Online Merchandising: The Secret to Selling More Hotel Rooms Online

By Paolo Boni President & Chief Executive Officer, VFM Leonardo, Inc. | January 27, 2012

Don't let the title of this article mislead you - what hoteliers need to do to sell hotel rooms online is no secret. It's all about better merchandising with content that inspires and motivates shoppers to book. More than just rates, inventory and driving traffic to a booking engine, selling hotel rooms online involves making engaging, detailed visual and written content available to travel shoppers on all the digital channels they use throughout the shopping journey.

Online channels are where hoteliers need to focus their efforts

More than 1 billion people use the internet every day and 91% of US online buyers state that researching online makes them feel more confident about their purchases.(1) The internet offers the simplest way for consumers to find and compare hotels. It also produces the best marketing return-on-investment. It's time for hoteliers who aren't exploiting online channels to make that commitment.

Visual merchandising needs to be added to every hotelier's online strategy

In addition to online marketing and merchandising activities by chains, brands, representation companies, etc., individual hotel properties and management companies need to add one more thing to their list of online strategies: visual merchandising. A successful online strategy should be focused on both driving traffic to websites, but also converting it when they arrive. SEO, PPC and many Social Media activities are primarily focused on driving traffic and creating awareness online, while visual merchandising is what helps convert traffic and close the sale.

As the travel industry recovers, the hotels that will lead the way are the ones that embrace online merchandising now

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.