Who is Winning the Pricing War?

The battle on pricing between hoteliers and OTAs is a touchy subject in the hospitality industry.  Millions of hotels and lodges are found on Online Travel Agencies, where advertising and company exposure are created for potential customers all over the world.  For customers the question comes down to, where am I going to book my stay at a certain hotel and where can I get the best value?  This blog is the first in a series discussing direct hotel bookings vs. OTA booked stays and will dig a little deeper looking at where the customer can get the best value and how this impacts hoteliers large and small.  

What is an OTA?

Simply put, an OTA, or Online Travel Agency, is an online platform where customers can go to book hotels, flights, and other vacation packages.  OTA’s can include Expedia, Priceline, and Orbitz, just to name a few.  These powerhouse travel resources on average generate nearly $19 billion in the hospitality industry in the United States alone, according to a study published by Phocuswright.  OTAs have gained popularity for consumers because of the ease that is involved in checking and comparing prices.  Many of the OTA websites allow the user to compare real time pricing from competitors side-by-side instead of checking individual websites for pricing and promotions.  So what makes an OTA so special?  According to Cloudbeds, hotels generally spend an average of 6-9% of their revenue on marketing and promotions.  OTAs spend over 35% of their revenue on marketing and sales, which allows incredible worldwide exposure for the hotels and lodges represented on the OTA websites.        

Who is Winning the Pricing War?

For customers, value and cost are two key factors that influence where and how they will book stays at hotels.  What a lot of people don’t know is that OTAs are paid a commission to advertise hotels on their websites.  What does this mean for the consumer?  Clem Bason, CEO of goSeek, a hotel booking site, shares how these commission rates influence how OTAs conduct their pricing.  Bason discusses how the higher the rate of the room, the more money the OTA will earn from the commission off of the booking.  For example, if an OTA can sell a room for $120 a night versus $108 a night they will make more revenue.  This means that OTAs could possibly be charging anywhere from 10-30% more on their websites than a direct booking will charge on a hotel’s website.  Does this mean that hotels are winning the pricing war?  Not necessarily.  

Hotels, when booked domestically, are now often offering cheaper rates when customers book directly through their websites.  The commission rates that are paid to OTAs for advertising and listing the hotels are saved when the customer books through a hotel’s direct website, allowing the hotel more profit.  This is commonly seen when booking stays domestically versus internationally.  Though OTAs are able to run promotions, provide discounts and reward incentives, direct bookings can often provide easier bookings for cheaper rates.  Booking directly with the hotel or resort also often provides the guest with more personalized service and even some extra amenities. You might be asking why would hotels use OTAs instead of just utilizing direct bookings?  Direct Bookings Hyatt Mobile App

There are a few pillars that make OTAs incredibly beneficial for hoteliers.  As mentioned above, the exposure and the amount of advertising and marketing that OTAs provide for hoteliers simply could not be matched by the hotel marketing team.  This alone provides a strong reason for hoteliers to partner with OTAs. The more exposure that OTAs provide hotels allow more bookings to be made.  OTAs also offer a great stage for customer reviews.  Customers are more faithful in reviews that are posted on sites that are not directly linked to hotels.  If there is a review about a hotel posted on Expedia, it is perceived as more objective and thus has more value and merit versus reviews found directly on a hotel’s website.

And the Winner is…
At the end of the day, hotels and OTAs both benefit during the booking transaction and their mutually beneficial partnership.  It is necessary for the hotel or lodge to have exposure in order to continually increase bookings.  The OTAs cannot survive without a steady stream of available rooms. So who is the winner?  That is up to you to decide!

Staffing the Hospitality Industry in Wisconsin – What You Need to Know in 2017

Employers are facing a dilemma that speaks to the tourism and hospitality industry in Wisconsin loud and clear. Many of you may have been affected or experienced difficulties with staffing or maintaining staff, and you’re not alone. Employers across the state are finding it difficult to fill open positions in their companies because of the lack of available workers. Why might that be? The Taxpayers Alliance projects that by 2040 Wisconsin will see an increase of 300,000 residents within the working age. This number does not consider the generations that are moving towards retirement or the younger generations that are seeking employment in other states or regions.

