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.

6 Tips for Maximizing Occupancy

Occupancy is the name of the game in the hotel business. You need to fill rooms in order to be successful. But how exactly do you get more heads in beds? If a property is hoping to increase occupancy, typically the first instinct is to lower rates. But slashing prices cuts into your bottom line and could end up costing you more than any additional reservations provide. And it can undermine your credibility—making guests see your property as less valuable because your prices are telling them that it is. Luckily there’s a lot you can do to win bookings and improve your occupancy rates that won’t sacrifice revenue or reputation. Read on for six tips you can use to maximize occupancy:

Target the right market

This is pretty obvious advice but finding your market and targeting it is the most essential step for making bookings. Creating generalized marketing material that applies to everyone just isn’t going to fill rooms efficiently. So, consider your property culture, analyze the historical data, and find the demographic that your property is particularly suited for. Then make marketing decisions accordingly. A targeted effort will yield far better results than a haphazard one.

Offer something special

Instead of cutting rates to incentivize guests to book, add value to the offer instead. This can be anything from special packages and promotions to simple policy changes that add convenience. Late checkout, free WiFi, or a complimentary breakfast are easy additions that mean a lot to your guests and make you stand out from the competition.

Promote your location

Use your website, social media accounts, and blog to hype your locality. Creating content that highlights the things to do and see in your region will help inspire people to make the trip. You’ll be seen as experts with strong local connections and they’ll remember your property when they go to book accommodation.

Take advantage of local events

Whether it’s concerts, festivals, conferences or even a marathon happening nearby, events in your community are great opportunities to win new bookings. You just have to take advantage of them. Post about the events on your website and social media pages so guests who are interested find your hotel on internet searches. And consider offering special packages or promotions for attendees. A ‘Marathoner’s Package’ could include a discounted massage at your on-site spa or guests with a ‘Festival Package’ could have access to a free shuttle to the venue. And if possible, collaborate with the hosts of the event so you can be listed on their marketing collateral.

Collaborate with locals

It’s more than just local events that have the potential to attract guests to your property. Partnerships with local people and businesses can be a considerable advantage as well. Real estate agents can score you some long-term guests (from a few weeks to a few months), and cross promotions with local restaurants and attractions can bring more awareness to your business.

Be inclusive

You can win a lot of guests by making your property as inclusive as possible. This can mean having things like high-chairs available for traveling families, wheelchair-friendly units, and pet-friendly policies. It can also mean allowing guests to host private events on-site. Anything that makes your hotel welcoming for all guests will work in your favor. It’ll widen your pool of potential customers and earn the loyalty of the ones who choose to stay.

 

The hospitality business is a competitive one. In the pursuit of winning bookings over competitors or securing high occupancy rates, hoteliers can be tempted to start cutting prices. But there are better strategies out there. Follow these six tips to fill rooms without reducing rates.

 

Start the New Year Right: Hospitality Trends for 2018

And just like that, 2017 has passed! We hope you had a wonderful (and profitable!) holiday season, and are excited about the year to come. January is a month for resolutions—an opportunity to reflect on the past year and think of ways to improve in the next. This is just as true for businesses as it is for individuals. We all have room for improvement. So if you’re looking to make some changes at your lodging operation, and are in need of inspiration, here are the top hospitality trends in design, technology, and operations, for 2018.

Design

Biophilic design >> Based on the idea that humans have an innate desire to be surrounded by nature, biophilic design is the newest trend in architecture and interior decor. It’s an aesthetic that—through the incorporation of natural elements—seeks to alleviate stress and improve wellness. As the hospitality industry is forever endeavoring to enhance the guest experience, it’s not a surprise that biophilic design is beginning to garner the interest of hoteliers across the globe. And to good effect; a study conducted by Terrapin Bright Green found that 36% more guests spend time in a lobby with biophilic design features. So what makes a space biophilic? Anything that creates a direct or indirect experience of nature. That includes the incorporation of plant and water features, maximizing natural lighting and using natural colors and materials (just to name a few).

Public spaces >> An emphasis on shared space is the current trend in hotel design. Inspired by the preferences of millenials who spend less time in their rooms and seek out places where they can socialize and collaborate—properties have shifted the focus from in-room amenities to curating comfortable and inviting shared spaces. Many are ditching the front-desk for living-room style lobbies where staff (equipped with iPads) can engage with customers more authentically, and guests can spend time working, reading and socializing.

