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.

How Independent Hotels Can Show Guests Some Love This Valentine’s Day

The month of love is almost upon us—is your hotel ready to woo guests? Whether you personally relish the romance of Valentine’s Day or think it’s nothing more than a marketing tactic, Valentine’s Day is a prime opportunity to boost the bottom line of any business in the hospitality industry.

Here are some ideas to make guests fall in love with your property this Valentine’s Day!

Offer Something Special

It goes without saying that romance packages do well during February. From wine and chocolates to spa treatments and candlelit dinners, romance packages are popular throughout the year. Consider spicing things up by offering something a little different to stand out this Valentine’s Day. Some ideas that go well with accommodation include couples classes (think painting, pottery or surfing lessons), tours and activities, event tickets, and in-room extras like massage kits, fairy lights and cocktail stations—and consider including babysitting for couples with kids. You could even go all out and put together a customizable proposal package!

Have you thought of offering something special for those without partners too? A self-love spa package could be promoted to singles, complete with a free drink at the bar during singles’ happy hour. Or perhaps an anti-Valentine’s Day package for groups of friends that could include tickets to a show, party or speed-dating event.

From activities to in-room extras, ancillary products and services that can be included in packages can also be offered as add-ons, allowing guests to customize their stay whether they book a package or a standard rate. People are inclined to indulge on occasions such as Valentine’s Day, so take the opportunity to offer relevant upsells to boost your bottom line.

Your imagination is the limit—just be sure to tailor packages and add-ons to your property’s key guest segments and to reflect the personality of your brand. Once you’ve created your special offers, make sure those packages and add-ons are available to guests on your property’s website through your online booking engine.

Celebrate in Style

Dressing up for special occasions makes us feel good about ourselves and Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse for doing just that. If your property has the space and facilities, why not throw a party to celebrate your guests? The glamour and mystery of a masquerade ball, the seduction of a salsa dancing night, or the fun of a speed-dating event will attract both travelers and locals looking to celebrate Valentine’s Day in style.

Look to your locale for inspiration. Today’s travelers enjoy authentic experiences so injecting some local flavor into your event will help create a memorable affair. Whatever event you plan, make sure it fits your brand and clientele, and incorporate it into a swanky date-night package your guests can’t resist.

Set the Mood

Nothing sets the mood for romance like soft light, seductive music and succulent food, so dim the lights, choose a romantic playlist and add some aphrodisiacs to your menu.

When it comes to decorations, both common areas and guest rooms can be dressed up with fairy lights, flowers, heart garlands and such. Choose decorations that complement your property’s décor to avoid coming across as tacky, and resist the urge to go over the top—you don’t want to alienate guests who aren’t there to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

When choosing a romantic playlist, it’s important to select a soundtrack that also reflects your brand identity. Consider incorporating local artists and if you can host them live, even better. Imagine the elegance of live piano music or the soul of an acoustic guitar in your lobby.

Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse to spice up your menu with irresistible limited-time specials that will also attract local customers. Let your chef express their passion through creative and adventurous dishes like oyster shooters, sweet and smoky cedar-planked salmon, shakshuka, black truffle ravioli, and chocolate and raspberry torte. Don’t forget cocktails!

It’s important to set the mood even before guests set foot on your property—you’ve got to lure them through your doors via your website first! Do this by making sure your Valentine’s Day specials and packages are promoted on both the packages page and the homepage. Consider adding a popup, inviting guests to take a peek at your romantic specials. Update photos to include images that portray your romantic side, like an intimate table setting for two, a rose-petal-covered bed, a couple enjoying a drink at the bar.

Share the Love

Once all your Valentine’s Day plans are in place, shout it from the rooftops! Make sure customers know what your property has to offer.

In addition to promoting your Valentine’s Day specials and events on your website as mentioned above, send targeted email campaigns to segmented mailing lists. (Here are some great examples from our partner, Revinate.) Consider offering discounts or exclusive deals to guests who have stayed before or just to your most loyal customers. Send two rounds of emails—one a few weeks in advance to remind customers Valentine’s Day is coming and let them know what you have to offer, and another about a week before the big day to catch those last-minute bookers! Managing email campaigns is a breeze with a property management system that offers automatic emails and/or integration with CRM platforms.

If you are hosting a themed event, create posters that can be put up around town, and start promoting it on social media weeks in advance.

