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Hotelier news, tips and advice from industry experts.

Welcome Anywhere Property Managment System > Blog > 2018 > November

It’s that time of the year again…

The time of the year when we all say, “I can’t believe it’s nearly Christmas!”. And, if you’re a hotelier, it’s often a time for panic as you realise you haven’t given the festive season enough thought when it comes to attracting last minute guests.

But before we explain how you can do just that with a limited budget, we thought we’d have a bit of fun!

What does your hotel want for Christmas?

We’re all get to open one or two gifts come the 25th, but what about your hotel?

If you could gift your hotel anything for Christmas, what would it be? Something practical? Something to cheer it up? A favour from the government?

Tell us what you’d buy your hotel this Christmas in the box below, and we’ll feature the best answers in a forthcoming blog post!

And don’t worry - it’ll be totally anonymous!

[contact-form-7 id="16725" title="Hotel Christmas Present"]

 

How to attract last minute Christmas guests

So, how do you go about filling that empty booking chart over the festive period?

Here’s three brilliantly effective tips for getting them in without spending a fortune on advertising!

1. Create some Christmas packages

Take a look at your current list of room rates and packages. How festive are they?

The simple injection of some Christmassy words “2-Night Festive Santa Special” (ok - that might be overdoing it) is often all you’ll need to increase bookings, but you could go a little further by including a Christmas-inspired romantic meal in the deal.

2. Market to locals

How often do you look on your doorstep for guests?

It might not sound like the most obvious thing to do, but come Christmas time, some people simply want to get away - even if that’s only a few miles up the road.

Offer to take the cooking duties off their hands and provide a hotel stay that will be as festive as being at home - albeit without the need to clear up after messy relatives.

3. Go ultra festive with your marketing output

Christmas gives marketing departments and business owners the perfect excuse to have a bit of fun with their branding, and while it might seem a little tacky at first, decorating your hotel’s logo in tinsel or wedging it in cartoon snow will have more of an impact on potential guests than you might think.

The more christmassy you make your social media posts, blogs and newsletters, the more inclined people will be to head to your property at this time of the year. Clearly, you’re enjoying the festive period as much as they are, so why wouldn’t they want to book a room in order to get away from it all and celebrate this time of the year?

Have fun with your Christmas marketing!

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Originally released in 2014, the Amazon Echo (more readily referred to as ‘Alexa’) is now a common fixture in homes across the world.

Cast your mind back to your last few visits to friends and family and it’s almost guaranteed that at least one of them will have attempted to wow you with their digital home assistant.

“Alexa, how old is Elton John?”, “Alexa, play the latest song by Paloma Faith”, “Alexa, turn the living room lights on”; talking to technology has become as familiar as switching the kettle on.

It should therefore come as no surprise that Amazon quickly realised how useful Alexa’s skills could be in the world of hotels. Thus, Alexa for Hospitality was born, and it’s slowly appearing on bedside tables in rooms across the country.

What does Alexa for Hospitality do?

Amazon touts Alexa for Hospitably as ‘the hub of the room’, offerings guests the ability to control in-room devices, find local businesses and play music by doing northing more than talking to the diminutive device.

Depending on the technology you have in your property, Alexa can also integrate with existing services, thus essentially becoming a digital concierge.

Asking Alexa to call the front desk, send additional towels, order room service or provide assistance with self checkout is a compelling way to conduct your hotel stay and one which guests will likely begin to yearn for as digital assistants continue to be such an important part of everyday life.

How does it work?

Thankfully, and as you might expect if you’ve installed an Alexa in your home, Amazon’s personal assistant is pretty straightforward to setup in a hospitality business.

Echo devices in hand, you’re guided through the process of connecting each one to a centralised console (which can apparently manage “hundreds” of devices).

Once connected, hotel staff can use the central console to control individual device volume, reset devices and check their status.

‘Skills’ (the mini apps you can add to an Alexa to make it more functional) can also be administered centrally, enabling you to add ever more wondrous ways for guests to interact with their in-room digital assistant as they become available.

So, what skills does Alexa for Hospitality currently possess?

At the time of writing (and depending on the existing technology you have within your hotel), Alexa for Hospitality will respond to the following guest requests:

  • contacting front desk;
  • assistance with checking out;
  • room service orders; and
  • ordering of certain hotel provisions and guest services.

New skills are being added all the time, but it’s clear at the moment that Alexa’s value for hotels and their customers most commonly resides in the area of digital concierge.

More recently, Amazon has added the ability for guests to sync their Amazon Prime accounts with the in-room Alexa, providing access to their own music playlists, audiobooks and even the ability to watch their favourite TV shows.

Conclusion: is it worth it?

So, the biggie: is Alexa for Hospitality worth it for independent hotels?

Cue disappointingly on-the-fence answer…

Possibly!

The cost isn’t as bad as you might think (Echo devices can be bought in bulk and the latest costs checked out on the Amazon Business website), but with guests becoming more accustomed to such technology in chain hotels, it’d be wise to at least start investigating this exciting guest service sooner rather than later.

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In episode 11 of the Welcome Systems podcast, we talk to founder and CEO of Flexkeeping, Luka Berger about how hotels can become more efficient and productive by using the technology that dominates our personal lives. We also touch on our favourite topic, Brexit, and consider how UK hotels can overcome the language barriers that might arise as fewer foreign workers begin to occupy roles in this country.

Find out more about Flexkeeping by clicking here

Check out the podcast below and subscribe on iTunes:

https://soundcloud.com/user-568165456/flexkeeping-october-2018

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With 2019 but a whisker away, it’s time for every savvy hotelier to start thinking about their marketing plans for the new year.

