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Social Media Marketing in the Hotel Industry: Trends and Opportunities in 2017

Social Media Marketing in the Hotel Industry: Trends and Opportunities in 2017

Social Media Marketing in the Hotel Industry: Trends and Opportunities in 2017

As social media platforms gain traction in usage rates and become ubiquitous in day-to-day life through the proliferation of mobile devices, they are proving to be valuable marketing channels, especially when targeting younger consumers. Although several prominent hotel brands have begun to scratch the surface of utilizing these social media channels for marketing and bookings, the state of this practice in North America is in its infancy. Other technology giants around the world have already capitalized on this opportunity with their social-media, mobile-adept user base. Nonetheless, the mass adoption of digital payment in North America is likely to take place in the near future given that technology companies are actively working out the technological and legislative challenges. The advent of digital payment has the potential to create new challenges for the North American hotel industry, but with these challenges comes opportunities for those who have done their groundwork.

Hoteliers should embrace the new ways people are communicating and be ready for the changes in consumer behavior and expectations that are on the horizon. By being up to date with social media marketing trends and developing a dynamic online presence, hotel companies can quickly adapt to the disruption and achieve an early adopter advantage when attracting business from tech-savvy millennials.

Mobile Device & Social Media Growth

Globally, the number of mobile device subscriptions has seen exponential growth over the past decade. At the end of 2016, there were 4.8 billion unique mobile subscribers—65% of the world’s population. By 2020, it is estimated that there will be 5.7 billion mobile subscribers, representing a mobile phone penetration rate of 73%. The growth in mobile device usage has transformed the travel and tourism industry; travel bookings are increasingly occurring through mobile devices. Consumer engagement has begun to shift towards mobile platforms, and rightfully so; the vast reach and worldwide interconnectivity of mobile devices make them a suitable platform for commerce. As mobile device penetration rates strengthen globally, consumer engagement through this platform is only expected to strengthen.

Social media usage is likewise on the rise. Today, digital consumers are spending more time on social networks and messaging platforms than ever before. It is thus important for hotels to have a brand presence and a marketing effort on social media channels, especially since social media marketing has been proven to be more effective than traditional marketing (when utilized correctly). Social media marketing allows for two-way communication between consumers and customers; this interactive element helps companies cement a long-term consumer following. Additionally, social media marketing supports the real-time promotion of new products and services, all while yielding measurable consumer data that can be further leveraged to target, engage, and grow a base of consumers.

Popular social media networks—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat—are steadily growing on a global scale. The following chart shows the number of active users over time on each of these social media networks. Most of these social media networks have achieved stellar year-over-year growth in daily active users; the only exception is Twitter, whose user-growth trajectory seems to have plateaued. With the rapid growth in these social media channels, the pool of potential consumers that they provide access to is also growing in tandem. Significantly, all of these potential consumers are directly accessible through marketing on these channels.

Social Media Marketing in the Hotel Industry: Trends and Opportunities in 2017 | By Jimmy Quach

New Opportunities from the Rise of Consumer Sharing

Digital media is ever moving towards greater consumer empowerment and content creation given the ease with which digital media (particularly photos and videos) can be transmitted through mobile platforms and the internet. As part of sharing their own content and experiences through pictures and videos, users are also spreading digital word-of-mouth about a brand, a product, or an experience to their personal networks, which can reach a substantial audience. Geo-locational tags and brand hashtags allow user posts to be found via metadata searches, thereby increasing the reach of such posts.

Hotels can capitalize on this trend by motivating consumers to use branded hashtags or specific hashtags that are relevant to a current promotion or event. For example, Starwood hotels launched a campaign in 2016 to encourage the #SPGLife branded hashtag on Instagram. Posts with this hashtag feed into the Starwood website’s guest gallery of user-generated content, where visitors can also book a hotel room directly via a link. A simple hashtag is effective because it allows users to easily discover related content through a search filter.

Influencer Marketing

In influencer marketing, an individual’s expertise, popularity, or reputation is used to sway someone’s thoughts and purchasing behavior. Although this method of marketing has been used for decades, the rise of social media platforms that allow for user-generated content has empowered more people from all walks of life to become influencers. Additionally, social media platforms have an added a layer of measurability to influencer marketing that go beyond mere conversions/sales, such as cost per thousand impressions (CPM), inbound links, and lead growth (number of followers, social mentions, etc.). With these added metrics, businesses can more accurately identify their return on investment against marketing dollars spent.

In 2015, Starwood Hotels experimented with Snapchat geofilters at some of its W Hotels to see how guests would use them. Geofilters allow users of Snapchat to add a sponsor-created geolocational tag to their photo or video message (coined “Snap”) that can only be used when sending a Snap within a sponsor-defined geographical area (e.g., within a 10-metre radius of the hotel). The usage rates and number of views for the geofilters were well above what Starwood had anticipated, indicating that Snapchat may be a viable option for future brand marketing initiatives.

Marriott Hotels recently launched a Snapchat campaign that features social influencers who created organic content on the brand’s Snapchat account to showcase the brand’s loyalty program and several hotels around the world. The social influencers also used their own Snapchat accounts to broadcast their experience to their followers, hoping to create brand awareness among millennial travellers in the process.

Opportunities for Personalization

Within the hospitality industry, improved personalization is coterminous with a higher level of service. As such, hotel companies are attempting to personalize communications by interacting with consumers through their mobile device. Mobile phones are often perceived as an extension of an individual, or as an intimate partner that accompanies a person into almost every aspect of daily life. Reaching an individual through their mobile phone thus has the benefit of seeming like a personal interaction. To capture this opportunity for more personalized interaction, hotel companies must become phone-friendly and create the infrastructure necessary to allow guests to interact with the hotel easily and meaningfully through their mobile device.

Personalization through the mobile phone ecosystem and social media platforms is constantly evolving. Personalization can occur on a broad level, such as an interaction between a brand’s social media channel and a consumer account, or on a more granular level, such as communication between a hotel guest and the hotel’s guest services team through a messaging application. From an advertising standpoint, several social media platforms have launched dynamic advertising whereby a consumer’s recent travel searches will trigger personalized advertisements, which present a touchpoint for possible consumer conversion (by a direct hotel booking, for example). This represents a critical opportunity for hotel companies, particularly since the use of online travel agents (OTAs) diminishes the profitability of a hotel. In 2016, IHG began using Dynamic Ads on Facebook to target “high-potential” customers with personalized advertisements—and live pricing—based on searches, which yielded an increase in the brand’s ability to reach relevant travellers and a lower cost per booking. In the big picture, social media channels are beneficial to hotel companies because they offer an opportunity to create personalized interactions with consumers, which can be leveraged to yield more direct online bookings.

Digital Payment Platforms: A New Opportunity

With the proliferation of mobile devices and internet access around the world, the use of digital payment has seen accelerated growth. According to Allied Market Research, “the global mobile payments market is estimated to reach $3,388 billion by 2022, representing a compounded annual growth rate of 33.4% from 2016 to 2022,” with the Asia–Pacific region accounting for most of this growth. The North American market, although far from mass adoption, is amenable to digital payment. Based on the 2016 North American Consumer Digital Payments Survey, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of digital payment options, and American consumers responded that they foresee being more likely to use mobile payment apps and mobile wallet apps in 2020 than in 2016.

