Well done: your hotel's direct marketing plan is driving more traffic to your website than ever before. Your hard work has paid off and you should actually be very proud of building a healthy direct channel. But how are your website conversion rates? Next-level hotel marketing mastery requires both demand generation skills and an ability to convert that demand into bookings. You can’t just generate the demand at the top of the funnel via metasearch and other PPC advertising, or inbound marketing techniques like blogging and influencer marketing; you need to then convert as many of those prospects into customers as possible. As you’ll book more business with the same amount of spending, your increased capital efficiency falls directly to the bottom line. This means that conversion improvements have a direct impact on your hotel profitability. The best part is that there are affordable tools like Hotelchamp that have been purpose built to deliver constant improvement and optimization for hotel websites. Ready to get started? Here's how to make conversion optimization a key part of your hotel marketing strategy. What is CRO: The Science and the Impact CRO stands for conversion rate optimization, and it refers to the process of improving the number of people that complete a desired action on your website or online channels. The most obvious examples are the conversion rates of your website’s booking engine, or the number of lookers the turn into bookers. Conversions to revenue are obviously the most visible; you can also optimize conversions at any point throughout the funnel, such as on landing pages, proposals, newsletter sign-ups and third-party advertising. CRO is actually a theory backed by science. There's a copyrighted formula created by researchers at MECLABS that explains why people “convert,” or choose to take a specific action. Here's that formula: C = 4m + 3v + 2(i-f) – 2a To calculate C, the probability of conversion, you'll need five variables: the motivation of the user (m), the clarity of the value proposition (v), an incentive to take action (i), as well as the friction (f) and the anxiety (a) that prevents taking action. Notice that the most influential factors are the user’s motivation and the clarity of the “ what's in it for me” value proposition. Therefore, effective CRO starts with a clear and detailed understanding of your target users and their respective motivations. Those motivations should then influence the words, visuals, and overall user experience so that the experience speaks directly to those motivations. You want to make sure that each aspect of the experience is primed for conversion, from the headline all the way down to the color of the “Book Now” button. That's the theory behind conversion optimization -- but what impact will it have on your hotel’s marketing efforts? The 4 Key Benefits of CRO As you refine your conversion rate optimization skills, you’ll see four major benefits: Improved customer insight. A focus on CRO requires you to have a deeper understanding of your customers. This is extraordinarily valuable, as it can affect all parts of your business. With successful customer insights driven your CRO strategy, you’ll increase the value of each interaction. This makes CRO the linchpin for your marketing strategy, says SEO expert and founder of Moz Rand Fishkin: “CRO is simply a must-have. CRO is the most important marketing activity because it makes every visitor exponentially more valuable.” Better ROI. CRO is the ultimate direct booking tool for hotels. Consistently improving your conversion rates means that you will always be getting more out of your marketing spend. And, since CRO can happen at different stages and at different points in your customer experience, many small improvements magnify. That's due to the power of compounding: a 5% increase inJust a couple of places in your marketing funnel will lead to greater possibility than just a single Improvement. Here’s a quick example with simple numbers: a hotel has a 10% conversion rate of website traffic to newsletter subscribers and a 5% conversion rate of newsletter subscribers to bookings. So 1000 website visitors equals 100 subscribers and thus 5 bookings. Doubling both conversion rates would mean 200 subscribers for every 1000 website visitors, resulting in 20 bookings for every 1000 visitors. That’s quadruple the original number, and double what it would be if only one conversion rate increased. As you improve conversions across your business, the effects can be exponential! Better user experience. CRO also just isn’t about making more money. Stronger conversions usually made the customers are finding the information they need when they need it. This creates a better customer experience and expands your property’s guest-centric mindset onto your digital experience as well. Enhanced trust. As long as you aren't exaggerating or flat-out lying to get people to click on an advertisement or some how to see if people on your website, CRO enhances trust. It shows your potential customers that you are aware of their motivations and are speaking directly to them. about type of connection resonates deeply with guests and creates the perception that you “get” them. Popular CRO Software Tools A proper conversion rate optimization strategy requires a robust suite of tools that enables experimentation, including proper testing of each variable, analysis of the most effective variations, and then automatically delivering the most suitable options. For a quick comparison, let's look at Optimizely vs. HotelChamp. One of the CRO leaders is Optimizely. The popular software brings A/B testing to all of your digital channels. The platform allows you to create a variety of digital experiences, each with variations After serving up the options to a statistically significant number of users, it analyzes the results and automatically updates accordingly. Optimizely pricing reflects its expanded functionality and can be too unwieldy for hotel marketers. For software that's hotel-specific, look at Hotelchamp. It lands in the top three of our Popularity Index due to its ability to optimize your hotel website and digital marketing in real-time. In addition to its optimization tools, the company has invested in customer support to help hotels realize the full potential of the software. This is especially useful for CRO, which requires a blend of creativity and analysis to succeed; customer support is immensely beneficial. Example of a hotel-specific pop-up from HotelChamp. Head-to-head: Optimizely vs Hotelchamp So which vendor would win in a Head-to-Head battle? Optimizely is a wonderful tool for massive ecommerce firms and software companies; however, it’s expensive, complex and requires engineering to fully maximize the software’s value. Further, Optimizely does not connect with booking engines or other hotel data sources. HotelChamp is a more approachable, affordable, and industry-specific tool that aligns with the most common interactions that hotels must optimize. This streamlines the software, making it “easy to configure and change,” per one HotelChamp review. Pricing: Optimizely pricing is less competitive than HotelChamp, which has a monthly subscription tiered by room count. As an industry-focused vendor HotelChamp is also incentivized to reinvest revenues into new and improved solutions for its hotel customers. Features: Hotelchamp is purpose-built for hotels with custom features that simplify CRO and give hotels exactly what they need without extra functionality to wade through. Time investment: Hotelchamp is fully automated with its Autopilot feature. Hotels that use a digital marketing agency for social and metasearch advertising will be especially well-suited to optimize with Autopilot, as it makes collaboration with other vendors easier. With HTR's Global Support Certification you can be certain Hotelchamp will be there when you need Top Tips For Mastering CRO Experimentation drives successful CRO. After you choose which metrics you want to influence, try many experiments, analyze the data, and then use those learnings to repeat the process again. It's only when you do all three steps that you're able to fully optimize. As you start to develop your conversion rate optimization mindset, consider these top tips for mastering CRO. Get your analytics correct. If your hotel website doesn't have analytics set up, start there. Then, you'll want to create specific goals for each action that you want to optimize, preferably with a direct link to booking value so you can track revenue impact. From there, you can start testing specific points and the user experience and optimize methodically. Without analytics, there's no way to know what works! Start with highest impact pages. These are the pages that align directly with your goals. For most hotels, this means optimizing the booking engine to convert more organic and paid traffic. You may also consider building different landing pages for paid campaigns, so that the copy and visuals speak directly to the segment's targeted in the advertising. Compared to incremental improvements (such as testing button colors), these will have outsized impact compared to the time invested. Experiment at the end of the funnel. Even though revenue goals are the most visible, optimizing at the top of the funnel can be quite overwhelming to start. Consider moving all the way to the bottom of the funnel and optimizing backwards. These will be smaller numbers that show the impact directly. Then, as you feel comfortable with the optimization strategy, start moving up the funnel. Finally, test your assumptions. CRO can be a humbling process. Don't let your fundamental assumptions get in the way of success! Brainstorm ideas of things to test by putting yourself in the shoes of the person consuming the content and try to give them what they need at that specific point in time. Let them show you what works for them. As you experiment with different experiences for certain segments, expand your personalization to adjust for channel, timing, and device. Don’t forget reviews: TripAdvisor, OTAs. These reviews can prime travelers’ mindset prior to clicking through to your website. If they have read enough good reviews, they will have more motivated once they click through. If there aren't as many recent or positive reviews, you’ll have to overcome that lingering skepticism to convert them to a guest. Where To Learn More About CRO? Conversion rates matter immensely to your hotel’s bottom line profitability. As you start to learn and expand your own knowledge, check out these handy articles as resources for further learning. Hotel conversion rates explained: Learn about the stats and hotel-specific examples. Unbounce’s Conversion Benchmark Report Analyzes tens of thousands of landing pages to calculate the latest benchmarks for conversion performance. Our HotelChamp Deep Dive includes everything you need to know about the hotel website and marketing optimization tool. Moz’s authoritative guide to CRO explores the key tenets of successful optimization, as well as some reminders about bad ways to do CRO. Also helpful: their 5-step framework for CRO. This landing page analyzer can give you some quick tips on improving the conversion of existing pages. Even hotels with modest website traffic can benefit from CRO. Here’s how to do CRO when you don't have much traffic. Get analytics-ready for CRO with Google Analytics 101.
Hotel Direct Booking Tools Software Articles
The so-called “direct booking wars” rage on with the BookDirect movement, and yet, many hoteliers haven’t explored using one of the most powerful tools in their arsenal: a direct booking platform. Great software marketers know that the highest ROI investments happen at the bottom of your marketing funnel but hotel marketers often overlook this point. Users, or prospective guests, that are already on your website and interested in your product are much cheaper to ‘sway’ than random internet browsers. When looking to improve your hotel marketing start at the bottom of your funnel and ask whether your booking engine is optimized. Then shift your focus up the funnel to your website and then to SEO/paid acquisition as you tackle each area. When analyzing your hotel website look at conversion rates and compare them to industry benchmarks. Go into a coffee shop and pay strangers $5 to try booking a room on your hotel website while you look over their shoulder and ask them to talk you through the process. This is qualitative user research and next you’ll want to do quantitative user research. Quantitative user research comprises heatmaps and sophisticated analytics experiments. For hotel marketers not well versed in data analytics it’s prudent to work with a direct booking platform that can automate this research and implement findings in real time automatically. Direct booking platforms like Triptease plug into critical decision points of the customer funnel to increase conversions. Metasearch ads draw in high-value customers to your hotel’s website. Once there, the tool guides website visitors to complete their booking with live chat, tailored messaging, and price transparency. Behavioral, room availability, parity, and CRS data captured throughout the entire process helps hotels compete with OTAs and other properties. Instead of paying the steep commission fees of an online travel agent, or spending your entire marketing budget to get new eyeballs, maximize the viewers you already have. Direct booking platforms build guest trust, save the hotel money, and provide benchmarking data to constantly optimize the website over time. Here’s why every hotel should be using a direct booking platform. Direct booking software: key features and benefits Triptease and other direct booking platforms intervene throughout the customer journey to help hoteliers identify and reach high-value guests. These platforms improve hotel website and booking engine conversion rates, monitor parity, and give hoteliers tangible data insights necessary to compete against OTAs and other properties. A direct booking platform will optimize your website to help you improve revenue, profitability, customer engagement and data. Direct booking platforms provide a way to test, analyze and optimize your landing page. A/B testing built into the direct booking platform gives hotels of all sizes a way to test messaging and see how actual humans respond, rather than guessing. The website your visitor sees is the best version of the site for their particular tastes, price point, and booking search. Once a guest is engaged with your site, the direct booking tool then uses a price check widget to boost trust with guests. It transparently shows the difference in price between booking directly through your website versus with an OTA. Other direct booking messages targeted throughout the website offer value-add bonuses for booking directly, making it easy for a guest to make a purchase decision. Direct booking tools track parity and compare rates to ensure that your hotel is priced competitively. Triptease’s Parity Monitoring product, for instance, monitors OTAs undercutting your rates as well as unpackaged wholesale rates, giving hotels the power to take ownership of how their rooms are priced. And, by keeping a close eye on parity, hotel owners can make sure guests are getting the best rate by booking direct. Live chat features built into direct booking tools are designed to remove any barriers to purchase. These automated messaging tools answer frequently asked questions guests may have while browsing the site. Chat functionality keeps a viewer engaged, removing pain points in the process to deliver a clear path to booking. And, lastly, direct booking tools give hotel owners the data and insights otherwise concealed by OTAs. See who books directly, where they come from, and who they are. Get the kind of granular, interaction-level data that OTAs leverage to make money from their own channels. Overall, the functionality of a direct booking platform translates into these tangible benefits for your hotel: Pay less in OTA commissions: never again pay large commissions for valuable guests. Use a direct booking platform to identify and reach the highest-value guests first, bringing them straight from search to the website. Run a website that converts: offer a dynamic, personalized experience that anticipates guest behavior. Convert more visitors and increase direct bookings with the data a direct booking platform can provide. Manage and monitor parity: easily monitor, manage, and optimize your parity to take back conversions from OTAs. Be transparent and offer guests at the best price by booking directly. The data generated through direct booking platforms gives hotels the tools they need to build direct distribution channels that work for them, and to benchmark their website and customer journeys against broader industry data. See how your property is performing relative to the latest trends in guest booking. Download the Free 2020 Buyers Guide The latest hotel industry direct booking trends This year saw a lot of advances in how direct booking tools assist hotels. 2020 promises to be an even more interesting year as upgrades in personalization and segmentation hit many of the most popular direct booking tools on the market. Google’s plans to shape the future behavior of travel bookers became more clearly defined this year with the growth of Google Hotel Ads. According to Google, in the first six months of 2018 Google Hotel Ads helped participants receive 65% more leads year over year. In 2019, as long as a hotel is bidding in Google Hotel Ads auctions, they can appear on generic and brand searches alongside even the biggest OTAs. We believe leads generated through Google Hotel Ads will continue to grow in 2020 as the company improves and refines its product. Likewise, there’s been a shift this year in how data flows between various digital systems. Where unconnected systems and siloed data previously prevented hotels from winning bookings, the tide has shifted. Direct booking tools are playing a significant role in the success of a hotel’s direct booking strategy. Linking a property’s PMS, parity, behavioral and demographic data across the entire booking journey has put hotels toe-to-toe with OTAs when it comes to winning bookings. AI and machine learning are helping hotel websites become more effective digital lobbies by personalizing and automating messaging to create a valuable first impression that increases the chance of booking. Direct booking tools that integrate AI give your website a way to refine messaging depending on who’s visiting your website and from which channel. A great first impression creates a halo effect, meaning the guest will think favorably of your property over time. In brief, personalization and segmentation becoming even more sophisticated moving into 2020 but this added sophistication won’t actually add complexity for hoteliers. From the beginning of a guest’s search to the post-stay afterglow, guests are seeking an experience that feels tailored, thoughtful and built with them in mind. Here’s where data from direct booking can provide the insight you need to upgrade your guest experience without breaking your budget. How to pick a direct booking tool for your hotel Direct booking platforms offer many features, but these are the core ones you should make sure are included when picking your vendor. Price comparison: show the guest the direct price alongside prices of chosen OTAs to increase confidence and trust. Livechat messaging: use targeted messages to increase conversions and learn what converts from real time visitor performance Automated bot replies: add the ability to answer customer FAQs 24 hours a day without staff involvement. Intent triggers: add messaging options including exit intent, nudge, event-triggered notifications and pricing undercut. Conversion templates: create and send personalized messages and triggered notifications from a range of ready-to-use templates Visitor segmentation: segment customers across a range of characteristics, including check-in date, booking date, length of stay, new vs returning, location (country or US state), and more. Parity monitoring: get a live feed of each instance when a guest searches on your website and you're undercut by an OTA. Benchmarking and insights: get a high-level view of how your business is performing in relation to similar hotels to improve your direct booking strategy. Ideally, a direct booking platform will integrate seamlessly with your CRM, booking engine, and website CMS. Make sure to ask vendors about the support systems and processes they have to help you get set up and really coach you towards maximizing the value of whichever platform you choose. Get started with a direct booking program at your hotel Vetting direct booking tools starts with an understanding of the capabilities of the platform’s features: how accurate is the pricing data? Do you have a team committed to constantly checking and maintaining price accuracy? How sophisticated is the customer segmentation feature? Can you sort guests by country, URL (including URL-exclusion), check-in date, booking date (advanced or last-minute) and length of stay? Segmentation and pricing are the core value propositions of using any direct booking tool – a company should be able to give you ample feedback on what to expect from their platform and support team. It’s also important to learn how teams across different parts of your business can access insights from the direct booking platform. Can members of your marketing, revenue, reservations, and e-commerce teams all have visibility into your data? Do dashboard show conversion rates, parity rates, cost of sales? How easy is it to access performance metrics and benchmarking data? For more information, download our buyer's guide for a closer look at vendors, pricing, and our top recommended tools for direct booking.
