Sales & Marketing: Opinions Matter

Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors manage a complex mix of strategies to attract and convert customers into guests. Part of their expertise includes an awareness of customer behavior during the reservation process, so they can make sure their hotel is favorably positioned. One such trend is the growing popularity of travel review sites. According to one recent survey, 61% of prospective customers consult online reviews in order to validate information about the hotel before making a purchasing decision. Another survey found that the average hotel customer reads between 6-12 reviews across 4-10 properties before making a final decision on where to stay. Similarly, other studies have shown that consumer reviews are a more trusted source of information for prospective customers than other kinds of marketing messaging. In fact, reviews are often considered to be as influential as price regarding whether a customer decides to complete a purchase or not. Plus, travel sites with the most reviews - including recent reviews from satisfied customers and thoughtful responses from staff - were also found to be the most appealing. So having positive reviews on a travel website is essential and can help to increase a hotel's conversion rates dramatically. Of course, there are all kinds of additional marketing strategies for sales and marketing directors to consider - the importance of video and the emergence of live streaming; the implementation of voice search; the proliferation of travel bots; and the development of Instagram as an e-commerce platform. 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.

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Janelle Schwartz

Now that online guest reviews are an established feature of both brand.com and OTA booking sites – led by TripAdvisor, Google and Expedia – successful hoteliers are taking a more strategic approach to guest opinions. They understand that crafting appropriate responses to reviews is a high-level responsibility that should not be automated or delegated to junior staff members without proper guidance. These hoteliers subscribe to the opinion that standard responses should be banished. READ MORE

R.J. Friedlander

Online reputation has a direct effect on hotel bookings and revenue. Many hoteliers have discovered that promptly responding to reviews has a positive impact on a hotel’s online reputation. Online guest reviews cannot be modified or changed once they are written, nevertheless, responding to them is still very important and impacts the perception of your brand and ultimately reservations. This article will look at how to create an effective response strategy, so you can leverage the power of reviews and boost your conversion rates. We will also provide insight into the approach taken by two well-known hotel brands when responding to reviews. READ MORE

Michael Markarians

The hospitality industry is changing in ways we never saw coming. Thanks to Millennials who don't travel like their predecessors coupled with growing competition from disruptors in the sharing economy, all players in the travel arena need to up their game with new concepts and innovation in order to not just stay relevant, but profitable, too. Hotel sales departments need to completely change the way they've done business previously in order to have success selling to this new generation of traveler. Technology and experiences are key, but we also can't risk losing sight of compassion and creating relationships. READ MORE

Mary Gendron

Embedded in the travel-buying decision making process is consideration of online reviews. Led by the mother of all travel review sites - TripAdvisor - these resources provide a platform for individuals to post direct comments about their experiences in specific hotels and resorts. Smart owners and operators are embracing the major review sites, gleaning information that gives them an understanding of the guest experience - good, bad or indifferent - and serves as a barometer for answering the question: “How are we doing?” This article provides an overview of the main review sites and their influence, offering recommendations for responding to reviews. READ MORE

Taryn Holowka

Hotels face many considerations when deciding to go green, but with more than five billion square feet of space in the United States alone, the hospitality industry represents an enormous sustainability opportunity. Hotels are poised to transform the market by creating healthy, smart, efficient, responsive, resilient, and above all else, sustainable buildings. Despite these positive shifts in the green hotel market, there are many myths that prevent hotels from incorporating green practices. Hotels may be operationally intense, but that also means there are significant opportunities in changing the way we all operate our hotels, making them greener and more efficient. READ MORE

Drew Hamilton

The hotel industry is uniquely positioned to help reduce the use of plastic water bottles and lead the charge in the responsible consumption of drinking water. In fact, many hoteliers have already diverted millions of single serve, plastic water bottles from landfills and waterways. With hundreds of millions of room nights sold each year, the hospitality sector plays host to a global audience for whom it can lead by example; very few other industries wield this level of influence. With its tremendous buying power, hotel groups have the unique ability to reshape the market and demand that suppliers deliver eco-friendly solutions that contribute to global sustainability. READ MORE

Susan Tinnish

Artificial intelligence (AI) has advanced to make it viable in businesses applications due to computing power, availability of data and underlying technologies (digitization, analytics, big data, deep learning). While AI is currently present in the hotel industry, applications are often focused on customer experience leaving opportunity for the industry to employ AI in central business processes like revenue management and demand forecasting. This article examines AI efforts in sales across industries to see where the hotel industry can adopt, and summarizes approaches for the hotel industry to prepare to integrate AI into sales functions. READ MORE

Sarah Lipton

Westin is the wellness leader in the hospitality space. As the global demand for well-being evolves, Westin continues to develop new programming and experiences in lockstep with consumer lifestyle trends. Most recently, this has meant innovation around sustainability and the relationship between philanthropy and well-being, all with the ultimate goal of inspiring change in the hospitality industry more broadly. Westin's new campaign, Project Rise: ThreadForward, is an unprecedented sustainability initiative that collects, processes, and reweaves hotel bed linens into thousands of pairs of children's pajamas, closely aligning with Westin's belief that sleep and giving back are two core elements of wellness. READ MORE

