A Day In the Life of an Online Traveler

By John Federman CEO, eStara | January 27, 2012

It's happened to all of us. You wake up on a beautiful Saturday and head out to run a few errands with the intention of spending the rest of the day with friends or family. However, by the time you are finished at the hardware store, picking up the groceries, finding a new suit for next week's big meeting, and stopping to chat with your child's teacher who you saw outside the store, not only is your entire day gone, but also you are exhausted.

The frustrations felt by today's online traveler is quite analogous. Between booking a flight and hotel, and making dinner and theater reservations in an unfamiliar town, the process is both time consuming and difficult.

To ease the challenges inherent in travel planning, many hotel executives are beginning to view their Web sites as more than sales and branding tools, but as a resource for loyal customers and prospective bookers. In doing so, they're keeping customers on their sites for an extended period, creating cross-selling opportunities and generating incremental sales.

Hotels chains are doing a better job these days of creating a consistent look and feel throughout their Web sites and providing information about locations, rates and availability. Aside from information about your hotel, it's important to think about adding incremental value to customers via your site. One area that is ripe for improvement is the delivery of personalized content to your customers. Hotels have only scratched the surface of offering virtual concierge services that give customers a vague notion of what they can do and see while in town.

Currently, guests spend an average of 10-15 minutes with a concierge to accomplish these tasks, and maybe one of the nights they stay they make a reservation on their own. Even if you have a great concierge, most people would prefer to work out the details before they arrive, rather than waste time on their trip standing in line and spending time explaining what they are looking for, and then waiting some more while the concierge determines whether there is availability at an event.

You might be thinking, "it would be great to have more details about each local area where my hotels are located, but that seems like a lot of time, money and effort to generate and update that type of content." With today's emerging technologies, however, it could not be easier. Technology can help tap the two largest sources of local knowledge that each hotel branch has: its employees and its guests.

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. 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.