For the North American hotel industry, the projected adoption of digital payment, along with the growth of social media users, is an opportunity for direct booking and quicker conversions directly through mobile devices. In China, for example, mobile payment has already become part of daily life—the country is advanced in this area relative to North America. The two major digital payment platforms in use there, WeChat Wallet and Alipay Wallet, have enabled digital payment through mobile devices and have had incredible success in adoption; this form of payment is accepted at almost all vendors in major cities. Notably, WeChat has evolved from a person-to-person messaging application to an all-in-one social-media, messaging, and digital-wallet application. The integration of a mobile digital wallet into the social media and messaging application has allowed users to send money to each other and/or make purchases entirely through the WeChat ecosystem. Through the account feed of a vendor, users can pay for not only restaurants and retail purchases but also such things as utility bills and public services, all through their mobile wallet. Through WeChat, vendors are able to offer discounts or reward loyalty points, thereby further incentivizing the use of the channel. For example, the Kempinski Hotel in Chengdu has launched a function that allows direct bookings through its official WeChat account and also provides a discount or an amenity to those using this channel. In the case of WeChat, hoteliers were able to directly tap into a pool of daily active consumers and generate conversions through the social media messaging platform.

In North America, digital wallets such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Android Pay, and PayPal exist; however, mobile users lag in adoption. Traditional forms of payment, such as cards, are not yet seen as “broken,” so many consumers don’t see a need for change. As digital payment adoption is expected to grow in future years, it is important for hotel brands to keep up with consumer expectations. Given that the evolution of messaging applications into mobile-purchasing ecosystems has already started, hotel companies need to be in a position to provide digital payment options in anticipation of the change in consumer behavior, especially since this will be key to protecting the online reputation of the company. In Canada, a 2016 study into mobile wallet usage by the Nielsen Company found that 76% of respondents would switch to a mobile wallet as their primary mode of payment if all reward programs would honour mobile transactions, 75% would make such a change if more merchants accepted mobile transactions, and 74% would do so if rewards programs and mobile wallets could be integrated to redeem rewards instantly. Therefore, an opportunity may exist for hotel companies to integrate their rewards programs with digital payment.

In North America, hotels are slow in the adoption of mobile payment platforms that take the form of a digital wallet. Nonetheless, several hotel brands have implemented the use of messaging platforms that allow guests to interact with customer service agents and even property-specific guest service agents, and also book directly (but without digital wallet capabilities). Through brand-specific native applications, third-party applications, and established messaging applications such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, hotel brands are experimenting with personalized guest communication, which will likely lead to a more seamless adoption of mobile payment at a later date. In 2014, for example, Starwood Hotels launched “Let’s Chat,” which allows guests to communicate with the company’s guest service team at more than 150 properties worldwide through WhatsApp, BlackBerry Messenger, or iMessage at any time, from anywhere.

Social Media Marketing in the Hotel Industry: Trends and Opportunities in 2017 | By Jimmy Quach

Moreover, Hyatt hotels was the first to provide customer service through the Facebook Messenger platform following the launch of Facebook’s Businesses on Messenger in 2015. Through the platform, Hyatt customer-service agents can help with bookings worldwide, and also respond to guest requests.

Social Media Marketing in the Hotel Industry: Trends and Opportunities in 2017 | By Jimmy Quach

Hotel brands clearly see an opportunity in tapping into the vast user base among these messaging platforms, and they are beginning to implement these platforms as a means of communicating with guests. The personal experience of messaging builds loyalty and guest engagement even as the messaging platform serves as another vehicle for direct bookings; however, the mobile ecosystem in North America has not gained as much traction as other markets internationally. Nonetheless, the continued growth of mobile devices and social media users is expected to align with digital payment in the near future, thereby connecting a pool of potential consumers with seamless mobile purchasing platforms once digital payments become mainstream.

Conclusion

The tactics and tools employed in social media marketing within the hotel industry are constantly evolving. Companies that are early adopters of new social media marketing tools hope to gain an edge over the competition; being first to the plate can yield success, but it is not without risk, both of failure and of squandered resources. For hoteliers to remain relevant in this dynamic field, it is essential to understand the pulse of current technology trends within the hotel industry, and be prepared for changes in consumer behaviour. A positive outlook remains for the hotel industry as companies continue to expand their scope of social media marketing. Meanwhile, the mass market is inexorably moving towards the adoption of digital payment; its anticipated convergence with social media and messaging platforms will generate new opportunities for personalization, engagement, and conversion.

Think Like a Marketer: Four Tips to Fast-Track Your Career and Build Your Brand

Think Like a Marketer: Four Tips to Fast-Track Your Career and Build Your Brand

As director of communications for White Lodging, a hotel management company with 165 properties nationwide, I witness every day the power of marketing a brand. Oddly enough, many of us who know this power don’t use the lessons learned to build and communicate our own brands to fast-track our careers.

Here are four tips I have started to use that may help get you on the fast track, too:

  • Be your own brand ambassador

Promoting yourself is often a challenge, but it is a critical element of building your career – especially today. Think of yourself like a brand. Where can recruiters or your colleagues find information about you? What can they find? What does it say?

Social media is an important tool for building your brand. Everyone should establish their social footprint and continue to build upon it throughout their career. At White Lodging, we work with our associates and a team of social media ambassadors to encourage them to not only help build the White Lodging brand, but to leverage social networks to help build their own.

  • Keep good company

It is essential to network no matter your current career level or the one to which you aspire. Surrounding yourself with inspiring and successful peers and mentors is critical. Look for networking opportunities in your area such as MeetUp or an industry association, and make every effort to reach out to people at the office you might not work with. Ask them to lunch or coffee, and pay for the meal out of your pocket. Learn what they do, broaden your horizons and network all at the same time.

It is also essential to understand issues beyond the four walls of your office. Establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry by keeping up with the latest trends and affiliating yourself with the influencers who are driving trends and decisions in your business.

  • Look for leaders and companies that put you first

It is important that you work for a company that helps you put your career front and center. Not only will this help your brand, but the investment can ultimately help drive the company’s business and recruiting efforts.

Many companies offer education incentives, internal training, support for sabbaticals, and affinity groups that can help you along the way. Both Glassdoor and the brand’s website are valuable resources for up-to-date information on this. Conversely, it also helps to reach out to someone at your level within the company to get the whole story.

At White Lodging, we have a talent development team that is committed to putting our employees first. And our commitment starts at recruitment with our week-long “Flight School,” which immerses new employees of all levels in the industry, our business and the plethora of career paths we offer.

  • Stick to your guns and know your purpose

It is essential to have a game plan. Understanding your needs and staying focused on them will help keep you on track. Know what you excel at, where you need help, and what you want to do today, tomorrow and five years from now. Ask for advice, but only take the advice that lets you stay true to yourself. By having a business plan for your personal brand, you will ensure success from day one.

Moving Up The Ranks Of The Guest Experience Hierarchy

Moving Up The Ranks Of The Guest Experience Hierarchy

Moving Up The Ranks Of The Guest Experience Hierarchy | By Larry Mogelonsky

I’m mystified, or should I say confused. Perhaps you can help me solve this conundrum…

In most annual budget processes, hotel managers go into immaculate detail on spreadsheets for such line items as capital for renovations, expense allocations for operations, personnel, and sales and marketing. Yet rarely is there a section, nay more than a single row devoted to training or any of its other more elaborate forms such as ‘service culture development’, ‘associate engagement’, ‘team improvement’ or ‘guest experience enhancement’. If we are truly in the hospitality industry, why do we neglect the fundamental service function that is our namesake?

