The Winner of Welcome Systems Ltd’s iPad Mini competition for the hotelier best able to describe their experience of using the Welcome Anywhere property management system via Capterra.com, is Elizabeth Wells, reservations manager at the Mannin Hotel on the Isle of Man.

Welcome Systems set the competition to mark the latest update of its fully cloud-based Welcome Anywhere property management system, and to highlight how mobile devices offer the perfect platform to manage hotel room reservations, pricing, marketing and guest communications on a 24/7 basis.

Describing Welcome Anywhere’s pros as being its ‘simplicity of use and doing everything we need for a medium-sized hotel’ on her Capterra.com review, Elizabeth continues:

“I previously worked for another hotel that used Welcome Anywhere to manage its bookings, so I was already aware of the system and the advantages it offers.

“When I moved to join the Mannin Hotel, which is relatively new after opening in April 2016, I became involved in almost everything, from choosing which sugar sachets we’d use through to putting all of our front and back office systems into place!

“In this day and age you have to use an online booking system. The hotel manager and I looked at several options to begin with, and we eventually chose Welcome for a number of reasons.

“Being on the Isle of Man means it can be difficult to get maintenance for software or hardware issues quickly and efficiently. The fact that Welcome is fully cloud-based, maintained by Welcome around the clock, and there are no physical moving parts makes a lot of sense for us.

“A highly visual web portal additionally means that tracking occupancy and avoiding double-bookings is no longer a concern. It also ties in seamlessly with all of the major booking engines and the Global Distribution System, allowing us to show live availability for our 54 bedrooms at all times.

“Business for the Mannin Hotel has taken off beyond our wildest expectations. There aren’t many new hotels on the Island and we’re very proud of our excellent staff and excited that demand is proving so high.

“Naturally I’m delighted to start the New Year with a brand new iPad to help manage our bookings!”

John Jones, Managing Director of Welcome Systems Ltd, added:

“Welcome Anywhere has always been suited to devices of all sizes, but our latest update features significant improvements to the way the system performs on tablets and smartphones.

“There’s no doubt the future of hotel and restaurant booking is continual innovation online. We’re thrilled to be pressing ahead with our mission to help hotels, B&Bs and pubs with accommodation meet raised customer demands for improved comfort, value, technology and convenience.”

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Welcome Systems Ltd has appointed Hefin Morris as Head of Sales to manage an influx of new business from its independent hotel, restaurant and pub clients.

The Northamptonshire hospitality booking software business recently moved from Pitsord to larger premises at Moulton Park as part of an expansion to support its growing list of several hundred clients across the UK.

Discussing his new role, Hefin comments:

“Welcome Systems has established itself as a major player in online booking. We deliver resilient tools that allow property managers to ensure accommodation and restaurant spaces are efficiently coordinated and fully-booked.

“This is a highly competitive market, but we stand out by working closely with our clients to provide clear services and pricing, while constantly developing our systems and meet their day-to-day needs.

“Recent technological developments mean that online booking and electronic-point-of-sale systems (EPOS) can now be easily managed in real-time from a smartphone, tablet or PC on a 24/7 basis.”

With 10 years’ experience as a former hotel general manager himself, Hefin recalls the demanding challenges posed by no-shows, potential double-bookings, and guests’ growing expectations for instantaneous room availability through websites or ‘online travel agencies,’ such as Booking.com.

He continues: “The sector is packed with choice, so we aim to distinguish ourselves by providing straightforward and intuitive software in the form of our Welcome Anywhere and Welcome Table products.

“Welcome Anywhere offers essential reservation management tools for boosting room sales, managing room bookings, advanced customer profiling and automated guest correspondence. Welcome Table similarly delivers an online, cloud-based table booking system for restaurants of all sizes.”

Welcome Systems Ltd Managing Director, John Jones, adds:

“We’re delighted to have Hefin join us at this particularly challenging time for the market.

“Independent hotels, restaurants and pubs are increasingly well placed to rival their big chain competitors, but many need to improve their digital offer to meet the expectations of savvy online travellers and business people. Our mission is to make this goal a reality.”

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There's nothing quite like a group booking in the hotel trade. A single enquiry that results in several room sales is great for revenue, a boon for occupancy and nothing more than good, solid business which also levers food sales.

