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6 Hotel Website Tips to Help You Convert Traffic Like an OTA

by
Hotel Tech Report
2 hours ago

Are you trying to improve your website’s conversion rate and get more direct bookings? It can be frustrating to know that the majority - up to 99% - of people who look at your website end up booking on expensive third-party channels, while most guests do visit your website at some point during the booking process. Imagine the massive impact on your business if you could increase your conversion rate by just 1%. If your average booking is $1,000 and your website gets 20,000 visitors per month, a 1% boost in conversion would yield $200,000 per month of incremental revenue! But achieving a higher conversion rate on your website isn’t a pipe dream; it’s achievable when you make the booking process as smooth and easy as possible. In this article, we’ll share some actionable tips that will turn your website into a conversion machine and highlight how a next generation payment and booking platform like Selfbook can dramatically improve conversion on your hotel website.  

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Top Hotel Management Software in 2022

by
Hotel Tech Report
2 hours ago

During the HotelTechAwards, hoteliers from the world's leading hotel companies review the top tech products used at their hotels to increase operating efficiency, drive revenue, and improve the guest experience. This data is used to identify the best hotel tech products and organizations.

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5 Techniques to Collect More Feedback and Reviews from Your Guests

by
Andrew Gogus
2 hours ago

With most of the world population having access to the internet, it has widely changed how consumers shop for virtually everything. Being able to surf the web and find out information about products/services, has become the common practice before taking any kind of action. This research helps the consumers feel comfortable and confident in the decision they are about to make. The fact is, 90% of consumers read online reviews before choosing a business and 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.   Online presence and reputation are among the key factors in providing a constant revenue stream for your property. Online reviews have greatly increased in power while shaping a consumer’s behavior. They provide credibility to the hotel and help the guests make their decisions easier. The more reviews, the better - even the not-so-positive ones because it will give you a definite signal of what needs to be done in order to enhance your guest’s experience. This is one of the reasons that reviews are not only important to guests but to hoteliers. Sometimes it is hard to notice the little mistakes or improvements that need to be done, and that's why when a guest leaves a review on how the hotel can better itself, this can only be beneficial. Good reviews are important to hoteliers also because they provide free marketing. More reviews will boost your online visibility and will help your accommodation show up on higher rankings. That is why you should focus on collecting as many reviews as you can from your guests. This will help keep your reviews up-to-date and establish a deeper sense of trust.  In this article, you will find the latest techniques and some traditional methods to collect reviews from your guests.   Train Your Staff to Interact with Guests No matter how digital the world gets, real-life personal relationships are still and will always be the strongest form of bond between any two people. Train your staff in guest relationships and tell them not to be shy to interact with guests. At the end of the day, this is the hospitality industry. The most important factor is timing - do not try to engage with the guests if they are rushing, busy with something else, or just seem like they’re in a bad mood. The guest relationship is a very important factor especially in the hospitality industry, increasing your positive guest experience will boost your chances of them leaving a review.   Call or Text Guests During Their Stay Just to Check In Carrying out calls to your guests is an important part of your guest’s experience and in collecting more feedback and reviews. Implementing a system where your staff call the guests during their stay and check if everything is ok and if there is anything they need, will make them feel important and will show that you care about them. Along with in-stay calls, placing a follow-up call after the guest has left your property, to reaffirm that everything was satisfactory during their stay, is a good strategy to build your guest relationships and collect additional reviews.   Leverage Low Tech Comment Cards Sometimes old school tactics can be effective, but they are also more time-consuming and costly. Before the internet, this was one of the best ways to get honest feedback from your guests. Trying to design creative and funny cards that will encourage your guests to leave their feedback online and place them in strategic places at your property. You want your cards to be seen after all.   Master Automated Email Marketing Although some people may undervalue the power of emails, it is still the online communication channel that produces the highest ROI and having the right hotel CRM is critical. This is why it is very important for you to have your guests’ email addresses (with their permission of course) and to stay in contact even after they have stayed at your property. Emails save time, money, and are convenient for both the sender and receiver. This is the most efficient way to collect the most reviews. With a guest relationship management product, like the one HotelRunner offers, you can keep in touch with your guests 24/7 and provide immediate solutions to their problems and also send automated emails to your guests post-booking, pre-arrival, in-house, and post-stay. Thus, you can improve the guest experience and ask them to review your property after their stay.   Tap Software with Direct Integrations to Popular Platforms like Google Google is the leading metasearch engine, and with the most searches being done on their website, it is crucial your property has a positive presence. Review count and quality will help your accommodation’s visibility and allow it to show up on a higher ranking. Especially if guests are searching for local hotels, reviews will boost your property’s visibility so it shows up over others. Also, when potential guests search for your hotel on Google or Google Maps, having positive reviews and a high star rating will increase their chance of choosing your property. You can easily increase the revenues of your property by converting all the positive comments and ratings you have collected over time into bookings. The only thing you need for this is an integration that allows you to receive direct bookings via Google and Google Maps. With Google Hotel Ads integration, which you can start with a single click via HotelRunner, you can turn lookers who already have a good impression of your property into bookers.   Using these techniques and collecting more reviews will increase the quality and credibility of your property. As mentioned, not all negative reviews are bad too. It's important to keep an open mind, and understand where your guests are coming from. Learning, understanding, and improving on the negative will greatly improve your future guests’ experience. The key is to highlight your positive guest experiences while taking action on the negative feedback, which will eventually maximize revenue opportunities.  

