Data is All Around: How to Harness it for Hotel Success

From check-in to check-out and beyond, every action and interaction in a hotel generates data. But don’t let that daunt you. With the right systems in place, the right data can be harnessed in real time and accessed as needed to improve the guest experience and your property’s bottom line.

What data and what for?

With all that data around, how do you know what’s actually useful? While the needs of every property are different, there are fundamental pieces of information that every property should be using for the good of their business.

Let’s use an example of a typical guest life cycle to identify those valuable nuggets of data at every touchpoint.

>>Research. Our soon-to-be guest, Harriet, is doing some research online to find the best place to stay on her upcoming trip. She’s looking on her favorite OTAs, reading some reviews and checking out websites of the hotels that sound good.

Here is where those first nuggets of data can be found along the guest journey. With the help of a website analytics tool like Google Analytics, your website can tell you how well your promotional efforts are doing and whether your branding and content is hitting the mark, through metrics like traffic figures, acquisition channels, bounce rates and conversions.

Recommended Technology:

> Mobile-optimized website

> Website analytics tool like Google Analytics

>>Booking. Harriet likes what she sees on your website and decides to book online through your user-friendly website booking engine. Reservation data captured at this point includes guest contact information, room selection, payment method and perhaps even add-on services and preferences—and is essential for providing even basic customer service.

Reservation folio data should also be consolidated with guest profiles, building stay history and a record of other valuable information such as preferences, requests, anniversaries, etc. that can be used to enhance the guest experience now and in the future.

Let’s step back and get an even wider view. Through integration with your online booking engine (OBE) and other distribution channels (the GDS, OTAs and channel managers), your property management system (PMS) can give you a clear breakdown of where exactly your bookings are coming from. Knowing your most successful channels is key to optimizing your distribution strategy. Not to mention, integrating your channel partners with your PMS ensures inventory and pricing are automatically up-to-date across all channels.

Reservation data is also vital for compiling hotel statistics and performance metrics, including booking trends, occupancy trends, Average Daily Rate (ADR) and Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR). Your PMS automatically collects this data and generates reports that help lodging operators make informed pricing and operational decisions.

Speaking of pricing (and your wider revenue management strategy), revenue management software (RMS) integration with your PMS greatly simplifies (and improves accuracy of) forecasting, pricing and inventory control, allowing your PMS to push reservation data to your RMS, and your RMS to update accepted pricing in your PMS.

Recommended Technology:

> PMS

> Website booking engine (with PMS integration)

> Payment gateway (with PMS integration)

> Distribution channels (with PMS integration)

> RMS (with PMS integration)

>>Pre-arrival. Harriet is vegan, so she emails your property to ask about menu options at your property’s on-site restaurant. She also wants to know if she can make a dinner reservation ahead of time because she and her husband are celebrating their second wedding anniversary. The information garnered through such correspondence is like gold!

Not only is this a prime opportunity to demonstrate your excellent customer service with prompt assistance, but this personal data (special dietary requirements, anniversary, and interest in your property’s dining facilities) represents an opportunity to offer true personalization of the guest experience and should absolutely be saved in Harriet’s profile for future reference.

Not all guests reach out on their own accord before their stay, but your property can actively seek profile data through automated pre-arrival emails or messaging generated from your PMS or customer relationship management software (CRM). In addition to reminding customers about their upcoming stay and providing helpful information about hotel amenities and local attractions, pre-arrival communications can offer upsells (room upgrades and ancillary services), and invite customers to contact your property with any questions or requests.

Your PMS is key to ensuring Harriet’s room is ready on time too. Housekeeping scheduling relies on check-in and check-out data, and room preparation requirements are determined by folio information such as number of guests and special requests. For maximum efficiency, most PMS automatically share pertinent reservation data with the housekeeping department via a housekeeping report, which also allows cleaning staff to update room status in real time. Harriet, your room is ready!

Recommended Technology:

> PMS

> CRM (with PMS integration)

>>Arrival. Harriet and her hubby arrive at your property, a little weary from their travel but happy to be there. While you most likely have Harriet’s main contact details (email address, phone number, address) from when she made the booking, now is the chance to confirm the info you have, and politely garner additional details that could help you provide more personalized service. For example, her preferred payment method and her husband’s name. Would they mind providing you with their mobile number, just in case? Are they interested in a discount coupon for the spa next door?

