Channel Management is Fundamental to Hoteliers

Hoteliers, now more than ever, need to concentrate on revenue and distribution management. The industry not only faces corporate budget tightening, but flight costs have increased and the decreasing value of world currencies plus job uncertainty has affected tourists’ spending budgets.

Last year, more travelers continued to book their travel using web booking engines. The success of Online Travel Agents (OTA) and the expansion of the online/offline press referring people to internet led technologies have enticed consumers to the cyber travel market.

Hence, it is the priority of any hotelier during this time to ensure yields and occupancy remain high, making the most of the sales channels available to maximize revenue over the coming years. With reports that RevPAR is dropping, hotels need to think intelligently and maximize on the tools they have to ensure the business remains strong.

Today, consumers are influencing room rates more than any time in history. The internet – with multiple price comparison websites and booking channels – provides a choice. The savvier consumers get; the more likely rates will continue to fall. However, if hoteliers take control of their presence and rates online, revenue managers can make more accurate forecasts to identify occupancy and rate levels to ensure sales are on target. In 2016 hotels were managing an average of TEN third party websites to distribute rates and inventory, five years on and the average is 25.

The challenge for many hoteliers in managing these channels is to ensure accurate rates and inventory allocation to optimize each channel to increase sales and maximize revenue. There is no point selling across the internet for the sake of being online; it must be approached intelligently to avoid the mismanagement of rates. To make the most of the internet and online distribution channel revenue managers should look at technology to save time and make money.

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By utilizing cloud-based tools to manage the distribution of rates online, revenue managers can ensure rates are accurate across all third-party websites, allocate rooms to the channels providing either a greater return or greatest number of bookings, and forecast future rates and occupancy levels. mycloud HOSPITALITY technology has been developed to ensure time spent managing online rates is reduced to improve productivity and reduce human error. mycloud Property management system, (hotel PMS Software) can give you a snapshot of all online sales activity in a single screen, manage rates and rooms on third-party websites then make all the relevant changes you need to increase yields.

At this time, hoteliers need to turn to technology such as hotel software to help them through this down-turn to remain competitive. Solutions and systems to support the revenue manager are constantly being developed that will reduce time spent distributing rooms so more time can be allocated to managing the hotel.

Without a doubt the travel industry will pick-up much quicker than it had in the past, with the rise of Eastern economies and larger worldwide travel markets, knowledge of price and availability will be fundamental to hoteliers. Further with the internet becoming a leading factor in booking travel, it is essential that it is the key platform to sell rooms. However, at the same time, the internet is a world of its own, which is broken into its own segments and markets so it is essential hoteliers know who its customers are and how to reach them – being on any third-party website isn’t going to provide the expected return.

As we have seen throughout the media and even in our own industry – belts have tightened and the economy is not as strong as it was – but we know that we have recovered before and should prepare for when it does. In the meantime, it is essential to focus on making the most of what you have by optimizing sales by using the internet to benchmark and allocate rooms efficiently to achieve greater occupancy and therefore increased yields.

 

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The Conflict: Online Travel Agencies versus Hotels

For many years, travelers have gone onto online websites like Priceline, Expedia and booking.com to find and reserve hotel rooms or flights. However, over the last year a direct booking war between the Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) and hotels has only become more intense, as they both battle one another for direct access to travelers. As hotels did not have the right technology and commissions were reasonable, it was completely normal initially. Fees paid to OTAs are now higher than ever, at nearly 25 – 30 percent in some cases, and contracts have become horrendous. Nevertheless, a definite is that hotels have clearly stepped up their game in the last year to steer bookings through their own website. Read on to know more.

The bond between OTAs and hotels / hotel chains has been under growing pressure for some time. While OTAs have simple and user-friendly websites offering a range of hotel options for the traveler, they are not quite able to build brand loyalty. For price conscious tourists, they would go for that hotel option that satisfies basic needs: a place to sleep, wireless internet connectivity (increasingly) and perhaps, breakfast. What about the other traveler segment, the one who actively seeks out the hotel brand they long to stay in, every annual holiday?

