New Year’s resolutions for independent hoteliers | hotel management software uk

So, 2020 is on the way. Another new year. Time to stop, take stock (after the Christmas rush), and start the new year with a bang.

But how do you do that as a busy independent hotelier? With chain hotels continuing to pop up everywhere and brands such as Airbnb redefining guest expectations, what new year’s resolutions should you be making?

The good news? They’re pretty simple and don’t require any immediate action - just a promise to yourself, the hotel and its team that you will make headway on them as 2020 kicks off.

Review your hotel tech

New Year’s resolutions for independent hoteliers | hotel upselling

Hotel technology evolves at a rapid pace. In fact, it’s so fast-paced that you can be forgiven for lagging behind a little as an independent hotelier.

However, there are a few areas in which you might need to invest if you’re to continue providing a range of services and an experience that befits the modern guest.

Pay particular attention to the following:

  • The property management system (PMS): is it web-based, reliable and fully integrated with both your website and the OTAs on which you rely? Does it connect to your other hotel technology such as your POS system?
  • In-room guest services and entertainment: you don’t have to spend big here - the simple addition of USB plug sockets might be enough to satisfy the digital needs of your guests, but if budget allows, perhaps 2020 is the year you finally upgrade the in-room TVs to be fully on-demand and add complimentary iPads to rooms, complete with a bunch of boredom-busting apps for the duration of guest stays. Have a look at last year’s guest feedback on TripAdvisor to spot areas where you might be lacking.
  • The restaurant: can you accept online bookings for your restaurant? If not, you might be missing out on a raft of reservations; people are far more inclined to book tables digitally nowadays.

Schedule some events

2020 hotelier tips | hotel booking systems

Staging events at your hotel is a great way to find new revenue streams.

Advertising yourself as a wedding and conference venue is no longer enough. What about running networking events for local businesses, or cooking competitions hosted by your talented head chef?

Live music, social dining experiences and tie-ins with local events can all be explored next year and might just result in a host of corresponding room bookings and new advocates of your property.

Turn your website into a conversion machine

hotel website tips | hotel software uk

Hotel websites are no longer simply digital brochures - they’re designed to bring in more bookings for the property; lots more bookings.

They can only do this if they’re set up for conversions in the same way an online store is. And if that sounds a bit cold or lacking in the personal touch for your hotel, you might need to leave some of your preconceptions at the door.

When you buy something on Amazon, it’s hassle-free; they’ve mastered the online shopping experience. The same should go for your hotel’s website. If someone wants to book a room, they should be able to check availability and rates and place their reservation as conveniently as possible.

It should be just as simple on whatever device they have to hand and fast no matter how weak their connection.

Try out your online booking experience with the mindset of a guest in a hurry for a decent room at a decent rate. If you get frustrated, it’s time to look for a new platform.

Touch base with your OTA reps

2020 hotel management tips | management systems for hotels london

Yeah, let bygones be bygones and all that - it’s the new year!

The relationship between independent hotels and OTAs has always been rather tetchy, but OTAs aren’t going anywhere and with the latter stages of the calendar year hopefully making you feel more reflective, now is the time to get back in touch with your OTA reps.

If you don’t hear from them regularly, be proactive and seek out their help. For all you know, there could be much better ways to manage your listing and there might even be new tools you can use to optimise your presence on such sites which could result in better placements.

Make 2020 the year you foster a healthy relationship with the OTAs you rely on. Challenge them but accept their help when it’s offered. Combined with a conversion-tastic hotel website (see tip above), this is the best strategy for a stellar online presence that will result in plenty of profitable bookings.

Wrapping up

What’s your hotelier new year’s resolution? What have we missed?

Tell us what you’ll be doing next year to bring in more bookings and draw guests away from the big-name competition by commenting below!

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Welcome Anywhere has over 30 years of experience in helping independent hoteliers deliver guests an unforgettable experience with its simple property management system that controls your daily activities. The best part -  it’s all cloud hosted! We develop scalable solutions for your property such as PMS, a Booking Engine and Channel Manager. Our team has a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry and we serve you to better serve your guests.

Call us today at + 44 (0) 33 0100 1090, or email us at sales@welcomeanywhere.com. We will be happy to walk you through Welcome Anywhere’s all-in-one solution for your property management needs.

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GDS guide for hotels | hotel booking systems

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. 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. 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 without further ado, here's a quick GDS guide for hotels.

So… how does the GDS work?

