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!

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.

Google Ads 101: A Hotelier’s Guide to Advertising with Google (Part 1)

If you’ve done any marketing at all, you’ll have heard of Google Ads. The advertising service provided by Google is used by millions of businesses worldwide. Which makes sense. Google handles billions of search queries every day, so it’s a platform with the potential to reach any target market you desire. And as the tech giant owns multiple popular platforms, Google Ads gives you access to customers using YouTube, Gmail, and other sites in its network—of course advertisers want to be on it. But it’s not something you can just sign-up for and expect good results. While there’s potential to see huge ROI with the service, a mismanaged account can quickly drain your marketing budget. So, it needs to be used wisely. With that in mind, here’s a quick guide to the powerful service:

How does it work? 

Google Ads is a pay-per-click advertising service. Businesses bid on the search terms that they want their ads to appear for, and then pay each time a user clicks on it. For example, a bed and breakfast in San Francisco might bid on the phrase “accommodation in San Francisco” so their ad will appear at the top of those search results. If a user clicks on the ad, the B&B pays their bid amount, but if the ad isn’t clicked on, the B&B pays nothing.

There are different types of ads a business can create with Google Ads. Search ads are listings that appear in Google search results. Those are the most popular type of ads, but businesses can also choose to use display ads (banner advertisements that appear on Gmail and other websites within Google’s network), video-based ads (which appear on YouTube), and App Ads (which appear within Google applications).

How are ads ranked?

There’s a lot of competition on Google, and you certainly won’t be the only business bidding on your chosen keywords. Where your ad shows up in relation to other businesses bidding on the same search query is determined by your advertising rank. And your advertising rank is determined by both your maximum bid and quality score.

Your quality score is a value that expresses how optimized and relevant your ad is to the searcher. The click-through rate of the ad, the conversion rate of your landing page, and how specific the ad is in relation to the search query all factor into an ad’s quality score.

It’s important to note that because advertising rank is a function of both your bid value and quality score, you can improve your rank without continuing to throw money at it. Always work on optimizing your ads first, so you don’t end up with an unprofitable cost-per-click.

Should I be using it?

Google Ads is a powerful service for businesses. But like any marketing endeavor, you should assess your budget, availability, and the platform suitability to decide if it’s right for you. First, research the average cost-per-click for your industry. And, using your conversion rates, determine a rough estimate for your cost-per-conversion. Is this an acceptable number? If yes, you should next consider the time you’ll need to invest in managing your account. For Google Ads campaigns to be successful, you need to be regularly evaluating and adapting your bid maximums, search terms, ad types, and so on. If you don’t have an employee that can dedicate at least a couple of hours a week to this account, you may want to consider working with a consultant.

Google Ads is a robust marketing tool. If you’ve decided the service is right for you, read our next blog for a step-by-step guide to getting started.

5 Hospitality Trends to Look Out For in 2019

A new year is beginning, and it’s the perfect time to take stock of what’s working, what isn’t, and start making a plan for finding success and wowing customers in 2019. Need a change but lack inspiration? Here are a few hospitality trends that will dominate in the new year:

More Mobile

The transition to an all-mobile world continues. It seems like every year there are new steps hoteliers must take to stay mobile friendly. In the beginning, that just meant ensuring websites were optimized for mobile devices. Oh, how far we’ve come. Moving into 2019 and beyond, mobile will be an important part of all aspects of the guest experience. Many hotels will allow guests to make and manage bookings through hotel apps, check-in and out on their mobile devices, and access rooms with a mobile key. Rooms will be equipped with smart technology that allows lighting, temperature, and entertainment to be controlled via personal devices and room service orders and other requests will be made over text messaging. Mobile technology has found its way into every aspect of our lives, and that includes travel. So, consider ways to make your business more mobile friendly. This is a trend that isn’t going away.

Health and Well-Being

Moving into the new year, wellness tourism (travel with the intent to maintain or improve health) will be even bigger than it was in 2018. In fact, the industry is forecasted to reach $919 billion in revenue by 2022. With numbers like that, there’s good reason to incorporate health and wellness into your hospitality business. And there are a variety of options for accomplishing this: from installing fitness centers, health spas or saunas, to hosting retreats and serving healthy food options. If you don’t have the necessary facilities on-site, consider partnering with a local business. You could provide a health and wellness package that includes passes to a nearby studio.