Giving more thought to your internal service R&D also means you are working to substantially distinguish your hotel when more extravagant facility upgrades are far outside of budgetary scope. Through continuous technological installations and judicious procurement, most limited-service properties now have quiet HVAC, comfortable beds and ample bathroom facilities. With the gap in physical product presentation narrowing, service thus becomes the all-important critical business differentiator. This is good news for the property owner, as service improvements rarely require any form of extensive upfront capital and often have limited cost, mostly allocated to salary for proficient associate instructors and lost training time.

Understanding The Guest Experience Hierarchy
In 1943, Abraham Maslow published his theory of the hierarchy of needs, and his psychology theory has profound applications to the hospitality industry. As his treatise identified five sets of specific individual needs, let’s apply each to how your guests approach an accommodation and how each subsequent level adds further needs that are only important once all predecessors have been satisfied.

Physiological Needs. This level denotes the physical accommodations your property delivers – a comfortable night’s sleep, a functioning washroom for proper hygiene, essential beverages like water and sustenance (note that this is different from ‘food’ and ‘cuisine’). Also included here would be housekeeping as it relates back to maintaining sanitary conditions, thus explaining why flaws in this area so easily draw the scorn of guests. Nowadays, free high-speed WiFi is teetering on being a part of these bare necessities given how reliant we all are on internet connectivity for communications, our jobs, information access, directions and even payments.

Safety Needs. More than just a doorlatch, safety means that you provide as stress-free an environment as possible. For instance, guests should not be woken by rowdy people in the room next door. They should not encounter unsavory characters in your lobby as the security presence is both apparent and effective. Guests should be reassured that their cars are not vandalized in the parking lot. Finally, living in the digital age means that their personal data and credit card information is not willingly shared with third parties and that you have done your due diligence to ward off hackers.

Social Needs
. This is the first category where service really comes into play, especially when you take into account that the other common name for this level is ‘love and belonging’. The focus is the reassurance that the guest’s decision to choose your property was a wise one when compared to every other hotel in your comp set, whereby not only are you attending to visitors’ personal needs but providing for them in a friendly manner. Included here are operational line staff positions like the bellhop, valet parking attendants, concierge and front desk clerks – basically anyone whose primary function is to interact and help customers in any way that’s beyond the scope of physiological and safety needs. For many properties, the mandatory concept of service necessary to fulfill this level is specifically detailed in SOP manuals as well as an innate characteristic that is prescreened during the interview process. In any case, these skills are trainable and can be measured against quantifiable standards.

Esteem Needs. This fourth echelon of service is where personalization starts to play a part. A typical example of this is a loyalty program, where habitués are given a preferred status, often with separate check-in, upgraded amenities and additional onsite privileges. For example, your staff should address guests by name when they pick up the in-room phone to call for restaurant reservations. The general manager might also compose a handwritten note on arrival with a welcome refreshment. Recognition of a birthday, anniversary or major lifecycle event also falls in this category. Lastly, food rears its magnificent head again as providing a fine dining experience above and beyond merely refilling one’s energy stores is a sharp demonstration of respect for your patrons.

Self-Actualization Needs. Representing the pinnacle of service, this classification does not necessarily mean significant added expense for the operator, but it does require time for mastery. Self-actualization implies that our operations are delivering a memorable experience as well as one that enriches a guest’s life in some meaningful way. It could be as simple as providing the recipe for a dish that the guest remarked as exceptional in the restaurant – that is, education. Or likewise, it could mean providing a sample of the dry rub the chef uses for the main course so visitors can better understand how individual ingredients contribute to a greater whole. This could also be a facility tour of the property, an invitation to an event held on-property, passing along some information about a hard-to-secure local activity or simply having a lengthy discussion with a corporate group about what else the staff can do to make their retreat go off without a hitch.

Satisfying The Guest Experience Hierarchy
Self-actualization is where you want to be, delivery of which typically results in lifelong memories, extreme levels of positive sentiments and unswerving loyalty. Naturally, commentary on Yelp, TripAdvisor and other third-party review sites reflects these achievements with exuberant and exceptionally compelling appraisals which will definitely help to convert future guests.

Think of these levels as building blocks, though. Remember, focusing on any higher level within the hierarchy while letting any of the lower levels slip will result in failure. Your restaurant could be performing excellently, for instance, but if your housekeeping is sloppy, the front desk agents are surly or the air conditioning is noisy, all value-adds will be for naught.

The question then is how do you build your service program beyond what’s standardized to satisfy the top three levels of this pyramid? It starts by nurturing a culture of guest-focused service as well as the approach taken by your HR team in hiring. There is no such thing as a college course that motivates an individual to be oriented towards a life of service. In addition to this challenge, a good general manager must establish an identifiable service culture that is reinforced through an ongoing commitment to staff empowerment so that each little opportunity to deepen the guest experience is never lost.

Exemplifying The Guest Experience Hierarchy
Great examples of service are easy to recall because they are immensely memorable. They serve as beacons in a sea of hotel service mediocrity for you to learn from, though and so here are a dozen personal examples (presented alphabetically).

Upon remarking positively to a waitress about a cocktail at the bar of Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, I was given a copy of the recipe with additional handwritten note with specific instructions from one of the bartenders.
Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland invited my wife to don an apron and learn how to prepare fish in several different ways. While she did not cook the night’s dinner, I am confident that that she has shared and embellished her experience with every one of her friends to the point where they likely now believe she was the sous-chef!
At the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace in Budapest, we were looking for dinner reservations and were invited to a private wine tasting dinner taking place that evening. Understanding nothing in Hungarian, the staff quickly printed an English version of the tasting menu. Given the strength of the pours, I am glad we only had to go upstairs to retire.
The boutique Hazelton Hotel in my hometown of Toronto offered a curated tour of its extensive in-house art collection. They also have an art concierge program that assists with visits to museums and local art galleries.
When I asked the doorman for a taxi one rainy night at The
Lanesborough in London, he instead summoned a standby car service to take us to the theatre and the same car was waiting for me when the play ended with the driver cheerily offering an umbrella.
Arriving early at the Montage Kapalua Bay in Maui, we joined a lei making class with the property’s resident Hawaiian ambassador, spending about an hour learning this art form as well as capitalizing upon her extensive local knowledge, all while boozy drinks were served.
For many years, Ojai Valley Inn & Spa near Santa Barbara ran a monthly learning program for guests with examples of curriculum including tea tasting, readings by local authors, hands-on flower arrangements and annotated back-of-house tours.
When I failed to make a reservation for high tea at The
Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong, the receptionist sensed my disappointment and took us to a second level balcony bar that normally does not provide this beverage service. The traditional wait staff from the tea room then served us without any additional delay, all while we soaked in the spectacular view of the city.
The signature restaurant at The
Ritz-Carlton Toronto, called TOCA, has its own cheese cave and encourages guests to participate in tastings of its delectable house-aged fromage. While guests expand their cheese vocabulary, the restaurant in turn boosts its revenue per cover.
Not having a restaurant, The
Spectator Hotel in Charleston provides breakfast room service. Rather than just having the expected delivery cart, the waiter personally serves breakfast to you, providing butler-level attention to detail that also includes detailed assistance in planning your day’s itinerary.
After I left my credit card at the St. Julian Hotel & Spa in Boulder, Colorado, I received a call on my cell phone while on route to the Denver airport. A member of their team was already driving out to meet me so that I could meet my scheduled flight departure without any delay.
I casually let it slip that my wife and I were celebrating our anniversary while staying at the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong and planning to dine at its main restaurant, Lung King Heen. Not only did we get a special complimentary dessert, but our selections for the evening were also printed into a folded card and presented to us at the end of the dinner with our names and the anniversary date. Many years later, we still cherish this keepsake.
Looking To The Future Of Guest Service
With few exceptions, these examples did not increase expenses in any significant way but in many cases they increased revenue and certainly loyalty. Guests do not necessarily expect self-actualization service to be free, though obviously, to avoid negative surprises, charges should be properly identified in advance.