How does this affect the tourism and hospitality industry in Wisconsin ?

The state is currently seeing many individuals moving out of the hospitality industry as the economy gains back strength after the recession that occurred nearly a decade ago. Hospitality during the recession was seen as an industry that fulfilled many jobs for new college graduates who were unable to find careers in their degree industry. Now as the economy shows growth and stability these individuals are finding that their experience and degrees are allowing them to explore new avenues that are not in the hospitality or tourism industry. The industry already sees seasonal shortages when J-1 Visa participants leave the United States after contributing to the hospitality workforce creating an even deeper problem for hoteliers.

Who is Being Hired?

The Institute of Hospitality found that in the hospitality industry, the people who are being employed within the ages of 18-24 are either working on a college degree or choosing a career path instead of a degree. This information is crucial for hoteliers to consider when staffing. The lodging industry in Wisconsin has some great options to help appeal to this age group. The first option is to understand the great value in providing internships within your company. Internships allow for companies to bring in new eager applicants and then to form their skills specifically to the needs of the business. Providing internship or apprenticeship opportunities is a cost efficient way for hoteliers to staff their businesses and to create learning opportunities that pertain to the hospitality industry, something that is needed for the industry to develop a strong workforce.

How can we maintain the employees we have? Rupesh Patel, CEO and hotel owner, shares some of his most helpful hints that he uses to keep his hotel staff motivated. The first big-ticket item is relating to your sales staff. Patel said, “One of the primary reasons why a lot of hotel employees resign is because they feel stuck, that they’re not growing or evolving in their jobs.” Job vs. Career Diagram
This falls back on the employer more than the employee. Employers need to understand that motivation is key! Maintaining employees is even more powerful than hiring employees. Motivating the staff at your hotels and resorts with career growth opportunities will help your employees see a future in the industry.

How Can We Help?

The most repetitive aspect that is being seen in the hospitality industry is the need for furthering the education of those who work in the hospitality industry or who show interest in the industry. For those starting out in hospitality, motivation and career opportunities are needed for an employee to stay for a sufficient amount of time. Doing so requires training and development of the employees. Creating new opportunities through internships will allow for the industry to gain exposure for job seekers and will educate people with hands on experience. Industry analysts are finding that the most successful hotels are those who invest time and training to further educate their employees; something everyone can benefit from! The graphic below provides one of many examples of how training and development can excel the careers of individuals in the hospitality industry.

Infographic on workforce


Top Takeaways From The 2014 Wisconsin Lodging Conference

The 2014 Wisconsin Lodging Conference aka WH&LA Annual Meeting Conference and Trade Show was packed with excellent speakers and provided ample time for industry members to meet to compare their experiences and find answers to their questions. Below I’ve complied a list of what I thought the key takeaways were from the show.2014 WH&LA board members

Stephanie Klett, Secretary of Tourism for the State of Wisconsin

Stephanie’s presentation was one of the most dynamic sessions of the convention. She is an energetic, enthusiastic cheerleader for all things Wisconsin Tourism. Her insights and experience provided lodging professionals with a review on where tourism in Wisconsin ranks nationwide and perspective on the contributions and responsibilities of statewide lodging properties.

Key Takeaways

1.     Seek out features in magazine articles – 28% of lodging inquiries lead from magazine articles.

2.     TravelWisconsin.com will be featuring a travel writer promotion, where lodging properties can invite a travel writer to visit their properties overnight (at no charge) and the writer will write about their experience.

3.     Without the contributions from the hospitality industry, Wisconsin taxpayers would pay an additional $590 per household in extra taxes.


Steve Tyink, V.P., Myron Construction (previously Bergstrom Hotel Group)

Another great speaker, Steve entered the stage with a bang driving home the perspective our guests are likely to experience when making choices in lodging. Will your guests’ experiences fall into the category of 1-forgettable (70%), 2-horrible (20%) or 3-memorable (10%)? He brought a new awareness to lodging members to pay attention to the customer experience and create experiences that are pleasantly memorable.Steve Tyink Presentation

Key Takeaways

1.      “Customers are clue detectives” Learn to look through their eyes. What is their experience telling them?

