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Welcome Anywhere Property Managment System > Blog > Hotel marketing

As we march into a new season, it's time for us to spring into action.

I'm sorry - I couldn't resist...

Calendar puns aside, now the mercury's rising and the sun's out for longer, it's clear that spring's just over the horizon.  As the packed agenda of festivities begin to creep closer to us, it's time to give your hotel marketing strategy a bit of a spring clean.

Here are 5 tips to increase your hotel's bookings this Spring.

Rejuvenation and Rebirth

It might seem like a bit of a cliché, but Spring's all about rebirth and starting anew.  Maybe it's time you freshened up your website and email marketing templates.  I'm not suggesting you turn them all green and add daffodils just because it's Spring.  However, a new look might just renew the interest in your subscribers and social followers and encourage more people to book directly.

You could even use your rejuvenated image to tease some guest-generated content.  A simple: "What do you think of our new look?" campaign might stir your market into action.  It can generate traffic to your new website, and have them tweeting in response.

Remember your Mother, Patrick and the Bunny

With Spring comes a lot of exciting marketing opportunities.  Mother's Day and St Patrick's Day both happen in March.  You could use Mother's Day as an excuse to get people sat in your restaurant.  St Patrick's Day promotions involving Guinness and Jameson's whiskey might bring a few more people to the bar.  How about an Easter Egg hunt in April?

Not only are these good times to hold promotions, but they are also events searched for by your target market.  Make good use of your email marketing, website and social media to draw attention to your hotel over these important dates.

What's Going on in Town?

You're probably sick of me droning on about destination marketing.  It's sort of becoming my 'thing'.  So I'd better not let you down.

What's going on in town?  Is there a Spring festival happening?  Will there be flower shows, local parks and farms having fun days?  How's Spring enriching the area around you?  Working with the organisers of local events will increase your reach, and make you a central part of everything that is going on.

Perhaps you could offer a special discount for any frequenters of the local festivals and concerts that'll inevitably be springing (he he) up around your area.

Start Looking to Summer

On average, travellers book 34 days ahead of their stay.  A quick sum reveals you'll therefore be a month into Spring when people will be considering their Summer bookings.  It won't hurt to get a little bit ahead of the game.

This will really come in handy when you're getting closer to Summer, because finding time to do any marketing is more difficult once the kids are off school anyway.  Look at the many ways you can draw people into your hotel throughout the Summer and be ahead of the competition.

Keep an Eye on the Competition

As much as I would like to imagine that I'm a one-of-a-kind true original hotel guru, the chances are that other people have already looked at their calendar.  There will be some that began their marketing back in January, but that doesn't mean you have lost.  In many cases, it gives you some time to react.

Make good use of your PMS and OTAs to see what the competition is doing, and then devise a killer room rate to match.  As more and more people start to flock to your area, make sure your competitors don't price you out of the market.  Perhaps consider a fresh new offer if you find your nearest rival has a room rate that's difficult to match.

Wrapping Up

Spring to me is a dress rehearsal for Summer.  It's the time the party people start to slowly come out of hibernation and throw on a couple of village fetes.  It still presents many opportunities to march a few customers over your threshold.

What marketing techniques are you considering this Spring?

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A question for you: is your hotel the main reason for guests to be visiting your area?  Perhaps you have a spa and run relaxation weekends.  Maybe you host major events.  It would be nice to think that your venue is the epicentre of your guests' weekend, but for many, it's probably more a matter of convenience.

Sorry.

This is why destination marketing is important.

Outside the swooshing doors of your lobby lies a town or a city worth visiting, and to help you sell rooms, it makes sense to highlight this to potential guests.  Here are 3 reasons to make your surrounding area the focus of your marketing.

Destination marketing creates local partnerships

Your area probably contains a rich environment of activities and facilities.  Is there a local museum, or art gallery, that is open to the public?  For the more rural locations, perhaps there are local walks and parks that are worth traipsing around, or local produce that can only be bought from your area.  If that's the case, tell everyone and demonstrate the pride you have for your community!

On the face of it, this might seem like you're giving other businesses and attractions column inches for nothing.  However, by bringing the culture of your area into your doors, you're actually creating invaluable partnerships.  For instance, that venue down the road hosting the Sheryl Crow concert might have space for you on their website, and local suppliers might be inclined to recommend you in their own marketing materials.