Technology

Smart rooms >> From phones to socks, it seems like everything we use these days is getting a smart iteration. As the ubiquity of these devices grows, the technology is naturally finding its way into the hospitality industry. This means equipping rooms with things like smart TVs (so customers can stream their favorite content) to personalized climate and lighting control. Guests expect properties to have the same comforts and conveniences they’ve grown accustomed to at home.

Personalization >>Guest loyalty is won by hoteliers that go above and beyond. Now more than ever that means personalization like free wi-fi for the frequent business traveler or cafe recommendations for the coffee lover. Hotels today are using technological solutions to track customer habits and preferences in order to surprise and delight.

Operations

Community connections >>Another characteristic of millennials that is changing the hospitality game? The prioritization of experience over things. Travelers these days are highly motivated to engage with the communities they travel to. For hoteliers, this means it’s a good idea to do the same. Showcasing local artwork, collaborating with local businesses and ensuring staff is knowledgeable about local experiences will create the authentic experience these guests are looking for.

Going green >> Most people these days are concerned for the environment. And in addition to making changes to go green at home, travelers are prioritizing eco-friendly accommodation when on the road. There’s a lot hoteliers can do to fit this bill. Whether the changes are simple (like using more efficient light bulbs) or extensive (like installing a grey-water recycling system), environmentally conscious guests (and the earth!) will appreciate the effort.

 

It’s the beginning of a new year; the perfect time to consider new ways to improve your business. And if you’re in need of inspiration, why not start with these ideas for design, tech, and operations in hospitality. They’re a few of the biggest trends for 2018.

 

WebRezPro’s Top 5 Blog Posts of 2017

It’s been a big year of blogging here at WebRezPro. We’ve covered a wide range of topics—from digital marketing to hotel operations—aimed to support independent hoteliers. As 2017 comes to a close, we’d like to take a look back at the most popular posts of the past year.

Here are the top 5 blog posts from 2017 (listed in order by number of views):

1. Hospitality Technology Trends to Implement in 2017

Technology continues to change and improve operations for hoteliers. To remain relevant and maintain a competitive edge, it’s necessary to stay informed about (and be open to adopting) emerging technology trends. In this post, we highlighted a few of these trends to consider for 2017. The year is almost over, but that doesn’t mean you’ve missed the boat. Everything we discussed back then holds true today. Take a look for more information on data consolidation, mobile PMS, direct bookings, mobile messaging and in-room technology. >> read blog post

2. 7 Smart Social Media Practices for Hotels in 2017

Social media has become a potent marketing tool. And its role will likely only continue to grow. Like any marketing platform, it’s only effective if you’re intentional about how it’s used. Simply having accounts and posting isn’t enough. This blog post highlights smart social media strategies to help hoteliers make the most of this power medium. >> read blog post

3. Essential Elements of a Hotel Website

The number of hours the average person spends on the internet each day continues to climb. People live online. That’s why all businesses should make their website a priority. It’s likely the first place people will go to learn about and engage with your brand, so it’s imperative to make a good impression. From content to functionality, this post breaks down the most critical elements of an effective website. Read on to make sure your business is maximizing the potential of your online presence. >> read blog post

4. Mobile Musts for Independent Hotels in 2017

As mentioned above, the average person spends a lot of their time online. With the ubiquity of smartphones, the majority of this is done from a mobile device. This transition from desktop to mobile browsing has both significant implications for your digital marketing strategies and exciting applications for your on-premise operations – both of which are are explored in this blog post. Have a look to make sure you’re not missing opportunities to improve your business or getting left behind in this mobile era. >> read blog post

5. Getting to Know WebRezPro: Housekeeping Report

A good housekeeping report is critical for running an efficient property. With numerous rooms and staff members, delegating and communicating can be challenging to manage. But a report with interactive capabilities, real-time information, and mobile accessibility makes it easy. This post describes WebRezPro’s housekeeping report and how it supports our clients’ operations. >> read blog post

What an exciting year! Succeeding in the hospitality industry requires reconciling timeless fundamental principles (like providing excellent customer service) with ever-evolving trends in communication and technology. It’s a lot to stay on top of, but that’s what makes it fun! We look forward to another year of learning, blogging about, and helping independent hoteliers keep their finger on the pulse of this dynamic industry. Until then, have a wonderful holiday season!

