5 Practical Ways Your Hotel PMS Makes Your Workday More Efficient

As the hotel industry recovers from COVID-19 it will be important to maintain daily operational efficiency despite reduced staff levels and new operational protocols.

A modern property management system (PMS) is designed to make not only the hotel staff’s workday more efficient but the guests’ experience more satisfying. Streamline workflow and communications while offering more to guests without any extra effort from your staff. The following PMS features are examples of how a modern PMS automates daily tasks that result in a more personable customer service experience while increasing hotel productivity and efficiency on any given day.

Housekeeping Report

Responsible for the cleaning, maintenance, and preparation of rooms, housekeeping has always played an essential role in the guest experience and, therefore, the success of your property. Now, with even stricter cleaning and sanitization protocols in place due to COVID-19, the efficiency of your housekeeping team is more important than ever.

The housekeeping report provides users with a complete overview of room status and occupancy in real time, allowing for improved organization, efficiency, and guest satisfaction. Housekeepers can view their schedules and update room cleaning status from their mobile devices as they work, emphasizing accountability and improving communication.

Elevate every part of the travel journey, starting with the check-in process. Integrated with the front desk, the housekeeping report allows front desk agents to view live room status as housekeepers update their reports, making check-in simple and easy.

Convenient Check-in

Guest check-in is a hotel’s initial opportunity to make a good impression on site, a crucial step in building loyal customer relationships and an integral part of the guest experience. Efficiency and convenience are highly valued by today’s travelers, especially during these times of physical distancing. Through data automation, modern PMS streamline administration requirements for a quick yet personalized check-in process that reduces (or even eliminates) physical interaction with the front desk.

Your PMS makes it easy to create and look up reservations, access and edit guest data, recognize returning guests, assign rooms and manage billing and payments. A modern PMS also makes mobile check-in a realistic possibility for guests. Similar to pre-flight self-check-in for airlines, hotel self-check-in is available through mobile apps and is supported through integration with the PMS, giving guests the option to bypass the front desk if desired.

Integrating the PMS with other hotel systems like payment gateways, electronic locking systems, and self-check-in apps streamlines the check-in process even further, eliminating the need to manually consolidate data between systems.

Automated Guest Communications

As the travel industry recovers, guest communications will be key to driving bookings and reassuring guests your property is operating safely.

Automated guest communications ensure routine messages are consistent and timely to boost guest engagement and satisfaction. Today’s consumers are used to constant connection. Manually managing customer communications would be a full-time job, but creating automatic email templates allows you to send consistent, personalized guest communications that increase engagement with little effort.

Communicate with your guests throughout key parts of their journey and send real-time updates and offers by setting up email templates for booking confirmations and pre-arrival and post-stay emails, etc. These emails can be triggered manually or automatically within the PMS and appeal to consumer demand for relevant and responsive engagement.

Automated emails also increase your hotel’s bottom line by providing the opportunity to upsell and cross-sell ancillary services and amenities throughout your guest’s stay. By increasing your guest engagement and maximizing revenue, automated guest communications result in boosted staff productivity and guest satisfaction.

24/7 Access to Direct Online Bookings

While physical front desks and front desk agents can’t be available to guests 24/7, your PMS makes it possible for your property to accept direct bookings at any time and from anywhere. Never miss a reservation opportunity and save your staff from spending hours on the phone with travel bookers.

Furthermore, when integrated with your PMS, your online booking engine automatically sends reservations made through your property’s website straight to your PMS, instantly updating availability within the system. Rate and availability overrides made within the PMS can also be automatically reflected in the online booking engine, allowing customers to see the most up-to-date information when booking online. An integrated online booking engine makes your staff’s workday more efficient by significantly cutting back time spent manually adding and updating reservations, availability, and rates.

Booking Channel Interfaces

Booking channel interfaces provide a direct, two-way connection between the PMS and booking channel partners and save time by streamlining communication and automatically updating booking information.

Through a booking channel interface, a property’s live availability and rates are automatically relayed to third-party booking channels (OTA and GDS channels) while capturing OTA/GDS reservations in the PMS. Additionally, reservation modifications and cancellations are automatically retrieved and updated to existing OTA/GDS reservations in the PMS. Booking channel interfaces automate communication between the PMS and booking channel partners, eliminating the need to manually enter third-party bookings into the PMS and reducing the risk of overbooking or other manual errors.

A modern PMS allows you to go above and beyond for your guests while increasing your staff’s productivity and efficiency, not their workload. Streamline communication among staff and between your property and your customers to create an elevated, more satisfying work and guest experience.

Maintaining the Human Touch in a Touch-free World

COVID-19 has sped up the adoption of guest-facing mobile technology that reduces the need for physical interaction in hotels. While mobile check-in and messaging solutions were steadily gaining traction in hotels before the pandemic hit, these applications are suddenly more relevant than ever in a touch-free new world governed by physical distancing and sanitization requirements.

But such technology was never meant to replace the human touch. Without human connection there is no hospitality. Travel isn’t about seeing new places (you can do that online); it’s about connecting with and experiencing new places—the culture and the people. When it boils down to it, travel and hospitality are all about people.

Mobile solutions like self-check-in and guest messaging were designed to augment the guest experience and improve workflow by expediting administrative touchpoints. As consumer demand for mobile grew, the hospitality industry answered with the same kind of convenient mobile applications that we all use (and have come to rely on) in our everyday lives, from text messaging to online shopping to checking in. But whether guests check in online using an app or in person at the front desk, they expect to be greeted by smiling, welcoming hotel staff either way. While at this time hotels must be careful to limit physical interaction, they have to take even more care to maintain the human touch despite physical distancing protocols and increased reliance on self-service applications.

Communication is Key

Communication before, during and after a stay has always been key to increasing guest engagement. Now, with the threat of COVID-19 still out there, hotels should be stepping up digital communications to reassure, assist and connect with extra-vigilant guests.

In addition to reservation confirmations, pre-arrival and check-in communications are more important than ever to make guests feel safe and valued during these unpredictable times.

Whether by email or text message, pre-arrival and check-in messaging should be helpful and reassuring, providing clear information about new hotel protocols designed to keep guests healthy and safe. As well, include relevant information about hotel amenities and offerings to excite guests about their stay and let them know you are looking forward to their arrival.