2.     ‘Reinvent the experience’ as explained by Steve referring to the book “The Orange Code” about ING’s revolutionary approach to the banking industry.


Data Security Panel Discussion

Moderated by Bob Dove of Bridgewood Resort in Neenah

Panelists- Don Schultz of Infratactix, Tony Jalan of Heartland, Tom Haase of Frontstream

Tuesday morning brought a lively discussion on data security. No matter the size of the company, vulnerabilities are being discovered daily. Lodging managers should pay particular attention to details like what is being written down and left on check-in counters or other public places for potential thieves to find. Today’s technology with cell phones makes is easy for a casual photo to be taken of password lists, post-it notes with guest credit cards and other sensitive info. All without the desk person even becoming aware.Data Security Panel

Key Takeaways

1.     Visit PCISecurityStandards.org to educate yourself and find self-assessments

2.     New EMV and NFC technologies are coming out and will ensure a higher level of security. The rollout nationwide will be slow and gradual as equipment upgrade contracts come due and equipment is available. Owners will be responsible for non-compliant transactions starting Jan 1, 2015.

3.     Use some of the password applications that store all your passwords securely (I recommended LastPass.com, which is free or $12 per year to integrate with all devices).

4.     Teach your staff to be on guard with phone calls asking for specific information with offers to ‘help’, ‘reset broken systems’ etc.


Effective Revenue Management

Moderated by Lalia Rach, Associate Dean of the College of Management and Director of the School of Hospitality Leadership at UW-Stout & founder and partner of Rach Enterprises.

Panelists- Brian Burton of Marcus Hotels, Sean Skellie of IDM Hospitality Management, Dave Phaneuf, Wisco Hotel Group

An absolute favorite speaker of lodging members, Dr. Lalia Rach started the session with a brief overview of the importance of generational trends, new demands and effective revenue management. Her message “work smarter, not harder” by embracing the opportunities for better ROI through revenue management. The panelists provided a great discussion and sound advice on ways to maximize revenues for lodging properties large and small. So many, in fact, that I’ll just list many of them as ‘key takeaways’.

Key Takeaways

1.     Put most simply- Revenue Management is finding the proper customer for the right day for the right segment at the right price.

2.     Analyze who is staying and bring in the most profitable guest.

3.     Revenue Management is something lodging managers often do without realizing it. For example, 3-5 day packages, mid-week specials, etc. bring in revenue on low demand days and/or maximize the opportunity by upselling longer periods of time or offering something of higher value to the guest.

4.     Front desk staff should be questioned periodically to find guest insights on rate resistance, experience and other issues that give insights in rate management.

5.     Other opportunities could be offering different room styles for different demographics, advance payment options, non-refundable discounted specials. If you give something, you should get something in return such as better terms or the ability to upsell.new Friends at 2014 WH&LA Conference

It was a great conference with great speakers, moderators and audience members. The opportunity to interact with other professionals in lodging is one of the strongest reasons to attend. The resources brought by the WH&LA team were significant to any lodging owner or professional in Wisconsin. If you are not already a member of the WH&LA, I highly recommend it. It is a cost effective solution to first-hand industry knowledge and networking.

Have questions? Drop me an email or give me a call.

Travel Planning With Facebook


Watch out TripAdvisor, travel planning with Facebook might just catch on. Their new Graph Search, is a little known tool that could come in handy for your next trip. You can add a search like “Friends that have traveled to Chicago, Ill” and receive a whole page of suggestions based on your friends’ travels. I just did ‘the test’ and I was actually surprised how accurate it was for well-known places in Chicago. It was also easy to see some of my favorite people that have gone to places I’ve either been or might want to go. My next step might be to ask them for more details. Yes, it could work.

Though this of course was Facebook’s intention, after a cursory look at Facebook, I had discounted it as having no real merit. Until I read this article by Darren Craig where he suggests that Facebook has a chance to take over TripAdvisor. His article shares some good examples of how Graph can be used and he also has some tips for hoteliers. I’ve shared those tips below:

Facebook is one of the most targeted platforms for marketing so here are some tips to add to your online strategy to enhance your business on Graph Search…. (You do have a Facebook page don’t you?) :

1 – Ensure your Facebook page isn’t a “ghost”

People will ‘Check-in’ to the first page that matches your business name, whether it’s your official one or not.  Claim any unofficial pages, and merge them with your real one – you may be missing out on more Likes than you realise.