Pricing 101: A Guide for Independent Hoteliers

One of the most challenging things for hoteliers is determining how to price inventory. Charging too much will deter customers and increase vacancy, while charging too little can significantly undercut your revenue. It’s not an easy problem to tackle, and there are a few different approaches that can be taken. Here’s a quick overview of the various pricing strategies utilized by lodging operators.

Cost-Based Pricing

Cost-based pricing strategies are the easiest to implement. Hoteliers simply calculate the sum of all expenses involved in running their hotel, divide that cost by the number of units at the property, and then markup each unit based on the profit they hope to make. This is a logical approach to pricing that aims to ensure expenses are always covered, but there are certainly some drawbacks. Without accounting for the state of the market or the perceived value of what you have to offer, opportunities to maximize revenue could be missed.

Customer-Based Pricing

Taking a customer-based approach to pricing is a bit more labor intensive. This strategy requires a hotelier to understand who their customers are and determine what they are willing to pay for a particular room or package. Because rates are determined by the perceived value of a unit (as opposed to the actual cost), adopting this type of pricing offers the best potential for maximizing profit. But make sure your pricing decisions are backed by thorough analysis. If you over-estimate the perceived value of a stay at your establishment, customers won’t have a problem choosing a cheaper competitor.

Competitor-Based Pricing

Another approach for determining appropriate pricing is to base decisions on competitors within your market. Hoteliers that use this strategy do a complete audit of rates offered by similar operations in their area and then adjust their own accordingly. To use this method effectively, it’s imperative to make appropriate comparisons (single rooms to single rooms, and so on) and then decide how you want to respond. Depending on your property and the market, you may choose to:

Price match>> This strategy involves setting room rates at the same price point as a competitor offering a similar experience (although you don’t necessarily need to do this for all unit types). Price matching ensure you’re in the running for customers looking for the best deal.

Price high>> Setting your rates higher than other operators signals to browsers that your property has a higher value. If the customers in your market prioritize quality, this could encourage bookings and improve your average daily rate (ADR). If you use this pricing structure, make sure to justify your higher rates with superior service and amenities.

Surround the middle market>> Another strategy involves setting your most basic room as the cheapest in the market while pricing the rest similar to the first available rates offered by your competitors. This is called “surrounding the middle market.” Essentially, it allows you to get customers looking for the best deal while also snagging those willing to pay a little extra.

A Combination

Many operators use a combination of these approaches. You may start with cost-based or competitor-based strategies as a new operator but later transition to customer-based pricing once you have the means to do a proper analysis.

Psychological Pricing

Whatever strategy you choose, avoid round-number pricing. For example instead of offering a room for $100, offer it for $99. Instead of setting a rate at $150, set it at $149, and so on. People associate the number nine with getting a deal and studies have shown that room sales increase when establishments adhere to this commonly used structure.

 

There are many different approaches to take when setting pricing for a hotel. Each has its advantages and shortcomings and not all work for every type of property. As you play around with different strategies, use reporting to determine what works best for you.

 

Choosing a Loyalty Program that Works for Independent Hotels

In an effort to land repeat customers (and increase direct bookings), loyalty programs are one of the most effective strategies out there. A study by Cornell University found that guests book 50% more rooms each year when they are involved in a loyalty program. That’s a lot of extra revenue!

Traditionally, these programs were the exclusive territory of chain hotels—which had the resources to create complex rewards systems and enough ubiquity around the world for frequent travelers to accrue and use points. But it’s 2017, and we don’t have to settle for outdated concepts. There are some excellent options for independent hoteliers to offer their own rewards programs and reap the benefits of improved guest loyalty.

It’s important to set up a program that considers your clientele and company culture. Think about the type of program that would best suit your business. Are you interested in a more traditional points-earned system? The new trend of instant rewards? Or maybe you want to come up with a creative blend of both!

