones, and that number is only going to grow. It is, therefore, imperative that mobile users have as good an experience on your site as those accessing via a desktop. If the text and CTA buttons are the wrong sizes, or navigation bars appear in the wrong place, mobile users will be quick to abandon the booking.

3. Test the experience

Once you have simplified your booking process and ensured your website is optimized for mobile, you should make sure your efforts were successful. Have somebody test the user experience (by filling out forms, signing up for newsletters, and making bookings) and report back on the usability and intuitiveness of your entire site.

4. Be upfront about costs

We’ve all gone to make a purchase online, only to discover unexpected fees added at checkout. It isn’t a good feeling and often results in booking abandonment. Make sure your customers aren’t leaving with a sense of distrust and resentment by being upfront about all costs.

5. Incorporate live chat

Should a customer encounter an issue, or require the answer to a question before committing, it is likely the booking will be abandoned. You can mitigate this risk by incorporating a live chat (or chatbot) feature into your website. This way, questions can be answered in real-time so the booking can be completed.

6. Highlight your USP

It’s easier for a customer to abandon a booking if they feel like there’s a line-up of similar options available. Without the perception that your property is offering something different, there is no sense of urgency to book now. For this reason, it’s essential you are highlighting your unique selling point (USP) throughout your website. This could be anything from your one-of-a-kind location to excellent staff to exciting onsite events. Whatever it is that makes your property stand out, make sure bookers know what they’ll miss if they abandon the process.

7. Incentivize direct bookings

Offering an incentive to book direct is vital for reducing revenue lost to OTA commissions, but it can also help minimize abandoned bookings. Any special offer, whether it’s a complimentary drink or early check-in, creates a sense of urgency in the customer to complete a booking.

Abandoned bookings are missed opportunities for revenue. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to minimize their effect on your business.

An Independent Hotelier’s Guide to Easy Group Bookings

Filling multiple rooms on a single reservation, group bookings are a cost-effective way to maximize occupancy, especially during the shoulder season. Group bookings for both corporate and personal events (such as weddings and reunions) have traditionally been the territory of large hotel brands and conference centers, but times are changing. Event planners, much like travelers in general, are beginning to favor unique, authentic local experiences and the venues that can provide them. Independent hotels and lodgings are perfectly poised for capturing and managing group bookings.

How to Attract Group Bookings

Event planners choose venues based on various factors, from location to amenities to price. Make sure what you’re offering appeals to event organizers.

Communal Spaces

You don’t need a banquet hall or a conference room to appeal to groups, but you will need space for people to gather. A meeting room is crucial for corporate groups. Think creatively about the spaces your property already has—perhaps a rarely used, spacious office would be more profitable as a meeting room, or a guest room could be converted?

Lawns and gardens can make a delightful summer setting for weddings and other private events, with canopies and tables set up for receptions. Think lawn games, a small stage for live music, fairy lights and the like for a special outdoor event setting. If your property offers an on-site restaurant, consider setting aside an area for group functions or booking it out completely for larger group bookings.

Take another look at your communal spaces, like your lobby, lounges, etc.; do they invite people to relax and mingle? Such spaces can be especially appealing to corporate groups wanting to wind down after a long day. Read our tips on making the most of your lobby for ideas.

Group Rates & Packages

Entice event organizers with group rates that offer discounted rooms, or package additional services that appeal to groups, such as activities, breakfast and early check-in/late check-out.

Amenities & Services

Make sure you offer everything a group will need to make their stay and event as smooth and enjoyable as possible. In addition to staple amenities like strong WiFi, breakfast, and tea and coffee, you should be able to provide audio-visual equipment, seating, catering services, photography services, laundry service, etc. as needed. If you don’t provide such amenities in-house, establish relationships with local suppliers so that you can offer these contracted services for your customers’ convenience. The easier you can make the event planner’s job, the more likely they’ll book your property.

Online Bookings

Make it easy for group organizers to book through your website with an online booking engine that allows them to book multiple rooms at once and access their special group rate.

