Blog Archive

Hotelier news, tips and advice from industry experts.

Welcome Anywhere Property Managment System > Articles by: Mark Ellis

As hotelier problems go, this one is pretty epic.

You’re busy (really busy) but you have absolutely no idea why. As far as you can tell, it isn’t anything to do with the season, there’s no local events on, and your competitors, by comparison, appear to be struggling.

What’s going on? Why are you so awesome at this hotelier lark?

Hospitality is a funny beast. You’ll have periods where you are inexplicably busy and, unfortunately, the same goes when occupancy drops. Sometimes, there’s no rhyme or reason for it, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a closer look at what’s going on.

Chances are, you’re getting something (or several things) right. And we’d like to give you a head start on your investigations.

People have heard they’ll be getting a great experience

A great guest experience beats a simple bed for the night, hands down, and if you’re personalising the service you offer customers, word will soon get around.

To you, this is the stuff you do each and every day; it comes naturally. But to other, less discerning hoteliers, the idea of using a PMS to its full potential and leveraging guests’ personal and stay data to offer tailored experiences will feel like too much work.

Think about it - you’re not just a hotelier; when people check in, they’re also given detailed information about the area and a reminder that the team is always there for them should they need any assistance in making the most of their time.

The pre- and post-stay emails and text messages you send out are also making a real difference. Guests who stay at your hotel feel welcome, looked after and as though their booking has been tailor-made for them. And you know what? They’ll share that experience with their mates, family and the entire world on social media.

You reward guests

The rewards programme you set up a few months ago may have been a bit of a punt, marketing-wise, but perhaps it’s now starting to take effect.

Once again, as word spreads about the value of being part of your closed group of guests (better rates, room upgrades and whatever else you may have dreamed up for members), people will start to look your way as opposed to the chains.

You’ve nailed the room amenities

Nope, not to the desk…! You’ve nailed your approach to room amenities.

Wi-Fi is free (yes!), each TV offers entertainment on demand, and the money you invested in that keycard system that accepts entry via guest smartphones has all but replaced the need for physical cards.

The process of checking in, using the room and getting stuff done in the hotel when you’re a guest is seamless, fast, efficient and - most importantly - enjoyable.

This stuff really matters.

Your online booking process is mega easy

Lastly, one of the key reasons you’re experiencing consistently high occupancy rates is because you offer a great online booking service on your own website.

Direct bookings are hard to come by in an age where OTAs dominate the online hospitality marketplace, but guests aren’t stupid - they’ll shop around and visit hotel websites before making a decision. It just so happens that yours features an online booking platform that’s a cinch to use and on par with anything the OTAs have to offer.

Wrapping up

This isn’t a fluke - you’re definitely getting something right.

Use our pointers above to suss out where your secret sauce lies… and make some more of it!

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By going the extra mile as a hotelier, you’ll create experiences that guests share far and wide.

It’s a super-simple yet highly effective marketing strategy; you do what you do best and let guests do the talking. Thanks to the power and reach of social media, their effort alone will ensure your hotel lands in the news feeds of countless potential guests without a penny of marketing spend.

All that’s required is some time and ingenuity. Oh, and the following list of small yet brilliant touches that create a great, personalised guest experience:

1. Destination tips

Destination promotion is increasingly being used by hotels across the world to boost occupancy.

By talking about the area in which your hotel is located and providing insider tips on how to get the most out of a stay, you’ll attract the attention of guests who are seeking an authentic, local experience.

This strengthens your brand reputation, proves you’re about far more than just a bed for the night and raises your authority online.

You needn’t spend any money on destination promotion, either, just blog regularly about things to do in your town, city or village and include destination tips in your welcome packs.

2. Provide customer care on Twitter

This might sound a bit too corporate for your independent hotel, but customers expect businesses to respond to their criticism or praise on Twitter - no matter the industry.

For instance, if a guest has a less than enjoyable stay at your hotel and decides to make their feelings known on Twitter, they’ll probably mention you in their tweet. And this is great (no, really!), because it gives you the opportunity to jump into the conversation, reply and show the world that you care about the service you provide.