Points-Earned

The classic loyalty program is, of course, a points-based system. Customers earn points in proportion to how much they spend using a simple mathematical formula. When guests have earned enough points, they can be redeemed for free nights, discounts, etc. On their own, independent hotels have trouble effectively using this system because guests struggle to earn enough points to be worthwhile. Group schemes, such as Stash Rewards and Preferred Patron, mitigate this problem by creating a network of independent properties that benefit from a shared rewards system. In addition to providing your property with a loyalty program, group schemes can also expose your business to a wider audience.

Instant Rewards

While many still love point-programs, it seems a lot of today’s travelers find more value in unique and immediate rewards. Instead of making customers wait until they’ve accrued enough points for a free room or discount, these programs offer smaller rewards (think free WiFi, room service vouchers or a box of artisanal chocolates) for simple tasks like booking direct, sharing on social media and so on. This sort of instant gratification goes a long way with guests and is easier to manage as an independent property. If you’re interested in an instant-rewards program but uncomfortable managing it independently, look into partnering with a company like Stay Wanderful.

An Innovative Combination

Don’t feel limited by the two options mentioned above. With a powerful CRM (and a bit of creativity), you can design a program custom-fit for you.

The ‘Friends of the Brand’ program, offered by Kimpton Hotels, is a great example of an innovative alternative which blends a points-based system with personalized rewards. By using invisible credits, they award points to guests for a variety of actions (like positive reviews, sharing on social media and booking direct) as they see fit. The guests never know how many points they have, but at any time an employee can use them to surprise and delight guests with instant, personalized rewards.

Final tips

Make it Accessible >> If you’re offering a points-based system, ensure that members can access and use their points easily. Consider using a mobile hotel app or online dashboard.

Communicate and engage >> Make sure to send emails, and engage with members on social media, so they don’t forget about your loyalty program.  Send updates on their status in the program, suggestions for earning more points and ways to redeem rewards.

Know your customers >> Consider what it is your guests want. A personalized, thoughtful reward can be more appreciated and memorable than a generic offering of higher cost. Unique perks are what can set you apart from the competition.

 

Building customer loyalty is critical for survival in the hospitality industry. Think about adding a rewards program to win repeat customers and boost direct bookings.

A Busy Hotelier’s Guide to Maintaining Online Reputation

In our digital world, online reputation has never been more critical to a hotel’s success. Online reviews and ratings give consumers more confidence in their booking decisions than ever before; in fact, BrightLocal’s latest Local Consumer Review Survey found that 74 percent of consumers say positive reviews make them trust a business more.

Nurturing a positive online reputation is one of the most powerful marketing strategies any business can employ and most hotel operators consider online reviews important to the success of their business. During the peak season rush, however, it can be easy to lose focus on managing online reputation amid increased urgent demands brought on by high occupancy. But it’s during busy times — when service is prone to slip a little — that it is especially important to maintain a grip on what customers are saying about your property online.

For busy hoteliers, here’s our guide to maintaining online reputation at any time of the year.

Manage Guest Expectations

Avoid negative reviews (and time-consuming and potentially costly reputation repair efforts) by managing guest expectations from the outset. Property descriptions and images on your website, OTA listings, Google My Business listing and tourism association listings, etc. should paint an accurate picture of the stay experience you offer; overpromising only leads to disappointed guests and bad reviews.

Assess your property’s existing reviews and guest feedback to identify what guests love about your hotel and what disappoints them — and, if necessary, adjust your narrative accordingly. For example, if guests consistently complain about the size of your guestrooms, ensure that descriptions clearly state that your rooms are small (but cozy!). When your guests know what to expect they are much less likely to be disappointed.

Automate Monitoring

Keeping track of what people are saying about your property in such a boundless space as the Internet can be a time-consuming and inefficient task. Manually checking various review sites, OTA sites and social networking sites on a regular (ideally daily) basis is difficult to fit into a busy hotelier’s hectic schedule.

But this critically important task can be made quick and easy by setting up automated monitoring and reputation management tools to track all mentions of your property across the Internet. Google Alerts (a free service) allows you to set up an alert for any search term (for example, your property’s name), and then informs you whenever new content featuring the search term is published on a webpage. Social media management tools such as Hootsuite (free and paid versions) provide a single platform from which to monitor numerous social media channels for messages and mentions, as well as schedule posts, engage with followers and access analytics. Then there are powerful reputation management solutions like Revinate, which captures and brings together all your online reviews and social media mentions, and provides a single platform from which to manage your social media accounts, as well as access sentiment analytics.