The more you know about a guest, the better your service delivery and the more opportunities to incorporate self-actualizing opportunities. Start by taking advantage of the guest memorandum section of your PMS, denoted under the banner of customer relationship management (CRM). Encourage your staff to add information that can be used for future visits. If you are part of a loyalty program, review the additional customer data that is made available in advance. For those operating with higher ADRs, assign a staff member to review social media, in particular LinkedIn, to glean additional information and help build this database.

Another corollary of technological innovation is that alternative lodging providers (Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO and so on) have made service delivery an even higher priority for hotels. More than ever, a guest’s ability to remember any property in particular is based less on physical facilities and more on personal staff interaction. It’s all about getting close to the customer.

In this regard, further technology upgrades can certainly help. Electronic advance check-in can be used as a platform to learn and anticipate your guests’ needs. As almost all your guests carry smartphones, cost-effective mobile apps can also be deployed to enhance your customers’ stay in various ways. Use your daily meetings to identify local activities that may be of interest and to discuss arriving guests’ individual requirements. Refer to data from your social media monitoring tools to reinforce successes and identify further opportunities.

Successful service delivery is still a hands-on, ongoing effort for all team members, though. Ignore it at your own peril, or embrace it and be rewarded by improved ADRs and occupancies.

(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in Today’s Hotelier on April 1, 2017)

5 Hotel marketing tips for better Google search results

5 Hotel marketing tips for better Google search results

While bringing in website traffic certainly is one of Google’s most important functions, it’s not the only way hoteliers can leverage success from the search giant.

Google offers a variety of different services that can help hotel marketers expand their reach, increase online visibility, and ultimately improve their business – and better yet, they’re easy to implement and most won’t cost you a cent.

Below, we take a look at some simple and effective ways hoteliers can boost their brand with Google.

#1: Get listed on Google My Business
Google My Business (previously known as Google Places) is a must-have, free-to-use platform for hoteliers. It combines Google Search, Maps and Google Plus (also known as Google+) to help your hotel connect with potential guests by making it much easier for them to find you in an online search.

For example, people will very often use a blanket search term like ‘hotels in London’ when using Google, rather than searching for a specific hotel directly. And it goes without saying that when they do, you want to be among the hotels listed on the Google Maps and Google+ entries in the search feed – especially if the search is made in the nearby vicinity of your hotel.

A comprehensive Google My Business listing will ensure that:
Your hotel will be pushed much higher up Google’s search rankings
You’re able to make the booking process far easier for potential guests by uploading photos, videos, GPS coordinates, phone numbers and more
Reviews are also pulled through to your unique information feed displayed on the Map entry, or to the right of the search results page (also known as a Knowledge Graph or Card) – and if they’re positive, people will be more compelled to make a booking
Your listing will be linked to your Google Analytics page so you can monitor your traffic and popular page hits
It’s free to use, mobile friendly and allows you to upload multiple locations if you have more than one property in a city.

Simply visit Google My Business and follow the prompts to get the ball rolling. Managing multiple properties can get a little confusing, but luckily you can follow Google’s handy guide to simplify the process – check it out here.

#2: Update your Google+ pages
Google+ is Google’s very own social network that allows you to connect with other users who have the same interests and ideas. While the success of Google+ is often debated, its impact on your SEO, and the fact that it’s connected to your other Google features, makes it something worth paying attention to.

What you need to know:
Your Google+ page data forms part of your Google My Business listing, so make sure your information is up-to-date. It will add even more value to the Knowledge Graphs displayed in Google’s search listings
Google+ pages are good for your SEO (or organic search rankings)
Guests can submit reviews that users will see when searching your hotel or seeing your hotel featured in a knowledge graph
Remember: any information or posts you publish on your Google+ page will feature in Google’s search results so make sure it’s fresh and unique
After creating your Google My Business account in the point mentioned above, Google will automatically create a Google+ page for you. If you haven’t done so already, make sure you add text and images to your profile.

This is where it can get a little confusing. If you already had a Google+ page, adding a profile to Google My Business will create a duplicate Google+ account (which you don’t necessarily want). So to avoid that, if you already have a Google+ profile for your hotel, make sure you’ve connected it via your Google My Business dashboard.

TIP: Visit the Google+ homepage and do a search for your hotel to make sure there is only one listing. Duplicated listings could result in the wrong information being pulled through to the search results.

You can go a step further by using your Google+ account to create networks among guests to foster loyalty, attract and recruit people passionate about your brand, and keep abreast of happenings in your area by networking with nearby attractions.

#3: Give your guests a visual tour with Google Street View
Google’s popular Street View functionality isn’t restricted to, well, the street. Marketers looking for a new approach can give potential guests an engaging online tour of the hotel’s interior by using this innovative platform, also called Business View. With a collection of high-quality images, you’ll be able to put together a beautiful 3D showcase of your hotel for curious online viewers, and inspire greater confidence among potential guests.

According to a study done by TripAdvisor, good quality photos not only drive higher user engagement but are also a key component to the decision making process: compared to hotels without photos, hotels with at least one photo saw a 138% increase in travel engagement. If this is the impact an image can have, immersing your guest within a virtual tour could make booking at your hotel an even easier decision.

It can offer an innovative, fresh way for your hotel to market itself. And remember, first impressions mean everything.

Google highly recommends hiring a professional to film the 360-degree tour. While this isn’t a free service, the lasting benefits in the long run will be worth the money spent now. Click here to find out more.

#4: Get even more traffic with Google Hotel Ads
If you want to take your Google search listings to the next level, consider using Google Hotel Ads. Google Hotel Ads can be used by OTAs or hotels themselves to make sure that their stock and prices are also listed across Google’s different platforms (searches, Maps, Google destinations, etc.).

Having a Hotel Ads account will also open the door to Google’s new Book on Google functionality. This feature will allow travellers to make a direct booking without leaving the main search results page. If you have a Hotel Ads campaign running, adding the ‘Book’ button is essentially a free service provided by Google.

What you need to know:
To get started, you need to work through a ‘Hotel Ads Integration Partner’ (find one here). These are the guys who will give Google your hotel rates, availability information and manage your campaign.
You can choose a PPC (pay per click) or commission based model
#5: Understanding Google’s new event search feature
Google is constantly looking for ways to improve the mobile user experience. As part of that quest, the search giant has been busying itself with a new event search feature that, much like point one mentioned above, will allow mobile users to enter a blanket search term like ‘events near me’, and return search results most relevant to their geographic location.

What you need to know:
Google has partnered with a growing number event websites like Ticketmaster, Bandsintown, Eventful, Meetup, Yext, Vividseats, EventBrite, Seatgeek and a few more, to drive their search results.
All you need to do to make sure you hotel’s events are displayed is sign up to one of these partners.
At the moment, it looks like this feature is being predominantly rolled out in the US, but keep an eye out for updates going forward.

As you can see, Google is far more than a simple traffic generator. The search giant is quickly becoming a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all things travel related, and if used properly, can help you increase your online footprint and attract more business.

Branding and hospitality: What’s your differentiation?

Branding and hospitality: What’s your differentiation?

Not a week appears to go by without the opening of a luxury hotel somewhere in the world. Just take a look a consumer travel magazine and you’ll see all sorts of new concepts and offerings flooding the market. Until about 15 years ago, the differentiation between luxury hotel brands was clear. Guests knew who was who and what was what. Today, the market is saturated with many different hotels, brands and offerings. If you factor in the disruption of new entrants due to technology, it is not surprising that customers are confused. As client demands are also changing, is it any wonder then that many luxury hotels are struggling to maintain their competitive edge?