Let your destination marketing strategy be the leader in a small community that strives to increase profitability, together.

Let PPC drive traffic to your website

It's always tricky looking for the right keywords for your search engine optimisation and Google advertising.  As a hotel, there's probably many search variations and keywords that you're already bidding for, but do you have a specific keyword group created with your local area in mind?

If you aren't using pay-per-click (PPC) as a channel, it's still worth considering doing so just for your local area, because someone's "booking a trip to Northampton" Google search might drive traffic to your website.  For whatever reason they're in your area, your facilities and comfortable beds might just be the thing they need to complete their visit.

As long as your landing page is relevant, and your website up-to-date, there's a higher chance they will convert.  Sure, on your website sits all of your promotions and those tempting photos of clean sheets and succulent breakfast muffins, but if you add some locality to your PPC strategy, destination marketing may bring a fair few additional guests through your doors.

Build relationships with your guests

Every hotel is always looking for that opportunity; to create a memorable moment perhaps, or to deepen the relationship with their guests.  A cynic might suggest that this is only for a cheeky upsell, while others will recognise that a memorable stay encourages loyalty.

By being knowledgable about your local area you'll build trust with your guests.  Recommending another business isn't sending someone to the competition -  it's building a rapport and demonstrating that you're more interested in their break.  So, don't be afraid to suggest they take lunch at a specific café; the guest response to a good suggestion for what to do while staying at your hotel could lead to greater loyalty with your brand - and that's a very good thing indeed.

Wrapping up

We would all like our business to be the focus of any marketing campaign - it's natural.  We're a competitive species that's territorially motivated and passionately protective of our businesses.  However, the reality is that for many people, your hotel is perfectly located for a good night's sleep, and  that location may just be the key to getting more people through your door.

So, what's going on in your area that we should know about?

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Online travel agencies aren’t going anywhere - let’s get that particular fact out of the way immediately. That means savvy hoteliers will continue to pay commission for the new bookings generated by sites such as Booking.com.

But that’s not a bad thing. You see, if you’re running one of the latest channel managers for hotels, you’ll benefit from a set of tools that make online distribution a cinch.

Such tools provide you with something rather invaluable: more time to work on your direct booking strategy. And, with that in mind, here’s four direct booking strategies you should be working into your 2019 hotel marketing plan:

1. Ensure your website is mobile-friendly

How often do you encounter websites that don’t work properly on your smartphone? You have to pinch to zoom and read text and, nine times out of ten, you’ll hit the wrong link as you try and navigate the site.

In a 2017 survey by Google, 89% of people confirmed they’re more likely to recommend a brand after a positive mobile browsing experience. How compatible is your hotel’s website with smaller screens? If it’s a frustrating experience, make 2019 the year you go fully mobile-first with your web presence.

2. Reach out to existing guests

The guest email addresses you collect could hold the key to a significant uplift in return bookings.

With an email marketing platform such as Mailchimp or Campaign Monitor, you can finally make use of those email addresses in 2019 by sending tempting offers to stay with you again. And, if your PMS allows you to filter and export specific sets of customers (by business or leisure and demographical data, for instance), you can send highly relevant emails to people who are most likely to engage with them.

Oh, and the good, old-fashioned telephone and snail mail aren’t bad ways to reconnect with old guests, either!

3. Build a rate strategy from past performance

Providing you have a PMS that offers deep analytical data on your guests’ past staying habits, you should be able to create a rate strategy for 2019 that’s influenced by past performance.

Look for your most popular rates by booking channel and try and identify those which were most often booked directly. You clearly got something right, whether it was the inclusion of some free extras for booking direct or the name you chose for the package.

The more you study last year’s performance, the more you’ll be able to spot direct booking trends that will help inform the hotel’s rate strategy for 2019.

4. Find something unique about your hotel - and promote the hell out of it

Every independent hotel is unique. For some, that uniqueness is obvious (the presence of giraffes as dinner guests, for instance), while for others, it’s a little more subtle - but equally compelling.

