A Hotelier’s Guide to Creating Effective Video Content

When creating digital content for your website and social media channels, video cannot be overlooked. It has become the key to online engagement. In fact, video is expected to account for more than 80% of all web traffic by next year. So, if you want to stay competitive, you need to hop on board. Here’s a quick guide to creating compelling video content:

Content

For marketing collateral to be effective today, it can’t look like it did in the past. People no longer trust overt advertisement, and video content is no exception. So steer clear of anything too “sales-y.” It’s not going to land, and users will simply scroll by or click away. If you want people to watch your video, it needs to be valuable for them not just promotional for you. That means making it entertaining, moving, or educational. Curious what that looks like? This video for La Sirenuse and this one for Bugatti Hotels and Resorts, are both excellent examples of the kind of content that works in today’s climate.

Length

There’s some debate about how long a marketing video should be. And it’ll vary depending on the type of video you’re producing and the platform you plan to publish it on. Instagram videos, for example, should stay around 30 seconds as it’s the channel that users scroll through the fastest. Content made for YouTube, however, can be longer. But try and keep it under two minutes as a rule of thumb. Attention spans are short these days and videos longer than that generally see large viewership drop-off.

Production

Thanks to social media, effective marketing material has a much more personal and casual tone. So, you can forgo a stiff, corporate feel but it still needs to be professional. And that professionalism comes from production quality. When making video content, you need to pay attention to things like lighting, audio, and editing (to name a few). If not done well, viewers aren’t going to take your brand seriously. All things considered, it’s likely you’ll want to hire outside help. But if you choose to do it yourself, make sure to use the right equipment and follow these product tips.

Publishing

Video content can be used on all your marketing channels. The length and content might need to vary a bit (as mentioned earlier), but Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are all platforms where video thrives. So, take advantage of them. And be sure to embed it in your property’s website to encourage users to stay longer (making a conversion more likely). You should also consider including video content in your email campaigns and on your landing pages—which has been shown to significantly improve click-through and conversion rates, respectively.

Optimization

You invest a lot of time and money into making video content, so it’s imperative you do everything you can to optimize its impact online. For YouTube, this means creating a punchy title that grabs users attention, including a short but informative description, and choosing appropriate tags to help users find your videos in searches. If you’re embedding video on your website, you’ll need to create a video sitemap. This provides search engines with the necessary information they need (such as video title, description, URL, etc.) to index your videos appropriately.

 

Video is a powerful medium that has become an integral part of digital marketing across all industries. If you want to maximize engagement online, it’s something will have to invest in. But make sure you do it right. Poorly produced content that undermines credibility could be worse than no videos at all.

Four Management Tools Every Hotelier Needs

Independent hoteliers have a huge job. To run a successful lodging operation, they must oversee on-site operations, hire and manage staff, and develop marketing strategies—all while ensuring top-quality customer experience. It can all sound a little overwhelming, but we live in a modern time, and there are technological solutions that can do a lot of the heavy lifting. Here are the four management tools every hotelier should have in their arsenal (and a few extra thrown in for your consideration):

Property Management System

The most important tool for success in this business is a powerful property management system. The right choice will handle all front-office operations from making reservations to checking guests in and out to controlling rates and inventory. By managing these daily processes, and integrating with other core systems, the manual tasks that eat away at your time can be eliminated—allowing you to focus on more important matters.

There are a lot of options out there, and not all PMSs are created equal. So how do you know if a PMS is right for your property? Read this guide on the essential features you should be looking for in a PMS.

Content Management System

When it comes to marketing, your website is your most important asset. It’s the digital extension of your property, and likely the first experience guests will have with your hotel. So you need to leave a good impression. And guest expectations for websites are high. They need to be informative, aesthetically pleasing, and dynamic—static sites just don’t cut it anymore. That’s where content management systems come in. With platforms like WordPress, keeping your website fresh is easy because content can be updated quickly, without the need for any coding or web design abilities.