Faced with so much choice, how can consumers decide what is right for them? And how can hotel businesses distinguish their offering to attract clients? Business case studies across the years have proven that focusing solely on product – room type, facilities, etc. – is not sufficient. They do not leave a lasting imprint in consumer’s minds. Experience is everything – and that is why branding is back on the table for luxury hotels.

Hotel or brand?
Based on a series of interviews with 18 international hotel managers, my research into the topic has aimed to obtain first-hand insights into the challenges hoteliers are currently facing and the strategies they are adopting to attract clients and maintain a competitive advantage. But when I asked about their brand differentiator, many of them talked in the context of a hotel operation or its service offering, yet only a few managers were able to explain their differentiation. The more I probed, the more it became clear that the hotel itself was unsure about its brand positioning. If the hotel manager is unable to articulate the differentiator – or worse, does not even see it on his or her radar – how can we expect customers to be clear about the offer?

The question is – are you a hotel or a brand? Many large, medium and small hotels offer very similar product offerings. Often there is not a great deal of individual personality either. When customer choice depends solely on products that are instantly comparable in terms of price and features, it leaves hotels vulnerable. But a brand has longevity. A brand can weather market storms. What makes a true brand that will stay with the consumer forever?

Service or hospitality?
In essence, creating a brand personality is about defining your offering. Of course there is the tangible offering – the quality of the rooms, the spa, the dining rooms, for example. These have to be first class. And of course, there is quality of service and how it is perceived by your guests, and that is why hotel managers spend so long drilling its importance into their staff. But the best hotels, those that are succeeding, stretch their definition beyond these two elements to incorporate the concept of hospitality.

Luxury hotels are in the business of taking care of people. This goes beyond service. In a Tedx Talk on hospitality, restaurateur Bobby Stuckey describes the visit he and his wife made to a three-star Michelin restaurant in Paris. The experience was impeccable – the food, the service, the dining room. A perfect evening. Yet, he says, something was missing. Two days later, he and his wife visited another three-star Michelin star restaurant in Italy. Here, the experience was equally impeccable. But in this restaurant, the chef came out of the kitchen into the dining room and engaged in conversation with the diners. Later, the staff recommended where he and his wife might go for coffee in the town the next morning. As Stuckey describes it, ‘the staff changed our evening and changed our trip.’ He explains how he took that emotion all the way back home to California and continues to cherish his experience by sharing it with others.

This story sums up luxury hospitality – it needs to be a transformative experience. It should change something in each person. It should create cherished memories, enrich their experience and become part of their life story.

One brand which has succeeded in creating the transformative experience is The Peninsula. I recently led a discussion panel in Paris with luxury hotel brands. The General Manager of The Peninsula Paris, and soon to be GM of The Peninsula Beijing, Vincent Pimont, explained his concept of hospitality: anticipating the needs of his guests.

“Guests arrive from all around the world. It is vital to go beyond cultural difference by not judging the difference, but to deliver the care even before the guests know they are in need. Hospitality in Asia is different than in the west. It is about care, I mean really caring. Our brand originates from China and we respect our brand’s origins. We train our staff to embrace and manifest our cultural difference.”

Service is action-orientated. Care is universal. As Bobby Stuckey defines it, service is ‘what you do to someone’, hospitality is ‘how you make someone feel’. When care is offered, it provokes a feeling. The feeling transmits between people. True care changes the emotion. And the impact spreads. This is hospitality. True luxury hotel brands develop and nurture hospitality and integrate it into a brand DNA.

What is your story?
Luxury, as we know, is about selling a dream. That is why the truly successful luxury brands also focus on the story. The narrative, a magical fairy tale, creates the desire. What is your hotel’s story? It may be based on the location or on the founder, for example. But it must be authentic – based in truth – and then built upon to create the dream and aspiration upon which luxury brands are built.

A striking example is the Jumeirah Group. Judy Hou, Managing Director of the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management explains how the hotel chain differentiates itself from its competitors, through what she calls amenity and design, plus the brand story.

“Here we offer a very different style of luxury. For those from non-Arabic cultures, it may even seem too much. But in this part of the world, the fairy tale shines with gold. It is opulent, dramatic and magical. We provide the dream through the design together with our warm, caring service so that our guests can truly feel like a king or queen, a prince or princess during their stay. It is all about making the fairy tale come true.”
“In addition, the local culture adapts well to the concept of hospitality. The local culture understands how to take care of someone, how to make someone feel welcome, and very importantly, understands how to anticipate the needs of the guests. This cultural alignment makes the job of training staff in hospitality much easier.”

Telling a strong story has also been essential to Novotel hotels in China. Although Novotel is not a luxury brand, it is a good example of brand differentiation. General Manager Thierry Douet of the Novotel Beijing Peace Hotel says: “We are not a luxury hotel, nor are we an economy hotel. So we focus our story on family and business. Twenty years ago, when we first arrived in China, the concept of traveling with children was not very common. Also, mid-scale hotels for pleasure or business did not really exist here. Our story was very foreign to the Chinese, but we took advantage of our French origins and built upon this. We were able to differentiate ourselves by offering a family place of leisure, where you can also conduct business meetings and events. We focused on the needs of the family and have continued to tell the story based on family.”

We can see that the concept of hospitality takes many shapes and forms depending on the grade of the hotel. Yet it is rooted in care, passion, the anticipation of guests’ needs and a pleasure from making people happy. The story provides the dream. So how do you then turn that story into business?

The role of emotional intelligence
You offer hospitality and you have a compelling and memorable brand story. How do you now make the seemingly intangible elements into a tangible business transaction?

One way is through emotional intelligence. Psychologist Daniel Goleman defined this as ‘understanding one’s own feelings, empathy for the feelings of others and the regulation of emotion in the way that enhances living.’ In his book ‘Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence’ (2007), he explains the importance of emotional intelligence for the future of corporations.

The link between emotional intelligence and hospitality is evident – caring for someone and anticipating their needs requires sensitivity to their emotions and the ability to react to them, as well as an awareness and management of your own emotions. If you can harness the emotional intelligence of your staff and channel this into the brand, you will make your brand unique – your brand becomes irreplaceable and ensures clients will keep coming back for more.

Putting this into practice for hotels, however, is challenging. Very few luxury hotels invest in true emotional intelligence. Those that do, look beyond a client’s stay in the hotel itself. If the hotels work on identifying and anticipating the guests’ needs before they arrive, make an emotional connection with them during their stay, and continue the relationships with the guests after they leave the hotel, such as following up on whether they reached their next destination or arrived home safely. The intangible becomes tangible – client loyalty that translates into repeat business and long-term revenue.

Hotels should consider applying Goleman’s attributes of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and social skills into their training programs. In so doing, they can monitor and measure these elements, so that staff focus on this self-awareness and the process starts to flow naturally.

But what about when a staff member is having a ‘bad day’? Disney Resorts take an interesting approach to hospitality. They train their staff to be actors – once you are at work, you are effectively performing ‘on stage’. Ideally, hospitality comes from the heart but, realistically, different people have different levels of emotional intelligence. By giving measurable methods to track performance, you can identify specifically when you were able truly to connect with your guest and if you were able to adapt your emotions and your response accordingly. The execution of the intangible can become embedded into daily business practice with a measurable impact on the bottom line.