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Get Smart: Are You Running an Intelligent Hotel?

by
Sean Beardmore
2 hours ago

There’s no question that, in these unprecedented times, hotels are facing serious challenges. With the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic impacting so much in the hospitality sector – and these effects varying from season to season and, even, month to month – hoteliers are trying to fulfill the needs and desires of loyal and new guests like never before. To remain open and build the seeds of resurgence for when the coronavirus has receded and, mercifully, the pandemic is behind us, owners are coming to the realisation their hotels must become more intelligently-run enterprises. They need to become hotels run as efficiently and effectively as possible – they need to become ‘intelligent hotels’. But what does this mean in practice? What does an intelligent hotel look like? It comes down to the systems implemented and maintained, on a daily basis. It’s about trying to maximise profit by ensuring a hotel offers direct room-booking and that marketing activity and revenue management blend and work together seamlessly – and then using this symbiotic relationship to increase the revenue-per-available room (RevPar) to drive up bottom-line revenue.   Intelligent Advertising So, if you’re seeking to run your hotel more intelligently, where to start? Well, advertising the property and its available rooms in the smartest way possible, direct to potential guests via pay-per-click (PPC) Google Ads, isn’t a bad place to start. This is because it would ensure your available rooms are advertised not just when they become available, but also to exactly the kind of people most likely to book them. Indeed, to run their property ‘intelligently’, then, a hotelier may well seek out top-of-the-range ‘intelligent ads’ software to complement and enhance their PPC activity. Such a solution would be designed to exploit the hotel’s data insights, in order to drive and improve Google Ads performance, by targeting the most likely bookers and so, in turn, maximise room reservations and increase additional spend on services and amenities. Now, if this kind of digital marketing sounds state-of-the-art, that’s because it is. ‘Intelligent ads’ software solutions like this are at the sharp end of room advertising, ensuring hoteliers can reap the rewards of the latest integrated marketing techniques and digital technology. They seek to drive up revenues at a time when the industry’s facing great instability; when hoteliers are seeking certainties to remain competitive, progress and look to the future with confidence instead of mere hope. ‘Intelligent ads’ solutions tend to be automated; you can set them up as you want and leave them to do their thing – confident they’ll get on and do exactly what they should. For instance, once you’ve set the objectives and the spending limits for your PPC campaigns, you can trust the module to run the campaigns without you having to step in, check on or oversee anything. The software doesn’t just target the right audience but also works out the most profitable target keywords, uses them in ad campaigns and – by scouring past market data drawn from previous campaigns – recommends new keywords for use.   A Great Guest Management Platform All that notwithstanding, any ‘intelligent ads’ solution will be enhanced if it’s capable of connecting and interacting with an outstanding guest management system (GMS). Why? Because if the software is fully integrated with a GMS, it means a hotel owner can maximise their data to convert exactly the guests they desire into bookers. So, what does such a comprehensive management system look like? Well, as a fully-GDPR-compliant, all-in-one platform, it will deliver full guest-data-intelligence to hotel owners. It will be capable, too, of interacting with practically any property management system (PMS) and social media platform to enhance its analysing, quantifying, segmenting and predicting of loyal guest behaviour. In essence, then, an ‘intelligently run’ hotel would be making use of a management system that’s really a GMS/ CRM-plus; being able to harness its AI functionality to not just collate guest data but analyse details of guests’ social attributes, stay behaviour and historical spend. In turn, this would provide a hotelier with invaluable knowledge of their core customers, ensuring the platform can aid intelligent-ads in reaching these customers with pertinent, personalised content and offers – thereby converting them into bookers precisely as and when needed. Moreover, from its single, central dashboard an ‘intelligent’ GMS of this kind would take control of messaging. It would manage marketing emails and social media messages to all the hotel’s followers, as well as analyse these followers. It would create and send out personalised surveys to all or specific guests – before, during and after their stays. Plus, it would enable hoteliers to analyse guest reviews and respond to these reviews – not just on social media accounts/ platforms but also on much-used hotel review sites – thus, making sure they can fully manage their hotel’s online reputation.   A Brilliant Booking Engine Finally, to operate as an ‘intelligent hotel’, a property has to be backed up not just by an outstanding GMS and be able to fire off intelligent ads, but also exploit the advantages offered by a brilliant booking engine. Why? Because a guest’s experience with a hotel doesn’t begin when they walk through the front door and stroll through the lobby to the front desk; it starts far earlier. A guest experience begins as soon as they start to book a room at the hotel – it starts with their experience of that hotel’s booking engine. No hotel can be run intelligently unless it’s using a top-of-the-range booking engine. Such a booking software solution, then, delivers exactly what hotel owners require. Offering exceptional tools and features, it can be customised to fit a hotel’s brand needs. A fully-functional booking engine like this ought, too, to be fast-operating and easy-to-use; designed to provide a consistent experience on hotel websites that appeases customers and makes them far more likely to book direct rather than through an OTA (without redirections or pop-ups). It’s all about building loyalty among guests and, therefore, maximising conversions. Moreover, a state-of-the-art booking engine will enable customers to compare room prices with those offered by online travel agents (OTAs) – when the room price available is cheaper than those offered by OTAs. Plus, being able to integrate with hotel marketing/ management platforms, it should help hoteliers better understand and engage their guests, so they can gain insights to improve overall guest experiences, drive up ancillary revenues and boost direct booking revenues.   Conclusion Without doubt, the world – and, by extension, the hospitality sector – is going through unprecedented changes. Yet, with or without the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re living in the digital age and, with that, comes rapid advancements and opportunities. For hoteliers, that means taking full advantage of the chance to deliver and increase direct hotel bookings and boost revenues, thanks to integrated hotel management platforms, intelligent marketing/ ad campaigns and customisable booking engines. Should they not do so, hotel owners will lose ground to rivals in these uncompromising, unpredictable times. Put simply, every hotelier should join and fully prosper from today’s digital age – by making their hotel an intelligent hotel.  