Social Media Manager

No marketing approach is complete without a social media strategy. There are over three billion users active on social sites around the world, so it should be a priority for any business that wants to be successful. But there are a lot of different platforms out there, and while you don’t need to be on every one, you’ll likely have at least a couple different profiles to curate and maintain. So how do you stay on top of all these accounts? Social media management systems (like Hootsuite) allow you to manage all your profiles from one place. You can schedule posts (so you don’t have to waste time in the middle of a busy workday), monitor keywords online (so you know what people are saying about your property), and even measure the impact of your campaigns with built-in analytics features.

Customer Relationship Manager

The hospitality industry is all about customer experience. And while things like knowledgeable staff and excellent amenities still matter, personalization is what makes a business stand out today.

Being able to offer personalized experiences requires comprehensive guest profiles. If you want to surprise a guest with their favorite coffee, you need to know what their favorite coffee is. Customer relationship managers (like Guestfolio) allow you to keep track of valuable information about your guests as well as manage email communication, send newsletters, and facilitate guest surveys.

Additional Considerations

Scheduling solutions >> From front-desk staff to housekeeping to restaurant servers, hoteliers have to schedule and manage a team on top of all their other responsibilities. Tools like Agendrix can make that job a lot easier—saving you time and reducing inconvenient scheduling mistakes.

Task manager >> Whether you’re planning an event or running a marketing campaign, undertaking projects can be daunting. Task managers, like Trello and Asana, can help you plan, collaborate on, and track the progress of any tasks big or small.

Running an independent hotel can feel a little overwhelming. Set yourself up for success with these four (or more) management tools.

An Independent Hotelier’s Guide to Hosting Private Functions

Large hotels have been in the private function game for a long time as they had the traditional banquet halls typically favored for weddings and holiday parties. But tastes are changing. Many people planning weddings (and other parties) today are searching for smaller, unique spaces to host their special celebrations. That puts independent hotels in a unique position. And it’s one you should consider taking advantage of. Not only do the events themselves provide great revenue opportunities, but they’re also an opportunity to land group bookings, expose your hotel to a broader audience, and generate more marketing fodder.

Interested? Here’s a quick guide to hosting weddings (and other private functions) at your independent hotel.

Use what you have

Take stock of the spaces and amenities that you have to offer. You might not have a large banquet hall, but you don’t need one. On-site restaurants, outdoor gardens, even a picturesque dock can make for an ideal ceremony or reception. Your individuality is your greatest asset. So find the locations on your property that scream #weddinginspo and come up with a plan. Where would the tables go? How many people can it hold? This will vary depending on the type of reception. A formal sit-down dinner requires more space per person, but a cocktail-style reception allows for a higher capacity. Have numbers ready for both.

Create packages

Once you’ve determined what spaces you have available—and therefore what type and size of events your property can host—it’s time to create packages. Every event is different so you should have a variety of options. When it comes to weddings, for example, some couples might be looking for a venue for the ceremony and reception, while others might only need a location to shoot photos. Some clients will require a hotel room for the wedding parties to get dressed, in addition to a honeymoon suite for the newlyweds. Whatever packages you offer, do something to make your clients feel special. It doesn’t have to be big—a complimentary bottle of wine or even a hand-written note will go a long way.

Make connections

Event planning is a big job. To help make it a more seamless experience for your clients, consider connecting with other local businesses in the industry. Juggling all the moving parts of a big event will be easier if you have a pre-existing relationship with caterers and photographers. You’ll already have a point of contact, and they’ll be familiar with your property. It’s also an excellent way to drum up more business as you can cross-promote one another.

Promote

Speaking of promotion, that’s the next big piece of the puzzle. If you want to break into the private function business, you need people to see you as an event venue. Create a page on your website dedicated to private functions and promote it across social media. You want people to fall in love with the space, so professional photos are a must. In fact, you might want to consider staging a wedding photoshoot so prospective clients can imagine their own weddings at your property. And when private functions are held at your hotel, don’t let the opportunity for great user-generated content pass you by. Ask for feedback and then use it in your marketing collateral. There are few things better for your reputation than a happy bride.