2 – Reward ‘Check-ins’

Check-ins to your business indicates someone physically visited you and checked in to let their friends know.  This check in contributes to your engagement scores on Facebook.  You can encourage check-ins with small notices in the room, arrival cards, or provide offers like discounted drinks if guests ‘check-in’ on Facebook.  If you think of traditional online searches, where everyone was rushing to get backlinks to their website to increase their ranking, a check-in is almost an equivalent in Facebook terms – every little helps.

3 – Encourage Facebook Reviews

Hopefully you already request reviews on sites like TripAdvisor on your post visit follow up emails.  Existing links in your emails could be switched to encourage Facebook reviews for a period of time.  Online you need to meet your guests where they hang out, so you could offer a variety of review sites like Google, Facebook, TripAdvisor and others, or split test them to see which ones gets the most traction, or highlight the one you need more reviews on.

4 – Get Some Facebook Love

Looking after your guests in the real world should always be your priority.  If you’ve done this well, your recent guests should be your best ambassador.  Don’t forget to request a ‘Like’ in follow up communications, or in a booking thank you email.  If a guest ‘Likes’ you pre-arrival, it gives them the option of finding out more about your offerings before they arrive.  You could also ask guests to share and tag any photographs they have of your business.
Remember those earlier search examples?  If you get guests Liking your Facebook page, this is how their friends could find out about you in the future.

5 – Don’t Forget the Locals

Your local guests may be your most regular visitors if you have a great restaurant, spa or golf course, therefore could be your most engaged Facebook users.  Advertising to people who like your page, or to a custom audience of emails extracted from your mailing system (such as a member’s list) is likely to be the cheapest form of paid advertising you will ever get.  You can use this to fill up that spa, or empty dining tables or even advertise discount coupons if required.

This is one more recent example that reinforces the importance for hospitality professionals to keep a balanced social game in play. One cannot afford to focus only on TripAdvisor and later find that your guests are moving to new methods of getting and sharing pre-travel information. With the new happenings at Google, I’d suggest keeping them in the mix as well. Thanks for playing…


Facebook Business Page Rollout – version 2014

Facebook is once again updating their interface. This time it’s for their Business Listings. This updated Facebook Business Page Rollout will include many things that affect Independent Lodging Properties.

Facebook Biz Page -new 2014

New Facebook Business Page style – 2014

Here’s a short summary…

  1. Sometime soon when you log in, you will be ‘invited’ to join the waitlist.
  2. Later you will be ‘welcomed’ in with an Update Now button.
  3. You will notice that custom tabs have moved into the ‘More’ drop down, effectively burying your custom links like Email signups, and ‘Book Now’ buttons.
  4. The Admin panel will have a new look and some new features.
  5. Pre-scheduling is now done under the Activity Tab.
  6. Reviews cannot be removed as in the past.
  7. Highlighting Posts will no longer stretch them across your page.
  8. The first picture in photo albums is how the ‘featured image’ by default.
  9. Photo sizing in albums has changed dramatically. Once sizes are determined you will find them here. More explanation & detail is found below in the excerpt.

    PYK Facebook example

    ‘Old Style’ Facebook Business Page for Posada Yum Kin Hotel, Tulum, Mexico – 2014

  10. The Banner style has changed. It is smaller vertically and the name of your property will now lay on top of your banner image squeezing things even more and covering your image in specific areas.

You can read it directly from Facebook here.

Facebook says the key new features are:

  • Updated Page timeline design
  • Easier Access to key admin tools
  • Ability to Watch Pages

Utlimately, Facebook users will be the judge. Users include you and your future guests. While Facebook is obviously stepping up it’s monitization efforts, it’s important that they do not continue to send hoteliers away or cause them to minimize their exposure on Facebook. There many reasons to potentially do this; one of them being the building presence of Google and their entrance into the OTA space. 

One of my favorite blogs is Heather Turner’s Chef Forfeng’s Weblog. Heather a chef and consultant to B&Bs, is a key advisor on issues relating to restaurants and B&Bs. Below is the link to her entire blog and below that are some excerpts, I’d like to share on the upcoming changes.