While guests may prefer to avoid excessive physical contact with the front desk during their stay, guest messaging can be used to touch base with guests shortly after their arrival and to invite them to reach out via messaging if they have any questions or requests during their stay.

Upon departure, instructions for a contact-free check-out can be sent to the guest. Thank them for their stay and invite them to leave a review on your preferred platform, or contact your property directly with any complaints. As hotels begin operating under new health and safety guidelines, guests will appreciate being asked for feedback that will help refine the guest experience. At a time when businesses are attempting to minimize physical touchpoints, connecting with guests via digital communications throughout the guest cycle shows guests you care and is essential for strengthening the guest relationship and helping guests to confidently navigate their stay.

High-Touch Hotel Tech

Digital communication is essential to maintaining the human touch in our new touch-free world, but it must be personalized to be effective. Just as it is important for guests to be greeted warmly in person and not treated like a reservation number, it is important to communicate with guests in the same personable manner via email and text messaging.

Today’s hotel technology allows hotels to personalize guest communications at a level that surpasses what’s possible when greeting new guests in person for the first time. In order to identify a new guest arriving at the front desk, the front desk agent has to ask them for their name or reservation number. But with integrated messaging and check-in solutions, communications are automatically personalized with and triggered by guest reservation data, resulting in personable, proactive messaging that makes guests feel recognized and valued at every touchpoint.

The key here is data integration, with the property management system (PMS) at the core. When integrated with the hotel CRM, guest messaging solution or hotel app, reservation data from the PMS (including guest data, check-in/out dates and room and rate types) is used to automatically personalize messages and trigger message delivery at the right time. Incoming messages from guests (such as requests and enquiries) can be automatically matched to the guest’s reservation for timelier service delivery and resolution. Through data transparency and automation, integrated hotel systems result in high-touch digital solutions that increase guest engagement and reinforce the human touch. And as automated digital communications make it easier to manage routine messaging, hotel staff are freed up to focus on ways to make each guest’s experience special.

Delivering personalized digital communications throughout the guest cycle helps to maintain the human connection, especially during our physically disconnected times. Data integration allows hotels to automate communications at key touchpoints and personalize messaging for strong engagement. Integrating PMS data with guest communication solutions is key to personalizing the guest experience, improving staff workflow, and maintaining the human touch now and in the future.

Staycation Destination: Marketing Your Property to Local Travelers

The world will likely see a reduction in international travel for the foreseeable future. Uncertainty around border restrictions and a wariness to book expensive flights in such an uncertain time means many people are going to be staying on their own soil for a while. But that doesn’t mean they’ve lost their yen for a getaway. They’re just going to have to get away a little closer to home. That’s why it’s the perfect time for you to be marketing your property to local travelers. Here’s how:

Identify your niche

Just like their international counterparts, domestic travelers come in a variety of types—families looking for space and amenities, couples hoping for a romantic getaway, weekend warriors seeking out a quick adventure, and escapists in search of a tranquil reprieve from regular life. You’ll need to identify which type(s) of domestic traveler your property appeals to so you can develop your marketing plan accordingly.

Focus on experiences

Local travelers aren’t as interested in seeing the sights as those coming from abroad. They already live nearby, so accommodation isn’t a necessity for them to explore the area. Rather, staycationers are driven to book overnight stays for the experience. A getaway filled with conveniences, luxuries, and special moments that aren’t available at home is just the thing to justify a hotel stay for the local traveler.

Consider offering special packages to create a one-of-a-kind experience for your guests. Maybe build a “Couples Wellness Retreat” with morning yoga, a couple’s massage, and cooking classes, or combine a bottle of champagne and a round of pedicures to make the perfect “Girlfriend’s Getaway.” You could offer a “Family Fun Package” with kayak rentals, and a complimentary breakfast. Whatever you choose, a well-curated package will provide your guests with the exciting, hassle-free experience they’re looking for. You can even offer special promotions to locals like waived pet fees or free valet parking.

Another option for enticing the experience-driven traveler is by hosting special events. Your options will depend on your property and location, and physical distancing restrictions, but experiences like a “Movie-in-the-park” night, or an intimate “Chef’s Table” event can be a fun way to stand out from your competitors.

Collaborate with local businesses

Now more than ever people are invested in supporting the local businesses in their communities. In the wake of COVID-19 shutdowns, there is a renewed sense of responsibility to patron small businesses and get money back into the local economy. Try collaborating with other brands and businesses in your community to create the perfect, cross-promotional opportunities for local consumers to do just that.

Promote local travel

In addition to marketing your property and packages specifically, it might be beneficial to promote the idea of local travel in general. There are so many positive things about vacationing close to home that are worth a dedicated social media post. Reducing one’s carbon footprint, renewing an appreciation for one’s own backyard, or supporting the local economy (as previously mentioned), are all powerful motivators to turn a vacation into a staycation. And if you’re the one that convinced them to do it, it’s likely you’ll be the property they’ll ultimately choose.

Tourism is sure to look a little different in the post-COVID-19 world, but it has always been an industry of constant evolution. The trick, as always, is to adapt. Taking some time to focus on local travelers—at least for a while—is a good way to keep getting heads in beds. Besides, a loyal guest that’s only a quick drive away is a valuable commodity. They have the ability to visit often, spontaneously, and will likely recommend your property to friends and family.

Hotel Tech for a Touchless New World

COVID-19 has pushed us all into a world of caution. Social distancing regulations and fear of infection have impacted our daily lives as we avoid physical interaction. Even as cases drop and official restrictions ease, a level of cautiousness will likely remain with us for some time. Hotels and other businesses are operating under new guidelines that include sanitization, physical distancing and contact tracing protocols, possibly permanently.

Businesses across all industries are turning to technology to help streamline new processes and maintain customer service. While it seems contrary to the notion of hospitality, right now it is important to reduce physical touchpoints during a hotel stay to help keep guests and staff safe. Modern hotel technology makes this possible through automation that also augments and personalizes the guest experience.

Over the past decade, more and more hotels have been implementing mobile technology to improve workflows and the guest experience. Now, in our touchless new world, such innovation is more crucial than ever.

Self check-in

First impressions count so check-in is an important touchpoint to get right. Guests expect an efficient, personable welcome; a bad one can taint the rest of their stay.