 

As an independent hotel with unique spaces, you’re in the perfect position to host intimate, personalized private functions. And given the potential for additional revenue streams and promotion, it’s an opportunity you should certainly consider.

What to Look for when Purchasing a New PMS

Running a lodging operation is a complicated task involving a lot of moving parts. Hoteliers must manage reservations, communicate with guests, and oversee staff—among numerous other tasks. The right property management system (PMS) can alleviate a lot of the work and stress associated with property management and improve operational efficiency. There are many systems on the market these days, so it’s important to do your research. Beyond finding a system with the necessary features your property requires, here are a few of the most important things you should be looking for in a PMS:

Integration

There are technological solutions for almost every facet of hotel operations. Revenue management software helps to determine optimal pricing strategies, payment gateways facilitate credit card payments, channel managers regulate inventory offered on third-party distribution channels and the list goes on. Most hoteliers are using a collection of these systems and it’s important to find a PMS that is capable of integrating with them; seamless communication between all systems will maximize efficiency and reduce frustrating errors. When a PMS is integrated with a hotel’s various distribution channels, for example, inventory will be automatically updated across all platforms—eliminating the requirement for manual entry and the potential for double-bookings. And integration between a revenue manager and your PMS makes price adjustments automatic. The PMS will push occupancy information to the revenue manager, which (after determining the best pricing strategy) will push optimal room rates back to the PMS.

Mobile-optimization

We’re living in a mobile era. So, for any tech solution to be relevant today, it needs to be optimized for mobile devices. When it comes to a PMS, this has huge advantages for lodging operators. Not only does it enable managers to oversee operations on-the-go, but it also equips staff to serve customers better. Liberation from the front desk means they can engage with guests in a more personable and authentic way. In fact, many hotels are losing the front desk all-together. A mobile-optimized PMS also streamlines communication between staff. Housekeepers, for example, can update room status in-real-time, ensuring efficient check-ins.

Scalability

As a business owner, you don’t want the systems you use to limit potential growth. Make sure your tech solutions have the ability to accommodate the needs of an expanding business. Whether you’re hoping to add rooms, build a campsite, open new locations or start offering adventure tours, choosing a PMS with scalability and additional optional modules will give you the freedom you need to achieve your business goals.

Reliability

Whenever you make an important purchase, you need to do your research. That should include inquiries into the reputation of the provider you’re considering. Your PMS is the backbone of your business, so you don’t want to take any risks. Read what current customers have to say about their experience. Any solution you choose should have a history of reliably serving operations like your own.

And remember to consider the history of adaptability. The tech world is constantly evolving and your provider needs to be able to keep up.

Customer Support

You’re in the hospitality business, so the importance of customer service should come as no surprise. Be sure the PMS provider you choose shows a commitment to strong customer support. It’s essential that staff get adequate training on new systems and that problems are resolved quickly. Take a look at what support they have available. In addition to call-in support, video tutorials and other online resources can be hugely beneficial.

 

A good PMS is essential for running a successful lodging operation. So choosing the right system matters. When weighing your options, be sure to prioritize integration capability, mobile optimization, scalability, reliability and customer support. Good luck!

 

 

 

Social Media Dos and Don’ts: A Hoteliers’ Guide

Social media has become an unparalleled marketing force—and is showing no signs of slowing down. It’s doubtful any business owner in this day and age needs to be convinced of the importance of social media marketing. But acknowledging the need to be on social media platforms isn’t enough. You need to make sure you’re doing it right. Here are the most important social media do’s and don’ts to get you on the right track:

Accounts

DO be consistent across accounts. This is (of course) essential for profile information like your address, phone number, and website URL, but it’s just as necessary for branding and messaging. Maintaining common color schemes, profile pictures and style will improve brand recognition and inspire credibility.

