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Welcome Anywhere Property Managment System > Blog > 2017 > January

For hoteliers, it’s a sickening sight. One glance at your smartphone following a gentle buzz in your pocket, and you’re greeted with one-hundred-and-forty characters of vitriol from a previous guest.

They hate you; they hate the hotel; they hate the staff; the room was terrible; the food worse. They’re going to head straight to TripAdvisor and give you a further roasting there. You’ll be sorry you were born. Every one of their friends, colleagues and pretty much anyone they meet over the next twelve months will be informed about the sorry business you run.

Social media is as brilliant as it is frustrating. And while I may have over-egged the pudding somewhat above, the reality of online backlashes in hospitality aren’t that far removed from our fictional angry hotel guest. People can, unfortunately, be horrible online and, even if they have a genuine reason to complain, the way in which they choose to do so often leaves a lot to be desired.

So how can you deal with such instances? Thankfully, there are some tried-and-tested techniques you can employ to deal with those who take to social media to lambast your lovingly-crafted operation.

1. Step back. Take a breather…

Whatever you do, don’t reply instantly. You’ll likely be rather angry about the backlash, therefore replying now will only force you to react in a way you’ll regret later down the line.

Social media moves fast (which means the tweet or Facebook post will soon disappear among a sea of other updates, remember), but you don’t have to respond straight away.

Take a breather. Collect your thoughts and consider the next pieces of vital advice…

2. Don’t delete the post

You may be tempted to delete the post, if it’s on Facebook (you can’t on Twitter and certain other platforms, unfortunately).

Don’t.

If you do, the person behind the post may well spot what you’ve done and respond by publishing something even worse. They’ll accuse you of suppressing poor feedback and being dishonest.

Leave the post where it is. It’s happened. You now have to deal with it.

3. Don’t leave it too long to reply

Ok, so I suggested you take a breather - and please do - but don’t leave it too long before responding.

Messages on social media are usually tagged with the time and date of posting, and those observing the conversation may wonder why you took three days to respond to the original complaint. Instead, do so within at least twenty-four hours.

4. Be personal in your response

No, not that kind of personal. Avoid a canned response at all costs - people will spot it a mile off and it will do nothing more than make your hotel appear as though it’s run by a robotic workforce.

Show you’re human and that you understand the same goes for the original poster. Address them by name and refer precisely to the details of their complaint.

Before doing so, just make sure you speak to as many staff as possible to get an overall picture of what exactly happened during the guest’s stay. Make detailed notes, but don’t be tempted to post your findings online.

Instead, move onto step 5…

5. Issue an apology and take it offline

Apologise sincerely; not necessarily for what may amount to a false claim of poor service, but for the fact that the guest in question felt compelled to issue such a strong complaint.

Then, explain that you’d love to have a chat on the phone to talk through the issue. Hopefully, you’ll have their phone number in your hotel booking system, but if not, offer as many contact details as possible (email, phone, Skype, etc).

Leave it at that and either make the call or wait for the guest to get in touch. Anyone observing the conversation will by now have seen that you take such complaints incredibly seriously.

Wrapping up

One thing is for sure; your hotel will receive a social media backlash at some stage. It’s an unfortunate and inevitable consequence of operating in the digital economy. However, use our tips above, and you’ll stand the best chance of coming out on top each and every time.

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Deloitte recently named Edinburgh the UK’s most attractive location for hotel investment outside London. And, while it's no wonder that our nation's capital remains the focal point for outside investors, Edinburgh's rise to prominence in this area at least proves that the UK remains a shining light in hospitality.

With the word 'Brexit' still ringing in everyone's ears, news that investment in the UK hospitality sector remains buoyant is most certainly welcome, and our blog of the week from CityA.M. uncovers the detail behind these findings.

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What makes a brilliant hotel booking engine? As a hotelier or guest, have you ever stopped to ask yourself that question?

You’re excused, if you haven’t. And why should you? It’s the job of the hotel booking software vendor to take care of this for you, after all. If you’re a hotelier, you simply need to be assured that bookings will arrive via your website commission-free and fully intact. If you’re a guest, you just want to book a room - you won’t think about the mechanics behind the process.

However, some hotel booking engines are - let’s be honest - a bit rubbish. They’re slow, confusing and take the highly irritating approach of throwing as many questions at you as possible on a single page.

For that reason, working out what makes a hotel booking engine less than stellar is relatively straightforward. We’ll therefore avoid the temptation to do so and instead lift the lid on those that work flawlessly.

It’s time for a recipe that doesn’t have a frying pan, egg whisk or food processor in sight; here are the constituent elements that make up the best hotel booking engines:

1. An approachable booking process

If you’ve ever abandoned an online hotel booking and headed to a different property purely because the process was so teeth-clenchingly frustrating, you’ll know how important an approachable booking portal is.

Potential guests should be guided effortlessly through the process and never have to think for more than a couple of seconds about what they need to do next. Up-sells should be prominent and the current stage of the booking always made obvious.

