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Insights and advice from the HTR team to find the best technology to grow your hotel business

Hotel Channel Managers Software Articles

Here’s How Hoteliers Can Attract New Travelers in the Post-COVID Era

by
Kamesh Shukla
1 month ago

COVID-19 has had deep and far-reaching impact on the tourism industry. And, while the world waits for a universally-safe vaccine, most businesses – especially hotels – are starting to plan for the future. How will consumer tastes change as a result of the pandemic? The “new guest” of the immediate post-COVID era will have different needs and expectations of their hotel stay. Property managers can start building services and amenities that meet the demands of the first influx of travelers to arrive after the lifting of COVID travel restrictions now – because only by investing in the right tools and technology today can you get an edge on your competition then. Here’s how traveler expectations have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic and what your hotel needs to do to win more bookings in the future.   Who is the Traveler of the Future? Travelers are paying close attention to how all brands – and especially hotels – are communicating and reacting to the pandemic. Brands that are perceived as “insensitive” to keeping guests safe, or seen as not taking precautions seriously, will be punished in the post-COVID era. There are a few data points from RateGain that demonstrate this point. First and foremost, guests are putting health and safety first. Hotels can expect to see a 4x increase in questions around property restrictions and safety procedures. If your property can’t give a satisfying answer to how it’s keeping guests safe, your brand will suffer: 60% of travelers punished brands for being insensitive in their response to the pandemic. The guest of the future is also turning to social media to learn more about your hotel’s safety protocols, as well as room availability. RateGain found that 65% of Indian travelers prefer getting brand updates on Facebook. In fact, few travelers are turned off by brands that advertised during the pandemic – 92% of those surveyed by RateGain said they could understand the economic stress the pandemic caused and didn’t feel that it was inappropriate to advertise during the crisis. What does this mean for your hotel? The post-pandemic guest is looking for balance in the way your property communicates. More communication is definitely preferred – guests want to hear from your hotel regarding availability, safety protocols, and opening/closing restrictions. This guest wants your property to acknowledge the severity of the crisis and to show how your team is taking every precaution to stay open to travelers responsibly. This guest is open-minded when it comes to marketing messages; they won’t punish your property for continuing to run promotions, so long as you demonstrate you’re putting the guest’s needs first and foremost. On social media especially, your marketing team must strike the right balance between promotion and precaution.   Building the Digital Experience Before the pandemic, guests interacted with a hotel brand primarily through the physical experience (e.g., how comfortable was the bed?) and the service experience (e.g., how easy was the check-in process?). Now, there’s a third layer through which the hotel will leave an impression with a guest: the digital experience. All three pillars will be important to meeting the needs of the post-pandemic traveler, but hotels are currently least equipped to capitalize on the digital experience. The digital experience incorporates technology and online platforms to meet guest needs virtually – before, during and after their stay. The digital experience is the primary way to make a post-pandemic guest feel seen, heard, and cared for by the hotel’s physical and service experiences. Here’s what this means in practice.   Drive Revenue by Prioritizing Guest Safety Integrating this digital experience with a property’s amenities and service offerings is key to driving revenue. For a general manager, winning the guest of the future starts by clearly following global health and safety standard operating procedures – and communicating these measures as transparently as possible using social media and email to win guest trust. Digital tools can simultaneously reduce variable costs at the property while meeting guest demand for social distancing measures. In your operations, implement touchless check-in and contactless room-service for your F&B team. Shut down buffet-style dining options and add healthy meals to your menu. Augment the service experience with immunity-boosting in-room snack options. And, evolve the physical experience by creating a safe in-room experience and offering a digital concierge. These measures both personalize the guest experience and drive revenue by supplying amenities that guests actually want. Sales and marketing teams should focus their effort on improving your hotel’s reputation using guest feedback. This team must communicate what is being done to improve safety at your property as well as to promote user-generated content, providing social “proof” that your hotel is being honest and transparent in its effort to keep guests safe. Harness positive customer reviews to win trust with travelers by showing, rather than telling. Make sure you’re regularly updating your social media profiles, OTA listings, and website with all precautions your property is taking. Finally, revenue managers will play an outsized role in attracting new travelers following the pandemic. New data from RateGain shows how the market has become much more dynamic since COVID-19 started:  A hotel changes its room rates 5x per day 60% of users seek to access content via mobile 45% of activities can be automated using technology That technology can lead to 50% cost savings 26% of work is accomplished outside traditional work hours What do these numbers mean for revenue managers? The digital experience isn’t just for guests: revenue managers need a reliable rate intelligence platform that can integrate with your existing Revenue Management system to optimize rate shopping and monitor real-time rate changes, improving your price strategy accordingly. You also must be able to capture mobile-first guests – otherwise, you’re missing a massive competitive advantage.   Three Ingredients to Attracting Post-COVID Travelers It’s hard to know when the pandemic will be over, but it’s possible to start pivoting your hotel’s operations and outreach to be prepared for that inevitable eventuality. The new guest will expect to have consistent, positive service, physical and digital experiences with your hotel. Focus now on three key investments which will help your hotel win more bookings from post-pandemic travelers:  Cognitive revenue management: how can a digital revenue management tool help you optimize pricing in a dynamic market? Can you improve competitive intelligence and use booking data to show the guest you know and anticipate their needs? Smart distribution: how can your brand partner a channel manager to simplify room distribution? How can you improve discovery with OTAs and other new channels? Targeted social media: how is your brand listening to customers on Facebook and other platforms? How are you sharing your safety measures transparently? How can you build your brand reputation using customer reviews and other user-generated content?  By focusing on the digital experience, your hotel can drive revenue and increase brand trust with the first post-pandemic travelers.  

What is a Room Type? (+20 Types of Hotel Rooms)

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 month ago

We've previously covered the different types of hotels and hotel room types can be just as confusing.  Hotel rooms come in all shapes, sizes – and titles which make revenue management and hotel operations incredibly complex. Hotels label their rooms by the size bed, the number of beds in the room, as well as the furnishings, interior design, and additional amenities. Guest rooms classified as "singles", for instance, can indicate a smaller room, a twin bed, the number of occupants for which there is space, or all of the above. Room type definitions are complex and go well beyond whether the sleeping area has a single bed or queen-size, or whether it's a smoking room or not. These room type distinctions can be confusing for guests who are just seeking to understand what, exactly, it is for which they are paying. This guide seeks to help guests understand what the different types of hotel rooms are, as well as build justification for pricing your property's rooms on a certain scale.   Room Types by Occupancy It’s common for hotels to list their rooms based on how many people the room is equipped to handle. Here’s what you can expect when you see rooms labeled in this way. Single room: these rooms are assigned to one person or a couple. It may have one or more beds, but the size of the bed depends on the hotel. Some single rooms have a twin bed, most will have a double, few will have a queen bed. Double room: double rooms are assigned to two people; expect one double bed, or two twin beds depending on the hotel. Triple room: as the name might suggest, this room is equipped for three people to stay. The room will have a combination of either three twin beds, one double bed and a twin, or two double beds. Quad room: a quad room is set up for four people to stay comfortably. This means the room will have two double beds. Some, however, may be set up dormitory-style with bunks or twins, so check with the property to make sure.   Quad room   Hotel Rooms by Bed Some hotels classify rooms by the number or size of the beds in the room. However, guests should note that hotels still have restrictions on how many guests are allowed per room. Just because there’s a king bed in a room, doesn’t mean you can invite 15 people to stay. Occupancy limitations make this a liability for the hotel. Many hotels will charge more for extra guests (to a certain limit) or allow for you to add a cot to a room with an odd number of people. Here are some room types determined by bed availability. Queen: a room with a queen-sized bed.  King: a room with a king-sized bed. Twin: a room with two twin-sized beds. Hollywood twin: Hollywood twin rooms have two twin beds that are joined by the same headboard. Double-double: these rooms have two double beds (sometimes two queen beds) and are meant to accommodate two to four people, especially families traveling with young kids. Studio: this type of room has a studio bed, e.g. a couch that can be converted into a bed. Some studios come with additional beds. Others come with more space: a studio room can be like a fully-furnished apartment, meaning it will have a small kitchenette. Check with the hotel to learn more about their studio rooms.   Double-double room   Hotel Rooms by Layout There are some rooms designated a certain price according to the layout – how big the rooms are, if there’s an adjoining second bedroom, or if there is a kitchen area and living space (making the room a suite). These titles can also tell travelers which rooms are handicapped accessible or suitable for business travelers. Some of these classifications are quite common, others may require a little more research and clarification by the traveler before booking. Standard room: a standard room is likely the same as a queen or a single room, great for a solo traveler or a couple. Expect a double bed.  Deluxe room: these rooms might be a bit bigger with slightly upgraded amenities or a nicer view. These rooms are typically equipped for groups who need more space, like a couple or small family.  Joint room: a joint room, sometimes called an adjoining room, refers to two rooms that share a common wall but no connecting door. Joint rooms are meant for families with younger children who may be old enough to stay in their own space, but not too far from their parents. Connecting room: these rooms have a connecting door between them, as well as individual doors to get to the outside. Great for families or groups who don’t want to have to walk through the hallway to move between rooms. Suite: suites come in a few different sizes. A basic suite or executive suite comes with a separate living space connected to one or more bedrooms. This set up is sometimes also called a master suite. A mini-suite or junior suite refers to a single room with a bed and sitting area. Some suites also come with kitchenettes. The presidential suite, as the name would suggest, is usually the most expensive room provided by a hotel. It will have one or more bedrooms, a living space, and impressive amenities, decoration, and tailor-made services.  Apartment-style: aparthotels are offering these types of rooms, but they can also be found at other traditional hotel chains. These rooms target long stay guests with full kitchens, laundry, and other amenities that make it possible to live comfortably. Housekeeping services are limited to once or twice a week.  Accessible room: hotels are required by law to provide a certain number of handicapped-accessible rooms. These rooms will have space for a wheelchair to move easily, and a bathroom outfitted for a disabled person.   Presidential suite   Hotel Rooms by Amenities Some rooms don’t fit easily into any category because they are entirely unique.  Perhaps a room has certain hotel amenities like access to a club lounge with breakfast and an afternoon wine hour. Cabana: cabana rooms open out onto the swimming pool or have a private pool attached to the room. This room type is more common in boutique hotels. Villa: most villas can be found at resorts. These kinds of rooms are actually stand-alone houses that have extra space and privacy. Villas typically come equipped with multiple bedrooms, a living room, a swimming pool, and a balcony. Penthouse: not all hotels offer penthouse suites, but these rooms are high-end, big rooms – sometimes taking up the entire top floor of a hotel – and come with the ultimate luxury amenities.   Penthouse room   Make sure to clearly explain things to guests that may seem obvious to you. To guest "adjacent rooms" may seem like a suite with living room and bedroom separate but it actually refers to separate rooms next to each other.  Hoteliers often assume that guests speak the same language but when many hotels classify rooms differently it's critical to clearly explain the number of guests who can be in a room, whether an extra bed can fit and even things like how far the room is from hotel entrance doors.  The better you describe the experience for future guests the lower probability of false expectations which lead to poor guest experiences.  Even go as far as to share the number of rooms for different room types so they can better understand the property as a whole. Hotel guests can often get confused by all these different room types and classifications. Help them discern which room is best for their budget, the size of their party, and their comfort by asking them more about their trip and matching them with a room accordingly. Hotel guests can often get confused by all these different room types and classifications. Help them discern which room is best for their budget, the size of their party, and their comfort by asking them more about their trip and matching them with a room accordingly.  