DON’T get passive. Creating an account and then failing to post regularly is worse than having no account at all. Social media is a dynamic medium that requires regular attention to be effective. Make sure posting becomes part of your regular routine. Neglected accounts do not leave a good first impression.

DO use analytics. Like any marketing strategy, you should constantly be evaluating the performance of your content. Whether you’re utilizing the features offered by social media platforms—like Twitter analytics and Facebook Insights—or third party tools, paying attention to analytics can help you get the most out of the platform. Identifying key information about your demographic, highlighting content that is the most effective and determining the best time of day to post are just a few insights to be gained from the practice.

DON’T forget to leave your mark. You spend a lot of time and energy on your social media pages so don’t miss an opportunity to promote them. Be sure to include social media marks on your website, newsletters, and other marketing collateral.

Content

DO keep it concise. The key to a good post is brevity. People don’t visit their favorite brand’s Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter page to read an essay. They’re looking for palatable content that gets to the point. Keep your posts and captions short and sweet and your viewers will be much more likely to engage.

DON’T always sell. Social media is a personal space for which traditional marketing is ill-fit. Constant, overt advertisements will not be well received in this arena. Of course, you want to use it for some self-promotion (that’s the entire objective after all), but it needs to be mixed in with other content. A good rule of thumb is to limit promotional material to about 20% of all posts.

DO take advantage of UGC. One of the greatest aspects of social media is the unlimited potential to expand marketing reach with little to no cost. And one of the best ways to do that is leveraging user-generated content.  Implement social media campaigns with a unique hashtag to encourage users to share their content (perhaps even host a contest) and don’t forget to like and share when they do!

Engagement

DO encourage engagement. As already mentioned, social media is a dynamic and personal medium. To find success on the platform, you need to use your account to have a dialogue with your followers. Post content that encourages users to engage and make sure to respond and interact with them when they do.

DON’T ignore bad comments. Negative reviews are part of the hospitality game. Everyone gets them. To mitigate the repercussions, it’s essential you respond. Offer your apologies and provide contact information for further concerns and communication. It’ll earn your property a much stronger online reputation than simply ignoring (or deleting) them.

Social media is a critical part of marketing today. And it’s already significant influence will only continue to grow. It’s a medium with unparalleled potential, so do everything you can to make it work for you!

Skeptical of the Cloud? Four Cloud-based PMS Myths Debunked

Just like many major technological advancements before it, the introduction of cloud computing has revolutionized the way businesses operate across all industries (including hospitality). From integrated online booking engines to increased flexibility, the introduction of cloud-based property management systems has resulted in incredible benefits for its adopters. But despite its many advantages, some hoteliers are still hesitating to take the plunge due to a few persistent myths surrounding the cloud. Here are four common myths about cloud-based PMS debunked:

Myth 1: The cloud is not secure

There is a pervasive perception that information stored in the cloud isn’t safe. This idea seems to come from a misunderstanding of how cloud-computing works (and where the data is physically stored). Contrary to images the term ‘cloud’ might conjure, information is not just ‘floating around.’ Like traditional property management systems, cloud-based data is stored on servers. The differences between the two systems lie in the location of those servers. While PMS hardware requires them to be on-site, cloud-based systems store encrypted data on servers in remote facilities. And security offered by these facilities is much more sophisticated than what could be accomplished at a hotel (they’re in the data storage business after all). Concrete security measures, authentication gateways and sophisticated firewalls protect information from physical and virtual attack. And the separation between property and data means that should a physical disaster befall a hotel (be it flood or fire), important proprietary information will not be lost.

Myth 2: A cloud PMS is expensive

A common association made concerning technology is that new always equals pricey. While this certainly can be the case, when it comes to cloud-based systems it just doesn’t hold true. Legacy property management systems are so riddled with up-front and on-going expenses that cloud-based solutions can be a money saver. Traditional systems require expensive hardware, regular IT management, security and energy for on-site servers, and licensing. But because cloud-based systems don’t require any infrastructure, those costs (and headaches) don’t have to be a part of the equation. Instead, hoteliers pay one low setup fee and a subscription based on the size and needs of their property (with all system updates free of charge).

