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Hotelier news, tips and advice from industry experts.

Welcome Anywhere Property Managment System > Blog > 2018 > June

There are a number of competing hotel PMS options out there at the moment, but not all platforms are created equal.

The question you need to ask is whether or not the solution you choose will be able to stand up to changing demands and expectations in the long term.

Here are some of the things to look out for in a truly future-proof hotel PMS:

Cloud hosting & mobile friendliness

The influence of the cloud can be felt across every segment of the hospitality market today. In the context of a hotel PMS, this type of hosting solution will make it easier to access the system from any device, no matter where you happen to be located.

Staff will be able to log in and keep up-to-date with information that’s relevant to their role throughout the day, whether that’s changes to the housekeeping schedule, requests for emergency maintenance or any other issue that needs to be handled on the fly.

Regulatory compliance

Hotels have really needed to step up their game in terms of compliance this year, with the rollout of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) still having repercussions.

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) is also relevant for any organisation that wants to handle card transactions without falling foul of regulators and potentially business-crippling fines.

Your PMS must meet both of these standards, because if it doesn’t, your hotel might face the likelihood of being hit with a major fine and further punitive action. Unfair? Probably – but that’s life in the GDPR age.

Interoperability

A future-proof PMS won’t be inflexible when it comes to bolting on extra functions - especially those supplied via third party providers.

For example, you might want to link your PMS with an external platform that handles payments, or a service that puts you in control of the guest review process.

In this instance, interoperability is a blessing and will enable you to offer even better guest experiences while remaining connected to them long after the date of departure.

Security

The rising threat of security breaches and botnet-based attacks is a big problem for hotels and it’s understandably difficult for independents to fight back against cybercrime with their own, limited resources.

A cutting-edge PMS should give you peace of mind when it comes to data security - especially if it’s hosted in the cloud where it can be protected against malicious activity around the clock.

Baked-in capabilities

It’s no longer useful to think of a hotel PMS as a straightforward upgrade from the traditional booking diary and back office ledger.

Ideally your solution should be packed with useful features and optional extras that will give your hotel the best chance of thriving in an increasingly competitive marketplace. And those features should keep coming, too, via effortless updates that arrive regularly.

From managing staff to engaging with guests after their first visit to secure a second booking, a PMS needs to be far more than just a digital ledger.

Wrapping up

If you accept the need to adopt a future-proof PMS for your hotel then you’ve already taken the first step on the path to making your business more sustainable and successful.

Don’t settle for second best; pick a PMS that ticks all of the boxes and boasts the flexibility you need to grow.

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When guests arrive at a hotel, they want to head to their room, close the door and have confidence that their privacy and security are in safe hands.

Unfortunately, a study by F-Secure has revealed that a huge number of electronic hotel door locks around the world could be compromised via a fairly straightforward hack.

This is definitely a wakeup call (if you’ll excuse the pun) for hotels to update their door locks, or to upgrade entire locking systems if they’re over the hill by modern standards.

Verified vulnerabilities

The security loophole pinpointed by researchers allows malicious third parties to program a master key which can then unlock any room in a hotel.

Because this is a software-related issue, the researchers that identified the vulnerabilities were able to alert the manufacturer immediately and a patch has already been issued to address it. An impressive, swift reaction, then, but does that mean hotels using such systems are out of the woods?

Slow responses to updates

The problem with centrally-issued updates for hotel door lock security systems is that the properties need to implement them (either personally or with the help of the manufacturer).

Security specialists say that even though the software patch has been issued in this instance, many hotels are yet to install it. This means that millions of rooms around the world are still vulnerable to hacking - at least in theory, if not in practice.

The obvious conclusion to draw from this is that it’s vital to apply the latest software patches for door locking systems as soon as they are made available to your hotel.

This is just as true of key card-based hotel door lock systems as it is of desktop computers, server hardware, smartphones and tablets.

In the wake of the GDPR, independent hotels can’t afford to take any chances and guests will appreciate efforts made to ensure their personal belongings and private details are kept safe.

An important lesson: tech isn't infallible

The silver lining to this dark cloud of hotel security doom and gloom is that, so far, it doesn’t seem as though any major breaches have been carried out using the master key creation technique.

As is often the case in the wider world of hotel IT security, white hat experts have mercifully uncovered the vulnerability before their criminal counterparts, thus preventing any serious damage.

Another important lesson to learn from this revelation is that even fairly modern hotel door locking systems are fallible, so it pays to invest in the latest solutions if you want to restore guest confidence and avoid suffering a reputation-damaging breach.

Of course this isn’t just about security, but also the image that’s given off by a particular type of door lock. Old fashioned mechanical locks may have the nostalgia factor, but they can be too easy to crack and will cause headaches if the keys go missing.

Electronic locks with reprogrammable key cards or smartphone integration are more convenient for guests and staff alike, but need to have their software updated regularly - for reasons that should now be clear!

Wrapping up

Now is as good a time as any for independent hotels to take the plunge with the latest door locking systems.

It’s also essential to stay abreast of developments in this area so that when security vulnerabilities are spotted, you’re not left exposed to criminal exploitation. Make sure you sign up to updates from the manufacturer and choose a supplier which takes a proactive approach to customer support.