While the check-in process traditionally involves physical interaction between the guest and hotel staff, online technology has spurred consumer demand for self-service applications and many hotel brands have already met that demand with a mobile self-check-in option.

Integrated with the hotel property management system (PMS), mobile self-check-in applications provide guests with an efficient yet personalized check-in process while reducing time at the front desk. In fact, when integrated with online payment and keyless entry solutions, self-check-in apps allow guests to bypass the front desk entirely.

A “touchless” check-in process has never been more relevant than it is now. Self-check-in solutions not only help keep guests and staff safe during the pandemic, but improve efficiency and personalization through data automation too.

Mobile housekeeping app

Although there are less guestrooms to clean at most properties due to low occupancy levels brought about by COVID-19, new housekeeping procedures to mitigate the spread of the virus have made housekeeping responsibilities and schedules more complicated.

Right now, many travelers are wary about physical contact with other people and surfaces. To make guests feel more comfortable, some hotels are offering guests a choice between varying levels of housekeeping service. Some hotels have halted housekeeping service altogether during a guest’s stay to protect the health of both guests and housekeeping staff. Many properties are enforcing a 48-hour or longer room closeout between stays to allow for deeper cleaning and decontamination.

While COVID-19 is still a threat, staying on top of cleaning protocols, schedules and housekeeping requests is of utmost importance. Equipping housekeeping staff with mobile access to the housekeeping report ensures staff are efficient and informed at all times while they work.

Integrated with the PMS, a mobile housekeeping app improves internal communication and workflow by allowing housekeepers to view the live occupancy status of rooms (due in, occupied, do-not-disturb, checked out), and front-desk agents to see which rooms have been cleaned, inspected and are ready for guests in real time. Housekeepers can attach notes and maintenance alarms to rooms as they work, to help keep track of special housekeeping requests, maintenance issues or sick/quarantining guests.

Mobile messaging

Mobile messaging provides a way for hotels to offer guests a convenient, open line of personalized communication, without physical interaction. Rapidly growing in popularity well before COVID-19 hit, mobile messaging solutions for hotels are now truly an answer for the need of the hour.

With an impressive open rate of 98 percent, text messaging is an effective and efficient way to keep guests informed about COVID-19 protocols and hotel services. For example, an automated pre-arrival message could let guests know you are looking forward to their arrival, include a link to a dedicated URL containing relevant hotel information, and invite them to let you know if they have any questions or special requests.

As a COVID-19 precaution, hotel information folders have been removed from many guestrooms because these high-touch surfaces are difficult to clean. In many cases, properties are shifting this information online. An automated text message sent to guests upon check-in can link to online hotel information, ensuring guests are aware of house rules, the Wi-Fi password, etc., and remind guests that they can easily reach out via text messaging if they need anything.

During their stay, guests can use mobile messaging to make requests without having to make physical contact with the front desk, and on the day of departure, self-check-out instructions can be communicated automatically.

Direct integration between the mobile messaging platform and the PMS facilitates the personalization and automation of messages. In this case, reservation data is sent from the PMS to the messaging platform in real time to automate routine message delivery, and to match incoming guest inquiries with reservation data for more efficient and personalized responses and resolution. This can make a significant positive impact on productivity and customer service, not only when occupancy is high, but also when operating with skeleton staff as business begins to recover.

Smart room tech

Light switches, thermostat controls and TV remotes are high-touch points for guests that can be avoided through the use of smart room technology. Powered by IoT (Internet of Things) technology, smart room functionality can be controlled via mobile app or voice-activated digital assistants like Alexa for Hospitality. Guests can close the drapes, turn on the lights, adjust the room temperature, select entertainment programming, order room service and even turn on the coffee machine using their own smartphone or simply by voice command.

Not only does smart room technology offer an elevated level of convenience that modern travelers desire, but reducing physical contact with high-touch surfaces will make guests feel safer while COVID-19 is still out there.

Smart room technology is a significant investment and doesn’t suit all lodging operations, but it makes sense to consider such solutions for our touchless new normal and beyond. In the meantime, make sure guests know that all high-touch guestroom surfaces are disinfected after every stay.

Many aspects of daily hotel operations have changed in the wake of COVID-19. As long as the virus is a threat, operational protocols that enforce physical distancing and thorough sanitization will be our new normal. From self-check-in to mobile messaging, modern technology can help hotels improve efficiency and customer service as they adapt to new processes and prepare to welcome both guests of today and tomorrow.

COVID-19 May Benefit Direct Bookings—Is Your Hotel Ready?

According to Larry Mogelonsky of Hotel Mogel Consulting, COVID-19 might be a boon for direct bookings. As OTAs (online travel agencies) struggle with mass cancellations due to the pandemic, travelers are finding it difficult to access overloaded customer support systems (online and on the phone) to process cancellations, refunds and credits.

As Mogelonsky pointed out in his article, the frustration and uncertainty resulting from difficulty reaching customer helplines and not knowing if or when refunds or credits are available may put many travelers off using OTAs, at least for a while. Instead, making the effort to book direct with hotels and airlines for personalized and immediate service might give peace of mind to cautious travelers.

Whether such a behavioral shift eventuates is yet to be seen, but using the downtime now to rethink your distribution strategy and optimize your direct sales channel is a good plan in any case.

Now’s an opportune time to review systems like your website booking engine, or to get online bookings up and running on your property’s website if you haven’t already. Check with your property management system (PMS) provider to find out if they offer an integrated website booking engine. If you’re using WebRezPro, a commission-free online booking engine is included with your PMS.

Below, we’ve outlined important elements of a future-proof website booking engine to help you make sure you’ve got one that will maximize direct conversions and profitability going forward.

What to Look for in a Website Booking Engine – A Checklist

Travel consumers are used to the kind of streamlined online booking experience provided by OTAs. It’s important to meet the expectations of today’s travelers with a simple, seamless and secure booking process on your property’s own website to maximize conversions.

>>PMS integration

Your online booking engine should integrate with your property management system and channel manager (if your PMS is integrated with third-party distribution channels, the PMS will essentially act as your channel manager). This will ensure that room availability and rates are always up to date across all distribution channels—a necessity if you want to avoid overbooking—and that reservations coming through your website are automatically entered into the PMS.