80 Different Types of Hotels Explained

by
Hotel Tech Report
3 months ago

Want to explore a plethora of types of accommodations? You’ve arrived at the right place. We’ve researched over 80 kinds of hotels, resorts, vacation rentals, and more. By the end of this article, you’ll discover which accommodations are right for you.  The classification of hotels is no easy feat so we. decided to make it easy for you. We’ve broken down this article into 7 categories (by type of hotel):  Popular Hotel Types Chain Scales Star Ratings Niche Hotel Types Regional Accommodations Unique Hotel Concepts Hotel Alternatives   The hospitality industry is changing rapidly.  Vacation rental companies like Airbnb are looking more like hotels and hotels are looking more like vacation rentals with the invention of serviced apartments and apartment hotels.  As a guest you want to know what each hotel has to offer.  Does a 3-star hotel offer room service? Does a five-star hotel need a spa?  What kinds of hotel amenities does a resort hotel have?  Are budget hotels dirty?  Ready to dive in? Let’s go!   Popular Hotel Types These hotel types are the most common, and you can find them all over the world. Chain Hotel: Also known as a “branded hotel,” a chain hotel is affiliated with a brand that may have strict guidelines for amenities and design. Some chain hotels are part of a larger ownership group, while other chain hotels have independent owners but follow the same brand standards. Popular hotel chains are Courtyard, Holiday Inn, and Westin. Independent Hotel: A hotel that is independently owned and operated with no brand standards or guidelines.  Boutique Hotel: A hotel that incorporates unique design and personalized service, often with a theme or local influences. Boutique hotels are usually small (under 100 rooms) and independently owned, though some boutique hotels are part of collections like Leading Hotels of the World or chains like the Curio Collection by Hilton.   Pictured: Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea   Resort: A resort offers everything necessary for a vacation on-site, such as restaurants, bars, pools, spas, recreational facilities, kids clubs, and entertainment venues. Popular resort brands include Sandals and Four Seasons, though there are many independent resorts too. Airport Hotel: An airport hotel is located near - you guessed it! - an airport. Airport hotels usually provide free airport transportation for a seamless transfer. Conference Hotel: Catering to business travelers and groups, conference hotels have extensive function space, catering services, and event planners to suit trade shows, conventions, or other large events. All-Suite Hotel: A hotel which contains only suite-style guestrooms, which are guestrooms that have separate sleeping and living areas. Embassy Suites is a popular all-suite hotel brand. Extended-Stay Hotel: Designed for people who need a place to stay for several weeks or months, extended-stay hotels provide guestrooms with full kitchens and more spacious layouts than a standard hotel. Some extended-stay hotels also offer laundry events and social events.  Motel: Short for a “motor hotel,” motels are often located next to a highway in rural areas and offer basic amenities at a low price. Pictured: Aparthotel Baden, Switzerland   Apart-Hotel: Also known as a condo hotel, apart-hotels are made up of apartment-style units which can contain full kitchens and several bedrooms. Apart-hotels offer all the services of a hotel, like a front desk and housekeeping. Serviced Apartment: An apartment unit with hotel-style services available for nightly rentals, often catering to business travelers. Serviced apartments can be found in apartment buildings that also house long-term residents. Hostel: Popular among young budget travelers, hostels offer beds (usually bunk beds) in shared dormitories with shared bathroom facilities. Other on-site amenities can include lounge areas, bars, games, restaurants, and self-service laundry.   Chain Scales The hotel industry uses “chain scales” to categorize hotel brands. Smith Travel Research developed the chain scale system and decides which chains fall into each category, usually based on the hotel’s average daily rate. Luxury: These hotels are the cream of the crop. Luxury hotels offer exceptional service, distinctive architecture, award-winning restaurants, and amenities like spas and golf courses. Luxury chains include Aman, Peninsula, and Ritz-Carlton. Upper Upscale: Like luxury hotels, upper upscale hotels deliver unique experiences with stellar service and amenities - but with a less eye-watering price tag. Upper upscale chains include Hyatt Regency and Wyndham Grand. Upscale: Upscale hotels are full-service hotels with solid amenities and classic decor, usually including a restaurant and a fitness center. Upscale chains include Courtyard and Hilton Garden Inn.   Pictured: Holiday Inn Boston Bunker Hill Area   Upper Midscale: Ranging from traditional to modern, upper midscale hotels offer comfortable accommodation and basic amenities, like free breakfast and fitness centers. Upper midscale chains include Holiday Inn and Red Lion. Midscale: This segment includes both modern and legacy brands with basic design, sparse amenities, and, often, free breakfast. Midscale chains include La Quinta and Ramada. Economy: These hotels offer no-frills accommodation at a low price. Economy hotels are often found in rural, suburban, or airport areas and include limited amenities. Economy chains include America’s Best Value Inn and Motel 6.   Star Ratings Star ratings give travelers information about the level of quality at a given hotel. Generally speaking, hotels with higher star ratings can sell higher rates. Star ratings are either assigned by a third-party rating entity, such as Forbes Travel Guide, or by a governmental body in certain countries, like Australia and the United Kingdom.   1-Star Hotel: A hotel with basic amenities, perhaps with shared bathrooms or no dining options.  2-Star Hotel: A hotel with basic amenities and slightly elevated decor, breakfast service, and/or public areas like a lobby or gym. 3-Star Hotel: A full-service hotel with a restaurant, front desk, intentional decor, and housekeeping service. 4-Star Hotel: An upscale hotel with on-site dining, premium amenities, and a signature look and feel. 5-Star Hotel: A luxurious hotel with personalized service, high-end dining venues, wellness facilities, and elegant design. 7-Star Hotel: Though it’s not officially part of the star rating system, a few “7-star hotels” in destinations like Dubai and Fiji have such over-the-top amenities that the 5-star designation just doesn’t cover it. At Dubai’s Burj Al Arab, you can expect Rolls-Royce car service, a suite with a private movie theater, and a private beach.   Pictured: Burj Al Arab, Dubai   In many European countries, you can find the HOTREC Hotelstars Star Rating System. This organization uses a rubric with almost 300 points of comparison to determine which category a hotel falls into. In addition to these categories, a hotel can earn a “Superior” designation if it falls between two categories. Tourist Hotel (*): These hotels include guestrooms with private bathrooms, daily housekeeping, and a front desk with limited hours. Standard Hotel (**): These hotels include toiletries, towels, linens, and a breakfast buffet. Comfort Hotel (***): These hotels include bilingual staff, internet, hair dryers, and laundry and ironing service. First Class Hotel (****): These hotels include minibars, a restaurant, a lobby, and an extensive selection of toiletries and personal items in the bathrooms. Luxury Hotel (*****): These hotels include 24-hour reception, concierge service, in-room safes, and nightly turndown service. Did you know? AAA uses a “diamond” rating system to evaluate the quality of hotels and restaurants.  Check out our guide to hotel star ratings to learn more about these types of hotels.   Niche Hotel Types Looking for something specific? These niche hotels cater to a particular type of traveler or embody a certain theme. All-Inclusive Hotel or Resort: Don’t want to worry about dining out while you travel? All-inclusive hotels or resorts provide all of your meals on-site. Most all-inclusives have several restaurants, cafes, and bars that are included in the room rate. Beach Resort: Set directly on the beach, beach resorts let you go from your room to the sand in just a few footsteps. Beach resorts usually provide beach chairs, towels, umbrellas, and watersports equipment.   Pictured: Union Street Inn, Nantucket   Bed and Breakfast: With an average of only six rooms, these charming properties offer a homey atmosphere, daily breakfast, and social interaction with other guests and the proprietor, who usually lives on-site. Many bed and breakfasts are luxurious or historic. Business Hotel: These properties cater to business travelers and are located near business districts, airports, or convention centers. On-site amenities include meeting rooms, business centers, and restaurants for breakfast on the go. Casino Hotel: Feeling lucky? Casino hotels have on-site casinos, usually in addition to restaurants, bars, spas, and shops. Las Vegas and Atlantic City have high concentrations of casino hotels. Eco Hotel: Staying in a hotel doesn’t need to hurt the environment. Eco hotels range in size and style, but they all have a focus on environmental-friendliness. Eco hotels might come with limited housekeeping service, organic restaurants, LEED-certified architecture, and sustainable decor. Family Hotel: Traveling with the kids is easier when you choose a family hotel, which are found in popular vacation destinations like Orlando. These properties offer family-friendly rooms with bunk beds or separate bedrooms, restaurants with kid-approved menu choices, childcare or day camps, and activities for all ages. Gastro Hotel: A hotel with a culinary focus, sometimes featuring a Michelin-starred hotel or an on-site vegetable garden.   Pictured: Boulders Resort & Spa, Scottsdale   Golf Resort: A resort with a golf course, perfect for golf getaways. Golf resorts are usually found in vacation destinations like Hawaii or Scottsdale. Heritage Hotel: Take a step back in time at a heritage hotel. These iconic properties are known for their classic architecture and rich history. In some countries, they may even receive an official “historic” designation from the government. Microstay Hotel: Need a place to rest your head for a few hours? Microstay hotels can be booked by the hour, which is ideal for travelers with long layovers or quick turnaround times that don’t align with the standard check-in and check-out policies. Patient Hotel: Patients traveling to out-of-town hospitals can benefit from a patient hotel, which is usually located within or near a medical facility and offers services and amenities for pre- and post-treatment stays. Railway Hotel: Located next to railway stations, these hotels offer convenient accommodation for train travelers. The first railway hotel, the Great Western Hotel in England, opened in 1844. Ski Resort: Set in ski destinations like Aspen and Park City, ski resorts are ideal for a vacation on the slopes and offer the convenience of dining, wellness facilities, equipment rental and storage, and lessons on-site.   Pictured: Park Hyatt Tokyo   Skyscraper Hotel: Looking for a hotel with a view? You can find skyscraper hotels in metropolitan areas around the world. The hotels usually occupy several floors within the skyscraper; the other floors might contain offices, residences, shopping, or dining. Spa Hotel: If you’re in the mood for a relaxing getaway, then a spa hotel might fit the bill. Spa hotels have world-class spa facilities and often incorporate wellness into their restaurants, decor, and amenities. Tennis Resort: Channel your inner Serena Williams and head to a tennis resort for an active vacation. These properties offer not only tennis courts, but also lessons run by on-site pros and restaurants where you can fuel up between matches. Wine Hotel: A trip to Napa or Bordeaux isn’t complete without a stay at a wine hotel. Often set directly on vineyards, these hotels incorporate a wine theme in their dining venues, decor, and even spa treatments.   Regional Accomodations Some accommodation types are only found in certain parts of the world. Rather than choosing a chain hotel when you travel, you can get a taste of local culture at a region-specific accommodation. Albergo Diffuso: In an effort to lure tourists to small towns in Italy, the albergo diffuso concept offers accommodations in restored homes scattered throughout the town, giving travelers a unique sense of community. Bunkhouse: Similar to a hostel, a bunkhouse (also known as a camping barn) offers shared dormitory accommodations, shared bathrooms, and either a simple breakfast or a shared kitchen. Bunkhouses can be found in rural areas in the United Kingdom. Casa Particular: A staple of Cuban hospitality, the casa particular is similar to a bed and breakfast in that it offers travelers a room in a home and breakfast (additional meals too), plus basic decor and a low price. Country House Hotel: Popular in the English countryside, these tranquil hotels provide the ideal setting for a weekend away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Country house hotels offer comfort food, afternoon tea, and activities like hunting and horseback riding. Gasthaus: This classic German accommodation offers guestrooms and a restaurant or tavern. These properties feature traditional architecture and are found in small towns throughout Germany. Hostal: Not to be confused with a hostel, a hostal includes private guestrooms or apartments plus a restaurant or cafe. Hostales are usually family-run and are located in Spain and Central and South America. Pension: Found worldwide, but mostly in Europe, pensions are modest guesthouses which provide guestrooms and meals. When booking your room, you can usually choose between full board (all meals included) or half board (breakfast and dinner included).   Pictured: Riad de Tarabel   Riad: Surrounded by an exterior wall, a riad features a lush courtyard garden and stunning Moroccan design and architecture. While a riad is simply a type of luxurious Moroccan home, many have been converted into hotels in destinations like Marrakech. Ryokan: A traditional Japanese inn which offers minimalist rooms with tatami mats instead of Western-style beds. Other ryokan amenities include communal baths and restaurants, and guests are usually requested to remove their shoes inside.   Unique Hotel Concepts Why stay in a typical hotel when you can have a one-of-a-kind experience? These innovative accommodations prove that there’s more to the hotel industry than the big-box chain hotel. Boatel: Even those prone to seasickness can enjoy a boatel, which is just a fancy name for a boat that doubles as sleeping accommodations while it’s moored in a harbor or marina. Boatels can be small boats perfect for a family or out-of-service cruise ships that offer hundreds of cabins.   Pictured: Capsule Hotel Hakodate   Capsule Hotel: Also known as a pod hotel, a capsule hotel offers micro-rooms with single beds and shared bathrooms. These efficient hotels give budget travelers an affordable place to sleep with more privacy than a hostel, and they’re popular throughout Asia. Castle Hotel: Want to sleep like royalty? A castle hotel is housed in a real castle, often found in rural parts of Europe, that has been converted into a fully functioning hotel complete with running water, electricity, and WiFi (usually!).  Hotelship: During high-demand periods when a city doesn’t have enough hotel rooms, hotelships come to the rescue. Passenger vessels like river cruise boats or ocean liners temporarily dock in a city to provide additional sleeping capacity. Hotel Barge: Set on canals in France, the Netherlands, Germany, and other European countries, hotel barges provide a few luxurious rooms and day excursions to wineries, markets, or castles. Pop-Up Hotel: A temporary hotel which is only open during limited dates or a holiday period. Some pop-up hotels are constructed for festivals or sporting events, while others can be part of elaborate marketing strategies for brands like Jack Daniels.   Pictured: A Rotel in Germany   Rotel: Short for “rolling hotel,” a rotel is what you get when you merge a tour bus and a hotel: bus in the front, hotel in the back. Rotels are popular in tourist destinations in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Underwater Hotel: Forget counting sheep; at an underwater hotel, you can count fish as you fall asleep. Set in resort destinations like the Maldives and Singapore’s Sentosa Island, these luxurious hotels offer underwater rooms with sea views - literally.   Hotel Alternatives Hotels aren’t your only choices when it comes to places to sleep during your travels. A growing segment of “alternative accommodations” puts a twist on the vacation experience with options available for every budget and style. Cabin: A home located in the forest or mountains, usually made from natural materials like wood. Cabins can range from simple accommodations to luxurious retreats in rural destinations. Campsite: Want to get back to nature? A campsite is as close to nature as you can get. Book your campsite, bring your tent, and enjoy a night (or a few) under the stars. Campsites have access to shared bathroom facilities. Farm Stay: For city dwellers, a farm stay can be quite an adventurous vacation. On a farm stay, you might wake up to the sound of roosters crowing and help your hosts harvest vegetables for your dinner, since guestrooms are either attached or adjacent to the host’s home.   Pictured: Istra Premium Camping Resort   Glampsite: If campsites had star ratings, then glampsites would surely earn five! Glamping puts a luxurious spin on camping with posh tents that incorporate high-quality materials, chic decor, modern bathrooms,  Guesthouse: A simple accommodation which offers guestrooms within the host’s own home. Guesthouses can have up to a dozen or more rooms, and most provide free breakfast. Holiday Park: A group of mobile homes or cottages with community amenities like swimming pools and tennis courts.  Homestay: A room for transient guests within the host’s home, which is a popular accomodation type in rural areas. Homestays usually include breakfast, and some invite you to dinner with the host family. Ranch: Ever wanted to be a cowboy or cowgirl? Ranches offer the quintessential Wild West experience, complete with horseback riding and plenty of nature. They vary in quality from luxurious resort ranches to working ranches where guests help with daily operations. Recreational Vehicle: The perfect road trip solution is a recreational vehicle (RV), which looks like a bus or large van on the outside, but features all the comforts of home on the inside, including at least one bed, a kitchen, a bathroom, and living space. Short-Term Rental: This new term refers to vacation homes or apartment rentals that travelers book for a short period of time, from one night to a few weeks. Short-term rentals can be managed by individual hosts or brands like Sonder. Studio: A single-room accommodation that includes a kitchen or kitchenette, a bed, and a bathroom. Studios can be found in guesthouses, apart-hotels, or as short-term rentals. Timeshare: This innovative solution to vacation home ownership lets you purchase a condo or villa for a certain time period (usually one week) each year. Some timeshares include use of just one property, while other timeshare membership programs allow you to redeem your week at your choice of several properties.     Tiny House: A trendy, Instagram-ready, and efficient accommodation that offers a bed, a bathroom, and a kitchen in just a few hundred square feet of space.  Treehouse: Ideal for the young at heart or anyone searching for a truly unique accommodation, treehouses offer a bed in the trees. These eclectic properties can be basic, open-air platforms or magical, luxurious palaces in the sky. Vacation Home: Simply put, a vacation home is a house rented for short-term use. A vacation home is a great solution for families or groups who want their own kitchen and living spaces and prefer not to book multiple guestrooms. Vacation Rental: The broader term for vacation homes, apartments, condos, villas, timeshares, treehouses and more that are booked for the purpose of a short leisure stay. Villa: Usually found in tropical vacation destinations, villas are like small, private resorts with multiple structures (standalone bedrooms, living areas, gazebos) and outdoor pools. Yurt: A halfway point between a hotel room and a tent. Yurts are permanent structures with walls and roofs, unlike tents, but they often lack electricity and climate control and use shared bathroom facilities.   Ready to pack your bags? Let us know if we missed any types of hotels.  