This stage isn’t rocket science, but so many systems get it horribly wrong.

2. Full PMS integration

There isn’t a hotelier on the planet who relishes dealing with double bookings, therefore the ability for the online booking portal to connect to the in-house property management system (PMS) is vital.

Such integration ensures that bookings are automatically pushed into rooms on the PMS, customer details added to the database and note of any payment (see no.3) made - without anyone having to lift a finger.

Convenient, eh? Which brings us onto the next point..

3. Convenient online payment

We’re (thankfully) rapidly moving away from a time when independent hotels would take bookings via what essentially amounted to a gentleman’s agreement that the guest would actually turn up on the day of arrival.

Similarly, securing bookings by jotting down the guest’s credit card details on a file which is subsequently stuffed into a cupboard puts both the hotel and guest at serious risk.

For these reasons alone, a convenient online payment method or the ability to store credit card details within a PCI-compliant environment is essential.

4. The ability to slot seamlessly into any existing hotel website

Most online booking systems operate independently of the hotel website, albeit with a clever ‘cloak’ that makes them look identical. However, the process of adding a booking engine to an existing hotel website shouldn’t require a degree in software engineering to complete.

A simple, efficient snippet of code is all any website needs in order to add an online booking portal. If that results in nothing more than a nice, big ‘Book Now’ button that links through to the branded portal - perfect!

5. Constant innovation

Lastly, the best hotel booking engine on the planet will quickly fall out of favour and become a relic if it isn’t treated to constant innovation. This is therefore a recipe which is never quite finished; instead, it is iterated, added to, rewritten and moulded to take advantage of the latest web and cloud tech.

And finally…

A brilliant online hotel booking engine is nothing if it isn’t used properly. Therefore, regardless of how easy it is to navigate or the simplicity of its website integration, the placement of that all-important ‘Book Now’ button is what really matters.

Make it loud and proud within the upper third of every page, and it’ll have guests flooding through your doors - simple.

This is one recipe every independent hotelier needs in their back pocket…

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In a world full of technological breakthroughs and advancements that we often take for granted, there are still certain moments when you realise just how far we’ve come.

For example, a few nights ago, I spotted a particularly bright star in the sky. Curious, I reached for my smartphone, tapped a couple of times on the screen and pointed it upwards. Normal behaviour in 2017, clearly; I thought nothing of it.

The star, as I found out, was in fact Venus. I knew this, because my smartphone had given me an augmented view of the night sky, turning it into a virtual map of the stars and planets. I could move the device around and instantly see a textbook view of the universe.

I momentarily realised what I was doing - and it took my breath away. As it should.

Similarly, if you’re a Facebook user, you may have spotted the recent addition of an innocuous-looking ‘Live’ button that resides at the top-left of the smartphone app. Press it, and you can instantly start streaming live video to your friends and followers. Just a few short years ago, such a feat would have required a satellite truck outside your house and a remortgage to fund the broadcast.

Not any more. We can do incredibly powerful things with devices that reside in our pockets and which were once nothing more than portable telephones.

Traditional hospitality in the digital age

In hospitality, tech continues to advance at an equally impressive rate. Guests chart a seismically different booking journey that relies on crowd-sourced reviews, real-time social media updates and mobilised reservations. Perhaps even more impressive is that fact that independent hoteliers can capture their attention by using management tools that were once the domain of large chains.

But where does this leave the housekeeping team? Can one of the most traditional elements of hospitality management benefit from these significant advances in technology?

Absolutely. In fact, above all departments within a hotel, I think housekeeping staff are best placed to latch onto the mobile revolution. It’ll just require a slight change in mindset.

Out with old interfaces, in with smart, connected apps

There have long been interfaces between PMS and telephone systems that enable housekeepers to dial codes on handsets to confirm rooms as being clean. That’s all well and good, but in a world where you can point your smartphone at the night’s sky and find out which stars reside above your head, we need something a little more… advanced.

The future of housekeeping management lies in the ability for tech companies and the hotels themselves to embrace mobile. And what better tool do such staff have to hand when going about their daily business than their smartphone?

The ability to confirm rooms as clean from a PMS-connected app and communicate with members of their team while having an ever-present list of duties on which to call - all from a device that resides in the palm of their hands - will transform this vital element of hospitality.

The future is closer than you may think…

How far are we away from such tools being available? Not far at all, thankfully, but the trick lies in something I alluded to a little earlier; this kind of tech needs to be made accessible to all, not just those with massive budgets.

Just as Facebook has made live video streaming available to everyone for free, hospitality software companies need to build solutions for housekeepers that don’t require days of training and which are affordable for even the smallest of operators.

Everyone should have the chance to benefit from technology that makes a real difference in the hotel industry. I’ve noted just a few examples of what could be done for housekeepers in this post, but the night sky really is the limit.