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What Does SMERF Stand for in the Hotel Industry?

by
Hotel Tech Report
2 hours ago

Sorry to disappoint, but little blue cartoon characters aren’t the stars of this article - hotel sales manager tactics are. SMERF (or the SMERF market) has a totally different meaning in a hospitality context - one that we’ll explore in the next few paragraphs. Trying to diversify your business mix? Looking to fill some rooms in the off-season? By the end of this article, you’ll have gained a thorough understanding of SMERF in the hospitality industry, what benefits SMERF business can bring to your hotel, and how your hotel can attract SMERF guests and functions.   What is SMERF (Social, Military, Educational, Religious, Fraternal)? Okay, let’s break down that acronym. SMERF stands for Social, Military, Educational, Religious, and Fraternal groups. Groups related to sports, entertainment, and recreation, like high school sports teams, fall into this category too. Common SMERF events include weddings, family reunions, religious seminars, and meetings for organizations like the Elks or Rotary Club.  Event planners at hotels like Marriott and Hilton near convention centers and CVBs (convention & visitors bureau) understand the power of SMERF business as much as anyone. These groups book event space, room blocks, and F&B like corporate groups do, but there are some key differences. Unlike corporate group travelers, SMERF guests generally foot their own bill (rather than charging the company credit card). However, the SMERF segment is known to be more price-sensitive than corporate travelers since guests pay out of pocket for their expenses. Another notable characteristic of SMERF is because these guests aren’t traveling or booking event space for business functions, SMERF bookings often fall outside normal working hours - either at night, on weekends, or over holiday periods.   Key Advantages of SMERF You might be wondering why to focus on SMERF meetings if guests are more price-conscious than your average high-rolling business traveler. Even if SMERF bookings aren’t going to fill your penthouse suites, this segment does present several compelling benefits.  Offering incentives to this market segment can be a great way to fill up lower tiered rooms and increase occupancy (even ADR on unsold rooms) at your property: Fill need periods outside of working hours: Since SMERF events typically happen outside of work hours, this segment can be a perfect complement to a hotel’s existing corporate business. Does your hotel restaurant fill up during the lunch period but sit empty in the evenings? Is your RevPAR generally lower on weekend nights? SMERF can help you fill these gaps with events held on nights and weekends. Fill off-season periods: In addition to booking outside of working hours, SMERF groups can also drive business during your off-season. Seeing as SMERF is a more price-sensitive segment, these groups are looking for the best deal. With students paying out of pocket, the local Model UN team probably won’t want to hold their summit on the busiest, most expensive weekend of the year. Instead, they’ll choose a less expensive date - which might be exactly when you need a little boost in occupancy. Reliable group segment: SMERF is a reliable segment in all market conditions. Travel and economic trends can vary from year to year, and city-wide conventions can come and go, but the Smith clan is still going to hold their annual family reunion and the local chess club is still going to host their yearly tournament. Weddings, in particular, are more “recession-proof” than business functions; when companies tighten their belts or scale down conferences, couples still go all-out on the big day with extravagant F&B, A/V, and decor.. Size, budgets, and needs vary: Although SMERF groups have many similar characteristics, no SMERF group is the same. They come in all sizes and with a vast variety of needs and budgets. Therefore, hotels of all sizes and price ranges can target SMERF groups. Even if your hotel has limited F&B offerings or basic event space, it might be perfect for a SMERF group. With these benefits, SMERF can be a strategic way to fill need periods and lock in repeat events that happen year after year.   How Can Your Hotel Attract More SMERF Business? The first step to launching a SMERF strategy is to understand your existing SMERF business. What kind of SMERF groups are booking your hotel already? What can you do to encourage repeat bookings from the same groups? Nurturing the relationships you already have is a great way to secure future bookings and to help you understand what drew those groups to your hotel in the first place. This knowledge will help you effectively market your property to new groups. Next, you can think about new leads to go after. Are there any local groups similar to groups who have stayed with you in the past? For example, if you’ve developed a strong relationship with a local chess club, maybe the local bridge club would be a good lead to investigate. Besides reaching out to organizations, clubs, or teams directly, you can sponsor or attend trade shows or work with the local destination marketing organization or convention and visitors bureau to spread the word about your hotel.  As you start the prospecting process, remember that your SMERF contacts are unlikely to be professional meeting planners; they’re often volunteering their time, and maybe they’ve never booked a room block or signed a BEO before. Taking a little extra time to explain the process, answer questions, and offer advice can go a long way in these relationships. Although, from a numbers perspective, SMERF events might seem like they’re less important than a major corporate event, these events can be incredibly important to the attendees. SMERF guests will be delighted to see the hotel staff treating their event with the same level of care and attention as any Fortune 500 company’s event. And any extras you can throw in, like free airport pickups or an upgrade for a guest of honor will help you secure repeat business.  There’s no perfect recipe to success with SMERF, so it’s crucial to learn as you go. After each event, make sure to ask for feedback from guests and employees to determine what you did right and where you can improve. Do you have any questions about SMERF? Let us know!

