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Hotelier news, tips and advice from industry experts.

Welcome Anywhere Property Managment System > Blog > 2018 > January

The Winner of Welcome Systems Ltd’s iPad Mini competition for the hotelier best able to describe their experience of using the Welcome Anywhere property management system via Capterra.com, is Elizabeth Wells, reservations manager at the Mannin Hotel on the Isle of Man.

Welcome Systems set the competition to mark the latest update of its fully cloud-based Welcome Anywhere property management system, and to highlight how mobile devices offer the perfect platform to manage hotel room reservations, pricing, marketing and guest communications on a 24/7 basis.

Describing Welcome Anywhere’s pros as being its ‘simplicity of use and doing everything we need for a medium-sized hotel’ on her Capterra.com review, Elizabeth continues:

“I previously worked for another hotel that used Welcome Anywhere to manage its bookings, so I was already aware of the system and the advantages it offers.

“When I moved to join the Mannin Hotel, which is relatively new after opening in April 2016, I became involved in almost everything, from choosing which sugar sachets we’d use through to putting all of our front and back office systems into place!

“In this day and age you have to use an online booking system. The hotel manager and I looked at several options to begin with, and we eventually chose Welcome for a number of reasons.

“Being on the Isle of Man means it can be difficult to get maintenance for software or hardware issues quickly and efficiently. The fact that Welcome is fully cloud-based, maintained by Welcome around the clock, and there are no physical moving parts makes a lot of sense for us.

“A highly visual web portal additionally means that tracking occupancy and avoiding double-bookings is no longer a concern. It also ties in seamlessly with all of the major booking engines and the Global Distribution System, allowing us to show live availability for our 54 bedrooms at all times.

“Business for the Mannin Hotel has taken off beyond our wildest expectations. There aren’t many new hotels on the Island and we’re very proud of our excellent staff and excited that demand is proving so high.

“Naturally I’m delighted to start the New Year with a brand new iPad to help manage our bookings!”

John Jones, Managing Director of Welcome Systems Ltd, added:

“Welcome Anywhere has always been suited to devices of all sizes, but our latest update features significant improvements to the way the system performs on tablets and smartphones.

“There’s no doubt the future of hotel and restaurant booking is continual innovation online. We’re thrilled to be pressing ahead with our mission to help hotels, B&Bs and pubs with accommodation meet raised customer demands for improved comfort, value, technology and convenience.”

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Welcome Systems is fully backing the Cut Tourism VAT campaign, because we absolutely agree with its request for the Government to reduce VAT on tourist accommodation from 20% to 5%.

Thirty-one European countries already enjoy the benefits of reduced tourism VAT. It results in more business investment and savings passed onto consumers, while UK tourism firms battle with a VAT rate which is almost double that of the European Union average.

This isn’t right; it needs to change. And although we doubt you need convincing, we thought we’d take this opportunity to summarise the campaign:

The main benefits of a reduced VAT rate

Everyone would benefit from a VAT rate reduction in tourism; there are no losers.

Even the government would enjoy greater tax revenue, with experts predicting that in the third year after its implementation, the policy would raise over £363 million for the Exchequer.

There would likely be an increase in exporting, too. Tourism is the UK’s sixth largest export earner, and a rate reduction would increase the number of exports while improving the country’s trade balance by £23 billion over ten years.

Here’s three more compelling benefits the reduced VAT rate would bring:

  • Higher employment: 121,000 new jobs would be created over the course of ten years, along with far-reaching social and economic benefits
  • Stronger regional investment: more investment will be generated for businesses across the country, particularly in tourist hotspots such as seasides
  • Stronger international competitiveness: cheaper UK holidays should incentivise more foreign tourists to choose this country for their vacation

What role will Brexit play?

Brexit isn’t a barrier to the change of VAT rate - it can be brought into effect immediately, because there’s no requirement for legislation at EU level.

With the hospitality industry determined to respond to the challenges of Brexit, a reduction in tourism VAT may also help businesses counter the impact of loosing certain freedoms associated with EU membership, such as access to the Single Market.

Will a VAT cut help growth?

Put simply - yes! Tourism benefits communities and the economy quite unlike many other industries. In some places, it’s a primary source of employment.

A reduction in tourism VAT would support 2.4 million jobs outside of London, assist regions that haven’t recovered from the recession and offer vital support to SMEs.

The latter is particularly important, because SMEs make up 80% of all tourism and hospitality businesses. They need help from the government if they’re to grow, and a VAT cut would have a near immediate, positive impact on their ability to do so.

How would the cut work?

As previously noted, there’s nothing holding the government back - they could reduce the VAT rate tomorrow.

