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Hotelier news, tips and advice from industry experts.

Welcome Anywhere Property Managment System > Blog > 2017 > July

For our very first podcast we wanted to invite a big guest to sit down with us and chew the fat over the rapidly changing hospitality industry.

So, we asked Booking.com. And they agreed.

That gave us an idea; why not gather some probing questions from Welcome Anywhere users and put them to the biggest OTA of them all?

A discussion on everything from the importance of personalisation to the increasingly vital role the hotel website plays in attracting modern guests followed, making this one podcast you certainly do not want to miss.

Oh, and we dropped a fan, too.

Enjoy:

https://soundcloud.com/user-568165456/welcome-systems-podcast-episode-1-dont-drop-the-fan-featuring-bookingcom-july-2017

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It’s summer, which means most hoteliers are simply too busy to concern themselves with refining their distribution strategy.

That’s understandable, but if you can squeeze an extra hour or so out of your day to pay closer attention to your channel manager, you’ll be able to maximise you occupancy - and do so profitably.

Channel managers are now part and parcel of most hotel booking systems, and while it might be tempting to set yours up initially and then leave it to its own devices, you’ll quickly find yourself cursing the hotel’s inability to match its competitors’ occupancy levels.

To be competitive in this market, you need a proactive channel management strategy - it’s that simple.

In this blog, we’re going to look at four ways hoteliers can use their channel managers more effectively.

1. Make sure it’s integrated

Are you using a separate channel manager and hotel booking system without any link between the two?

Bit of an effort that, eh?

There’s a way around this, which is to ensure you opt for a channel manager that integrates with your hotel booking system. And when we say ‘integrates’, we mean a full, two-way link between both platforms.

Such solutions ensure your availability and rates are correct, no matter where they appear online but, more importantly, rid you of the frustration that comes with updating multiple systems. You’ll also avoid overbooking and benefit from a very happy team behind the front desk.

2. Work to increase the number of OTAs you use

We’ve often said that you need to spread your wings far and wide online when it comes to channel management, and that remains true today.

It may feel like you’re giving everything away to third parties by signing up with as many OTAs as possible, but if your hotel is missing from a website on which your main competitor resides, you’re giving up far too easily.

Surely you want to fight for those bookings too?

The more channels you add, the more you get to explore the industry and find new ways of attracting guests. You may even find new markets you hadn’t considered before or discover that overseas visitors are particularly fond of your independent hotel.

Never consider your distribution network complete; new OTAs arrive regularly.

3. Tailor tariffs for different demographics

Once you have a good number of OTAs on board, you can start sussing out the types of guest they attract.

If certain websites are favoured by millennials or baby boomers, you can tailor your tariffs to attract those types of guest. Conduct your own research by finding out what kind of extras and price points float the boats of these people.

If you simply offer the same style of tariff across every OTA, you may be alienating significant portions of your customer base.

4. Don’t neglect your own website

It’s easy to forget that one of the most important websites within your channel manager is your own.

Treat it like an OTA, albeit one that you know like the back of your hand. Be careful not to break the rules of your OTA agreements, but, equally, have some fun.

Try offering package that include additional, ‘freebie’ extras that can’t be found on OTAs. Modern guests will do an awful lot of research before they decide to book, which means they’ll inevitably stumble across your website at some stage.

Give them a reason to book direct.

Wrapping up

We’ve got you thinking, haven’t we?

Grab that extra hour and log into your channel manager. Those buttons, switches and toggles will all still be there, waiting for your input.

Don’t leave your occupancy to chance.

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Once, there was Google Hotel Finder. Remember it? We do.

Alas, if you head to google.com/hotels now, you’re presented with the following message:

Thanks for visiting Hotel Finder.
You can now search for hotels right on Google and in Google Maps and get a list of hotels with prices, photos, reviews and Street View panoramas.

So, it's gone. Boo!

Hold your horses.

Last August, we published this post on Hotel Finder's replacement - Google Hotel Ads, and we've been keeping a close eye on it ever since.

The search giant has made some huge improvements in that time. So many, in fact, that we thought we'd resurrect this post and update it with the latest information on Google Hotel Ads for hoteliers.

Because, we're nice like that.

Ok - what is Google Hotel Ads?

There are billions of searches carried out every day by people planning holidays and looking for hotels. Understandably, Google wants to keep such people in its world for as long as possible.

This is desirable from the searcher's perspective, too; imagine if everything you needed to book a hotel was contained within Google search results; a single page delivering everything from availability and rates to the booking process itself.

That's exactly what Google Hotel Ads delivers.

How does Google Hotel Ads work?

Let's say we're looking for a hotel in Northampton. If we type in a search query of that nature, Google now delivers results in this format:

Sure, we still see the paid ads right at the top, but immediately below there now sits an attractive map and listing of hotels, complete with review ratings, a brief synopsis and those all important prices.

…and, as you’d guess, they’ve done a rather good job of it on smartphones, too:

Click on any of the hotels listed, and you're taken to a much larger map and more detailed listing of the property itself:

Scroll further down the hotel listing, and you'll find reviews from multiple sources, the ability to send the listing to your smartphone, a list of other hotels people searched for similar to the one you're viewing and web search results linked to the area.

Does Google Hotel Ads charge a commission?

Yes.