When your page has the option to convert, you will see this (below) the first time you login. BEFORE you click update now for Fans, take a look and see if you have any tabs that are really important to you FIRST! (more on this in few screenshots down)


Heather on Albums…

Albums sizes are 518 X 518 (pixels)

  1. The other major change is photo sizing. If you post photos on your business wall, the new sizing is approximate 415W X 557H for vertical photos and 555W X 308H for horizontal photos. Sizes are approximate because I had to use a photo snipper, I could not find where the actual size is listed yet, (but this is close to what it will be).

Photos posted on your business wall are going to become somewhat smaller on the internal page viewer of someone’s feed. The sizing becomes 511H X 344W for vertical photos and 320W X 437H for horizontal photos*

I’ll correct the sizes when the official sizes are made public.

Because of the new photo size changes, where it previously was better to post horizontal photos, it now may be beneficial to try more verticals, as it’s taking up more visual timeline space or even albums in groups of 4 photos.  Albums 518 X 518 (pixels)  gives you more advertising eyes on space then single pictures now.

Heather on the Banner..

The biggest annoyance B&Bs will probably have is the new banner layout, Like, Follow, etc and the name of the business now overlays the banner itself, If you have a long description it brings the text up even further.
Essentially you’re losing almost ½ of the banner in terms of visual usage and if you have text in there now currently, you will have to revisit what it looks like when it converts. It also appears that the square avatar image has moved over very slightly more to the left hand side.

New Facebook Business Page changes Bed and Breakfasts should be aware of.

Choosing a TripAdvisor Connect Internet Booking Engine


A typical Booking Engine

A prerequisite to launching a TripAdvisor Connect campaign is having an approved TripAdvisor Connect Internet Booking Engine (IBE) on your lodging property’s website. An Internet Booking Engine (IBE) allows your guests to review room and amenity details and browse availability. After they have made a choice, they are able to book directly on your site’s secure booking engine using a major credit card. This has become standard protocol in today’s online travel world, but there really is a lot more to getting a hotel functional online than just selecting an Internet Booking Engine.

Choosing only an Internet Booking Engine would be like buying only one tire for your car instead of a whole set. Not real far-sighted, right? From a hotel’s perspective, the Internet Booking Engine is just a portion of what is needed for successful online integration. A hotel or resort’s support structure should be designed to encompass all of your hotel’s goals, like an attractive, branded website, online credit card acceptance which includes PCI compliance, one or more OTA connections, and a cloud-based PMS that is mobile-optimized.

Eggs in one basketI would caution anyone from putting all of his or her eggs in the TripAdvisor basket or only one marketing partner’s basket for that matter. In these turbulent times, it’s important for properties to have long-term, multi-level plans that can easily address local and niche opportunities and provide flexibility in partnering choices. All this can be accomplished by making the right PMS choice and working outward from there.

TripAdvisor has partnered with quite a few companies that offer Internet Booking Engines to their customers. The list changes daily and can be found at TripAdvisor’s Partner Page.

TripAdvisor has 3 levels of integration from their IBE providers.

Premium Partners will include

    1. The TripConnect CPC program
    2. Review Express- which automatically sends review requests to departing guests
    3. ROI tracking- which provides Property-level tracking on the confirmation page for each hotel booking through TripAdvisor.

Plus Partners will have:

    1. The TripConnect CPC program
    2. Review Express- which automatically sends review requests to departing guests

Partners offer only the TripConnect CPC program.

Find the right PMS

Separating the wheat from the chaff is the difficult part. As you can tell by the enormous TripAdvisor Connect Partner list, finding a PMS company with an approved IBE that provides what you need for an affordable price is not an easy task. If you choose to go it alone, I suggest using Capterra’s exhaustive list as a starting point. First, select the features that are important to you and narrow your search with their filters. Choose a few and compare your needs and the user reviews. After you have a few selected, you might want to set up a demo with a sales person and have a conversation on pricing. Include the pricing of all needed interfaces in your estimate. Two interfaces you will most likely want would be a credit card merchant account with PCI compliance and a credit card gateway. These price out separately and present their own complete shopping comparison challenge. Be sure to collect a complete scenario. Use both your ‘must have’ and your ‘wish list’ and price them out. Things can change quickly in today’s turbulent marketing world and is why I recommend including your ‘wish list’ into this process. It’s important to keep your plan flexible by positioning yourself for the future and unseen contingencies.