Spread the Word

Lastly, make sure the world knows your property is a great venue for events. Advertise amenities, services, rates and packages for groups on your website, preferably on a page dedicated to information about event bookings. Promote your property as an event venue on social media, through your local business association or chamber of commerce, and/or on an online event venue directory.

How to Manage Group Bookings

Group bookings are great for your bottom line but are also more challenging to manage than transient reservations. Contracts, room blocks, invoicing and group check-in/check-out can get complicated without the right processes and technology in place.

A property management system (PMS) that offers group booking functionality will make managing groups much simpler. If you want to welcome groups to your property, here are some features to look for in a PMS:

Group Folios

Group folios allow you to manage all reservations within a group from a single folio. In addition to compiling all reservations within a group, a group folio should provide a central point of control for managing all aspects of a group booking, from tracking contract status and deposits, to setting up room blocks and rates, to managing rooming lists, reservations, charges, payments, invoicing and group check-in and check-out.

Reserved Allocation

Make sure your PMS allows you to set up room and rate allocations for groups, which will make managing room blocks much easier—from booking the group rate to tracking room pick-up to setting release dates for unsold room allocations.

Group Check-in/Check-out

Look for a group edit feature that simplifies working from rooming lists and speeds up the group check-in and check-out process by allowing you to edit multiple reservations at once, including assigning rooms.

Group Invoicing & Payments

Your PMS should provide the option of applying charges and payments to a master invoice or to individual reservations within the group, so that you can bill groups the way they want. The group folio should also clearly show any outstanding charges for the group to help ensure the bill is paid in full upon check-out.

Online Group Bookings

Extend the convenience of online bookings to all your customers, including groups. Make sure your PMS provides an integrated, commission-free online booking engine for your property’s website that allows group bookers to access their group rate. This is commonly done through a special access code assigned to the allocated rate. Once a group booking is made, the online booking engine should send it to the PMS where it’s automatically posted to the group folio.

As we head into the shoulder season, make sure your property is ready for group bookings to boost occupancy and revenue. With the right PMS, managing group reservations doesn’t have to be complicated. Contact us to find out more about how WebRezPro PMS makes group bookings easy.

Top Tips for Getting More Online Hotel Reviews

Despite the constant evolution of online marketing and distribution platforms and social media, online reviews remain so important. According to recent research, a total of 92 percent of leisure travelers in the U.S. consider online hotel reviews “somewhat important” or “very important” when choosing a hotel. Recent changes to how Google reviews are displayed on hotel pages within Google demonstrate the weight of reviews on the consumer’s decision-making process when looking for a place to stay.

Now when travelers “google” accommodation and click on a property within Google’s Hotel Finder results they will find a separate “Reviews” tab for the hotel that offers the ability to filter, sort and search reviews, and also pulls reviews in from other online sources like TripAdvisor and Booking.com, in addition to reviews from Google users. These changes have resulted in a more comprehensive and efficient review resource that helps consumers make well-informed decisions.

In our increasingly digital world, online reviews are more important than ever. Google’s recent enhancements to its reviews feature should serve as a reminder to lodging operators that reviews do matter—a lot. If chatter about your property has been a bit quiet online lately, here are our top tips for getting more reviews.

Ask at Check-out

There’s nothing wrong with asking guests for reviews face to face. You probably already ask departing guests if they enjoyed their stay—if they did, follow up with something genuine and light like, “That’s good to hear! If you have a spare few minutes sometime in the next few days, we’d love it if you could leave us a review online on [your preferred review channel].” Most guests will appreciate the opportunity to do something nice for your business if they had an enjoyable stay.  

You can ask guests for reviews in more subtle ways too, like including your review profiles on business cards or a small sign placed at the front desk. Include a message at the bottom of check-out receipts, inviting guests to leave a review online on your preferred review site if they enjoyed their stay. You could also consider adding a message that invites dissatisfied guests to email you directly with any negative comments, which will hopefully avoid those complaints going public online.

Post-stay Messaging

It’s best to ask for reviews as soon as possible after a guest’s stay while they are still focused on their experience. Post-stay messaging provides an ideal opportunity to encourage guests to leave a review online.