If you take a look at the listing example above, you'll note there's the option to book via a well-known OTA, but hotels can take direct bookings, too.

That doesn't make Google a travel agency, though. Despite the fact they take a commission (of around 12-15%), Google doesn't handle the booking; they simply pass it onto the accommodation provider.

It's worth noting that hotels can also choose how to pay for their listings on Google Hotel Ads:

  • Pay-per-click. If you use Adwords, you’ll know all about this - you simply set a price you’re willing to pay for every click of your ad and set a budget. The positioning of your hotel in search results will be determined by how much you’re willing to spend on clicks, but paying for a click doesn’t guarantee the business.
  • Commission. Just like the fee you pay Booking.com, this method is only charged when bookings are made via the listing on Google.

There's also a theory (although, in truth, we'll never really know what goes on behind the scenes) that Google pays attention to room rates as a ranking factor; if it thinks you’re charging more than the other booking platforms, it may place you lower in search results.

Wait, my hotel is already on Google Hotel Ads…

If you search for your hotel on Google, you’ll almost certainly find that it appears in a similar fashion to the example above. However, you’ll also note that OTAs are probably the only booking option.

The real power behind Google Hotel Ads lies in its ability to help increase direct bookings, but that can only happen when a hotel actively takes part and invests in their listing. Premier Inn reportedly increased bookings via their own channels by 40% after implementing Google Hotel Ads.

Getting started

Google has put together a fantastic website that details the benefits Google Hotel Ads offers hoteliers and how to get signed up.

The following video also provides a great overview:

https://youtu.be/yand_BRC9EA

Benefits of Google Hotel Ads for independent hotels

Let’s consider the main benefits Google Hotel Ads offers independent hoteliers:

  • sits directly within the world’s most popular search engine;
  • offers rich hotel descriptions, photos (including Street View) and aggregated reviews;
  • encourages direct booking;
  • provides hoteliers with guest email addresses and details;
  • allows hoteliers to compete more closely with the OTAs by opting for a commission-based bidding system rather than costly pay-per-click;
  • features an attractive, intuitive, mobile-friendly user interface for guests.

Conclusion

Google Hotel Ads is a major step forward in the realm of hotel search and appears to offer signifiant benefits for independent hoteliers.

We were originally concerned that the platform might suffer the same fate as Google Hotel Finder, but in the twelve months since we originally published this post, Google has clearly been taking Hotel Ads very seriously indeed.

We recommend all independent hoteliers invest some time in Hotel Ads. We’ll certainly be continuing to keep a very close eye on the platform and investigating integration options for the Welcome Anywhere hotel booking system.

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Large hotels often benefit from dedicated revenue managers who’s job it is to scour the market, looking for opportunities to maximise room rates for profitability and occupancy.

If you’re running a small hotel, we’re going to take a wild guess that you probably haven’t got a revenue manager.

It’s you, isn’t it?

Only, you’re the gardener, too. And occasional chef. Oh, and because Michael’s decided to take the week off and head to Corfu, you’ve got to run reception, as well.

Every hotelier (ok, most) are busy - particularly at this time of year - but that shouldn’t make it impossible to work on pricing strategies that ensure the hotel remains full for the rest of the year and beyond.

Here’s five ingenious pricing strategies for small hotels:

1. Go for a super-low rate

The proverbial ‘dropping of one’s trousers’ when it comes to room pricing might feel somewhat demeaning, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with occasionally offering a super-low rate.

Make it clear that this is an incredibly rare occurrence and that you’ve implemented it to give as many people as possible the chance to check out how awesome your hotel is, and you’ll inevitably raise occupancy levels.

Just make sure you hike the prices back up sharpish and work hard to retain your new customers’ business in future (at standard rates!).

2. Justify a price hike

If the thought of super-low rates has made you feel faint, there’s another option.

Jack them up!

Feels better, eh?

If you can raise the price of your rooms above that of the competition, you have the perfect opportunity to explain why yours are worth the extra spend.

Throw in a few extras, by all means, but be bold enough to point out that your hotel is worth more than the lowly-priced competition.

3. Capture the middle ground

If you align the prices of your basic rooms with the cheapest market pricing and set the rates for your other rooms closer to your competitors’ base level pricing, you should put your hotel squarely in front the middle market.

Oh, and you’ll still be capturing the lower and higher markets, too - thus killing three birds with one stone, as it were.

4. Take a leaf out of the retailer’s book

When you buy something in a supermarket, it’s rarely a rounded price. Rather than £10, it’ll be £9.99.

You can do the same with your room rates. And, yes, this may feel a bit ‘cheap’ and ‘retail-y’, but that’s the point; we know consumers react well to such pricing strategies, so why not take advantage of them in the hospitality industry?

5. Price match

If all else fails - go for the jugular and price match your competitors.

This is what revenue managers spend a great deal of their time doing, because it remains an effective pricing strategy for most hotels.

If you’re forever cursing the hotel down the road that seems to be overflowing with guests, there’s a reason they’re doing so well, and it may be because you’re either too cheap or expensive by comparison.

Equally, if they’re that busy, there are clearly a great number of new guests to be had, therefore you’ll stand a far better chance of competing if you do so on a level playing field.

Wrapping up

You’ve got time to work on the above, we promise. And, if you don’t think you have - make time, because if you don’t, the competition will gain a significant lead.

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