Ultimately, leading hoteliers in luxury hospitality need to treat emotional intelligence as a brand asset. They need to invest in the development of soft skills, social skills and emotional management skills. Monitoring, measuring and researching these elements can create tangible data on the impact for business success, which in turn can provide essential information for training and marketing. With this level of information brands can focus on what really matters, for example adapting loyalty programs to be relevant, personalized and of value. The goal is not to teach hospitality but to promote it from a personal and emotional perspective.

A brand that is based on hospitality is unique, authentic and resilient. For the client, that brand becomes the basis of their choice, thus reducing the hotel’s exposure to market vagaries and fleeting trends. The brand enables the business to become sustainable throughout market trends and technology disruption. If longevity is the game in an ever-changing world, the emotional connection in hospitality provides the staying power.

Why do companies give up on customer service as they grow?

Why do companies give up on customer service as they grow?

Everyone experiences second-rate service from a trustworthy brand at some point. Some recent examples of large brands plagued with a reputation for poor service include wireless service providers, airlines, auto manufacturers and Internet service providers. One need only look at Twitter feeds to see the angst that their customers are feeling. In the airline industry, United Airlines seems to be getting the brunt of customer complaints and media coverage as of late due to the infamous dragging of a passenger from one of their flights that went viral. Now, they are once again in crisis management mode because a United employee tried to wrestle an 18th-century violin away from a passenger who wanted to carry on the rare and valuable violin but was being forced to check it in.

Apart from the odd exception, top brands are not able to retain their status as market leaders as long as they used to. As companies grow, they try their best to ensure that service standards are maintained at the highest levels possible. However, in the long run, a decline in quality of either products or customer service is one of the greatest risks. There are many reasons for this degradation. When companies shift more focus on cost savings, they may consider outsourcing offshore to cut costs. Also, as hospitality management evolves, companies that develop software may have employees that are not up to speed on the latest variations made to the software. This all but ensures they will short on helping their clients with technical issues. Large companies can also become constrained by the fragmented departments and processes they put in place to streamline operations, but these processes can backfire and actually slow down responsiveness. In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, McKinsey claimed that disloyalty is caused by a lack of understanding of the various touch points rather than by customer dissatisfaction with a single interaction.

It takes a long time to steer a big ship

In the hotel technology industry, some big companies have experienced declines in service because they have not been able to adapt to change quickly enough. Their infrastructure is aging quickly. We live in a world of instant gratification. For a software company in the hospitality space, the delivery of reliable, knowledgeable service and support is paramount to building a successful business. Software that runs a hotel or connects a hotel to its guest needs to be working at all times. When something does occur that inhibits the software from performing correctly, there can be no delays in a resolution to the issue. Smaller hotel technology brands can be more agile, modern and responsive.

Domain expertise makes all the difference

The people on the front lines of hotel software service and support not only need to have exceptional knowledge of the software in varied configurations, but they also need be specialists on how the hotel business works. They need to be able to identify if the issue is of an operational nature or related to the technology itself. Without an adequate background and understanding of the complexities of our industry – service, and support can quickly fall apart. One survey discussing customer dissatisfaction states that a whopping 91% of its respondents complained about customer service because they had to contact the same company several times before their problem was resolved. Regardless of industry, exceeding customer expectations requires the right mix of personal service, quality interactions, and first-call resolution.

It is time that customer service returned to its roots

With customer service often being a key differentiator, companies cannot settle for declining service levels, especially in the hotel industry as high touch service is the hallmark of our business. The first step for hotel technology providers to stay on track is to determine what constitutes superior customer service, and learn how to deliver it. The next step is to be aware of industry trends and new technologies that emerge as they impact not only on the industry, but they also impact software with issues like new integration requirements, compliance and more. Finally, companies should always plan for success rather than planning for failure. If you plan for success, you will be able to ramp up your support services to address the growth of your company and thus be able to meet the needs of your customers.

No matter how big or small our companies may be, as software providers, we are part of the service value chain right down to each and every guest. By providing excellent service to hotels – we enable them to provide exceptional service to their guests. Hotel software companies need to maintain the highest levels of support to ensure that their technology does not negatively impact hotel operations or their ability to exceed guest expectations.

Source: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/opinion/4083250.html

How to deal with bad online reviews

How to deal with bad online reviews

The online component of owning a restaurant is the single biggest change in the restaurant industry over the past ten years. Websites that encourage guests to post reviews and feedback, like Yelp, Urban Spoon, and Open Table, have grown exponentially and are very influential for many potential guests. This is the case anywhere, but especially so in cities dominated by transient guests and out-of-towners, who are more likely to be swayed by online restaurant reviews.

The frequency with which potential guests read online feedback about restaurants before making decisions means that it’s essential to manage a business’s online reputation. In fact, this trend has spawned a new parasitic sub-industry – online reputation management. Few restaurants have the time or inclination to pay someone to manage an online reputation. But bad online reviews can be costly, inaccurate, and influential. The collection of a few of them – especially when they repeat the same message – is a serious red flag to many guests.

Restaurant managers have to tackle bad reviews like they do most everything in this business – by getting out in front of the problem. A few tips for dealing with bad reviews online:

Pay Attention

It’s worthwhile to make spending time on review websites a once-a-week routine. It’s imperative to know what people are saying about you, whether it’s good or bad. This is especially true in the restaurant business, governed as it is by subjective standards and emotional responses.

Google Alerts is a good option for any restaurant, because it will send reports on any online content covering your business. It’s also worthwhile to maintain a Facebook page, which offers guests the chance to post feedback and reviews. Some bad reviews are essentially meaningless, such as a negative comment on the hostess’s wardrobe or the ice content in the daiquiris. But some undermine a core product of a restaurant – like a critique of the steaks at a steakhouse. It’s essential to know these exist, and to spend time learning how to find them.

Respond to Your Guests

Dialogue with guests about their experiences demonstrates that you care, and that you’re responsive to feedback and criticisms. It shows that you don’t hide from problems and you value input. Most people recognize these traits as the foundation of a good business owner, even when they’re response to a bad online review.

Bad reviews don’t have to be followed up with a treatise on good taste and decorum (as can be found on some review websites – it’s worth a look). Instead, follow-ups should be succinct and fact-based. They should be the product of some background work into the specific problem and your work to resolve it. They’re strictly positive, and grateful toward the guest (easier said than done, I know).

It’s also worthwhile to thank guests for positive feedback, online and in personal correspondence. Email discounts or offers to people who give feedback is a great and simple way to win a lifelong customer.

Post Your Own Reviews

Is it ethical? Probably not. Does it save you a huge headache? Yes. Getting a known fan of your restaurant to post a review takes the spotlight away from mediocre reviews, especially when they’re listed first on a review site. The internet culture reduces attention spans, making the top couple of reviews on most sites essential.

It’s also important to leverage Facebook and Twitter in this way, perpetuating positive reviews, special events, and discounts. This is what online reputation management enterprises do.

The Online Game

It’s important to remember that not all online reviews are bad. In fact, good reviews strung together on multiple websites offers the free advertising every business can use. Something about the restaurant industry motivates people to respond in writing. It’s worth it to remember the value that paying attention to those responses carries.

Source: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/opinion/4082624.html

Marriott International combats homelessness among LGBTQ youth through #LoveTravels

Marriott International combats homelessness among LGBTQ youth through #LoveTravels

In the United States, nearly four in ten American youths experiencing homelessness identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender*, and the number has been rising for the past decade. Marriott International, along with Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt actor Tituss Burgess, True Colors Fund, Casa Ruby and social influencers Raymond Braun, Shannon Beveridge and Amber’s Closet, are inviting people everywhere to join the global #LoveTravels movement this week to spread awareness and stand in support of the LGBTQ homeless youth community by raising funds to combat this growing issue.