Integration with the PMS also supports customer loyalty through recognizing repeat guests, streamlining the booking process by auto-filling fields and awarding reward points.

>>Secure

An online booking engine accepts personal and payment data from customers, so protecting the privacy and integrity of that data is critical—for both your customers and your business. Choosing a PCI DSS compliant system is extremely important. Look for security measures that include SSL encryption, secure data storage and certified integrations with payment processors.

>>Simple booking process

Complicated booking processes have higher rates of booking abandonment. The simpler, the better. Think no more than three steps: 1. Search for availability and select room; 2. Complete required booking information; 3. Booking confirmation. Only require the information you absolutely need to confirm a booking. Any additional data or options should be voluntary—strive to keep booking forms as short as possible. Remember, additional information can be collected after the booking is made, via pre-arrival communications or at check-in.

Upon completion of the booking, the system should automatically trigger a confirmation screen, instantly reassuring the customer that their booking was successful, and also a confirmation email containing the reservation details.

>>Flexible

To maximize revenue, your website booking engine should be able to accommodate all the pricing strategies you use. It should offer the flexibility to sell packages, group rates, add-ons, password-protected rates and so on, applying length-of-stay and other booking restrictions as applicable. Flexibility is more important than ever during these uncertain times. As the world recovers from the pandemic, hotels must be ready to pivot their marketing and pricing strategies to capture demand.

>>Reservation modifications and cancellations

As proven by the travel disruption caused by this pandemic, a simple, accessible process for modifying or canceling existing reservations is desired and expected by travel consumers. Going forward, this may have an even greater impact on the traveler’s decision to make a booking.

Allowing customers to modify or cancel bookings online through your website booking engine is convenient for customers and saves front-desk agents time—as long as the process is quick and easy. For example, customers should be able to retrieve their booking information by simply entering their email address and booking confirmation number, and then make changes without having to re-enter personal information. Confirmation emails are key to reassuring customers by confirming the change, and should be automated for efficiency and consistency.

It’s also important that your cancellation policy is clearly stated within your website booking engine at the time of booking. Following this crisis, it’s likely that the majority of travelers will need time to regain confidence in travel and spending. Clear, flexible cancellation policies will help provide the reassurance they need to make a booking.

>>Commission-free

Direct bookings carry a lower cost of acquisition than bookings coming through third parties that charge commission. If your PMS includes a direct online booking engine, make sure it’s commission free to maximize profit. This can make a big difference to your bottom line, especially as your direct channel gains more weight within your distribution mix.

>>Analytics

As a core component of your distribution strategy, your online booking engine should track performance so that you can measure the success of your direct booking strategy and identify areas for improvement. Automatically generated reports should provide insights into conversion rates, booking lead times, revenue from special promotions and so on.

>>Mobile-friendly

Today’s travel consumers research, plan and book travel across devices, so be ready to maximize conversions when travel bounces back with a mobile-friendly online booking engine that provides all users with an optimal experience. On mobile, that means a simple, secure, tap-friendly booking process that is easy to read and navigate on a small screen. An online booking engine that utilizes responsive design will have you covered on all devices (from desktops to smartphones).

>>Customizable to your brand

Your website booking engine should offer a degree of customization to display your business’s logo and images, as well as customizable messages and descriptions, to reinforce branding and help build credibility and trust.

>>Facebook compatibility

Very effective at attracting qualified traffic, social media has become much more than a platform to stay in touch with friends; it is also an important sales and marketing channel for businesses across industries.

Connecting your property’s Facebook page with your website booking engine makes it easy for your customers to make a booking directly from Facebook, a convenience that will help create a seamless online experience for your customers and result in increased direct bookings.

>>Inclusive

Make sure your website booking engine welcomes all by providing all customers with a user-friendly experience. Currency and language options simplify the process for international customers, and ADA-compliant features, such as ALT text for images (for screen-reader compatibility) and alerting bookers that the property offers accessible units, makes booking easier for customers with disabilities.

Many things have changed since COVID-19 swept the globe. It will take a while to get back to “normal” and it will happen at different rates and in different ways for different regions. People will travel with enthusiasm again, but it may take time for consumers to regain confidence in travel spending. Make sure your property is ready to meet future demand with a website booking engine that supports your customers through a simple, seamless and secure booking experience.

A Hotelier’s Guide to Social Media Messaging during the COVID-19 Crisis

As a company and brand it can be hard to know what to say when the whole world seems to be grinding to a halt and business is far from usual. For the time being, travel restrictions and physical distancing have devastated demand for travel services, including airlines, hotels, restaurants and attractions. While COVID-19 is a unique challenge, we know from past global tragedies and recessions that the travel industry will recover. Humans have always traveled, and once we beat the threat of COVID-19, we will travel again with enthusiasm and renewed appreciation.

In the meantime, it’s important for businesses to maintain a connection with their customers. Take this opportunity to strengthen your customer relationships so that your hotel will be top of mind when travel bounces back.

Focus on your property’s social media channels and take advantage of organic traffic. Social media, including your hotel blog, is the least expensive form of marketing and—right now—may be the most effective. People are turning to social media more than ever to stay connected, informed, entertained and inspired during this time of lockdowns and physical distancing.

But, what do you say to your customers who, like you, are experiencing varying levels of fear and uncertainty as our daily lives have been disrupted to the core? Content you scheduled before this crisis is probably no longer appropriate, so hold it back for now or at least review it from our current perspective to avoid coming across as insensitive, irrelevant or, worse, exploitative.

Now, more than ever, the right message is key to building customer relationships as the focus shifts from selling to caring.

Be helpful

During these uncertain times, we all have a lot of questions. In relation to your property, customers want to know about your COVID-19 status and how you are helping to keep people safe. The clearer you can be, the more helpful and reassuring you are to your customers. Is your property open for bookings or temporarily closed? What procedures are in place, or will be in place, for keeping guests and staff safe? What, if any, are the ramifications of canceling or changing bookings during this time?

If your hotel is able to support the community in some way, get the word out. Hotels in areas under lockdown may be open to frontline workers and members of the public needing to self-isolate. Some properties are adapting to current needs by providing services such as meal deliveries, food donations and laundry services. Providing real solutions to current needs will be noticed and appreciated by customers—both those who require the support and those who don’t.