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How Hotel Tech Can Help with Labor Shortages

by
Sarah Duguay
2 hours ago

As travel opens up, so comes a surge of travel. Pent-up desire for holidays has resulted in what some are calling ‘revenge travel.’ After some hesitation, hoteliers are reporting more demand than ever since the beginning of the pandemic. This has resulted in a challenging scenario. Before COVID-19, the hospitality industry was no stranger to employee retention and acquisition issues. But suddenly, faced with low bookings, many hotels had to make the difficult decision to lay off staff. Fast forward to today, some hotels have been forced to turn away guests because of even greater staff shortages than before. While theories abound about shortages, accompanied by HR strategies to attract new hotel employees, we’re here to remind you to take a deep breath because hotel tech is here to help! Tried and true, existing hotel tech can help your hotel with labor shortages by making operations more efficient and less time-consuming while improving the guest experience.   PMS Features and Integrations Alleviate Hotel Labor Shortages According to Revinate, 95% of hoteliers are facing a staff shortage while occupancy is experiencing record highs. One hotel in their report said their shortage has them operating with only 70-75% of their staffing levels. This is the norm, not the outlier, in today’s market. But, as many independent hotels learned during the pandemic, those with a cloud-based property management system (PMS) already have a leg-up on their ability to streamline operations and maximize staff. Because, as the name implies, cloud-based PMS exist in the ‘cloud’ (they run online), operators can manage their hotels from anywhere at any time. Hotel managers no longer need to drop everything and dash back to the hotel to deal with accounting issues or make rate changes. Front-desk duties, such as group management and availability calendars, or back-office tasks, like rate management and financials, are all at your fingertips, wherever you are.   Automation. Nothing streamlines operations like automated systems! At the heart of operations, the PMS automatically coordinates reservations, inventory and availability, housekeeping, and reporting, centralizing data to streamline front- and back-office tasks. For example, instead of manually sending routine emails to guests, set up and send templated emails from your PMS automatically based on defined triggers for booking confirmation, pre-arrival, check-in and post-stay communications, waitlists, group bookings, rental agreements, and more.  A cloud PMS is easily integrated with your other hotel systems — including payment gateways, OTAs, point-of-sale systems, locking systems, CRMs, and revenue management software, etc. — to automatically share relevant reservation data with those systems so that staff don’t have to manually re-enter information into multiple systems. System integration with your PMS at the core is an important part of automating processes and maximizing efficiency.   Self Check-in: Let guests jump the queue with online registration and self check-ins — saving you time and resources in the process. Typically, hotel guest check-ins — with forms to sign and policies to review — take around five minutes per guest and often result in queues, occupying your front desk staff and frustrating guests. By moving this process online, all agreements, waivers, screening, and guest information collection is completed online by your guests in advance of arriving at the hotel, improving the guest experience by not having to wait in a physical queue, while simultaneously saving staff a lot of time! With automated email or SMS communications, payment gateway and mobile key integration, the entire check-in process can be automated.   