Myth 3: Data in the cloud is hard to access

Because data does not physically reside on-site, there is a misconception that information in the cloud can be difficult to access. In reality, a cloud-based PMS gives hoteliers enhanced accessibility. Instead of requiring the use of specific on-site computers, cloud software allows staff to access the management system on any device, from anywhere, as long as they have an internet connection.

Myth 4: Transitioning to a new PMS is too much work

A complete overhaul of a hotel’s PMS can seem like a daunting task. And some hoteliers may think that switching systems and learning a new program isn’t worth the effort. While a transition will inevitably take some time, adopting a cloud PMS is easier than it sounds. There is no hardware or software to install, and the user-friendly interfaces come with tutorial videos, user manuals and tech support. When you factor in the many benefits of a cloud PMS, the decision to upgrade to this new system shouldn’t be a difficult one.

 

Cloud computing has brought about a paradigm shift in hospitality management. As with any new technology, there is some lingering skepticism based on common misconceptions. Don’t let these myths stop you from reaping the benefits of a cloud-based system.

 

How to Inspire Guests on Social Media

Over the last few years, social media has changed the marketing game when it comes to reaching the modern traveler. Always connected, today’s travelers consider their smartphones an indispensable travel companion and, according to one study, 97 percent of millennials post to social media at least once while traveling.

This is especially important to hotel marketers, considering the rapidly growing influence of other people’s vacation photos and selfies on travel plans.

Today, most brands incorporate social media into their marketing strategies to amplify reach and connect with customers. The key to success is harnessing the power of user-generated content to inspire customers to book your property and, in turn, share their experiences.

Selfies Sell

Recent research by Blitz Agency revealed that 84 percent of millennials and 73 percent of non-millennials are likely to plan a trip based on someone else’s vacation photos or social media updates. And while traditional word of mouth is still the winning source of travel inspiration, Facebook and Instagram follow closely behind, well ahead of traditional sources of travel inspiration, including magazines, TV and movies. When it comes to inspiring travelers, user-generated content beats professionally generated content hands down.

User-generated content resonates with travelers more than professional advertising because it represents the brand in a more authentic way — from the customer’s point of view. Some big brands are already leveraging user-generated content through hashtag campaigns with great success, for example, Starwood Hotels’ #SPGLife, Fairmont’s #FairmontMoments, and Loews Hotels’ #TravelForReal. Such campaigns motivate travelers to share their own experience of a brand, especially if tied to a competition or giveaway.

So, how can independent properties capitalize on user-generated content? The first step is connecting with your guests on the social media platforms they use. Facebook and Instagram are good bets for connecting with customers that like to post and view visual content.

  • Let your guests know where to find you on social media. Promote your property’s social media pages and handles on your website, in email communications, online ads and even in print (advertising, business cards, front desk/lobby signage, in-room folders, etc.).
  • Engage with customers on social media. Respond directly to customers who post about your property, whether they are sharing a selfie, a comment or asking a question. Re-share their photos (be sure to tag them), thank them for positive feedback, and address their questions or complaints in a timely and helpful manner.
  • Encourage guests to share. Motivate your customers to share their positive experiences of your property on social media by creating fun hashtag campaigns that can be further incentivized by running a contest. Surprising and delighting guests with thoughtful in-room extras or other special touches and maintaining photo-worthy spaces and amenities (or even “selfie spots”) also works well to inspire guests to share the moment (and make their peers jealous) on social media.
  • Re-share their love. When a guest shares a great photo or video of their experience at your property, don’t be afraid to spread those good vibes by re-sharing the content on your own pages (always giving credit to/tagging the creator), incorporating it into your property’s story and encouraging other customers to engage. Add a personal comment of your own, such as thanking them for their stay, wishing them well on the next leg of their journey, or inviting them to come back soon. Curated user-generated content from social media can even be shared on your property’s website via earned content platforms like Olapic.