Whether by email or mobile messaging, post-stay messages thanking guests for their stay should be sent to every guest and should also politely ask them to leave a review if they enjoyed their experience at your property. As mentioned above, invite them to contact you directly with any negative feedback. Post-stay communications can be triggered automatically through your property management system (PMS), CRM or guest messaging platform.

Make it Easy to Leave Reviews

Whenever and however you prompt guests to leave a review, make it easy for them to do so. If it’s not clear where they should leave a review and they have to search online and click around, chances are it’s not going to happen. Instead, point them directly to your property’s profile on your preferred review channel via direct links (or linked icons/banners) included in emails, mobile messages and on your website.

Any printed material should also point guests in the right direction by including the logo or website address of your preferred review site along with your profile name (which should be the same as your property’s name).

Automate Review Management

Make it easy for yourself too, by automating review management with CRM or reputation management software that can send post-stay surveys to your guests, triggered automatically. Through platforms like Revinate, completed surveys can then be submitted straight to important review channels such as TripAdvisor and Google, steadily increasing online review volume.

When your PMS is integrated with your reputation management software, you don’t even need to enter guest details into your reputation management system or CRM—the PMS sends the data directly. The entire process becomes automated, saving you valuable time and ensuring no guest goes forgotten when it comes to asking for feedback.

Be on the Sites that Matter

From Google to TripAdvisor to Booking.com, set up profiles on multiple review channels to make sure you cover the ones your guests like and use. If you haven’t already, search for reviews for your property on Google (and other major search engines like Bing and Yahoo! Search) and take note of the sites that come up—these are the ones that your customers prefer, so make sure you set up profiles on all of them to make it easy for your guests to find you and review you.

Offer Incentives

Sometimes it takes a little incentive to motivate customers to write a review. While at first this approach might sound a bit like a bribe, it’s not really. There’s nothing wrong with running a monthly draw for all customers who submit a review (whether good or bad) online. Promote your draw on social media, on your website, and in emails and other guest communications.

Some ideas for prizes include a free night’s stay, a gift certificate, or a free meal at your restaurant.

Share Rave Reviews on Social Media

Sharing your property’s glowing reviews on your social media channels is a good way to inspire (and remind) other guests to leave their own reviews online. Social media users love it when their content is shared by other social media users, with credit given to the original creator.

Sharing positive reviews on social media is not only a good tactic for generating more online reviews, it also provides great content for promoting your property.

Respond to Reviews

You don’t have to respond to all reviews, but you should endeavor to respond to all negative reviews and some great reviews as well. Thoughtfully responding to online reviews tells customers that you care about your guests and their experience of your property, and motivates other guests to provide valuable feedback that helps your business succeed.

Treat Every Guest like a VIP

Consumers tend to write reviews about exceptionally good or bad experiences—not about average ones. So be exceptional by showing every single customer how much you value them. It doesn’t take much—from anticipating guests’ needs to greeting guests with a smile every time, the smallest efforts can make a big difference to your customers.

Generating a steady stream of online reviews isn’t always easy, but it’s a crucial part of maintaining a healthy online reputation. Follow the above tips and watch the reviews roll in—and your occupancy and revenue soar!

What to Post: Ideas for Creating Engaging Hotel Social Media Content

Social media is an integral part of any marketing strategy. To stay competitive in today’s marketplace, you need to regularly post content that is engaging, entertaining, and informative. That can be an overwhelming task; It takes consistent work and creativity to run an effective account. In fact, for many businesses, managing social media is an entire job description. But for independent hoteliers, social media manager is just one of many hats. We know that. So if you find yourself struggling to come up with content to post on your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds, we’ve got your back. Here are a few suggestions for engaging social content:

Insider information

An easy way to ensure your social media posts are adding value for your followers is by posting insider tips and advice. Post information about nearby attractions, events, and local businesses. In addition to making you an authority on the area, piquing interest about things to do and see in your locality encourages followers to travel to the area. And if you’re the one who convinced them to come, it’s likely you’ll be the property they choose to stay at when they do. Consider approaching other businesses about cross-promotional opportunities. You can work together to promote your community and highlight each other’s businesses when you do.