Social, Social, Social

This will likely come as no surprise, but social media will continue to play a significant role in 2019. This year we will see a shift towards more ephemeral content, with live-streaming and social media stories gaining momentum across many popular platforms. And behind the scenes, social listening will become a more prevalent marketing practice—allowing businesses to monitor online chatter about their brand for more effective lead generation and reputation management.

Cool Tech

The futuristic tech that we’ve blogged about in the past will begin to gain traction in the hospitality industry this year. It’s predicted that chatbots will be involved in more than 85% of customer service interactions by the year 2020—which isn’t surprising. AI can provide 24/7 service while significantly reducing cost. And there is little customer resistance as consumers adjust to the use of chatbots and other digital assistants in all aspects of their lives.

Though still in its infancy, the use of robots in hospitality will also continue to climb this year. What began as an exciting novelty, has become an essential piece of the customer service puzzle in a few larger hotels across North America and Asia. Like chatbots, they have the potential to maximize service while reducing staffing costs.

Other tech trends to look out for this year include the use of biometrics and virtual reality.

Adults-only

While many hotels invest in amenities that cater to the whole family, there is a growing subset of properties doing just the opposite. Adults-only properties (all guests must be 16 years or older to stay) are seeing an upswing in popularity recently that will likely continue into the new year. As more and more adults seek out the tranquility of a kid-free holiday, middle and budget properties are participating in what used to be the exclusive territory of luxury resorts in the Caribbean.

The hospitality industry is always evolving. It’s important to stay abreast of changes in design, operations, and technology, so you don’t get left behind. Keep these current and emerging trends in mind when looking to make changes this year.

Everyone Is On Mobile. Why Aren’t You?

What you need to know about adopting a guest messaging platform for your hotel.

***Guest post from Whistle, a WebRezPro partner***

Hotels are in a bit of a technological limbo. We are one of the few industries that still use FAX machines while providing guests with cutting-edge technology like digital keys. In the end, the decision to innovate comes down to the benefits a new service brings to the hotel—the direct impact on guest experience, not how shiny or expensive the new software is. So, what do you, as a hotel, need to consider when bringing on a guest messaging platform?

Your Guests

When guests look for hotels, they’re trying to find the best experience; how far they will be from their destination, what amenities are offered, and more. Guests often need to speak with hotel agents for specific information, but don’t always have the time to wait on hold or dig through your website. Guest Messaging Platforms give guests the ability to send a quick message to your staff, while allowing them to go about their day. The best part is that they don’t have to download another mobile app, they continue messaging your hotel the same way they already message friends and family.

Problem resolution or service recovery is also much simpler with messaging; survey metrics will rise considerably after you start using a messaging system in your hotel. Often, the primary challenge is not the actual resolution of an issue, but rather, those who score your hotel low tend to not report the problems in the first place. With a messaging service in place, it is easy to proactively identify and address any service concerns or guest dissatisfaction, resulting in a positive impact on your scores and loyalty.

Your Staff

Your staff will find that they are able to work more efficiently with messaging services in place. Prior to your guests’ arrival, your team will more accurately plan around given arrival times, work out any logistical barriers, and satisfy any pre-check-in requests, ensuring your guests start their stay on the right note.

Complaints are easier and less stressful to manage now. Your team will have more time to find solutions, and better solutions mean happier guests. Your staff will thank you for having no more angry patrons yelling in the lobby!

Your Revenue

Messaging services will help your team build relationships with your guests and generate more ancillary revenue. By proactively ensuring guest satisfaction, your team will increase the likelihood of guests returning. Your hotel will be presented with more opportunities to keep your current guests happy—and it’s cheaper to keep them happy!

Choosing a Service

What do you need from a messaging service? We suggest reviewing the following:

Price – Fees vary between guest messaging platforms. Look for companies that fit your budget, and watch out for setup/installation costs and hidden fees.

Features – No two guest messaging platforms are the same; find the feature set that matches your needs. Some common questions to ask the provider are:

  • Do you charge for user accounts? 
  • Is there a way to automate messaging?
  • Can we communicate with international travelers?
  • Which third-party systems do you integrate with? 
  • Do you offer a way to verify and collect messaging consent? 
  • Do you offer product training? 
  • What type of analytics or reporting is offered? 

 

Impact – It is very important to find a platform with a proven track record. Ask for case studies, testimonials, references, and online ratings. Make sure your guest messaging platform will yield the highest return in value.

“An overwhelming success for our hotel… we couldn’t be happier.”

