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Welcome Anywhere Property Managment System > Articles by: John Jones

A little while ago I was at a hotel trade show. You know the type of thing - a huge, bustling venue with vendors displaying everything from bath tubs to telephones, sheets to lamps and smart TVs to safes. We were there, of course, to promote our Welcome Anywhere PMS.

We meet some wonderful people at these events and this one was no exception, with a steady flow of suited and booted buyers from the big chains, general managers, boutique-oriented beardy hipsters and plenty of pubs-with-rooms owners.

The story of Tom and Joan (not their real names…)

Everyone we met was lovely, but perhaps none more so than the independent B&B proprietors who often stopped to peer cautiously at our hotel booking system.

After chatting with many such folk, a certain pattern emerged which troubled me. Although by no means a universal trait, many of these people regarded the property management system as a scary thing best left to others.

“Well,” said Tom (who set up his B&B after a long career in merchant banking), “we don’t need these new-fangled computers”.

His wife, Joan, chimed in: “They’re all so confusing, aren’t they? No, we’ll stick with our big diary.”

We hear this a lot, but what struck me was that Tom and Joan didn’t really mean it. Sure, their big book worked fine, but their jovial assessment was laced with fear.

Frankly I found this rather puzzling and somewhat sad. I had to assume that the couple had adapted to, say, modern cars without too much fear and had not arrived at this show in an Austin 1100 from 1971. Similarly, it’s fair to say that their uptake of other domestic systems (let’s not say “technology” as this stage) has been equally positive, even if gradual.

Tom and Joan did eventually have a little play with Welcome Anywhere, but in a tentative way which suggested the mouse and keyboard might give them an electric shock.

What struck me, and the reason for this blog post, is how much Tom and Joan and countless other B&Bers are missing out because of a fear of technology.

There’s that word!

Fear.

No one-size-fits-all approach

A B&B may to some be a lifestyle business, but it is a business and it has to be profitable – and that means beating the competition when it comes to occupancy. If the competition has a new-fangled PMS system which increases their occupancy and Tom and Joan don’t, that’s a disadvantage, right?

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking anyone for being fearful of technology - least of all Tom and Joan. Adoption of new technology is an iterative process; there’s no one-size-fits-all and if it is going to happen it has to happen naturally.

What I’m calling for is a wider support network to help those with this fear; some hand-holding, some reassurance, some comfort.

Where to start? Well, there are some excellent entry-level property management systems out there, often at very low cost (or even free). These tend to have the most basic functionality required, but won’t dazzle technology newbies, which is a perfect start.

Many B&Bs are family run, so let’s call on any fearful owners to seek the guidance of those within who have not only adopted technology, but never known life without it. It seems to me that there are generations out there who can help their elders feel comfortable dipping a toe in technology waters. We should encourage that!

How can the hospitality industry help?

The hospitality industry (and I include us PMS vendors) should offer hand-holding, support and guidance to B&B owners who would genuinely like to digitally transform their business but who are held back by fear of the unknown.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the industry came together with regional taster days – tea & tech, perhaps – to break down that fear and show how easy technology can be?

I can imagine a world where hospitality technology companies are recognised for their work in breaking down this fear, through the clarity of their communications, the time given to explain things and generally understanding potential customers’ anxieties (and coming up with positive ways to gently remove them). For their work in this area, the best would attain a badge of honour to be proudly displayed.

Final thought

B&Bs are the engine of our hospitality and visitor economy.  The sector should be with them every step of the way.

Get involved! Tell us what you think about John's thoughts in the comments section, below!

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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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