The Complete Guide to Online Travel Agencies in 2021 (OTAs)

by
Hotel Tech Report
5 days ago

Online travel agents have become an integral part of many travelers’ “search and book” routine. It used to be so much more tedious to book travel, requiring a phone call or an in-person visit to a physical travel agent. Now, travelers can self serve all the way from research to booking.  If you're like most travelers, you've used an OTA without really thinking much about it.  The website works well, with lots of choices and a relatively smooth booking experience. But if you’ve ever wondered what an OTA actually is, how OTAs make money, why travelers like you use OTAs and what the biggest OTAs are, then this is your place.  We've compiled some of travelers’ most frequently asked questions around OTAs and answered them all in one place. Let’s get curious!   What's an OTA? “OTA” stands for Online Travel Agency, which is a travel agency whose primary presence is on digital channels. Consumers can use a website and/or mobile device to search and book travel -- all without the traditional “gatekeeper” travel agent. OTAs connect to the full breadth of travel providers, giving travelers access to all of the inventory that they may want for their next trip.  Online travel agents are the travel industry's largest source of bookings and often use package deals including airfare and hotels or special offers like flash sales to drive more bookings to airline and hotel partners.  These massive travel websites like Booking and Expedia have millions of monthly visitors. Large hotel groups (like Hilton and the like) have been consolidating and building new subbrands, which means that they have a lower reliance on OTAs; travelers can find many types of accommodations on the global brands’ own websites. Yet, many independent hotels rely entirely on OTAs to drive their bookings as they don’t have a booking engine of their own. Either way, OTAs have a breadth and depth of travel inventory that covers all segments, geographies and groups of travelers. It's also important to understand what ARE NOT online travel agencies.  Metasearch engines like TripAdvisor and Google Flights, for example, are not OTAs.  Having said that, Booking.com (formerly Priceline.com) does own metasearch player Kayak so there are some overlaps (although with different brands).  In the United States Expedia is the dominant player while in Europe it is Booking.com.   How do OTAs make money? Most OTAs make money by taking a commission per booking, which is anywhere from 5% to upwards of 25%. The actual commission rate is negotiated on a brand by brand, property by property basis. In general, larger hotels and bigger brands with many properties use their leverage to negotiate lower rates. So when you book that boutique hotel on an OTA, it's likely that they are paying more on commission than the name brand Hotel down the street.  Most OTAs also make money through advertising, in which hotels pay to be prominently placed above organic results in relevant traveler searches. This model, which is also used by metasearch sites (see What is metasearch? for more), is generally on a pay-per-click basis.   Why do travelers use OTAs? Over a fifth of travelers say they use OTAs to book all or part of their travel. And OTAs (and their metasearch cousins, often owned by major OTA groups) remain popular among all age groups.  OTAs are positioned across many touchpoints throughout the customer journey.   Why is that? At the highest level, there are three main reasons why many travelers book their trips on an OTA: Choice. Online travel agencies are a “one stop shop” for all things travel. From flights and hotels to short-term rentals, cars and vacation packages, you can pretty much find any type of product that you want on an OTA.  Price. OTAs have done an excellent job of developing a perception of value -- even though they aren't always the lowest price or the best value. The real value here lies in comparison shopping. It’s easy to compare options on an OTA and that type of information is very valuable to consumers. Convenience. OTAs are the Everything Store for Travel, available on any device. It’s a convenient place to book your car rental, hotel and flights in a single reservation. It's so much easier to deal with that single point of contact --  especially when things go wrong and you need help. Rather than calling multiple numbers to puzzle together a new itinerary, you only have to call one number to get it done. Now let's assume and to get a bit more of a granular and geeky view into what consumers want from OTAs. A recent research report from Jul 2020 asked this very question in its title, Why do people purchase from online travel agencies (see geeky graph below). While it was based on a limited sample size of users from a budget hotel brand, the results suggest that travelers use OTAs due to a perception of greater trust, safety and quality: Hygiene. Travelers want to be assured of the relative cleanliness of the service or product. By using a reputable online travel agency, travelers have an expectation of a  certain level of quality.  The attributes of the brand make a big difference in the perception of quality. Privacy and security. Privacy and security are also important. And, just like hygiene, Travelers have a certain level of trust in the OTA brand to deliver a quality experience that won’t expose them to privacy breaches or physical harm. Reviews. Social proof has a major impact on why travelers use OTAs. A feeling that others had a good experience goes a long way in pulling more consumers into the OTA ecosystem. What are the drawbacks of OTAs? There are also some disadvantages of using OTAs, which travelers must be aware of. For one, travelers often are lured by low prices on many online travel agencies. Yet, once they try to book, they find out that the price includes hidden fees or added restrictions that wouldn’t be found by booking directly with an airline or hotel.  Niche OTAs, which can pop up seemingly overnight, often hide the true cost of a trip during a given search to entice consumers to click through. The worst actors will actually appear to offer the lowest price all the way through to booking.  However, once you check-in to their flight or hotel, you may discover unexpected fees. All of a sudden, that “steal” of a price actually becomes more expensive than it would have been book direct. Examples of these tactics periodically pop up, such as when one online travel agency was accused of using improper charges and bait-and-switch fares. The tactic can mislead consumers, who see an OTA as the cheapest option in search results and thus click through to book. Another major drawback is customer support. Not all OTAs are created equal on this front. Especially when it comes to regional ones, travelers often face less-than-ideal support.  For the average trip, when everything goes well, this is far less of an issue. It's when things go wrong that support matters greatly. No one wants to be stranded without anyone to help!  This can be exacerbated during disruptions come out when travel suppliers prioritize direct workers over others. When booking directly with a hotel or airline, travelers will deal directly with the company for any issues that arise.  So it’s not always cut-and-dry that an OTA will be able to provide you better or more effective support than a travel company --  and in some cases (especially with more niche/regional OTAs) there’s spotty support that can cause more frustration than the price savings.      What are the top online travel agencies? When choosing where to book, most consumers opt for one of the top OTAs: Booking Holdings and Expedia Group. That’s not really difficult to do, as these two companies own the bulk of online bookings. With many brands that span categories and regions, Expedia and Booking have all corners of the globe and all travel niches covered: Expedia Group In addition to its namesake OTA Expedia.com, which sells all categories of travel to a global audience, the company operates sites that span hotels, ground transportation, cruises, vacation rentals, metasearch and business travel. Hotels.com. Expedia’s hotel-focused OTA is most well-known for its generous and straightforward loyalty program, which rewards a free night for every 10 nights booked on the platform. Vrbo. Short-term rentals are the core of the Vrbo offering, which recently merged with HomeAway to become Expedia's main destination for vacation rentals. Egencia. Corporate travel managers use Egencia to support their business travel needs. With self-service options for travelers and compliance tools for managers, the focus is on savings and ease-of-use. trivago. The “trivago guy” became a worldwide sensation after appearing in commercials without a belt. The hotel metasearch platform provides hotel price comparisons across its 55 localized sites. Orbitz. This OTA has a strong focus on North America, where travelers can search flights, hotels & travel bundles. Orbitz for Business is the OTA’s corporate travel arm. CheapTickets. As a subsidiary of Orbitz, Cheaptickets is for discounted hotels, flights, local events, travel bundles and cruises. The site’s Vacation Value Finder assists travelers in finding the best deals. Travelocity. The Roaming Gnome has been one of the most successful marketing campaigns in travel. The OTA is also known for its Price Match Guarantee, where it will match any price from a competitor. Hotwire. This is an opaque deal site specifically for hotels. Travelers can see star rating and cost for their search dates, and then make non-refundable reservations based on an overview of the hotel’s category. Wotif. The Wotif portfolio includes Wotif and LastMinute, which offers flights, hotels, packages and last-minute deals to travelers based mostly in Australia and New Zealand. ebookers. This regional OTA serves travelers primarily from the UK, as well as around Europe. Travelers can search and book flights, hotels, car rentals,  activities and packages. CarRentals.com. Travelers can book rental cars from the major brand names, as well as smaller regional outfits. The niche OTA covers 29,000 locations in 197 countries. Expedia Cruises. The cruise arm of Expedia Group gives consumers the control and flexibility to book cruises, which can be more complex than typical travel. There are also a chain of retail outlets, so cruises can get expert assistance face-to-face.   Booking Holdings Headquartered in Amsterdam, Booking Holdings is best known for its flagship brand Booking.com, which sells all types of travel to a global audience in 43 languages. The global conglomerate also operates niche websites serving specific segments in travel and hospitality. Priceline. This OTA is focused primarily on North America and is known for its discounts and deals. The latest is Pricebreakers, a semi-opaque shopping option that shows travelers three hotels, one of which will be assigned after booking. Agoda. This OTA is strong in Asia, offering over 2 million hotels, homes, resorts and hostels across the continent. It also sells flights. Kayak. Kayak is a metasearch price comparison tool for flights, accmmodations, packages, and rental cars. Kayak has 60 localized sites in over 24 languages. Cheapflights. The brand promise is right there in the name: this is the place to find cheap flights. The site is actually a subsidiary of Kayak and applies its parent company’s metasearch model to flights. Momondo. Another subsidiary of kayak, this site is a flight fare and travel search aggregator. Travelers can find and compare prices for flights, hotels, rental cars and package deals. RentalCars.com. This Booking platform for rental cars has options in 160 countries, as well as nillions of verified reviews to inform travelers. OpenTable. Booking’s push into the full traveler journey led it to acquire OpenTable, the world's largest restaurant reservation platform. It exists as a standalone brand, where diners can make reservations online at restaurants worldwide.   Airbnb The dominant short-term rental player now also offers boutique hotels on its platform. And while the pandemic has shifted its vision somewhat, the platform is now an OTA that competes directly.   Ctrip Until recently, Ctrip was focused primarily on Asia. This changed with the purchase of Trip.com, which gave it a global footprint on major North American and European markets.   Google Hotels Okay, so technically this is not an OTA as the business model is strictly “pay for performance.” But Google Hotels is the elephant in the room: a major competitor from the dominant search engine where the vast majority begin their travel searches. It's mere presence changes the calculus for OTAs worldwide. That's not to say that these sites are perfect, or that there aren't local alternatives. Verified reviews aren't always the most positive (see some here) -- but at least with the major companies, travelers are more likely to get responsive support and accurate pricing, with less likelihood of being scammed or otherwise misled. For a full list, check out our list of the top hotel booking sites for 2020.  

A Complete Guide to the Biggest Vacation Rental Websites

by
Adrienne Fors
3 months ago

Deciding to start a vacation rental business - or grow your existing one - is a big decision (especially in the wake of covid-19). But that’s just one of many decisions necessary to turn your goals into reality.  Many of the major hotel booking sites have been expanding into vacation rentals and vice versa as the lines blur between these categories of lodging. The vacation rental world is only getting bigger and more complex with new vacation rental websites popping up every day, and many property owners and managers feel overwhelmed at first. We wanted to eliminate the confusion and put property managers on the path to earning 5-star reviews with as few headaches as possible. That’s why we created our comprehensive guides to the most popular vacation rental websites: Airbnb, Vrbo, Tripadvisor, and Booking.com.  This can also be your guide if you're trying to understand which listing website can help you book the best vacation or getaway. Within these guides, you’ll learn about the basics, like logging in, setting up your property listings and getting support, as well as more complex topics, such as pricing models, service fees and promotional strategies. After reading about each site, you can make informed decisions about what’s best for your business. Do you list on all sites or just one? What can some sites offer you that others can’t? Which sites get the most traffic? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about selling your property on the top four short-term rental sites.   Airbnb: Your Guide to Getting Started The first step in the Airbnb listing process is to create an account for your vacation rental property. If you’ve booked vacation rentals or Experiences on Airbnb in the past, then you don’t need to create a new account. Unless, of course, you want to keep your business separate from your personal account. If you’re wondering how to set up a new account or check if you already have one, then you’ll want to read our guide to how to log into Airbnb. Once you’ve logged in, then you can start building your listing. You’ll upload your photos, write compelling descriptions, set your rates, outline your house rules, and, when you’re ready, push the listing live. But all of those little steps can make a big impact on your listing’s attractiveness and your business’s bottom line. Our detailed guide to Airbnb FAQs covers all the specifics from refund policies to taxes. If you have any questions along the way, you can always browse Airbnb’s Community Center forum or contact Airbnb’s support team. They’re available via phone or online chat 24/7 and while they charge a hefty booking fee it's actually much better than what is charged by firms like Expedia and Booking to hospitality businesses for selling hotel rooms. Airbnb is one of the most popular travel sites in the world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best choice for your business. Airbnb’s competitors can offer different features and commission rates, and some sites even target different types of guests.    Vrbo: Your Guide to Getting Started Like on Airbnb, the first step to listing your property on Vrbo is to create an account and log in. Need help with this step? Check out our guide on how to log into Vrbo. By the way, Vrbo and HomeAway are the same company now and both are owned by Expedia Group. There’s no need to create two separate accounts or two separate listings; your listing will show on both Vrbo and HomeAway automatically. After logging in, you can begin to build your listing. The listing process is similar to Airbnb’s; you’ll write your descriptions, upload photos, check off all those little amenity checkboxes, and choose your subscription plan. Wait, what? You need a subscription plan for Vrbo? This must be one of the most frequently asked questions about Vrbo and HomeAway. Like other vacation rental sites, Vrbo charges a small commission on every reservation if you do not go for the subscription model. The subscription model costs $499 per year, so for hosts and owners who plan to rent full-time, the subscription can make good financial sense. If you have any questions along the way, you can always contact Vrbo support for assistance. When we look at user reviews for Vrbo and Vrbo’s competitors, Vrbo’s support team actually gets great ratings! That’s just one difference between Vrbo and other sites, though. If you’re planning to list a shared space, like a private room in a house, then a site like Airbnb or Booking.com would be a better option. The bread and butter of Vrbo’s business is traditional vacation homes and condos.   Tripadvisor: Your Guide to Getting Started Few travelers book hotels without checking the Tripadvisor reviews first, but Tripadvisor now lets travelers book directly on their site. And we’re not just talking about hotels, but vacation rentals too. Through the Tripadvisor Rentals program, which includes sites like FlipKey and Holiday Lettings, you can make your property available to book on this popular channel. After you’ve set up a Tripadvisor Rentals account, the listing process is quite simple. In fact, it might be the fastest onboarding process out of this group. Compared to Tripadvisor’s competitors, though, the site gets the least amount of monthly visitors, but it can still be a good addition to your vacation rental business strategy.  Like other sites, Tripadvisor operates on a commission model, so there’s no risk in setting up your listing. You’ll only pay the commission on money you earn from reservations. In our guide to listing on Tripadvisor, you can learn more about Tripadvisor’s policies, features, and best practices. Throughout the listing process (and when you’re managing listings that are live), Tripadvisor offers plenty of support options in case you need assistance. The site contains helpful how-to guides, a database of support articles, and a team that you can contact by phone.   Booking.com: Your Guide to Getting Started It’s impossible to write a guide to vacation rental listing sites without including the biggest of them all: Booking.com. This site attracts the most visitors of any travel site in the world, so it seems like an obvious partner for your vacation rental business. Well, not so fast! As you’ll learn in our Booking.com listing guide and our study of Booking.com’s competitors, there are a few reasons why the site might not be the best choice for your business. For one, Booking.com charges a 15% commission - that’s a lot higher than Airbnb’s 3% commission! Despite the cost, Booking.com can bring a lot of value to savvy vacation rental owners. Once you’ve logged into Booking.com and gotten acquainted with their host portal, called the Extranet, you’ll find a slew of market research tools, promotional options, and resources for running a successful hospitality business. Being a massive, global company, Booking.com also offers some of the best customer support out of the vacation rental listing sites. The company has offices in dozens of countries, so no matter what language you speak or what time zone you’re in, you can get great support at any time of day. The Booking.com support team can also communicate with you through the Extranet Inbox, which is conveniently available on desktop and in their Pulse mobile app. Ready to set your vacation rental business up for success? One of the most important steps is choosing which vacation rental listing sites to use. After all, these sites are responsible for bringing potential guests to your property - so it’s a good idea to choose wisely. You’ll also want to consider the time commitment necessary to manage multiple sites. But, after you’ve read our guides to each listing channel, perhaps you want to dive right in and partner with all of them. Whatever you choose, we wish you nothing but happy guests and 5-star reviews!  

