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Hotelier news, tips and advice from industry experts.

Welcome Anywhere Property Managment System > Blog > 2018 > February

We're excited to announce that we have launched a free version of the Welcome Anywhere property management system (PMS) to support hotels in the face of an anticipated slowdown for the sector during 2018.

Welcome Anywhere is designed specifically for independent hotels, B&Bs and guest houses, many of which are hesitant to explore new technology in the face of tough market conditions, explains our MD, John Jones.

He continues: “There are two concerns that sometimes stop our prospective clients from investigating the benefits of an online PMS – price and complexity.

“Happily, Welcome Anywhere is renowned for being both affordable and easy-to-use, and we’re convinced that any doubters will be won over by their experience of this new product release.

“Welcome Anywhere Free is a cloud-based, entry-level PMS with the necessary tools to move businesses from pen and paper to digital. It features a booking chart for PC, laptop or tablet, guest database and basic house lists and a rate management device.”

It’s no coincidence that this development comes at a time when the UK hospitality industry is under significant threat from a series of unprecedented challenges, as evidenced by PwC’s latest UK hotels forecast for 2018.

Titled ‘As Good as it Gets?’, the report suggests that the hotel sector will plateau and overall growth will slow in 2018.

“This is in large part due to an over-supply of new build hotels, the impact of Brexit on international travel to the UK and disruption to hotel trading from the threat of cyber and terrorist attacks,” add Jones.

“With times set to become harder for hospitality providers, especially independent and smaller property owners, businesses need the right tools to grow. We believe technology should be accessible and, as hospitality originals ourselves, we want to ensure UK accommodation businesses succeed now and in the future.”

For further details on Welcome Anywhere Free, click here.

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Travel and hospitality is an incredibly competitive industry which requires the businesses operating within to create unforgettable guest experiences.

Until now, the ability to do this has required massive marketing budgets and inordinate amounts of time.

Now, we live in a world of big data and something called ‘hyper personalisation’. In human language, this means there’s an inordinate amount of information about consumers available to businesses, who now have the ability to use that information to send precisely targeted marketing campaigns.

But what does this mean for independent hotels and their guests?

Big data and hotel customers

It’s easy to dismiss big data as being another indication that ‘big brother’ is watching us all, ready to pounce with unsolicited offers and irritating emails, but that’s a little short-sighted.

The hospitality mantra of ‘customer-first’ runs deep within hotel operations, and big data could help your hotel tailor a much more personalised offering for its guests. And that’s a win-win for everyone.

The more data you collect about a guest, the more you know about them. Demographics, past stay habits and their behaviour on your website can all inform the packages you put together and the offers you send to them via email.

It enables you to segment your guest database, too. An example described on Forbes.com tells of a hotel chain that used analytics from big data to rearrange rooms for either leisure or business travellers.

Why not match your rooms, service and food offering to the data you hold about guests?

Big data and the benefit it offers hotel businesses

Big data can be a bit overwhelming. It comes at you from all angles and arrives in such large quantities that it’s understandable if the desire to do anything with it slips further down the priority list.

For instance, if you publish your availability via OTAs, they’ll likely provide plenty of data and statistics on the guests who book via that method. Likewise, your PMS will probably store comprehensive guest contact and preference details, along with stay histories.

Then you have the smartphone-carrying housekeepers who generate data about room cleanliness and turnaround times. And what if you’ve connected your till system to the PMS? All those bar tabs and table accounts will be generating countless transactions that provide invaluable insights into your F&B operation.

Exhausted? Fair enough. But there’s an answer to the big data conundrum.

With the right systems in place, you can take advantage of this data by gaining access to dashboards and reports that make sense of the raw information.

It’ll help you make decisions about the lifetime value of guests; which ones generate the most revenue for you? Who returns regularly but is yet to spend a penny in the bar?

Big data will benefit your hotel operation, even if you’re yet to obtain it.

Big data: is it ‘now’ or ‘future’ for independent hotels?

Big data might not quite be at full adoption stage for independent hotels, but with technology once reserved for large chains fast filtering down the industry food chain, it’s coming.

For your guests, big data will deliver a more personal experience. For your hotel, it will enable you to build profitable relationships with customers, give you a competitive edge and uncover countless latent revenue generating opportunities.