Top Hotel Experiences Shared on Social Media

Interesting research by Local Measure, a customer intelligence platform for tourism and hospitality, recently revealed the hotel features guests most frequently post about on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. According to the study, the top five subjects guests post about on social media are:

  1. The restaurant and meals
  2. The bar and drinks
  3. Views from the property/room
  4. The hotel room
  5. The pool

While online hotel reviews are filled with comments about staff, customer service, guestroom condition and standard property amenities, it seems that on social media — now a highly visual platform — guests are compelled to share more “photogenic” experiences that will make their peers jealous.

Lodging operators can leverage this knowledge by paying special attention to such areas on their own property to ensure that the guest experience is a great one. Whether or not your property has a restaurant or a pool, focus on providing delightful (and photo-worthy) experiences by enhancing the features you do have, be it a peaceful garden area, a breakfast nook, or by providing unexpected in-room treats (which could be as simple as a personal welcome note).

Encouraging and sharing user-generated content on social media is key to inspiring prospective guests to choose your property. And it’s a powerful strategy; the more your guests engage with your property on social media, the more you learn about them too, allowing you to personalize the guest experience even further to create stronger customer relationships that result in loyal brand ambassadors.

One last tip: 80 percent of time spent on social media is via mobile devices, so your social media channels are driving a significant amount of mobile traffic to your property’s website. Be ready for mobile customers by ensuring your website and website booking engine are mobile friendly.

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.

Peak Season Prep: An Independent Hotelier’s Checklist

As we head into summer in the Northern Hemisphere, many properties around the world are gearing up for peak season. Preparing for a wave of summer vacationers (or winter adventurers in the Southern Hemisphere) can both excite and intimidate lodging providers. On one hand, occupancy and revenue are up (yay!), on the other, the pressure is on to maintain top service levels with less time and more stress (eek!).

High season is a crucial time to make a good impression on guests; welcoming a sea of new and repeat customers provides an ideal opportunity to earn a big bunch of loyal fans. It’s important for everything to go smoothly during a property’s busiest time, especially when the competition is also heating up.

For everything to go as planned, there needs to be a plan! Here are our suggestions for preparing for your peak season…

  • Spruce Up Your Property

Evaluate your property through the critical eyes of a guest; take a good look at the guestrooms, lobby, dining area and outdoor space and fix or replace anything showing obvious signs of wear and tear. Do room curtains need washing or mending? Do bathtubs or showers need re-grouting? Are all the coffee pots and TV remotes working? Is the patio furniture in good shape? Are exterior walls in need of a splash of fresh paint? Even minor improvements, such as hanging flower baskets, can make a world of difference.

  • Review Data for Optimal Pricing & Distribution

Review last year’s occupancy and revenue data to help you price your rooms and packages right and to optimize availability across distribution channels. It’s also important to take nearby competition into consideration, as well as other factors that impact pricing and availability (like major annual events), to ensure your property is priced competitively.

You might like to consider restrictions like minimum and maximum length of stay and closed to arrival too. If managed correctly, these strategies can be effective for increasing RevPAR during high demand periods. For tips on when and how to use length-of-stay strategies, check out this eCornell Blog post.

To optimize distribution, review which channels most of your bookings came from during last year’s peak season. Have you added any new channels since then? Use your data to help work out your optimal distribution strategy across channels. For example, if direct bookings soar for summer stays, consider reducing OTA inventory as appropriate and save on those commission fees!

Automated revenue management systems (RMS) are designed to simplify the complex task of yield management — and integrating your RMS with your PMS saves even more time.

  • Streamline Online Reservations

Dealing with reservations from multiple channels manually might suffice during quiet times, but it’s a risky practice during busy months. Without automated and centralized reservation management, properties are especially prone to accidental overbooking and data entry errors, resulting in lost room nights and unhappy customers.