Connect PMS and channel manager to GDS | hotel software uk

Good question!

There are countless travel industry professionals out there whose 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?

GDS increases hotel brand awareness | management system for hotels london

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 are 4 reasons you need the GDS!

Okay, 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 are four 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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Welcome Anywhere has over 30 years of experience in helping independent hoteliers deliver guests an unforgettable experience with its simple property management system that controls your daily activities. The best part -  it’s all cloud hosted! We develop scalable solutions for your property such as PMS, a Booking Engine and Channel Manager. Our team has a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry and we serve you to better serve your guests.

 

Call us today at + 44 (0) 33 0100 1090, or email us at sales@welcomeanywhere.com. We will be happy to walk you through Welcome Anywhere’s all-in-one solution for your property management needs.

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5 tips for maximising direct bookings in 2020 | hotel software uk

Hosted by TripTease, the Direct Booking Summit is now in its second year and is the first event of its kind devoted to helping hoteliers increase the number of direct bookings they receive.

The fact direct booking now has its own summit is a clear indication of how big a challenge it is for hoteliers (particularly independents) to drive bookings through their own websites as opposed to the commission-based alternatives.

The good news? If you’re an independent hotelier, there are five things you can do in 2020 to maximise your direct bookings - and they’re easier than you might think!

1. A blatantly-obvious online booking button

new website design for your hotel | hotel management software uk

We’ve offered this tip so many times in the past, but there’s no harm in reiterating it.

When you have a new website designed for your hotel, it’s easy to get lost in everything but the most important element - the call-to-action (CTA).

For a hotel, that’s the ‘book now’ button, courtesy of modern online hotel booking systems. If yours can’t be found immediately (i.e. without scrolling, or pinching to zoom on your phone [see tip 5]), you’re missing out on direct bookings - simple.

2. Nail the user experience

hotel industry tips | management systems for hotels london

A beautiful website isn’t necessarily a functional website or one that’s a pleasure to use.

Given the visual nature of this industry, we’ve seen far too many hotel websites where there has been too much time spent on the design, leaving the user experience to chance.

You need beautiful, original imagery and video if you’re to engage potential guests, but you also need to make it easy for them to navigate. Here’s our user experience golden rules:

  • Make it easy to book (see tip 1)
  • Put all of the important information within the upper-third of each page
  • Create a simple, clear menu

That’s it. Easy, right?

3. Make security a priority

5 tips for maximising your hotel's direct bookings in 2020 | hotel booking systems

Understandably, there’s a lot of nervousness about data protection and cybercrime these days, and your hotel website needs to give its visitors the confidence to hang around.

You can do this by investing in a PCI-compliant online booking system for their credit card payments, and by ensuring that you have an ‘https’ security certificate for the website. The latter displays the little padlock icon in most browsers and is an industry-standard form of security.

These little things will add credibility to your brand and encourage people to hang around long enough to book.

4. Rate parity

rate parity to maximise direct bookings | hotel upselling

If you’re advertising rates higher or lower on your website compared to the OTAs, you’ll be both breaking their rules and confusing guests.

Sound odd? Not really. Guests want transparent pricing, and finding multiple prices for the same room at the same hotel across multiple websites including your own doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Why are they different?

If you have price parity across all of your online channels, the choice of booking method for the guest will usually come down to whichever website they land on when they’re at the buying stage of the customer journey. If yours keeps them engaged and makes it easy to book, why would they head back to an OTA?

5. Mobile compatibility

5 tips for maximising direct bookings in 2020 | hotel booking systems

Test your hotel website on your mobile phone.

Most of the people who visit your website will do so on their smartphone. And that means everything should auto-adjust to fit any screen size, while keeping that all important CTA (re-read tip 1!) front-and-centre.

Whats the experience like? Painful?

You’re missing out on direct bookings!

Wrapping up

You’ll never achieve 100% direct bookings for your hotel. If you do, we’d love to hear from you.

But you won’t - sorry.

That doesn’t matter though, because by using our tips above, you’ll significantly increase the portion that originate from your own website and in turn establish a brand that people want to return to again and again.

___

 

Welcome Anywhere has over 30 years of experience in helping independent hoteliers deliver guests an unforgettable experience with its simple property management system that controls your daily activities. The best part -  it’s all cloud hosted! We develop scalable solutions for your property such as PMS, a Booking Engine and Channel Manager. Our team has a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry and we serve you to better serve your guests.