Speaking of social media, occasions like Valentine’s Day generate plenty of fun and photogenic content to share on your social channels. As well as promoting your property’s special offers, take the opportunity to create themed content that strengthens customer relationships and attracts new ones. Contests and campaigns asking guests to share their own stories and content are good ways to drive engagement. Put effort into creating enticing images that provide a glimpse of what awaits guests at your property.

Run targeted Facebook ads, bid for online advertising terms like “Valentine’s Day hotel deals,” and make sure you communicate special packages through your OTA channels too. Selling special rates and packages on multiple OTAs is simple and automated when your property management system is integrated with a channel manager.

Whether or not you’re a lover of Valentine’s Day, it’s an occasion that lodging operators should embrace. With Valentine’s Day spending totaling approximately 20 billion dollars in the U.S. alone, this romantic holiday can be a lucrative one for hoteliers. We hope some of the above ideas help make guests fall in love with your property this Valentine’s Day.

BelleVue Oasis

BelleVue Oasis is a boutique hotel in Palm Springs, California that offers a wide range of guest rooms and amenities like an outdoor swimming pool, free WiFi, a hot tub and bicycle rentals. BelleVue Oasis has just started using our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help run their business. Visit their website to see how they’re using WebRezPro’s booking engine to accept reservations directly from their website!

An Independent Hotelier’s Guide to Upselling & Cross-Selling

If you’ve only ever thought of upselling as a way to increase revenue, think again. First and foremost, upselling and cross-selling are effective ways to enhance the guest experience. Done right, upselling offers more value to your guests, increasing guest satisfaction and loyalty. A rise in revenue will follow naturally.

Technically, there’s a difference between upselling and cross-selling, but the two go hand in hand:

>>Upselling is the process of selling a more expensive version of a product or service that the customer is buying.

>>Cross-selling is the process of selling a supplementary product or service to complement the product or service the customer is buying.

Both approaches result in providing the customer with greater value and enhancing the guest experience—as long as the offers are relevant and presented at the right time, in the right way.

What Can You Upsell and Cross-Sell?

From basic hotels and motels to luxury boutique inns and resorts, any property has what it takes to upsell or cross-sell.

Upsells

>> Room upgrades: Customers are often open to upgrading their room choice during their booking, or even after they have made their booking.

>> Packages: Same goes for packages. Make sure your customers are aware of available packages and the added value they offer compared to standalone room bookings.

Cross-sells

>> In-room extras: You don’t have to get fancy to enhance the in-room experience with additional in-room amenities. Baby high-chairs and cribs are as much appreciated by young families as champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries are by couples celebrating an anniversary. Yoga mats upgraded bath amenities and in-room massage services are other examples.

>> Activities: From bicycle rentals to organized tours and activities (whether provided by your property or by local partners), activities are a popular cross-sell that make organizing such adventures hassle-free for your guests.

>> F&B: On-site food and beverage services can be cross-sold by offering dining discounts and packages, promoting your happy hour, or simply having your serving staff recommend meal accompaniments.

>> On-site spa services: Spa services are hard for weary travelers to resist, especially when you can take the hassle out of booking them, and even more so if they’re discounted for guests.

>> Other hotel services: Think parking, babysitting, transportation…

How to Upsell and Cross-Sell Successfully

The secret to successful upselling and cross-selling is to put the customer’s needs first. Remember, upselling (and cross-selling) is a means for enhancing the guest experience. If executed correctly, upselling results in satisfied, loyal guests and, consequentially, improved profitability.

Be relevant

Upselling and cross-selling are practical ways to personalize service, but it only works when offers are relevant to your guests.

Use data from your property management system and CRM to learn about guest preferences, requests and booking history to target offers more effectively. Sending automated pre-arrival emails asking guests to let you know of any special requests or preferences is an effective way to gather valuable information that can be used to identify relevant upsell/cross-sell opportunities.

Don’t be pushy

Remember that as consumers we hate to be sold to but we love to buy! Employ a soft-sell approach that conveys your effort to improve the guest’s experience (rather than to make more money). That means not bombarding guests with messages promoting upgrades and add-ons, and training staff to suggest relevant offers at the right time (more on that below) and in the right way (more on that below too).

Make the value clear

In order to convert upsell/cross-sell offers, the value represented by the additional spend must be clear. In addition to clearly listing room amenities, photo slideshows are an effective way to sell more desirable rooms on your website and within your online booking engine. Make sure room and package descriptions emphasize added value and use emotive language to convey the actual experience (“…wrap yourself up in one of our plush robes and enjoy your Netflix favorites on a big-screen TV”).

