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JW Marriott Debuts First Resort in India, JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa

Luxury Hospitality Brand Opens 115-Room Resort in The Heart Of The Himalayas

JW Marriott Debuts First Resort in India, JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa

JW Marriott Debuts First Resort in India, JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa

JW Marriott® Hotels & Resorts (by Marriott)

JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts continues to expand its luxury portfolio with the opening of its first resort in India, the JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa.The hotel is located in the hill station of Mussoorie, at the foothills of the Garhwal Himalayan ranges, also known as the Queen of the Hills. The hotel boasts a sophisticated elegant and chic style, amidst a surreal ambience of lush mountains and historic walnut plantations.

“JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove & Spa is a beautiful addition to our growing India portfolio and overall global presence,” said Mitzi Gaskins, Vice President and Global Brand Manager for JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts. “Each year, thousands of travelers pass through the picturesque hill station of Mussoorie to experience its temples, gardens, hiking trails and natural falls and we are thrilled to celebrate that rich history and culture with our guests.”

JW Marriott MussoorieThe hotel’s interior and exterior design was inspired by its natural surroundings – the stunning Himalayan Mountains. All guestrooms feature private balconies, inviting guests to enjoy stunning views of the surrounding hills and gardens and breathe the fresh mountain air from the privacy of their own room. The new 115-room luxury resort is located just 290 kilometers (approx. 180 miles) from New Delhi and 60 kilometers (approx.40 miles) from the nearest airport in Dehradun.

“The opening of the first JW Marriott resort in India is undoubtedly a milestone for theJW Marriott brand and Marriott International at large,” said Mr. Rajeev Menon, Area Vice President of South-Asia for Marriott International. “JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa reflects the sophistication, style and exceptional service, attributes that have grown synonymous with the JW Marriott brand worldwide.”

Guests will be invited to explore five specialty restaurants on property. All-day dining JW Cafe serves fresh local and international favorites from its lively open kitchen such as popular North Indian black lentil dish Kali Dal, lamb dish Nalli ki Nihari and the signature JW Burger and JW Club sandwich; Teppan is the contemporary, upscale restaurant serving Asian cuisine; Wisteria Deck is a cozy outdoor Italian trattoria serving wood fired pizzas, wines and sangria; Perch is a tea lounge offering some of the best single estate teas and coffees and Trout House Grill & Bar opens each evening to grill up the local catch of the day and offer a selection of exclusive cocktails including fresh fruit martini’s and frozen cocktails.

The resort also houses the Cedar Spa by L’Occitane, which features five lavish treatment rooms and an array of invigorating treatments inspired by the indigenous cedar trees of the region. Treatments include the Signature Cedarwood Body Massage, the repairing Shea Ultra Rich Softening Body Wrap and the Almond Silhouette Reshape to restore firmness. Salon by Warren Tricomi, a state-of-the-art fitness center will boast an indoor heated swimming pool to complete the well-being experience at the hotel.

The resort was specially designed with families in mind and features The Den – an entertainment center and kid’s club that spans over 12,000 square feet and includes a two-lane bowling alley, billiard and pool tables, gaming consoles, library, nap areas and a Market with fresh food and beverages.

The hotel also holds one of the largest meeting spaces in the city with 3,300 total square feet across the Grand Orchard Ballroom, three break-out rooms and a spacious pre-function area. An on-site events team will ensure flawless coordination and execution, be it a lavish wedding or social event.

“The JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa, marks a major milestone for Mussoorie, one of the most stunning and serene parts of the Himalayas,” said Mr. Chandrashekhar Joshi, General Manager, JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa. “Our hotel has the distinction of catering to the entire family with a plethora of entertainment, dining and relaxation amenities that showcase the best of local ingredients, all in the lap of international luxury.”

The JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa offers the tranquility of nature, perfectly blended with the warmth of luxury hospitality, and will be the brand’s sixth property in India. Currently there are five other JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts properties in India, which are located in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Pune and Bengaluru.


InterContinental Muscat to Debut with New Features Following Extensive Refurbishment

InterContinental Muscat to Debut with New Features Following Extensive Refurbishment

InterContinental Muscat to Debut with New Features Following Extensive Refurbishment

Intercontinental Hotels and Resorts

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has signed a multi-year contract extension with leading tourism-related investment, development and management company Omran for InterContinental Muscat. The 258-room hotel will undergo extensive refurbishment, providing guests more amenities and facilities upon completion in 2017.