What’s more, it was revealed by Treasury Advisor Professor Adam Blake that a cut in tourism VAT is “one of the most efficient, if not the most efficient, means of generating GDP gains at a low cost to the Exchequer”.

The cut would also increase competition in the industry by compelling operators to lower their prices. Indeed, Merlin Entertainment and Butlin’s have already both vowed to pass on every penny of the savings to customers.

Want to know more? Simply download the official Cut Tourism VAT factsheet, which is packed full of further details. 

Got something to say? Tell us what you think about the campaign in the comments section below. After all, the more noise we all make, the more chance there is that something will be done!

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“Direct is best”; “101 ways to avoid paying OTAs”; even “How to Win The OTA War”. We’ve all seen countless taglines and blog posts of this nature. In fact, we’ve written a significant number of them ourselves!

Alas, times have changed.

Hotel booking engines are vitally important. But they’re now secondary.

There, I’ve said it. This should come of little surprise (no matter how hard it might be to read), when you consider the habits of the millennial generation. According to data from Expedia, millennials tend to be less brand loyal than their parents, and appear to be drawn to the simplicity and choice offered by OTAs.

Put simply, they’re far more likely to book a hotel room via an OTA, and that’s important, because they’re the biggest generation in existence.

Yet still large chunks of the hospitality sector stick out their bottom lip, stamp their feet and sulk their way through the OTA relationship, while thinking nothing of buying their airline tickets, hire cars or insurance through the online consolidators.

The story of 2017

It’s not all about the millennial generation. Our own statistics also reflect the habits, needs and wants of the modern day traveller.

During 2017, Welcome Anywhere processed £74m of hotel reservations. Over fifty percent of those bookings came from Booking.com with the number of direct bookings decreasing by almost £2m in value.

These figures may be alarming to some, but to us, they offer a key insight into how the modern hospitality industry - and the guests that fuel it - operates.

Old rhetoric

Hotels that cling to the old rhetoric are effectively saying “we don't want to provide what our prospective guests want”. I find that astonishing; it’s no more out of step with the times than saying “sorry, we don’t take contactless payments”.

And then there’s the whole ‘cost of acquisition’ thing, which is easier to summarise than some might lead many to believe; the OTAs are the de facto cost of acquisition these days. Period.

While the cost of using OTAs is often quoted, the cost of not using them gets little airtime. It’s absolutely possible for a hotel to market its rooms without OTAs, by taking a few small steps. These include:

  • investing in effective digital platforms for e-shots, graphic design and social media output;
  • the purchase of royalty-free images;
  • producing professionally designed leaflets and mailing them out;
  • effective use of a decent CRM system to monitor results;
  • a full SEO campaign and expenditure on Google Adwords;
  • use of a local ad agency; and
  • someone to do all this stuff.

Actually, that’s quite a large list, isn’t it?

OTAs just take a booking and top slice it, right? Well actually, no. Most OTAs also provide extra tools - sometimes chargeable, sometimes not - to help hoteliers. These can include rate intelligence and management modules, yield management and comprehensive reporting. And let’s not forget that the guest gets a booking experience tailored to them thanks to clever use of language support, currency conversion and POIs.

How can hotels seek to obtain loyal customers by seemingly doing everything right with their property (the decor, facilities, F&B operation, friendly team, etc), yet fundamentally be at war with those same customers?

Are hotels at war with their guests?

By turning their noses up at OTAs, some hoteliers are effectively at war with modern guests and their booking preferences. How will that endear guests to those hotels and convert someone from a one-time guest into a regular booker and passionate advocate the hotel’s brand?

Over the years, guests’ expectations have changed and the hotel industry has responded admirably. Tea and coffee making facilities in the rooms? Pah, old hat. Modern comfort cooling? Tick. Mood lighting? In-room phone charging, USB sockets and mirror TVs? Been there, done that. Free wi-fi? Yep. Locally sourced artisan breads and Fairtrade cotton duvet covers? All of these came at a cost to hotels but as hoteliers we provided these services over the years because the guests wanted them.

So, why the outcry over another service which guests want (the ability to book by OTA)?

Some hotel software providers are looking increasingly stale, thanks to their anti-OTA rhetoric, and are either blatantly or inadvertently ignoring the facts.

Us? Well, we’re not cosying up with OTAs or desperately seeking their affections via candlelit dinners - we simply want to provide a platform for hoteliers that enables them to deliver the best guest experience possible.

That experience starts from the moment they book, which is why we have long since walked away from the old rhetoric and started to think positively about the role OTAs play in the modern customer’s booking journey.

Isn’t it time that hotels and PMS vendors buried the hatchet with the OTAs? Sure, providing guests with what they expect costs, but the cost of denial could be far higher.

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