Rate Management: Flexible rate management tools make monitoring and adjusting pricing a cinch, from creating group discounts and package rates to instant overrides. Yield management functionality allows you to automatically adjust prices based on predetermined occupancy rules — talk about a time saver! If you haven’t already added a commission-free online booking engine (OBE) to your property’s website, this is your first order of business. Integrated with the PMS, reservations made by guests using the OBE are automatically updated in the PMS, and live rates and availability are always displayed online. Not only will you save valuable employee time from taking reservations by phone and email but today’s guests expect (and many even prefer) to book online. While OTAs are a great way for guests to find you and book online, why not offer your own online bookings and save on commissions? Speaking of OTAs, you’ll also save time by integrating your OTA channels or channel manager with your PMS to synchronize live inventory, rates and availability across channels, instead of managing each separately. Plus, all reservations coming through your channel partners are automatically updated in your PMS so no matter where guests book, they always have access to up-to-date availability. Integrating your PMS with your online distribution channels is a must for maximizing time and preventing overbooking.    Housekeeping reports: While a PMS cannot perform housekeeping duties, it can make housekeeping processes more efficient, which is essential with a lean staff. With a mobile housekeeping report, staff can check their housekeeping schedule using their own mobile phones, to see which rooms are vacated and ready to be cleaned and to mark rooms as clean as they go, adding housekeeping notes and maintenance alarms as required. The front desk is kept in the loop in real time with the same system. Furthermore, checklists for each room keep staff on track to ensure nothing is overlooked — because as you know, when it comes to cleanliness, guest standards are higher than ever before due to the pandemic.   Mobile keys: Keyless entry is an elegant accompaniment to online registrations and check-ins. While it may seem small, keyless entry technology removes the headache of keys altogether, whether it’s actual keys or cards. No more sanitizing, organizing, re-setting, or distributing. With keyless entry system integration with your PMS, guests can simply unlock their room door with their mobile device. Along with online check-ins, keyless entry integration allows guests to bypass the front desk altogether! Imagine no guest lineups at the designated check-in time and no key drop-offs at check-out. Did we just hear a sigh of relief?   Save time, resources, and money by employing smart room technologies. Allowing guests to adjust room temperature and lighting with their phones puts comfort into the palm of their hands. Better still, IoT offers the ultimate in personalization with room light levels that adjust with the time of day, and keeps the room temperature at exactly the right level — automatically. This kind of efficiency decreases demand on housekeeping and maintenance teams and helps with your sustainability initiatives.    Chatbots: Hotel Chatbots are an excellent way to assist your online guests 24/7 without any extra effort from staff. Integrated with your hotel's website and/or within your guest messaging app, an AI or rules-based chatbot can assist guests with booking, requests, FAQs, upsells, and local recommendations. Younger generations are the most comfortable seeking help from chatbots, with many guests preferring to search for answers this way than connecting with a real human — which frees up your human employees for in-person help.   Robot room service: A couple of years ago, robot room service was exclusively seen as a novelty service to delight guests. But in the age of COVID-19, it’s obvious to see the practical utility of employing robots by reducing human contact (and thus germs) and by reducing the need for bellhops. Because labor shortage is a trend that existed even before the pandemic hit, perhaps investing in robot room service is no longer pie in the sky. Isn’t technology an amazing thing? Instead of providing a lack of care or impersonal service (a common fear about using technology), today’s hotel tech provides hoteliers with a way to upgrade the guest experience even in the face of decreased staffing. If your property does not have one already, a robust and innovative cloud PMS like WebRezPro can set you on the path toward hospitality excellence and higher revenue, not to mention less stress.  