Be active on Twitter. Complaints will hopefully be few and far between, but aside from dealing with incoming flak, make sure you thank people who say nice things about your service. Search for hashtags relevant to your area, too, and get involved; demonstrate your knowledge of the area and give your hotel that all-important personality online.

3. Leave handwritten notes

In an age of social media, instant messaging and smartphone addiction, handwritten letters are unique, satisfying traditional and - most importantly - engaging.

Why not delight your guests by leaving handwritten notes in their room? If you’re abiding by GDPR rules and ethically collecting data about them, you could say happy birthday, invite the guest to try an update to the restaurant dish they enjoyed last time or simply thank them for staying at your hotel.

This requires minimal effort, yet is the kind of gesture that might make its way onto the social media feed of the guest you’ve delighted.

4. Surprise guests with in-room treats

During the booking process (be it online or over the phone), ask guests if they’re celebrating anything during their stay. Engagements, anniversaries and birthdays are common reasons for getaways, therefore if you’re aware of the special date, you can grab the opportunity to leave a little surprise in the room.

A complementary bottle of champagne, flowers or box of chocolates won’t break the bank, but will put a huge smile on the faces of guests who are in the mood for celebration.

And they won’t forget it!

5. Use a modern PMS

All four tips above can be undertaken without technology, but you’ll save considerable time if you have a modern PMS from which to gather the required data.

Personalising a guest experience starts with their profile on your PMS. The more you know about a guest, the more you can build a stay for them which will feel entirely their own. Old PMSs that don’t offer comprehensive guest profiling, GDPR compatibility or integration with guest feedback platforms simply don’t cut it anymore, and you don’t need to spend a fortune to upgrade, thanks to cloud computing.

Wrapping up

What have we missed? If you’ve experienced success by personalising your guests’ experiences and don’t mind sharing them with the world (hey, we’re all in this together, right?), let us know in the comments section, below!

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In episode 9 of the Welcome Systems podcast, John Jones, Mat Marlow and Mark Ellis talk about how far the hotel property management system (more readily referred to as the ‘PMS’) has come, and how software as a service and changing user expectations are shaping an exciting future for this once 2D tool.

Grab a coffee (although, we won't hold you to that - any beverage of choice will do), and enjoy a tech jargon-free (ish), fascinating discussion on the following topics:

  • The evolution of the '2D' PMS
  • The difference between on-premise and Software as a Service
  • Challenging PMS norms: how relevant is the booking chart today?
  • How smartphones and millennial expectations have changed the game
  • More than skin deep: how do modern systems support growth?
  • The new breed of exciting PMS features (connectivity, rate and yield management, guest experience and upselling)
  • Going global: is it easier to attract guests from abroad with a modern PMS?

Check out the podcast below and subscribe on iTunes:

https://soundcloud.com/user-568165456/the-welcome-systems-podcast-ep9-the-hotel-pms

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Corporate bookings are the holy grail for hoteliers when it comes to filling midweek space that’s inconvenient for leisure guests.

There’s just one problem - attracting corporate clients is hard when you’re an independent hotelier battling against the big brands and their even bigger corporate booking schemes.

Don’t give up! Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and the following five tips will help you attract more corporate bookings to your hotel than you thought possible.

1. Keep an eye out for future local business events

Depending on your location, you may be within a short taxi ride of a popular event venue that regularly holds conferences or trade shows. If that’s the case, keep a close eye on its schedule and add some business seasonality to your tariff by pitching rates competitively during those times.

Look at what the big boys are doing; if they’re offering discounted B&B rates during a conference, go one step further and throw in free transport to and from the venue (assuming you have a minibus or similar), and add dinner as an option for weary event-goers.

2. Enable groups to manage the booking themselves

There’s nothing worse as the organiser of a group hotel booking for your company than feeling completely out of control when it comes to the accommodation arrangements.

As the hotelier, there’s nothing more time consuming than the constant requests for booking changes that often come from corporate clients.

Surely, there must be an answer that leaves everyone satisfied in this situation, right?