Front desk staff should be on alert for additional profile-worthy information guests volunteer via questions about the property and local area. Harriet’s husband asks where he can get the best cup of coffee in town and his love of coffee should be noted.

In the case of returning guests, your PMS will ensure they don’t go unrecognized and the information in their profile can help hotels enhance their experience, from a warm “welcome back” to a personalized welcome gift waiting in their room.

A bottle of local wine and a hand-written note congratulating them on their anniversary awaits Harriet and her husband when they get to their room, and they Instagram it immediately!

Recommended Technology:

> PMS

> CRM (with PMS integration)

> Payment gateway (with PMS integration)

>>Occupancy. During Harriet’s stay, numerous interactions and transactions generate data that can be used to personalize her experience and contribute to a broader view of what your guests want.

Harriet and hubby both order vegetarian items from your restaurant’s menu, cocktails and the vegan dessert to share. In addition to recording transactions for reporting purposes—for example, for menu and inventory management—your POS system has conveniently posted the restaurant charge to Harriet’s reservation folio (through an interface with the PMS) and her F&B preferences and price points can also be noted in her profile.

Later that evening, they call down to the front desk for a couple of extra pillows, which are promptly delivered—and Harriet’s preference for extra pillows recorded in her profile to anticipate her needs for future stays.

The following day, Harriet and her husband stop by the front desk on their way out for the day and ask if you have any recommendations for a quick stroll and a good place to have lunch before they head to the museum to check out a temporary exhibition about whales (turns out Harriet loves nature—another valuable fact to note). Knowing they are celebrating their anniversary, you recommend a particularly romantic stroll along the river that leads to a vegetarian café that also serves awesome coffee.

Transaction and profile data collated during occupancy is not only key to providing personalized guest service, but for determining high- and low-demand services and items, pricing, department needs, package design and other operational decisions.

Recommended Technology:

> PMS

> POS system (with PMS integration)

> CRM (with PMS integration)

>>Departure and post-departure. It’s time to say goodbye (for now) to Harriet and her husband. With all relevant data at your fingertips, your PMS makes the check-out process a breeze, showing any outstanding charges and generating a check-out receipt that itemizes everything clearly for the guest.

It’s apparent that Harriet and her husband have really enjoyed their stay—wouldn’t it be great if they left a review? If your PMS is integrated with a CRM or reputation management software, your property can politely request guest feedback via completely automated post-stay emails. Modern CRM and reputation management systems can even analyse reviews to identify amenities your guests like and dislike, and help prioritize operational improvements (this is called sentiment analysis).

Post-stay email campaigns designed to bring Harriet and other guests back can be targeted and triggered based on guest profile data, including stay history (dates, rates, room types) and interests.

At the end of the day, all transaction data (check-ins, check-outs, guest charges, payments, etc.) needs to be centralized for an accurate, efficient night-audit too. Your PMS has got it covered.

Recommended Technology:

> PMS

> CRM (with PMS integration)

> Payment gateway (with PMS integration)

Data is key to guest satisfaction and the overall health of your property. At the heart of operations, your PMS automatically captures the data you need to provide great guest service and track your property’s performance through a range of reports. When integrated with your other hotel systems (CRM, RMS, POS, payment gateway, distribution channels, etc.), your PMS becomes part of a powerful data eco-system that shares data between departments in real time, increasing productivity and transparency for more personalized service and more profitable operations.

Data is all around—use the right hotel technology to harness it for success.

WebRezPro PMS currently offers integrations with over 90 hospitality solutions. Check out our Quick Guide to PMS Integration to see how you can make your data work more efficiently for your property.

Hotel Amenities: What Today’s Guests Look For When Booking Accommodation

To win the business and loyalty of guests, hoteliers have always needed to offer more than a simple place to sleep. Whether it was valet parking, room service, or an on-site spa, hotels relied on extra amenities to appeal to customers. And that hasn’t changed. In fact, now that people can find and compare accommodation so easily on the internet, guests are more discerning than ever. You need to provide quality features and services if you want to stand out from the competition and give customers a reason to return.