Simple Surprises Delight

With the push toward personalized service across all hotel segments (not just luxury) to keep up with rising guest expectations, properties are striving to surprise and delight guests to increase customer loyalty and generate positive guest feedback on social media and review sites.

Personalizing the guest experience might seem like a complicated undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be. Modern hotel technology, including property management systems (PMS), customer relationship management (CRM) software and guest engagement solutions, makes it easy to track and use guest data to identify high-value guests and to personalize every guest’s stay with automated tools, from reservation pop-up notes to automated communications and request tracking.

Surprising and delighting guests doesn’t have to be expensive either. Think of simple gestures your property can implement to make guests feel valued. From handwritten welcome notes or welcome cookies placed in guestrooms, to free room upgrades or late check-out when possible, giving guests a little extra can go a long way with earning their loyalty and advocacy.

Automate Requests for Feedback

Every guest should be given the opportunity to provide feedback about their experience during and after their stay. Even negative comments are valuable to any property when they are warranted and highlight areas that can be improved.

While it’s important to check on guest satisfaction personally during a guest’s stay, the opportunity might not always present itself, for example, if a guest is away from the property for much of the time. Consider in-room tent cards encouraging the guest to let you know if anything can be done to improve their stay. Automated guest engagement solutions can help staff check in with in-house guests via messaging, and track and manage requests and complaints.

According to BrightLocal research, 50 percent of consumers will leave an online review if asked. A couple of days after a guest checks out they should be sent a post-stay email thanking them for staying and inviting them to leave a review online if they enjoyed their stay (providing a direct link from the email helps). Property management systems like WebRezPro allow you to set up automated customized emails or integrate with CRM solutions to streamline guest communications. PMS integrations with online reputation management systems automate the process of emailing guests post-stay surveys that can be published directly to TripAdvisor and Google at the property’s discretion.

Respond to Feedback

Apparently 87 percent of TripAdvisor users say that an appropriate management response to a negative review improves their impression of a property. Done right, management responses have the power to recover disappointed guests and your property’s reputation.

Genuine responses to reviews do take time (canned responses should be avoided) but it’s a critical part of online reputation management. Developing set guidelines on how to handle negative reviews — like Revinate’s Positive “Sandwich” Formula — can help focus and streamline this process.

While your property should aim to respond to all negative reviews (and in a timely manner), it’s not necessary to respond to all positive reviews. In fact, recent research from Cornell University implies that responding to more than 40 percent of reviews (repeating simple thank yous for positive reviews) has a detrimental effect — likely annoying review readers by distracting from the reviews themselves.

Analyze and Act on Feedback

Analyzing reviews and complaints for actionable opportunities for improvement — and implementing those improvements — are also time-consuming but necessary steps in reputation management. Online reputation management solutions like Revinate, however, can make this process much more efficient through sentiment analysis tools that analyze reviews and social media mentions to uncover specific areas of operation that need attention.

Actions speak louder than words. Nothing shows customers that you are listening to them and that you care about their experience more than acting on feedback by making operational improvements where warranted.

 

Maintaining a positive online reputation is key to a property’s success in our digital age. It’s so important not to drop the ball, especially during busy times. Managing guest expectations from the outset, implementing procedures for dealing with complaints and negative reviews, and utilizing modern software to automate processes — such as monitoring online mentions, service personalization, post-stay surveys and analytics — all helps to streamline this critical task on a daily basis, continuously strengthening your online reputation and bringing in more bookings.

 

Sustainable Experiences Matter to Guests: Go Green to Keep Up

It’s 2017, the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, and everyone is becoming evermore informed and concerned about the impact we have on the environment. That’s why it’s not hard to believe that 65% of global travellers expressed intent to stay at eco-friendly accommodation this year. That’s a large piece of the consumer pie you don’t want to miss out on!

Here are a few ways for your property to go green (and save money!) this year.

Reduce Waste

One of the most important steps you can take to become a greener business is to reduce waste.  From complimentary toiletries to individually packaged condiments, the waste generated from a hotel property has a sizeable impact on the environment (and is difficult and expensive to dispose of!).