Thankfully, there is - if you have the right property management system (PMS). The best will enable you to provide group bookers with tightly controlled ways of modifying and managing the booking themselves. And don’t worry - you won’t be giving them the keys to your castle; instead, they’ll get just enough access to make the changes that would otherwise take up an inordinate amount of your day.

3. Don’t try and be something you’re not

You’re not a big hotel brand, but you know what? That’s absolutely fine!

Trying to compete with the big boys of the hotel sector by becoming a mini version of them will probably land you in hot water as you start implementing levels of service you simply can’t sustain.

Some business travellers want an independent, small hotel experience. In fact, many will crave it if they spend the majority of their travels staying in flat-pack, soulless brand hotels.

You are what you are, and that’s a very good thing indeed. Independent hotels will often stand out for all the right reasons (price, location and flexibility to name but a few) during corporate booking searches.

4. Automate where you can

Even if a business traveller yearns for an independent hotel experience, they’ll still expect certain levels of automation.

Lean on your PMS and its surrounding technology as much as you can to ensure your business guests get the swift, easy service they require from the point of booking to check-out.

Automated booking confirmation emails and SMS messages are a must, as is the ability for guests to have all of their miscellaneous spend conducted in the hotel posted directly (and accurately) to their room invoice.

5. Don’t skimp on Wi-Fi - ever

It’s amazing how many hotels still charge for access to in-room Wi-Fi.

Those days are long gone, and just because you’re trying to attract business guests, it doesn’t mean you can ‘get away’ with charging for access to the internet.

Make it free, fast and secure it behind login systems that don’t require a call to reception to unlock.

Wrapping up

There are plenty of business guests out there for your hotel to welcome through its doors.

Don’t give up - the big boys have absolutely nothing on you when it comes to delivering a corporate accommodation experience that will keep businesses coming back for more.

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If you run an independent hotel, your customers matter more than almost any aspect of your business, therefore it’s important to manage your relationship with them effectively.

This is where a great customer relationship management (CRM) system comes into play, by providing a variety of tools to dig deep into the guest journey and maximise your chances of delighting them every step of the way.

Here’s why a CRM system is vital for hotels today, no matter their size.

PMS integration

When looking for a CRM system, you’ll want to find one that talks to your PMS.

Two customer databases will essentially become one, and your ability to engage with guests and deliver a service that appears tailored specifically for them will set you apart.

Data. Data. Data.

Gathering data on guest behaviour will reveal why they book with you, how they book, why they come back for more or – if it all goes pear-shaped - what caused them to lose interest in your hotel.

A CRM system will provide precisely this level of insight and enable you to get closer to your guests than ever before.

Automation

Developing profitable relationships with guests is time-consuming, but with a contemporary CRM system at your disposal it’s possible to automate a lot of the work - without turning into a robotic, faceless hotel.

For instance, a CRM will give you the tools to send emails to guests which are tailored to their previous booking and stay habits. Personalised messaging of this kind will enable you to secure far more repeat bookings and foster that all-important relationship with guests.

Empowering employees

Even with a CRM system doing the heavy lifting, hotel staff will still need to take charge and engage with guests before, during and after their stay.

To do this, employees need the right information on tap, so they can make suggestions and provide advice that’s relevant to each guest.

As a result, guests will feel more valued, and enjoy the bespoke treatment. Certainly, it’ll be more memorable than a bland, generic guest experience.

Internal collaboration between departments will gain a welcome boost, too, because CRM systems enable staff to communicate more effectively and share guest data, without relying on Post-It notes or brief discussions at the watercooler.

Getting a handle on guest reviews

The phrase ‘online guest review’ is usually enough to send most hoteliers quivering behind the sofa, but with a modern CRM, you can capture reviews before they make their way out into the world.

Automated guest feedback forms can be sent out post-stay, enabling you to grab their attention and thoughts. This means you can act on negative feedback immediately and turn what might have been a PR disaster into an unexpectedly positive experience for the disgruntled guest.

Just make sure you look for a CRM that has TripAdvisor integration, otherwise the great reviews may never end up online for all to see!