Even properties that are temporarily closed can stay connected to customers with helpful suggestions about how to stay positive and healthy under stay-home orders. Sharing recipes from your restaurant or at-home relaxation techniques from your spa, for example, can provide a welcome distraction for customers in quarantine and allows them to enjoy elements of your property in their own homes.

Content Ideas:

>> Provide updates about your property’s status (open/open with limited services/temporarily closed/opening soon…)

>> Outline or demonstrate protocols and precautions you are implementing to keep guests safe when staying at your property, for example, enhanced housekeeping measures.

>> Highlight safe places and things to do in your city that comply with physical distancing rules and other restrictions in place, for example self-guided outdoor activities, viewpoints, scenic drives.

>> Share your efforts to support the community during this time.

>> Promote (sensitively) special offers, amenities, and flexible cancellation policies available for immediate or future bookings.

>> Share recipes, work-out routines, at-home spa treatments, and kids’ activities from your property’s experts that people can use at home.

Be positive

There’s enough bad news out there at the moment. We all need some positive input to help see us through to brighter days. Be a part of that light for your customers with messages that comfort and inspire, and reinforce the feeling that despite physical distancing rules, we are all in this together.

This doesn’t mean that we should make light of the situation, and we should definitely not ignore it. This is indeed a grave situation that we are in, and many are dealing with significant loss. Messages should convey a compassionate and hopeful tone, highlighting the good coming out of this crisis and reminding customers of what there is to look forward to.

Content Ideas:

>> Introduce/interview your employees; what do they love about their job, how are they staying positive, and what are they most looking forward to when the COVID-19 crisis is over?

>> Remind customers of what makes your property special and that it’s waiting for them when they return (the dazzling sunset views from your patio, private hot tubs, or exquisite menu…).

>> If your property is open, share positive reviews coming through at this time.

>> Share interesting or little-known facts about your city to drum up inspiration for future travel.

>> Share feel-good news stories about your local area, from acts of kindness to community initiatives to positive impacts on the natural environment.

>> Share livestreams, webcams or virtual tours from local venues and attractions that allow people to share in experiences from their own homes, for example, Shedd Aquarium’s penguin walk.

>> Ask guests to share travel memories (photos) from past stays with you.

Show customers you care

Now is the time to stand behind your brand values and show customers you care. Reinforce your commitment to their wellbeing and to customer service. Be sensitive to their needs and emotions and show them you understand the issues they are facing.

Review all messaging before publishing, carefully assessing how it may be perceived. Position your offerings as providing value to customers and relevant to real needs in the current climate. Modify calls to action (CTAs) to downplay urgency and excitement in favor of a more helpful tone, for example, instead of accompanying a package promotion with a “Book now!” button, consider choosing a less urgent CTA like “Learn more.”

Focus on strengthening existing customer relationships through messaging that empathizes, supports and inspires. And be responsive. Responding quickly and thoughtfully to comments and questions is one of the best ways to show your customers you are there for them.

Whether your property is able to remain open or has had to temporarily close, maintaining a connection with customers during these uncertain times will help set properties on the right foot when the industry recovers. As the focus shifts from selling to caring, the right messages will earn loyal customers who will stick by your business through this crisis and beyond. Don’t go dark. Be there for your customers and they will be there for you.

How Hotels Can Come Out Stronger from COVID-19

COVID-19 and the travel restrictions and lockdowns required to reduce the spread of the virus have brought about an unprecedented drop in occupancy for hotels and other lodging operations all over the world. Some properties have had to close out floors, suspend certain services such as dining and event services, or temporarily shut their doors. While the novel coronavirus has had a profound impact on daily operations, try to take advantage of this forced downtime to reflect on your business and the changes you can make to ensure your hotel is well positioned to maximize revenue when the gates of travel open again.

Review Your Marketing Strategy

There are a lot of predictions about what the new normal of travel will look like after COVID-19. As borders reopen and fears subside, will travelers still travel like they used to? There’s a general consensus that domestic travel will see an increase, while business and international travel will decrease—at least for a while.

Recovery of the travel industry will be fluid and uneven, so it will be more important than ever for hotel marketers to adopt a flexible marketing strategy based on close analysis of their reservations data and market. As the world recovers from the pandemic, hotels should prepare to adjust their marketing spend and channels to align with shifting market segments.

What is certain during these uncertain times is that maintaining communication with customers is crucial. It’s important to reassure potential guests by clarifying your property’s COVID-19 status and policies, and to stay top of mind for guests looking forward to traveling again once this is all over. While marketing messaging during COVID-19 is a topic that deserves a blog post all of its own, now is a good time to evaluate the systems you have in place to reach out to guests. For example, if you aren’t already, seriously consider automating customer communications such as reservation confirmations and pre- and post-stay emails to take advantage of these key touchpoints to build the guest relationship and generate revenue through upselling and cross-selling opportunities.

Take a good look at your website and make sure content is current, updating text and images yourself where you can. If your budget allows, consider getting that website redesign underway. Look at creating fresh photo and video content for your website and to use for future ad campaigns and on your property’s social media accounts. If you haven’t yet started a blog for your property, now might be the right time. A blog is a great way to stay connected to your customers during these uncertain times, and provides good content for your property’s social media accounts and e-newsletters too.

Read Your Online Reviews

Spend some time reading through (and responding to) recent online guest reviews to become more aware of what your guests love about your property, and what they don’t. Reviews shine a light on the areas that really need improvement—which can sometimes differ from the areas we think need attention. Let positive reviews provide encouragement during these tough times, acting as a reminder of what you are fighting for.

If your property’s online reviews are looking a bit thin, consider ways to generate more. From asking at check-out to sending post-stay review requests, review management can be handled manually or via automated solutions that make generating and responding to reviews easy.

Online reviews were critical to a hotel’s reputation before COVID-19 and are likely to be even more important after. Hotel and room cleanliness, for example, has always been a significant rating factor within guest reviews and, going forward, will carry even more weight. Paying some attention to your property’s reviews and review management strategy now can help put your property on a stronger foot when the industry starts to recover. 

Get to Know Your Hotel Operating Systems Better

Your hotel operating systems—including your property management system (PMS), revenue management system (RMS), point-of-sale (POS) software, customer relationship management (CRM) solution, among others—are designed to drive revenue and efficiency, and they will be key to maximizing both in our post-pandemic industry.