The Best Hotel Booking Sites of 2021: Cheap Deals, Quirky Pads and More!

by
Hotel Tech Report
5 days ago

Are you feeling as couped up as we are with this Coronavirus quarantine? Looking for inspiration and deals to plan your revenge trip when the world opens back up again? Nothing beats that rush when you book a killer hotel deal! With the number of hotel booking sites multiplying at a rapid pace, it can be difficult to know where to find the best deals - and without getting scammed. In this article, we’ll introduce you to several types of hotel booking sites, including online travel agencies, comparison or “meta-search” sites, branded hotel sites, innovative booking sites, flash sales and “mystery hotel” deals, and some sites offering unique accommodations. By the end of this page, you’ll know several sites where you can find the best deals for the kind of travel that’s in your future. Ultimately finding the best hotel booking website will mean different things to different people.  Even a single person may define "best" differently for different types of trips. Are you looking for the most sophisticated search engine that makes  your hotel search fast and painless? Google would likely be considered a top contender.  Maybe you're looking for cheap hotels to stay at on your next business trip to San Francisco where you'd prefer Kayak.  Maybe you need an all suites hotel in Las Vegas for a bachelor party or an all-in package for your family to Disneyland Orlando with car rental, activities and more. In this article we'll break down 'best' into 5 categories to make it easy for you to find what you're looking for on different types of trips: Top Hotel Deal Sites Online travel agencies Price comparison websites Branded hotel booking Unique accomodations Let’s dive in!   Online Travel Agencies If making hotel reservations were like online shopping, then the online travel agencies are the Amazon of the hotel industry. These mega-sites contain millions of listings for hotels, vacation rentals, and everything in between. If you travel frequently, some OTAs even offer loyalty programs which can bring you even more perks and discounts. Booking.com If you’ve ever searched for hotels online, chances are you’ve come across Booking.com. This massive hotel booking site is the largest in the world, with over 28 million properties listed. You can find everything from luxury hotels to hostels to apartment rentals on Booking.com. In the search results, you can quickly see the property’s guest review score, the cheapest room type, and the total reservation price - unlike some other sites which only show the nightly rate. At most Booking.com properties, you pay directly at the hotel when you arrive. Unique feature: Sheer volume of properties Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: Through Booking’s Genius program, you get extra discounts after staying at two properties within two years, and after five stays, you get perks like room upgrades and free breakfast. Did you know? Booking.com is the most popular travel website in the world, with hundreds of millions of visitors per month!   Expedia Expedia can be considered your one-stop-shop for travel. You can book not only hotels on the site, but also flights, rental cars, cruises, and activities. Hotels can join Expedia’s frequent flash sales, and travelers can often get extra discounts with promo codes around major holidays, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Expedia is one of the few sites that offers package deals (a bundle of flight, hotel, and/or rental car reservations), which often include significant discounts.     Unique feature: Package deals Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: Expedia Rewards members get access to members-only discounts and collect points on every booking. Members can redeem points for free stays, and higher-tier members enjoy perks like room upgrades and free amenities. Did you know? Expedia owns Orbitz and Travelocity, so you’ll see exactly the same properties and rates on those sites.   Hotels.com Hotels.com is part of the Expedia Group, so you’ll find the same hotels (and hostels, vacation rentals, etc.) on this site, but the real difference lies in the loyalty program. Sign up for a free Hotels.com Rewards account to get one free night for every 10 nights you stay. The value of your free night is an average of the 10 paid nights, and the location, brand, or star rating doesn’t matter. It’s a great way to get free nights at independent hotels, especially if you travel a lot!      Unique feature: Loyalty program Region: Worldwide, but most popular in the US and Canada Loyalty program: Stay 10 nights, get one free. Membership is free. Did you know? The Hotels.com spokesperson is Captain Obvious.   Agoda If you’re traveling in the US or Europe, you have a plethora of booking sites at your fingertips. In Asia, however, especially in less popular and rural areas, Agoda is often your only option. Agoda has over 2 million listings, which can be hotels, resorts, hostels, homestays, and vacation rentals. Check the “Today’s Deals” page for promo codes valid for extra discounts.     Unique feature: Volume of properties in Asian markets Region: Most popular in Asia Loyalty program: The PointsMAX program lets you pair your airline loyalty program (like AAdvantage) and earn miles after each Agoda stay. Did you know? Agoda’s website and mobile app are translated into 38 languages.   Hotel Booking Comparison Sites With so many booking sites, it could take hours for you to compare the prices for one hotel on all of them. Comparison sites, also known as meta-search sites, do the heavy lifting for you and pull the rates from various OTAs into one place. You can then click the link for the website with the cheapest rate and book directly through that site. Kayak Even though Booking.com owns Kayak, you can use Kayak to compare prices for hotels, rental cars, and flights on dozens, if not hundreds, of different websites. If you’re watching a specific flight or hotels over specific dates, you can sign up for a price alert and receive an email when rates increase or decrease. Unique feature: Price comparisons for hotels and flights Region: Worldwide, but most popular in the US Loyalty program: None Did you know? Kayak’s “Deals” page sells discounted tours and concert tickets.   HotelsCombined Another popular meta-search site is HotelsCombined, which - you guessed it - combines the search results from all the big booking sites into one consolidated hotel list. After plugging in dates and a destination, you can filter the results by star rating, guest review score, neighborhood, brand, amenities, and more. Unique feature: Price comparisons for hotels, flights  Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Over 400 million travelers used HotelsCombined last year.   Trivago If you’re searching for the best deals on hotels, Trivago is a good place to look. The site compares over 1.8 million hotels and pulls in prices from over 400 different websites. You can filter your search results by star rating, review score, and amenities, and you can see average hotel prices per day to find cheaper days of the week or month.     Unique feature: The calendar highlights cheaper and more expensive dates. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Trivago doesn’t just shop hotels, but also hostels and vacation rentals.   Tripadvisor Though you may know Tripadvisor best as a review site, it’s also a travel booking and comparison site. On each hotel listing, above the reviews section, you’ll see rates for that hotel on all of the big OTAs and, usually, the hotel’s own website. Tripadvisor lists not only hotels, but you can also book vacation rentals, tours, activities, and restaurant reservations.     Unique feature: Easy to find added-value offers, like free breakfast Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Tripadvisor highlights the cheapest dates for a given hotel so you can find the best deals.   Google Is there anything you can’t find on Google? As a newer player in the travel game, many people don’t know that Google can reveal some good hotel deals. You can find hotels on Google in two ways: a simple Google search for “hotels in ___” and through Google Maps. Google’s hotel listings contain all of the hotel’s Google Maps info, like contact information, photos, and guest reviews, and the listings also show prices and links to book at various sites, often including the hotel’s own website. Unique feature: Google Maps data, including reviews and photos. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Some hotels have Google Street View 3D tours.   Hotel Brand Booking Websites Do you crave quality, consistency, and lots of loyalty perks? The world’s global hotel chains offer a lot of value to frequent travelers through their loyalty programs, which are free to join and often offer members-only rates and benefits. The three chains below offer a myriad of different brands ranging from budget to ultra-luxury with properties around the world. These are just a few brands of the many across the globe, but they offer some of the best loyalty programs and property portfolios. Hilton HHonors As one of the world’s most well known chains, Hilton Worldwide has a portfolio of over 6000 hotels in 120 countries. The Hilton umbrella includes brands like Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn, Embassy Suites, and Waldorf Astoria, and you can book all Hilton hotels on the brand’s main website or app. When you create a free Hilton HHonors account, you’ll receive access to special member discounts and get free WiFi at all Hilton properties. Unique feature: All HHonors members can use digital check-in to choose their own room. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: HHonors tiers include Member, Silver, Gold, and Diamond, and all members accumulate points which can be redeemed for free nights. Did you know? Gold and Diamond members receive free breakfast at all Hilton properties.   Marriott Bonvoy Marriott International comes in at #3 in the list of largest hotel chains in the world, and the company has over 7000 properties in its portfolio. After Marriott’s merger with Starwood in 2015, the company’s portfolio grew to include a whopping 30 brands, including Courtyard, Four Points, Moxy, Sheraton, Westin, and Ritz-Carlton. Marriott’s website and mobile apps allow you to book all 30 brands in the same place.     Unique feature: Elite members staying at least 10 nights per year receive late checkout at all Marriott properties. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: Marriott’s Bonvoy program has six tiers from standard Member to Ambassador Elite. Did you know? If you stay 250 nights at Marriott properties and earn Elite status for 5 years, you get Elite status for life.   World of Hyatt Though Hyatt’s portfolio size pales in comparison to Marriott and Hilton, World of Hyatt members enjoy some pretty incredible perks at the company’s roughly 900 hotels around the world. Hyatt’s brands include Hyatt Place, Hyatt Centric, Andaz, Hyatt Regency, and Park Hyatt, and you can book them all on Hyatt’s website and apps. Hyatt also has several “independent collections,” such as Joie de Vivre, which include boutique hotels with no Hyatt branding. Unique feature: World of Hyatt members enjoy perks at Exhale Spas, American Airlines, and Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: World of Hyatt’s membership tiers include Member, Discoverist (10 nights/year), Explorist (30 nights/year), and Globalist (60 nights/year). Did you know? Globalist members get free breakfast or executive lounge access at every Hyatt property.   Innovative Hotel Booking Site Concepts Looking for something a little different? These specialized sites go beyond what the traditional OTAs offer. You’ll find sites that focus on specific types of hotels - or even specific hotel amenities - as well as platforms that utilize technology to deliver better prices than you can find elsewhere. Some even offer hidden, members-only deals that you must sign in to view. Take your deal-hacking to the next level with these disrupters. Roomer Travel Have you ever needed to cancel a non-refundable hotel reservation? In most cases, you can’t get your money back, but you can post your reservation on Roomer. This site offers discounted stays at hotels around the world - but be warned, the dates are very specific and you can usually only choose from one room type. If you get lucky and the dates align with your travel dates, then you’re in luck!     Unique feature: Reselling hotel reservations that other people can’t use. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Though the original booker couldn’t get a refund from the hotel, some of Roomer’s offers are refundable when you book through the Roomer site.   Splitty Travel This money-saving site uses technology to hack other travel sites and find the best deals. Splitty’s technology combines multiple offers at the same hotel to secure a lower-priced reservation. How, you ask? Maybe you’re searching for a 4-night stay in Dallas, and the cheapest room at Hotel ABC is $75, but it’s only available for the first 3 nights. Because it’s not available for your entire stay, the other sites won’t show it in their search results. Instead, they’ll show a $120 room that is available for the whole stay. Splitty, however, can create a “split” reservation for you that includes a combination of the $75 and $120 rooms - as an example.     