Bringing to life an InterContinental brand hallmark – the Concierge Programme, one of the main new features of InterContinental Muscat will be a purpose-builtInterContinental Concierge Lounge. The Concierge Lounge has been designed to enable guests to discover the city where the hotel is located through authentic local experiences and will incorporate a travel desk, business centre and concierge. Catering for meetings and events, the hotel’s function space will also undergo reconfiguration to provide better access and more options for event planners and hosts.

Guests and customers can look forward to great dining experiences with the hotel’s all day dining restaurant, which will be enhanced with a destination bar, terrace and garden, or relax in new dining and drinks venues. In addition to the spa and fitness centre, guests can enjoy some down time at the new floodlit tennis courts and new lap pool whilst young InterContinental guests are engaged at the new Kid’s Play Area.

Pascal Gauvin, Chief Operating Officer, India, Middle East & Africa, IHG said: “Omran is a valued partner of ours and we are delighted to renew our contract with them. We were one of the first international hotel companies to enter the Middle East with the InterContinental brand more than 50 years ago and guests recognise us as one of the leading luxury hotel brands in the world today. The refurbishment ofInterContinental Muscat will bring the hotel to new levels and we are confident it will deliver greater luxury experiences for our guests when the works complete.”

Omran currently has 3 IHG properties in its portfolio across Oman, including Crowne Plaza Duqm and the upcoming Crowne Plaza Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre which will open in 2016.

Wael Ahmed Al Lawati, CEO, Omran, said: “InterContinental Muscat has been a preferred choice amongst guests who enjoy luxury travel in Muscat. With a major refurbishment plan in place, we wanted to have a trusted partner who understands the hotel and guests manage the project with us. We have enjoyed a strong relationship with IHG over the past 37 years and are very pleased to continue our longstanding relationship with them. The new and enhanced features in InterContinental Muscat will definitely help draw more guests through our doors and we look forward to the completion of the refurbishment in the coming years.”

IHG currently has six hotels in Oman across three brands: InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn, and another two hotels in the development pipeline. There are 66 InterContinental hotels and resorts across Asia, Middle East and Africa and a further 23 hotels due to open in the next three to five years.


Moxy Milan Celebrates Inspiring Artistic Talent in Hunt to Find Next Best Artist

Live ‘Blank Canvas’ challenge puts three finalists under intense pressure to produce incredible art in only 60 minutes.

Moxy Milan Celebrates Inspiring Artistic Talent in Hunt to Find Next Best Artist

Moxy Milan Celebrates Inspiring Artistic Talent in Hunt to Find Next Best Artist

Moxy Hotels

Moxy Milan, the new economy design hotel in Milan, Italy, announced Nune D’Amico Kerobyan as the winner of its artist-in-residence competition – Blank Canvas #atthemoxy – which was held at a spectacular opening party that brought together media, hotel guests, art enthusiasts and the Milanese social scene on 30 October.

In a thrilling climax to the competition, three finalists created an artwork in just 60 minutes, in front of a live audience, using only a black blank canvas and pink, white and black paint pens. A tattoo artist, Leonardo Giacomo Borges, courtesy of MarriottRewards, painted semi-permanent tattoos on guests whilst they sipped on Nespresso cocktails including iced raspberry macchiatos and mojito coffee cocktails with Havana Club and a selection of Red Bull drinks, Sugarfree and Red Bull Red Edition. The electric music set, by Red Bull DJ Stefi Oyadi, kept the party dancing well into the night.

Moxy Milan – artists at work during competitionThe three finalists were selected from 300 submissions to global creative community, Talent House, for the first round of the challenge which required artists to submit artwork with a bold, vibrantly coloured design, capturing the character of Milan and displaying a Moxy attitude: spirited, fun and thoughtful.