Make use of this time to delve deeper into your hotel systems to discover ways of doing things better. Explore features and reports you are unfamiliar with and consider how they might help make your workday easier or provide deeper insights into your business. What would you like your systems to do better? What cross-system integrations would improve workflows and the guest experience at your property? Now is a good time to reach out to your technology vendors with questions and customization requests. If any of your systems are holding you back, dedicate some downtime to researching alternative solutions. Although you might be hesitant to invest in new technology right now, contact solution providers, ask questions, and be ready to go with your top choice when brighter days come.

Cross-train Your Staff

As roles across departments have become quieter these days, consider using this time to cross-train your staff. The flexibility afforded by cross-training staff is always beneficial to a business’s bottom line—both during tough times and when business is going well.

The decision to cross-train staff within or across departments depends on each business and your employees’ strengths and skill sets. Giving employees the ability to step outside their primary roles when needed not only maximizes flexibility and efficiency in scheduling staff, but results in a more productive, engaged and cohesive team that delivers a better guest experience.

Reassess Your Expenses

The COVID-19 crisis has already driven most hotels and businesses across industries to reassess their expenses, looking for ways to reduce costs. While it may never have been so urgent to cut costs as it is now, identifying wasteful or excessive practices has always been key to maximizing profits.

Look for ways to become more cost efficient going forward without negatively impacting the guest experience or brand image. Assessing staff scheduling efficiency, cross-training staff, identifying opportunities for automation, sourcing F&B supplies from fewer vendors and reducing frequency of deliveries, implementing energy-efficiency controls, and sourcing cheaper office supplies are some examples of how and where costs could be minimized without affecting quality of service.

Find Ways to Go Greener

For the world’s population the novel coronavirus is a health tragedy, but for the planet, COVID-19 has brought about a much-needed breather—from us. Satellite imaging has shown a significant reduction in pollution all over the world as a direct result of lockdowns and travel restrictions.

Climate change and the need to live and operate our businesses in a more sustainable way has been front of mind long since before this pandemic hit. Recent research showed that sustainable travel options were becoming increasingly important to today’s travelers. Tomorrow it will be even more important.

If you haven’t already given it much thought, consider ways you could go greener at your hotel and how you can promote your sustainability efforts. Some methods require little upfront investment, like installing energy-efficient lightbulbs, implementing towel and linen reuse programs, and replacing single-use packaging (water bottles, mini toiletries, salt-and-pepper packets, etc.) with refillable solutions. Other ways, such as adopting alternative energy sources like solar and wind power, and implementing automated energy management systems, involve much more significant upfront costs, but dramatically reduce operational costs and your environmental footprint.

These are the toughest times for the hotel industry in recent history, but try to stay positive and focused on the horizon. Use this time wisely to take a close look at your business and how you can emerge from this crisis even stronger.

How Independent Hotels Can Increase Direct Bookings

The popularity of online travel agencies (OTAs) in the online hotel market reflects a demand for convenience and simplicity from travel bookers. However, while OTAs increase occupancy and exposure, their commission fees also decrease an independent hotel’s bottom line. Creating a strategy for increasing direct bookings will not only slash commission rates and increase profit but will build customer relationships and loyalty by offering unique, personalized incentives and services for booking direct.

Employ a User-Friendly Online Booking Engine

To capture more direct online bookings it is essential for lodging operators to provide a user-friendly online booking engine that allows travelers to book directly through their property’s website. Because convenience and simplicity are two major contributing factors that determine with whom customers will book, an online booking engine must be easy to access and use. Look for a flexible solution that allows you to offer enticing incentives and packages that cannot be found on third-party booking channels to persuade customers that booking direct will give them the best value and travel experience for their money. WebRezPro offers a choice of two flexible, mobile-friendly online booking engines that can be used to drive commission-free direct bookings through a property’s website and that are also fully integrated with the property management system (PMS).Providing a flexible and accessible online booking engine directly impacts the success of your business in an industry characterized by online shopping and personalized services and experiences.

Use Data to Drive Direct Bookings

Recognizing your guest base and why they choose your property is key to creating effective marketing and sales content that generates direct bookings. Using information within your PMS to identify your property’s customer segments and unique selling points (USP) allows you to guide marketing and sales strategies effectively.

Rather than simply slashing rates, use this information to pinpoint what types of travelers you attract and their motivations to book with you, such as what services they enjoy (and spend their money on) and why they choose your property. Knowing this information is crucial for offering unique, personalized services and packages that will inspire new and repeat direct bookings.

Create Value-Added Packages

Encourage your guests to book direct by offering value-added packages that are only available through your website. While price greatly influences travelers, your guests will appreciate getting the most value for their money and may be willing to pay extra in exchange for useful products and services. Package deals offer your guests greater value while also highlighting your property’s strengths and features. Free parking, discounted prices, loyalty and reward points, free breakfast, or exclusive discounts to local attractions and events are some examples of incentives for travelers to book direct.

Reward Loyalty

As mentioned above, loyalty and reward points can be valuable incentives for guests to book directly with you. Simplicity is crucial when creating a loyalty reward program because travelers will not be motivated to book direct if doing so means they are required to complete numerous and inconvenient extra steps. WebRezPro PMS offers an integrated “Rewards Module” as well as integration with loyalty reward platforms, which simplify the reward management process for independent hotels and travelers. Offer points that do not expire and can be cashed in for short-term rewards (e.g., a small welcome gift or a coffee/tea gift card) as well as long-term rewards (e.g., free/discounted stays) to attract both new and frequent guests.

Take Advantage of User-Generated Content

The prevalence and success of platforms that share customer reviews proves that user-generated content (UGC) is a valuable and trusted currency that hoteliers can use to increase bookings and build good reputations. UGC is word of mouth in digital form.  Making it incredibly easy to spread and share positive evaluations of your property with various types of travelers, UGC provides great free sales and marketing content. Including guest reviews on your website and social media profiles is an effective way to help turn lookers into direct bookers.

Implementing tactics that motivate travelers to book direct increases your business’s exposure, occupancy, and profits. Take your customer relationships and loyalty to the next level by offering unique, personalized perks and services as incentives for booking direct.