Unique feature: Creative rate-hacking technology. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Sometimes Splitty’s technology will reveal available combinations of rooms or rates at hotels that appear sold out on other sites.   Secret Escapes This members-only deal site offers great discounts on luxury hotels and resorts around the world. Well, that sounds too good to be true. What’s the catch? The sales are only available for a limited time (a couple days, usually), and the travel date ranges are often limited too. But if your travel dates are flexible, you can find fantastic deals. Browse the site’s upcoming offers and if you see one that looks interesting, you can get an email reminder when the sale goes live.   Unique feature: Limited-time-only sales on luxury properties. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None, but you must create an account in order to see deals and book. Did you know? Some of Secret Escapes’ offers include airfare.   Pruvo Have you ever bought a new pair of shoes only to learn they went on sale a week later? The same thing happens with hotels; prices can decrease between the time you booked and the time you check in, and Pruvo helps you take advantage of these price drops. When you book a room with a free cancellation policy on any booking site (like Expedia or Booking.com), you can email your confirmation to Pruvo and they’ll keep an eye on your hotel’s rates. If prices drop, you’ll get an email with instructions for booking that cheaper rate. Best of all, Pruvo’s service is free! Unique feature: Save money back after you book. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Install Pruvo’s Chrome extension so you don’t need to manually email your reservation confirmations.   HotelTonight If you’re the type of traveler who waits to book a hotel until you’ve arrived at the airport, then HotelTonight is the app for you. HotelTonight offers discounted rates at just a handful of properties, so you don’t get stuck with analysis paralysis. The deepest discounts are usually on last-minute reservations, though you can book months in advance if that’s your style. The company puts hotels into categories like “Basic,” “Hip,” and “High Roller,” to make your decision even easier. Unique feature: Best deals on same-day reservations. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: Get extra discounts, credits, and amenities through the HT Perks program. The more you spend, the better the benefits. Did you know? The “Daily Deal” gives you an extra discount at one property - but you need to book it within 15 minutes.   Dayuse Day trips, red-eye flights, meetings, photoshoots - there are many reasons why you could need a hotel room just for a day. But until Dayuse came along, you usually had to book the room for the night in order to get access for the couple of hours you need. Dayuse allows you to book rooms at over 5,000 hotels in 25 countries for prices up to 75% off the nightly rate. Some hotels even include pool, spa, or fitness center access.     Unique feature: Deep discounts for daytime-only hotel rooms. Region: Select countries around the world. Loyalty program: None Did you know? Some Dayuse hotels offer time slots so you only pay for the hours you need.   ResortPass Nothing says “vacation” like reclining in a lounge chair, drink in hand, on a palm tree-lined pool deck at a swanky resort. But what if your budget doesn’t include the room rate at that swanky resort? ResortPass offers day passes to pools, spas, and other amenities at over 400 high-end hotels so you can enjoy the vacation vibes at a serious discount. ResortPass is perfect for locals and vacation rental guests too. Unique feature: Access to luxury hotel amenities without paying the nightly rate. Region: Mostly US, but some properties in Mexico and the Caribbean. Loyalty program: None Did you know? You can earn a 10% discount by tagging ResortPass in a social media post.   Hopper Some studies say the best day of the week to book travel is Tuesday, but maybe the greatest savings for your hotel pop up on a Friday - you never know! Hopper is the closest thing we have to a glimpse into the future of hotel rates. The app uses high-tech price monitoring algorithms to notify you when prices drop on the hotels or flights you’re tracking. Unique feature: Price alerts for flights and hotels. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Over 30 million travelers have used Hopper.   Mr. and Mrs. Smith For fans of high-end boutique hotels, Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a dream come true. You won’t find any big box-style chain hotels on this site - only unique, independent hotels that offer five-star service. These are hotels you’d pick for a honeymoon or special occasion trip. Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s team handpicks and reviews hotels for the site, so you can be sure that every property offers quality and value. Members-only perks include extra discounts, free amenities, and access to the company’s concierge team. Unique feature: Exclusive perks and discounts and luxurious boutique hotels. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: The basic BlackSmith membership is free, but SilverSmith and GoldSmith tiers come at a monthly cost, though they include perks like room upgrades and airport lounge access. Did you know? Some of Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s perks include free dinners or hundreds of dollars in resort credit.   Tablet Hotels Another site designed for boutique hotel lovers, Tablet offers deals on unique hotels around the world. The site lists properties included in the MICHELIN Guide, so you know they’re all highly rated for quality, service, and amenities. Tablet Plus members can enjoy extra discounts, late check-outs, room upgrades, and more.     Unique feature: Only the best hotels are listed on Tablet - if guest reviews fall short, the hotel is removed from the site. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: Access to Tablet’s hotel deals is free, but the Tablet Plus program offers deeper discounts and extra perks for $99 per year. Did you know? Tablet’s online magazine, The Agenda, contains high-quality articles that will surely inspire you to travel.   Best Hotel Booking Sites to Find Deals Trying to save cash? These hotel booking sites are designed to get you the best deals possible. If you’re looking for certain amenities, a fixed location, or a specific set of dates, these sites might not deliver, but if you’re flexible, you can find impressive savings. Hotwire Have you ever booked a hotel without knowing the name, the exact location, or what kind of room you’ll get? If you dare to roll the dice on Hotwire’s “Hot Rate” hotels, you just might be rewarded. Hotels in this program offer significant discounts (think 40 or 50% off), but with a catch: Hotwire does not reveal the name of the hotel until you’ve confirmed your reservation.      Unique feature: “Mystery hotel” offers. Region: Primarily US Loyalty program: None Did you know? Hotwire’s Hot Rate hotels do disclose some amenities, so you’ll know if your hotel has free parking, a pool, or a gym.   Groupon If you’re searching for a cheap vacation with no particular dates or locations in mind, Groupon can be a gold mine. The site offers hotel stays or vacation packages for destinations around the country (and sometimes Mexico and the Caribbean), but the terms and conditions usually include fixed dates or restrictions. Make your decision quick, though, because the offers are often only available for a limited time.     Unique feature: Deep discounts on only select participating hotels. Region: United States, Caribbean, Mexico Loyalty program: None Did you know? You can search by “interest” rather than destination, so if you’re looking for a romantic vacation to nowhere in particular, for example, you can discover someplace new.   TravelZoo TravelZoo is like the clearance rack at your favorite store: it has a mix of everything, prices are deeply discounted, and sometimes you can find an absolute gem. TravelZoo offers over 2,000 travel products - including cruises, airfare, hotels, and packages - at significantly reduced rates. Most offers are only valid for a specific set of dates, so if your travel is flexible, you can get the best value. Unique feature: Discounts on hotels, cruises, airfare, and vacation packages. Region: Worldwide, but primarily US Loyalty program: None, but TravelZoo does have a referral program. Did you know? TravelZoo also offers spa and entertainment discounts - you just need to look for them!   Best Sites to Book Unique Accomodations Why stay in an ordinary hotel room when you can have a truly one-of-a-kind experience? Browse these sites to find everything from cabins to castles and treehouses to tipis - often at cheaper prices than standard hotels. Who knows, you might even meet new friends too! Airbnb Though Airbnb wasn’t the first website to offer vacation rentals, it definitely made more people consider switching from hotels to rental properties. Airbnb hosts offer a huge variety of spaces, including apartments, homes, treehouses, tiny houses, private rooms, and more. Because many Airbnbs don’t offer the same services as hotels (like daily housekeeping), you can find some great deals, especially in big cities. But not all Airbnbs are cheap - prepare to pay hundreds of dollars per night for a castle or a beachfront villa! Unique feature: Airbnb encourages hosts to provide exceptional hospitality to their guests, even rewarding top hosts with “Superhost” status. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? You can pair your accommodation with an Airbnb Experience, which are host-led tours or activities like cooking classes, walking tours, or bike expeditions.   Vrbo Originally called “Vacation Rentals By Owner,” Vrbo focuses on traditional vacation rentals, like homes and condos. You won’t find any cheap shared rooms here, but you can still find some great deals, especially if you’re staying for a while. Some Vrbo property owners offer weekly or monthly discounts. Unique feature: You can filter Vrbo’s search results by Property Type, so you can narrow down your search to cabins, bungalows, or chalets, just to name a few. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Vrbo and its sister site, HomeAway, are now part of the Expedia Group.   Hipcamp If you want to get out in nature, Hipcamp might be your new favorite site. Instead of hotels, this site lets you book more than 300,000 camping experiences that range from BYO-tent campsites to RVs, cabins, and yurts. Listings are created by hosts, so you can enjoy the same personal touch and connection that you can find on Airbnb.     Unique feature: The Hipcamp of the Year lists highlights the top-rated campsites in every state. Region: United States Loyalty program: None Did you know? You can invite your friends to join Hipcamp and earn a nice referral bonus!   Upcamp Looking to score a spot at a sold-out campsite? Upcamp will alert you instantly if your dream campsite receives a cancellation. When you get notified, you can book the campsite on the campsite’s own booking page. Upcamp is only available on a mobile app for now, which is easy to use and showcases some beautiful photos! Unique feature: Availability alerts for thousands of campsites around the country. Region: United States Loyalty program: None Did you know? You can choose to receive alerts for specific dates or a range of dates.   Couchsurfing.com Travelers looking to save money and meet people can join events and crash on extra beds, couches, and air mattresses in hosts’ homes in over 200,000 cities around the world - for free. Couchsurfing.com uses a review and profile system to build trust among its 12 million members, and it’s not uncommon for hosts and couchsurfers to become lifelong friends. Unique feature: Emphasis on community and building personal connections. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Couchsurfing.com members have organized over a half million events.   Getaway Craving an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life? Getaway’s tiny houses are conveniently located in rural locations within driving distance of major cities like New York City, Boston, and Los Angeles. The cabins offer plenty of modern conveniences so you can enjoy the outdoors without roughing it too much. They include private bathrooms, kitchenettes, and A/C and heat, plus a huge window that occupies an entire wall.     Unique feature: Every cabin has a self check-in system. Region: United States Loyalty program: You automatically get an 8th night free after staying for 7 - no membership program sign-up necessary. Did you know? Getaway donates to Feeding America for every booking made.   Ready to hit the road? With these money-saving hotel booking sites, you can save cash on your accommodation so you can splurge on a delicious meal, a bucket list tour, or a new smart suitcase. Did we miss any cool sites? Let us know about your favorite!  