Watch out for transaction fees and double hits

We found that some PMS companies are charging up to 3x more by use of small transaction fees placed on high-volume tasks. I call them double hits. You pay the OTA or channel partner their fees, plus you will pay the PMS company again –each time, for every transaction. I think, it’s pretty sneaky. Not all PMS companies do this. These fees really add up and can take a huge chunk out of your sales. Instead look for PMS companies that charge for set-up with a small monthly support fee for each connection. That will keep your costs under control no matter how many bookings you have each month. Or give us a call today and we’ll help you through it!

Focus on the details

I also recommend evaluating PMS systems based on the following factors: how long have they been in business? (a good system takes years to develop) where is support located? language spoken? fluency? their support hours –including weekends? their response commitment? ability to export data out to a ‘flat’ file (is it usable, or broken into several lines and columns for each reservation?), report features (does it export to a .csv file?), can you follow each transaction right into the bank? how many ‘clicks’ does it take to report on commonly-used info? Will both, the guests and staff, be able to access all parts of the site from mobile phones and tablets? What will it look like and how will it function?

Before you switch providers, ask your current provider of their plans for TripAdvisor Connect. There is a lot happening and things are changing daily. Don’t jump ship just because your provider isn’t on the list. Ask them their opinion of this new tool, they are one of your technology partners.

Finding this all too daunting of a task? Give us a call today!  Our experience and passion is in working with small independent hotels and lodging properties in North America. We operate from the hotel’s perspective, one that is customized to your unique situations. We don’t try to ‘sell’ you everything that is available online, but try to keep it lean and affordable. We don’t talk about what should be done, we help get it done.

Next week, we will look into other promotional options beyond TripAdvisor Connect. It’s always good to have other choices. This is part three of a four-part series, if you missed our other articles then you might want to check out Rolling Out TripAdvisor Connect and A Likely TripAdvisor Connect Scenario.

A Likely TripAdvisor Connect Scenario

Let’s cut through all the noise of the upcoming TripAdvisor Connect announcement with a real life example of a likely TripAdvisor Connect scenario. In last week’s post, Rolling Out TripAdvisor Connect, we dissected the FAQ posted by Trip Advisor and speculated a bit on what’s to come based on what industry insiders are discussing. What will it all mean for you?  Today, let’s dig into the details.ROI of TripAdvisor Connect

I was recently negotiating with one of TripAdvisor’s sale team while working on a client’s behalf. They kindly provided the past year’s data for the hotel. The scenario below is set-up using an approximation of that data for a feasibility study on implementing a TripAdvisor Connect campaign. So even though this article is speculative, it is based on actual data provided by TripAdvisor for a small independent hotel.

The TripAdvisor ROI Calculator reports this 10-room hotel had approximately 70,000 Pageviews annually on its Trip Advisor page and experienced an estimated click-through rate (CTR) of 5%, which is 3500. From the CTR, TripAdvisor derives the expected conversion rate (5% again) predicting the hotel will end up with 175 in annual bookings from their site. Sounds good, eh?

Each TripAdvisor Business Listing subscription is about $9-1,000 usd per year.

With the new TripAdvisor Connect program, the CPC to capitalize on all of these click-throughs, is estimated to be about $2-3 per click (industry estimate from Milespartnership.com). We’ll use $2.50 each for today’s calculation. But remember the OTAs are also competing for this position, so it may actually become quite a bit higher.

ROI TripAdvisor Connect

Based on the last year’s numbers the CPC campaign would use an annual budget of $8,750.00. The business listing and CPC come to an approximate total spend of $9,750.00 and would earn an annual gross total of $31,500 (based on a $90 per night room with 2 nights each on average) for the hotel.

The TripAdvisor take is roughly ONE-THIRD of gross sales ($9,750 is 30.95 percent of $31,500). Since a large part of the click-throughs last year went to OTAs and this new tool was invented to ‘even that playing field’ a shift could occur and that number may increase substantially. And remember, this cost does not factor in website upgrades, pass-along costs from your IBE provider, etc.