When staff make upsell offers directly, highlighting the added value gained for an incremental cost can be very persuasive. For example, “For just $20 more, you can enjoy more space for the kids in our family suite, with a kitchenette for preparing snacks, and a pretty great view over the lake…”

Position offers at the right time

Timing is everything when it comes to upselling and cross-selling. If an offer isn’t timed right, it will fall flat at best, or at worst, annoy customers.

>>During booking: During booking is a great time to upsell room upgrades and packages. Including photo slideshows in your online booking engine within room search results lets your customers easily compare rooms during the booking process and visually portrays the advantages of more desirable rooms. As well, package rates should be displayed alongside standard rates within search results, clearly outlining added value, and with the ability to book. Emphasize the value of discounted rates by displaying the strike-through price alongside the lower price.

When it comes to cross-selling, be careful not to overwhelm customers with options at the booking stage. Forcing customers to choose or decline added extras at this point can put customers off, resulting in abandoned bookings. If you do choose to offer add-ons during the booking process, keep things simple with limited options and ensure add-ons are presented directly within the booking form (rather than within a separate page or window), without requiring the customer to accept (or decline) offers in order to progress with the booking.

>>Pre-arrival: The time between booking and arrival is perfect for both upselling and cross-selling. During this stage of growing anticipation about their trip, many future guests are open to upgrading and enhancing their stay experience.

With high open rates, email and SMS are the best way to communicate offers prior to arrival. Targeted offers can be automated by creating pre-arrival email templates that are attached to certain room types and/or rates. Read our recent post about how to upgrade the pre-arrival guest experience for some pre-arrival email tips. Emails can point guest requests to the front desk, or direct guests to your hotel app where they can purchase selections directly.

>>At Check-in: During guest check-in is another ideal opportunity to upsell and cross-sell, and can come across very naturally as front desk staff learn a little more about the guest’s needs. Remember to highlight the advantages of the upgrade or add-on, and don’t be pushy. Upgrades and add-ons can be promoted within self-check-in apps too.

>> During stay: Cross-selling opportunities abound during the guest’s stay and can be communicated through mobile messaging, email, your hotel app or in person—as long as they are relevant to your guest’s needs and/or interests. When communicating offers to guests digitally (by SMS or email), be careful not to bombard them with various offers and don’t push the same offer more than once.

Upselling and cross-selling are important strategies for personalizing the guest experience, adding value and increasing customer loyalty. When implemented successfully, offering relevant upgrades and add-ons to your guests at the right time, in the right way, not only results in more satisfied guests, but increased ADR and incidental revenue too.

Ocean 7

Located in popular Ocean City, New JerseyOcean 7 Motel is a seasonal property that offers 75 individually-owned and decorated studios and suites. All units are equipped with kitchenettes with two-burner stoves, and additional amenities include laundry facilities, an outdoor pool and a convenient located just steps from the beach and boardwalk. Ocean 7 has just started using our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help with their operations. Visit the hotel’s website to see how they are using WebRezPro to accept online bookings!

5 Hospitality Technology Trends for 2020

The rise of mobile devices may appear threatening to an industry where face-to-face interactions and human connections are its defining characteristics. Even most movies and books recognize this, with characters meeting and developing relationships with each other on planes, trains, in taxis, and in hotel lobbies. Human interaction is integral to the travel experience.

However, technology is equally important in maintaining guest satisfaction through increased efficiency and personalized service. As a result, time is freed up for hotel staff and guests to participate in other services and activities that enhance the hospitality experience. The following mobile hospitality technology trends decrease the amount of time spent waiting in line at the front desk and elevate the guest experience to the next level.

Mobile Device as Door Key

People are more prone to make sure they have their mobile devices rather than their room key, so combining the two into one ensures that guests don’t need to spend their limited holiday time waiting to receive their door keys or replacements for their lost keys.

When mobile key solutions and smart technology systems are integrated with the property management system (PMS), guests can enjoy seamless access to their room by using their mobile phone as their door key. Integration with the PMS automates mobile key delivery upon check-in and deactivation of the mobile key upon check-out.

Integrating mobile key platforms with the PMS allows for a completely mobile self-check-in process for guests wanting to skip the front desk entirely.

Broaden your Bandwidth

Door keys and checking-in/out are not the only purposes for which guests wish to use their mobile devices while travelling. Being able to stream shows and movies, browse the internet, and access emails and apps quickly and for free are just as important to guests during their stay, so make sure that your bandwidth is adequate enough to accommodate this.