Coronavirus: Survival of the Fittest for Hotels

by
Jordan Hollander
3 months ago

In the face of a global pandemic and hotel industry meltdown we are sailing deep into uncharted waters.  No hotel (or any business for that matter) can stay alive without revenue. The U.S. hotel industry (and airline) came back strong after 9/11 when travelers were afraid of terrorism.  Regions affected by the SARS and MERS outbreaks were followed by similar bounce-backs.  But somehow this time feels different. “Without government intervention, there will be no service industry whatsoever. There’s so many people that work for me whom I am incredibly concerned about. Where are they going to get their next meal? Do they have health care coverage? How are they going to pay their bills? It’s as if aliens came from outer space and decided to totally destroy restaurants,” said famed restaurateur David Chang. The good news is that this pandemic may be over sooner than you anticipate and the mortality rate may actually be much lower than we initially thought (due to undocumented cases).  The tricky part about virality is that the models have wild swings based on even miniscule changes to the assumptions of those models (which are changing dramatically each day).  The same scientist whose very report jolted the US and UK into action has since changed his model assumptions which massively changed the forecasts. “It will recede in a converging exponential; in other words, the coronavirus can be expected to disappear from this region with the same dizzying speed with which it entered our lives,” Dr. Dan Yamin. It’s not only virologists suffering from inaccurate and quickly outdated predictions, hotel industry forecasters like Jan Freitag are facing the same dilemma.     There’s more good news.  The world is uniting against a common enemy and we’re collaborating as a species like never before.  While the media likes to portray drama and political posturing, the reality is that this crisis has helped humanity put aside our cultural differences because a virus doesn’t care where you’re from. On a Facebook live with TED, Bill Gates mentioned some of the collaboration that’s happening in the scientific community.     Even ordinary people are collaborating, as evidenced by Google Sheet of volunteer opportunities created by thousands of individuals from around the world. We’re also seeing collaboration like never before in the hotel community.  Competitive walls were broken down when major hotel chain CEOs addressed U.S. President Donald Trump in their pleas for an industry bailout.  Similarly, major hotel tech companies have banded together in an initiative spearheaded by Cloudbeds to convert excess hotel capacity into lodging for those in need like healthcare workers.  Hotel owners are listing their beds in droves at HospitalityHelps.org. It’s not all good news though.  Never before in our lifetimes has business come to a screeching halt like this...and hopefully it won’t happen again. Most hotel businesses maintain around 2x payroll as working capital (cash to run their day to day operations).  As hotels get closer to the 60-day mark we’ll see more and more layoffs because they simply can’t foot the staffing bills.  The only way to help these hotels is through government bailouts and improved payment terms on mortgages. Here in the U.S., the government has put together an incredible program to offer fully forgiven SBA loans of 2.5x monthly payroll to any hotel business under 500 employees. Here at Hotel Tech Report, we are always looking to understand how technology can help improve hotel business performance but sadly there isn’t a ton that you as a hotelier can do with new technology right now.  Revenue management systems don’t add much value when you’re at 2% occupancy, upsell software can only do so much with a couple of heads in beds and so on. We’d be lying if we said “we’re all going to get through this together.”  We’re not all going to get through this. Poorly capitalized hotels like those described in this great article by The Real Deal will go under even with government intervention.  Overextended technology companies will face the unfortunate same truths.  Even the previously untouchable venture funded alternatives like Sonder and Lyric have faced hard truths faster than we anticipated. We are a strong and resilient industry like many have pointed out.  The Darwinian reality is that these crises make all industries more antifragile.  The bad actors die out (along with many good ones) and only the fittest survive.  Ask your finance friends what major bank balance sheets look like today in comparison to 2008/2009.  The companies that come out of times like these are the leanest and smartest - and they get even leaner and smarter through the pain. We don’t say the above in a good or a bad way - it’s just the truth.  Many hotels have or will cancel software contracts while others will go out of business.  This is really unfortunate and painful for their suppliers in the short term but new owners will purchase those properties and those owners will understand more than anyone the power of running an efficient organization. They’ll be more entrepreneurial in aggregate and eager to surround themselves with the best technology partners around.  For software companies this means there will be more whitespace than ever before in history to pick up new market share - in the 12-18 months after this crisis fades we will see the defining hotel technology companies of the future separate from the pack.  COVID has been a great equalizer and while painful we believe that it will accelerate digital transformation in hospitality (like many industries) by 10-15 years.   As we said before, technology can’t save you RIGHT NOW but great software is the key to running an efficient and consistent business.  Market intelligence software helps you stay ahead of trends, revenue management software can help you price rooms automatically without relying on a revenue manager who’s basing forecasts on last year’s irrelevant results, operations tools can keep consistency of SOPs and so on. TCV’s David Yuan shared an awesome initiative from Toast POS to get consumers buying restaurant gift cards to support their favorite local businesses.  The same way that a restaurant can’t serve you when they’re shut down, tech companies can’t do all that much for hotels that aren’t open. Software is key to how you anticipate, react and recover from a recession.  It makes you better at acquiring guests, running an efficient operation and maximizing every dollar. During the Bill Gates interview with TED he was asked what he would do if he was President right now and his answer was basically “It’s too late, the time to act was 3 years ago.  All we can do now is ramp up testing, pray for a cure and promote social distancing”. Similarly, the only thing hoteliers can really do now is negotiate with lenders, stay current on local bailout opportunities, make prudent layoffs, focus on helping their employees as much as they can and pray that this ends soon.  Once we’ve sorted out all of those issues and have some downtime while our businesses are closed, the best thing we can do is prepare for the next downturn and improve our operational capabilities. Never again will you have this much time to try different technologies and lots of vendors are even offering concessions and free tools that we encourage every hotelier to take advantage of for this limited and unprecedented period before we get back to the new normal. Do everything you can afford to support the technology companies pushing our industry forward because when this is all over you’re going to need them more than ever.     The biggest barriers to adopting technology are broken down right now in ways they will never be again - take advantage of that to optimize your business before it's too late. #1 Contract Lock-in: Most can be broken with force majeure.  If you don't like a vendor, now is an opportune time to upgrade your stack. #2 Switching Risk: Especially when it comes to mission critical systems it can be scary trying to migrate while your hotel is at full occupancy.  This is the perfect time to make the move while your hotel is closed. #3 Time: Learning new software takes time no matter how easy to use the system is.  You'll never have this much time to try and learn once the market picks back up. #4 Cost: Lots of vendors are extending free trials during closures from 30-days to 90-days.  You'll never have an opportunity like this to try software and see if you like it over extended periods of time.  Having said that, your vendors are hurting as much as you are - support them don't strain their businesses unless you absolutely need payment delays etc. Use the golden rule and treat them as you hope guests treat you. #5 Integrations: This barrier is already broken down.  Simply avoid vendors who charge high integration fees or don't integrate with your critical systems.  There are plenty of great vendors who have open APIs...it's 2020 after all. Focus on ensuring your hotel business survives this crisis financially then get proactive, get creative and learn how to optimize your business to accelerate the recovery and you'll be outperforming the compset in no time.  Remember that the best defense is a good offense.  Everybody looks like a genius in a bull market, it's times of crisis that separate the average hotel businesses from the truly great ones. -- Put the proverbial oxygen mask on yourself first.  Once you've got your finances sorted out - here are some ways that you can optimize your hotel business and support the technology vendors working hard to keep the industry running smoothly.   WHISTLE GUEST MESSAGING. Extended free messaging (guest and team) for new signups. A few reasons how Whistle will help your hotel during the crisis: - Social Distancing: No need for in-person interactions between gueststaff and staffstaff - Efficiency: Hotels can manage more inquiries and help more guests, now that they are operating with even more limited staff - Remote Operations: Respond to guest inquiries remotely. Unlock offer → Offer terms: Extended free trial available until June 1, 2020 for new clients.  No CC required unless hotel is continuing after trial and cancel at any time, even after trial period, no penalties   LIFE HOUSE (HOTEL MANAGEMENT):  Life House is an VC-backed institutional management company that uses software & process innovation to increase low cost direct bookings & materially reduce the operating costs of a hotel, which is ever-more relevant with depressed revenues. To support owners who need help navigating these difficult times, Life House is offering waived management fees until 2021 and a complimentary management transition for independent hotel owners. Whether a 200-room luxury boutique hotel or a 25 room bed & breakfast, Life House's white-labeled management platform can help. Learn more about the offer →   ATOMIZE: You can now get Atomize Revenue Management Software, free of charge, up until you have realized 50% of your average occupancy. This offer comes with no setup fee, free training, and including support. This limited offer is valid until April 30. Learn more about Atomize →   TRUSTYOU'S TRAVEL HEALTH INDEX. Due to widespread limitations on travel, there is currently an unprecedented drop in hotel stays. To help hoteliers from all over the world to assess the global and regional situation, we are now introducing the Travel Health Index! This exclusive KPI is only available from the world's largest guest review database and it benchmarks current #review activity with the normal levels of 2019. Access it here and keep an eye on the Index for weekly updates.  Learn more about the Travel Health Index →   ALICE PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE CHECKLIST. Hoteliers know how to run a property, but shutting one down is a different story.  That’s why ALICE created a free checklist tool within their software that hotels can use to keep their property safe and clean with a skeleton crew that is available for free to any and all hotels looking for help. A few reasons how ALICE will help your hotel during the crisis: - Preventative Maintenance: Understand what needs to be done to keep your property safe and clean with a skeleton crew to avoid property damage and maintenance issues during downtime. - Crisis mgmt: Hotels are not meant to operate at low occupancy, or with a lean staff, yet that is the trend for so many hotels right now. ALICE Checklist helps hotels take rooms, floor and whole buildings out of service, while maintaining a record of tasks to bring a hotel back up to full occupancy quickly and easily. Get the free toolkit → Offer terms: ALICE Checklist is available to any and all hotels that are using (or not using) the ALICE platform with no strings attached. It is a free product, there are no obligations, and it can be cancelled at any time.   REVINATE'S COVID RESOURCE CENTER. Revinate ran a survey and found that 70% of hotel professionals are looking for projections on how this unfolds, and 71% are looking for planning ideas. That’s exactly what this new site aims to provide.  This resource center will aim to be a centralized source of info and resources to help hoteliers in these uncertain times. Browse the resource center →   JONAS CHORUM PMS. Save on your PMS with 90-days free of Jonas Chorum for new clients. A few reasons how Jonas will help your hotel during the crisis: - Remote work: Cloud functionality, allowing hotels to remain connected and conduct business remotely, while also specializing in remote training to avoid any face-to-face contact. - Financial relief: Provide hotels with financial relief to help them ride out the storm. Learn more about Jonas Chorum → Offer terms: This particular offer is only for new clients and is only being offered for a limited time as we are essentially getting companies up and running on our software free of charge. We would also be willing to honor this offer for a period of time whenever the impact of the pandemic starts to lessen.    ALLIANTS GUEST MESSAGING. A few ways Alliants can help your hotel during the crisis: - Easily outbound message with impacted guests across all the key channels, including, WhatsApp, SMS, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, LINE, etc - Allow your teams to stay connected with guests, staff, and vendors while helping keep social distance. - No setup fees/onboarding costs - All training & installation can be done remotely. -Get your property up and running in less than 2 days. See Alliants in action → Offer terms: We are offering our Alliants Messaging platform at no charge till the end of 2020. You can cancel at any time. No credit card is required and we can have your property live in less than 2 days. Oaky Pre-Arrival Templates. Pre-arrival communication + translations templates to ensure effective communication so your guests feel safe. Get the templates →   RATEGAIN FREE STRATEGY SESSIONS. Complimentary, one-to-one session with RateGain experts. A few reasons how RateGain can help your hotel during the crisis: - access 200+ years of combined experience across all fields - Revenue Management, Distribution, Social Media and even HR - RateGain has its own data, both current and historical. As such we possess the knowledge and insights to guide our prospects in a way that no other can. Schedule a free session → Offer terms: We are running it for three weeks starting coming Monday. We are only doing it for our prospects i.e. companies which are not a customer of RateGain. We are doing it for our customers anyhow. This is a 100% free service. Basis the request we receive we can extend it for a longer duration as well.   Want to list your company's offer? Reach out to our editorial team via live chat   BEEKEEPER INTERNAL TEAM COMMUNICATION. How are you keeping your employees up-to-date on the coronavirus? Reach every employee across shifts, locations, and languages with one easy-to-use mobile-first communication app.  A few ways Beekeeper can help your hotel: - provide instant communication between all employees - allow for real-time updates on Coronavirus as it affects your company - Allow for shift schedules to be accessed away from the hotel Learn more about Beekeeper → Offer terms: This offer is available until June 2020 and is for new clients. Cancel anytime.   UMI DIGITAL’S FREE EXPERIENCE PRE-PAYMENTS TOOL. Simple pop-up website overlay to showcase closure messages while selling future experiences. Works with existing voucher systems via outbound links. Learn more about the offer → Offer terms: FREE set up for hotels on Wordpress and FREE license for 3 months during the pandemic. We have a simple proposal that requires acceptance but do not require payment details.   HELLOSHIFT MESSAGING & WEBSITE LIVECHAT. Hotels can use Guest Messaging and Website Chat to keep the line of communication open and accessible to all guests (and future guests.) With Staff Collaboration, hotels can keep running with smaller operational footprints and more staff working remotely. Use Covid-19 specific checklists, populate a knowledge base with Covid-19 specific information, and keep in communication with laid-off employees. Learn more about the offer → Offer terms: To help hotels deal with Covid-19, HelloShift is offering free service to all sign ups till July 1, 2020.   HOTELCHAMP DEMAND TRACKER. Demand Tracker shows you real time demand based on your website date searches. Conversion Rate (CVR) helps you to contextualise performance of different dates. Change of search behaviour keeps you informed of shifting demand. A few reasons how HotelChamp will help your hotel during the crisis: - understand demand in the current market is key to steer pricing decisions - see real time demand from your website for up to 365 days in the future - create alerts for changes in demand so you can proactively act on what is changing in the market Learn more about HotelChamp → Offer terms: New and existing clients. Completely free, no subscription to be set up. Automatically ends after 90 days.   BOOKBOOST UNIFIED INBOX & WEB MESSENGER. During this difficult time, we want to stand with the hotel industry. Our Unified Inbox and Web Messenger are now available for FREE to all hotels worldwide. Bookboost Unified Inbox enables you to manage all guest inquiries from your website, email, Facebook Messenger, in one inbox. Give clear and consistent COVID-19 communications and Save your team answering repetitive questions, improve efficiency and provide service day and night with chat automation. Learn more about Bookboost   ASKSUITE HOTEL CHATBOT: We are offering our award-winning AI chatbot for free to hotels located in North America and Europe. The bot can answer questions about hotel operations during the pandemic (as we included in the AI) and has all the other functionalities like integration with booking engines. Asksuite believes that helping each other is the way to overcome this crisis. Even if the hotel is temporarily closed, it can keep providing customer assistance to future guests, answering their queries, and facilitating the booking process. - helps decrease the workload, especially now when many hotels needed to downsize; - with the addition of the COVID-19 topic in the chatbot, it helps answer all queries about the COVID-19 and its impacts on the hotel's operations, the local status, and so on.  Learn more about the offer → Offer terms: Only available to hotels in North America and Europe; - only for new clients - valid until December 2020 - if pandemic ends it will continue for free cause hotels will need help with their cash flow - no credit required   ROOMPRICEGENIE AUTOMATED REVENUE MANAGEMENT: Fully automated dynamic pricing solution in place helps you know when business is coming back and help you react immediately. Continuously track how your market behaves and understand when business is coming back. Learn more about RoomPriceGenie → Offer terms: The offer is for new clients and it is valid until further notice (as long as the tough times last). After the regular trial period, clients need to sign up and will receive a 100% discount until they see business coming back. Our monthly cancellation policy stays the same - so they can cancel at any time.   AVVIO DIGITAL ACADEMY: With so many amazing hoteliers out of work Avvio is turning their time and resources to helping out with important skills development to help out during this period of downtime. Their Hotel Digital Academy is available for free registration and the first hotel digital marketing course will be starting next week. Hospitality will have to “do more with less” as the industry recovers and we think upskilling will be more important than ever as training budgets will inevitably suffer. If you know of anyone in our industry that you feel might benefit from this can I ask you to consider please sharing. Learn more about Avvio →   EXPERIENCE HOTEL EMAIL MARKETING. Hotels can get their Free access to our CRM's Emailing tool and send up to 3 custom Email campaigns to all their customers, valid for 3 months to keep guests informed as the situation evolves via email. Learn more about Experience Hotel → Offer terms: No cost, no commitment. In order to access this free service, they must register with a professional email corresponding to their hotel; a manual check of each account is made to avoid abuse.   SAVETHEHOTELS.COM BY BOOK VISIT. Last Friday we started a marketplace called savethehotels.com which is completely free of charge. The idea is to make it easy for consumers to see all the great deals the hotels are offering right now in order to survive.  Set up unique promotions that are easy for guests to book. Learn more about Book Visit → Offer terms: Right now we have the page as long as there is a need. We have no plans for this to be an OTA in the future. Right now we just want the hotels to survive otherwise we will also go down.   HOTEL RUNNER PULSE UPDATES CENTER. With HotelRunner Pulse, our goal is to support the travel industry using the ‘big data’ from the HotelRunner platform, which performs tens of millions of transactions per day, and to give our partners a snapshot of what is happening in the industry during these extremely challenging times. HotelRunner Pulse will be updated weekly, and you will be able to access detailed data from the previous week, data-points include travel agencies that bring the most bookings, confirmed and canceled booking volumes, average stay durations! Learn more about HotelRunner → Offer terms: Starting this week, through the special panel we developed, we are providing free access to real data based on bookings made through HotelRunner in the previous week.   MYSTAY EMAIL TEMPLATES. MyStay Freemium automates the way properties can inform guests about the situation in the region and hotel's health and safety protocol using pre-defined email templates and semi-automated rebooking. It also allows automating selling extra services to the fewer guests to come in the next months through pre-arrival communication, email templates covering COVID-19 related health and safety protocols, flexible rebooking or loyalty points policy.  Special guest web as a WiFi landing page with stay-related information focusing on COVID-19 related aspects. Learn more about MyStay → Offer terms: The offer and MyStay Freemium package is and will remain available forever unless canceled by the hotel. It is available to new clients, no contract or credit card required. The product is not going to disappear once the pandemic is over, hotels will be free to continue using it for free or choose to upgrade to any of the paid profiles.   HOTEL DIRECT BOOSTER WEBSITE LIVE CHAT. Livechat software for 1 month to keep contact and convert its visitors into direct bookings on the hotel's website.  Many hoteliers closed their hotels but they shouldn't close their direct bookings. Keep contact with website visitors during the pandemic on the hotel website and helps hoteliers prepare the resumption of bookings and support travelers. Learn more about HDB → Offer terms: 1 month free offer only for new clients.  Available until April 30th 2020. Non-binding offer.  No credit card required   GO MOMENT WEBSITE LIVE CHAT. Use Go Moment’s website live chat tool to inform potential hotel guests of the steps your hotel is taking to keep guests and staff safe, suggest rescheduling instead of canceling  and collect leads for future groups.  Learn more about Go Moment → Offer terms: Offer available through June 30th, 2020. After June 30th, rate will change to $250 per month.   QUORE AID PROGRAM. The Quore Aid Program was designed to help any hotel converting its property into a COVID-19 isolation ward or temporary medical facility.  The Quore platform enables hotel management and staff to limit face-to-face interactions, implement mobile communications with guests and access modifiable templates that guide staff through recommended and/or mandated procedures that are updated in real time. These include isolation room set-up and turnover, hand and hygiene protocol, trash collection, sanitation requirements, signage placement and other actions to ensure the highest level of health and safety compliance throughout the property. Learn more about Quore

