From the Other Side: A look at How Guests View Rate Distribution & Online Experiences with Hotels

By Drew Rosser VP of Business Development, Whiteboard Labs | January 29, 2012

This certainly isn't the time to be confusing to your online shoppers. You must be clear about your rate structure and show added value when it's being offered. Show your hotel in its best light with good images, creative, clear rate and room type description copy.

With so many options out there these days for people to search for and book hotel rooms there's no wonder why so many would be travelers get confused when doing their online research. There are nearly as many sites out there to book a hotel as there are rooms at the hotel. Between the hotel's own site, online travel agencies, destination specific sites, an online shopper can easily get confused. So why make matters worse with a confusing convoluted rate structure, poor room type images and bad descriptive copy?

I think one of the main things hotels lose sight of when putting together a revenue management strategy is their source of the revenue, the actual hotel guest. Keep in mind despite the seasoned leisure and business traveler most people have no idea what a Rack Rate is or what the difference is between a Standard Rate, Best Available Rate, Promo Rate, Corporate Rate and so on. Use language that is understandable by the general public, be truthful and use good images to show off your rooms.

Think of it like this; you go to the grocery store to buy a gallon of milk. In the milk aisle you have a number of suppliers to choose from. Think of these as various hotels. Then within each supplier you have different types of milk: 1%, 2%, whole, organic and in some cases chocolate. These are your rooms. Each gallon is priced based on the type of milk. However, just imagine if you found your desired supplier, type of milk and you noticed that there were two identical gallons of milk, same expiration date and same type of milk, 2% organic but the cost for each one was different. Why?

Hotel guests get into the very same shopping scenario when looking for rooms. Same room, same arrival and check out dates but a list of rates. All different prices and no real clear cut explanation as to why. Even worse you'll see a number of different rates all at the same rate value.

Nomenclature as defined on Wikipedia; "can refer to a system of names or terms, or the rules used for forming the names, as used by an individual or community... " Hotels are a community amongst themselves but stop using hotel speak when you create your rates that will be displayed to the general public. Say what it is, Best Available Rate, really it should be, Corporate Rate Includes Breakfast, slightly higher than your BAR but it includes breakfast each morning. Be clear about the added value. Make sense to a shopper. Restricted Rates, AAA, AARP, Government...be very clear about these rates. Make sure in your rate description you state that "ID is required at check in." If these rates are exactly the same value as say your Best Available Rate then remove them from your booking engine.

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Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.