Digital Assets for Lodging – Keeping Your Guest Data Forever

Understanding Digital Assets for Lodging

Lodging professionals are often frustrated when shopping for new Hotel Property Management Systems (PMS). Vetting the many systems can be very trying, but working through a checklist as described in this earlier blog can help you find the right system for your properties’ needs.

Is it a plot against you or merely limitations in technology? Well, it can be a mix of both.Hotel PMS puzzle

Technology Limitations

It wasn’t too long ago that a 1 Mb photo was unheard of except in high-end brand settings like for advertising and printing. Now it’s commonplace. Data requirements are the same. Lots of data equals lots of storage space and in the past saving it all has been very costly. The good news is that with today’s technology it is getting more affordable and easier to manage.

But it could also be a plot…

Many PMS companies deliberately randomize the files on export, so data is virtually unusable. Why would they do that, you ask? To keep you at their mercy! It acts as a hindrance for clients that may not be entirely happy with their PMS technology partner. It’s a black hat method that works on a majority of their more complacent, non-technological customers.

Due diligence

Before you buy or subscribe to any system, do some due diligence and ask any potential new PMS providers how they export all info (be specific about what fields you need and want to export). Ask them to demonstrate how you can do the export and then examine the files after export. When opened (usually in Excel via .csv file) do the records all align in proper rows and columns? If not, call them on it. Then find out if they can import ‘everything’.

Some Caveats

It is common to have ‘guest profile’ info export into one file and ‘past reservation’ info export into a different file. And even if you want ALL your info, realize that due to PCI compliance, for example, there may be some reasons that info is not ALL transferred (like credit card numbers). Many good PMS vendors will import guest profiles, but draw the line at importing ALL reservation data. It’s a COST versus NEED dilemma. Do you really need ALL the info? Or would it just be a ‘nice to have’ kind of thing? If you insist, then are you willing to pay for it?

No matter which PMS company you choose, realize that moving is not an easy or inexpensive process. Being a PMS hopper will not help your bottom line. Take your time, talk to professionals and do your due diligence so you end up with a PMS and a technology partner that helps your business thrive for years to come.

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.