Keeping things simple

Too many disparate systems will have your staff running around in circles and failing to spot opportunities to raise guest satisfaction.

CRM systems simplify the sales and marketing effort for your hotel by combining all the tools, reports and functionality required under one roof.

Wrapping up

A CRM system that integrates with your PMS will make its presence felt immediately.

With so many guest service and internal communication benefits on offer, it’s no wonder independent hotels are increasingly adopting these systems.

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Working in a customer-facing role is challenging in any industry, so it’s no surprise that hotel receptionists are often under considerable scrutiny.

Here’s ten skills hotel receptionists need, and the qualities employers should look for when recruiting new front desk talent.

1. Appearance that is ‘on-brand’

Every hotel is different when it comes to dress code but taking pride in your appearance and adhering to the hotel’s clothing rules will show that you’re proud to represent the business as a whole.

2. Level-headedness

A hotel receptionist will be the first port of call for guests when something goes wrong, so you need to be capable of keeping your cool when a crisis presents itself.

3. Stamina

Hotel reception shifts are usually considerably lengthy, and because most of that time is spent standing behind a desk and rushing around the property servicing guests, physical fitness and mental stamina are key.

4. Tech-savvy

A hotel receptionist role involves a lot of admin and booking management - most of which will be done digitally via cutting edge technology.

This means you need to be at home with modern PMS platforms and online booking systems, while also being willing to learn new systems and guest services that are adopted by the hotel.

5. Great communication

When you’re not welcoming guests, you’ll be interacting with other members of staff face-to-face, firing off emails to deal with enquiries from prospective customers and generally calling on your communication skills non-stop.

Being able to express yourself clearly and concisely, both in person and within written communication, will make you a great front desk representative.

6. Linguistically versatile

As well as having a firm grasp of your native tongue, you’ll also need to be competent when dealing with guests whose first language may not be English.

You don’t necessarily need to be fluent in other languages, but being able to hold a simple conversation and answer basic queries in French, German and Spanish can certainly be an asset.

7. Time management

Keeping on top of all your responsibilities as a hotel receptionist can be tricky, which is why you need to be able to manage your time effectively and make sure that no important tasks are overlooked or deliberately ignored.

8. Flexibility

Because hotels need staff on call around the clock, hotel receptionists need to be comfortable with night shifts, as well as schedules which involve working at the weekend or during bank holidays.

9. Mental dexterity

A lot of unusual conundrums and challenging guests can present themselves in a hotel environment, therefore receptionists need to be flexible thinkers and true problem solvers.

10. Social skills

You need to be a people person if you want to work as a hotel receptionist – it’s that simple.

Dealing with challenging guests, welcoming weary business travellers and ensuring excited holidaymakers get their trip off to the best possible start is all in a day’s work for a hotel receptionist, therefore great social skills need to be very high on the agenda.

Wrapping up

Hotel receptionists are superheroes, and finding the best takes time, but if you’re either recruiting for such a position or want to fill it yourself, our tips above will give you the best possible head start.

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As the old saying goes, what happens in hotel rooms stays in hotel rooms…

With that in mind, here's a few of the weird and whacky things guests have forgotten to take with them when checking out, as well as some tips on how independent hotels might cope when faced with a similar situation.

1. Enough potatoes to fill the bath tub

Last year, one guest at a Travelodge reportedly left a vast number of Jersey Royals... in the bath.

This is just one of the many odd objects guests have forgotten to take with them from this particular chain of bargain hotels, but surely one of the hardest to explain; who takes potatoes to a hotel?

If you end up with several hundred kilos of potatoes courtesy of an eccentric, carb-obsessed guest, at least you won’t run out of chips for the restaurant that evening…

2. A love letter to salad

Finding little notes or memos in a hotel room is perfectly normal and it’s been known for guests to accidentally leave their personal diaries behind.

What’s perhaps less normal is the notebook one hotel employee discovered, which was filled not with dates and reminders, but with an 80 page monologue on why salad is so delicious.

