The Impact of the Internet on Hotel Operations

By Connie Rheams Global Business Development, Altiuspar | January 27, 2012

The Internet has caused massive change in the hotel industry-new technologies, new competitors and newly-empowered customers have fundamentally altered the face of our business. But massive change can also bring opportunity.

Much has been written about how the Internet-and the rise of online travel sites-has been a boon to the consumer, but what about the impact to the hotelier?

It really boils down to two things: complexity and control.

Complexity

There is no question that the Internet has brought about incredible changes in the way we live our lives. Today we can buy a car, pay bills, listen to music-even find a spouse!-all using the Internet. This newfound power has dramatically changed the way we interact, both professionally and personally. And it's had a tremendous impact on the hotel industry.

Fifteen years ago it would have been unthinkable for a hotelier to ask the question "who is my customer?" or to consider that there was any question at all as to who "owns" that customer. But that is entirely different today. The rise of online travel sites, the sheer availability of information and the ubiquity of technology have given customers options they never had before, and, with those options, a whole new world of pressures for the hotelier. There are new players, new tools, new issues and, most importantly, new risks and opportunities.

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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.