The collapse of global package tour operator and airline Thomas Cook was notable for its global impact. The company left hundreds of thousands of passengers stranded abroad and jeopardized the vacation plans of millions more. We’re not going to report on the tragic collapse of Thomas Cook since the news has been widely shared by nearly every major media outlet over the last couple of days. This article is intended to help hoteliers like you that have been blindsided by this event and specifically those in European holiday markets who have been disproportionately affected. Wherever there is a crisis, there’s also learning and opportunity. This is a wake up call for hoteliers to strengthen their operations by diversifying their channel mix, as the insolvency highlights vulnerabilities of depending too much on a single demand channel. Below we outline 5 lessons to help hoteliers convert this short term crisis into long term opportunity but first we’ll give a quick background on what went down. A quick overview of the Thomas Cook fiasco for those who aren’t familiar The venerable brand, which was founded in 1851 and originated the concept of packaged tours, served 19 million people a year across 16 countries. That’s a lot of empty beds at hotels in these countries, leaving many hoteliers desperate for a lifeline. Hoteliers report that Thomas Cook hasn’t made its payments since July. And, as the Thomas Cook share price tumbled to just £0.0345 on its last day of trading before collapsing, it's unclear when -- or if -- hotels will receive these long-overdue payments. In many of these communities, the bankruptcy is a devastating blow to the local hospitality industry. In popular summer destinations such as Greece, Spain and Turkey, Thomas Cook accounts for 25% of their business. The pain is far-reaching: Thomas Cook accounted for 3.6M trips to the Canary Islands last year. In Turkey, the local hotel association says many hotels are still owed £100,000 – £200,000 apiece. Spanish Trade Union expects more than 10% of it’s 130,000 local hospitality workers to be affected by the collapse. Greece’s PanHellenic Federation of Hoteliers projects losses up to €300m, of which the island of Crete accounts for €80-100m. In Tunisia, 45 hotels dealt exclusively with Thomas Cook, which reportedly owes €60 million for stays in July and August. #1: Use technology to diversify your channel mix First and foremost, hotels must avoid reliance on a single channel. The Thomas Cook example makes this abundantly clear: fewer dominant channels dramatically increase risk. Expanding your sources of demand protects you not only from the extreme cases bankruptcy but also evens out the natural ebbs and flows. With a diversified channel mix, unexpected dips in demand will sting less. A metasearch manager, such as D-EDGE MetaGenius or Triptease Attract, maximizes your hotel’s presence on meta-search platforms. The technology optimizes your spend so that you can capture bookings without spending too much. Marketing spend can also easily be ramped up and down to account for any unexpected need periods. Channel managers, like the one from SiteMinder, dramatically expand the number of channels your hotel is distributed to. The right channel manager puts your hotel in front of consumers you may never have access to, such as inbound tourists from China. This expands your reach and lessens your reliance on only a few channels. #2: Capture maximum revenue from your existing guests Well done! You’ve won the booking and the guest has checked in. Now what? Rather than pursue the next booking, it's time to make the most out of your existing guests. Open the lines of communication, craft compelling offers for upsells and on-property amenities and make it a priority to increase incremental revenue. With a solid ancillary strategy, you’ll be more empowered and less at the whims of others. Ancillary upsell software, like that offered by Oaky and Revinate, helps you earn more revenue from things like up-selling room upgrades and other ancillaries. Since up-selling gives you the ability to earn more from the same guest, you'll be more profitable -- and less vulnerable to revenue dips from fewer bookings. A guest messaging platform, such as Whistle, Zingle, and Bookboost, gives you all kinds of new ways to communicate with guests. You could implement a chat widget on your website, use text messages to talk with on-property guests, or leverage automated communications to ensure the best guest experience. Each of these touchpoints is an opportunity to sell more to current guests. And, as you deliver better service, improved guest satisfaction will boost your reputation online. In-room tablets, like those from SuitePad, INTELITY, and Crave Interactive, are another way to connect with guests. As in-room concierges, tablets allow guests to find relevant information easily and quickly, which boosts satisfaction and leads to incremental revenue from selling in-destination activities and on-property amenities like spa and room service. More money from existing guests makes a healthier, more resilient business. #3: Fortify your direct channel to shore up leakage Leakage costs your hotel money. Each time someone books through an OTA or other third-party (rather than your direct channel) that’s leakage. There’s a related cost to each of those bookings, a cost that could be eliminated by capturing the booking directly. Reducing leakage means doing whatever you can to build your direct channel. With the right tech, your hotel can compete directly with OTAs by providing a similar booking experience. Proper digital marketing and web design ensures that your hotel presents a modern face to potential guests. Vendors (such as Screen Pilot and Travel Tripper) leverage years of hospitality experience to get you more direct bookings online. With an intuitive interface and appealing design, your website can become a great calling card. The agency can then help optimize your digital marketing efforts to get you more bookings at lower cost. A hotel booking engine works 24/7 so guests can book rooms right on your website to keep you competitive with other online platforms. Mews, Net Affinity and TravelTripper integrate a booking engine into your property management system to make inventory instantly bookable online. Long gone are the days when guests would call to book; to avoid leakage, you must provide instant booking on your website. With a direct booking platform, like those built by Triptease and Hotelchamp, you’ll have the tools to convert more lookers to bookers on your website. These tools transform your website into a conversion engine. Then, as you invest more in digital marketing to bring people to your website, you’ll see greater return on your investment because the site is primed to convert. #4: Reduce friction for your sales team Properties of all sizes can benefit tremendously from improved productivity on the sales side. By reducing friction for your sales team, you’ll improve outcomes, compress the sales cycle and close more group business. Closing more deals has the added advantage of boosting morale for your sales team, which builds momentumAre As your hotel endeavors to build a bigger group business, best-in-class technology amplifies this momentum and evens out the normal fluctuations in transient demand. With an online meeting booking platform, such as MeetingPackage, planners can self-serve. Many planners prefer self-service, especially for smaller events. An online booking platform streamlines inbound requests and reduces turnaround time. That way your sales team can focus on more complex offerings and close major deals that can make or break an entire year’s revenue target. A sales CRM for hotels is the heart of your sales operations. With powerful functionality from vendors like Social Tables, Amadeus Delphi or Event Temple, your sales team stays organized so they can prioritize prospects and pursue leads without delay. A few other upsides: Managing outreach in a single place encourages a collaborative mindset, fosters transparency and builds trust. #5: Bring back your old guests Past guests are your greatest assets. They’ve stayed with you before and know your hotel. You also know them somewhat, as you have already begun building a relationship. That means you don't have to introduce your property or compete for attention in a sea of unfamiliar hotels. Loyalty gives you more control over your business; it reduces reliance on third parties and diversifies your revenue streams. Loyal guests are also great advocates, enhancing your online reputation and promoting your hotel by word-of-mouth. Guest CRM and email marketing tools, like those from Cendyn and Revinate, are a hotel marketer’s best friend. Leveraging your database of past guests into new bookings requires thoughtful segmentation and effective messaging -- both of which are made easier with dedicated CRM and email marketing software. By crafting targeted campaigns based on rich guest profiles, you'll generate revenue from existing assets, all without any cost or commissions. And guests will appreciate the personalized approach. A loyalty program for independents can drive repeat visits and encourage more customer loyalty -- even without the global reach and recognition of the major brand. For instance, The GuestBook rewards guests with either 5% cash back, a 5% donation to their preferred charity, or 10% “Trip Cash” for future reservations. These incentives give independents another way to foster loyalty and build a healthy book of repeat business that’s not dependent on third parties. *** Thomas Cook shutting down is a devastating blow to communities, businesses and consumers around the globe. It puts pressure on local economies in many countries. But it also provides a valuable lesson to hoteliers about relying too heavily on a single demand partner; diversification really does help mitigate risk. Hoteliers have some powerful tools at their disposal to build a resilient business that can endure even the most unexpected disruptions.