Behind-the-scenes content

Social media is, by nature, a personal medium. It’s where people share their lives. So there’s an expectation that brands will share personal details as well—which is a good thing. Sharing behind-the-scenes content humanizes your staff and endears followers to your property. So take advantage of it. Consider posting pictures and stories that showcase your company culture. Something funny happens onsite? Snap a photo and share it on social media. Recently host a company event? Post pictures and let followers know what you’re up to. You can even use your platforms to showcase stellar staff and welcome new members to the team. Give guests a glimpse into what makes your business special.

Property highlights

It’s a good idea to avoid traditional advertisements on social media. They’re jarring for users, and constant selling is often ill-received. But that doesn’t mean you can’t post promotional material. It just needs to be organic and balanced (promotional content should make up less than 20% of everything you post). So show off what your property has to offer. Include posts about special packages, noteworthy amenities, information about loyalty programs and photos and videos that showcase your property.

Questions

Good user-generated content (UGC) can be leveraged to boost credibility and win bookings. As a business, you should be doing everything you can to encourage and take advantage of UGC. One good way to encourage sharing? Ask. Post questions that followers can respond to (things like “what is your best memory at our property?”, or “what did you like most about your stay?”) and then leverage those responses when they do.

Contests

Success on social media is measured by engagement. You need people to see, like, and respond to your content for it to be an effective marketing tool. And that can be tough to do. That’s why many businesses provide an incentive (in the form of contests) for likes, shares, follows, and comments. In fact, accounts that run regular contests grow 70% faster than those that don’t. So consider hosting your own giveaways to build followers and increase engagement. You’ll need something to give away (think a free night’s stay, complimentary bottle of champagne, dinner for two at your restaurant, etc.), terms and conditions, and a way to enter (tag a friend, use a hashtag, or upload a photo).

Creating content for social media is a big task, but it’s a necessary one for marketing effectively. Give these posts a try and don’t forget to use analytics. When you find out what works, repeat it (just not too often). Good luck!

Going Gastro: A Hotelier’s Guide to a Delectable Travel Trend

Everybody travels for a reason. Whether they’re chasing summer, looking to hit the slopes, or hoping to see a noteworthy landmark, tourists choose locations with purpose. Of course, that purpose can vary greatly depending on the person, but most tend to fit into general guest ‘types’ that hotels can then cater to. Many lodging operations have policies and amenities for business travelers, leisure travelers—even bleisure travelers—in order to win bookings. It’s a strategy that keeps hotels competitive as guest expectations continue to rise. And there’s an emerging guest type you’ll likely want to look out for: the gastro-tourist.

What is gastro-tourism?

Gastro-tourism—travel in the pursuit of unique food and beverage experiences—is a growing trend in the hospitality industry. Everybody has to eat and encounters with local fare help create a lasting impression of a destination. So it just makes sense that today’s travelers prioritize culinary experiences. And, as any successful hotelier knows, your guest’s priorities should be your priorities.

How can I be involved?

Any property, regardless of size, can cater to the gastro-tourist. It’s just a matter of finding the strategies that complement your hotel’s culture and facilities. Here are a few ideas to get the creative juices flowing:

Farm-to-table dinners >> A huge trend in food today is farm-to-table dining. This involves serving locally grown food typically sourced through direct acquisition. Find a local distributor or grow the fresh veg yourself in an on-site garden. You could even go a step further, location permitting, and host foraging parties that end with a home-cooked meal.

Chef’s table >> Incorporating a chef’s table (or chef’s counter, if that’s more fitting) can be a massive draw for the gastro-tourist. These travelers are seeking unique and authentic food experiences. And dining at a VIP table in the kitchen, engaging with the chef as their food is prepared, definitely fits that bill.

Cooking classes >> Travelers today are looking for immersive experiences. They don’t just want to see; they want to do. Hosting cooking classes is a great way to give those hands-on opportunities to your guests. Learning to prepare local dishes, and then sharing a meal afterward, allows travelers to really engage and appreciate the local culture.