Marriott is dedicated to helping LGBTQ Homeless Youth

“Marriott created #LoveTravels four years ago to send a clear message that our company, including more than 6,100 properties in 124 countries and territories has a long-standing commitment to welcoming everyone,” said Apoorva Gandhi, Vice President of Multicultural Affairs, Marriott International. “This year, as the #LoveTravels movement grows, we are expanding our commitment to include support for Casa Ruby and True Colors Fund, two organizations dedicated to LGBTQ homeless youth that help ensure safe and reassuring homes and services so they may thrive.”

On Thursday, June 8 and Friday, June 9, ahead of Capital Pride in Washington, D.C., an art installation will rise in Freedom Plaza in support of LGBTQ homeless youth. Expressions of unconditional acceptance and love in the form of paintings, doodles, photographs and hand-written notes created in-person and on Twitter and Instagram tagged #LoveTravels and #MyPride will be brought to life on the collaborative #LoveTravels Mosaic.

How are they making a positive change?

Throughout the two days, celebrities, influencers and local personalities are scheduled to stop by to add their own expressions of love. In addition, seven Marriott properties, including Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront; The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City; Renaissance Sao Paulo Hotel; AC Hotel San Juan; Charlotte Marriott City Center; Moxy New Orleans and Sheraton Georgetown Texas Hotel & Conference Center, will hold ‘expression sessions’ to invite their guests to create and contribute their own pieces of art to be included in the global #LoveTravels Mosaic.

For every original submission created on site or tagged #LoveTravels and #MyPride on Twitter and Instagram, Marriott will donate to True Colors Fund and Casa Ruby. Working locally, Casa Ruby is the only bilingual multicultural LGBTQ organization providing lifesaving services and safe shelter to many of the most vulnerable transgender residents of Washington D.C. The True Colors Fund is working on a national level to end homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, creating a world in which all young people can be their true selves, and recently created the first ever True Innovation Fellowship, underwritten by Marriott. The fellowship will provide a young person the opportunity to participate in the development of technology solutions that address homelessness among LGBTQ youth.

Marriott unveiled the first glimpse of the #LoveTravels Mosaic in 2016 with contributions from Laverne Cox, Jazz Jennings, Ross Mathews and thousands of LGBTQ supporters from over 90 countries around the world. This year, actor/activist Tituss Burgess is joining the movement as official ambassador.

“As an advocate for the LGBTQ community, I am proud to stand with Marriott International in support of the True Colors Fund, Casa Ruby and everyone fighting to keep kids and young adults in need of help safe and warm,” said actor Tituss Burgess. “And as a member of the LGBTQ community myself, I am humbled and honored to join in the unveiling of the #LoveTravels Mosaic. It warms my heart to see people from around the world participating in such a powerful expression of love.”

Launched in 2014, #LoveTravels brings to life Marriott’s longstanding commitment to ensuring every person is valued and welcomed whenever they enter the doors of its hotels.  It serves as a platform for sharing diverse perspectives on the importance of travel, including those of Jason Collins, Geena Rocero, Tim Howard Angela Simmons, Diane Guerrero and Diego Boneta.  The cornerstone of Marriott’s culture is its ‘put people first’ philosophy coupled with its belief that everyone deserves a welcome.  Just weeks before marriage equality became the law of the land nationwide, #LoveTravels hosted the wedding of George Carrancho and Sean Franklin in Washington, DC’s Capital Pride Parade, with TV personality Ross Mathews as officiant.  The campaign has also raised donations for recent immigrants at the Open Arms Community Center in South Florida.

Want to learn more?

Liquitex, creators of the first water-based acrylic paints will be donating art supplies for the #LoveTravels Mosaic. To learn more or join the conversation, travelers can visit www.Marriott.com/LoveTravels, follow #LoveTravels and @MarriottIntl on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Marriott International’s commitment to social impact and sustainability dates to our founding and our core value to “Serve Our World.” Through volunteerism, strategic partnerships, charitable giving, and lasting program development, we focus our efforts on social and environmental issues that affect our business, our communities, and our planet. We identify these issues as our Purpose Priorities: Protect the Environment, Advance Human Rights and Cultural Understanding, Empower through Opportunity and Build for the Future. In 2016 alone, Marriott provided over $28M in cash and in-kind support to its local communities, as well as over 720K hours of volunteerism. Awards and recognition for efforts over the years include Ethisphere’s Most Ethical Companies List, Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s 100 Best Corporate Citizens List, Forbes’ Just 100: Best Corporate Citizens List, the World Travel and Tourism Council’s “Tourism for Tomorrow Award for Sustainability” and a 100% Score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index.

Source: http://ehotelier.com/global/2017/06/08/marriott-international-lovetravels/

5 Hotel marketing tips for better Google search results

5 Hotel marketing tips for better Google search results

While bringing in website traffic certainly is one of Google’s most important functions, it’s not the only way hoteliers can leverage success from the search giant.

Google offers a variety of different services that can help hotel marketers expand their reach, increase online visibility, and ultimately improve their business – and better yet, they’re easy to implement and most won’t cost you a cent.

Below, we take a look at some simple and effective ways hoteliers can boost their brand with Google.

#1: Get listed on Google My Business

Google My Business (previously known as Google Places) is a must-have, free-to-use platform for hoteliers. It combines Google Search, Maps and Google Plus (also known as Google+) to help your hotel connect with potential guests by making it much easier for them to find you in an online search.

For example, people will very often use a blanket search term like ‘hotels in London’ when using Google, rather than searching for a specific hotel directly. And it goes without saying that when they do, you want to be among the hotels listed on the Google Maps and Google+ entries in the search feed – especially if the search is made in the nearby vicinity of your hotel.

A comprehensive Google My Business listing will ensure that:

  • Your hotel will be pushed much higher up Google’s search rankings
  • You’re able to make the booking process far easier for potential guests by uploading photos, videos, GPS coordinates, phone numbers and more
  • Reviews are also pulled through to your unique information feed displayed on the Map entry, or to the right of the search results page (also known as a Knowledge Graph or Card) – and if they’re positive, people will be more compelled to make a booking
  • Your listing will be linked to your Google Analytics page so you can monitor your traffic and popular page hits

It’s free to use, mobile friendly and allows you to upload multiple locations if you have more than one property in a city.

Simply visit Google My Business and follow the prompts to get the ball rolling. Managing multiple properties can get a little confusing, but luckily you can follow Google’s handy guide to simplify the process – check it out here.

#2: Update your Google+ pages

Google+ is Google’s very own social network that allows you to connect with other users who have the same interests and ideas. While the success of Google+ is often debated, its impact on your SEO, and the fact that it’s connected to your other Google features, makes it something worth paying attention to.

What you need to know:

  • Your Google+ page data forms part of your Google My Business listing, so make sure your information is up-to-date. It will add even more value to the Knowledge Graphs displayed in Google’s search listings
  • Google+ pages are good for your SEO (or organic search rankings)
  • Guests can submit reviews that users will see when searching your hotel or seeing your hotel featured in a knowledge graph
  • Remember: any information or posts you publish on your Google+ page will feature in Google’s search results so make sure it’s fresh and unique

After creating your Google My Business account in the point mentioned above, Google will automatically create a Google+ page for you. If you haven’t done so already, make sure you add text and images to your profile.