Female entrepreneurship has seen a staggering amount of growth in the last 40 years. As of 2018, the US had 12.3 million women-owned businesses, compared to 402,000 businesses in 1972. Today, women-owned ventures make 4 out of every 10 businesses within the US, a shift that has altered the landscape of female leadership. Even traditionally male-dominated industries, such as tech, are being disrupted by female founders and leaders. Women in the travel technology space are solidifying their leadership and paving the way for their younger counterparts to find their way in this growing industry. While not a founder, Booking Chairwoman Gillian Tans is arguably the most powerful woman in travel tech. She shares wisdom with budding female entrepreneurs and leaders: “The advice I would give to anyone starting out is to take risks and not be afraid of new challenges or opportunities. My career path was not obvious, I had to make many twists and turns along the way to get where I am today. It required taking some chances. But those were the moments where I learned the most. Without challenging yourself, growth opportunities are limited. So take the risks. You will be better for it in the long run, regardless of the short-term outcome." Without further adieu five of the travel technology industry’s most inspirational female founders, and how they forged their way to the top. Robin Deyo, Cendyn Robin Deyo is co-founder of the global travel tech company Cendyn. With over 30 years experience in hospitality, Robin began her career on the sales side for Hyatt Hotels Corporation and Red Rock Resorts. In 1996, she and her husband recognized a hole in the market and co-founded Cendyn, a SaaS marketing, sales and event solutions platform for the hospitality industry. Cendyn enables hotels and hospitality groups to leverage data and drive guest loyalty in a secure and compliant way, while cutting down response times and offering personalized service. Cendyn’s foundational product, eProposal, was one of the first solutions to allow hotels to accept group business RFPs via their websites, thereby growing their group business. eProposal still makes up a small but important part of Cendyn’s overall portfolio today. Cendyn is the leading hotel CRM platform with over 30,000 customers across 143 countries, offering products that incorporate sales software and hotel digital marketing services with enterprise spend levels in excess of $1 billion. In June 2019, private equity firm Accel-KKR purchased a majority stake in Cendyn. Robin and her husband have taken a backseat in the day-to-day operations of the company. Robin has recently started De Joux Holdings, a company focused on investing in hospitality-focused and philanthropic projects. It will certainly be one to watch to see what exciting new paths this industry veteren will take next. Alexandra Zubko, Triptease Alexandra Zubko founded Triptease in 2013. Since then, it’s become one of the industry's fastest growing tech upstarts. One of the biggest issues facing the hotel industry has been the rise of online travel agencies. OTAs cut off the direct connection between hotel and customer and obscure room data for hoteliers, creating rate parity issues and making profitable pricing more elusive. Triptease increases direct bookings by making the booking process easier. Triptease: Attract is a metasearch management software that aims to drive an additional 10% of direct revenue to hotels at a lower cost than OTA commissions. Triptease: Convert is a direct marketing tool that flags a hotel’s most valuable guests, offering ways throughout the entire customer journey to make sure they book directly with the hotel. Triptease’s cloud-based software and real-time pricing tool give hotels increased ownership on how rooms are priced. Triptease was the top-rated Direct Booking Platform in 2018. Alexandra was VP, Head of Global Strategy at IHG (Intercontinental Hotel Group) prior to co-founding Triptease. She had her first taste of start-up life – in between working at consulting giants McKinsey and Goldman Sachs – as the founder of TripTips, an online social networking platform for sharing travel recommendations. For more on her background, check out our exclusive interview with Alexandra about her career journey and vision for Triptease. Allison Page, SEVENROOMS Allison page comes to hotel (and F&B) tech with a finance background and a bachelor degree from University of Pennsylvania's prestigious Wharton Business School. Allison and her co-founder Joel Montaniel founded the business in 2011 and haven't looked back since raising more than $21M in funding to date. Hotel food & beverage operations often lack the resources and know how to run personalized marketing campaigns. SevenRooms’ segmentation and email automation enables F&B managers to easily add customizable tags to guest profiles then run rules based marketing campaigns to those segments. Run unique marketing to critical segments like: first timers, high value regulars, positive reviewers and more. Companies like Revinate and Cendyn have demonstrated the immense value of personalized hospitality marketing campaigns. Now F&B outlets can benefit from marketing automation too. Janine Williams, Impulsify Janine founded Impulsify as a retail technology solution for hotels. Impulsify equips hoteliers with customized retail technology solutions to maximize impulse sales in hotel pantries and gift shops through a POS and inventory management solution. Hotel front desk teams see a reduction in front desk retail traffic by up to 90%, enabling guests to get what they want when they want it. Based in Denver, with 29 employees, Impusify was named top rated Lobby Technology in the HotelTechAwards. Janine takes any opportunity to fuse travel and giving back. Recently, she launched a campaign to donate a whole house to a family in need for every 50 hotels that added ImpulsePoint POS to their pantry or gift shop. Janine regularly travels to Honduras to build schools, clinics, and houses for those in need. It’s hard not to be inspired by the incredible female leaders that are finding success and bringing innovation to the travel tech industry. We are seeing unprecedented support for women’s empowerment within the workforce, turning what was once a barren wasteland for female leadership opportunities into a fertile ground for growth. Tammy Farley, The Rainmaker Group Tammy co-founded The Rainmaker Group in 1998 where she spearheaded all sales, marketing, and customer-related operations for the company. Rainmaker is a market leader in profit optimization solution for hotels, resorts and casinos. Rainmaker has three key products: revintel, guestrev, and grouprev. The proprietary guestrev revenue management tool optimizes room rates to reflect guest’s spend across an entire property enabling properties to plan revenue goals and set rates based on demand. Grouprev helps hotel owners convert group and meeting business and maximize revenue. The tool optimizes group room rates, function space revenue, and manages a property’s sales and catering calendar. Revintel is a tool that aggregates and analyzes data to produce actionable insights to drive revenue and help site managers measure performance against corporate goals. The Rainmaker Group was recently acquired by industry tech giant Cendyn (yes, that's the same Cendyn founded by Robyn Deyo above!) to help round out their digital offerings. Tammy will become a board member and continue her heavy involvement in local philanthropy. Amanda Szabo, ResortPass Amanda Szabo is a serial entrepreneur and founder of Los Angeles based ResortPass. The firm has raised $12.7M in funding to data according to data from pitchbook and has its sites set on global expansion. In hyper competitive markets finding new hotel guests is expensive and difficult. Travellers are notoriously hard to market to which led Amanda to realize that hotels were missing the lowest hanging fruit around - locals. With that insight Amanda created ResortPass to sell day passes where locals (or guests at other hotels) can use luxury hotel amenities when they're not a guest. ResortPass works with hotels like the W Hollywood and Viceroy Santa Monica and leverages a congestion-pricing model similar to Uber to ensure that those amenities don't end up getting over crowded for guests while ensuring that hotels achieve maximum profit. This is one of those ideas that everyone says "how did this not exist before" but Amanda took the reigns and is executing like crazy to bring her vision to life. Jennifer Wong, LaaSie.ai (formerly Stay Wanderful) Jennifer comes to hotel tech with a finance and real estate background, a bachelor's degree from MIT and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Jennifer founded LaaSie.ai in 2016 under the name Stay Wanderful). The start-up uses Instant Gratification to power the transaction moment (i.e. booking on a hotel website) in a more relevant way for today's consumers. LaaSie.ai leverages a unique approach to loyalty by providing personalized incentives and perks, such as free Uber, Amazon credits or VIP access. The platform can increase direct booking conversion and retention by leveraging an ever growing network of premium national & local merchant rewards alongside its AI technology. LaaSie.ai (under its former name Stay Wanderful) won Top Direct Booking Platform in the 2019 HotelTechAwards. The Company also won the Most Innovative - Judge's Choice Award at HITEC 2017 and of the Best Business Model Award at Launch Festival 2016.
Distribution is a costly expense for hotels. Each time a booking is made through a third-party, commissions must be paid throughout the chain of distribution. While it’s convenient to capture demand from these channels, it’s not always clear that the commissions paid are worth the bookings received. The question of value is especially pertinent given that most hotels pay more for commission then they have in the past, per Kalibri Labs data: Kalibri Labs data from 19,000 hotels worldwide shows how much more hotels spend on distribution since 2015. The stark reality of rising distribution costs has led many hotels to broaden their metrics from the simple RevPAR to NetRevPAR, which adjusts for distribution costs within top line results. To deliver stronger profits (and not just greater booking volume), hotels must deploy a comprehensive direct booking strategy that pulls more bookings away from those third parties. One hospitality technology company in particular has stepped up to the challenge with a comprehensive set of direct booking tools: Triptease. “Paying large commissions for valuable guests is over. Identify and reach your highest-value guests first with a platform that works across the booking journey - from acquisition to conversion - to make sure they book directly with your hotel.” ~Triptease Triptease initially began as a price check widget on hotel websites and has since evolved into an end-to-end guest intelligence platform. Today Triptease helps not only improve hotel website and booking engine conversion rates but also helps hotels bring more prospective guests into the top of the funnel with tools that improve the ways they market on 3rd party channels like OTAs and metasearch platforms (e.g. TripAdvisor). The company’s website optimization tools then convert those guests more often with personalized offers, notifications and even website live chat. When used in combination with a hotel’s existing marketing efforts, these tools are a powerful driver of direct revenue. Here are 5 reasons why hotels need Triptease’s direct booking tools to boost business in the direct channel. #1: Attract the most valuable guests to your hotel website With intelligent audience acquisition, hotels get more of the right customers. Triptease’s platform ensures that your hotel reaches the most valuable guests first. With its metasearch ad tool, Triptease’s system identifies and prioritizes high-value guests for conversion. The tool promises to “bring the right guests straight from search” so that your advertising spend can be targeted to the guests most likely to convert. The secret sauce here is that Triptease aggregates and analyzes your hotel’s data to calculate a precise bid amount. The tool adjust bids according to the potential value of a stay, as well as that individual guest’s likelihood to book. To get to this ideal bid, Triptease uses two different systems: the Guest Value Index, which judges how the guest’s purchase intent compares to your hotel’s ideal customer profile, and the Trip Value Index, which is calculated from the booking’s qualities, such as parity and overall booking value. Hotels stand to gain a lot from these calculations: Triptease Meta aims to drive metasearch traffic that pays for itself with an additional 10% of direct revenue for hotels. More guests at a lower cost drives profitability for hotels, which is the core value proposition of Triptease’s guest intelligence platform. #2: Convert more lookers to bookers The goal of attracting more guests, and converting them more often, is driven by Triptease’s focus on transparency and trust. Thanks to blanket discounts and “Only X rooms left!” messaging, there’s a lot of mistrust and skepticism around hotel search. Triptease works to build trust by letting guests know that they’ll get the fairest price on the direct channel. The Triptease Price Check Widget shows guests how much that same search would cost on three OTAs. The popular tool provides price transparency and boosts trust with guests. Rather than pretending like guests weren’t shopping around, the Price Check Widget calls attention to it by giving guests the confidence to book direct. Triptease has expanded on the widget with a full suite of conversion tools. Now, the platform includes non-price offers, such as offering a value-add bonus for booking direct, as well as highlighting recent searches and essential information about a hotel’s location. In total, there are thousands of messages across multiple content types that hotels can use to convert lookers to bookers. Messages can also be personalized dynamically to different types of guests, so that hotels can best target message to demographic. This intelligent targeting improves conversion. #3: Compare rates and track parity The Disparity Dungeon sounds like a terrible place to be. And that’s by design. This Triptease feature ensures that your hotel is priced competitively compared to your comp set -- and that your rates are in parity across your distribution channels. By monitoring parity often, hoteliers can make sure that guests always get the best rates when booking direct. Triptease has also recently expanded to include wholesalers here so the tool aids hotels with often-contentious wholesaler relationships. While there are certainly standalone tools for tracking rate parity, such as OTA Insight, there’s an advantage to packaging it into a direct booking platform: namely, ease of use. It’s right there within the same tool, so there’s no need to click away to another login screen. This ease of use also extends to format: Triptease provides regular weekly emails that identify surge events and other trends. By understanding when and where parity is changing, hoteliers can identify issues without necessarily having to watch parity daily. For those that want to monitor disparity in real-time, there’s a live feed of every search on your website that’s being undercut by an OTA. Hotels can also opt into instant alerts for parity violations. Armed with this information, hoteliers can identify the patterns and root causes of rate disparity. They can then use the documentation provided by Triptease to bring parity issues to their account reps at major OTAs that assist in the negotiation process and ultimately can help lower commissions or drive more bookings over the long term. #4: Assist your customers with live chat In its bid to be the “everything” store for direct bookings, Triptease has recently added live chat to its platform. Chat keeps the guest’s attention and gives hotels a clear path to capture bookings. Hotels can reach out directly, answer questions, and generally be accessible. The chat interface is optimized for mobile, making it easy for your reservations team to connect directly with guest’s in the channel they prefer (which is increasingly mobile). There’s also an automated component to the chat tool. The Triptease automated AI chatbot also answers the most frequently asked questions to instantly assist guests. The automated live chat can also check availability and take payment details right in the chat interface. By removing pain points, the path to purchase is smoother and more likely to convert. #5: Know what works with OTA-level data OTAs promise not just bookings. They also promise a level of data that’s hard to beat, especially for hotels that don’t necessarily have a sophisticated data capability in-house. Triptease turns this on its head by providing OTA-level data on who books direct, where they come from, and who they are. The Insights Dashboard gives hotels all the necessary numbers to build a direct distribution channel that works for their own unique situation. The analytics provides complete visibility into hotel performance, as well as broader industry benchmarks for comparison. That type of granular, interaction-level data is comparable to what OTAs leverage to make more money for their own channels. Hotels can compete using their own data, and maintain a healthy (and growing) direct distribution channel. Pricing and getting started with Triptease Triptease prices packages depending on which products a hotel wants, as well as the scale of the hotel’s needs (for example, multi-property applications). As far as implementation and setup, there’s not a lot required of hotels to get started. Hotels will need to add some code to their websites to support specific products. The most complex part is connecting the Triptease platform to existing data sources to power the hotel-level insights. Triptease offers extensive coaching, so it’s not just providing software but also the knowledge layer and long term partnership for amplifying direct bookings. Triptease has a global team of Direct Booking Coaches available to assist hotels of all sizes. From digital marketing to website optimization, data analysis, and product training, these coaches apply their regional expertise ensure ongoing success for partner hotels. To get started with the Guest Intelligence Platform, schedule a demo with the team right from the Triptease Hotel Tech Report profile.