Collaborations >> For properties that aren’t equipped with restaurants or commercial kitchens, consider collaborating with local businesses. You could offer packages that include a meal at a notable local diner or tours of a nearby winery. Perhaps there’s a local food truck that you could host on your property regularly. Or you could create a culinary tour of street-vendors in the area. Take advantage of your community connections and get creative.

Recommendations >>Even if everything else seems too unwieldy, prepare (and keep updated) a list of recommendations for your guest. You can include it on your website, feature it in your lobby and make regular posts on social media platforms.

What will it do for my business?

Catering to the desires of today’s guests is necessary to win bookings. But getting involved in gastro-tourism can reap more benefits than that. For one thing, it can help you make a mark on social media. People take pictures of food. A recent report suggests that culinary tourists share millions of food and beverage images across social media platforms every day. That’s a lot of quality user-generated content that you don’t want to miss out on.

Staying competitive in any industry means staying ahead of the trends. For hospitality and tourism, that continues to be a shift towards experiential and immersive travel. And food and beverage experiences are an important piece of that puzzle.

Data is All Around: How to Harness it for Hotel Success

From check-in to check-out and beyond, every action and interaction in a hotel generates data. But don’t let that daunt you. With the right systems in place, the right data can be harnessed in real time and accessed as needed to improve the guest experience and your property’s bottom line.

What data and what for?

With all that data around, how do you know what’s actually useful? While the needs of every property are different, there are fundamental pieces of information that every property should be using for the good of their business.

Let’s use an example of a typical guest life cycle to identify those valuable nuggets of data at every touchpoint.

>>Research. Our soon-to-be guest, Harriet, is doing some research online to find the best place to stay on her upcoming trip. She’s looking on her favorite OTAs, reading some reviews and checking out websites of the hotels that sound good.

Here is where those first nuggets of data can be found along the guest journey. With the help of a website analytics tool like Google Analytics, your website can tell you how well your promotional efforts are doing and whether your branding and content is hitting the mark, through metrics like traffic figures, acquisition channels, bounce rates and conversions.

Recommended Technology:

> Mobile-optimized website

> Website analytics tool like Google Analytics

>>Booking. Harriet likes what she sees on your website and decides to book online through your user-friendly website booking engine. Reservation data captured at this point includes guest contact information, room selection, payment method and perhaps even add-on services and preferences—and is essential for providing even basic customer service.

Reservation folio data should also be consolidated with guest profiles, building stay history and a record of other valuable information such as preferences, requests, anniversaries, etc. that can be used to enhance the guest experience now and in the future.

Let’s step back and get an even wider view. Through integration with your online booking engine (OBE) and other distribution channels (the GDS, OTAs and channel managers), your property management system (PMS) can give you a clear breakdown of where exactly your bookings are coming from. Knowing your most successful channels is key to optimizing your distribution strategy. Not to mention, integrating your channel partners with your PMS ensures inventory and pricing are automatically up-to-date across all channels.

Reservation data is also vital for compiling hotel statistics and performance metrics, including booking trends, occupancy trends, Average Daily Rate (ADR) and Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR). Your PMS automatically collects this data and generates reports that help lodging operators make informed pricing and operational decisions.

Speaking of pricing (and your wider revenue management strategy), revenue management software (RMS) integration with your PMS greatly simplifies (and improves accuracy of) forecasting, pricing and inventory control, allowing your PMS to push reservation data to your RMS, and your RMS to update accepted pricing in your PMS.

Recommended Technology:

> PMS

> Website booking engine (with PMS integration)

> Payment gateway (with PMS integration)

> Distribution channels (with PMS integration)

> RMS (with PMS integration)

>>Pre-arrival. Harriet is vegan, so she emails your property to ask about menu options at your property’s on-site restaurant. She also wants to know if she can make a dinner reservation ahead of time because she and her husband are celebrating their second wedding anniversary. The information garnered through such correspondence is like gold!