Unfortunately, hotel booking systems have often made something of a ham-fisted attempt at implementing functionality for the management and processing of group bookings. That's why we've always focused on refining this element of Welcome Anywhere to ensure it's as approachable and deeply functional as it should be.

We also understand that group reservations are just as important to the booker as they are to the hotel. Often, they'll be linked to a key occasion such as a wedding, anniversary, christening or important business event. As a result, such customers can become rather cumbersome to deal with. They'll call the hotel every day, with numerous requests from Uncle Albert to have his room moved or Sarah from accounts who needs a garden view of an evening to aid contemplation of the latest end of year figures.

While it's undoubtedly lovely for hotels to be given the opportunity of regularly speaking to guests, dealing with group bookings can become a burden, with reception staff rapidly growing tired of the endless requests and changes issued.

We'd like to put a stop to this, and we think we've done so with the latest feature addition for Welcome Anywhere.

Enter the guest group booking portal

So, how do you lift the burden from the reception team when it comes to group bookings? You put (some of) the power in the hands of the guest!

With that in mind, we put our development team to work on creating a guest-facing group booking portal, and the results are rather profound.

The new feature enables hotels to provide group bookers with a web address from which the customer can swap people around, change the numbers of guests and add special requests to their heart's content, without ever having to speak to the hotel:

Every change they make is automatically communicated back to Welcome Anywhere, without the hotel staff having to lift a finger:

The time saved on behalf of the hotel is vast, and by giving the group booker just enough control to make the many, common changes on the lead up to the booking (but not enough to do any harm to the hotel's occupancy) everyone benefits.

The guest group booking portal is available today. To find out more about this feature or indeed anything to do with the Welcome Anywhere hotel booking system, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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[caption id="attachment_14323" align="alignnone" width="600"] John Jones, Welcome Systems Ltd (left), Bernard Willems, BookingSuite (right)[/caption]

Welcome Systems Ltd is the first UK hospitality booking software company to partner with BookingSuite, a unit of Booking.com dedicated to supplying accommodation providers with smart services and tools to deliver enhanced guest experiences.

The result is a seamless integration between ‘Welcome Anywhere’ and BookingSuite’s RateManager tool. Launching on January 9th 2017, the new service will help hoteliers manage their pricing with instant rate recommendations, saving valuable time and money and increasing both revenue and occupancy.

Welcome System’s Managing Director, John Jones, explains:

“Welcome Anywhere is a zero-commission hotel booking system for hoteliers who need to make smart decisions on room-pricing and require a flexible rate strategy that takes their competition into account and delivers profitable room tariffs.

“The advantage of our new partnership with BookingSuite is that their RateManager tool automatically assesses and recommends the best rates for hotel rooms, and predicts occupancy up to 360 days in advance.”

BookingSuite’s RateManager is now directly integrated within Welcome Anywhere so that any pricing changes recommended by the tool can be automatically communicated and updated. This means no duplication of effort is needed for hoteliers to benefit from the recommendations offered by the tool.

Jones continues:

“Welcome Anywhere users are now able to increase their competitiveness and automatically flex their pricing based on RateManager recommendations so that guests will always receive the best deal and hotels maximise their bookings on a 24/7 basis.

“Our test partners love the new feature and have already recouped the cost of their BookingSuite RateManager subscription during trials. We’re expecting huge demand for the system on its launch.”

Welcome Anywhere Plus now offers a two-way interface with the BookingSuite RateManager. For further details, contact our team on 0330 100 10 90 or by clicking below:

[/fusion_text][button link=" http://welcome-anywhere.co.uk/bookingsuite/" color="default" size="" type="" shape="" target="_self" title="" gradient_colors="|" gradient_hover_colors="|" accent_color="" accent_hover_color="" bevel_color="" border_width="1px" shadow="" icon="" icon_position="left" icon_divider="no" modal="" animation_type="0" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="1" alignment="" class="" id=""]CONTACT WELCOME[/button]

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ncedo1zg_400x400Earlier this month, we launched a brand new online booking system for hotels. Designed with a mobile-first mindset and drawing on thirteen years of experience, the new platform represents a seismic leap forward for Welcome Anywhere.