Before signing up with an independent loyalty program it’s important for hotels to reflect on why branded loyalty programs like Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton HHonors add value. These types of loyalty programs incentivize guests to book with a brand by offering experiential and monetary incentives. Experiential incentives include things like room upgrades, WiFi and late checkout which sway frequent travelers into booking via a loyalty program because they actually get better treatment than the average guest. Monetary incentives enable loyalty program members to experience higher property tiers which also can drive loyalty. For example, a frequent Marriott Courtyard business traveller can build up points and use them towards a stay at W Hotels where they ordinarily wouldn’t have stayed. By staying at a higher tier property within the network that guest now has a haloed perception of the Marriott brand as a whole. Circa 2010, independent hotels took note of the massive growth in branded loyalty programs and banded together via programs like iPrefer (by Preferred Hotels & Resorts) and Stash Hotel Rewards. An April 2018 study by Oracle Hospitality (study here) highlights the dynamic that helped such programs grow. Namely, there is a discrepancy between hotel perceptions of loyalty programs and the reality of such programs. According to the study, hotel managers believe that 61% of guests sign-up for loyalty programs while in reality only 24% actually do. Similarly, hotels perceive that 54% of guests will find offers relevant while in reality only 22% of guests believe that offers made by loyalty programs are relevant. Revinate summarizes data from Oracle's loyalty study Just because hotels overestimate the value of loyalty programs doesn’t mean that they don’t add value. Ultimately even small volumes of incremental bookings can still deliver a high ROI so independent hotels should still consider joining an independent loyalty program but should do so with realistic expectations. Independent loyalty programs that try to mimic branded programs rarely work. Smart hoteliers know that points are mostly irrelevant when it comes to the world of independents since booking with another property in the network has no impact on loyalty for your own property. The landing page for Destination Hotels & Resorts’ Destination Delivers program is a testament to the death of points for independent hotels: "This unique loyalty club is filled with perks. Not points." ~ Destination Hotels & Resorts A 2019 Revinate study shows that groups with more than 50 hotels can sometimes benefit from pursuing points based programs while smaller groups (under 50 properties) rarely benefit from such programs. When loyalty members receive points towards a program like Marriott Bonvoy their loyalty is building towards Marriott corporate rather than towards an individual property or sub-brand. The problem with what we call ‘independent loyalty 1.0’ (e.g. iPrefer and Stash Rewards) is the misconception that loyalty is actually being built towards a specific property. Where programs such as iPrefer and Stash Rewards are still operating dated points based system models, Guestbook Rewards is a new kind of loyalty program that is more in touch with how today’s traveller behaves and books. It's worth noting that Preferred Hotels & Resorts has sales infrastructure and relationships with travel advisors that bring material business for it's portfolio. The firm also provides cost purchasing benefits so while the iPrefer value prop is in our opinion relatively weak there are other facets of the program which are definitely attractive for independent hotels. Guestbook Rewards understands that driving true guest loyalty to independent properties by giving points to spend at other properties is a near impossible feat. As a result, the Company has positioned itself as a way to increase conversion on hotel websites via offers and cashback. Guests choose between three options: 5% cash back, a 5% charitable donation or 15% trip cash that can be used within The Guestbook’s network of ~700 hotels. By offering cashback through a 3rd party, hotel clients are able to circumvent rate parity clauses with OTAs and create their own version of a private offer program like many of the brands have today and leverage exclusive loyalty network pricing to bring in more direct bookings. Independent hotels should explore the Guestbook because they want to incentivize direct bookings without breaking parity, not because they expect material bookings from The Guestbook’s loyalty program member base. While expectations should be modest the Company now offers a "Guestbook Guarantee” of fully offsetting its fees with new inbound business. To their credit, The Guestbook recognized this and developed a Chrome Plugin called Gopher which helps internet browsers find the best hotel deals by scanning hotel websites in real time. According to the Google Chrome store, the Gopher plugin has ~3,600 users so it’s unlikely to drive material volume for clients today but has the potential to solve the problem and is a clear demonstration that The Guestbook has a better pulse on technology and internet behavior trends than most of its competitors. The Guestbook claims that it also has a similar number of users in the Safari App store but Apple doesn't publicize figures. Gopher has taken queue from a company called Honey which allows shoppers to check prices while shopping ecommerce websites. While the Gopher strategy doesn’t seem to have paid off yet for The Guestbook, the Honey plugin has grown to 10M+ users which is a testament to the larger opportunity around online shopper price checking if the team can figure out the right growth strategy over the medium to long term. Independent hotels that are looking to increase direct bookings can benefit from joining a program like The Guestbook but benefits can vary property by property so it’s important for hoteliers to read authentic peer reviews and request unmoderated referrals to properly evaluate the program. Read Guestbook reviews Request Guestbook references Independent hotels should think of The Guestbook’s program as a substitute to a direct booking platform like Stay Wanderful which also offer rewards for booking direct but can be used in tandem with platforms like Triptease. Where The Guestbook has a narrow focus on facilitating offers, platforms like Triptease have a more comprehensive and data driven website conversion optimization approach. Stay Wanderful sits somewhere in the middle. We sat down with The Guestbook’s Dev Dugal to get his take on where independent loyalty has been and where it’s going. Dev brings an interesting perspective to the discussion having previously owned his own hospitality business and also having worked in several mid sized hotel organizations before making the leap into hotel software and technology. Dev advanced quickly in his career by leveraging a unique combination of interpersonal skills and technical adaptability. As a hotelier, Dev was always a technology maven who constantly sought to implement new technologies and marketing strategies for his hotels. His story provides a roadmap for competitive hotel marketers seeking to beat out the compset and also for hoteliers with aspirations to leverage their hospitality skills to build a successful career in technology. Dev is widely regarded in the hotel community as a networking guru and marketing expert so we were lucky to catch up with him in between his jet setting. The Guestbook's Dev Dugal Tell us about your career in hotels. I started my career in hospitality as a barback in some of the busiest bars in LA. Eventually working my way to bartender, manager and eventually opening up my own bar in DTLA in 2006 called The Redwood. The bar business was very exciting but once my wife and I started a family, I sought a different pace of life and not the 3am late nights. So I transitioned to the hotel space in 2008 joining a family owned Hospitality company called Globiwest Hospitality as their VP of Marketing & IT. I was immediately tasked with helping to launch the first independent boutique hotel in Brooklyn called Hotel Le Bleu. Next, joining broughtonHOTELS as VP of Sales & Marketing, I led the marketing vision for 16 hotels on the California coast and Chicago. During both roles, I challenged myself to cross train in Revenue Management, Operations and Finance. More importantly I enjoyed working the Front Desk and Housekeeping to stay grounded to the heart of the hotel. I took a hiatus in 2014 for a few years to start a non-profit focused on building schools in the slums of India and re-entered by joining an amazing team at The Guestbook in 2017. I consider myself a connector of ideas and people. Hospitality gives me that platform to shine, travel the world and impact businesses. I also gravitate to boutique hotels rather than brands as they allow for much more creativity with an elevated curated experience for the guest. Some of my most challenging times in hotels were working with Owners to clearly grasp digital marketing concepts. Similar to how people self prescribe diagnosis after reading WebMD, hotel owners often dictated marketing direction with buzzwords like PPC or SEO however, never fully understanding them. This was a consistent battle but I thrived in those challenges and breakthroughs, eventually letting the analytics speak for themselves. What was one technology that you couldn't live without in your former role in hospitality? Google Analytics has always been a solid tool to use as a source of analytics. It provides for so much data in one place to see real time the success of integrated strategies. One of the most important tools in the last few years was the CRM tool. It provided a landscape to work within the entire life cycle of the guest experience and the digital touch points were a vital part to success. When did you first become interested in leveraging technology to become a better hotelier? I think it started when I had an early stint in Real Estate as an agent. In the early 2000's I saw veteran agents knocking on doors and buying ads in newspapers. I realized leveraging technology was the more efficient way than knocking on doors. So I slowly built up a database of emails to over 15k and sent out a monthly newsletter for lead generation. With that same logic I noticed that trend in the hotel space in 2008. After the financial crisis, hotels were scrambling for business and heavily relying on the OTAs. With the help of eCommerce and integrated solutions, I knew this was the future for hotels too. I became an avid reader of industry leaders and leveraged the best of breed in marketing practices shortly after. As a hotelier what was your biggest frustration with technology vendors? One of my biggest frustrations with technology vendors is the sneaky "Auto Renewal". I got burned by a vendor early in my hotel career and they wouldn't let me out of the contract. Talking to friends in the business I discovered this was a shared pain point. After that first incident, I made a decision to never let it happen again and continue to share my technique with hoteliers today. Right after executing an Agreement with any vendor, I immediately send them an email stating my notice to not renew. Literally the day after the ink is dry. The notice indicates that we do not intend to renew and will discuss the option as the renewal period closes in. Most importantly, I have them confirm it in writing over email. This leaves a nice audit trail for anyone on my team and with the vendor should there be a change in management. What is the biggest misconception that hoteliers have about technology? Some folks tend to overanalyze technology. I love that we have the ability to A/B test products and solutions. However, some hoteliers never get out of the starting gate. One of my mentors really honed in and taught me about the age-old saying, "Perfection is the enemy of good." He was the first leader that forced me to break previous habits of "getting it right" and simply start. He said to get it "good" and clean up the mess along the way. With this in hand, we were able to test out many new technologies and marketing strategies. Tell us about your journey from hotelier into technologist? Funny thing is that I started my career as a computer nerd. I graduated with a Computer Information Systems major in college and spent my early career coding in a cubicle with .NET development and SQL. I started bartending at night to have a break from the tech world. So in a way, technology has always been a part of me before becoming a hotelier. Now I'm able to leverage and have a real passion for connecting those dots to business strategy. What was the most challenging part of moving from hotels into technology? For me personally, losing a little of the human touch and pulse of the hotel. With the technology, it's very easy to only have digital relationships. Being a hotelier provided opportunity to be at the Front Desk, walk the property and connect with guests from all around the globe. I miss those elements. The Guestbook has become the clear independent loyalty leader and disrupted incumbents in a very short period of time - what’s driving that growth? The Guestbook is the first and only Cash Back Loyalty platform for independent and boutique hotels. We work with over 700+ hotels in 65+ countries to increase direct booking conversion on a hotel's website by 20%+. Guests have the availability to earn and redeem either of 3 options; 5% cash back on their stay, donate that 5% to any charity of their choice, or 15% Trip Cash towards a future Guestbook stay at any of our properties around the world. No set-up fee. No commitment. Cancel anytime. Imagine that you're going to open the hotel of your dreams tomorrow. What kind of hotel would it be? Independent boutique, Select-Serve maybe with a lobby bar. I'm a big proponent for Downtown LA and feel there is also opportunity in markets like Oakland. 75-100 rooms paying homage to local street artists. I'm also a big fan of the bed+beverage concept. Bar on the ground floor and maybe 40 keys above into an integrated space. Can't reveal any names just yet as I already have some domains secured. ;-) What technology would you leverage at your hotel? Cloud based PMS, robust CRS with significant channel management integration, backed by an easy to use CRM. An AI smart concierge, eventually reducing the dependency on the front desk and of course a rewards platform, The Guestbook! What's one piece of advice you have for hoteliers who have dreams of working in technology one day? Read (books, not social media) + source mentors. Mentors have been integral to the trajectory of my career. Balanced with what you learn from books with the real life experience of mentors. Book knowledge + street knowledge. What's one podcast, newsletter or book that you recommend hoteliers read if they'd like to eventually move into tech? Glenn Haussman has a series of great podcasts (No Vacancy). I love reading about direct booking strategies so Triptease blog, OTA Insight newsletters and webinars are underrated. A free interactive webinar with live Q&A is one of my favorite places to learn. What is your favorite hotel in the world and why? Currently, I'm digging the CitizenM brand. The simply went against the grain and put the guest experience first. For example, they went with King sized beds when everyone stuck with Queens. Their founder said something to the likes of, "If a car is Tesla, then a hotel is CitizenM". I dig that and their hotels are awesome. What is the most exciting technology you've seen in the hotel tech space lately? The team at Go Moment have been working on some neat AI tech with their smart concierge. The tech gets smarter and smarter with more data points and interaction from a guest perspective is seamless. What is one thing that most people don't know about you? Recently, I moved our family of four from the comforts of Los Angeles to Spain! We are giving our children an opportunity to be global citizens and honing my skills in being a true digital nomad. Experiences over things.