Email Marketing Tips for Independent Hoteliers in the 2020s

Businesses are reaching out to customers today in more ways than ever before—by social media, chatbot, mobile messaging, SMS, phone call, email, online advertising, TV and radio ads, and print… Phew! But of any marketing channel, email still delivers the best return on investment (in both time and money) and remains the key strategic channel for 91 percent of marketers (DMA, 2019). For hoteliers, modern tools to automate and personalize guest email communications make email one of the most efficient and effective ways to acquire and retain new customers.

While email marketing has been around since the 1990s when the internet revolution changed our lives, email marketing strategies have changed a lot since then. Here are our tips for doing hotel email marketing right in this new decade.

Grow Your Email List

Since the introduction of anti-spam and data protection laws like CASL and GDPR that were designed to protect consumers, marketers have had to adhere to stricter rules regarding sending emails, like compiling permission-based email lists. Such laws have helped to ensure B2C communications are reaching more engaged and receptive audiences, which is a win for both consumers and businesses.

It’s important to keep growing your email list in an organic way. Allow customers and potential customers to opt in through your website (for example, newsletter sign-ups and through your online booking engine), and encourage them to do so via other channels too, like social media, mobile messaging, booking confirmations, on-property signage and even in person upon check-in. Make the value of joining your mailing list obvious, whether for exclusive perks and discounts or for local travel tips and advice.

Also very important is to make sure all email marketing communications include an opt-out (unsubscribe) option in the footer of every email.

Use Data to Deliver Relevant Content

When it comes to routine emails that are directly tied to guest reservations and focused on building a loyal relationship, like booking confirmations, pre-arrival emails and feedback requests, targeted communications can be automated by your property management system (PMS), whereby relevant content is triggered by booking data (such as room and rate types, and check-in and check-out dates).

When it comes to sending promotional emails (like specials and package promotions, birthday or anniversary offers, exclusive discounts, or property news and events), the key to delivering relevant content is segmenting your mailing list and tailoring content to fit those segments. This depends greatly on customer profile data stored in your PMS or CRM, including demographics, interests, previous stay and spend history, etc. Segment your list in a way that makes sense for your property, for example, by highest-value customers, industry demographics (business guests, leisure guests, families, etc.), purchasing history, geographic location, etc.

Keep To the Point and On Brand

In our era of digital media, attention spans have become shorter. Inundated with choice, online consumers have become adept at skimming and scrolling at top speed. If we don’t get the information we need instantly, we move on to the next site—or delete the email. We don’t have time for long-winded paragraphs of text.

Just like current hotel website design trends highlight simple, clean layouts, concise text and captivating images that do most of the talking, marketing emails should follow suit. Grab and keep your customers’ attention with well-written and to-the-point textual content, and a simple, visually pleasing design that reinforces your brand.

Include Strong CTAs

Make it clear what your customer’s next steps should be by including a strong call to action (CTA), whether you want to encourage customers to contact your front desk, or direct them to a dedicated landing page for more information.

For example, a booking confirmation email might also promote upgrades and add-ons with an “Enhance My Stay” button that takes the customer to the “Amenities” page on your property’s website, and/or directs them to contact your front desk via the provided email address or phone number. An email promoting your latest special package could include a “Book Now” button that takes recipients directly to your online booking engine, with the package pre-selected. An email requesting guest feedback about their stay should include an in-email survey or a CTA (such as a “Review My Stay” button) that takes them directly to the feedback form on your preferred review platform.

Ideally, customers should be able to achieve the desired result with a single click, so send them exactly where they expect to go upon click-through. And always include an email address and phone number for your front desk, along with an invitation to contact you with any questions or special requests.

Use Subject Lines That Make Value Clear

Over the years, email subject lines have become increasingly important for cutting through the chatter and they have a direct impact on open rates. It pays to put some thought into them.

Just like email content, the subject line should also be brief and to the point. It should clearly communicate the benefit or value to the customer. For example, the subject line for an email promoting a new package could read something like, “Wine, dine and recline in Kelowna.” The subject line for a special offer could go something like, “Enjoy an extra night in Brisbane on us.” A request for feedback, something like, “Help us make your next stay even better.” Pique curiosity about renovations with a subject like, “A sneak peek at our new pool… opening soon.” Avoid the hard sell and instead tell customers how what’s inside can benefit them. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself, “Would I open this email?”

Make It Mobile Friendly

Various reports conclude that more than half of all emails are now opened on mobile rather than desktop. And if an email doesn’t display well on mobile, it’s immediately deleted in more than 70 percent of cases—no matter how good the content is.

From booking confirmations to special promotions, all your emails should be mobile friendly. The easiest way to do this is by making sure your PMS or CRM solution offers responsive email templates. Then, think mobile-first when designing the layout of your email by keeping image sizes in check, keeping paragraphs short, using buttons instead of linked text, including image ALT text, and linking to your property’s social media accounts. Once your template is set up, send yourself a test email and check it on both mobile and desktop before sending it to customers.

Automate, Automate, Automate!

With modern PMS and CRM solutions, managing guest email communications is almost effortless. As mentioned above, templates can and should be set up for booking confirmations, upgrade offers, pre-arrival, check-in/welcome, in-stay, check-out and post-stay emails that are triggered by reservation data such as stay dates, and room and rate types. Pulling data directly from reservation information, including the guest name, automated emails save hoteliers significant time while personalizing communications.

Test & Track Engagement

Finally, make sure your email marketing is working by tracking engagement, and testing and tweaking to improve results. Customer engagement and ROI can be measured by tracking open and click rates and, of course, revenue generated by email campaigns. Test what works best by trying different subject lines, CTAs, message length, delivery times, and track those results too. Modern email marketing platforms provide real-time tracking and reporting that makes analyzing campaign success easy.

Staying in touch with customers is critical to winning bookings and guest loyalty, and email is still one of the best ways to do it. Automating guest email communications, modern hospitality technology ensures hoteliers deliver personalized communications to each and every guest at the right time. Ask us about WebRezPro PMS’ automated email templates and direct integrations with hospitality CRM platforms that make guest email communications a breeze.

Top 10 Things to Look For in a PMS in the 2020s

Here we are in the year 2020! At the start of this new decade, we are firmly planted in an era of AI, VR and IoT. Chatbots, smart room controls and mobile keys are no longer futuristic hotel dreams to look forward to—they are already here. Technology is evolving faster and faster; how do we keep up?