Forever a hospitality original, we were one of the first in the industry to develop an online hotel reservation system. Launched in 2003, it grew to become one of the most popular in the sector, thanks to its ability to slot seamlessly into any hotel website and provide a satisfyingly easy to use booking process.

Things are changing, though. Consumers are evolving. Technology will never, ever slow down. And, by 2020, experts predict 70% of the world’s population will be using a smartphone.

That’s 6.1 billion smartphones in use across the globe; a clear indication that when most people need to reach for a computing device, they’ll go straight for the mini computer in their pocket.

The new Welcome Anywhere online booking system isn’t just for now, it’s for the future. Pick up any device, and you’ll be able to book a room via a simple, step-by-step process we’ve refined over the course of thirteen years. Only, now, it’s fresher, more inviting, more addictive and more user friendly than ever before.

That means happy guests and - most importantly - more direct bookings for hotels.

But what goes into creating such a system? Who’s behind the bits and bytes?

We took some time out to speak to a member of the Welcome Systems development team, Jack McGuire, who played a pivotal role in the creation of the new online booking system.

WS: Hi, Jack. Congrats on finishing the first version of the new online booking system! What were your main priorities for the hotelier during the development process?

Jack: “When re-designing the new online booking system, we wanted to achieve a modern, clean look that worked great on mobile and desktop. We wanted to retain the customisation options from the previous system but build on them significantly to give the hotelier as much control as possible.

“We also wanted to build a platform that packed functionality into the booking process for guests whilst ensuring it was still easy for hoteliers to promote their rooms and better highlight what made the property special.”

WS: What did you want to achieve with the new online booking system for the guest?

Jack: “We wanted to create a consistent core experience across every hotel that uses our system, while ensuring that specific areas (content, background images and the like) could be customised for each hotel’s needs and branding.

“Most importantly, we wanted the booking process to remain the same, no matter where it was placed, increasing familiarity across the board.

“We also wanted to ensure it was easy to use, which may sound easy in itself, but including all of the features we wanted to pack into the system required a lot of planning and tweaking to make it usable. Lastly, the system is fully responsive, meaning the guest can access it on any device, be it a mobile phone, tablet or desktop PC.”

WS: What challenges did you meet along the way?

Jack: “The biggest challenge we had was the accommodation page. That particular page could have turned into a behemoth, as it includes all of the hotel’s room types, rates, room images, descriptions and more.

“To avoid it becoming a monster, we spent a lot of time thinking and re-thinking the user experience until we settled on something that was intuitive.”

WS: What single piece of functionality are you most proud of?

Jack: “The theme options and customisation. We could have taken the same approach as the old system by allowing techies to access the CSS code, but that requires the hotel to have a web developer or someone with good knowledge of CSS to make changes to the look and feel of the online booking system. Not ideal.

“We instead included theme options that enable anyone to go in and brand their own online booking system to match the rest of their website.”

WS: Which element(s) of the new system do you expect to shake up the hotel industry?

Jack: “The booking cart allows for very quick and easy group bookings to be made and provides a clear and concise view of the booking being made. Few competing systems we reviewed during the planning stage seemed to get this element right.”

WS: What new technologies and techniques did you have to adopt in order to take the new online booking system from concept to reality?

Jack: “We decided to take a different approach to creating the front end of the app by using a PHP framework. I haven’t done much development with PHP frameworks before and this required new learning and techniques for me to get going, but it was worth it - the app is really snappy as a result!”

WS: How do you see the system developing in the future?

Jack: “I would like to see a centralised system that can connect hotels within a group together (although we do offer this already for any hotel group that wants to build its own, bespoke online booking system).

“I would also like to expand on the accommodation screen, by allowing hoteliers to set a display order for rates and rooms. Lastly, it would be cool to give them the ability to set specific rooms as premium in order to add even more depth and customisation.”

WS: Thanks, Jack (and to the rest of our wonderful development team)!

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Creating guest experiences

Sorry - bad news. A room is no longer enough for your guests. They want more. Accommodation simply doesn’t cut it in a world where ‘experiences’ are becoming the norm.

But what is an experience, and how does it relate to our industry? Surely, the only experience you need to deliver guests is one of relaxation, comfort and waiter service?

Not any more.

