The Online Property Tour - Is your website just a Billboard on the Information Superhighway?

By Douglas Aurand President, Douglas Aurand & Associates | January 27, 2012

The call to the Sales Department comes in, "Hello, I'd like some information about having a wedding reception for 200 people at your hotel." Now you have to convince the bride-to-be your hotel is "thee" place to hold her reception, before she asks you to mail her one of your banquet menu/info packages and moves on calling her list of your competitors for their banquet menu/info packages.

Or the other sales call, "This is James Black with the Really Big Corporation, we're looking for a place to hold our annual convention." Again, you've got seconds, maybe minutes, to make him decide you're the only choice, or at least get on his Top 10 list.

Of course your Reservationists have this challenge every day, like trying to upsell a suite to an anniversary couple, "What's the difference between your $85 suite and your $125 suite?" was the question in the famous "Think Strawberries" speech by James Lavenson of the Plaza Hotel, New York, NY. Can your reservationists do better than the "Forty Dollars" answer Lavenson got in 1975?

There wouldn't be a problem if you could magically transport one of your brochures over the telephone or if they were visiting your property. Sales or Reservations would just take them on a Property Tour. You'd show the bride-to-be (mother of the bride and maid of honor in tow) the Ballroom. The Convention Planner would get to see the Ballroom, BreakOut Rooms and Registration Area. Reservations would get room keys and show both of the suites, pointing out your gourmet dining room on the way to the elevators. Did I forget to mention the couple are planning a romantic dinner, too?

The good news is, it is possible to send your brochure over phone lines and take a potential customer on a long distance property tour. All it takes is a well-planned website and a Virtual Tour.

With 72% of Home Internet Users and even more Business Internet Users having Broadband*, talking on the phone and surfing the 'Net at the same time is becoming common. Many home offices that still have Dial-Up, often have a phone line that the computer and fax machine share in addition to the "voice line." The Sales Staff and Reservationists just need to learn the phrase "Can you get on the Internet while we're on the phone?" If the answer is "yes," just guide them to your website; "If you'll just type www.OurGreatHotel.com in the Address Field of your web browser and press Enter, you'll be on our website."

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Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.