Not only is this a prime opportunity to demonstrate your excellent customer service with prompt assistance, but this personal data (special dietary requirements, anniversary, and interest in your property’s dining facilities) represents an opportunity to offer true personalization of the guest experience and should absolutely be saved in Harriet’s profile for future reference.

Not all guests reach out on their own accord before their stay, but your property can actively seek profile data through automated pre-arrival emails or messaging generated from your PMS or customer relationship management software (CRM). In addition to reminding customers about their upcoming stay and providing helpful information about hotel amenities and local attractions, pre-arrival communications can offer upsells (room upgrades and ancillary services), and invite customers to contact your property with any questions or requests.

Your PMS is key to ensuring Harriet’s room is ready on time too. Housekeeping scheduling relies on check-in and check-out data, and room preparation requirements are determined by folio information such as number of guests and special requests. For maximum efficiency, most PMS automatically share pertinent reservation data with the housekeeping department via a housekeeping report, which also allows cleaning staff to update room status in real time. Harriet, your room is ready!

Recommended Technology:

> PMS

> CRM (with PMS integration)

>>Arrival. Harriet and her hubby arrive at your property, a little weary from their travel but happy to be there. While you most likely have Harriet’s main contact details (email address, phone number, address) from when she made the booking, now is the chance to confirm the info you have, and politely garner additional details that could help you provide more personalized service. For example, her preferred payment method and her husband’s name. Would they mind providing you with their mobile number, just in case? Are they interested in a discount coupon for the spa next door?

Front desk staff should be on alert for additional profile-worthy information guests volunteer via questions about the property and local area. Harriet’s husband asks where he can get the best cup of coffee in town and his love of coffee should be noted.

In the case of returning guests, your PMS will ensure they don’t go unrecognized and the information in their profile can help hotels enhance their experience, from a warm “welcome back” to a personalized welcome gift waiting in their room.

A bottle of local wine and a hand-written note congratulating them on their anniversary awaits Harriet and her husband when they get to their room, and they Instagram it immediately!

Recommended Technology:

> PMS

> CRM (with PMS integration)

> Payment gateway (with PMS integration)

>>Occupancy. During Harriet’s stay, numerous interactions and transactions generate data that can be used to personalize her experience and contribute to a broader view of what your guests want.

Harriet and hubby both order vegetarian items from your restaurant’s menu, cocktails and the vegan dessert to share. In addition to recording transactions for reporting purposes—for example, for menu and inventory management—your POS system has conveniently posted the restaurant charge to Harriet’s reservation folio (through an interface with the PMS) and her F&B preferences and price points can also be noted in her profile.

Later that evening, they call down to the front desk for a couple of extra pillows, which are promptly delivered—and Harriet’s preference for extra pillows recorded in her profile to anticipate her needs for future stays.

The following day, Harriet and her husband stop by the front desk on their way out for the day and ask if you have any recommendations for a quick stroll and a good place to have lunch before they head to the museum to check out a temporary exhibition about whales (turns out Harriet loves nature—another valuable fact to note). Knowing they are celebrating their anniversary, you recommend a particularly romantic stroll along the river that leads to a vegetarian café that also serves awesome coffee.

Transaction and profile data collated during occupancy is not only key to providing personalized guest service, but for determining high- and low-demand services and items, pricing, department needs, package design and other operational decisions.

Recommended Technology:

> PMS

> POS system (with PMS integration)

> CRM (with PMS integration)

>>Departure and post-departure. It’s time to say goodbye (for now) to Harriet and her husband. With all relevant data at your fingertips, your PMS makes the check-out process a breeze, showing any outstanding charges and generating a check-out receipt that itemizes everything clearly for the guest.

It’s apparent that Harriet and her husband have really enjoyed their stay—wouldn’t it be great if they left a review? If your PMS is integrated with a CRM or reputation management software, your property can politely request guest feedback via completely automated post-stay emails. Modern CRM and reputation management systems can even analyse reviews to identify amenities your guests like and dislike, and help prioritize operational improvements (this is called sentiment analysis).