“The WebRezPro/Whistle Integration has been an overwhelming success for our hotel.  Beginning within minutes after the customer makes a reservation they receive ‘immediate gratification’ with a welcome SMS message to let them know their reservation is complete.  This helps us quickly establish a direct and personal line of communication with our customers so that we can easily assist them with any of their travel plans. 

As a small, boutique hotel our front desk offers limited hours of availability and now we can clearly communicate reminders about check-in times and guests can easily alert us when/if they plan to arrive beyond our normally scheduled times which allows us to easily alter our schedules accordingly. 

Once a guest checks-in, Whistle quickly delivers answers to commonly asked questions such as Wi-Fi code, etc.  From time to time as information changes we can easily update our canned messages in Whistle without any expensive printing costs or communication delays.  Really, I just can’t say enough about the WebRezPro/Whistle Integration, we couldn’t be happier.”

— Topher Swanson, Co-Owner, The Fred

Whistle

Whistle is the number-one rated Guest Messaging platform. With over 85% of travelers carrying their smartphone, Whistle allows hotels and guests to communicate via SMS Text Messaging and Mobile Messaging pre-, during, and post-stay. Whistle enhances customer service through real-time guest engagement, helping boost service scores while streamlining internal communication and operations through team messaging.

For more information, please visit: www.TryWhistle.com

A Hotelier’s Guide to the Holiday Season

You’re probably just beginning to take down your Halloween decor, but pretty soon you’ll have new decorations to put up. Christmas is fast approaching, and you need to be prepared. The holidays are an excellent time for hotels to increase occupancy, up-sell bookings, and delight guests. So, it’s time to start planning.

Here’s a quick guide to help hoteliers get ready for (and get the most out of) this holiday season.

Special packages

Like all special occasions, you should take this opportunity to curate themed packages to offer your guests. These could include things like Christmas dinner, gift-wrapping services, holiday cookies—family packages could even feature a visit from Santa.

When building packages, consider partnering with local businesses. You might not have the ability to put on big holiday events at your property, but you can still include tickets to local events and attractions in the community. Things like sleigh rides, light displays, holiday concerts, and ski passes make great additions to a holiday package.

In addition to creating new packages, look at existing ones and tweak their descriptions to give them a holiday spin. If it includes spa services, for example, you could rename it “Holiday Bliss” and invite them to “have a stress-free holiday this year.”

Seasonal cocktails

If you have a bar or restaurant at your property, the drink menu is an excellent place to add some holiday flair. There’s nothing like the smell of mulled wine (maybe next to a roaring fire) to make it feel like a cozy Christmas haven. And seasonal cocktails like peppermint martinis, eggnog, and hot buttered rum are sure to spread some holiday cheer.

Holiday events

There are all sorts of holiday events you can host at your property. They can be as extravagant or as simple as you want so long as it fits your brand and clientele. Among a long list of holiday offerings, Fairmont Empress is hosting multiple turkey dinners, will have Christmas carolers in their lobby and a life-size gingerbread house on display. Last year Woodmark Hotel invited families to decorate cookies with a local chef. So, get creative. You can hold a snowman building contest, plan a card-making workshop, host movie nights with holiday classics—whatever you think will get your guests enjoying the season.

Decorations

No holiday venue is complete without decorations. These should go up around the first week of December and can include garlands, lights, ribbons, wreaths, ornaments, and, of course, a Christmas tree.

If your property is family-friendly, consider adding an Elf on the Shelf into your decorating strategy. This popular toy can be moved every night and set up in a new and entertaining pose (look here for inspiration). And you can turn it into a contest with your guests. They can take a picture when they find him, upload it to social media, tag your property, and be entered in a contest. It’s a lot of fun for the guests and great marketing for you.

Marketing

Speaking of marketing, once you’ve planned all your holiday festivities you need to promote them. Whatever packages and events you have planned should be featured on your website and across social media channels. And consider creating a seasonal events calendar on your site that highlights your own activities as well as those in the community. Offering current, relevant information will help SEO and add value for your guests.

Once you’ve decorated your propertyand when events and activities are going onbe sure to take professionally shot photos and footage. They’ll be a valuable marketing asset this time next year.

 

The holiday season is an exciting (and profitable) time. Start preparing your property now so that you can make the most of it.