Call us today at + 44 (0) 33 0100 1090, or email us at sales@welcomeanywhere.com. We will be happy to walk you through Welcome Anywhere’s all-in-one solution for your property management needs.

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5 reasons to change your hotel PMS

The signs that you need to change your hotel’s property management system (PMS) aren’t always that obvious. This is because your hotel PMS is a tool which is deeply embedded within your operation, and even if it’s gradually falling apart by the seams, staff will probably accept its increasing number of foibles and assume that’s just how it’s going to be for the foreseeable future.

That’s just not good enough. And not on your team’s part, either; if your PMS is slowly dying or increasingly out of step with modern guest expectations, it’s no longer doing the job for which it was purchased.

Here’s five common but often hard to identify reasons that you need to change your hotel PMS.

1. Your staff are frustrated with your current PMS

reasons to change your hotel PMS | hotel booking systems

Why does it crash every time you click on the arrivals list? Why on earth do you have to keep doing that really complicated workaround just to place a deposit on a future booking?

If members of the team are continually shouting at the PMS or banging their fists on the table in frustration when it doesn’t act as it should, don’t assume it’s because they’re using it incorrectly or need training. While that might be the case, there could be something much worse at play.

Speak to the team and find out what it is that frustrates them the most about the PMS.

2. You’re still updating OTA sites manually (and you hate life because of it)

update OTAs automatically | hotel software uk

It’s the task on your daily to-do list that you’re always pushing to the bottom. It’s tiresome, laborious and nearly always results in you making mistakes because you just can’t be bothered.

In 2019 and beyond there’s absolutely no reason at all to update OTAs with rates and availability manually. Your PMS should connect directly to the likes of Booking.com and Expedia and do all of the hard work when it comes to ensuring every website knows how many rooms you have free and what your latest rates are. It should sort out the incoming bookings for you, too, thus removing any chance of the dreaded double booking.

If it doesn’t do any of this, you need to find a hotel PMS with a brilliant channel manager.

3. Another guest has complained about the bottle of wine they didn’t drink

modern PMS benefits | hotel upselling

Not again!

How many times this week have guests complained about their room bill or queried certain items on it? And how often are those transactions related to the bar or restaurant?

Chances are, this is because you’re still manually transferring charges from the F&B side of the business to room accounts. Did you know there’s a much better way of doing this that pretty much eradicates human error?

A modern PMS should be able to connect to a host of POS systems. In doing so, it’ll enable bar staff to automatically post food and drink bills to room accounts. Some will even transfer across the POS sales data into your main PMS accounts reports! This will increase your hotel upselling opportunities and ensure you maximise revenue on every guest's stay.

Imagine that…

4. Very few guests bother to return

build great guest relationships | hotel management software uk

Tempting guests to return to your hotel isn’t easy, even if they had a brilliant stay with you the first time around.

In order to build great relationships with your customers that result in plenty of return bookings, you need to nurture them with email marketing and personalised guest correspondence.

Can your hotel PMS send pre- and post-stay emails and SMS messages automatically? Are you able to export a list of customers that can then be imported into a modern email marketing tool?

More importantly: are you making it easy to book directly on your website?

If the answer is “no” to any of those questions, it’s time to get a new PMS - it’s that important.

5. Your competitors are wiping the floor with you

modern pms competitors | hotel booking systems

What gives? Your competitors’ room prices seem to flex more than yours and, as a result, they appear to know the secret sauce that draws in more guests.

Why can’t you do the same? And why do you never really know what level to set your room prices at?

Guess what - your competitors are probably using modern PMSs that enable them to flex rates strategically based on market conditions and work from actionable, insightful data about past performance.

Do you really want to be lagging behind because your system is no longer up to scratch?

Wrapping up

The best news? Property management systems no longer cost an arm and a leg. Well, some do, but choose the right one and you’ll pay a manageable monthly fee that enables every staff member to use the system no matter where they are or what device they have to hand.

Is it time you replaced your PMS?

___

 

Welcome Anywhere has over 30 years of experience in helping independent hoteliers deliver guests an unforgettable experience with its simple property management system that controls your daily activities. The best part -  it’s all cloud hosted! We develop scalable solutions for your property such as PMS, a Booking Engine and Channel Manager. Our team has a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry and we serve you to better serve your guests.

Call us today at + 44 (0) 33 0100 1090, or email us at sales@welcomeanywhere.com. We will be happy to walk you through Welcome Anywhere’s all-in-one solution for your property management needs.

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