When designing a hotel lobby for ideal first impressions, each decision signals a brand position: high-end, luxury, rustic, down-to-earth, approachable, practical, inviting, welcoming, distant, elegant. Get just one of these wrong, and brand dissonance may lead guests astray. A poor or disjointed first impression can lead to long-lasting perceptions that damage your brand. The same goes for your hotel’s website. It’s your digital lobby. It’s where you welcome guests, offer guideposts about what to do and indicate that they’re in the right place. A bad first impression can discolor the entire guest experience, says JRK Property Holding’s Matt Lippman: “We've found lobbies and common areas to have a strong halo and horns effect on the guest experience. If a guest's first impression is good then they think of later impressions as good too which can help them overlook less attractive qualities about a property. The reverse happens if that first impression is bad. A bad lobby or website experience can actually overshadow the positive aspects of the guest experience that follows." Unlike a physical lobby, the added advantage of the digital lobby is that it can be updated often. You can -- and should -- be making improvements frequently. The continuous optimization means that your hotel can refine messaging depending on who’s visiting your website, from which channel. One option to manage the refinement process is Hotelchamp, a website experience and marketing optimization tool for hotels. The value is in the “test and learn” approach, which enables hotels of all sizes to test, analyze, and optimize their websites, landing pages, and offers to convert more direct business. With this optimization superpower, here are four ways to optimize your hotel’s digital experience. Autopilot helps hotels of any size optimize in real time by leveraging its proprietary dataset Your website is the entry point to your offering, so it must make a good first impression. If a luxury hotel presents itself poorly online, it’s a turn-off. On the flip-side, if your midscale hotel presents elegantly, it can have a halo effect on guest perceptions. To effectively manage your first impressions online, Hotelchamp encompasses more than just looks. It optimizes how each guest interacts with your website. For larger groups and brands Hotelchamp's constant website optimization via A/B testing makes websites better, all in response to how actual humans interact rather than a set of assumptions. There's one problem: independent hotels and smaller groups rarely have enough data to run statistically significant A/B tests. Enter Autopilot by Hotelchamp. Autopilot leverages millions of data points and the massive dataset that Hotelchamp has collected over years in the business to provide real time optimization for hotels without significant enough volumes to run A/B tests. Hotels that invest in a digital marketing agency that handles search, social and metasearch advertising to drive direct bookings will be especially well-suited to optimize with Autopilot. The ability to test different offers and creative on your digital marketing extends to your website, as you can match the targeting and copy from your digital ads to a specific landing page on your website. Or, for traffic arriving from an OTA, you can hammer home the benefits of booking direct. Each experience can be fine-tuned for specific segments. “Autopilot knows how the direct channel is behaving in the broader context of the ecosystem, for example metasearch. Combine that and put it next to the patterns we’ve found in the data sets that we’ve gained over the years, we are quite good in predicting not only who you are, what you’re intentions are, but - more important - that Autopilot is serving you dynamically with the right message. Based on that and based on your behaviors after that, it learns more about you, and every time we find the next action.” ~Kristian Valk, CEO of Hotelchamp Even hotels without as much marketing spend can benefit. In fact, those with no marketing spend will find value in Hotelchamp’s Autopilot automation launched at ITB Berlin. The system runs many experiments across the entire ecosystem, then contextually applies those insights to each property's website and seamlessly optimizes what potential guests see according to what it’s learned. In the example above, you can see how two messages would be tested, and then the highest-converting one selected as the “winner” to move forward. The test-and-learn process continues in perpetuity, automatically optimizing messaging and website experience based on rules developed by analyzing the entire dataset rather than just one individual website. Personalize the experience with behaviorally targeted offers Kalibri Labs’ 2018 Direct Booking Report found sustained growth in direct bookings since its last report in 2016: When compared to the contribution to occupancy from the OTA channel, the Brand.com channel maintained its growth running approximately 50% greater than the OTA bookings. To sustain this growth, hotels turn to targeted offers that encourage more direct bookings. Website optimization is a constant -- and low-cost -- renovation to your digital lobby. When using optimization strategies, such as the ones offered by Hotelchamp, hotels can simply highlight the advantage of booking direct or then can target offers to specific demographics. With each new visitor, your website experience can be personalized with persuasive messaging that converts. It converts because the messaging is precisely aligned with a guest’s intentions, as inferred by guest attributes, such as repeat visitors, geo-location, and which website a visitor arrives from. Known as “proposition testing,” it’s a technique that aligns a user’s behavior with a specific offer. For instance, a proposition for a newsletter signup or a direct booking discount for a user that’s clicking away. Another example is offering a voucher, such as for a complimentary drink upon check-in. Targeted offers also extend to smart notifications. These are similar to the urgency-generating messaging popular on OTAs. Hotels can build that urgency and share specific data around how often a hotel has been viewed, for example. Another common use of Smart Notifications is to highlight a specific feature, such as a gym, for specific type of traveler, like a business traveler. Set a Smart Notification to fire whenever a user arrives from a corporate booking tool URL -- and boom, you have a segmented communication that can improve conversion with a carefully crafted message. Build trust by highlighting reviews, location, on-property amenities -- and live customer chat In an analysis of conversion rates across hotel star ratings, Hotelchamp found that 5-star hotels convert at less than half the rate of 3- or 4-star hotels. On its face, this is surprising. One would expect conversion rates to be in a narrower band between categories. It comes down to how guests search for information, says Hotelchamp: “Many 5-star properties across the world also contain luxurious spa facilities or illustrious restaurants and cafés that draw visitors who are not necessarily guests of the hotel. Hotelchamp conversion specialists often see that portions of the website traffic only visit these specific pages on the website, such as spa facilities or afternoon tea.” To build trust with guests, point them to the right information at the right time (and in the right language!). When you have an idea of who they are and what they need, you can then personalize the website experience -- automatically and without having to deploy extensive code. Hotelchamp has three specific callouts that highlight a property’s review score, a property’s location, and a floating tab that calls out specific property amenities. As you can see in the screenshots below, guests can engage directly with each of these optimizations. Successful targeting requires a detailed understanding of guest behavior. For 5-star hotels, the floating tab may feature rich content highlighting the on-site spa or restaurant. Then this tab might be served to any visitor from the hotel’s own IP address. This puts pertinent information right at the fingertips of on-property guests, reducing barriers and ideally generating more revenue for the business. Another way to build trust via your digital lobby is to make it easy for potential guests to connect with staff. It’s like walking up to the front desk -- it should be simple with a reasonable wait time. Hotelchamp integrates this right into its solution, so hoteliers can engage via live chat without implementing another vendor. All of these tools exist to build trust and give individual guests the information they need quickly and without fuss. Bringing it all together with comprehensive analytics The Hotelchamp dashboard keeps you up-to-date on the latest active tests, as well as the results from former tests. As you (and Hotelchamp’s team of conversion specialists supporting each account) learn more about how guests interact with each proposition, the data then informs new tests. It’s a virtuous circle that fuels a continuously improving your digital lobby. A fully-implemented optimization tool for hotels can lead to a conversion mindset with enormous potential. Not only will it empower staff to come up with better-targeted offers, but it will also make guests happier. As guests encounter stronger offers, they convert more often and the hotel enjoys a revenue boost. For one Hotelchamp hotel, the Hotel Casa in Amsterdam, the optimization technology resulted in a 38% increase in direct bookings. Another hotel, Frankfurt’s New Century hotel, saw a 24% increase in conversion rates on its website, leading to an additional €4,685 in revenue per month. One caveat: What you sell, how you sell it, and who you sell it to differs dramatically across hotels. Rely on your data, set aside your assumptions, and use “test and learn” to determine which propositions, targeting, and offer types work best for your hotel. You may be surprised at which combinations work best! Sponsored by Hotelchamp
Arise Travel is an early stage startup that most hoteliers haven’t heard of today but the firm’s technology could be the answer to the seemingly never ending direct booking wars if things go according to plan. The firm was founded in December of 2017 by two early (former) employees at cloud property management system provider Frontdesk Anywhere who got loads of experience dealing with intermediaries while building the business. Every industry has intermediaries and those intermediaries deserve to get paid for driving business to their partners. Before we jump into how Arise can help build healthier (and more equitable) relationships between OTAs and their hotel partners let’s take a quick 10,000 foot view of where the relationship sits today. Why haven't the OTAs been broken up yet? The problem with the OTA-hotel dynamic is mostly a result of consolidation that has surprisingly not been addressed effectively by most antitrust authorities. The reason that antitrust authorities haven’t addressed this issue is likely because the duopoly actually benefits consumers (by delivering lower prices for accommodations) and many of the world’s most powerful antitrust authorities have mandates to protect consumers rather than businesses. Here’s a quote directly from the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division website about the group’s mandate: “Competition in a free market benefits American consumers through lower prices, better quality and greater choice. Competition provides businesses the opportunity to compete on price and quality, in an open market and on a level playing field, unhampered by anti competitive restraints.” As such, it is unclear that the Booking/Expedia duoply (which is estimated to control ~80% of the market today) will ever be broken up given the focus on consumer protection. Arise shifts the focus from direct bookings to lower commissions Historically, most of the companies that help hotels gain leverage against OTAs today have been focused on driving new direct bookings. The general idea is that by helping hotels increase their mix of direct bookings - these hotels will pay lower absolute commissions in the short term and also in theory should be able to negotiate lower commissions over the long haul. The earliest companies to play in this space were Triptease, Stay Wanderful and Hotelchamp. These direct booking platforms help hotels optimize their website performance to increase conversion and effectively maximize their funnel rather than bring new prospective guests into it. More recently, The Hotels Network and 123Compare.me have jumped into the fray. Similarly, digital marketing agencies began positioning around direct bookings with firms such as Screen Pilot, Travel Tripper and TravelClick leading the pack. Ultimately the goal of any great hotel digital marketing agency should be to drive bookings at a lower cost relative to OTA commissions. In addition to the benefits of website optimization based direct booking platforms, digital marketing agencies help bring new prospective guests into that funnel through digital marketing on paid channels such as Google, Facebook, Email Marketing and Instagram. So tech companies have gone a long way to help hotels gain leverage with the OTAs by driving direct bookings via digital marketing, website optimization, etc. While this is a great approach, Arise Travel has a surprising way to end the direct booking wars - and the team wants to do this without a single shot fired. What is Arise's strategy to combat an OTA duopoly? While Expedia and Booking have approximately 80% of the OTA market, there are many other stakeholders in the accommodation supply chain. The total retail value of accommodations globally hovers around $570B and $200B of that gets passed to the hotel industry (Statista). Booking and Expedia revenue for all business units combined (incl. airline, activities, etc.) are ~$25B which shows that even though they have huge OTA market share, they actually have modest shares of the overall intermediary markets. So who else is in this intermediary market? Some examples include: traditional travel agencies, corporate travel businesses, smaller OTAs and OTA affiliate partners. Arise wants to help hotels fight the OTAs by mixing in more cost effective 3rd party bookings. When a hotel today forecasts a period with high demand, they’ll often use their channel manager to shut down distribution in what are called “closeout dates.” Closeout dates include peak times like big conferences coming to town, city wide events, etc. That sounds reasonable, right? Wrong. When hotels activate these closeout dates they are intentionally leaving bookings on the table today to save themselves for lower commission bookings tomorrow. Then, as occupancy begins to rise, hotels are able to increase rate which is why they’re ok to leave those bookings on the table. In super simple terms, let’s say a hotel will pay 20% to the OTA and 0% incremental for direct bookings (because many direct costs are fixed). The reason they shut down OTA inventory is because they believe that the rate increase they can command tomorrow will not justify the distribution cost today. Arise Travel founder Nadim El Manawy believes that billions are being left on the table and thinks that commissions should be dynamic just like room rates. Everyone knows that revenue management software is essential to running a profitable hotel business. If you charge too much - you lose bookings. If you charge too little - you leave profit on the table. Revenue management systems help hoteliers make sure that they can walk that fine line to maximize profitability and Arise Travel can have the same effect on 3rd party commissions. Supercharge Your OTA Channel Manager Arise automatically downloads closeout dates from your channel manager where your hotel is leaving bookings on the table. Your revenue manager can then go into the Arise Travel dashboard and input commission rates that they’d be willing to sell hotel rooms for during those periods. Rates and desired commissions then get pushed to Arise Travel’s network of intermediaries so hotels can sell rooms to prospective guests on 3rd party channels without commission negotiations or even the need for a traditional contract. Let’s say, for example, that The World Cup is coming to your city next summer so you don’t want to allow Expedia bookings at 20% commission knowing that you’ll fill your hotel regardless. You can’t renegotiate with Expedia but you can now login to your Arise Travel dashboard and notify intermediaries like small OTAs and corporate travel agencies that you’d be willing to sell rooms for a 7% commission during those times. You can even set variable commissions on a per room type basis, by rate code, day of the week and even by channel. Eventually the technology will make this all automated through integrations with top rated revenue management systems. Those intermediaries can then accept those terms and list your rooms for booking on their channels with automated rules. The big value prop for these intermediaries is that they can now sell accommodations that aren’t available on Booking and Expedia - this helps them differentiate and ultimately grow their businesses. You can now get rooms booked for a reasonable commission while driving up rates during this peak