If you find a similarly bizarre food-based pamphlet (although, this is surely a one-off), we’d advise getting on the phone to a publisher ASAP, because you might just have a best-selling diet book on your hands.

3. Upside down furniture

This one’s funny in theory, but dealing with the reality might be a bit too much to take for many hoteliers.

A worker at a high end hotel reported that one guest had stuck pieces of furniture to the ceiling of their room, creating a complete inversion of how it would normally look.

An elaborate stag do prank or attempt at modern art? We’ll let you decide.

Ideally, in this situation, you’d take a deep breath to calm yourself, pull up the guest's booking information on your property management system and give them a call - after taking plenty of photos for social media, obviously.

4. A small horse

Some hotels are happy to allow guests to bring pets with them, but this can have a few unforeseen consequences.

In 2015 a hotel in Scotland was visited by a Shetland pony, known as ‘Pudding’. Cute, yes, but a little unwieldily as a hotel guest.

Perhaps the best way to prepare for an animal event of this nature is to stock up on bales of hay, or when a guest arrives with any pet larger than a dog, just say “nay”. Sorry.

5. A fabric man (no, really)

Hotel guests often create a lot of obstacles for cleaning staff when they make a mess, but what if a customer took the time to construct a man-shaped avatar out of throw pillows, sheets, glasses and the TV remote control?

That’s exactly what happened at one hotel in Azerbaijan as a social media-savvy holidaymaker attempted to go viral with a new craze dubbed the ‘room service challenge’.

If this occurs at your hotel, you could politely ask the guest to stop, or better still, engage in some friendly competition by trying to one-up them each day with your own creations.

Wrapping up

In reality you’ll probably never want to discover an abandoned horse in one of your hotel rooms, or the furniture stuck to the ceiling. But, clearly, it happens.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve found left in your hotel? Let us know in the comments section, below!

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Encouraging people to book a room at your hotel will involve a number of different strategies.

Some are obvious (someone needs a bed for the night – your hotel is well priced, well located and has great reviews).

Others… less obvious (and require some proactive thinking and planning on your part).

One excellent option is to host regular events which will grab the attention of potential guests and give them another reason to choose your hotel over the competition.

These events don’t need to be all-encompassing and over-the-top; you can usually get a leg up with mini events that are interesting enough to turn heads while still being simple and cost effective to organise and run.

Here's three brilliant mini event ideas to get you started, each of which should help boost direct bookings and tempt guests to spend more with you during their stay.

1. Movie screenings

If your hotel is in a relatively isolated area, guests may be tempted to retire to their rooms early after a busy day of exploring their rural surroundings.

Coaxing them out can be tricky (that iPad won’t play with itself, after all), but if you’ve got a unique entertainment experience to offer, they might be more willing to head downstairs and give it a try.

Movie screenings can be an excellent activity, so long as you have a suitable space within the hotel to accommodate such an event.

You could showcase old classics, highlight recent releases or even theme the screenings around the season; just be sure to keep your audience in mind when choosing which films to exhibit.

2. Open mic nights

If your hotel has an appropriately sized bar area, you’ve got plenty of options when it comes to taking full advantage of it.

An open mic night is a good choice, because it’s not only a great way to get guests interested in spending time in the bar, but also helps boost your engagement with the local community and its artists. Of course, guests could have the option of performing themselves, alongside acts from the surrounding area.

It’s a tactic that works for pubs across the UK and is equally impactful in a hotel setting, so long as you make sure that things wrap up promptly and guests aren’t kept awake by the noise.

3. Quiz nights

Another great mini event option for hotels is a quiz night hosted on a weekly basis. The great thing about quizzes is that they’re relatively easy to arrange and run, and appeal to a wide audience.

Again, you’ll need to dedicate the bar or restaurant to the quiz (although a conference room could work, too), with mid-week probably being the best time to host - unless weekends are proving to be quiet in the bar.

You could even tie in the prizes that are on offer with the hotel itself. For instance, why not give the top three teams a discount on their next stay, money off at the bar or some other perk that will keep them coming back for more?