Make your rooms mobile-friendly by including amenities like casting devices or smart TVs and integrating internet systems with the PMS to allow your guests to cast and stream their favorite content on the room TV from their mobile devices.

Paperless Check-In and Check-Out

Paperless check-in allows for a mobile front-desk check-in experience, allowing guests to sign check-in receipts or registration cards on an electronic signature capture device such as a tablet or smartphone. This paperless feature not only frees up your guests’ time and your staff’s time, but it saves on paper and printing costs and reduces your property’s environmental footprint too.

Mobile Guest Engagement

Respond to and solve your guests’ needs and issues while they are staying with you, not after they leave. Engaging your guests through SMS messaging allows for a proactive response rather than a reactive response and creates a deeply individualized style of service and memorable experiences for your guests. Plus, resolving potential issues before your guests leave avoids negative online reviews (and guest experiences). These interactions also aid in getting to know your guests and further build loyalty since you can record their preferences, special requests, and needs in their guest profiles for future stays.

Mobile Housekeeping / Maintenance Reports

Improve not only staff productivity but also guest service by using the PMS housekeeping report on the go. Fully integrated with the PMS, mobile housekeeping reports allow housekeepers to view live room and occupancy status, and to update room status and add notes and maintenance requests in real time as they work, streamlining internal communication and ensuring timely resolution of maintenance issues (e.g. chipping paint, ragged bedding, discolored carpet, etc.).

While technology can distract from the human connection and interactions that are essential to the true travel and hospitality experience, using it in these productive, efficient ways allows for elevated, personalized service. Investing in these trends means investing in customer satisfaction and building loyalty to the travel experience you offer.

Top 5 Blog Posts for Independent Hoteliers in 2019

Goodbye, 2019; hello, 2020! As we look back on another exciting year in hospitality, our final post for the year highlights our five most popular posts of 2019, indicating what’s most important to our readers.

Going by our most-read blog posts of the year, it seems that giving guests what they want and using modern technology to support that quest is a top priority for hoteliers. As guest expectations evolve along with our digital world, hospitality technology is adapting and innovating too. There have never been so many innovative and accessible solutions for enhancing the guest experience—it’s an exciting time for independent hoteliers looking to exceed guest expectations (and, according to our top five posts of the year, that’s you—our readers!).

So, without further ado, here are our top five blog posts of 2019. Did you catch them all?

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

While it might seem like a bold step, losing your front desk can be a liberating way to elevate guest service—and today’s hotel software can make it happen. This post looks at how a mobile-friendly cloud property management system can work to create a more welcoming experience for guests. Read the full post >>

4. Common Customer Complaints in Hospitality and How Your PMS Helps to Avoid Them

Customer grievances have a habit of finding their way online, where they can do damage to a business’s reputation. It’s so important to manage the guest experience and prevent dissatisfaction. Did you know that a modern property management system can help you avoid the most common customer complaints? Read the full post to find out how.

3. TripAdvisor has Changed: Here’s What’s Different and What it Means for Hoteliers

From search engine algorithm changes to new social media advertising options, it’s important to stay informed about changes implemented by the online channels you use to market your property. Our third-most-read post takes a look at TripAdvisor’s travel feed, introduced late last year. This major update aimed to simplify travel planning and booking for TripAdvisor users, and to help businesses reach new customers on the go. Read the full post >>

2. 7 Simple Ways Independent Hotels Can Personalize the Guest Experience

Across industries, personalizing the customer experience is increasingly important for businesses to remain competitive. For the hospitality industry, this is particularly true. It doesn’t necessarily take high-tech solutions and expensive loyalty programs to personalize the guest experience; with a modern property management system, any independent property has what it takes to elevate guest service to the next level. Read the full post to find out how.

1. Hotel Amenities: What Today’s Guests Look for When Booking Accommodation

Our most-read post of 2019 gets right down to the nitty gritty of guest satisfaction and hotel success: the hotel amenities that today’s guests want and expect. While fundamental requirements never change (like a comfortable bed and a quick check-in), guest expectations evolve with the times. If you’re not offering the amenities that your guests are looking for, you risk losing bookings or receiving bad reviews. Read the full post to make sure you’re giving guests what they want.

Thank you for reading! We look forward to blogging about the topics that matter to independent lodging operators in the coming year. If you have a specific subject you’d like us to tackle, let us know! In the meantime, have a happy and profitable holiday season.