It’s important to note that this small hotel actually tracked their conversions from TripAdvisor and realized only 23 bookings, not 175, as projected by TripAdvisor. That equated to about $4140 in actual sales.

What are your TripAdvisor numbers? Is your system able to track where your leads come from?  If not, do you track them manually? How much would you be willing to pay for the new CPC campaign tool from TripAdvisor? Please share your anticipated results or thoughts on this trending subject below in the comment area.

This is the second of a four-part series on the expectations of Trip Advisor Connect brought to you by Social Energizer, Independent Hotel & Lodging Marketing and Operations Integration Advisors. There’s a lot to sort out in today’s online hotel world, let us help you plan your course!

Give us a call today!

Next week I will review and compare the various Internet Booking Engine offerings. If you’re not onboard with the new TA Connect service, our final post of the series will offer ideas on positioning your property to minimize the disadvantages this may bring to the lodging industry.

Rolling Out TripAdvisor Connect

TripAdvisor will be rolling out a new service this fall for their Business Listing subscribers called TripAdvisor Connect. It is essentially a CPC (cost per click) program in which lodging operators can sign up. It provides a “Show Prices” button on the Trip Advisor Business Listing page that forwards potential guests directly to their branded website.TripAdvisor-Hotel-example

Currently, Business Listing subscribers may only add a phone number and web address for contact information. This appears at the top of their listing in small non-descript formatting next to a small computer icon. In the past, the  large and attention getting TripAdvisor “Show Prices” buttons have been linked directly to hotel chains and OTAs, like Expedia and Hotels.com. It is speculated and the FAQ suggests that they will roll out an extension of this same program with TripAdvisor Connect, but keep in mind that it could be quite different. If it is, we’ll cover the update on this blog as well.

Could Trip Advisor Connect work for your property?

Careful what you wish for is one of my favorite sayings. A year or so ago, I asked one of my TripAdvisor contacts why hotels couldn’t have a button on their TripAdvisor page like the ones that Expedia had. They told me that it just wasn’t feasible. That it was way too complex of an idea.  Well, I guess they’ve found a way to make it work though not exactly how I envisioned it. In theory, their new program will have hoteliers essentially competing against the OTAs for sales of their own hotel rooms. Once the ‘new program’ smell is gone, I think lodging owners will find it is really pretty stinky.

What you will need for TripAdvisor Connect

According to TripAdvisor, the prerequisites for TripAdvisor Connect are: a website integrated to an Internet Booking Engine, a TripAdvisor verified-account, TripAdvisor Business Listing subscription and a good-sized budget for the CPC campaign (Connect) itself.

Today, hotel and lodging websites that allow potential guests to book directly online are becoming a standard part of any lodging marketing mix, but the ROI of TripAdvisor Business Listings, starting at about $1000 annually, has long been debated by lodging professionals and advisors.

The logic of spending an even larger amount of money on a CPC campaign to attract potential guests that you’re likely to get anyway, even if through OTAs, is questionable. Why not use those marketing monies to attract guests that would not find you otherwise? Like a CPC campaign on Google, for example, that reaches into specific markets that match your property demographic?

What you can expect from TripAdvisor Connect

On the up-side, leads from the TripAdvisor Business Listing are considered conversion-ready. These are from Internet users that are ready to make a reservation. When a user lands on your TripAdvisor detail page, he or she will see your call-to-action button, click on the button and be moved to your website for direct booking. Sounds easy, right?

The downside is that the direct link button will only appear when your bid meets the ‘minimum requirement’ for your property. What does that mean? It means that your ‘live’ direct link will only be shown if you are the highest bidder. You are essentially paying each time a person clicks on your link. If you don’t pay, the link goes to someone else like Expedia or Booking.com, who can afford to pay the price. I’m not sure many hoteliers will catch the fact that the direct link feature is not always there and those with deepest pockets will win.

This is the first of a four-part series on Trip Advisor Connect brought to you by Social Energizer, Independent Hotel & Lodging Marketing and Operations Integration Advisors. There’s a lot to navigate in today’s online hotel and lodging world, let us help you plan your course!