The 10 Most Important Hotel Tech Stories From Last Year

by
Hotel Tech Report
2 weeks ago

2019 was a big year for hotel news and the hospitality industry as a whole. From OYO’s aggressive global expansion to Google’s full-fledged hotel search product, there were some significant stories unfolding around the world.  Given the recent coronavirus scare originating from China, it can be hard to remember that while times like these are extremely painful for our industry - they are still temporary.   The impact of covid-19 on hotel groups, airlines and cruises around the world has been devastating as evidenced by the hotel stock index falling more than 30% in the last 30 days kept by hotel data analytics firm STR. During the media frenzy around the virus, we wanted to take a step back and reflect on the biggest news stories of last year which we believe will have a long term impact on our industry. To put these developments into perspective, we’ve combed through the archives and picked out what we think are the most impactful hotel news stories of last year. To make the cut, we looked for stories that resonated far beyond the news itself. Stories that reflected trends, revealed truths, and highlighted evolving dynamics and the industry’s trajectory in the years ahead covered on the top hotel news sites. So what do these top stories mean for you? Read on to find out what makes each story important, why you should care, and understand the long term implications for the hotel industry. In no particular order, here are the top 10 biggest hotel news stories of 2019. We'll be watching throughout the year to see how these stories set the scene for this year’s wave of major hotel news stories.   #1: Google Puts (More) Pressure on TripAdvisor and the OTAs In 2019, Google’s full ambitions came into focus: the company released its full-featured hotel search product, Google Hotel Search. This was huge news because it was an entirely new metasearch channel for hotels to leverage. It also put competitive pressure on the major OTAs. Then, later in the year, Google then put all of its travel products into a single interface, further challenging the OTAs’ core brand proposition as a “one stop shop” for all things travel. And it’s working: Google Hotels and Flights had 674 million visits in 2019 compared with Expedia’s 360 million, Booking’s 333 million and Tripadvisor’s 207 million. What makes this such a big story? Google is the dominant global search engine. As a monopoly, it exerts immense leverage over the attention of millions of consumers. The fact that it’s going head-to-head with its major advertisers in travel means puts it in direct conflict with not just those advertisers but also with regulators investigating Google’s monopoly on search. What is the overarching trend behind the story? Disintermediation can come from anywhere -- and there’s no such thing as a static digital marketing channel. Frenemies are a standard facet in the travel industry, but what happens when a frenemy simply becomes an enemy?   Why should every hotelier care about this? Existential threats to the OTAs is a good thing for hoteliers. It puts competitive pressure on the duopoly to provide better terms, improve their products, and generally be more responsive to hoteliers’ needs.  What are the implications for the hotel market? This is a fundamental reshuffling of the competitive core of the hotel industry. Hotels now have another marketing channel to leverage and that means that there’s a new way to engage consumers and potentially reduce reliance on commision-based intermediaries. However, there’s also the chance that Google’s dominant position will simply add another formidable force to the equation. As that translates into bookings, Google will exert (even) more power over the industry and raise rates for Hotel Ads.    #2: SiteMinder Became a Hotel Tech Unicorn At the tail end of 2019, rumors began that Siteminder’s latest round would value it at AUD $1.1 billion. The AUD 100 million round, which closed in early January of this year, indeed pushed the company into unicorn territory -- a rare feat in travel tech, where there are around 34 unicorns out of a global total of 400, per CB Insights. This milestone was reached amidst the backdrop of record-breaking levels of Investments and travel and Hospitality startups: USD 5.7 billion in 2018 and over USD 6 billion in 2019. What makes this such a big story? Unicorn status confers momentum, legitimacy and a sense of inevitability on a startup. Yet there really aren't that many travel tech unicorns (let alone hotel tech); it's a tough industry to break into and get to sufficient scale, so the fact that SiteMinder got there is a story in and of itself.  Hotels are about 10 years behind but we are entering the era of SaaS and APIs - we anticipate a slew of new hotel tech unicorns to follow. What is the overarching trend behind the story? Hospitality technology is increasingly seen as a promising sector by investors, who like the margins and resilience of a B2B play. In 2019, hotels also planned to increase their own technology budgets by 54%, with only 8% decreasing. With a growing market, well-funded startups like SiteMinder, with both traction and a global operations, are ideally positioned to thrive. Why should every hotelier care about what’s happening here? As more funds flow to the sector, hotels can expect greater innovation, better pricing, and more choice from their vendors. When companies reach unicorn status, hotels must also learn to shift their thinking and stay up to date with the latest tech. What are the implications for the hotel market? Higher valuations entice new entrants. And more competition is always a good thing for an industry that often sees competitiveness threatened as power is consolidated into fewer and fewer hands. Another thing: as more technology innovations become available, hotels of all sizes will feel greater pressure to adopt technology to compete effectively.   #3: CoStar Acquired STR STR has long enjoyed its central status among hoteliers worldwide. Its STR reports (known as star reports) have been benchmarking industry trends for decades. Its companion news site, Hotel News Now, is also a prominent industry resource. This well-groomed reputation led it to be acquired for a whopping USD 450 million in cash by CoStar Group, a real estate data and analytics firm. What makes this such a big story? It's not often that a major industry resource,  used globally by nearly every hotel, changes hands.   What is the overarching trend behind the story? The multiple was a big part of the story: STR earned USD 16 million of profit from USD 64 million in revenue in 2019. With a purchase price of USD 450 million, that’s a significant multiple on earnings. There’s clearly extraordinary value of hospitality data and analytics --  especially in an environment where the next biggest competitor has a single digit share of the market. Why should every hotelier care about what’s happening here? This tie-up could be especially helpful for hoteliers looking to understand the dynamics of hospitality real estate within the context of other retail and office buildings within a market. These insights could reshape how STR products are used by hotels. STR will also be better positioned in Asia, where its saturation is only one-fifth of that in the U.S. What are the implications for the hotel market? There was the typical hand-wringing and fretting over the impact of the acquisition. While it's too soon to tell what this means for the hotel market, it's hard to imagine that the new owners would quash something so integral to the industry. And it seems like a good fit, as the two brands clearly align on providing actionable data to specific industry segments.   #4: Aimbridge and Interstate Hospitality Merged Aimbridge, North America's largest independent hotel management firm, merged with and Interstate Hotels & Resorts, an independent multinational hotel operator. Together, the new entity became a global force in third-party hotel management services, with a combined portfolio of over 1,400 branded and independent properties in 49 U.S. states and 20 countries worldwide. What makes this such a big story? Mergers like this don’t come around every day: The deal formed a major global contender in the hotel management space, which employs 60,000 people worldwide.  What is the overarching trend behind the story? The Aimbridge and Interstate Hospitality tie-up was the the first of two big mergers of the year, both of which created major new players In their respective segments. It's another example of rising pressures on firms to maintain competitiveness through consolidation.  Why should every hotelier care about what’s happening here? Any time two medium-sized players combine to create a much larger competitor, it changes the dynamics. Other hotel operators must pay attention to see how the combined entity manages to deliver benefits from its newly scaled and global platform, as well as how the larger team competes more effectively for business in both existing and new markets.  What are the implications for the hotel market? The larger hotel operator can  leverage its size to attract even better talent, provide more services, and deliver more value to hotel owners. At the very least, it's another option for asset owners  looking for an operator with global scope.   #5: Eldorado Merged with Caesars In one of the biggest hospitality deals in recent memory, Eldorado merged with Caesars. In fact, it was Eldorado Resorts that bought Caesars Entertainment, which had been struggling under a mountain of debt. Another notable element of this deal was that it was backed by activist investor Carl Icahn, who is known for shaking up underperforming businesses. What makes this such a big story? The USD 8.6 billion price tag (plus nearly USD 9 billion in debt) certainly got the world’s attention! And the merger also created the largest owner and operator of gaming assets in the United States, which is a major re-centering of industry dynamics. Icahn called this deal “transformational. What is the overarching trend behind the story? A key trend at play is private equity,  which bought Caesars in a leveraged buyout in 2008 and left it with that mountain of debt that pushed it towards consolidation as a strategic move to maintain competitiveness. Since the newly-enlarged entity can leverage greater strategic, financial, and operational advantages, the economies of scale favor larger operators and encourage further consolidation. The cycle continues!  Why should every hotelier care about what’s happening here? Any hotel that has exposure to markets in which Caesars and Eldorado compete will face stiffer competition from the larger entity. And since the combined company has 60 casino-resorts across 16 states, the impact will be felt far and wide. What are the implications for the hotel market? As gaming companies become gaming, hospitality, and entertainment conglomerates, it  reshapes expectations from several stakeholders: hotel guests, loyal gamers, investors, and employees all have different perceptions of these larger entities.    #6: IHG Acquired Six Senses In early 2019, IHG further expanded its footprint in the luxury segment by acquiring Six Senses for $300 million in cash. The move came on the heels of a 51% majority stake in Regent International, and follows the major Kimpton acquisition back in 2015. This further consolidates IHG’s perception as a luxury brand focused on wellness, health and sustainability. What makes this such a big story? Since acquiring Kimpton IHG has undergone a total luxury makeover. It's successfully acquired its way to becoming one of the top luxury portfolios with properties focused on different subsets of high-end travelers.  What is the overarching trend behind the story? There are three trends at play here: continued consolidation of brands under IHG, Marriott and Hilton; the expansive impact of private equity in buying and flipping businesses; and the increasing focus on the luxury traveler.  Why should every hotelier care about what’s happening here? Of those three trends above, the growing focus on the high-end of the market.  For years the global economy has experienced what we call a “band stretch” where ultra luxury like Six Senses and ultra economy like OYO (more on that below) have both experienced massive growth but undifferentiated and generic products that deliver questionable value in the middle get squeezed out of existence.  This will continue to put pressure on both independent and branded economy/midscale properties (especially because of their rapid expansion in the last two decades and what we at Hotel Tech Report believe is a massive oversupply). What are the implications for the hotel market? The USD 60 billion dollar luxury market is alive and well! Hospitality brands that served that segment have proven to be very popular with the developers, investors and asset owners. Landing management contracts thus requires brands that appeal to these investors and most see luxury brands as great investments.   #7: The Rise and Fall of OYO Rooms OYO’s bold global ambitions, coupled with a 20-something founder, was an irresistible story for both mainstream media, hospitality trades, and conference organizers. Yet, amidst this massive global expansion, OYO reported a $355 million loss in 2019 -- more than six times its $52 million loss in 2018. The media began correlating the ballooning losses at the Vision Fund-backed company with the implosion of WeWork, another Vision Fund investment. What makes this such a big story? OYO’s $10 billion valuation puts it in the big leagues, valued at double Wyndham Hotel’s market capitalization. The sheer scale, scope, and level of investment makes this a major storyline industry-wide and with mainstream media. What is the overarching trend behind the story? OYO appears to be another example of a “disruptive” startup coming into a “legacy” industry and facing a wall of challenges that threaten its very existence. These challenges include self-inflicted wounds resulting from a superficial understanding of industry dynamics and hyper-growth over proper fundamentals. Why should every hotelier care about what’s happening here? It’s a juicy story! Beyond that drama, OYO now handles 43,000 hotel rooms worldwide. They’re a global contender that can reshape local markets wherever they enter.  For example, by empowering independent hotels with modern design and technology, they become more competitive against other local properties. But beware: not all owners are happy with OYO’s business practices. What are the implications for the hotel market? OYO’s business model is noteworthy by its uniqueness: for a percentage of revenue that’s lower than typical franchising fees, it offers budget properties standardized design, modern technology and other services. Up to this point, independent owners of hotels and motels had no options outside of franchising, which is an expensive investment.  If OYO does implode, there could be serious damage done to independents left without promised support.   #8: Plastics Got Banned and Flights Got Shamed Rising awareness of the immense impact of plastics on our environment (90% ends up as trash) has led many hotels to accelerate sustainability efforts. Local governments further accelerated these efforts by banning plastics altogether, including several in the U.S. that also banned single-use toiletries at hotels. “Flight shame” also became a thing this year. as more travelers came to terms with the fact that aviation is a major contributor of carbon emissions. To mitigate that impact, many travelers pledged to eliminate or reduce air travel, which has led to dipping aviation demand in certain countries. What makes this such a big story? Images of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch have unleashed a new wave of awareness around the impact of plastics on the world. And climate activists have captured worldwide imagination with global walkouts and major demands on reducing global emissions. What is the overarching trend behind the story? The climate crisis has put sustainability at the forefront of global consciousness. It's no longer possible to ignore the likely industry-wide disruptions caused by climate change. Why should every hotelier care about what’s happening here? With movements like flight shame reaching across cultures, more consumers seek sustainable options when traveling. While it's harder to stop flying, it's easier to stay with hotel brands that put that sustainability ethos front and center. Hotels may be unevenly pressured to help travelers reduce/offset carbon emissions while in-destination, since they can't easily cut out flights. What are the implications for the hotel market?  Plastic bans and flight shame affect Two major parts of  the hotel business: operations and demand. As Travelers expect more sustainability from their lodging, hotels will have to invest in upgrading properties and providing sustainable amenities and operations. And any reductions and flights means fewer potential guests.   #9: AirBnB Acquired Hotel Tonight Airbnb closed its acquisition of Hotel Tonight in April of 2019. Prior to HotelTonight, Airbnb had already expanded into in-destination activities, restaurant reservations and luxury vacation homes. The purchase was the first major move to expand its foothold into hotels and add more diversity of supply to its offering. What makes this such a big story? At an estimated USD 400 million, this was Airbnb’s largest acquisition to date, which on its own is newsworthy. But in the context of Airbnb's always-rumored “imminent” IPO, this became even more newsworthy because it signaled Airbnb’s ambitions to expand beyond hosted homes and vacation rentals to further “professionalize” its supply before going public. What is the overarching trend behind the story? Expedia and Booking are up against Airbnb and Google as the titans vie for supremacy in an all out battle to become an “end-to-end” travel platform. HotelTonight was also mobile-first and mostly last-minute, which provided a major leg up for Airbnb to boost its own mobile and last-minute bookings, which are a growing global trend. Why should every hotelier care about what’s happening here? Airbnb's push to become more of an OTA-like platform gives hotels a new distribution channel. As the company becomes more sophisticated with its advertising business, there will also be new revenue/marketing opportunities. Hoteliers must keep a close eye on developments here to stay on top of Airbnb as a reliable and affordable source of demand. What are the implications for the hotel market? Airbnb has obviously been a major challenge to the traditional hotel business. It captures a significant chunk of travel demand  and this will only increase as Travelers learned that they can start their searches on Airbnb  rather than Google or an OTA. Even so, greater competition among intermediaries is good for everyone. As these major players battle for supply, hotels will have more leverage to negotiate better terms.   #10: Thomas Cook Collapsed Last but definitely not least was the extraordinary collapse of UK-based Thomas Cook. As one of the oldest travel brands in the world, it was nearly unfathomable that a brand with such heritage could tumble so quickly. And it happened in an environment that was actually expanding: in 2018, 60% of the British population took a holiday abroad, up 3% from the year before. Even as the brand struggled to regain its footing over the past few years, the collapse took many by surprise and became a major story affecting travelers across the globe. What makes this such a big story? The visuals were stark: passengers stranded around the world, employees without information, local subsidiaries left in the dark. It was one of those catastrophic train wrecks that no one could look away from. What is the overarching trend behind the story? In addition to a poorly managed merger and excessive debt, Thomas Cook failed to navigate a changing industry. Namely, it didn’t adapt well to the internet, continuing to rely on expensive storefronts under-investing and its digital presence. Thomas Cook became a classic case study of a once-formidable company that failed to adapt  as the world changed around it. Why should every hotelier care about what’s happening here? First, there’s the lesson around crisis planning: you must be prepared to have a plan for every contingency. Second, there's the lesson about relying too much on a single demand channel. In some countries popular with summer vacationers, such as Greece, Spain and Turkey, Thomas Cook accounted for over 25% of their business. Many other destinations relied on the brand for double-digit percentages of demand. Whenever you start to see a single non-direct channel dominate your channel mix, it's time to consider tweaks to your mix. At the very least, make a contingency plan in case of an unexpected drop in that demand.  What are the implications for the hotel market? The global industry lost a major source of bookings. It will need to work diligently to recapture that demand and maintain existing relationships between individual destinations and their loyal travelers. The collapse also highlighted the fact that proper technology is essential for maintaining competitiveness in a global marketplace.  

Google Hotels is the Elephant in the Room, Is it Good or Evil?