period. Consumers win by accessing your inventory in more places, distributors win by getting access to unique inventory and you win by maintaining reasonable commissions and selling your inventory more quickly. Arise’s technology handles all commission reconciliation and payouts automatically to save your team time. The entire payment and service history can be viewed at any time providing ultimate transparency into your channel management strategy. If Arise Travel can get big enough, it will eventually pressure Expedia and Booking to accept variable commissions that are market based. While Expedia and Booking may see short term headwinds from a concept like Arise Travel hitting scale, this is ultimately bringing much needed fair market dynamics and transparency to the industry which will lead to healthier hotel-OTA relationships and more innovation. Nadim has a massive vision for the industry and he needs the help of our global hotelier community to jump on board with what we at Hotel Tech Report believe is a “no brainer.” We recently sat down with Nadim to chat about his background, the future of hotel distribution, what’s next for Arise Travel and more. Hotel Tech Report's exclusive interview with Nadim below What was your background prior to starting the company? Before co-founding Arise, I led sales and partnerships for 4+ years at a cloud-based property management system company in San Francisco called Frontdesk Anywhere. Prior to moving to the Bay Area in 2011, I worked in Shanghai and grew up in Belgium. What made you decide to jump in and disrupt the travel distribution space? I met Alex Lamb, my co-founder in this business, at Frontdesk Anywhere where we were the second and third employees. Alex lead the engineering team there for 4+ years. Being in the PMS business, we became very familiar with how things work on the operational side at hotels, but we also had to work with many players in the distribution chain such as channel managers, GDS and wholesalers. We got to see how things are patched together behind the scenes today. Many of the hotels we worked with were very vocal about how a few online travel agencies were controlling their distribution and how much they were paying in commissions and fees. We also saw how the fragmentation of the PMS space and old technology used by existing intermediate networks was making it difficult for travel companies to gain access to hotel data and efficiently transact with hotels. We starting thinking about how we could use emerging technology to fix many of these problems, allowing new travel companies to grow faster and help move the industry forward. Who was your first customer? One large player in the corporate travel space (we can’t name the company yet) is taking a chance working with us in order to solve some of the problems and inefficiencies they face today. Our experience with hotel distribution technology gained over the years when building and maintaining a cloud PMS combined with our knowledge of distributed ledger technology and how it can be applied to travel distribution is what made them want to work with us. What is there so much excitement about Arise Travel as a disruptor? We build technology that helps hotels gain more control over the inventory they share with their partners. Our distributed ledger technology lets hotels enforce rate parity at the point-of-sale and dynamically adjust their commission rates based on demand, significantly increasing hotel profitability. Who is one mentor that has really helped you scale the business? I need to mention two people who have been very helpful since the beginning. Jing Zhou, who was at Hyatt for many years leading e-distribution for Asia Pacific, has been sharing her knowledge on hotel operations and distribution strategies. She has helped us stay focused when building our technology to make sure it fits with hotels needs. Varsha Rao, who was head of Global Operations at AirBnB for many years, has tons of experience in building and scaling businesses. Her constant ideas and advice on ways to start and grow the business have been extremely helpful. What's one big misconception that hoteliers have about distribution? Many hoteliers believe that they are powerless to change the distribution technology they’re dependant upon. Most hoteliers are quick to complain but because they don’t view distribution technology as a core competency, the idea of investing resources into something they’ve never taken ownership of before seems daunting. This mindset may have been reasonable in the past, but not anymore. Distributed ledger technology will show hotels that updating their distribution technology is possible with very little IT investment and without affecting their operations and current distribution channels. What's the most surprising thing you've learned about hospitality distribution since founding the business? That most innovative technology being worked on focuses on the travel search and booking process, but technology that can improve the traveler experience after booking is held back because many of these services have to rely on outdated distribution technology to function. If you could partner with any vendor in hotel tech, who would it be and why? AirBnB. Our technology creates a shared source of truth for hotels and OTAs, making it possible to automate commission reconciliation processes. With this automation in place, it becomes feasible for hotels to start setting variable commission rates for the inventory they send to OTAs. Instead of closing entire channels during high demand periods, hotels can lower their commission rate to maximize their profitability. We can help AirBnB grow its hotel business by accepting variable commission rates from hotels, giving them access to desirable inventory that is currently unavailable to other OTAs using a fixed commission model. Where do you see Arise in 5-years? Most of the intermediaries that survive of rate arbitrage and don’t bring real value to hotel distribution will disappear. We believe the efficiency and trust that distributed ledger technology can bring to the industry will drive down the commissions paid by hotels for bookings. I’d hope most hotels, including independent, will be benefiting from the control and efficiency our technology will bring to their online distribution. I’d expect many players involved on the supply and on the demand side to be using our technology. Do you have any new products or feature launches? Variable commissions hotels fully control and payouts are automatically handled. Starting with high demand periods, hotels can decide how much they are willing to pay in commissions for any given date, room type and rate. Today hotels pay fixed high commissions to OTAs and at times of high demand often take the risk to close those expensive channels as they are confident enough they’ll drive enough direct bookings to fill their hotel. Hotels no longer have to do that as they can now set variable commissions that they are willing to give OTAs on those high demand dates. We provide the transparency and control to hoteliers and we automate the commission payouts so it doesn’t add any more work for hoteliers. We work with hotel channel managers and switches. To get going hotels can contact us or also check with their service provider to see if they are already connected to Arise. Is there anything that the community can do to be helpful for you? We’d love for people involved in hotel distribution on either the supply or demand side to talk to us. The more people that understand and get comfortable with the idea that upgrading distribution infrastructure isn’t such a daunting task, the faster everyone will be able to benefit from it. Advances in Distributed Ledger Technology actually make distribution less complex than the processes in place today. What's one piece of advice that you have for any entrepreneurs looking to get into the hotel tech space? Make sure there’s a clear need for your solution in the space and if so, have a very good understanding of all the current players, how they work together and all the moving pieces that shape today’s hotel tech space.
Last week Hotel Tech Report attended ITB to discover the most cutting edge innovations in travel and hotels. Each year thousands congregate at Messe Berlin to connect with peers, partners and clients from around the globe. Below are 5 key trends that every hotelier needs to know about this year. In this article we outline each trend, tell you how it impacts your hotel and give an overview of the companies that launched or showcased on trend products at ITB. For those of you who couldn't make it to Berlin we also cut a reel from the show so you can get the next best thing to being there. Check out Hotel Tech Report's official ITB Berlin 2019 Recap video above 5 key trends & takeaways from ITB 2019 1. Automation is going mainstream 2. Software tools are breaking down operational silos 3. Hotel software is moving towards self service 4. App marketplaces are soaring 5. Meeting venues are getting wired up Our take on automation in hotel software Automation allows for time consuming, tedious and repetitive processes to be handled completely by software. When a task or process reaches the limits of the software’s capability, the appropriate team member is looped in to take over which is a beautiful thing. Let’s face it, if you’ve ever worked in a hotel you know that there are dozens of repetitive tasks that seem like a computer should be able to handle and in many cases perform even better, and now they can. Automation frees up staff to focus on the things that those computers can’t handle like high level strategic thinking, trying new products and serving guests. Many hotels are still afraid that technology and the personal touch are conflicting ideas; however, innovative hotel groups are realizing that technology and automation actually enable them to focus on the personal aspects of experience in a way they couldn’t when they were bogged down with repetitive tasks. What's new in automation? IDeaS launches Investigator to let revenue managers uncover the rationale behind automated pricing decisions by asking Alexa. IDeaS announced Investigator, an intuitive way to answer your management's question: How did you achieve that price and those results? IDeaS G3 is the most popular RMS on the market and now clients can ask the system via Amazon Alexa to rationalize the decisions that it automates to provide transparency into the decision making process that is out of a revenue managers hands and handled by the systems powerful A.I. engines. Hotelchamp launches Autopilot to help hoteliers leverage web data and user behavior to deliver personalized web experiences to boost conversion. Hotelchamp announced Autopilot technology, which wants to transform how hotels approach their online guest bookings and experience. Autopilot uses AI to deliver an adaptive experience that is tailored to every single website visitor, and is completely GDPR compliant. Using an A.I. engine to identify customer segments and audiences, Hotelchamp Autopilot can automatically serve the best information for each guest. Autopilot has been trained using pre-populated content, insights from the Hotelchamp data science team, and millions of A/B test impressions. Using this knowledge and live insights from the hotel’s website, Autopilot recognises and personalizes the website experience in real-time to convince visitors to book direct. All Hotelchamp tools can now be controlled by Autopilot, meaning the system will only deploy the right tools at the right time to the right audience. This process happens in real-time and is entirely personalised to each individual website visitor and moment in the booking phase. Crave Scheduler enables hotels to send targeted automated messages generating $5,000/mo in late checkouts. With the amount of times mobile comes up in conversation and the media, you might think BYOD (bring your own device) is the only way to go but the reality is there are lots of occasions where hotels just simply don’t have the ability to get a guest’s contact info or get them to download an app. Crave Interactive has a unique, and near unavoidable, position in the guest’s periphery with its in room tablets that see upwards of 90% guest engagement. At ITB, Crave announced a new feature called Crave Scheduler that puts a unique spin on automation allowing hotels to set rules to send target messages to guests. One of the prime use cases that Crave customers have been taking full advantage of is timed late checkout offers which have seen upwards of $5,000 month in revenue at Crave hotel partners who received early access to the feature. UpsellGuru announced "Auto Pilot" which automates the entire up-selling process. Upsell Guru now sends targeted emails, calculates the dynamic minimum and maximum upgrade bidding prices, sets up the system to decide which offers to accept and when, updates the PMS - all fully automated not requiring human interaction. The new feature allows hotels to up-sell their rooms & ancillary services without moving a finger. This saves hotels plenty of time and allows them to use the system without having to log-in on a daily basis. They’re initial trial was successful with a British chain of 30 hotels where they achieve GBP 65,000 per month in up-selling revenue without any manual human work. Quicktext showcased its website chatbot to help guests find answers faster while unlocking $140,000 in requests per 100 rooms. With Quicktext, guests can book at your hotel through a conversation (on various channels like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Website Live Chat and SMS), something that has been mainstream throughout Asia (specifically China) via WeChat but has been slower to catch up in the West. The most practical use of chatbots is on a hotel website where prospective guests often get lost looking for basic information. A chatbot can answer critical questions instantly like “how far is your hotel from the convention center?”, “what is the best way to get from the airport to the hotel on public transportation?” and “can we add a cot to our room?”. This helps shorten the time needed to research the hotel and in turn increases conversion into your booking engine flow. Humanise.AI had Gem on display boasting automation of 80% of inquiries. Humanise.AI announced automated web-chat for hotels ensures that guests get an immediate response most of the time, but can still summon a member of hotel staff when needed. When hotels use human-only web-chat systems, they often struggle to respond to enquiries quickly enough, meaning guests leave the web site before they get a reply. With Humanise’s Gem product, they claim to automate ~80% of enquiries, radically improving the guest service and improving conversion-ratios for direct bookings. SABA put its multilingual guest request and F&B ordering chatbot on display. SABA Hospitality Technology announced a bespoke and fully automated hospitality chatbot (SABAGuest Request). This multilingual chatbot and digital F&B ordering platform provides guests with a seamless communication experience, without the need for downloads. It provides operators the opportunity to eliminate language barriers, provide instant answers to all guest requests and enquiries, and engage with guests on their preferred communication platform: messaging. This allows for the redeployment of staff away from call centers and other low-value repetitive tasks, to engage in meaningful guest interactions that help build long-term guest loyalty. Our take on breaking down silos in hotel organizations It’s no secret that hotels have historically suffered from siloed organizational departments because historically without better communication tools and access to data, teams were essentially on an island in their own physical locations. Technology companies are starting to realize that their products and tools can help hoteliers to become more effective by aligning departments around common goals, systems and data. At ITB we saw a lot of this happening as evidenced by a shift where CRM companies are starting to focus heavily on the operational applications of their guest data where historically that data has just been used for marketing purposes. Who's breaking down operational silos? TravelClick weaves Demand360 data into its Campaign Advisor toolkit to leverage market intelligence data to optimize marketing campaigns fostering collaborative efforts between revenue and marketing. TravelClick announced the addition of Demand360 to the Campaign Advisor toolkit. Building on last year’s email send time optimizer, Campaign Advisor now allows hoteliers to take the guesswork out of marketing by providing them with recommendations on when to run marketing campaigns based on predictive occupancy in the market. Demand360 is the hospitality industry’s competitive market intelligence product providing forward-looking reservation metrics and competitive share by segment and channel. Hoteliers using TravelClick’s GMS and Demand360 products will have access to current and projected occupancy data versus competitive sets to best identify the most valuable time periods to run campaigns, allowing them to avoid offering discounts and packages during peak market occupancy and place campaigns when they need it most. A huge pain point for hoteliers is knowing when to send promotions and emails to