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Hotels have something of a mixed relationship with online travel agencies (OTAs), resulting in some independents taking a cautious approach to embracing the services they offer.

In spite of this, it’s impossible to ignore the influence OTAs wield in the modern marketplace.

Online travel agencies are growing quicker in terms of booking numbers than any other part of the market at the moment, with their harnessing of mobile technology and  focus on delivering the best possible booking experience key to their success.

So how can independent hotels learn to leverage OTAs effectively and work with them, rather than feeling stifled by their ubiquity?

Commission complications

The commission charged by OTAs for bookings they handle can bite at first, but if it’s tempting guests through the door, then independent hotels should see this as a worthwhile investment.

The problem comes when people decide to book with you again using the same OTA, since the commission will still apply, and you’ll effectively be paying for guaranteed repeat business.

Ouch.

The obvious solution to this is to incentivise direct bookings and streamline this process so that your bottom line isn’t taking a hit for no reason.

That’s easier said than done, of course, but there are some ways to get the best of both worlds through OTAs and direct booking.

Dig into the data

Modern consumers are used to a personalised experience when they shop online, whether they’re buying groceries or booking a hotel room.

Using the data gathered from your hotel PMS, you can tailor the direct booking experience you offer so that it matches the needs of individual guests.

Factor in things like the rooms chosen, the payment methods used and the discounts that customers have enjoyed in the past.

If in doubt, check out the major OTAs to see how they create a bespoke booking experience and mirror their strategies for the best results. It’s ok to ‘copy’ now and again!

Optimise your OTA presence

Even if you eventually want to get more guests booking directly with your independent hotel, OTAs are still an effective portal for engaging with new customers.

Because of this unavoidable fact, you need to be sensible about how you manage your OTA presence.

First up, you should ensure that the way your hotel is listed on any OTA platforms is clear, concise and yet information-rich. Don’t do a rush job, either; take time to perfect your listing and the customers should come flocking.

The same considered approach should be taken when setting room rates, especially at quieter times of the year.

It’s tempting to blast through the initial set-up and then ignore your OTA presence from that point onwards, but regular tweaking will be the best way to win bookings and swallow the commission a little less painfully.

If the OTA you use features the option to add extra services to a booking, such as car rental or air travel, you might also want to include this as part of your listing.

Wrapping up

Building a good relationship with OTAs is a balancing act; something that should complement your direct booking service rather than being seen as in opposition to it.

With careful planning and an open mind, you can make use of a range of digital services to improve your independent hotel’s presence.

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Humans are visual creatures, so it makes sense that video is set to dominate internet traffic for the foreseeable future.

Hotels can leverage video to boost engagement with their guests, increase booking rates and secure repeat visits over time.

But where does the real power of video lie and what are the best ways for hotels to harness it effectively today?

Facts & figures

There has been a whole heap of work done to investigate just how impactful video can be as a marketing medium in the age of superfast connectivity and online streaming.

Some of the claims made might sound a little outlandish, but it’s impossible to ignore the weight of evidence that supports them.

For instance, Forrester Research made waves as far back as 2014 with its assertion that 60 seconds of video is just as influential as 1.8 million words of marketing copy. Which would you rather work on as someone tasked with marketing a hotel?

YouTube alone has over 1.5 billion users globally and plays host to an army of content creators, brands and businesses, all of whom are intent on tapping into the vast, ready-made audience the platform offers.

Facebook is also a key player in the video marketing field, with more than 500 million people viewing videos daily through its social platform.

In short, the idea that people engage with video more intensely than any other medium is well established - not just over-enthusiastic hyperbole.

From the perspective of an independent hotelier, the accessibility of video marketing makes it all the more powerful.

Video marketing options for hotels

If you want to sell more rooms and get people interested in visiting your hotel, video will open your doors to a wide, modern audience.

There are lots of ways to harness it effectively, starting with the obvious choice of creating a promotional ad for your hotel. This is easier than you might think, although it’s worth treading cautiously if you fancy the DIY approach.

You could tackle this task head-on yourself, but it’s probably worth investing in professional assistance if you want to avoid ending up with a video that looks amateurish or which ends up taking far more time than you can afford.

Once your ad is finished, you can embed it on your website, share it via social media and start racking up the views on popular streaming platforms like YouTube.

Another approach is to use video as a method to showcase customer testimonials in a way that feels more genuine than relying on a simple written statement on your blog or the emergence of positive TripAdvisor reviews.

Ask regular guests if they’d be happy to appear on camera to say a few words about what makes your hotel special and why they keep coming back for more.

You can push these engaging testimonials out across your social channels and your website. Some platforms - like Instagram and Snapchat - are perfectly designed for bite-sized video content of this kind, so don’t forget to experiment with them to get the best results.

There are even platforms built to facilitate customer-focused video marketing in a way that puts businesses in the driving seat, with StoryTap being a great example of a service that makes it easier and more convenient to control the narrative directly.

Wrapping up

Video creation tools are more affordable and accessible than ever before, so there’s no excuse for independent hotels to overlook this vitally important platform when it comes to optimising their digital marketing efforts.

If you’re a hotelier and you’ve experimented with video, tell us about your experiences in the comments section, below!

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