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Google's Free Hotel Booking Links: Here's What You Need to Know

by
Hotel Tech Report
2 hours ago

Wondering how to get more direct bookings without a massive advertising budget? Google recently announced that hoteliers can get free links in their hotel metasearch results. Perhaps this is the first time you’ve heard about this free listing program, or maybe you’re looking for more information on the benefits and risks.  In this article, we’ll explain exactly what Google’s free hotel booking links mean, how you can set them up, and what potential advantages and disadvantages the program brings. Millions of guests begin their travel research by seeking out the best rate via Google search and free booking link integration partners are going to be featured front and center in this new feature to drive more business through their direct channel without needing to pay for Google ads.  By the end of this article, you’ll know how to proceed, whether or not you’ve used Google Hotel Ads in the past.   What are Google’s Free Hotel Booking Links? Let’s take a step back and explain Google Hotel Ads, the official name for Google’s metasearch product. When you search for a specific hotel on Google, you’ll see results that show rates and availability, similar to what you would see on another price comparison site like Kayak or Trivago. These results pull in rates and availability for the given hotel from online travel agencies like Booking.com and Expedia, plus the hotel’s own website might appear. These results are Google Hotel Ads, with the exception of free hotel booking links, which we’ll explain in a moment.     In the metasearch module, which is where you can see the rates and availability from the various sites, you can plug in dates and the number of guests to get accurate pricing and availability.     So how do the OTAs appear in these results? How is the order of sites determined? The simple answer is that the OTAs pay to play in Google’s metasearch results. Expedia and Booking.com spend billions of dollars each year bidding on placement in these results by bidding on the best position and paying a cost per click, which is usually between $1 and $3. For many small, independent hoteliers, metasearch was an expensive marketing avenue, and some hotels opted to skip it because they couldn’t compete with the OTAs’ deep pockets. However, that all changed when Google announced their free booking links program in March 2021, which gave hoteliers a chance to participate in metasearch without the ad spend requirement. Now, hoteliers can include a link to their direct booking engine in the Google metasearch results with no cost per click. The free links usually show below the paid OTA links, so shoppers might need to click “View more rates” to see them, but sometimes they do appear in the top four links.     How Can You Take Advantage of Google’s Free Hotel Booking Links? Google is quickly becoming a powerful player in the online travel marketplace. For hotels who participate in metasearch, it’s not uncommon for Google to make up 90% of their metasearch production, surpassing the production of other sites like Tripadvisor and Trivago. There’s no denying that Google is a huge source of traffic, so you’re probably wondering how you can set up free hotel booking links for your hotel. The good news is that configuring your free hotel booking links is pretty straightforward when you use one of Google’s preferred connectivity vendors. First, you need to ensure that you have claimed and verified your hotel’s Google My Business listing. The Google My Business listing is the same as your Google Maps listing. You can easily claim the listing online on business.google.com. If you need to verify the listing, you will likely need to complete a verification process over the phone or by verifying receipt of a postcard that Google sends to your property’s address.     