Just like guest expectations for communication and decor have changed over the years, their expectations for amenities have evolved as well. Here are a few things guests are looking for today:

Free WiFi

When it comes to booking accommodation, the most sought-after amenity is free, high-speed internet. Today’s travelers are incredibly reliant on their phones (and other mobile devices) to research activities, plan itineraries, and keep in touch with friends and family. If you don’t offer complimentary WiFi, guests will likely keep looking for a property that does.

Complimentary breakfast

Whether it’s a traveler on business or a family on vacation, people like the comfort of knowing the first meal of the day is taken care of. So consider offering complimentary breakfast for your guests. It won’t go unappreciated; After WiFi, free breakfast is ranked the second most important amenity by travelers.

Luxury in-room essentials

It’s the little details that make a guest’s stay feel luxurious.  When it comes to in-room amenities, that means ensuring things like linens and toiletries are of the highest quality. Swap out polyester sheets for high-thread-count cotton, and equip rooms with soft, over-sized bath towels. When stocking the bathroom, choose high-end hair products and artisanal soaps. Your guests will leave feeling pampered and excited to return.

Mini-fridge

Mini-bars are on their way out. They’re expensive to monitor and maintain, and often go unused by guests. Many hotels are opting to equip rooms with an empty mini-fridge instead. Hotelier’s don’t have to worry about stocking or tracking the use, and guests can bring in snacks and beverages they’ve purchased elsewhere. It’s a solution that makes everyone a winner.

Flexible food options

Like mini-fridges, room-service is being reconsidered by many hoteliers. In its stead, some properties are opting to provide grab-and-go food options in their lobby, giving guests the flexibility and convenience they desire. They can pick up a burrito on their way out the door, or take a salad back to their room to enjoy in comfort. And as an added bonus, this cafeteria-style approach minimizes costs for you.

Streaming services

In-room entertainment is still a big priority for travelers. Guests want access to TV facilities (especially millennials), but pay-per-view movies aren’t going to cut it anymore. Most guests have a subscription to one streaming platform or another, and they want to continue watching their favorite television shows while traveling. Consider installing smart TVs that allow guests to connect their devices and access their own content.

Shared spaces

A recent trend that we’ve blogged about before is the millennial-led demand for shared-living spaces. Travelers today are prioritizing experiences and looking to socialize. Creating versatile spaces where guests can work, read a book, and mingle, will help foster the environment this new generation of travelers is seeking.

Amenities matter. They’re what elevate the customer experience from good to excellent. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to win your customers’ bookings and earn their loyalty.

Google Ads 101: A Hotelier’s Guide to Advertising with Google (Part 2)

In part 1 of this blog, we discussed how Google’s advertising service, Google Ads, works, and how to determine if it’s a platform you should be using. Part 2 will outline the steps required to begin marketing on this powerful platform.

Getting Started

Set up account >> To begin, navigate to the Google Ads site, and click the ‘Start Now’ call-to-action button. You’ll need to enter your email address and website URL. You can create a new Google account, or use one you already have.

Creating a Campaign

Identify a budget >> When starting a new Google Ads campaign, you’ll first need to identify how much you want to spend in the “Your budget” section. You’ll need to choose your currency and the average amount you wish to spend PER DAY. This value can always be adjusted later as you analyze the success of the campaign.

Select audience by location >> This feature allows you to choose to display your ads to customers from a specific location. You can identify your audience by country, region, city, or even neighborhood. For example, if a local airline just announced a direct flight to your city from somewhere else in the country, you might want to create a campaign that specifically targets that area.

Create custom audiences >> If you’re creating a display ad, you can create custom audiences based on affinity and intent. The feature allows you to enter keywords and URLs that correlate with your target demographic, allowing the system to display ads to users most likely to have an interest in your property.

Select a network >> This is where you identify what type of ad you want to create. For ads that appear in search results, choose Google Search Network. For advertisements that appear in web banners, within apps, or on YouTube, select Google Display Network.