Try installing refillable shampoo and body wash pumps in bathrooms and cut down on those pesky plastic bottles filling up our landfills. Trade in salt and pepper packets for refillable pourers and replace plastic laundry bags with linen ones.

Look into partnering with organizations that can divert and repurpose your hotel’s waste. Always throwing away barely used soap from your guest rooms? Clean the World is a non-profit organization that collects used soap from hotels and recycles them for impoverished people around the globe.

Conserve Energy

Do your electricity bills feel exorbitant? Hotels can spend up to 10 percent of their revenue on energy, which means going green can offer your property huge annual savings. Changes you can make range from adjustments of simple habits to installing new systems, all while maintaining the comfort of your guest.

Swapping out regular light-bulbs for their energy-efficient alternatives is an easy step that can go a long way in conserving energy. Not to mention educating staff about eco-friendly habits like opening and closing drapes to reduce heating and turning off unused electronics.

Many properties are now using keycard systems in their rooms that require the guest’s access card in order to use lights and AC. This system cuts down on wasteful energy consumption and is responsible for massive reductions in their electricity bill.

Save Water

Millions of liters of water are wasted by hotels each year. In a time when water scarcity has become a global problem, this is an important area for your property to address when going green.

Think about implementing a linen reuse program allowing guests to opt out of daily towel and linen changes. Less laundering reduces water and the energy required to heat it. Also consider installing low flow shower heads and faucets (which can reduce water usage by 30 percent) as well as water-efficient toilets (which can reduce water usage by 60 percent).

For more extreme changes to save water look into grey water recycling and rainwater harvesting programs.

Promote Green Activities

When planning your eco-friendly initiatives, it’s not just about what you can do as a business but also promoting green activities for your guests.

Why not include bicycles at your property for guest use? Also think about providing walking maps and public transportation information for attractions. You’ll be helping to reduce carbon emissions and your guests will have a more immersive experience exploring your local area.

Have you considered putting recycling bins in guest rooms? This will help with your waste reduction strategies and is a good way to show your customers your commitment to the environment.

Use a Cloud PMS

The type of management system you run also affects your property’s environmental impact.  Management hardware requires the use of inefficient, on-site technology. But by switching to a cloud property management system (PMS) you can forgo the energy costs of running your own servers and cooling systems.

Certain features allowed by a cloud PMS further reduce your environmental impact. Save mountains of paper with the use of electronic signatures during check-in and minimize wasted energy by ensuring electronics are turned off immediately after checkout with mobile housekeeping reports.

 

Make a commitment to go green this year.  Even small adjustments can have a big effect on the planet, save your property money, and are sure to be noticed by your environmentally conscious guests.

Cloud PMS Features That Help Generate Repeat Bookings

As the holiday rush gears down, it’s time to focus on your strategy for getting your guests to come back. For many properties, the holiday season brings in a lot of new customers and the increased traffic presents a prime opportunity for building lasting customer relationships.

In hospitality (or any business), the key to customer loyalty is customer satisfaction — and the key to customer satisfaction is great customer service. When operations run smoothly and guests receive the kind of personalized attention that today’s guests expect, satisfied, loyal customers are the result.

Modern property management systems (PMS) support the kind of customer service that results in satisfied guests by automating processes to increase operational efficiency and by managing guest profile data to help personalize the guest experience — pre-, during and post-stay. In this blog post we’ll highlight some specific features of a modern cloud PMS that work to build customer loyalty throughout the guest cycle and help bring guests back again and again.

Guest Folio Features

From booking to post-departure, all parts of the guest cycle present valuable opportunities for winning guest loyalty, but the most crucial moment is the actual stay experience itself.

A personalized guest experience is powered by guest data. Modern cloud PMS equip lodging operators with comprehensive guest folios that allow them to manage guest reservation and profile data to personalize the guest’s stay.

In addition to notes and comments about a guest, such as allergies and room preferences, which can be saved in a guest’s profile to facilitate personalized service during future stays, guest folios can offer other guest management features designed to help property staff enhance service in the moment.