Give us a call today for a free consultation!


The Influence of Mobile Purchasing on Travel

The infographic below summarizes the behavior of mobile purchasing on Travel based on mobile users in the UK. This demonstrates why lodging managers should be checking to see how their websites and online booking engines appear on mobile devices -particularly tablets.

Here are the key findings on mobile travel purchases from Tnooz.

“The study also shows how key pricing is, with price comparison sites coming top in mobile travel activity and a quarter saying they make a purchase based on price.

Brand preference and price were given as the top two reasons for making a purchase with a third saying they already had a brand in mind.

More details are handily displayed in the infographic below but here are a few highlights:

  • Almost half of mobile travel searchers make a purchase with about a third completing it on their mobile device
  • 31% say they plan to purchase within a day while 60% say within a month or longer
  • Most mobile travel searches are conducted for flights (81%) followed by hotels (67%)
  • 55% of travel searchers say they are researching a planned purchase
  • More mobile travel research is conducted while at home – 83% for tablets and 46% for smartphones”

Mobile Infographic for travel

Nielsen surveyed 1,500 smartphone and tablet users for the study as well as drawing intelligence from its Smartphone Analytics Panel of 6000 Apple and Android users.

And just for fun, I’ll add this infographic in from last fall on mobile purchases within the US  from Business Wire.

Infographic for mobile travel purchases

New Trip Advisor Blackmail Tool for Lodging Managers

Real help for Hotel Reputation Management, Trip Advisor Blackmail Tool for Lodging, Hotels, Inns and B&Bs

Ever have a guest tell you that if you don’t do ‘x, y or z’ that they will write a bad review about you or your property? Now there is help for hoteliers, it’s the Trip Advisor Blackmail Tool for lodging owners and managers! While helping small hotels manage their online reviews, this question has been asked more than once during Social Energizer’s lodging-specific social media coaching sessions. Trip Advisor is finally addressing these concerns of property owners by providing a proactive means of reporting them –smart idea! We applaud Trip Advisor for taking action on what can easily be the downside of living in this review dependent world.

The power of Trip Advisor is obvious. Travelers now read on online reviews 81% of the time while planning travel. This trend is growing every day. With Facebook now entering the travel review arena, this percentage is likely to increase even more.

Here is what Trip Advisor had to say about their new tool, “We hear from owners that potential “blackmail” –when a guest threatens to write a negative review unless a demand for a refund, upgrade, or other request is met – is an occasional concern. We now have a way for you to proactively report these threats more easily, before a corresponding review is potentially submitted. Immediate reporting of blackmail threats can supplement our investigative procedure and help us keep blackmail reviews from ever reaching the site.

Trip Advisor Support Page

Trip Advisor says that blackmail threats are taken seriously and in some countries may be illegal. The process for reporting a potential blackmail threat is to log in to your property’s Management Center. Go to “Manage your reviews” and click on the link under “Dispute a review”. Use the drop down where it says, “Please tell us what the issue is:” and select “Report blackmail”. This brings up a form that allows you to provide the following: Reviewers Name (potential blackmailer), Email, Origin, Stay dates (month & year), and a Comment with as many details as possible about the incident.

The trick is to report this as soon as the blackmail type remarks are made. Be very proactive. That way Trip Advisor will have it on file and it will match to any subsequent review before it is posted online. Trip Advisor may follow up with you for further information, so you should keep all documentation and notes in regard to the incident.

If a review is posted before you can report it, then the procedure is a little different, and likely may be less successful. Instead of selecting “Report Blackmail” from the drop down, you will need to select “Report a problem with a review” and “Review is Suspicious” as the problem, add the details to the “Other” section.

In neither case, does Trip Advisor guarantee a removal of the review. They put them under review, with the more proactive “report blackmail” claim having more credibility. While under review, they suggest you post a response using their tips and videos for guidance.

I found this a bit ominous. “Please note: property managers who abuse this new tool will be penalized.” It’s Trip Advisors’ warning at the bottom of their policy page, but I wonder what penalty could be worse than getting a poor, undeserved review? Nevermind, I really don’t want to find out. Do you?

Source: Trip Advisor