Jennifer Nagy

More Visibility = More Sales. It's really that simple. This simple principle is why PR is the best way to affect real change in your current sales conversion rate; it is a marketing tool that is designed specifically to increase awareness of your company in the hotel industry. It gets you in front of the people who might, one day soon, be your first customer (or your 500th!). This article will provide you with the ONLY two marketing tactics that start-ups need to boost sales of their tech solution to hotels today! READ MORE

Brenda Sandoval Valdes

Before, luxury hotels were defined in a simple rating system consisting of one to five stars. As today's consumer and the technology that consumer uses evolves, so too does the very definition of “luxury.” According to a report published by Skift Trends and the International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM), the upscale travel sector is experiencing challenges to offer high-end customers the ever- growing facets that comprise of a luxury travel experience. The most challenging aspect of marketing a luxury travel experience is that every consumer has a different definition of what luxury really means. READ MORE

Shawna Suckow

Do you feel the undercurrent of change that's taking place in our industry? While it may be a seller's market and things are robust right now, buyers are changing how they connect, and how they buy - and making prospecting much more difficult than ever before. It may not seem like a big deal now, when the market is at record highs. But when the tide turns - and it always does - back to a buyer's market, will you be prepared for the new age of buyer behavior? READ MORE

Sherry Heyl

Recent studies show that brands using automation software have seen 80% growth in lead generation and 77% increase in conversion. The numbers suggest that automation software is great for the bottom line, but is it a great experience for your guests? Good automation should make your more effective. It will free up some time while not compromising the authenticity of your engagement. Take the time needed to be spent tracking the interactions and results of automated engagements, improving results and optimizing the opportunities for the personal touch. READ MORE

Jay Hartz

As Baby Boomers retire, Millennials are moving into key positions in the workplace involving business travel. So how do you attract and retain their attention? Artificial Intelligence is one technology being deployed to target this generation of tech-savvy managers who essentially had tablets or smart phones in their crib. From augmented reality and voice search (think Amazon's “Alexa”) to chatbots, the ability to provide instantaneous responses leveraging continually evolving technology is going to be one of the key ways the hospitality industry stays current with a generation who breaks the mold when it comes to consumption of pretty much everything. READ MORE

Mark Ricketts

Hospitality sales and marketing requires much more than a sharp website or attractive brochure, as valuable as those items are. Through embracing a comprehensive approach to sales and marketing, hospitality organizations can identify and build new user groups, while differentiating oneself from the competition. These initiatives include forging relationships with local business, nonprofit and charitable groups, as well as public service departments; and encouraging and supporting the volunteer work of staff members. These efforts can help drive occupancy and revenues and enhance brand awareness. READ MORE

Zoe Connolly

Technologies like the internet of things (IoT) and Amazon's Alexa are poised to increase guest expectations and disrupt operation in ways that many hoteliers haven't yet considered. Bots, location-based services are generally understood as technologies that will directly impact properties, but one area that seems likely to disrupted in the near future is the hiring process, where managers will need to strike a balance between hiring for attitude, and hiring for tech-savvy. READ MORE

Coming up in July 2018...

Hotel Spa: Oasis Unplugged

The driving force in current hotel spa trends is the effort to manage unprecedented levels of stress experienced by their clients. Feeling increasingly overwhelmed by demanding careers and technology overload, people are craving places where they can go to momentarily escape the rigors of their daily lives. As a result, spas are positioning themselves as oases of unplugged human connection, where mindfulness and contemplation activities are becoming increasingly important. One leading hotel spa offers their clients the option to experience their treatments in total silence - no music, no talking, and no advice from the therapist - just pure unadulterated silence. Another leading hotel spa is working with a reputable medical clinic to develop a “digital detox” initiative, in which clients will be encouraged to unplug from their devices and engage in mindfulness activities to alleviate the stresses of excessive technology use. Similarly, other spas are counseling clients to resist allowing technology to monopolize their lives, and to engage in meditation and gratitude exercises in its place. The goal is to provide clients with a warm, inviting and tranquil sanctuary from the outside world, in addition to also providing genuine solutions for better sleep, proper nutrition, stress management and natural self-care. To accomplish this, some spas are incorporating a variety of new approaches - cryotherapy, Himalayan salt therapy and ayurveda treatments are becoming increasingly popular. Other spas are growing their own herbs and performing their treatments in lush outdoor gardens. Some spa therapists are being trained to assess a client's individual movement patterns to determine the most beneficial treatment specifically for them. The July issue of the Hotel Business Review will report on these trends and developments and examine how some hotel spas are integrating them into their operations.