Control Issues: Taking Back Your Website

By Mike Kistner President, Chief Executive Officer & Chairman of the Board, Pegasus Solutions | May 08, 2011

The hotel industry is continuing its recovery with strong growth in both global hotel revenue and bookings, according to data we're reporting in Pegasus Solutions' monthly report, The Pegasus View. Driven by demand and assisted by rate growth, leisure hotel revenue jumped nearly +15% early this year over the same period in 2010. With growth in business and leisure bookings expected through mid-year, it's more important than ever for hotels to maintain control of their websites in terms of the look (design and branding), the feel (booking process) and availability (mobile and metasearch).

Bookings to-date made online through the alternative distribution systems (ADS) show increases of more than +10% over 2010 through summer. Average daily rate (ADR) in this channel will continue a slow and steady climb, as look-to-book ratios, a product of online consumer comparisons and transaction processing inefficiency, continue to grow by over +40%.

Consumers will travel as much or more in the coming year, while a strong, but slightly smaller majority will also spend as much or more on travel than in 2010. They plan to spend, but spend wisely by shortening trips or aggressively shopping rates. Hotels would do well to examine their websites to ensure they don't risk losing any of the business or revenue to be had from this discerning shopping audience.

The Look

The website design and online booking process is the experience your hotel sells at its virtual doorstep. Today's travelers are savvy, shopping more extensively and deeper than ever before. They peruse metasearch sites, online guest reviews, Tweets, Facebook fan pages, and, most importantly, hotel websites before booking, which they're still not guaranteed to do on your site. And, even if they're not booking through your brand site, they're still visiting it during the shopping process and the trip "sharing" process, especially through social media.

The question becomes how your brand and your website is going to intelligently capture online shoppers, and provide value in visiting and booking on your site as opposed to third-party sites. It's not as simple as selling the plush beds and thread-count, but rather it's about producing unique online content, distributing it across various online platforms and engaging with perspective, current and past guests.

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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.