customers, as hoteliers do not have a clear picture of how their future occupancy compares with their comp set. It’s hard to determine the most valuable time to run a campaign. The Campaign Advisor and Demand360 integration, which is proprietary to TravelClick, takes guesswork out of the equation and enables hoteliers to leverage market data to feel confident that they are choosing the best time to run campaigns and capture demand. Serenata CRM announced Decision Maker, a solution that combines business intelligence with campaign management. Serenata Intraware's Decision Maker allows different users groups like owners, management, operations and marketing to view the same data but from different perspectives to get an optimal view of the hotel operation, identify potential problems and take corrective actions. The Decision Maker KPI dashboard gives a high-level insight into revenue, OTA share, loyalty contribution and other key metrics and trends. Other dashboards give subject matter experts from operations and marketing the ability to drill-down and identify the root cause for a problem and based on this insight create marketing campaigns using micro-segmentation to mitigate the problem without changing tools or breaking the workflow. Cendyn announced eNgage which brings marketing’s CRM data and customer profiles to front line operations teams bringing the gap between marketing and operations. Cendyn's next generation product empowers front-line and call center staff to instantly access guest profiles including historical guest feedback, membership information, brand-wide stays, social profile information and more. Used in conjunction with Cendyn’s eInsight hotel CRM, eNgage sits on top of a hotel’s property management system or call center application and intelligently guides staff to create authentic, meaningful encounters and upsell offerings based on guest history, preferences and loyalty status. This lightweight application can be accessed on any device and features configurable messaging prompts and data displays. Like all Cendyn products, eNgage integrates seamlessly with other hotel systems, utilizing an open architecture that ensures the accuracy and completion of guest information for all team members at every touchpoint in the guest journey. Cendyn’s eNgage solution allows hoteliers to provide the right approach to personalization for guests throughout their stay. eNgage brings to life all the data that hotels are collecting on guests and it displays it in real-time through an application window that always sits on top of the hotel PMS. For staff on the front-line, access to data instantly is critical for them to manage their workload and allows them to navigate every situation elegantly with customer service and upselling, so guests feel known and valued, not overly monitored. Fornova expands its business intelligence offering to create a cross department interface for data insights. Fornova announced that they recently acquired HotelsBI, a hotel Business Intelligence platform. With this acquisition, Fornova now caters to all roles and departments in the property and chain. With this acquisition, Fornova now has three product offerings; Distribution Intelligence, HotelsBI & eCommerce Optimisation. HotelsBI simplifies the process of analysing internal and external data sources thanks to simple, intuitive dashboards - enabling faster, data-driven decisions to optimize hotel performance. Revinate’s CRM is now being used by front desk staff and showcased the scalability of its platform on newly AWS servers. This shift allows Revinate to scale more efficiently and ultimately open guest data to new departments. Revinate showcased the capabilities that get unlocked when front desk staff and managers can access CRM data. MeetingPackage.com brings revenue management and pricing optimization to your sales team. The Company announced a partnership with IDeaS revenue solutions to bring real time dynamic pricing to meeting venues. When paired with MeetingPackage’s online booking engine for event spaces, this is a truly groundbreaking development providing hoteliers with real time insights to optimize pricing and a seamless, intuitive, flexible and real time booking experience. Our take on self service software in the hotel industry This is one of the trends that we’re most excited about at Hotel Tech Report. Freemium and free trials are ubiquitous in the software world but it’s not until recently that it’s broken into the hotel market. The challenge historically with hotel software has been that you need to ingest data from core systems like the PMS to make any software work; therefore, it’s hard to offer a free trial or self service. As the hotel software market moves this direction we’ll continue to see exponential upticks in innovation and sophistication. Another key reason that hotels don’t like trying technology is because even if they like the solutions that they try - they’re so busy that they don’t want to add one more thing onto their teams’ respective plates. Long complex implementations have stifled innovation for years and lead to a massive trust gap between buyers and sellers. At ITB, Oaky cracked the code on this problem by launching it’s simple onboarding wizard which helps hotels go live in just a few simple steps. Who's helping you take things into your own hands? Oaky’s new self service onboarding lets hoteliers start upselling in under 5-minutes. Oaky announced an onboarding wizard which allows hoteliers to go live themselves, by completing a few steps. This reduce onboarding time and effort, and allow hotels to buy Oaky from marketplaces and go live without human touch. Inside the wizard they’re putting together many millions of upsell moments, and predicting the optimal upselling set-up based on the type of hotel and its guests. From combining variables around the upsell, with data around the guest and the property - they suggest the optimal setup for the hotel (what deals to sell, which content, and so on) which also predict how much conversion and ancillary revenue guests that have not yet booked will spend using this setup. In today's revenue management, the room rate is often based on the room and not taking predictable revenue from segments into account. This upsell variable can impact the distribution decision and help hotels better price their rooms. When the revenue management system knows the upsell spend of a guest from various booking channels, they can deduct the distribution costs and end up seeing how to price their rooms for a more profitable booking. Some segments spend 20% on top of the ADR, which makes sense for the hotel to 1) have an upsell setup that allows for that, and 2) an RM strategy that takes it into account to acquire more of those (more profitable) guests. Atomize’s self service functionality lets hoteliers try out automated revenue management on their own time. Atomize showcased its advanced revenue management platform that has flexibility that allows hotels to control as much or as little as they’d like when it comes to revenue strategy. Atomize’s mobile first platform has been designed from the ground up with the idea that hoteliers should be able to go live and try it out without ever speaking with an Atomize rep. The company’s founder, Leif Jaggerbrand told us that he’s had clients come in that his team has never met from countries he’s never heard of. This dynamic is widespread in the broader SaaS industry and companies like Atomize are bringing this dynamic to hotels. Cloudbeds’ PIE bakes new revenue management capabilities native into the PMS. Cloudbeds announced PIE - Pricing Intelligence Engine. PIE is built directly into Cloudbeds hospitality management suite. It is seamlessly integrated with the entire Cloudbeds suite, including PMS, booking engine and channel manager. This helps hoteliers and hosts who want one easy-to-system to manage everything. Many of Cloudbeds’ clients have never used revenue management software before so this provides a lightweight way for them to get started making better pricing decisions. Our take on hotel software app marketplaces Marketplaces are nothing new to the software industry. The reality is that it’s impossible for one technology company to be the best at everything. Historically the hotel tech industry has taken a different approach where incumbents have tried to bolt all functionality into the PMS and maintain a closed architecture but that is rapidly changing as hoteliers are increasingly unwilling to work with closed vendors and sub-par tools. In response to the shift most forward thinking providers are taking towards open architectures, several innovative cloud PMS companies have taken note from tech darlings like Salesforce, Intuit and Apple by creating marketplaces. These marketplaces facilitate seamless integrations and eventually the ability to easily try new products with the click of a button making it easier than ever to find the best tools to grow your hotel business. Cloudbeds, Mews, Hotelogix, protel and Apaleo were the latest entrants into the marketplace space each launching their own native marketplace baked into their PMS empowering hoteliers to easily tap into a plethora of best-of-breed tools to grow their businesses right from their PMS. eRevMax was the first non-PMS marketplace on the market and Snapshot was next but SiteMinder and more recently BookingSuite are clear favorites in the race to marketplace dominance. Hapi is also taking a unique and differentiated approach by building a marketplace that is solution agnostic. Hoteliers should note that none of these marketplaces have gained significant traction from a demand perspective so the field is wide open. While the idea has been around for some years we are still in the early innings. Two-sided marketplaces require supply and demand to develop but those rarely happen simultaneously. Each of the players below has focused on signing supply/tech partners lately so it will be interesting to see which is able to deliver the best user experience and actually change the way hotels interact with their software. Who's who in the rise of marketplaces Cloudbeds Marketplace. On top of announcing its native revenue management tool, PIE, Cloudbeds announced the official rollout of its marketplace offering enabling its 20,000+ hotel clients to access a variety of best-of-breed 3rd party tools to mix and match to find the perfect fit. Mews Marketplace. In a blaze of glory Mews Systems continued its streak of creative conference displays to showcase its marketplace with this year’s theme of Pimp Your PMS (a parody of MTV’s Pimp My Ride) and its booth was cleverly referred to as ‘The Pitstop’. In true Mews style, each team member was adorned head-to-toe in race car pitstop jumpsuits with patches for various apps that are integrated into their marketplace. Touche team Mews, touche... Hotelogix Marketplace. Hotelogix Marketplace launched at ITB and is a one-stop shop for all the hospitality technology needs of a hotelier. It helps hoteliers find and evaluate best-in-class Hotel Technology products on a single platform. Hapi. Hapi is taking a unique and differentiated approach by building a marketplace that is solution agnostic. Why is this important? By being solution agnostic, Hapi's marketplace is freed from the confines of being locked into a single PMS. In fact, Hapi offers technology partners (ie marketplace apps) a way to normalize fragmented and messy data into a streamlined and unified structure opening up the potential to integrate to multiple PMSs (as well as various other hotel systems). Their marketplace offering enables partners to gain exposure to hotels on the platform and enables hotels to tap into other available systems that are connected to Hapi. Although Hapi is a smaller marketplace with only about 30 partners currently, its connectivity to multiple solutions from companies like Oracle, Infor and Salesforce signals a great deal of potential. apaleo. apaleo announced its One connection, where data from all pre-connected tools within apaleo's store is available directly within apaleo’s property management system. No switching between browsers or systems. It happens all too often that hoteliers start off their work day organized, and then somehow within a matter of hours (or sometimes even minutes!), end up with dozens of browser tabs open and many systems running. Especially for front desk staff, it takes tons of clicks and searching around to find the info they need, when they need it. It isn't pleasant. With apaleo One, all the info that hoteliers need is visible within apaleo's PMS, saving staff time and creating a more seamless journey for guests. protel Services Marketplace (SMP). While not quite its first appearance, protel proudly featured its services marketplace at ITB showing off its shiney new native ratings and reviews (syndicated from yours truly) to help hoteliers research, vet and discover the best tools to grow their businesses without leaving the protel app store. Pretty awesome! From the protel team, “The SMP empowers protel customers to choose from a variety of certified and evaluated 3rd party technology vendors covering all the essential hospitality technology services, such as RMS, CRM, PMS and POS. In other words, it's THE App Store to start integration with protel. It's also the point of entry to integrations for any 3rd party vendor to showcase and offer their powerful services to our 14,000 customers around the globe.” The protel SMP marketplace features reviews from Hotel Tech Report to deliver transparency for its users BookingSuite App Store (by Booking.com). BookingSuite unveiled its app store for the first time where hoteliers can use single sign on (SSO) to activate new apps. Many hoteliers are naturally wary of relying more on Booking.com or giving them more data, but overall it is a clear strategic move by Booking to provide more value to hoteliers to mend their often shakey relationship. BookingSuite’s approach is similar to the way LinkedIn, Google, Amazon and Facebook allow users to login to 3rd party apps with their APIs. The difference between BookingSuite and these other tech giants is that they want to take commissions (into perpetuity) from technology vendors. The commission vendors pay in the BookingSuite App Store is 25% for year 1, then 15% into perpetuity. If you are a vendor with an average monthly revenue of $800 per hotel and a 7 year average customer lifetime that means you'll be paying Booking $2,400 in year 1 and $10,080 over the duration of the contract to acquire that single customer. In our opinion, this fee will eventually be passed to the end user (hoteliers) over time and is just another form of integration fee. Google and LinkedIn give away this service free to foster innovation and strengthen their respective platforms. So while BookingSuite’s tech is innovative we’re concerned about their commercialization model and understand why hotels and vendors might want to remain cautious. eRevMax. eRevMax rolled out updates to its LiveOS platform that allows its hotel clients to centralize the usage of various software applications into one interface using single sign-on. While the LiveOS platform was one of the first to offer a marketplace offering, they seem to have fallen behind the competition with a limited range of apps available but seems to be pushing forward continuing to try to continue to explore the potential of LiveOS as a central operating platform, that can plug in various systems to help hotels make critical and time saving decisions across multiple systems without having to piece the data together manually. Our take on wiring up meeting spaces for easy booking During November’s Phocuswright event Hotel Tech Report tried to book the rooftop of several hotels for a client event. In order to book the spaces we had to go to the hotel websites and fill out a form, then wait for responses from sales reps. Some websites didn’t even have a form so we had to manually email reps based on contact info from their website (that we had to dig around for). Out of the 5 desired locations which were some of the hottest hotels in downtown Los Angeles - not a single one responded within 24 hours and 1 didn’t respond to our inquiry at all. Then to make matters worse, by the time they responded the first question was ‘how much budget do you have to spend’. Needless to say, this was a pretty horrible customer experience so we decided to take our business elsewhere and avoided hotels all together for our event. Imagine if you had to write to a hotel to inquire about availability. Now imagine that when you wrote, the hotel wrote back asking “what’s your budget?” The idea is absurd. Hotel websites and OTAs have wired up the industry to make sure this would never happen again. It starts the relationship off with a bad taste for the customer and completely undermines the intended nature of a collaborative ally that a sales manager should be for any client but especially given that they are a prospect who intends to spend thousands of dollars to throw an event. Meetings and events contribute $325B of direct spending in the U.S. alone (source AmexGBT) - so it’s about time this highly profitable inventory got wired up. Who's laying the groundwork to wire up meeting venues? MeetingPackage.com brings channel management and a seamless booking experience to your meeting space inventory. Meeting Package’s Joonas