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Search engine optimisation (SEO) has been around since Google was nothing more than a handy directory of websites.

Now, it’s something of a behemoth and a significant challenge for hoteliers. In particular, the nature of the sector has placed a significant emphasis on something known as ‘local SEO’.

Put simply, this is the process whereby your hotel will appear in searches relevant to your area. Clearly, given the type of business you run, this is highly desirable, but how do you go about mastering local search?

Employing the services of an SEO agency can be expensive, but if your marketing budget can stretch that far, and you’re prepared to conduct a beauty parade of suppliers, it’s one of the best investments you make.

Regardless, there are three things you can do yourself to improve your hotel website’s local SEO performance:

1. Be the master of your online reviews

We won’t get into the nitty gritty of guest reviews, because it’s a topic that has been argued to the point of exhaustion. And, anyway, the fact remains - you need them if you’re to survive as a hotelier.

No matter your opinion on guest reviews, you may not be aware that they can significantly help your local SEO efforts.

This stands to reason; people love to research the hotels at which they’re thinking of staying. Equally, Google is rather fond of websites and businesses that attract a lot of reviews, therefore if you’re prepare to put the time into managing your online reviews (by approving, commenting and acting upon poor feedback), you might just see a satisfying improvement in search engine rankings.

2. Build links with local businesses

Link building is a cornerstone of SEO, and involves securing links to your website from other websites that already have high standings on Google.

Unless you know what you’re doing, it’s hard work.

When it comes to local SEO, link building can actually be somewhat easier, because it involves gaining inbound links to your website from other local businesses.

So, if you’re staging a wedding fair next month, why not kindly ask the local pub, golf course or bridal shop to publish a note on their blog linking to your event? Promise you’ll do the same for them in return, and you’ll have undertaken a nice bit of link building that might just boost your rankings a little.

3. Ensure your website is fully mobile-ready

This is an easy one to finish on, and a tip that should pretty much be inserted into any ‘how to make your website rank better on Google’ blog post.

This is for good reason; Google loves mobile-ready websites. In fact, it now operates on a mobile-first index, which means it generally prefers them over their desktop counterparts.

With over 50% of hotel searches now undertaken on mobile devices, you need a website that is fully mobile-ready (not just ‘mobile optimised’). If you have doubts that yours is - speak to your web developer as soon as possible.

Wrapping up

The three things above won’t supercharge your hotel’s Google listing, but they will help a great deal.

Use them in conjunction with a great SEO contract, and you’ll stand a genuine chance of being found on page one of Google - and that’s no mean feat in this industry!

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Running a small hotel isn’t easy - particularly when you seem to be doing most of the work yourself.

This leaves most hotel owners with a constant list of growing concerns - chief of which is how to ensure beds are occupied at an average room rate that makes the business sustainable.

Thankfully, there are a number of things you can do without spending a fortune on consultants and expensive marketing campaigns to get more guests through your doors.

We’d like to share four of our favourites with you today:

1. Packages

Modern guests want more than just a room. And that’s great news, because it means you can package up your offering and raise the value of every booking that lands on your reservation chart.

It might be that you have a spa on site, or can strike up a deal with a local attraction. Perhaps you can put on a special themed night in the restaurant.

Get creative - think how you can turn what would normally be a simple hotel stay into an experience.

2. Seasonal promos

At the time of writing, we’re in deepest, darkest February, but with frost covering the ground each morning, it’s a brilliant reminder that winter warmer seasonal promotions should go down a storm in hotels.

Seasonal promotions are a great way to boost occupancy when you may otherwise be quiet. You can tailor them to the weather or to run alongside any local events that are taking place.

At the start of each year, take a look ahead and suss out where your seasonal promotions could land. The more homework you do on this, the more chance you’ll have of ensuring a healthy flow of guests all year round.

3. Loyalty deals

How do you get guests to come back? You reward them!

Loyalty programs work very well in retail, but they’re just as useful in hospitality. Thankfully, you don’t need to get complicated with points schemes, either - just keep it simple.

Get your 3rd stay free, or grab a free lunch if you revisit, are two examples of very simple loyalty programs that should tempt people to return to your hotel. If you want to get more fancy with membership options in the future, you can!