The modern guest expects to be entertained, have access to tech comforts they’re used to at home and receive the occasional surprise.

In this post, we’re going to look at how accommodation providers can turn their service up to 11 by creating unique, unforgettable guest experiences.

The simple stuff counts

Hotel experiences don’t have to be tangible - they can be delivered in the most subtle of ways with just a few simple tactics. We’ve picked out three that’ll endear you to your guests:

  • The pre-arrival phone call. What better way to surprise a guest than to give them a quick call a few days before they arrive? In a digital world with limited human contact, a ringing phone never fails to raise an eyebrow, and if you’re on the end of it thanking the guest for their booking and providing useful information for check-in time, they’ll remember the experience fondly.
  • The surprise act of kindness. Imagine a regular guest entering her room to find a bottle of bubbly and a ‘thank you’ card lying on the bed. Or the Xbox you occasionally place in rooms in which you know kids are staying. Random acts of kindness in hotels go a long way and are great ways to encourage social media posts about how wonderful your establishment is.
  • Free room upgrades. If someone checks in late and you’ve got a couple of premium rooms left unsold, always use the opportunity to issue an unexpected, free room upgrade. Savvy guests will know this trick and ask for the upgrade themselves, but those that don’t will revel in the wonderful experience of checking into your hotel and getting a better room for free. Sure - it is still 'just' a room, but it’s far better than the one they were expecting.

Working with local businesses

Depending on your hotel’s location, you may have a fantastic opportunity to strike up a deal or two with local businesses. Perhaps you’re near a golf course, theme park or historic attraction - whatever it may be, a chat with the bosses may result in a joint marketing campaign and consolidated offering for customers.

If you can combine a hotel stay with a discounted round of golf, free child passes to a theme park or cheaper entry to the local castle, you’ve got an awful lot more to say when advertising your rooms.

Talk to your neighbouring businesses - you’re all in this together, after all.

Using technology to create guest experiences

Technology is ubiquitous and increasingly affordable. With relatively minor investment, you can create guest experiences by taking advantage of the gadgets they love. Here’s a few ideas:

  • In-room TV on demand. Netflix and other services offer a near bottomless pit of boxsets and films in which people can indulge and such services are more accessible than ever to hotels. Make sure you rooms offer them and make a big deal about it when describing your rates.
  • Loaded-up in-room tablets. Tablets chock-full of games, movies and magazines will always be well-received. And, thankfully, there are a huge range of low-cost Android devices to choose from, lowering the barrier to entry for this particular guest experience.
  • Video games. We noted this above, but it bears repeating - the presence of a games console in a hotel room remains relatively unique, so before they become ubiquitous, add as many as you can to yours. They don’t have to be the latest and greatest, either - in fact, go retro with something like a SNES and a copy of Mario Kart, and you’ll win over plenty of guests.
  • Lighting and climate control. In-room technology and business management systems are getting smarter by the day and if you can turn your rooms into something Tony Stark would be proud of, you’ll create a futuristic experience guests will love. Speak to your suppliers - intelligent lighting, climate control and sensors that personalise rooms for guests are becoming more commonplace on the market.

Wrapping up

Creating guest experiences isn’t always about making more money from your rooms (although you could arguably up the room rate for the tech options above). The most important aspect is gathering a loyal following - guests who come back for more and tell their friends just how considerate and inventive a hotel you are.

Have we missed something? If you’ve had success offering guest experiences and don’t mind sharing your secrets - let us know in the comments section below!

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Welcome Systems logo

Over the last three years, we have rebranded, launched a brand new hotel management platform, bolstered our offering with additional solutions for the hospitality industry and renamed the company 'Welcome Systems Ltd'. It has been a pivotal time and we're incredibly excited about what lies ahead.

It therefore gives us pleasure to announce that, in order to accommodate our ambitious development plans and dynamic team, we will be moving Welcome to a new location. Our last day of residency at Spring Hill Farm in Pitsford will be Friday 8th July and we will begin operating from Moulton Park in Northampton from Monday 11th July.

Moulton Park is a vibrant, modern commercial complex that offers ambitious businesses like Welcome the ideal base from which to grow, welcome customers and continue to develop products that push industries forward.