To avoid this, and to reduce your administrative load, automate online reservation management by integrating your online channels (OTA and GDS channels, as well as your website’s own booking engine) with your property management system (PMS). Connecting your PMS to your online booking channels allows the PMS to send live rates and availability to online booking channels and to capture bookings coming from those channels automatically.

Your direct online booking engine (the one on your property’s own website) should also be user friendly, allow the sale of packages and special rates, be mobile optimized, and commission free.

Automating online booking management is key for busy properties, especially during periods of high occupancy.

  • Strengthen Customer Relationships

In addition to reviewing occupancy and revenue data, it’s also important to review guest profile data in your PMS or customer relationship management system (CRM) to get a picture of who your guests are. Guest data can provide such insights as where guests are coming from (are they weekend nearcationers or international vacationers?), how far in advance they book, what types of travellers they are (families, Baby Boomers, corporate eventers…), and their preferred ancillary services.

Once you know who your guests are, you can strengthen customer relationships through tailoring services and content marketing more effectively.

Creating seasonal packages and offers based on the interests and stay history of guests is a great way to add value and helps you stand out from your competitors.

Use your data to create segmented email lists for targeted email marketing campaigns too. CRM and guest communication systems like Guestfolio and Constant Contact make managing segmented email campaigns easy, and can be integrated with your PMS.

  • Gear Your Website for Summer

Fresh, relevant content is key for search engine optimization (SEO) and customer engagement, so shake the dust off your website to reflect your property’s summer vibe. Swap any cozy winter images for photos of your property’s best summer features (like the sparkling pool) and make sure all content is up to date, including rate and package information. Descriptions, images, videos, event calendars, local information and blog posts should all promote the seasonal appeal of your property and location.

  • Integrate Social Media in Your Summer Marketing Plan

Travelers use and are influenced by social media at an astounding rate, so any independent hotelier’s marketing strategy should incorporate social media.

Once website content is freshened up, share it on your social networks to help expand visibility and engage with prospective guests. Create social media posts about your property and location, and link back to relevant content on your website whenever appropriate — to the local events listing page, attractions and activities, special packages, blog posts, etc.

Peak season is a great time to ramp up your blogging efforts. Although time is short during the summer rush, it pays to produce regular blog posts when your online audience is larger. Blog content is personal, engaging, and provides good fuel for social media posts too.

To encourage online engagement and user-generated content, make sure guests are aware of your social media presence. Include social media buttons on your website and in guest email communications, and add your social media handles to printed materials like front desk signage and in-room welcome packages.

If you need some guidance on your social media strategy, check out our recent blog post on the subject.

  • Review Your Review-Management Process

The peak season is a prime opportunity to boost review volume with more guests to ask for feedback and more eyes on your reviews. Don’t forget to respond appropriately to any negative comments that slip through and act on feedback. Read our blog post about managing online reviews for tips on how to gather, monitor and respond to reviews.

  • Prepare Your Team

Smooth operation hinges on hotel staff. When preparing your team for periods of high occupancy, open communication is key. Regularly communicating goals and KPIs with your whole team, and discussing how every staff member plays a role in the property’ success provides clear direction and breeds a sense of ownership.

When occupancy levels are high, tricky situations are bound to arise, such as the inability to facilitate requested room changes and delays in tending to housekeeping requests. Reviewing policies and procedures and even role playing difficult situations can help boost staff confidence in dealing with various requests and complaints. Encourage staff members to bring up concerns during regular staff meetings or privately so that any issues can be nipped in the bud fast.

It’s also important for all staff members to have the tools they need to perform their jobs effectively, from vacuum cleaners to property management systems. Modern PMS improve efficiency and inter-department communication through integration and automation.

Last but not least, motivate yourself and your staff for the hard work ahead! Pizza nights, time off, and positive feedback are some ways you can show appreciation.