Post-stay email campaigns designed to bring Harriet and other guests back can be targeted and triggered based on guest profile data, including stay history (dates, rates, room types) and interests.

At the end of the day, all transaction data (check-ins, check-outs, guest charges, payments, etc.) needs to be centralized for an accurate, efficient night-audit too. Your PMS has got it covered.

Recommended Technology:

> PMS

> CRM (with PMS integration)

> Payment gateway (with PMS integration)

Data is key to guest satisfaction and the overall health of your property. At the heart of operations, your PMS automatically captures the data you need to provide great guest service and track your property’s performance through a range of reports. When integrated with your other hotel systems (CRM, RMS, POS, payment gateway, distribution channels, etc.), your PMS becomes part of a powerful data eco-system that shares data between departments in real time, increasing productivity and transparency for more personalized service and more profitable operations.

Data is all around—use the right hotel technology to harness it for success.

WebRezPro PMS currently offers integrations with over 90 hospitality solutions. Check out our Quick Guide to PMS Integration to see how you can make your data work more efficiently for your property.

Hotel Amenities: What Today’s Guests Look For When Booking Accommodation

To win the business and loyalty of guests, hoteliers have always needed to offer more than a simple place to sleep. Whether it was valet parking, room service, or an on-site spa, hotels relied on extra amenities to appeal to customers. And that hasn’t changed. In fact, now that people can find and compare accommodation so easily on the internet, guests are more discerning than ever. You need to provide quality features and services if you want to stand out from the competition and give customers a reason to return.

Just like guest expectations for communication and decor have changed over the years, their expectations for amenities have evolved as well. Here are a few things guests are looking for today:

Free WiFi

When it comes to booking accommodation, the most sought-after amenity is free, high-speed internet. Today’s travelers are incredibly reliant on their phones (and other mobile devices) to research activities, plan itineraries, and keep in touch with friends and family. If you don’t offer complimentary WiFi, guests will likely keep looking for a property that does.

Complimentary breakfast

Whether it’s a traveler on business or a family on vacation, people like the comfort of knowing the first meal of the day is taken care of. So consider offering complimentary breakfast for your guests. It won’t go unappreciated; After WiFi, free breakfast is ranked the second most important amenity by travelers.

Luxury in-room essentials

It’s the little details that make a guest’s stay feel luxurious.  When it comes to in-room amenities, that means ensuring things like linens and toiletries are of the highest quality. Swap out polyester sheets for high-thread-count cotton, and equip rooms with soft, over-sized bath towels. When stocking the bathroom, choose high-end hair products and artisanal soaps. Your guests will leave feeling pampered and excited to return.

Mini-fridge

Mini-bars are on their way out. They’re expensive to monitor and maintain, and often go unused by guests. Many hotels are opting to equip rooms with an empty mini-fridge instead. Hotelier’s don’t have to worry about stocking or tracking the use, and guests can bring in snacks and beverages they’ve purchased elsewhere. It’s a solution that makes everyone a winner.

Flexible food options

Like mini-fridges, room-service is being reconsidered by many hoteliers. In its stead, some properties are opting to provide grab-and-go food options in their lobby, giving guests the flexibility and convenience they desire. They can pick up a burrito on their way out the door, or take a salad back to their room to enjoy in comfort. And as an added bonus, this cafeteria-style approach minimizes costs for you.

Streaming services

In-room entertainment is still a big priority for travelers. Guests want access to TV facilities (especially millennials), but pay-per-view movies aren’t going to cut it anymore. Most guests have a subscription to one streaming platform or another, and they want to continue watching their favorite television shows while traveling. Consider installing smart TVs that allow guests to connect their devices and access their own content.

Shared spaces

A recent trend that we’ve blogged about before is the millennial-led demand for shared-living spaces. Travelers today are prioritizing experiences and looking to socialize. Creating versatile spaces where guests can work, read a book, and mingle, will help foster the environment this new generation of travelers is seeking.

Amenities matter. They’re what elevate the customer experience from good to excellent. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to win your customers’ bookings and earn their loyalty.