A research by Morgan Stanley projected that the global hotel business saw revenues of $570 billion in 2015, and of that amount, OTAs collected roughly $16 billion in commissions. With the online titans merging and possibly narrowing their hold on travel bookings, globally popular hotel chains are now offering unprecedented benefits to attract travelers to book directly on their platform: check-in before even arriving at the hotel, Wi-Fi, free meals and even the ability to choose a particular room – one of the many standout perks Hilton offers its direct-booking guests.

There’s a lot at stake. Eliminating the intermediary not only saves on commissions, but also means that hotels can be in direct contact with their guests. This means hotels could then build guest profiles of certain desires and spending patterns, to assist in attracting them in the future. Moreover, hotels introduced loyalty programs to get guests to book directly with them, with reward points and exclusive benefits like lounge access, room upgrades, etc. Hilton’s multi-million-dollar ad campaign ‘Stop Clicking Around’ proved to be a success, as they promoted a 10% concession and free Wi-Fi for loyalty members who booked direct. By doing so, loyalty program members also earn reward points and many of them do not wish to give them up, so it could be a great lure.

Nonetheless, the OTAs took a step ahead and responded, and Expedia in particular did a great job at it. First of a kind, the travel company promoted a hotel’s discounted loyalty rates next to standard rates. Provided guests enter their credentials they get to avail this special rate, and instant enrollment into the scheme was possible as well for guests wishing to join – allowing them to book on the channel, and not necessarily on the hotel’s website.

On the contrary, competing with OTAs on price itself is not too simple. A traveler’s assumption could be incorrect sometimes, that hotels could offer better rates if booked direct. In reality, rate parity clauses exist in contracts with OTAs, disenabling them to challenge the OTA – even though OTAs constantly battle out each other, killing the transparency in rates. It’s more than just the room price at the end of it all, it’s about what more could be offered by the hotel as additional perks.

In conclusion, the book direct war is not anywhere close to an end as OTAs and hotels are in a constant clash for travelers’ bookings. Hotels encourage guests to book direct by using a variety of incentives like loyalty based extras and upgrades. OTAs as well have stepped up by eradicating rate transparency. As mentioned by Morgan Stanley research in the simplest form, should OTAs win the war, they will be able to gain a larger share of bookings and drive up the distribution costs for hotels. Should hotels be victorious, the efforts taken to increase direct bookings would simply boost hotel brands, at the expense of OTAs. A long term price war without increased focus on experience or additional benefits, would see a drop in daily hotel rates and would eventually mean the traveler wins, as they continuously hunt for the best deals.

Millennial Kids Changing Global Travel

A growing segment of the global travel industry is the youth fragment. According to a report by The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and World Youth Student & Education Travel Confederation (WYSE), they generated US$ 165 billion in 2010, with the figure expected to double in the forthcoming decade. This emerging division of the worldwide travel industry has made travel specialists ponder on a rather different business model, shifting the focus on experience as well as ensuring that the millennial kids are connected throughout their stay.

The influence of globalization and technology has led to youth valuing experiences and the feeling of ‘being connected’ over traditional hotel frills. Thanks to the free internet program, Facebook for example, is now available to smartphone users in selected countries. The young travel community wants to experience the place they reside at and hence, wants a place with a local touch. Hotels that can help them connect with local, traditional and authentic places as well, fulfills their desires after all. From the looks of it, quite many hotels have hardly changed the way they operate over the last decade, still consisting of the same in-room conveniences, check-in process and high-rise, heavy curtains. A young traveler is no longer looking for white-linen service or stewards to carry their luggage up to their room. When the modern generation of young travelers enter a hotel, they want to be connected with a steady internet connection, feel entirely at home and be in a setting where they can experience something.