4. Promotional Events

Remember - you don’t just have to attract travelling guests to your hotel, and by running a promotional event, you might be able to bring in some local business.

It doesn’t matter if you have a small hotel, either - you can still run events that will attract a decent-sized crowd. A cookery competition or wine tasting session, for example, will work wonders.

If you can, involve your suppliers, too. If you’re able to drum up enough interest and confirmed bookings, you should find that they’ll be happy to provide complementary products or services (they’ll benefit from the event too, after all).

Wrapping up

See? Raising revenue at your hotel doesn’t have to be stressful or expensive. The four ideas above undoubtedly require effort, but it’s effort that will have a measurable, successful outcome if you put your all into it.

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Valsoft Corporation Inc. (“Valsoft”), a Montreal-based company specialized in the acquisition and development of vertical market software businesses, is pleased to announce the acquisition of Welcome Systems Ltd. (“Welcome Systems”), a leading provider of cloud-based hospitality solutions in the United Kingdom.

Welcome Systems’ cutting-edge Hotel Management software and all-inclusive online table booking system will enable Valsoft to expand its hospitality software portfolio with next generation technology and tools that empower its customers to meet competitive marketplace demands and increase profits.

Welcome Systems was founded in 1984 by Nick Chudley to improve the operations of his family’s hotel and convention center in the county of Northamptonshire. Spotting a gap in the market and a lack of efficient tools, Nick found success writing and selling his own property management software, specifically designed for hospitality businesses. Decades later, Welcome retains an extremely loyal customer base and its premier product, Welcome Anywhere, remains a market leader in its category. Over the past three years, a next-generation management team with solid hospitality experience has continued to fuel Welcome Systems’ expansion by forging strategic partnerships with some of the best service providers and vendors in the industry.

“Welcome Systems’ culture of customer-centric innovation and its ability to successfully launch new technology solutions has been the key to its growth, and we are thrilled to welcome its talented team into our family of companies,” said Michael Assi, CEO of Valsoft Travel and Leisure. “This strategic acquisition is fully in line with Valsoft’s vision to become the preferred global one-stop software solutions provider for independent lodging businesses, and reaffirms our strong commitment to our customers.”

“I am absolutely delighted about this development. Welcome Systems has always been about helping hotels provide a great guest experience through the use of intuitive, feature-rich software,” said John Jones, Managing Director at Welcome Systems Ltd. “Although we have been around for over thirty years, we’re still an ambitious company, full of fresh ideas and innovative thinking. As part of the Valsoft family, Welcome Systems is perfectly positioned to expand its technical capabilities, continue its growth plan, and increase significantly its market share by leveraging the resources, experience, and know-how of a fantastic parent company which shares our core values and goals.”

The acquisition of Welcome Systems is Valsoft’s third investment into the Travel & Leisure software sector. In July 2016, Valsoft acquired InnQuest Software, an established global leader in the hotel management software industry and, in May 2017, it purchased the assets of DockMaster, a leading solutions provider for the management of marinas, boatyards and boat dealerships.

About Welcome Systems:

Welcome Systems Ltd provides innovative software solutions for the hospitality sector in the UK and beyond. Its mission is to empower independent hotels, inns with rooms, pubs, B&Bs, guesthouses and accommodation chains to provide a great guest experience.

Welcome’s ethos supports creative thinking and a brave approach to thoughtful leadership, while remaining approachable and partner-centric.

About Valsoft Corporation:

Valsoft Corporation acquires and develops vertical market software companies to enable each business to deliver the best mission-critical solutions for customers in its respective industry or niche.

Valsoft’s philosophy is to invest in stable businesses and foster entrepreneurial environments that transform companies into leaders in specific sectors. Unlike private equity and VC firms, Valsoft does not have pre-defined investment horizons, aiming instead to acquire, hold, and create value through long-term partnerships with existing management.

Valsoft Corporation was represented by Caroline Harwood of Rooney Nimmo, UK and internally by David Felicissimo, General Counsel & Pamela Romero, Paralegal. Welcome Systems Ltd was represented by John Keeble of DFA Law in Northampton, UK.

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