Our new address details will be as follows:

Welcome Systems Ltd

1 Westleigh Park

Scirocco Close

Moulton Park

Northampton

NN3 6BW

Our existing telephone numbers will remain, but from 11th July, we will be adding the following number: 0330 100 10 90. All other contact details will remain the same, although we will no longer be contactable by fax.

During the move, our team will still be available and there will be no disruption to service for any of our software platforms.

If you have any questions about the move, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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TripConnectWe're aware that many of our customers have been informed about Tripadvisor's latest feature, TripConnect. Understandably, they're excited about it. And so are we.

If you're yet to discover TripConnect, it finally offers a way of displaying hotel website rates directly on TripAdvisor listings. All you need is a Business Listing and a compatible online booking system.

We're delighted to confirm that Welcome Anywhere will soon be integrated with TripConnect, enabling you to offer Tripadvisor guests a direct method of booking, alongside the agencies which usually appear on Tripadvisor listings. This means TripConnect could help further reduce your commission bill and increase brand awareness.

TripConnect is a high priority for us and we will be launching our interface in the new year. Please stay tuned - further information will follow in due course.

If you have any queries on the above, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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revPAR rises for hotelsRevenue per available room (revPAR) and profits are on the rise in UK hotels, according to recent reports, giving experts reason to suggest that hotels are now 'out of the worst'.

HVS London and Zolfo Cooper's latest Hotel Bulletin, which focuses on Q3 of 2013, found that there had been an average increase in revPAR of eight percent at hotels outside of London. Average profits were up by 3%.

In the capital, revPAR actually decreased by 3%, although September's revPAR was up 9% compared to the same period in 2012.

The ongoing feel-good factor of the Olympics and fine weather experienced this year has certainly helped boost hotel trade this year, and HVS London director Tim Smith has claimed the sector is now 'over the worst'.

Bank funding is also now 'relatively accessible', according to the report, although it was noted that most new openings were limited to budget hotels.

 

Image courtesy of jscreationzs / freedigitalphotos.net

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Twitter for hotelsEarlier this month, Twitter floated itself on the New York Stock Exchange. Within hours, shares rose to $45.10 a piece, making the fledgling social media company worth an astounding $31bn.

For a service which opened with the rather innocuous tweet 'just setting up my twttr' in 2006, the 140 character-driven social media site is now a driving force both socially and in business. If you run a hotel, it can be an incredibly powerful tool.

Today, we've got three best practices for the social media savvy hotelier who wants to get the most from Twitter.

 

Don't ignore the bio

Twitter have made it so easy to set up an account and start posting, that you may forget to perform one of the most important tasks - configuring your bio page. While your Twitter presence will almost solely be digested by people browsing their timelines, whenever someone decides whether or not to follow you, it is likely they will have a look at your bio. In fact, in most Twitter clients, they have to. If it's blank and uninspiring (or, worse, there's a little egg to indicate you haven't updated your profile picture), they may well not bother. Add an attractive image of your hotel, your location, website and a small tagline or description of what you're all about. Don't forget to add a header photo, too - you can be a little more creative with here, as Twitter affords you more space.

Forget the numbers

Social media is all-too-often about numbers. Much like a LinkedIn profile's connections tally isn't indicative of business acumen, neither is your number of followers on Twitter. There are all sorts of 'back door' methods with which you can gain a large number of followers, but avoid them at all costs. You can't buy love and you certainly can't by a social media following.

Building a genuine list of followers isn't easy and it takes time. You need to cultivate a community in order for it to be effective. Use a service such as Wefollow in order to find hospitality leaders and industry partners - follow them and interact with them where possible. Retweet the tweets you like and engage in discussions by using hashtags to offer your thoughts on a particualr topic. If you've got positive relations with a neighbouring hotel, follow them, too.

Listen first

Twitter is just as much a listening channel as it is a broadcasting channel. Nowhere is this more important than the hotel industry. People tweet in real time and offer immediate thoughts on their current activities. That activity might be a stay in your hotel and they'll probably mention you by name when they say what's on their mind. They may do this by using your @ Twitter username, in which case you'll be alerted in most Twitter clients, but if they don't, keeping an eye on mentions of your hotel on Twitter is relatively straightforward - you can simply use the powerful search tool or invest in social media reputation software or professional services.

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