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[caption id="attachment_14323" align="alignnone" width="600"] John Jones, Welcome Systems Ltd (left), Bernard Willems, BookingSuite (right)[/caption]

Welcome Systems Ltd is the first UK hospitality booking software company to partner with BookingSuite, a unit of Booking.com dedicated to supplying accommodation providers with smart services and tools to deliver enhanced guest experiences.

The result is a seamless integration between ‘Welcome Anywhere’ and BookingSuite’s RateManager tool. Launching on January 9th 2017, the new service will help hoteliers manage their pricing with instant rate recommendations, saving valuable time and money and increasing both revenue and occupancy.

Welcome System’s Managing Director, John Jones, explains:

“Welcome Anywhere is a zero-commission hotel booking system for hoteliers who need to make smart decisions on room-pricing and require a flexible rate strategy that takes their competition into account and delivers profitable room tariffs.

“The advantage of our new partnership with BookingSuite is that their RateManager tool automatically assesses and recommends the best rates for hotel rooms, and predicts occupancy up to 360 days in advance.”

BookingSuite’s RateManager is now directly integrated within Welcome Anywhere so that any pricing changes recommended by the tool can be automatically communicated and updated. This means no duplication of effort is needed for hoteliers to benefit from the recommendations offered by the tool.

Jones continues:

“Welcome Anywhere users are now able to increase their competitiveness and automatically flex their pricing based on RateManager recommendations so that guests will always receive the best deal and hotels maximise their bookings on a 24/7 basis.

“Our test partners love the new feature and have already recouped the cost of their BookingSuite RateManager subscription during trials. We’re expecting huge demand for the system on its launch.”

Welcome Anywhere Plus now offers a two-way interface with the BookingSuite RateManager. For further details, contact our team on 0330 100 10 90 or by clicking below:

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The American hotel giant, Starwood, claims it is now successfully using Instagram to drive more reservations, and in turn avoiding costly sponsored advertising on the most visual of social networks.

By linking up with shopping platform, LiketoKnow.it, the hotel chain pays influencers to take photos on Instagram that are bundled with a direct booking link for anyone who happens to come across the image in their feed.

While it can’t be ignored that Starwood probably has something of a monolithic marketing budget, they are at least proving that Instagram can be used as a way to increase sales within the hospitality trade, without turning to the paid advertising option.

If you’re an independent hotelier, you may not be able to afford the going rate for the top influencers on Instagram, but you do have something far more compelling at your disposal: a unique offering. For, as lovely as Starwood hotels are, they’re still part of a chain; you’re on your own. And that makes you special.

With that in mind, you have all the material you need to make a success of Instagram marketing, but how do you use it effectively?

We’ve got the answers.

Don’t let your account slip

Just like any social media service, it’s all too easy to set up an Instagram account for business purposes, post to it while the novelty remains and then let it slip into obscurity as the daily grind takes over.

Unfortunately, if this happens with your Instagram account, it may as well not be there. Only active accounts attract followers and shares - remember that. You’re capable of posting at least one photo per day, aren’t you?

Of course you are!

Use hashtags

Hashtags aren’t confined to Twitter - they work brilliantly on Instagram, too.

Used as a way to categorise an image, a hashtag ensures your content stands the best chance of being found by anyone with an active interest in whatever it is you’re posting. Examples in this industry may include #NorthamptonHotel, #BoutiqueHotelUK and #HotelFood.

Use as many hashtags as possible on each post - you’ll be surprised by how quickly people start to take note (it seems to happen far quicker on Instagram than on Twitter).

Promote events

No matter how big or small a forthcoming event, Instagram is the perfect platform on which to promote its existence.

To influence potential guests, continually post photos of any fliers you may have, but also behind-the-scenes snaps of the preparations (and remember to use those hashtags liberally!).

Feature guest content

If a guest is particularly happy come check out time, bite the bullet and ask if they’d mind providing a thumbs up to camera or - even better - offering a quick ten second video testimonial. Either could be posted to Instagram and offer a real-world account of how fab your hotel is.

User-generated content is incredibly powerful, and the more guest-centric stuff you can post on Instagram, the better.

Tell stories

Most social networks now offer some form of ‘story’ feature, and Instagram is no different.

A story is essentially a collection of photos and videos that can have text overlays and which lasts for around twenty-four hours before disappearing completely. Instagram stitches it all together for you, allowing you to simply shoot away as you go about your day. It’s perfect for behind-the-scenes stuff at hotels, and people love an insight into what goes on behind the curtain.

Never forget food

People love food, and the next best thing to eating it is devouring pictures of dishes on Instagram.

Culinary imagery goes down very well indeed on this particular social network, therefore if you have a restaurant on site, make the most of the skills within the kitchen by posting as many pictures of finished dishes as possible. Again, use plenty of hashtags and watch engagement rise.

Wrap up

Most importantly, have fun with Instagram. It’s an incredibly addictive social network that has the added benefit of being relatively easy to attract attention if you’re a business operating within the hospitality industry.

Show off what makes you unique. All it will cost you is your time, but it’s some of the best time you’ll spend in 2017.

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