Reservation alarms and pop-up reminders can be set to alert staff of any special guest requirements on the day of the guest’s arrival before they check in, upon guest check-in or whenever the guest’s folio is opened. VIP flagging is another simple but effective way for hotel staff to identify guests that require extra special attention immediately via the guest folio.

Mobile Access

When guest data can be accessed on the go, rather than locked behind the front desk, guest service can be taken to the next level. Cloud PMS that are optimized for mobile devices allow hotel staff to access data from the palm of their hand while interacting with guests anywhere on the property.

During busy times, guests can be checked in more efficiently by iPad-touting staff members while comfortably seated in the lounge or lobby, rather than queuing at the front desk. On-the-go access to reservation folio data and room availability allows hotel staff to log guest requests on the spot and resolve any issues in a timelier manner. Behind the scenes, mobile maintenance and housekeeping reports contribute to a more satisfying and seamless guest experience too, helping to ensure rooms are always ready for guests and that any housekeeping requests or maintenance work orders are completed promptly.

System Integration

One of the major advantages of cloud-based hotel technology is the ability to integrate with other systems in order to automate cross-system processes and consolidate data, which has a direct impact on guest service.

For example, your PMS can be integrated with your payment gateway so that credit card payments can be processed directly through your PMS. Integration with GDS and OTA channels allows GDS/OTA inventory and rates to be controlled from the PMS, and GDS/OTA reservations to be sent automatically to the PMS. Integrating your point-of-sale system with your PMS automates the process of posting restaurant charges to guest folios. When your PMS shares data with CRM or guest engagement platforms, it enhances and automates the process of sending personalized guest communications.

Integrating your core hotel systems streamlines operations and makes data more accessible (and accurate), resulting in smoother operations and customer service throughout the guest cycle.

Mobile-Friendly Direct Online Bookings

With mobile now mainstream, it’s critical to ensure your property’s online experience is optimized for mobile devices. In addition to a responsive website that looks and works great on both desktops and smartphones (and everything in between), it’s important to offer your customers easy access to direct online bookings on any device.

Just like a smooth, satisfying stay experience, a simple, secure, user-friendly booking experience will also be remembered by customers (as will a complicated or frustrating one) when they are planning future trips. And with features like access codes for loyalty members or special rates for repeat bookings, a mobile-friendly online booking engine can help secure long-lasting customer relationships.

Automated Pre- and Post-Stay Emails

As you know, your business’ relationship with a guest begins well before they set foot on your property. From the moment of booking (or even an initial enquiry), every customer should receive exceptional service.

A pre- and post-stay email campaign is a powerful tool for engaging and retaining customers. A modern cloud PMS should feature the ability to send automated pre- and post-stay emails to guests, triggered by parameters such as check-in/check-out dates and room and rate codes. Part of automating this process, email templates based on occasion (for example, booking confirmation, pre-arrival, welcome, departure, post-stay feedback request, return offer, etc.) can be set and triggered either automatically or manually.

Automated pre- and post-stay email functionality helps lodging operators deliver personalized service and build lasting relationships with customers.

Rewards Program

We can’t talk about customer retention tools without mentioning rewards (or loyalty) programs. Cloud PMS that offer this feature provide properties with an obvious avenue through which to incentivize guests to come back. A PMS-based rewards program allows a property to define its own rules — such as points earned per dollar spent, redemption terms and the rewards themselves — which is important as loyalty programs become more flexible, personalized and geared toward instant gratification.

Happier Staff

Although happier staff is not technically a feature of a modern cloud PMS, it is a direct result of using one! When your time, energy and patience isn’t drained by inefficient systems, you can focus more time and energy on your guests. Simplifying daily operations and helping properties get to know their guests, modern hotel technology provides lodging operators with the time and tools they need to deliver the kind of service that brings guests back.

To find out how a cloud PMS helps gain new customers, read 3 Ways Cloud Hotel Management Software Attracts New Guests.

Hotel Website Design Trends for 2016

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

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

Clean, Simple User-Oriented Design

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

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

Hero Images

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

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

Galapagos Reservations

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

Video Headers and Backgrounds

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

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

A Personal Touch

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

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

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

Wyatt's Hotel

Captivating Animation

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

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

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

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

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

Cool Typography

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

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

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

Calgary Attractions

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

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

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