With the support of the World Wide Web, an 80’s or 90’s kid now also has access to unprecedented information, easily accessible from a desktop, laptop or even a mobile device.  The internet has also multiplied the opportunities for social interaction through travel. With social media and budget-travel tools like Airbnb and Skyscanner, they found out that travel wasn’t nearly as expensive or challenging as previously thought of.  Looking at friends’ photographs of past trips on Facebook or Instagram, viewing TripAdvisor’s ‘hidden gems’, arranging to stay with locals or getting tips from numerous travel blogs, helps young travelers to bond before, during and after their trip, redefining the global travel scene.

For those hotels that have changed, regardless their size, it has been for the better. Receptions for instance, have become smaller in size, and communal and get-together areas with a mix of comfy sofas, work and meeting spaces, have been on the increase. Guests are able to sit wherever or serve themselves with what they’re craving the most, as the formal divider between lobbies and restaurants are now nearly non-existent. Rooms are now smaller as many young travelers spend majority of their time in social places.

In conclusion, these young travelers are looking for a home-away-from-home. They thrive in environments where they can be part of an experience by networking with the people that live there as well as staff. Satisfaction can be derived when they drink coffee surrounded by other people in a reception, rather having a coffee machine in their room – hence being involved. Internet and social media platforms have aided these young lads in changing the traveling scene around the world.

So for those hotels still operating as they were a decade or two ago, they need to adopt more and more technology if they want this business, the technology must help them get exposure across the globe. Hotels must also be sensitive to online social discussions and comments to ensure their brand is not losing out. Technology today helps hoteliers and the cloud is a boon to such properties who aspire to have similar solutions like five-stars, but do not want to bear that much capital expenditure.  Do consider cloud-based hotel pms solutions and see what fits your needs and helps you grow.

The rise of the small and mid-size independent hotel

A family vacation on a resort island in Maldives, a friend’s get-together in Ibiza, or even a team business trip to Singapore, travelling has always been something that everyone looks forward to. The last two decades or so have seen the global population rise, lifestyles have changed, an increase recorded in earning and spending power and youth as well have more access to funds, as they undertake part time work while studying.

More importantly, the hotel industry prospered over the years and international hotel chains established hotels like never before. According to Statista, as of January 2016, Marriott International group was on top of the list with the most number of hotel rooms, amassing 1.1 million rooms globally

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A large branded hotel has grown from the challenges that have confronted independent hotels in recent times. Without a big brand’s financial aid and scale, small hoteliers have no other option but to work harder to succeed. Moreover, independent hotels quite frequently lack an international sales force, a central reservation system or nation-wide popularity available to chain hotels, making them even more reliant on the pricey online travel agencies to drive bookings. Should you be the owner of a small hotel, and if you had thought of financing expansion or renovation for instance, you’d know exactly that pay back rates from lenders are no way close to affordable.

However, be frightened no more as traveler perception is changing. Vacationers are not quite looking for that chandelier above their dining table but would rather pay the premium for a memorable experience. Luxury is now shifting from having to being with consumers, transitioning from retaining a luxury item to experiencing luxury. Whilst travelers admired the consistency of a notable hotel chain, knowing that the next Marriott they stay at will always look like the last Marriott they stayed at, it is not quite the same now. They are looking for genuine, local experiences and want culture as part of their stay, which small, independent hotels like yours can offer.

Because of their global operations, quick changes within the hotel chain’s group are not possible and hence, small hotels now have an advantage. By integration with their local communities, independent hoteliers are able to provide these authentic experiences for their guests. There’s no complying with any other bigger brand, allowing such hotels to provide guests with the exclusive and one-of-a-kind travel experience they want.

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Wondering how you could adapt as well? Here are few ways. As Mendes Cavin (Founder & Managing Partner, Miners Hospitality) puts it across in his article on Hospitality Net, create experiences. Take the spa experience into their rooms, offering them a variety of gels and soaps. Go the extra mile and a new experience in luxury is crafted for your guests. Moreover, keep it exciting at all times. As a hotelier, keep on differentiating yourself to stay ahead of your competition – provide basic internet access at no additional charge or even offer a better deal or package, that incorporates an authentic native experience to the guest.