Ahola Joonas also announced his firm’s launch of a meeting space channel manager which allows inventory and rates to syndicate not just on a hotel’s website but across a myriad of 3rd party channels that have popped up to help them find new demand to generate additional revenue . Meeting spaces today can be booked on platforms like AirBnB as well as on niche marketplaces like Breather, Bizly and VenueBook. Venuesuite launches demand side marketplace to help venues and planners work better together online. Announced its direct booking platform (or marketplace) that helps venues & planners work better together online. The platform significantly simplifies the RFP process and sourcing of venues. The time required to book a venue for a meeting/event is reduced from days to minutes. Both planners and venues. It enables planners to find venues fast, book instantly and configure meetings & events 24/7. For venues it generates more revenue via qualitative leads & higher conversion rates as prices are shown upfront to bookers. Within 10 months 1,000+ spaces available in The Netherlands via dedicated venue partners who've joined the new way of online (platform) working. Other notable product launches and showcases Business Intelligence Pegasus announced its Business Intelligence Platform. It's difficult, if almost impossible to transform raw data into actionable insights - it pains most hotel companies, particularly independents. Pegasus BI combines guest data from multiple sources and deliver it with automated intelligence and an easy-to-understand dashboard. Hoteliers can gain immediate insights that allow their properties to increase bookings, revenue, occupancy and profitability. Revenue Management RevControl announced rate recommendations calculated by room type separately. This announcement is specifically meant for hostels where the rate difference between private rooms and individual beds in a dormitory is huge and unrelated. It is now possible to use a separate set of business rules for each room/bed type and link each room/bed type to its exact match at hotels in de comp set to get individually calculated rate recommendations for each room/bed type. RateBoard announced revenue management modules for leisure hotels. RateBoard offers a special module for leisure hotels, taking historical holiday seasons from different countries, matching this data with the booking window of the different nations and optimizing the forecast due to this important factors. HotelPartner Yield Management announced the implementation of success-based billing models. The implementation of success-based billing models aligns incentives between HotelPartner and clients since they don't charge new partners without having achieved added value in regards to room revenue. This is an interesting and innovative approach - we're curious to see how it works as demonstrating uplift is a really difficult thing to prove given market fluctuations and the massive # of variables that can't be controlled. Marketing Travel Tripper announced Real Time Ads & Metasearch Direct. These tools help hotel marketers minimize costs and maximize RoAS on their digital marketing campaigns. Real Time Ads is the first digital marketing tool that allows hotels to advertise—in real time—their rates, availability, popularity and more right on their Google search ads, delivering double the conversion rates. With Metasearch Direct, Travel Tripper has helped hotels generate 38x their spend on metasearch with our direct connect to Google Hotel Ads. Their unique commission model means that independent hotels with smaller budgets can play on the metasearch channel without any risks—and for less cost than an OTA commission. Travel Tripper announced ADA Monitoring Platform. Many hotels in the U.S. are in constant risk of ADA compliance lawsuits simply because their websites are not accessibility friendly. Not only does the TT Web team offer full-service ADA audits on websites, but they also have built out an automated ADA monitoring platform that performs website checks in real time to ensure compliance. Hotel marketers are immediately notified whenever an element of their site falls out of the accessibility guidelines (for example, lack of alt tags, color contrast etc.) Serenata CRM & IgnitionOne launched a next generation CRM partnership that combines both historic guest information combined with real-time intent data. By tracking and scoring website visitors interests and propensity to convert hoteliers can tailor messaging, content and offers, both on the website and in the booking engine accordingly to this data. The scoring technology also supports new guest acquisition by identifying unknown website user that show high interest in a hotel property or a specific offering from the hotel. Based on the interest and score, the visitor can be prompted with personalized newsletter invite. This approach has proven to massively increase the number of newsletter signups, something necessary for many hotels after recent introductions of privacy regulations like GDPR that eliminated a large part of the hotels marketable profiles due to lack of marketing consents. The newly created newsletter subscription profiles are enriched with the interests and intent information from the IgnitionOne scoring engine monitoring the hotel website and can be used for marketing purpose complementing the historical data points already stored in Serenata CRM. With Serenata CRM and the real-time intent triggered personalization powered by IgntionOne you can deliver a true personalized experience for your guests and website visitors to drive incremental revenue. Integrator announcements HAPI announced it’s recent Salesforce integration following a 2-way oxy connect with Oracle’s PMS dailypoint™ - software made by Toedt, Dr. Selk & Coll. GmbH announced a data cleansing solution which allows hotels to automatically clean, correct, and de-duplicate their guest profiles and push that data back to the hotel’s PMS. The fully automated, AI-based process includes hundreds of steps, reviewing all key data points within the guest profile. It removes duplicate profiles, corrects mistakes made from human errors, corrects addresses for more than 240 countries and ultimately creates one single, accurate guest profile for each guest. This data is stored in the central data management solution by dailypoint™ as well as pushed to the hotel’s PMS so that data is accurate across all key sources. Operations Betterspace GmbH announced Smart Check-out feature with digital invoice and the Self-Ordering function, both for the digital guest directory iQ Tab.The Smart Check-Out enables guests to comfortably check out of the hotel and allows them to view and split their invoice digitally and receive it by e-mail. Thanks to this feature, long waiting lines at the reception desk are a thing of the past. Self-Ordering for the digital guest directory gives guests the opportunity to order food and drinks with the digital guest directory - without leaving the hotel room. Orders are sent directly to the hotel restaurant Both features simplify operational workflows, optimize processes and thus relieve staff and relax guests. This reduces administrative/bureaucratic efforts, saves time and money and the time saved can be devoted to what is important: hotel guests. Customer Alliance announced Customer Experience Hub extending their surveying capabilities from solely focused on post-stay reputation and review gathering into the full guest journey. The Customer Experience Hub allows hoteliers to customize automated messaging based on events through the guest journey to collect feedback and pipe it in real time to the department or team member who can act on it to recover fast, improve the guest experience and in-turn--improve review sentiment and gss scores. Travel Appeal announced Mobile Coach, a mobile app designed for on-the-go managers. By combining artificial intelligence with human experience, the Coach is able to detect even the most granular details from customer feedback. It’s the perfect solution for obtaining actionable insights about everything that really matters to a business. Review and operations management, made simple. The Coach app not only improves and simplifies business strategies, but helps users manage and respond directly to customer feedback - reviews, posts and photos published by customers are delivered directly to your mobile. Uncover what your clients really think to offer the best experience and maximize satisfaction. Live updates and a seamless user experience allow managers to track competitors and monitor brand reputation while also collaborating and assigning tasks to staff members. hotelkit GmbH announced a HOUSEKEEPING module. Their existing platform is used by over 40.000 hotel employees in more than 800 hotels worldwide. This new solution now focuses on all housekeeping needs and guarantees high-quality housekeeping standards through fully digitalized processes. Through an easy and modern paper-free task allocation, housekeeping processes are way more efficient. The workload can be distributed efficiently according to an employee's time and skill credits, thus, productivity is enhanced. Through digital checklists, quality standards are significantly high and the entire cleaning process can be monitored easily through real-time tracking. Smooth and efficient housekeeping routines are a crucial aspect in hotels, as cleanliness is particularly important when it comes to the guest decision making process. However, typical housekeeping processes within hotels are still highly inefficient. In order to be able to substantially increase guest satisfaction, hotelkit HOUSEKEEPING was developed together with several luxury hotels - among them the Sacher Hotel Vienna and Salzburg, and the Radisson Blu Hotel Hamburg Airport. As all processes are digitized, fast reactions, increased quality standards, and high guest satisfaction can be guaranteed! Knowcross announced PANIC BUTTON. Hospitality workers are subjected to an inordinate amount of sexual harassment and abuse, which is why as a technology provider we considered the introduction of Panic or Safety Buttons as our way of giving back to the industry. Panic buttons give hospitality workers the ability to summon assistance when needed. PANIC BUTTON helps hotels to provide a safer working environment by instant reporting of harassment complaints by hospitality workers by using technology such as GPS and Bluetooth. Guest Applications & Devices Criton announced multiple property group functionality which was piloted with London-based Cheval Residences became the first brand to adopt the new product. Created specifically for the hospitality sector, the new product gives accommodations providers with multiple properties a platform to include information on each one within a single parent app. With locations across the capital city, luxury serviced apartment specialist Cheval Residences are the first group to adopt the new technology with eight of their luxury properties contained within their new app. Group functionality is a game-changer for multi-property organizations like Cheval; enabling them to showcase the unique personality of each property while reinforcing their brand, increasing direct bookings and driving loyalty from new and repeat guests. GuestTraction announced online check-in to reduce queuing at Front Desk by moving check-in to pre-arrival. More than a third of guests polled (38%) indicated that a source of frustration was the front desk taking too long to complete requests.
Direct booking campaigns have been a centerpiece of hotel marketing for several years now. The push to encourage guests to ‘Book Direct’ stems from efforts to both reduce commissions paid to third-parties and to forge stronger bonds with guests. Without an intermediary, a hotel can market to the guest before, during, and after the stay, regaining control over the guest relationship, both financially and strategically. Evidence shows that the efforts have begun to pay off, says hospitality marketing firm Kalibri Labs: Loyalty member campaigns have either strengthened or stabilized the growth through Brand.com, while the OTA channel has either held steady or decelerated. Brand.com generates 50% more bookings on average to U.S. hotels than the OTA channel. To make its assessment, Kalibri Labs analyzed 80 million transactions from 18,000 hotels in its proprietary database. The results are promising, revealing solid gains in profitability and rate competitiveness among sampled hotels. Related article: Do loyalty programs for independents actually work? Direct bookings are more profitable Hotels prefer direct bookings due to the lower customer acquisition costs, which have been rising for the past several years. When it comes to how much revenue hotels spend on booking-related costs, the data reinforces the narrative that OTA commissions have risen at the greatest clip. With hotels facing 45% commissions from that channel, the 27% cost for loyalty-based bookings is a striking contrast. However, once a hotel turns away from intermediaries, it must spend money on marketing to secure bookings, some of which is spent on paid search and some on discounted Book Direct rates. So, some of the money saved on third-party commissions ends up going out the door anyhow. Even after accounting for the additional costs of paid search and discounting, the Kalibri Labs analysis found that direct bookings were 12.5% more profitable than those derived from OTAs. In fact, the more impactful value of direct bookings may be in the corresponding rise in Average Daily Rate. The ADR for Member Rate/Loyalty bookings reflects a solidpremium compared to OTA bookings (after acquisition costs are removed). ADR has grown to 9% in 2018, up from 8.6% in 2016. Even when tested for weekend/weekday and lead time differences, Net ADR for Brand.com loyalty bookings is higher in total, and for each chain scale. This is counterintuitive, as members-only rates are promoted as the “best available rate.” Are hotels lying to guests? On the contrary, guests are responding to the upsell. That’s the whole point of recapturing control of the guest relationship: Once a hotel can market directly to the guest through its upselling platform, it reveals new revenue opportunities such as room upgrades, bundled room rates, and premium experiences. It appears that guests respond to these efforts, pushing up the net ADR for brand.com when compared to the OTA channel. To achieve the greatest profitability for your hotel’s direct booking efforts, keep your marketing costs in check with metasearch management tools. And don’t neglect your hotel website - make sure you are working with a top rated digital marketing agency for hotels that can optimize conversion to your booking engine; you want potential guests clicking through from search to have a user-friendly experience. Direct booking tools can also encourage new sources of demand, such as from travel agents, in addition to existing loyalty members. Loyalty programs generate more bookings at a lower cost Since the launch of mainstream direct booking initiatives in 2016, loyalty program memberships have grown at between two to five times the growth rate before Direct Book. As more guests enroll to take advantage of exclusive rates, more bookings originate from loyalty members. In fact, the report found that “almost half of the business in the U.S.branded hotels is derived from loyalty members.” Do loyalty programs for independent hotels actually work? The cost savings are also significant. It’s just more expensive for a hotel to keep purchasing a booking from an intermediary, rather than re-engage a loyalty member to generate a booking. When calculating the benefit of a recurring guest coming three times after an initial visit, the average net benefit to a hotel using industry averages is approximately $65 per loyalty member, compared to cycling through 4 different OTA customers. To maintain that top-of-mind engagement with loyalty program members, carefully segment guests in your hotel’s CRM and then schedule e-mail marketing campaigns to nurture those relationships. With a precise and thoughtful approach to loyalty marketing, your hotel can generate more bookings at a lower cost, all while building that long-term relationship. A Revenue Management System is also beneficial to hoteliers seeking a more balanced approach to distribution. With the power of a comprehensive RM, small tweaks can create big results. This granular control of pricing strategy drives better ROI for direct bookings, which generate $8.33 for every $1 spent. Compared to the $4.77 to $1 ratio for OTA bookings, the investment in loyalty-based revenue management technology delivers more bang for the buck. It’s all about the mix Ultimately, it all comes down to channel mix. Hotels that work with OTAs must do so with an honest appraisal of the value these channels bring -- and how direct bookings fit into a specific hotel’s revenue profile, says study co-author Cindy Estis Green: “[OTAs] will do anything to be a part of the sales path. If you collaborate with them, you have to do it with your eyes open. The trick for each hotel and brand is to determine in each market what pipes are flowing and what’s available. It’s optimal to cherry pick which bookings are available at the highest possible profit margin. That’s the challenge everyone has.”