We’ve blogged before about how to keep hotel staff happy and motivated — it might be a good read now in preparation for the busy season.

The peak season is a hectic and stressful time for the whole team, but it’s so important for operations to run smoothly. A little preparation can earn a lot of loyal guests — and pave the way to a more enjoyable summer for you and your customers alike.

Big-Hotel Tips for Small Properties

Big-brand hotels and small, independent properties offer different guest experiences; and that’s the way it should be. Some travelers like the familiarity and predictability of staying with an international chain, while others are attracted to the unique, local experiences offered by smaller lodgings like inns and B&Bs. And some travelers could go either way.

Big or small, it’s important for properties to understand their own audiences and embrace their differences to remain competitive. For this reason — and, of course, due to differences in budgets — marketing and operational strategies vary between the big guys and the little guys. In saying that, it’s also helpful for independent lodgings to look to successful brands (and vice versa) for tried and true tips of the trade and current approaches that can benefit smaller establishments.

Develop a Strong Online Presence

A travel study conducted by Google last year showed that the Internet is the top source for both leisure and business travel planning, so your property needs to be easily accessible on the Web. This goes for the mobile Web too; the aforementioned study also found that travelers research and book accommodation across devices (computers, tablets and smartphones).

Your property should have:

>> A strong, mobile-friendly website that conveys the experience of staying at your property through a variety of media: photos, video and compelling text.

>> An easy-to-use, mobile-friendly online booking engine, seamlessly and prominently integrated into your website.

>> Active social media profiles. Focus on social media as a customer engagement channel, rather than a direct sales channel.

>> SEO know-how. Maximize your online visibility by implementing effective search engine optimization (SEO techniques).

Manage Your Online Reputation

Successful hotels understand the impact online reputation can have on a property’s bottom line. For small properties (that don’t typically benefit from widespread brand recognition), the role of reputation management is equally — if not more — important. While travelers are more willing to look past the odd negative review of a large hotel brand, negative reviews of independent properties can be more damaging due to smaller audience size and higher expectations.

Online, word-of-mouth spreads farther and faster than ever before so it’s crucial to monitor the Web for reviews and mentions of your property on online review sites like TripAdvisor and on social media. Social listening tools and online reputation management software like Revinate automate this process and make it easy to keep up with and address any concerns about your property being voiced online.

We recently blogged about how to get more online reviews and how to deal with negative feedback — both essential components of managing (and improving) your online reputation.

Offer Guest Incentives

From loyalty programs to seasonal packages and discounts, big-brand hotels are well versed in luring guests with incentives — and this can work successfully for small, independent properties too. A study by the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration revealed that frequent guests increase their visits and spend by nearly 50 percent when enrolled in a rewards program at independent hotels. Flexible loyalty programs for independent properties, like Stash Hotel Rewards, celebrate a property’s uniqueness by rewarding repeat guests with special experiences.

Seasonal packages and special offers are also an effective way to incentivize prospective guests by providing added value and highlighting your property’s strengths.

Invest in Your Staff

Investing in staff is something even the big guns don’t always get right, but the principle is the same, whether a property has 50 employees or just five. The success of any business is inextricably tied to the dedication of its staff, therefore, it’s important to pick the right people for the job, train them well, and foster motivation by providing opportunities for staff to excel.

Embrace Technology

Can you imagine running a 200-room hotel without powerful core systems like PMS? Large hotels have long relied on technology out of necessity, to maximize operational efficiency and service. Now, with the kind of hospitality technology available today, the days of spreadsheets are over for small properties too. Cloud technology has not only made core systems like PMS readily accessible to independent lodgings with limited budgets, but rapid cloud innovation is propelling small properties to the cutting edge. In an increasingly competitive hospitality industry, it’s essential to embrace both operational and guest-facing technology to constantly improve efficiency and service and keep guests coming back.

While small properties should never try to pose as a big hotel, the above tactics are key to the success of small establishments too — and should be applied in a way that celebrates a property’s independence and uniqueness.