This is where it can get a little confusing. If you already had a Google+ page, adding a profile to Google My Business will create a duplicate Google+ account (which you don’t necessarily want). So to avoid that, if you already have a Google+ profile for your hotel, make sure you’ve connected it via your Google My Business dashboard.

TIP: Visit the Google+ homepage and do a search for your hotel to make sure there is only one listing. Duplicated listings could result in the wrong information being pulled through to the search results.

You can go a step further by using your Google+ account to create networks among guests to foster loyalty, attract and recruit people passionate about your brand, and keep abreast of happenings in your area by networking with nearby attractions.

#3: Give your guests a visual tour with Google Street View

Google’s popular Street View functionality isn’t restricted to, well, the street. Marketers looking for a new approach can give potential guests an engaging online tour of the hotel’s interior by using this innovative platform, also called Business View. With a collection of high-quality images, you’ll be able to put together a beautiful 3D showcase of your hotel for curious online viewers, and inspire greater confidence among potential guests.

According to a study done by TripAdvisor, good quality photos not only drive higher user engagement but are also a key component to the decision making process: compared to hotels without photos, hotels with at least one photo saw a 138% increase in travel engagement. If this is the impact an image can have, immersing your guest within a virtual tour could make booking at your hotel an even easier decision.

It can offer an innovative, fresh way for your hotel to market itself. And remember, first impressions mean everything.

Google highly recommends hiring a professional to film the 360-degree tour. While this isn’t a free service, the lasting benefits in the long run will be worth the money spent now. Click here to find out more.

#4: Get even more traffic with Google Hotel Ads

If you want to take your Google search listings to the next level, consider using Google Hotel Ads. Google Hotel Ads can be used by OTAs or hotels themselves to make sure that their stock and prices are also listed across Google’s different platforms (searches, Maps, Google destinations, etc.).

Having a Hotel Ads account will also open the door to Google’s new Book on Google functionality. This feature will allow travellers to make a direct booking without leaving the main search results page. If you have a Hotel Ads campaign running, adding the ‘Book’ button is essentially a free service provided by Google.

What you need to know:

  • To get started, you need to work through a ‘Hotel Ads Integration Partner’ (find one here). These are the guys who will give Google your hotel rates, availability information and manage your campaign.
  • You can choose a PPC (pay per click) or commission based model

#5: Understanding Google’s new event search feature

Google is constantly looking for ways to improve the mobile user experience. As part of that quest, the search giant has been busying itself with a new event search feature that, much like point one mentioned above, will allow mobile users to enter a blanket search term like ‘events near me’, and return search results most relevant to their geographic location.

What you need to know:

  • Google has partnered with a growing number event websites like Ticketmaster, Bandsintown, Eventful, Meetup, Yext, Vividseats, EventBrite, Seatgeek and a few more, to drive their search results.
  • All you need to do to make sure you hotel’s events are displayed is sign up to one of these partners.

At the moment, it looks like this feature is being predominantly rolled out in the US, but keep an eye out for updates going forward.

As you can see, Google is far more than a simple traffic generator. The search giant is quickly becoming a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all things travel related, and if used properly, can help you increase your online footprint and attract more business.

Source: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/opinion/4083185.html

The Future Ski Resorts – Will they Survive?

Over the past decade and a half, regional ski resort visits throughout the U.S. have been largely stagnant or in decline. Per Snowsports Industries America 2015 Fact Sheet, nationwide visits peaked at 60.5 million in the 2007/08 season and dropped to an almost 15 year low of 52.8 million in the 2015/16 season. Why is this and what does the industry need to do to remain viable long-term?

Lack of Early Adoption

First and foremost, early adoption is key in determining whether or not a consumer will EVER get involved. In a 2014 Ski Essentials survey almost 32% of people started on the mountain between the ages of 2-5 and a whopping 82.5% began before the age of 18. Of those that started before the age of 18, 94.5% are still skiing.

Sadly, even high retention among those that get started early may not be enough to save snowsports long term. In the late 70’s there were roughly 735 resorts in the US. By the 2013 season, that number was down to 470, says Unofficial Alpine. That means the nearest ski hill is getting further and further away from the average family, making it even more of a hassle to get involved for those who are interested.

Skiing is a Lifelong Sport | By John Stocki

Skiing is a Lifelong Sport | By John Stocki
(source: Skiessentials.com, Mountain Rider’s Alliance, and Antelope Butte Foundation)

Exorbitant Costs

Above and beyond issues around interest and access, the increasing cost of participation has also put a damper on consumer behavior. In the 2013/14 season, the average weekend lift ticket price was $93.33 per Ski Essentials. Factor in equipment rentals and food and you’re talking about well over a $150 day…per person! Now you may be thinking, “yeah, but those are Colorado prices,” and you would be correct. But cutting the number in half for smaller local hills still makes a day trip for a family of four roughly $300. Numbers like these are a still a significant investment for many families and a tall barrier to entry for new consumers interested in giving the sport a try. To take it a step further, look at what it would cost to BUY all new equipment for a family of four, with having to replace equipment for growing kids around every two seasons, the total costs become even higher.

We Think Lift Tickets Are Overpriced, But Still Pay for Them | By John Stocki
(source: Skiessentials.com, Mountain Rider’s Alliance, and Antelope Butte Foundation)

Solutions

First and foremost, ski resorts must work to build relationships with local schools if they want to help groom the next generation of lifetime skiers. Roughly 11% of those surveyed by Ski Essentials said they were introduced to skiing through a ski club. Beyond that, the average estimated ski club trip costs between $26-$40 unlike the typical family trips mentioned above. That means there are swaths of youngsters out there with the potential to get into skiing while young and at an affordable rate. I call that untapped potential.

Furthermore, those small and medium “beginner” resorts need to rethink the overall costs of a day of skiing. Discounted lift tickets are helpful, but the price of equipment rentals and food often make a seemingly affordable day anything but.

School Ski Clubs Are Being Under Utilized | By John Stocki

School Ski Clubs Are Being Under Utilized | By John Stocki
(source: Skiessentials.com, Mountain Rider’s Alliance, and Antelope Butte Foundation)

Second, everything possible must be done to keep small local ski hills open. They are key to ushering new skiers into the fold. So much so, that over 60% of skiers surveyed say they learned on local hills with less than 1600 feet of elevation. And once they’re involved, they tend to stay involved for life. Many of these ski hills are community funded and/or non-profits. If you’re passionate about snowsports, make sure you advocate for continued funding for these type of local ski hills and help with fundraising efforts to keep them alive.

Industry consolidation will play a key role here as well. If large players like Vail Resorts continue to purchase and invest in small properties (like they did recently with Wisconsin’s Wilmot Mountain) there may be hope for the little guy. Investments in diversifying entertainment options at these properties creates viability by bringing in much-needed non-skiing revenue. However, this type of consolidation can also lead to price increases, which could ultimately be detrimental to the industry as a whole, as research shows that cost of entry is a large barrier to new consumers.

Finally, the industry must embrace dynamic pricing as quickly as possible. This means taking everything from the weather to on-premise hotel inventory into account when setting prices vs. working with a dated static pricing structure. It means offering discounts for those who purchase lift tickets in advance, raising prices as the date approaches, and potentially cutting them drastically on days with low turnout or poor weather forecasts. While this sounds complicated, companies like Liftopia have been helping resorts implement this model for the past decade. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area told Bloomberg that it increased its advance sales by 15% the first season it implemented the model.

Only time will tell if the industry is going to respond appropriately. Will the major players in Colorado put today’s profits ahead of nurturing tomorrow’s customers?

Source: http://www.hospitalitynet.org/news/global/154000320/4080282.html