Choose your keywords >> Next, you need to choose the terms that you want your ad to appear in the search results for. For phrases, you can choose to show up in searches containing those words in any order (called a modified broad match), containing those words in order (phrase match), or an exact match only. In addition to things like “Accommodation in X,” you should consider bidding on branded keywords as well (i.e. search terms containing your property name). This might seem unnecessary, but they’ll be cheap, and it will stop competitors from redirecting users looking for your hotel.

Place a bid >> When you’re setting up your maximum cost-per-click bid, you have two options. You can allow Google Ads to automatically manage your bid (by adjusting your CPC to get the maximum number of clicks while staying within your budget) or set the maximum manually.

Write your ad >> For the search network you’ll need to create a text ad. It should include a title and description that are closely related to your keywords. This will signal to the user that you’re offering exactly what they are looking for. You’ll need to enter the landing URL for the ad, which should take users to a landing page specific to their search query (linking to a generic homepage is not a good idea).

Use ad extensions >> There are a number of extensions available for your ad. Location extensions can be used to provide extra business details, call and message extensions enable guests to contact your business directly from your ad, site-link extensions can provide links to multiple different landing pages, call-out extensions offer you more space for text, and structured snippets let you create headers and lists within your ad.

Set up tracking >> Conversion tracking allows you to understand how people are interacting with your ad. You’ll want to set up tracking for your website, so you’ll know how many clicks are leading to a booking. This will require you to set up a conversion action in Google Ads and then copy the tracking tag onto the page of your website associated with a completed conversion (i.e. a ‘Thank you for booking’ page).

Set up billing >> Before you can start advertising, you’ll need to set up billing. Automatic billing will be taken every 30 days, or when you reach your designated budget. You may also make manual payments as desired.

Google Ads is a powerful service with the potential to offer huge ROI—if you’re using it appropriately. Make sure you’re always analyzing the performance of campaigns and adjusting them as necessary. Good luck!

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

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

How does it work? 

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

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

How are ads ranked?

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

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

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

Should I be using it?

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

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

5 Hospitality Trends to Look Out For in 2019

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

More Mobile

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

Health and Well-Being

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

Social, Social, Social

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

Cool Tech

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

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

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

Adults-only

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

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

A Hotelier’s Guide to the Holiday Season

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

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

Special packages

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

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

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

Seasonal cocktails

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

Holiday events

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

Decorations

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

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

Marketing

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

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

 

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

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

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

What it is

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

Where to start

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

Managing your listing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pillow Mints and Pumpkins: A Hotelier’s Guide to Halloween

The summer is ending here in the Northern Hemisphere. We hope it was a good (and profitable) one. But there isn’t any rest for a hotelier, so it’s time to turn your attention to the fall. With the busy season slowing down you should start thinking about new ways to boost occupancy and generate buzz for your property. And there’s a holiday around the corner that could help you do just that: Halloween! Just like Valentine’s Day and Easter, with a little imagination, this occasion can be a great marketing (and revenue-generating) opportunity for your business. Read on for ideas on how your lodging operation can make the most of this spooky holiday.

Throw a party

This one’s a no-brainer. Everyone loves a good Halloween party. And you can go as big (or as small) as makes sense for your property. Looking for a little bit of inspiration? The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver hosts a 6-ballroom party at their historic property. In the past, they’ve had haunted mazes, amusement park rides, illusions, and even a comedic conjuring of the hotel’s famous ghost—The Lady in Red. Ace Hotels Los Angeles has included Tarot card readings, aura photography and costume contests at their past events. And Hotel del Coronado in San Diego hosts an annual “Hallo-wine and Spirits” party. It’s a fun holiday with unlimited potential, so be creative!

Host a murder mystery

If you’d like to plan an event that’s a little smaller in scale, why not host a murder mystery dinner? The Stanley Hotel in Colorado (known for its role in the movie The Shining) did just that in 2017. Guests dressed up to compliment the 1920’s mafia theme of the event and partook in a 4-course dinner and murder mystery activity. It’s a great way to celebrate the spooky occasion. And if it’s a hit, you can always turn it into a weekend-long affair like these hotels.

Screen a spooky film

If you’re looking for another way to deliver a festive fright, consider screening a scary movie at your property. It’s an activity that can be enjoyed by the whole family. And depending on your space and location, you could set up the screen indoors or out. But whatever you choose, don’t forget the spooky decorations or Halloween-themed treats.