Social Responsibility in the Hospitality Industry: What You Can Do and Why You Should

Among the many ways millennials are changing the hospitality industry, their commitment to socially conscious consumerism is a significant one. They consider it a business’s role to contribute to the well-being of the community (in addition to making profits), and they’re ready to put their money where their mouth is. 73% of millennials are willing to spend more on products and services from sustainable brands and nine out of ten would switch brands to one associated with a cause.

In addition to attracting and earning the loyalty of guests, socially responsible initiatives can help entice and retain employees as well. People want to work for a company with a positive impact. They’ll have higher job satisfaction, which means a lower employee turnover rate for you.

Here’s how you can become more socially responsible—and benefit your community and your brand at the same time.

Eco-friendly initiatives

To appeal to the socially conscious traveler, going green should be your first priority. Last year, 65% of global travelers expressed an intent to stay in eco-friendly accommodation. And you don’t want to miss out on those potential customers. So what can you do to show a commitment to the environment? Try things like swapping out lightbulbs for energy efficient alternatives, installing low-flow taps and toilets, and reducing plastic use.

 If you’ve already made those changes and are looking for a little more inspiration, check out El Nido Resorts in Indonesia. They’re a shining example of the steps a lodging operation can take to become eco-friendlier. The resorts were constructed using renewable materials, and their menu consists primarily of locally sourced ingredients. They also boast advanced water catchment systems, grey water recycling, desalination plants, and on-site composting and sewage treatment facilities. On top of all that, the resorts host on-going environmental programs that include beach clean-ups, ecosystem preservation and rehabilitation, and wildlife monitoring.

Community Service

Social responsibility means more than caring about the environment. It’s about caring for people and communities too. And that makes sense as a hotelier. Your community is what makes your locality great and entices travelers to visit—so you should be invested in its health and prosperity. Consider creating initiatives or programs that give back to the community you love.

Melia Zanzibar won a hospitality award for the implementation of their Global Corporate Social Responsibility Model. Their mission was to improve the overall quality of life of the locals living in the neighboring village of Kairo. They built a well for fresh water, rebuilt the village mosque, renovated homes, and taught basic agriculture and self-sufficiency to the community.

Charitable Contributions

Whether it’s to help the community or conserve the environment, setting up your own programs and initiatives can be a daunting task. If you’re not ready to do it on your own, consider partnering with a charity.

Omni Hotels and Resorts makes charitable donations to Feeding America with their Say Goodnight to Hunger campaign. And they use it as an incentive for guests to book direct. For every direct booking they receive, they commit to feeding a family of four for a week.

The chefs at Kimpton Hotels participate in the Chefs Cycle fundraising event for No Kid Hungry every year. And donations are made to the charity when featured items are purchased at participating restaurants.

 

Travelers today are more conscious about their impact on the world than ever before. They want to stay in accommodation and support businesses that are doing what they can to improve their local communities. So, consider implementing social responsibility initiatives at your property. It’ll be good for the world and great for your brand.

If You List It They Will Come: A Hotelier’s Guide to Google My Business

Most people planning a vacation start with a Google search. That’s why you work so hard to optimize your search results placement with SEO strategies. And you should. But it’s not all you can be doing to make the platform work for you. Managing your Google My Business listing is an important step for staying competitive on the powerful search engine.

What it is

Google My Business is a free, online tool that allows you to control how your business appears across Google. A listing for your property, curated by you, appears on Google Maps and in the Knowledge Graph (the info-box on the righthand side) of search results. It’s like an online storefront. Users can see your property, and relevant information about it, before clicking onto your websitemaking your business more visible and more accessible to potential guests.

Where to start

The first step is to search for any existing listings for your business. While you may not have created one yourself, an unclaimed listing may exist—in which case you’ll need to claim it. Otherwise, visit the Google My Business page and click ‘Start Now.’ From there you’ll need to create an account, verify your business, and then begin managing your listing.

Managing your listing

Categories >> You’ll need to choose a primary category that represents what type of business you are. This helps Google list your business appropriately and gives you access to category-specific features. Hotel listings, for example, can add class-ratings and amenities to their entries. In addition to one primary category, you can choose up to nine others if appropriate for your business.

Business information >> This is obvious, but you’ll want to ensure all your business information is accurate and up-to-date. That includes things like your contact info and website URL as well as a description of your business. If you choose to upload a description (you should), it must be less than 750 characters and adhere to Google’s description guidelines.

Photo and video content >> Listings with photos experience 35% more clicks through to their website. So, don’t skip this step. Upload as many professionally shot photos that you need to tell your property’s story and inspire prospective guests. Within the bunch, you can identify a profile photo and cover photo so Google knows which ones you’d like to display first. Click here for Google’s full photo and video guidelines.