Once you’ve claimed and verified your GMB listing, then you can work with your connectivity vendor (your channel manager or property management system) to link your hotel’s rates and availability with Google. Google has partnered with dozens of systems, like Sabre, Siteminder, and protel, and the complete list is available here. Your specific software will have their own connection process, but it’s usually quick and easy. After you’ve completed the connection, you will be able to see your rates and availability in Google’s metasearch results - no ad campaign needed. Do you already use Google Hotel Ads? Then you can also take advantage of the free booking links. Google allows hotels to run both paid ads and free booking links, so you can double your exposure in the results. You’ll only pay for clicks on your ad link, while clicks on the free booking link are totally free.   Benefits of Using Free Hotel Booking Links on Google Hotels that leverage Google’s free booking links can realize several key benefits: more visibility to potential guests, more direct bookings, and potentially lower marketing costs. It’s no secret that a lot of travelers end up on Google at some point in their travel booking process. You can think of Google as another shelf where you can showcase your product, just as Booking.com, Expedia, and Tripadvisor serve the same purpose. By maintaining a presence on Google, you can ensure your hotel is visible to all those potential guests who search for your local area or your hotel. Another compelling benefit of using Google’s free booking links is that you can better compete with the big OTAs. Google’s search results puts your hotel’s direct site on a relatively equal playing field as the Booking.coms and Expedias of the world. Although you probably won’t convert all your OTA guests to direct guests overnight, it’s likely that some guests will choose to book direct if your rates are equal (or better) that OTA rates and your direct site is just a click away. Finally, if you already spend on Google Hotel Ads, or if you use other cost-per-click tools like Expedia’s TravelAds or Tripadvisor’s Sponsored Placement, then you might be able to scale down those paid programs if you see strong performance from Google’s free booking links. Finding the right balance between ad platforms can help you decrease your marketing spend while generating more direct bookings.   Considerations of Google’s Free Hotel Booking Links Although there are plenty of reasons to use Google’s free hotel booking links, it’s not a perfect program. Some potential downsides include the requirement to use one of Google’s preferred connectivity vendors, the lack of control over your placement and ad strategy, and implications of out-of-parity rates. While it makes sense why Google would limit their hotel connections to channel managers that they’ve vetted, so they can scale the program more efficiently, this requirement leaves hoteliers out of options if you don’t use one of their preferred vendors or if you don’t use any channel manager at all. On the flip side, if you’ve been considering switching to a new channel manager, assessing their Google connection options might help your decision. Although we recognize the huge value of the free booking links, it’s worth noting that hoteliers have no control over the visibility that these links receive. Unlike Google’s paid Hotel Ads, which allow you to adjust bids for specific travel dates, you’ll have no control or insight into your links’ performance. If you want to push visibility during need periods, you don’t have any levers to pull to make your free booking links appear in results more often or higher in the ranking. Finally, another potential downside of using Google’s free booking links is the can make out-of-parity rates more obvious. We all know that some OTAs are notorious for undercutting your direct rates, and nothing is more frustrating that seeing your OTA rates and direct rates side-by-side when your own website is more expensive. Sometimes it can be nearly impossible to get in touch with the OTA or wholesaler that is undercutting, and during any periods when your direct site is not in parity, you could actually lose share of direct bookings. But all things considered, Google’s free hotel booking links are a great option for hoteliers who want to increase visibility on Google and increase direct booking volume. Since the setup process is relatively easy, and the program doesn’t cost anything, the benefits can outweigh the potential downsides of this new marketing channel.

