Sales & Marketing: Who Owns the Guest?

Hotels and OTAs are, by necessity, joined at the hip and locked in a symbiotic relationship that is uneasy at best. Hotels require the marketing presence that OTAs offer and of course, OTAs need hotel product to offer their online customers. But recently, several OTAs have decided to no longer share a guest's email when it sends guest information to a hotel, effectively allowing OTAs to maintain “ownership” of the guest. Without ready access to guest data, hotels are severely constrained from marketing directly to a guest which allows them to capture repeat business - the lowest cost and highest value travelers. Hotels also require this data to effectively market to previous guests, so ownership of this data will be a significant factor as hotels and OTAs move forward. Another issue is the increasing shift to mobile travel bookings. Mobile will account for more than half of all online travel bookings next year, and 78.6% of them will use their smartphone to make those reservations. As a result, hotels must have a robust mobile marketing plan in place, which means responsive design, one-click booking, and location technology. Another important mobile marketing element is a “Click-to-Call” feature. According to a recent Google survey, 68% of hotel guests report that it is extremely/very important to be able to call a hotel during the purchase phase, and 58% are very likely to call a hotel if the capability is available in a smartphone search. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.

Library Archives

Scott Weiler

A guest of a hotel or chain books with an OTA. Terrific for everyone, right? The OTA is grateful for the transaction, and hopes to get a nice share of that customer’s travel bookings for years to come. The hotel is happy to get a (let’s say) first time guest. Sure, they paid a commission for that booking, but the GM and their team is ready to do their stuff. Which is to say – deliver a great stay experience. Now what? Now it’s a battle of the marketers! READ MORE

Mustafa Menekse

Though it seems that online travel agencies have been a part of the hotel booking landscape for eons, the reality is that just 25 years ago, brick and mortar travel agencies were the norm. Travelers would visit an agency for trip planning advice, printed brochures, and to speak with actual travel agents to assist in booking airfare, hotel accommodations and rental cars. Travel agencies had the knowledge and information about the destination and, of course, the tools and connections to book hotels and flights to begin with. The support these agencies provided put traveler’s minds at ease, especially for international trips. This was the foundation of why OTAs are in existence. READ MORE

Wendy Blaney

In a world where almost everything is done digitally, it is important to remember how impactful a two-way conversation can be for consumers interested in booking travel. There is no denying that it has become easier and easier to plan trips online, and purchase products almost instantly – yet there are still many customers who want the personal touch and assurance that they truly understand what it is that they are buying. They want someone to provide direction, answer questions, and give them “insider” information. This is especially true for a dynamic destination like Atlantis where there are an abundance of options. Our guests aren’t just interested in a resort, they are seeking a coveted, catered experience. READ MORE

Emanuel Baudart

A guest’s social media is an opportunity for hotels to work better and more efficiently to target and enhance the guest experience. Coupling the data that guests give through social media with the data we have from years of growing AccorHotels, we are focusing on using the right tools to best access the guest. At AccorHotels, we are moving away from the transactional model of hospitality and focusing on building relationships through social engagement and bolstering the benefits of our loyalty program. In order to do both, we’ve invested in building better tools for our hotels to succeed on the promise of hospitality – great service, attention and comfort. READ MORE

Tara K. Gorman

When guests checks into a hotel, there are plenty to mechanisms to protect their physical “stuff”, but how can they be sure that their personal information is protected? This is the question hotel owners and operators are keenly focused on in the aftermath of cybersecurity breaches in the hospitality industry. Guest Data - an Asset or a Liability in the Age of Cybersecurity? will explore whether guest data is an asset or a liability by exploring the rules and regulations that govern privacy and security, steps that hotel operations can take to ensure that they are in compliance with privacy and security requirements for guest data, and privacy considerations. READ MORE

Bill Linehan

Channel management is a practice that allows hotel companies to cast a wider net to capture more market share. How you manage various marketplaces defines your customer acquisition strategy. RLH Corporation recognizes cost of distribution differences between direct and third-party channels, and we always promote direct bookings. However, an important component of increasing direct channel traffic and conversion is to leverage OTA site traffic to promote brand awareness. RLH Corporation takes a contrarian approach to OTAs – a customer acquisition strategy where we fish where the fish are to capture, convert and retain ongoing relationships with consumers. READ MORE

Joe Currie

Being a business traveler is not about choosing between Tahiti and Maui for a dream vacation; it is about the luck of dodging an air delay and narrowly catching a few winks of sleep at a hotel before a morning meeting with a client. Business travelers do not have the luxury of choosing time or location, but they do have a choice when it comes to their hotel booking, and the entity that has the most influence over that choice in accommodation ultimately becomes the owner of it. READ MORE

Wendy Stevens

From digital room keys to wireless internet, the hospitality industry continues to embrace new tools and technologies that promise to enrich the guest experience. Advances in technology also open up possibilities behind the scenes for hospitality sales and marketing professionals—online booking services, social media channels, and hotel review sites are reshaping the sales and marketing landscape in important ways. But are all of those changes necessarily a good thing? Are there limitations to the power of technology, and inherent trade-offs and compromises that need to be taken into account? READ MORE

