Travel 2.0: Power Tools to Build Your Business

By Kristi White Director of Revenue Optimization, TravelCLICK, Inc. | September 02, 2010

In Travel 2.0, additional sites such as TripAdvisor, Google Maps, Virtual Tourist, and TravelPost empower consumers with interactive tools to research hotels and plan their trips, comment on their recent stays, and interact with other like-minded consumers. Savvy hospitality operators are embracing all aspects of Travel 2.0-and beyond-because of its ability to drive business, build community, and empower guests.

The power of Travel 2.0 to grow your business is enormous, especially in today's digital economy. A recent survey by Forrester Research found that, when faced with a recession, more than 40 percent of marketers would increase spending on strategies that help make personal connections with customers. Travel 2.0 does exactly that.

What are the best ways to leverage it? Here are five strategies:

1. See yourself as others see you.

Over 70 percent of shoppers today are influenced by consumer comments and ratings when purchasing; hoteliers can use the power of user-generated content (UGC) to their advantage. Provide a forum for guests to post comments or "trip sharing" ideas directly to your website. Turn the chatter into marketing intelligence. Find out what guests are saying about your hotel on travel sites, chat rooms, and blogs-and how you can respond effectively to their comments, positive and negative. Many options are available to post guest reviews. Some consumer review sites offer a 'widget' that enables you to pull content on your hotel and link it back to the third-party site. Keep in mind that these tools will link to all comments, which could be problematic if your hotel receives any negative reviews. A better option is to use a tool that lets you receive guest reviews from multiple sites and gives you the power to serve as a publisher, selecting the reviews you want to post. Again, positive reviews on your site will build consumers' confidence as they weigh the option to book with you. At the same time, including some select not-so-glowing reviews is recommended to build your site's credibility.

In addition to providing insight about your own properties, have you thought of the competitive information you can gain from consumer reviews? Read your competitors' reviews from the vantage point of how to use their shortcomings to your advantage. An ongoing S.W.O.T. analysis will provide insight for your marketing plan, service culture, and capital planning, enabling you to compete more aggressively. Tools are now available to track public comments across multiple sites and make the analysis a part of your normal business process.

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Coming up in May 2018...

Eco-Friendly Practices: The Greening of Your Bottom Line

There are strong moral and ethical reasons why a hotel should incorporate eco-friendly practices into their business but it is also becoming abundantly clear that “going green” can dramatically improve a hotel's bottom line. When energy-saving measures are introduced - fluorescent bulbs, ceiling fans, linen cards, lights out cards, motion sensors for all public spaces, and energy management systems - energy bills are substantially reduced. When water-saving equipment is introduced - low-flow showerheads, low-flow toilets, waterless urinals, and serving water only on request in restaurants - water bills are also considerably reduced. Waste hauling is another major expense which can be lowered through recycling efforts and by avoiding wastefully-packaged products. Vendors can be asked to deliver products in minimal wrapping, and to deliver products one day, and pick up the packaging materials the next day - generating substantial savings. In addition, renewable sources of energy (solar, geothermal, wind, etc.) have substantially improved the economics of using alternative energies at the property level. There are other compelling reasons to initiate sustainability practices in their operation. Being green means guests and staff are healthier, which can lead to an increase in staff retention, as well as increased business from health conscious guests. Also, sooner or later, all properties will be sold, and green hotels will command a higher price due to its energy efficiencies. Finally, some hotels qualify for tax credits, subsidies and rebates from local, regional and federal governments for the eco-friendly investments they've made in their hotels. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document how some hotels are integrating sustainable practices into their operations and how their hotels are benefiting from them.