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Apple Pay is Finally Here for Hotels and It’s Glorious

by
Hotel Tech Report
2 hours ago

Imagine a world where booking a hotel is as quick and painless as ordering from your favorite food delivery app or buying something on Amazon: just a few taps, and you’re done. It sounds futuristic, but with Selfbook and Apple Pay - hotels can finally deliver a seamless hotel booking experience.  Selfbook recently announced that it closed its $25M Series A led by Tiger Global Management to accelerate it’s vision for the future of hotel payments. Since 2014 more than half of online purchases have been made on mobile devices, and we’ve already seen mobile-friendly payment methods like Shop Pay yield staggering four-fold increases in checkout speed and conversion increases of up to 1.91x. Since Apple has a 15% share of the mobile device market (55% in the U.S.), Apple Pay is the preferred payment method for a sizable group of your potential guests. In this article, we’ll explain what hoteliers need to know about Apple Pay and how it can enable better (and more profitable) booking experiences. We’ll walk through examples of ecommerce and hospitality brands that have found success with the platform then introduce you to Selfbook’s booking and payment solution which provides turnkey Apple Pay booking compatibility. We’ll also highlight why innovative hoteliers like you need to offer Apple Pay if you want to boost conversion and compete with the OTAs.   Apple’s Ambitions in Hospitality: Wallet and Payments in Focus Airlines like United and Southwest have embraced Apple Pay and Apple Wallet to power the entire customer journey from booking to boarding. When shopping for flights on a mobile device, you can pay for your airfare with Apple Pay, and after you check in, your boarding pass can appear in your Apple Wallet. There’s no need to type in a credit card number or print a boarding pass; the payment and check-in process takes just a few taps. For a hotel guest, the booking process should be just as effortless. While Apple recently announced that their iOS 15 update will allow hotel guests to store digital room keys in their Apple Wallets, most hoteliers aren’t yet able to take advantage of Apple’s most promising feature: Apple Pay in the online booking process. Hotel websites should accept Apple Pay then store a digital room key on guest devices to facilitate a smooth check-in.   Apple Pay is a ‘No Brainer’ for Hotels The benefits of Apple Pay are obvious when looking at ecommerce data, and you’ll definitely want your hotel to realize these benefits too. eCommerce businesses that implement Apple Pay see increased average order value, decreased chargebacks, and increased conversion rates just by adding this mobile-friendly payment method.  Average order volume tends to increase by as much as 5 to 10% at ecommerce businesses that allow customers to pay with Apple Pay, so you can expect your average booking value to grow if guests can use Apple Pay in your website’s booking engine. Apple Pay makes the entire purchase process more convenient, so fewer shoppers abandon their carts midway through the checkout flow. Apple Pay also adds a level of trust, so customers find your website more credible and feel comfortable making larger purchases. eCommerce businesses receive fewer chargebacks from Apple Pay customers than from customers who pay with traditional credit cards because Apple Pay is a more secure payment method. Apple Wallet houses credit card information in the form of digital cards that can only be added through a direct link from the card issuer, so the risk of fraud is lower than a standard credit card form, in which anyone can type in any credit card number. Since Apple Pay makes the checkout flow faster, more convenient, and safer, it makes sense that eCommerce businesses notice a conversion increase after adding Apple Pay as a payment method. Without Apple Pay, customers must enter their credit card number, expiration date, CVV, and billing address manually, which adds friction (and perhaps an entire extra minute) to the checkout flow. When you remove these steps, the purchase process becomes easier, so customers are more likely to complete their purchase.   Bring Apple Pay to Your Hotel with Selfbook By now you’re probably wondering how to bring Apple Pay to your property, and, luckily, the answer is simple. Selfbook offers a quick and easy way to elevate your online booking experience by accepting Apple Pay. Selfbook’s platform also enables hotels to accept other popular digital wallets like Google Pay and PayPal. The Selfbook team has productized their expertise in ushering shoppers down the booking funnel, so they can help your hotel’s website compete with the OTA giants.  "With Selfbook's booking engine and payment solution, our guests have the sensation of ease and convenience instantly," says Selfbook client and General Manager of Le Pigalle Paris Xavier Hue.  "With three or four clicks, their booking is confirmed and paid by Apple Pay, Google Pay or any credit card.  I highly recommend Selfbook to anyone looking to improve the guest experience on their website." The best part -- Selfbook is completely free for hoteliers to use. The company makes their money on credit card processing fees, rather than any sort of commission or subscription model, meaning there’s no incremental cost for hoteliers. With so much potential upside, bringing Apple Pay to your hotel is a no brainer.   This content was created collaboratively by Selfbook and Hotel Tech Report.