Additionally, innovation and tech has brought about numerous solutions to solve issues and ease daily operations, keeping the hospitality business lively at all times. Almost every other hotelier has had to give the slightest of attention to the cloud – capitalize on it. Earlier hotels had to spend piles of cash to get basic technology solution to run their business, but now with cloud there is no capex and smaller and mid-size hotels can get world class Cloud based PMS solution, this advantage levels the playing field for these properties and now they can be better connected and can better control guest experience. This business-building resource that was not anywhere close to accessible or affordable for an independent hotelier, is now obtainable with just a few clicks for set up.

Yes, to operate as an independent hotel is quite a challenge, but the future for hoteliers like yourself is bright. Embrace your individuality, it might be an awful time or the best time of the year, but for independent hotels, change is happening for the better.

Evolution of PMS within the Hospitality Industry Catering the Needs from Big To Small Hotels

By M Dave

Irrespective whether your hotel is a small boutique hotel with 20 bedrooms or a magnificent luxury hotel with 100+ bedrooms, having a comprehensive multi-functional Property Management System (PMS) is critical for every hotel entity. The market is flooded with plethora of PMS which are designed to meet the needs of small and big hotels alike. However the big dominant players in market like Brilliant (i-Tesso) and Opera (Micros) have very robust systems designed to more suit the operational needs of large hotels, but practically we can’t really use those PMS to streamline daily operations at small and budget hotels.

The main issues being that most of the features will be redundant in small hotels and it will also involve heavy financial commitments by small hotel owners. If one actually analyses it makes more sense for small hotel owners to reinvest into expansion plans within their hotel to make their property more competitive Hence, the question is do small and budget hotels with about 20 bedrooms really need any kind of PMS?

The answer to this question is ‘Yes’. All big and medium hotels can afford to go for a robust property management system to look after their operational aspects including guest bookings, online reservations, food and beverage costing, accounting, report generation, sales and marketing, HR and payroll, maintenance management and quality management. But on the other hand a small hotel needs to have a PMS which would help them to automate some core day to day basic operations.

With small hotel business gaining ever increasing importance every year, due to their great customer service and quirky style, they have become a very significant part of the service industry in last few years. Small technological companies like Prologic First have seen this market potential and tapped it with very innovative software’s like mycloud hospitality (http://www.mycloudhospitality.com/).

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This software helps small hotels to have a comprehensive PMS and at the same time is very friendly to their pocket. Such software just requires a tablet or a computer along with internet connection to just get started with managing their properties with features like accounting, POS, reservations and reporting all on a single screen. This will help them to tackle their operational issues like lack of skilled manpower, higher attrition rate, revenue leakage and pilferage due to the absence of proper accounting software, customer care and inventory management.

Loads of such software’s are available now in the market like mycloud hospitality, Room master, sabee app etc. The good thing about the cost of such software’s is that they are available on a monthly payment plan with as little as £2 per rooms. Some notable features about mycloud hospitality software that I came across while researching to give an idea is as below:

  • Little or no up-front investment and quick start-up
  • No long term contract and easy exit option and
  • Low investment, low risk
  • Quick implementation
  • Needs little or no training
  • Secure access from anywhere
  • High availability
  • A comprehensive Front Office service
  • Round the clock support

This highly user-friendly and scalable software is capable of streamlining and automating operations for small hotels just as they need it. So, if you are facing some operational snags while running your small hotel operations, you may consider trying a free demo of mycloud hospitality software by Prologic First or any such software available in market which is a smart way to manage your properties.

Interactive Restaurant Experience – What Happened to Conversations?