Marketing trends are advancing as quickly as the technology that powers them, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to lag behind if you operate a busy independent hotel.

To make your job a little easier, we’ve picked out three of the most important marketing trends you need to be aware of if you want to make a success of 2019.

1. Video marketing

Video has always been a powerful form of marketing, but the ability to create amazing content of this kind (be it pre-recorded or live) has never been so accessible, regardless of the size of your business or its marketing budget.

It’s not as though you can blame a lack of time for the absence of video in your hotel’s marketing plans, either. If you’ve got a modern smartphone, it’ll be capable of recording full HD video instantly and will even provide you with the tools needed to edit and share it for the entire world to see.

If you can’t afford the services of a professional videographer or video marketing agency, why not start shooting some footage yourself of what goes on behind-the-scenes?

2. AI-powered chatbots

If you’ve recently engaged with a business online via text chat, you may well have interacted with a piece of software designed to mimic human responses.

Were you tricked into thinking it was a human? If so, don’t feel as though you’ve been fooled; chatbots are brilliant ways for brands to offer an efficient and genuinely helpful service by relying on technology that isn’t designed to replace its human counterparts, but merely compliment them.

It’s likely that OTAs are investing significantly in this area, which is understandable, but while it might feel like a sledgehammer approach for your independent property, there are some compelling reasons you might want to look at using chatbots in the near future:

  • Facebook offers a great chatbot service for their messenger platform, enabling you to elevate your presence on that particular social network by offering help and answers about your hotel for anyone who stops by and clicks the Like button.
  • Chatbots don’t sleep, don’t need holiday pay and work 24/7 without breaking sweat!
  • Potential guests benefit significantly from chatbots, because they can be guided smoothly along their booking journey via a pre-determined path with human-like help.

Chatbots aren’t spooky, misleading or purely for big retail operations - they’re here, now, and likely to be found increasingly during the hotel booking experience.

3. Hey, voice assistant!

Research suggests that around 30% of all online searches will be conducted without a screen by the year 2020.

This is a clear indication of how important our voices have become as input devices. Rather than using a combination of mouse, keyboard and screen, we’re speaking to technology, and that’s influencing search engine optimisation (SEO).

Voice search is considerably different to text search; queries are far more conversational. For instance, “hotels in Northampton” becomes “where can I find a hotel in Northampton?”. Your website’s keyword strategy and SEO work will therefore need to follow suit.

Not sure what we’re referring to? It might be time to bring in that digital marketing expert! As 2019 beckons, such expertise will be a wise investment for hoteliers.

Wrapping up

Next year is set to be an exciting one for hoteliers. As we discussed in a recent podcast with Cendyn, modern marketing methods and technologies are fast becoming accessible for all, which means there will be some very exciting ways to put your hotel in front of a much wider audience.

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You’re a modern, savvy hotelier, which means you’ve got a website with an awesome online booking portal. Obviously.

It also means you understand what Google Analytics is. You’re aware that it provides vital insight into the way in which visitors interact with your hotel’s most important web presence. You also know that it offers data that enables you to fine tune your website to better engage visitors and ensure they click the ‘book now’ button.

There’s just one problem. It’s a bit cumbersome and you don’t really have the time to spend on it.

If you feel like this, you’re not alone. Google Analytics is a fantastic tool, but it does require a significant amount of time if you’re to get to grips with it.

…unless you know immediately where to head for the juiciest stuff.

And now, you do. Here’s the three most important Google Analytics metrics to review regularly:

1. The bounce rate

Of all Google Analytics stats, the bounce rate is the worst when it comes to crushing your digital hopes and dreams, because it indicates how many visitors enter your website - and leave, immediately.

A high bounce rate is anything above 60%; keep it below that, and you’re probably serving the right content to the right audience.

You can break the bounce rate down by page if you want, too, therefore if you’ve recently set up a new winter warmer offer and want to see how many people have immediately decided it’s not for them, Analytics will give you all the data you need.

Find it here: Audience > Overview

2. New vs Returning visitors

One of the best ways to segment your website visitors is to create two pots - one for new visitors, the other for people who have come back for more.

These are two very different audiences. The new people may never have heard of you before, and therefore probably need a fair bit more encouragement to book. Returners may be far ‘warmer’ and closer to the point of reserving a room.

Understanding how many of the total visitors are made up by these two groups is vital in helping you tune your website to best serve them. For instance, if new visitors have a particularly high bounce rate, you may not be providing enough information about the hotel, or the booking facility might be too hard to find.

Find it here: Audience > Behaviour > New vs. Returning

3. Average session duration

Second to bounce rate in terms of potentially demoralising web stats is the average session duration. As you’d expect, this refers to how long people browse your website on average, but the headline figure demands further exploration.

Once again, you can view average session duration by page, and by using the Users Flow report (Audience > Users Flow) to determine the most common journeys through your website, you can start to build a picture of where people are either hitting some kind of barrier or spending a significant amount of time.

It’ll take a bit of guesswork and experimentation, but the average session duration may indicate a usability issue or that you’ve absolutely nailed it with the page content.

Find it here: Audience > Overview

Wrapping up

You’ll notice that we haven’t once mentioned the page view, users or total session stats above. And this isn’t because they’re not important (they are), but the number of people visiting your hotel website is far less important than the quality of those visitors.

Invest the short time you have for Google Analytics in the above datasets and you’ll start to build a picture of how well your website is performing and what needs to be done to improve the number of direct bookings you’re receiving.

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