A Quick Guide to Payment Gateway Integration with Your Hotel PMS

Keeping up with guest expectations in our fast-paced, high-tech world can be hard! Today’s guests want more personalized service yet more self-service options and although that might seem like an oxymoron, modern hospitality technology makes it all possible.

But while the technology supporting hoteliers in delivering a great guest experience evolves, there are fundamental guest expectations that don’t really change, like a clean room and a comfortable bed. As well, an efficient check-in process and secure payment options will always be key to guest satisfaction.

One way lodging operators can improve check-in and payment processes is by integrating their property management system (PMS) with a payment gateway. A payment gateway interface not only speeds up guest check-in, but it makes accepting card payments more secure—a win for both your business and your guests.

What is a Payment Gateway?

A payment gateway is a system that securely transmits card payment data from a website to the payment processing network. If your property wants to accept online payments, you need a payment gateway.

When a customer makes a payment with their credit or debit card, the payment gateway encrypts and securely sends the card and transaction data from the website to the payment processing network and then returns the response (approved or declined) back to the website, and authorizes the transfer of funds.

How Does a Payment Gateway Interface Work with Your Cloud PMS?

Integrating a payment gateway with a cloud PMS eliminates the need to manually process card payments on a physical terminal. Payments and authorizations can be completely automated and securely managed online, directly through your PMS.

Here’s an overview of how a payment gateway interface works with your PMS:

  1. The customer enters their credit card information on your website (through your online booking engine), or they insert their card into a credit card reader connected to your front desk computer or mobile device.
  2. The card and transaction data is sent directly from your website booking engine or card reader to the payment gateway.
  3. The payment gateway encrypts the credit card data and sends payment information to your payment processor via secure connection. Some gateways create a token —a placeholder— for the credit card information as an additional layer of security, ensuring your PMS never possesses guest credit card data.
  4. The payment processor transmits the encoded payment information to the rest of the payment network, including the credit card network, issuing bank (customer’s bank) and acquiring bank (your bank), to authorize the payment.
  5. Whether the transaction is approved or declined by the issuing bank, the payment processor sends the response back to the payment gateway, which automatically delivers it to your PMS, authorizing the transfer of funds when required.

All of this happens in approximately two or three seconds.                   

Take a look at our video for a visual, step-by-step explanation of how a payment gateway interface works with WebRezPro PMS:

WebRezPro Cloud PMS: Payment Processing Explained

Advantages of a Payment Gateway Interface

Integrating a payment gateway with your cloud PMS offers two important advantages:

>>Reduces the steps required to process card payments, speeding up the check-in/out process.

Payment gateway integration allows you to accept card payments directly through your PMS, removing the need for a standalone credit card terminal, eliminating manual keying errors by staff, and completely automating online payment acceptance.  

There’s no need to manually duplicate data across systems, speeding up the check-in process and simplifying the reconciliation process too.

>>Makes processing card payments more secure.

Payment gateways use security measures such as point-to-point encryption (P2PE) and tokenization to keep customers’ credit card data safe from hackers. When the PMS is integrated with a payment gateway, these measures protect hotel businesses too, by keeping guest credit card data out of the property management system and therefore reducing hotel liability in case of a system breach.

Unfortunately, online payment card theft is as common as stolen wallets. Consider working with an EMV-certified payment gateway to protect card-present transactions on site too.

There’s no reason not to connect your PMS with your payment gateway. Now’s the time to offer your guests a more secure booking experience and a speedier check-in, while protecting your business. WebRezPro PMS integrates with a number of leading payment gateways, including Shift4, USAePay, Stripe, Authorize.net and PayPal. Visit our website for a complete list of payment gateways we work with. The list is always growing, so if you’re interested in connecting to a payment gateway that isn’t yet included, let us know and we’ll do our best to make it happen.

How to Win Holiday Bookings

Here we are almost at the end of 2019! As the year winds down, business heats up for hotels all over the world. Both a joyful and stressful time, the holiday season brings a torrent of travelers into the market. While this typically means an increase in bookings for most accommodation providers, the ever-expanding selection of lodging options available to travelers (from new hotel brands to Airbnb rentals) also means that competition is getting hotter. It’s time to gear up your marketing efforts to ensure your property gets its fair share of holiday bookings.

Holiday Specials & Packages

Running holiday specials and packages is a proven way to attract guests. You’ve probably been doing it for years. But if you’ve been offering the same deals for years, you might want to consider changing things up a bit.