Decorate pumpkins

Pumpkin carving is an activity you can offer to your guests (and community members) that’s appealing to all ages. And you can make it as extravagant as you want. A few years ago W New York offered guests the chance to have their selfie carved into a pumpkin by the famous pumpkin-artist Hugh McManon. But if that seems like too much, you could also create a pumpkin carving competition on social media. Participants can submit photos of their best creations, and the winners can receive a free night stay at your hotel. It won’t provide the revenue of hosting an actual event, but it’ll create some good online buzz for your property.

Offer a themed package

If you are going to offer Halloween-related activities and amenities, be sure to create a themed package for the occasion. In addition to a night (or two) stay, you can include tickets to the events, meals, complimentary candy—anything that makes sense for your property. The Hay Adams in Washington DC offers a stay in their “Transylvania Suite” which comes decked out in cobwebs, skeletons and other creepy decorations. The package also includes a selection of horror movies to choose from and 3-course meal.

Halloween is an exciting holiday with a lot of potential. It’s the perfect opportunity to get your creative juices flowing, so take advantage of it! You’ll be rewarded with new revenue streams and great promotional material for your website and social media channels. Have fun!

Remarketing: How It Works and Why You Should Do It

Of all the people that visit a hotel’s site, only 2% (on average) end up making a booking. So, while it might feel like getting traffic to your website is good enough, the job doesn’t end there. A huge percentage of people who show interest in a property don’t follow through. That’s a lot of missed opportunity. So, how can you mitigate the effects of website abandonment? Answer: remarketing.

What it is

Remarketing is when a brand attempts to re-engage with consumers who have already shown an interest in their product. If, for example, a user visits a website for a hotel and then leaves without making a booking, remarketing allows ads for that hotel to appear on other sites that user visits. The idea is that they’ll be reminded of their original interest and return to complete the booking. And it works. Website visitors that are retargeted are 70% more likely to complete a booking.

How it works

A small piece of code (called a pixel) on your website is used to install cookies on browsers that visit it. The cookie then “follows” that user around the internet and displays ads to them. Targeted ads can be displayed online, by email, or on social media channels. Depending on where in the booking funnel they were before abandonment, those ads can be simple logos to maintain awareness or specific offers for rooms and rates.

Why it’s a good idea

Remarketing is a cost-effective way to spend your marketing dollars. The money is being directed at consumers that have already shown an interest in your product, so ROI is high. It also allows you to offer differentiated offers. If someone has abandoned a booking, you can target them with a discounted rate without making it available to the general public. And for that reason, you won’t have to worry about rate parity issues with OTAs. It’s a great way to incentivize potential guests and win more direct bookings.

Tips for success

Choose pages carefully >> When you’re choosing pages of your website to put pixels on, pick ones that are relevant to the booking process (at least in the beginning), so you can target the customers that are the most serious. This can be landing pages for special offers, the availability calendar, booking engine, etc. And then target them with ads that make sense for where they are in the marketing funnel.

Use frequency caps >> When remarketing to potential guests, you want them to be subtly reminded of your property, not feel inundated by it. So use frequency caps to control how often your ad appears to a guest.

Personalize the emails >> Email ads feel a lot more invasive than those displayed on websites, and social media feeds. So when you send them, they need to be valuable to the guest. This can be achieved by making the emails personalized. If a guest abandons a booking after selecting a room and dates, the email can include the relevant information. For example, you might send an email that says “we noticed you were interested in a [UNIT] for [DATES]” with a “Continue Booking” call-to-action button. It’ll make the email useful to the recipient and feel less like spam.

Send them soon >> If you are using email retargeting, send the first one within three hours of booking abandonment. Emails sent in this time frame average a 40% open rate and a 20% click-through rate.

 

Remarketing is a powerful strategy to increase customer engagement and drive bookings. Consider giving it a try, so you don’t miss out on any potential guests. Good luck!

A Hotelier’s Guide to Creating Effective Video Content

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

Content

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

Length

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

Production

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

Publishing

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

Optimization

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

 

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