At the core of hotel operations, your property management system (PMS) is a key component of your hotel tech stack that you want to get right. Your PMS should streamline operations by automating daily tasks and of course it must deliver a healthy ROI, but in these high-tech times it’s also important to choose a PMS that maintains pace with technological innovation and changing guest expectations.

These days, there’s no shortage of hotel property management systems to choose from, which only makes the decision harder. So to help, we’ve compiled a list of what to look for in a hotel PMS that will help drive profitability through this next decade and beyond.

An intuitive user interface

Choose a PMS that functions in a way that makes sense to you and your staff, even if you don’t quite understand every feature right away. Your PMS should quickly become second nature to use in order to fully benefit from the efficiencies it affords. A confusing user interface will only slow staff down and cause errors to be made that could result in lost revenue. 

Because the PMS is central to daily hotel operation, staff spend a lot of time using it—so look for a modern user interface that is easy on the eyes! The tape chart should be easy to navigate and to understand at a glance.

Guest engagement tools

The business to consumer relationship is growing closer than ever, in large part due to social media. Today’s guests expect personalized service that shows they are valued and recognizes loyalty.

From motels to B&Bs to vacation rentals, any property can personalize the guest experience with the right tools. Most importantly, make sure your PMS creates guest profiles to store guest data (contact details, stay and spend history, requests and preferences) that will help you recognize loyal customers and personalize future communications and stays. Automated email functionality for booking confirmations and pre-arrival and post-stay email campaigns is key to engaging guests and building customer relationships.

Loyalty program integration and integrations with CRM, mobile messaging and mobile app solutions also indicate a PMS that will equip you well to engage guests.

Commission-free direct online bookings

While OTAs sell rooms, the commissions can hurt, which is why every hotel should aim to increase direct bookings. Offering customers the ability to book online through your property’s own website is critical to any successful direct booking strategy. Look for a PMS that includes a commission-free online booking engine to improve your bottom line.

Completing a booking online should be quick and easy for your customers, to avoid booking abandonment. Choose an online booking engine with a modern, mobile-friendly user interface that showcases rooms with image slideshows, and displays rates in multiple currencies.

Your online booking engine should also make life easier for you; make sure it’s fully integrated with the PMS for live rates and availability and so that online bookings are automatically sent to your PMS. Can it sell your rooms and packages the way you want? Can you easily override availability, sell add-ons and password-protected rates, and generate online booking reports?

Integrated channel management

While it’s important to choose a system that supports your direct booking strategy, it’s also important to look for one that supports your wider distribution strategy too, through integrated channel management. Make sure your new PMS offers direct connections to the OTAs and channel managers your property works with so that rates and availability are automatically updated across all channels, directly from the PMS, saving a great deal of time and reducing the risk of overbooking.

Flexibility to fit your business

Competition has become hotter than ever for hotels, and properties have to work hard to stand out. As hotel stays have become less conventional and increasingly flexible, so has the technology used to run operations. Make sure your PMS fits the way your business works so you can provide the kind of unique experiences that today’s guests are looking for.

In addition to making sure your PMS offers the features you need (whether that be group booking functionality, activity bookings or centralized admin tools for multiple properties), look for a system that offers flexible rate and package management and supports ancillary revenue streams so that you can easily adjust to demand and aren’t limited in how to sell your rooms. It’s also important to find a PMS that provides the reports you need to make smart decisions. Does it offer custom reporting to generate the data you need for your unique business?

Finally, prepare for the future with a scalable system that will evolve and grow with your business. This means a PMS that can accommodate additional (or less) rooms, locations, integrations and revenue streams as needed.

Third-party integrations

Data is the key to elevating the guest experience, as long as it is unified and accessible. Breaking data out of silos that isolate and trap information, modern hotel technology puts data to work through system integration. When the PMS is directly integrated with other hotel systems—like distribution channels (as mentioned above), POS systems, payment gateways, revenue management solutions, CRM and guest engagement platforms—relevant data is shared between the systems to automate processes for more efficient, personalized service.

Look for a PMS that not only offers integration with your other systems, but has an impressive and ever-growing list of reputable partners so you can be sure that additional integrations can be implemented as needed down the track.

Mobile-friendliness

Just as we’ve become used to checking email on our phones, cloud technology has accustomed hoteliers to accessing their PMS remotely, first from offsite computers and now from mobile devices. This has always been one of the biggest advantages of cloud PMS; granting authorized personnel access to guest, reservation and reporting data on the go for improved efficiency, service and decision-making.

Freeing staff from the physical front desk and greatly boosting efficiency, mobile-friendly PMS boast features such as mobile housekeeping reports that allow housekeepers to update room status and maintenance requests in real time as they work, paperless check-in functionality allowing guests to sign registration cards electronically on a mobile device, and mobile key and mobile messaging integrations to support modern guest expectations.

Solid security

Unfortunately, with our online world comes online crime. Data theft is a serious and constant threat to hospitality providers. Keeping your guests’ data safe is a top priority so it’s of utmost importance that your software solutions employ robust security measures.

You want a PMS that stores and processes your data on secure servers protected by internet firewalls, intrusion detection, anti-virus protection and network monitoring. Look for a system that offers PCI-compliant credit card processing, EMV solutions for card-present transactions, and strong user access controls like two-factor authentication.

Accessible customer support

Whether you need help understanding new features, want to make a customization request, or something just goes wrong, an attentive, knowledgeable and accessible customer support team is a must-have for any future-proof PMS that is constantly innovating and evolving. You don’t want to be left high and dry in the thick of the busy season, so check plenty of software reviews to make sure the vendor you are considering takes good care of their customers—both large and small.

Expertise & innovation

It’s an exciting time for hospitality technology and new PMS vendors are popping up like mushrooms. Unfortunately, not all of them last. Make sure you choose a solution with staying power to maximize efficiency and revenue through the next decade and beyond.

A proven PMS will demonstrate experience and expertise through years of operation, a substantial and growing customer base, frequent upgrades and integrations, affiliations and partnerships, and, very importantly, reliability in terms of low downtime risk.

At the start of this new decade, we look forward to an exciting era of hospitality technology. Make sure you are well-equipped to meet and exceed guest expectations now and in the future with a reputable, innovative cloud PMS that will help drive profitability through the 2020s and beyond.