Donna Brokowski

The relationship between business travel buyers (the customer), the travel management company (TMC), and hotels has evolved since the beginning of travel management into one of interdependency. The hotelier must understand the TMC/customer relationship in order for hotels to work more effectively with TMCs to establish, build, and maintain their relationships with the customer. READ MORE

Amber Fox

Not too long ago, I was researching for a presentation that I needed to deliver during an annual conference for a major hotel brand. The topic was networking and this brand had seen a drop in personal interactive skills of staff at all levels. People in all roles – front desk, sales, even managers and owners - were losing their ability to connect with others due to their reliance on electronic tools. Being in the world of hospitality, where a premium should be placed on service and relationships, this void was seen as critical. READ MORE

Allyson Fredeen

Upon graduating from Colorado State University’s department of Design & Merchandising in 2004, I had no idea that my undergrad learnings would come into play during my hospitality career, over a decade later. Nor did I realize I would depart from the fashion/retail industry for the hotel business. I will always remember one of my professor’s lectures on what merchandising really is: having the right product, at the right time, in the right place. It sounds quite simple, but putting this philosophy into action is more complex. READ MORE

Toni Portmann

In the ongoing power struggle between hotels and online travel agencies, one question that often emerges is, “Who owns the guest?” It’s a question that will likely be debated for years, and grow even more complicated as new players continue to enter the online travel arena. The answer, DHISCO CEO Toni Portmann, argues, is “no one and everyone.” And rather than argue over who should have access to customer email and other information, she says, they should look to new technology for managing rates and inventory and sharing richer content as the bridge to more amicable relationships. READ MORE

Akshay Ramanathan

While the distribution reach of OTAs is extensive, their effectiveness and value are increasingly questionable. Hotels are provided assurances that their products will reach an end consumer, but this comes at a hefty cost. Technology provides an avenue to dramatically lower that cost of customer acquisition, and hotels must realize that there are more options available than ever before to help them to take ownership of and maintain control over their guests' experience. Developing and maintaining an effective technology stack plays a critical role in that process. The “tech stack” as it is often described refers to the myriad of hardware and software that work together to manage various aspects of the hotel business. Hotels that place greater emphasis on understanding the variety of applications available to them, how they work together, and how to use them more effectively, will be better positioned to win business directly from the guest. READ MORE

H. Stuart Foster

Like never before, marketers are competing for attention. Snapchat Spectacles, Instagram Stories, 360-degree videos and Facebook Live are all helping fill consumers’ free time. So, as marketers, how do we use all the data now available to figure out how to get the right stories out on social media, smartphones, tablets and other channels? And how do we make our content interesting enough to compete with the fad du jour occupying people’s minds? I challenge myself and my team to think about three key means to earn attention in today’s marketplace. READ MORE

Sapna Mehta Mangal

The 21st century discerning digital native traveler can be clearly characterized as hyper connected, better informed, and technology savvy. In this “Age of I” hotel brands need to gain a competitive edge by taking heed of these guests and making them feel interconnected. The next frontier is undoubtedly clear and real. This write up will focus on three marketing trends that need attention and if executed can be of grave value to any hotel businesses’ marketing efforts. Mobile marketing platforms, predictive analytics strategies and contextual marketing tactics are new hotel marketing frontiers. Hoteliers cannot lose sight of these in the next decade. READ MORE

Henry Woodman

The booking shift to mobile in the travel industry raises questions on how marketers can adjust their strategies to reach a mobile audience. This in conjunction with quickly evolving virtual reality technology opens doors for travel marketers to make an impact and get ahead of their competition. Using VR to enhance mobile websites, apps and advertising can increase mobile bookings and raise brand awareness and credibility. READ MORE

Coming up in March 2018...

Human Resources: Value Creation

Businesses must evolve to stay competitive and this is also true of employment positions within those organizations. In the hotel industry, for example, the role that HR professionals perform continues to broaden and expand. Today, they are generally responsible for five key areas - government compliance; payroll and benefits; employee acquisition and retention; training and development; and organizational structure and culture. In this enlarged capacity, HR professionals are no longer seen as part of an administrative cost center, but rather as a member of the leadership team that creates strategic value within their organization. HR professionals help to define company policies and plans; enact and enforce systems of accountability; and utilize definable metrics to measure and justify outcomes. Of course, there are always new issues for HR professionals to address. Though seemingly safe for the moment, will the Affordable Care Act ultimately be repealed and replaced and, if so, what will the ramifications be? There are issues pertaining to Millennials in the workforce and women in leadership roles, as well as determining the appropriate use of social media within the organization. There are new onboarding processes and e-learning training platforms to evaluate, in addition to keeping abreast of political issues like the minimum wage hike movement, or the re-evaluation of overtime rules. Finally, there are genuine immigration and deportation issues that affect HR professionals, especially if they are located in Dreamer Cities, or employ a workforce that could be adversely impacted by federal government policies. The March Hotel Business Review will take a look at some of the issues, strategies and techniques that HR professionals are employing to create and sustain value in their organization.