Whether your property is supposedly haunted by a ghost, once played host to a celebrity or played a minor supporting role in an episode of Dr Who, make a big noise about it next year.

Booking via OTAs is a relatively soulless experience, simply because every hotel is listed in a near-identical fashion. When people reach your hotel’s own website, they want to be drawn into your world, and one of the best ways to achieve that level of engagement is to highlight the one thing that makes your property unique.

Don’t be shy - shout loud and proud about whatever it is that makes your hotel special and have some fun with it; create a special menu or stay package based on the unique element.

Wrapping up

You have the time to undertake the direct booking strategies above, even if it feels like the clock is forever ticking against you.

The trick lies in making your direct booking strategy a vital task that’s present on every day’s to-do list. Find the time, and you’ll find more guests who are willing to come straight to your website rather than book via OTAs. It’s that simple.

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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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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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Three letters which have remained something of a mystery for many hoteliers: 'GDS'.

They stand for ‘Global Distribution System’, which is a huge network dedicated to providing travel industry professionals with a wide choice of hotels and travel packages.

Until very recently, the GDS has quite rightly been the domain of large hotels and big chains. And we say ‘quite rightly’ because it was cumbersome, expensive and required an inordinate amount of someone’s time if it was to be used effectively.

Thankfully, things have changed. And thanks to PMS platforms like Welcome Anywhere finally making the GDS accessible and manageable for smaller operators, everyone can benefit from this brilliant guest finder tool.

So… how does the GDS work?

Good question!

There are countless travel industry professionals out there who’s responsibility it is to find their clients the best possible hotel rates and travel arrangements.

These agents use tools like the GDS to make their lives easier and their clients happier. And guess what - if your hotel’s rates and availability can be found on the GDS, you’re in with a shout of winning plenty of new business.

By connecting your PMS and channel manager to the GDS, you can advertise your hotel to this massive network and gain access to a market you simply won’t find on any OTA.

Should my independent hotel sign up to the GDS?

Not long ago, we’d have said “tread with caution” when asked this question, but not any more. The GDS is no longer a tool solely for the big boys of the industry.

The aforementioned travel agents are primed and motivated to find great room rates and decent hotels for their clients, and they could become some of your most loyal customers.

The GDS is brilliant for increasing brand awareness about your hotel, too. It contains market segments that may otherwise never have discovered your property, and the fees for making that happen are pretty reasonable when compared with the marketing budget black hole that is Google Adwords.

Not convinced? Here’s 3 reasons you need the GDS!

Ok, the GDS does still have a bit of an image problem within the independent hotel market, and you probably need a little more to go on if you’re to spread your wings wider online.

So, here’s three reasons the GDS should be in your hotel’s marketing plans:

  1. You’ll get more bookings. You want that, right? 2017 was a record year for bookings made via the GDS, and if you’re not on that network, you’re missing out.
  2. Your revenue will rise. More bookings = increased revenue. Simple. And, remember - if you’re worried about the profitability of those bookings due to commission fees, the GDS is more affordable than you might think, and there’s always a profit in a room sale if you price it right.
  3. You’ll discover new markets. We’ve mentioned this a few times but it bears repeating: the GDS puts your hotel in front of a brand new audience. New audiences open up so many opportunities for hotels to expand on their offering, widen their customer base and increase awareness of the brand.
  4. Travel agents will become some of your best friends. We all need friends in this industry, and with travel agents under significant pressure to find great hotels and reasonable room prices, the discovery of your property will put a great big smile on their face.

And finally…

With over 100,000 travel websites, agents and portals out there, the GDS can’t be handled manually. Make sure you have a PMS and channel manager that will connect to the network and automate the delivery of rates, availability and confirmed bookings!

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In the latest Welcome Systems podcast, we're joined by Nicola Graham, Director of Marketing at Cendyn - the team behind the brilliant Guestfolio CRM system that's designed specifically for the hospitality industry.

We talk about the modern guest journey, and think about how hoteliers can create memorable guest experiences by using the latest marketing techniques and technology.

To find out more about Cendyn and Guestfolio, visit cendyn.com.

Check out the podcast below and subscribe on iTunes:

https://soundcloud.com/user-568165456/the-welcome-systems-podcast-ep10-cendyn

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