Wrapping up

Whatever route you decide to take with your mini events, it’s definitely worth promoting these added extras so that customers know what to expect when they book.

It could provide an added boost for the hotel’s social media profile, too, because guests will likely tweet and check themselves in on Facebook if they have a good time.

You can highlight your upcoming events schedule with a modern online booking platform and PMS that reminds both guests and reception staff of events taking place during a particular stay. In turn, this should help increase occupancy rates, drive up customer spend and enhance your hotel’s reputation.

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In episode 8 of the Welcome Systems Podcast, we invite InnQuest Software Vice President Kent Howard and Dockmaster President Cam Collins to join our very own John Jones for a cross-continent chat.

All three companies are part of the Valsoft Corporation group, and this is their first appearance on the podcast together. Listen in on their fascinating discussion about all things hospitality, from destination marketing to the evolving travel expectation battle between the millennial and Baby Boomer generation.

Some of the topics covered in the podcast:

  • Are hotels setting the standard for customer service?
  • Not just Brexit: attracting and keeping great staff - a cross sector/continent challenge?
  • Generational travel expectations - Big Beards Vs Silver Surfers
  • Are millennials taking over?
  • Tech comforts: what do travellers expect?
  • How is the sharing economy shaping the future of travel and hospitality?
  • Destination marketing

It's a must-listen for anyone in the travel, hotel or marina industry! Check out the podcast below and subscribe on iTunes:

https://soundcloud.com/user-568165456/welcome-systems-podcast-ep8-innquest-and-dockmaster

Find out more about Dockmaster here: dockmaster.com

Find out more about InnQuest here: innquest.com

Find out more about Valsoft Corporation here: valsoftcorp.com

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Some hotels try hard to be unique so that guests are more likely to come knocking, but the biggest influence on booking numbers will often be location, location, location.

This doesn’t mean that all your other marketing efforts are in vain; it just makes it important to emphasise that your hotel is the gateway to an amazing destination.

Here are some ideas to help you promote your independent hotel based on the incredible attractions in the surrounding area.

Surf the social media wave!

While it might not be practical to hire a hotshot influencer to promote your hotel via social media, you can still get your guests involved to enhance your traction online.

One idea is to encourage customers to share snaps and vids captured during their stay using a unique hashtag to make them searchable and trend-worthy.

You could also incentivise mentions of your hotel’s social media accounts by offering discounts for guests who use Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to post pictures of local landmarks in which you’re tagged.

Secure local partnerships

Cross-promotional deals with other businesses in the area will always be mutually beneficial, so approach potential partners and suggest joining forces, (providing they’re not potential rivals, of course!).

For example, you could provide discounted access to nearby tourist hot spots to people who book a room at your hotel, which will increase occupancy rates and also send more visitors the way of the attraction itself.

Invest in unique content

Many independent hotels have already taken the step of amplifying their online marketing and increasing their influence by producing bespoke content.

This can be in the form of blogs, podcasts or videos, and tuned to highlight on-site facilities, while also drawing attention to the wonders of the region in which your hotel sits.

If your hotel is in a rural area, why not commission a video with drone footage of the countryside trails and gorgeous views that customers can experience?

Located within an urban sprawl? Be sure to pick up on the entertainment, leisure and dining options available nearby and write regular blogs that highlight the wonderful experiences they offer! Just make sure you always link it back to why visitors should use your hotel as a base for the night.

Promote events and activities

Even small-scale events taking place near your hotel will have some form of online buzz which you can latch onto in order to generate more traffic for your website.

You could simply get in touch with organisers and ask them for a press release to publish on your hotel’s website or go one step further and write a uniquely worded summary so that you can latch onto some of the search traffic for the event.

Wrapping up

Promoting your hotel as a gateway to an amazing destination is an incredibly effective tactic, but one which many independents overlook.

In an age of OTAs and web bookings, it’s easy for guests to compare every hotel in a specific area based on location and room price, while ignoring the countless steps you’ve taken to grab their attention via other means.

Proper management of destination promotion is one way to pique their interest and demonstrate that there’s far more to a stay at your hotel than the property itself.

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