Due to the wealth of properties to choose from these days, holiday packages can all start to look the same to travelers. While Christmas is a time of tradition, try thinking outside the box to stand out by offering something a little different from the usual discounted-stay-with-dinner approach.

Perhaps your Christmas package could include an in-room Christmas tree, Christmas stockings and peppermint bath salts?

Look to seasonal local events and activities to inspire packages that could feature sleigh rides, snow tubing, or tickets to a celebrated Christmas concert. Consider partnering with nearby local businesses to offer unique seasonal perks like Christmas shopping discounts, craft beer tasting, ice-skate rentals, or even a small gift (locally made, of course).

Find out what your competitors are offering and try to top it—not necessarily by providing a bigger discount, but by putting a more creative spin on your promotions to stand out.

With a modern property management system that offers flexible rate management tools, your imagination can be the limit when it comes to designing holiday packages and specials.

Festive Menus

If your property offers onsite dining, have you tried spicing up the holidays with seasonal menus? There’s nothing quite like traditional holiday dishes to get people in a festive mood. Make sure all your guests can partake in culinary festivities by providing options for specialized diets, for example gluten-free and vegan choices.

For properties without onsite dining, consider partnering with popular local restaurants to offer your guests discounted meals over the holiday period, or simply compile a list of nearby eateries with exciting holiday menus that you can recommend to guests onsite, on your website and on social media.

Specialty Programming

For something extra special, why not arrange holiday events or activities on site? Think big, like Christmas markets, parties or performances—or think smaller, like cookie decorating stations and elf tuck-ins for kids, carolers in the lobby, card-making workshops, snowman-building competitions, or a toy drive.

Such activities can be marketed to the local community as well as prospective guests, and will contribute to a memorable holiday stay experience.

Festive Decor & Amenities

Christmas just isn’t the same without a little glitter and sparkle, so make sure your property is dressed for the occasion with some festive decorations—like a beautiful Christmas tree for the lobby, fairy lights for the patio, festive napkins for your breakfast bar… Just don’t get too carried away; there is such a thing as too much tinsel! (Really!)

Christmas-themed amenities will go down a treat with guests too. How about a hot chocolate and/or mulled wine station in the lobby, wish list kits for kids (free downloadable Santa letter templates are available online) or a gift-wrapping station?

Holiday-Themed Website

Make sure prospective guests know about all the fun festivities you have planned by spreading some holiday cheer to your website. Update property images to reflect the seasonal vibe at your hotel, and consider decorating your website too with a tasteful touch of festive graphics and messages (again, be careful not to go too far with the glitter and sparkle!).

Make sure holiday packages and specials are up to date and available through your online booking engine, promote your holiday menu, and for properties that sell gift certificates, now’s the time to draw some attention to them! Add a holiday spin to your local attractions page by highlighting seasonal activities and events, complete with insider tips like the best decorated street and the best spot to watch the NYE fireworks display from. Your blog is a great place for sharing the excitement of local and on-property holiday build-up and will help boost SEO too.

Social Media Marketing

Don’t forget to drum up some excitement for the holidays and drive traffic to your website through your social media accounts too. Post images and videos showing how your property is prepping for the holidays, from putting up that magnificent tree in your lobby to that drool-worthy new dish your chef just created for your holiday menu.

Consider boosting engagement with simple contests and polls. You could offer followers the chance to win a free Christmas package upgrade (for example) by simply liking, commenting on, or sharing your property’s post. Inspire user-generated content by creating and promoting a holiday hashtag for your hotel that guests can use to post their own on-property pics for the chance to win.

Setting a budget for boosting posts that are performing well will help gain even further reach.

Email Marketing

Last, but not least, let’s not forget about email. In our world of rapid technological evolution, email has stood the test of time and is still one of the best ways to communicate with customers.

In addition to sending holiday email campaigns to segmented mailing lists, booking confirmation and pre-arrival templates can also be updated to include information about holiday upgrade offers and seasonal amenities for guests staying over the holiday period. And why not send past guests a Christmas gift of a special discount or promo just for them? Property management systems that offer automatic emails (and/or integration with CRM platforms) and the ability to create password-protected rates, make holiday email campaigns a breeze.

You could even add a festive touch to the design of your holiday email communications—but be careful not to overshadow your property’s branding.

As temperatures drop and competition heats up this holiday season, try to offer guests something a little different for Christmas to stand out. Aim to spread holiday joy to your guests and you’re sure to win holiday bookings—and great reviews too.