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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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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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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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 a move designed to help hospitality businesses better engage with and retain their guests, Welcome Systems has announced a strategic partnership with Guestfolio, Cendyn’s customer relationship management (CRM) platform for hoteliers.

Guestfolio CRM will empower Welcome System’s customers to deliver the right message at the right time through marketing automation across multiple channels. This in combination with a robust email marketing platform, TripAdvisor integration and consolidated guest profiles will offer insights into guest reservations, room stays and inquiries, leading to measurable impact and revenue growth.

Welcome Systems, a UK leader in hospitality software solutions, will use Guestfolio to provide its clients with the ability to integrate every ‘digital touch-point’ before, during and after a guest stay, providing a cohesive view of visitor data in a single platform for tailored guest marketing.

John Jones, MD of Welcome Systems Ltd, explains:

“In an increasingly competitive hospitality sector it’s never been more important for hoteliers to communicate and engage with their guests. Our partnership with Cendyn is a major step in overcoming obstacles to this.

“The way people anticipate a hotel experience has completely changed over the last few years. From the moment they consider booking a trip through to the point they arrive, the focus is on a comfortable, unique and hassle-free stay.

“Our Welcome Anywhere property management system (PMS) is a perfect fit with Cendyn’s Guestfolio CRM platform, meaning our accommodation business clients can now benefit from the best of both in a single package.

“Guestfolio simply plugs into Welcome Anywhere, extracts historical guest data and synchronises all present and future reservations. From here the system creates tailored marketing campaigns and notifications that can be actively pushed out to guests based on their known likes before, during and after a visit.

“This allows for seamless pre-arrival, confirmation, modification and cancellation messages to be neatly tied in with Welcome Anywhere’s cloud-based PMS, which works across smartphones, tablets and PCs.

“We’re particularly excited about Guestfolio’s Concierge App, which also works on mobile devices and desktop computers. It can be adapted to mirror a hotel’s brand and is instantly updated with guests’ travel requests, details of special hotel events and other attractions in a local area.

“All of this represents the effective use of granular ‘data mining’ and ultimately frees-up a hotelier’s time for other things.

“This is quite unlike anything else on the market and, as the hospitality sector becomes increasingly aware of the value and power of data, we’re thrilled to be at the forefront of these developments.”

Charles Deyo, CEO & President at Cendyn, adds:

“We’re delighted to be partnering with Welcome Systems. Adding them to our data connectivity suite is a testament to our dedication to provide the most integrated CRM platform in the industry

“One of the biggest challenges that faces hotels today is being able to take action on their data. By integrating their PMS with a CRM, as we are doing with Welcome Systems and Cendyn, hoteliers are able to understand and leverage their data to improve the guest experience like never before. We continue to work with robust and innovative PMS vendors like Welcome Systems to ensure hoteliers can take advantage of technology that works fundamentally to put the guests at the heart of what they do.”

Find out more

To find out more about the integration between Welcome Anywhere and Guestfolio, click here.

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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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