Restaurants have gone through so many iterations over the years.  They were initially designed to nourish travellers.  Up until recently, we enjoyed a restaurant for perhaps a quick meal, a celebration, a prelude to romance or maybe a lavish display of gourmet indulgence.  The restaurant had so many roles – we loved the ambiance, the menu, the lighting, the aromas, presentations, the fare, the location, the servers and chefs.  Beyond the nourishment, we had the opportunity to interact with our dining companions – to   talk sports, business, opportunity, love and life in general.  The engagement, the conversation was just as important as the meal for many.

Now, our dining relationship has moved to the interactive – essentially platforms and activities we could do by ourselves in our homes on our lap tops and tablets, snacking on Fritos.  The restaurant is a cuisine arcade!

It is pretty remarkable the leaps we have made in terms of that Customer Dining Experience in such a short time.  The technological interactive applications such restaurant mobile POS were noted in an earlier article.  We actually used to interact with each other, our server and other diners.

Our relationship with restaurants has changed dramatically.  We have seen it in the fast food and casual dining elements.  For fast food, the emphasis is on speed and accuracy.  In the casual dining realm it is more about guest control and access to all sorts of things which interrupt any conversation stream.  It goes beyond ordering and paying for the meal.  I can now tap into television, movies, music, on-line poker, send messages and the like.  I can do all that just by myself and not involve my table mate(s), who may be just as busy on his/her/their mission for access.  And, this is a world-wide phenomenon.

Just consider a restaurant in Dubai, where the establishment “… has installed interactive tables that allow guests to swipe through the menu update their Facebook status and even order a taxi home.  At this Restaurant in Dubai, interaction with wait staff is minimal, as diners can browse the digital menu, place their order, and watch chefs prepare their meal via ‘chef cams’ by using the touch screen tabletops.  The interactive tables also allow guests to customize their decor and choose from a range of images and patterns for their desktop ‘tablecloth.’  While waiting for their meal… guests can catch up on current news, check in on their Facebook messages or send greetings and virtual cards to diners at other tables.”  Connected – yes; digestible – maybe not!

So, has the conversation gone the way of service?  You be the judge.  May I interrupt your Facebook entry and have the salt, please!

Three Key Ways to Infuse Technology into Hotel Operations

By M Dave

From check-in to check-out, digital innovations have the potential to enhance every aspect of the guest experience. Many forward-thinking hoteliers are leveraging cutting-edge technologies and platforms in order to remain competitive in the digital age of hospitality. Following are three key ways to infuse technology into your hotel operations:
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Hotel Apps – Hoteliers are realizing that digital apps can be great tools for helping guest’s access hotel information and customize their experience. They are offering apps to help guests to upgrade rooms and offer discounts as well as convenient mobile booking options. Some hotel apps even allow guests to notify the concierge before arriving at the door step, setting up room service, nearby restaurant reservations and more amenities right from their mobile devices.

 Social Media – An active social media presence allows you to engage with customers, stay on their radar, build loyalty and buzz for your brand. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest enable hoteliers to share images of hotel facilities and cool on-site happenings. Visually appealing posts can also give potential guests the opportunity to see what your property has to offer before making the commitment to book a room. Facebook, in particular, is a great social tool for hoteliers as it offers a booking engine that allows guests and travels agents to select and book rooms directly from your page.

Keeping it Mobile – Today’s digital-friendly customers’ research and book on-the-go. They expect hoteliers to keep pace with their “real time” needs. Innovative hotels are finding ways to do just that by placing roving “digital ambassadors” in their lobbies armed with iPads to help speed up the check-in and check-out process. Some properties have upped the digital ante even more by allowing guests to virtually check in 24 hours ahead, receive a bar-coded email confirmation which they can later scan upon arrival to receive their key.

There’s no doubt that guests are expecting smart hotel technology solutions that help make their hotel experiences more convenient and pleasurable. Don’t have a disconnect with your clientele! Keep technology top-of-mind in order to attract guests and remain competitive in the digital age of hospitality.