Reviews >> Google is always encouraging customers to leave reviews after visiting a business. It has turned the online juggernaut into the #1 review site in the world, and those reviews are included in your Google My Business listing. That’s a good thing because user feedback is significantly more trusted than traditional marketing. So make sure you are responding to these reviews as part of your reputation management strategy.

Updates >> Make listing updates a regular part of your management strategy. In addition to ensuring the accuracy of all information, and responding to reviews, you can post special offers and promotions directly on your listing. Keeping your Google My Business page fresh will help it stand out to potential guests.

Optimization >> Google My Business includes an analytics feature (called Insights) that allows you to understand how people are interacting with your listing. You can use it, for example, to determine how people are finding your listing, how many times they view it, and how often people ask for directions to your property.

Google My Business is a powerful marketing tool. Make sure you’re claiming and managing your listing to maximize its potential. And consider downloading the platform’s app to make the job as easy as possible.

A Hotelier’s Guide to Responding to Online Reviews

Today’s consumers rely heavily on reviews to make purchasing decisions. The quantity and quality of online reviews are both considered when determining what to buy or where to book. That makes them critical to a business’s success. But it’s not just about maximizing positive reviews and minimizing the negative ones (although that’s certainly important). Responding to reviews is also an essential part of reputation management. If done correctly it can further capitalize on the good reviews and mitigate the damage of the bad. Here’s a quick guide to responding to online reviews:

General tips

Use their name >> Always start your responses with the name of the customer. “Hi, Louise. Thank you.. “ or “Hello, Max. We are so sorry…” sound much more personal than beginning with a cold “Thank you …” or “We are so sorry…”. Using names tells your customers that you care about them as individuals. And it makes it seem less like an automated response.

Be genuine >> Nobody likes receiving a canned response. It feels inauthentic and doesn’t do anything to build a connection with customers. So, avoid generic statements and use language that showcases your property’s personality.

Don’t be repetitive >> It can be tempting to use the same responses over and over to save time, but people read multiple reviews when researching online. If the same phrases are repeated time and time again, they’ll notice. So, mix things up—it’ll look better for your brand.

Positive reviews

While most of your responses should be focused on negative reviews, responding to some positive ones is still important. It shows you don’t take customers’ kind words for granted, and is an opportunity to leverage the review even further.

Repeat the positive feature >> When a guest writes a rave review they usually include the specific details that meant the most to them—things like “the breakfast every morning was delicious.” Restate those details in your responses. Saying something like “we’re so glad you enjoyed our breakfast!” shows the guest (and others reading the exchange) that you’re listening to what they have to say and reiterates the positive attributes of your property.

Use your business name and keywords >> When crafting your response make sure to include your property’s name (i.e. “we are so pleased to hear you enjoyed your time at [PROPERTY NAME]” as well as other keywords. You want people to see your positive reviews, and this will help them show up in search results.

Include subtle marketing >> Reviews have a vast audience of potential customers, so don’t miss the opportunity to plug your property further. After thanking the guest for their kind words, include a subtle call-to-action. Something like “we’re so happy to hear you enjoyed your view of the lake! You should come back and see it in the winter; it’s so beautiful!”.

Negative reviews

Negative reviews aren’t fun, but they happen to everyone. And your responses say a lot to the potential customers reading them. So, you need to have a plan for how to move forward. If done well, you can significantly reduce any fallout (and a guest may even revise it afterwards).

Acknowledge and apologize >> The first thing you should do is acknowledge the experience your guest had and express your apologies for it. People tend to calm down when their feelings are validated.

Move the conversation offline >> You don’t want to turn negative reviews into long, drawn-out discussions online. After apologizing for the guest’s experience, include an invitation to contact you offline so the situation can be resolved.

Keep it short and sweet >> Nobody wants to read paragraphs of text, especially when they’re upset. So, don’t add fuel to the fire with long-winded responses. A simple acknowledgment, apology, and an invitation to communicate further are all you need.

Don’t use your business name or keywords >> Unlike your positive reviews, you really don’t want negative reviews to be popping up on search results. For this reason, avoid using your property’s name or relevant keywords in your responses.

Responding to online reviews should be a regular part of your marketing strategy. Make sure you’re doing it right, so you can make the most of positive reviews and reduce the effects of negative ones.