by
Hotel Tech Report
4 months ago

First there was Google search then Google maps, Google flights now Google's hotel search product is aiming to take on other hotel booking sites and disrupt the online travel agency model.  With flights and core search Google is already a travel industry leader.  Google already has tons of data on hotel prices, travel dates and guest ratings through its scrapers which is making it incredibly difficult for firms like Booking.com to compete (especially since Google is a key channel partner). Spend just a couple of hours at any given industry conference and there are two topics bound to come up: Airbnb’s end-to-end platform ambitions and Google’s continued push into travel. When these conversations turn to Google Hotels, the emotions often oscillate between outrage (“biting the hand that feeds them”), capitulation (“it was bound to happen eventually”), and excitement (“someone that had to take on the Big OTAs”). For hoteliers trying to understand what Google travel means for their business, there are two key questions: is the company going to be evil by further leveraging its dominant position to charge hotels more for customer acquisition? Or will it be good, by expanding the pie and giving hotels greater options for acquiring high-intent consumers? There’s no easy solution to the “good or evil” question -- but one thing is certain: more competition is a good thing for hotels, as it creates new ways to connect with customers outside of the OTA ecosystem. As Google takes on the OTAs head-to-head, hotels benefit from a significant new distribution channel which (alongside Airbnb) is a major shift in industry dynamics. It’s a game-changer and hoteliers need to understand how Google works to adapt their distribution strategies accordingly. Here’s what you need to know about Google Travel, and what it means for your hotel’s business in the months ahead. Armed with this information, you’ll be more prepared to make your own assessment on Google’s impact on your own business.   How Google Hotels Makes Money While it may not seem like it, a business model can be good or evil. A good business model incentivizes actions that create value and an evil one destroys it. The success of Google's business is predicated on delivering the best possible end-user experience (search) which is undeniably good; however, recent questions have come to light around whether monopolizing the results page with its own content could be perceived as evil. Google has expanded its advertising pool from traditional AdWords to include hotels everywhere via its Hotel Ads product. The Hotel Ads product is an undeniably better experience than search was previously and we’d argue that it’s a significantly better product than slow loading and overly promotional/confusing OTA index pages. Major OTAs are facing existential headwinds related to the staggering costs of driving demand from the Google advertising monopoly but the truth is that the problem isn’t that Google is flexing monopoly power, the problem for OTAs is that Google is delivering a better user experience.     When a user Googles a term like “New York Hotels” -- a term that 116,000 people search for each month -- advertisers place bids on the term in what’s known as a Dutch auction. That’s where the lowest winning bid is the price for all bids. For example, if the 4th place bid was $1.50, then the top 4 all pay that cost per click when their ad is clicked. The top bidders show up in the results (SERP), with the highest bidders appearing first and the winning bids determined by multiplying the bid’s price with the ad’s Quality Score.  Google dominates every search query whether it's local or global terms like "best hotels", "best price hotels", or anything else.  You probably even found this article on Google. In order to make more money from the service it provides, Google only has 3 levers to pull. Here’s a brief overview; we’ll go into more detail later: Display more ad units. Theoretically, each new ad increases the probability that a user will click the ad. Of course, there’s a tipping point when ad saturation pushes users to new platforms. Introduce competition. This is harder for Google to control but in general, the rules of supply and demand state that more advertisers for the same number of ad slots results in higher bids. Capture more of the value chain. Think of this like Amazon (or Wal-Mart or Target) introducing private label products to capture market share and increase its profits. For example, Google could start managing the entire hotel booking process and capture more of the value chain as an OTA.   Google Hotels: Good or Evil? Google can certainly be seen as evil by monopolizing its status as the dominant player in search and prioritizing its own results but in reality, lots of other players do this.  Think about private label products in major supermarkets like Kroger or Amazon’s foray into creating their private label brands. These platforms can parlay their control over access to the consumer and take market share from those that rely on the platforms for  distributing and selling their products. The reality of travel today is that consolidation has dramatically reduced the industry's distribution options. Hotels face a “take it or leave it” situation, where only the largest brand portfolios have enough leverage to negotiate favorable terms. That’s where Google is most definitely not evil: Google levels the playing field, especially for brands that do not have enormous marketing budgets to compete against the OTAs via traditional search ads.  And Google definitely does not have a monopoly on user experience. It has successfully incentivized the best search and booking experience while also increasing ad inventory. Google’s Hotel Ad module innovation is evidence that Google continues to provide real value to the ecosystem. This ability to steadily monetize its real estate, without substantially alienating users, is what makes the company valuable. The only way for OTAs to compete is to get users coming to them directly. And the only way to get them to do that is by providing the best possible search experience -- or at least better than Google’s, which is something that Booking Holdings’ CEO Glenn Fogel recognized in his Q4 2019 earnings call: “What’s most important for us to get customers to come to us directly. For us to have our own future is to create a service that is so wonderful, so good that people just naturally will come back to us directly. And we will not be as dependent on other sources of traffic.” Ultimately, Google today is amoral. It’s neither good nor evil. It makes a lot of money from delivering the best possible search experience; as long as users reward it with their attention, it will continue to sell that attention. We’ll know that Google is more evil than good if they stop innovating on the search experience and growth attempts begin to alienate end users (searchers).   Google Hotels vs. the OTAs: What Is Google Likely to Do? Between organic SEO and paid advertising, Google is responsible for much of OTA’s inbound demand. This vulnerability was laid bare in Q4 2019 earnings calls, where TripAdvisor and Expedia CEOs both lamented dips in organic visibility and rising advertising costs.  Ultimately, this is a high stakes chess game with billions of dollars at play -- $10.6 billion in 2018. With so much money at stake, for both Google and OTAs, Google has 3 potential moves to make -- none that will make everyone happy, especially as it walks the tightrope between its own products and those of its advertisers. MOVE #1: EXPAND AD INVENTORY One of the fastest ways to grow revenues is to expand overall ad inventory. It's always a trade-off between revenue and user experience.  Where we’re at: Google has already done this, increasing from three standard ads to four. Ben Thompson from Stratechery calls this The Google Squeeze. The consequence here is that organic results are pushed further down, reducing organic reach. As a simple example, let’s say the search engine results page (SERP) used to be 30% ads and now it’s 40%. Once you add the Google Hotel Ads module, that pushes ad inventory to 50% -- making paid placements as prominent as organic results. And, as Google adds more featured snippets, “zero-click searches” are now the majority. No clicks, whether paid or organic!  Even so, Google maintains a tight focus on the user experience; if users stop coming, there’s nothing to sell. So far, Google has avoided the point where users turn to new platforms. The Hotels module is easy to browse and it's convenient, two things consumers prioritize.  “[Google] has the dominant position largely by providing a better product. Search was better to start, but Google didn’t rest on its laurels: it made search better on mobile in particular with these sorts of modules. While users could download another app or go to a different URL, they simply don’t want to.”  -Ben Thompson, Stratechery Will Google do more of this? Yes, Google continuously innovates around better user experiences, as well as finding ways to monetize that innovation. While we don’t expect more of the organic rankings to be taken up as a percentage of results, we absolutely expect more innovation. And that should worry the OTAs,  even as they simultaneously benefit from the growing velocity of Google Hotel Ads. Expedia CEO Mark Okerstrom said on Expedia’s Q4 2019 earnings call: “We are able to pick up some of that volume and that resulted in spending more on sales and marketing than we otherwise would have. We are happy with the returns, but ultimately, not as good returns as we would see from the SEO channel.” MOVE #2: INTRODUCE COMPETITION More companies competing for limited space is generally good for an intermediary that makes money by selling access to its users. The competitive auction-based system ensures that the company always optimizes the value for its inventory. Where we’re at: Google’s Hotel Ads is exactly that: a product that turns advertisers into suppliers and offers hotels an end-round around other gatekeepers. Google built a new channel to compete for bookings -- and then used its competitive advantage to prioritize that channel above organic search results.  Ironically, Google’s demand engine helped Booking and Expedia create a duopoly -- which is bad for business -- so Google made tools to make it easier for hotels to bid for bookings. Whereas the OTAs were arbitraging their expertise in demand generation, Google closed that gap and gave hotels a new way to compete head-to-head with OTAs. Remember that, even if it's somewhat cannibalizes search ads, more competition for limited inventory is great for Google’s top line. Will Google do more of this? Yes, Google will absolutely continue to innovate making it easier for hotels to compete against the major OTAs. The competition will ultimately increase bid prices. After all, Google's leverage (and pricing power) rises alongside usage; whether OTA, meta or hotel direct, the more advertisers the better. Google is a brand-agnostic gatekeeper; it just wants everyone to pay its toll. MOVE #3: CAPTURE MORE OF THE VALUE CHAIN Google Hotels is a way to capture more of the value chain by shortening it. Rather than hotels distributing to OTAs, who charge commissions for capturing demand from Google (almost like advertising arbitrage), hotels can advertise directly on Google. This shortens the value chain and somewhat balances the  distribution power dynamic in hotels’ favor. Ben Thompson from Stratechery sketches how Google inserted Hotel Ads into its flow.   Where we’re at: But will Google become an OTA? Absolutely NOT. Google never has and will never want to deal with customer support, inventory onboarding, contracts, etc. It’s a huge hassle that doesn't align with any existing core competencies. The media is blowing this out of proportion, saying that Google wants to disrupt travel by capturing more of the value chain, but they’re wrong. I think the seller of record for travel it's a tough business, with low margins, that Google doesn’t want to be in. It wouldn't really add much to its bottom line or its competitive positioning. Why pay for all that overhead when you can just skim from the top? Will Google do more of this? Yes -- as long as it aligns with its objective to offer the most comprehensive search platform for travel. Most recently, Google expanded its reach into vacation rentals, trying to capture more of that demand from OTAs. This is simply an effort to give consumers access to 100% of all inventory across all categories. To be the most useful to users --  and to make as much money as possible selling access to those users -- Google needs access to all of the inventory. And, in a tie-up of the two Headless Horsemen of the travel apocalypse, Airbnb is running a pilot to distribute its inventory on Google. One final thing on OTAs versus Google: There's still a fair bit of regulatory uncertainty, with government hearings leading industry pundits suggesting a forthcoming “regulatory comeuppance.” And the OTAs certainly aren't taking this lying down, using their visibility and market power to agitate publicly for a level playing field in search results. There’s growing mainstream awareness around the potentially monopolistic characteristics of Google's position as the place where the majority of the world start their online searches.   What Does Google's Strategy Mean for Your Hotel? Really, all this is business as usual. The mainstream media is always going to hype new developments. You shouldn't change direction with each breathless opinion piece or buzzy article. The competitive dynamics of distribution is ever-shifting, and it will always remain in flux. For your hotel, the same strategies apply today that applied five years ago. First, focus your energy on the direct channel, as organic direct bookings are always the most profitable. To achieve direct booking success, use a guest acquisition tool like SiteMinder Canvas to create a high-converting website. According to Google, an easy-to-use website is more important for high-value travelers than reviews or loyalty programs. A modern website will build trust with potential guests, giving them the confidence to book direct. To enable those direct bookings, that website must also have a fast loading, intuitive and mobile friendly Booking Engine, like SiteMinder Booking Button. Consumers want a self-service option to book direct, so give them what they want -- and to capture those bookings with zero commissions.  Furthermore, Google’s quality score uses conversion rates as a rating factor so if your hotel website and booking software don’t convert guests you’ll end up paying more for ads. Few hoteliers really understand this.   A modern look and feel, coupled with a “Book Now” button, will transform your hotel’s online experience and get your hotel more commission-free bookings.   Next, once you’ve fortified your direct channel, you must implement a balanced distribution plan that doesn't rely too much on any single channel or third-party. You’ll want to use a channel manager like SiteMinder to easily distribute to as many OTAs as possible who give you reasonable terms...then let the OTAs fight it out in search bidding since you’re paying the same commission regardless. Your distribution plan should also include paid channels, such as metasearch, Google Hotel Ads, and possibly even OTA ads. Be sure to balance Google Hotel Ads along with metasearch bidding and carefully analyze profitability trends over time. For many hotels, it's advisable to use a digital marketing agency for hotels and/or metasearch management tools that can optimize your bidding and ensure that you are optimizing every marketing dollar. Finally, keep your head up and stay aware of the ever-shifting distribution dynamics. Keep a careful eye on earnings reports from metasearch, the latest product updates from the OTAs and HotelTechReport’s hotel industry blog to stay on the cutting edge. Google certainly isn’t going anywhere -- and neither are the OTAs --  so it's up to you to stay informed and ride the waves the best you can!  

Imagination: The Last Distribution Challenge

by
Chinmai Sharma
3 months ago

Technological advancements in hospitality distribution have brought on immense opportunities for both hoteliers and travel sellers, including online travel agencies, travel management companies, and the trusted travel agency community. But at the same time, the way that hospitality distribution has been evolving has hampered progress compared to similar industries. Two decades ago, only large hotel chains had access to the right technology, enabling connectivity between the hotel and the reseller. With the advent of the channel manager, independent hoteliers were able to much more effectively manage their distribution. While CRS-level connectivity technology, often called a switch, evolved to handle massive complexity and scale, channel managers tended to be nimbler. Simpler and standardized APIs allowed for quicker implementation, both on the side of hoteliers, as well as OTAs and other resellers. In other words, the barrier to entry for smaller hoteliers was lowered by channel managers, while switch technology was the clear choice for large brands and chains.   Moving the Goal-Post Over the last two decades, the two technologies have continued to evolve, each with its inherent strengths and challenges. This also meant each technology had its own place in the content sourcing strategy for OTAs and in the distribution strategy for large hotels. Smaller independent hoteliers have often been limited to channel managers, which works well for its intended purposes. For a large hotel chain, the switch has been great for connecting the hotel CRS to the GDS and to medium to large-sized OTAs. To connect to smaller regional OTAs and wholesalers, chain hotels often had to utilize a channel manager at property level via a PMS, which resulted in some loss of control at a hotel’s corporate level. With the growth in travel in emerging markets, such as India and China, this presented some challenges with regional OTAs serving those markets and driving significant traffic. Take China… in this market, Ctrip is by far the largest OTA serving that market and a clear choice for hoteliers wanting to attract Chinese travelers. While, Ctrip does cover 36.6% of the Chinese market, the savvy hotelier will ask “what about the other 63.4%?”. And, it’s a wise question to ask – since most distribution technology providers do connect with Ctrip, competition on the site is stiff. Smaller specialized OTAs, ecommerce platforms, and tech-savvy tour operators are on the rise, making China similar to many other travel markets in terms of travel seller composition. So, for those hotelier’s hungry to implement a uniquely crafted and differentiated distribution strategy - the menu is ever expanding.     Push, Pull and Personalization So, what is standing in the way of hoteliers getting creative with their distribution strategy or travel sellers setting themselves apart with a differentiated offering? Unfortunately, the same thing that has plagued the travel industry for decades – technology and connectivity. Similar to the rapid growth days of the internet, many hoteliers are still relying on faxing of reservations, as crazily archaic as that sounds. But more importantly, and unlike many technologies going back decades, there are different standards for connectivity, and different systems and end-points needed to connect, each having evolved independently of one another. I wish I could say that the only choice we struggle with was between a Apple or Android. And of course, there’s the choice between push (sometimes favored by OTAs) and pull (often favored by hoteliers) models of connectivity. While the industry has somewhat trended from pull to push in the past, it is now moving back towards a pull model of connectivity, driven by consumer expectations of personalization and the need to make personalized offers in real time.  Still, the push model is not going anywhere in the foreseeable future. Today, both push and pull require heavier infrastructure investments to support shopping and booking traffic, often reserved to larger systems and system providers. Independent hoteliers with a PMS and chain hoteliers with older CRS systems will continue to be constrained by the capacity of their systems. This will once again put most hoteliers at a disadvantage in their ability to deliver a personalized offer, similar to what consumers have come to expect in the Amazon-like world of today. It will at the same time drive OTAs increasingly to deliver a diverse offering to meet a complex set of consumer preferences.   An Explosion of Possibilities A little over a year ago when we combined the forces of DHISCO and RateGain, we knew there was tremendous potential for synergies, but we weren’t quite clear on exactly how we would realize them. RateGain’s channel manager, RezGain, and DHISCO’s Switch had both different and leading distribution capabilities. RezGain is great at push, while DHISCO leads in pull. Each also came with rich existing businesses that had traditionally not intersected in the marketplace. On the supply side, DHISCO served every large hotel chain in North America and Europe, along with many with presence outside these regions. Through RezGain, RateGain served thousands of medium-sized, independent hotels across Asia. On the supply side DHISCO is the obvious choice for indirect GDS connectivity, while RezGain has the industry’s largest OTA and wholesale connectivity network. For anyone with a basic knowledge of hospitality distribution, the initial opportunities began to materialize, while the theoretical possibilities were mesmerizing. The below diagram shows how a simple Push and shop to Push is done.     After some months of frantic whiteboarding and around the clock engineering, we have now unlocked the closest thing to limitless distribution that the hospitality industry has seen. Allowing Push and Pull models of distribution to remain a barrier to connection between supply and demand is outdated. This means that customers now have access to virtually any type of connection between hotel and reseller. Where one partner may have preferred to connect in a specific way, often times the desired connectivity partner had no ability to support that. We have removed those barriers by bringing together the RezGain and DHISCO specialties.  We are, proverbially, putting connectivity square pegs into round holes. The below diagram shows how a seamless Push and shop to Push is done and how it is done with ResNotif.              I liken RateGain’s advancement in distribution technology to recent developments in voice-enabled translation technology. Just like we can now travel the world and make new connections with people in remote parts of the world without letting language be a barrier, travel sellers and accommodation providers can now connect anywhere in any way. I love the possibilities.