Moxy Milan – Laura Hayden MC and Red Bull DJ Stefi Oyadi Ramesh Jackson, Vice President, Franchise Brand Operation, Marriott International and member of the judging panel said: “Watching the artists get to work in such a pressurised environment for the Blank Canvas challenge made for a thrilling evening — and one that immediately set the vibe we are so proud to nourish in the Moxy brand: daring, creative and fun. Celebrating raw creative design and vibrant urban energy is at the heart of Moxy’s core values and the response from the artist community for Blank Canvas #atthemoxy has been so exciting. This is just the start of a long creative partnership as we continue to support artistic talent at our hotels”

The three finalists, Ana Androska, Hector Darcos, and Nune D’Amico Kerobyan, were shortlisted because their work displayed the individuality and artistic energy thatMoxy’s expert art judges* were looking for:

Winner Nune D’Amico Kerobyan is a designer and painter from Rome, Italy. Judges admired her painting, Passion, for its decorative richness. This portrait is of a thoroughly modern, 21st-century woman, but Nune’s palette and approach is sensual with a nod to Art Deco style.

Runner upHector Darcos is a graffiti artist from the Canary Islands, who was raised in London and Barcelona. His abstract painting, Urban Flow, impressed the judges for its finely controlled line, and fluid, organic, almost other-worldly atmosphere that simultaneously feels very urban and contemporary.

Runner up Ana Androska is an artist from Skopje, in Macedonia. Her painting, Liberty, immediately caught the judges’ eyes. Liberty is, says Ana, about “celebrating the joy and passion of life — a bottle of wine shared with dear friends, with laughter, music and food”. Moxy’s art judges praised Ana’s charming, whimsical and figurative style.

As the proud winner, Nune was awarded a cash prize and her artwork will be displayed in the hotel’s Living Room. When receiving her prize from the judging panel, Nune explained “My artwork was inspired by the energy of cities around the world, fast free and always evolving and by the carefree Moxy way of life. I am so pleased and excited to win this prize and to be a part of the Moxy experience”

The Moxy Milan is located within walking distance of Terminal Two at Milan Malpensa Airport. Complimentary 24-hour shuttle service is available from Terminal One.


Standard Textile Launches Two New Products to Hotels

At this year’s International Hotel/Motel and Restaurant Show, Standard Textile, an international leader in the design, development, manufacturing, and distribution of engineered textiles for the hospitality market, will announce the launch of two new offerings to hoteliers: Vidori™ luxury sheeting and a new, stylish robe collection by fashion designer Heidi Weisel.

Both innovations reflect Standard Textile’s ongoing commitment to providing the hospitality industry with products that deliver superior performance to the hotelier and a luxurious experience to guests.

Standard Textile
Standard Textile’s latest products are poised to create tremendous value for the hospitality industry. Vidori, an entirely new, patented sheeting fabric is generating extraordinary interest among luxury properties who previously believed that 100 percent cotton was their only option.

According to Corporate Vice President of Product Development and Sustainability, Richard Stewart, “We recognize that many hotel guests desire the experience of 100 percent cotton sheeting. We, and the industry, also recognize the high operational costs associated with cotton linen. That’s why we engineered Vidori specifically for the hospitality market. Vidori is like nothing ever seen before in the hospitality market. It is an engineering breakthrough that will change the industry going forward. In a blind touch test, many customers could not differentiate between high thread-count luxury 100 percent cotton sheeting and Vidori.”

In Vidori, long-staple combed cotton yarn encapsulates synthetic microfilament bundles. As a result, the face of the sheet is comprised almost entirely of yarns that are 100 percent cotton.

“Essentially, the sleep surface and the guest experience of the Vidori™ sheet is that of all cotton. However, the hotelier will experience significantly higher tensile strength and product service life,” said Stewart.

In addition to luxury sheeting, Standard Textile collaborated with renowned fashion designer Heidi Weisel to design an exciting new collection of robes that will establish a new benchmark in the industry for both comfort and sophisticated style.

“I recognized a need for hotel and spa robes that offer great fit and style, with a touch of glamour. Many hotels provide robes for their guests, but they’re often oversized, and lack style and comfort,” said Weisel. “My vision was to reinvent what is currently available by creating a collection of robes that are fashion conscious, fit well, and feel fabulous. When you are staying at a hotel or relaxing at a spa, robes should feel cozy, comfortable and help create a memorable experience. A luxurious robe should be part of the overall sensual experience a hotel provides to its guests.”

Stewart added, “This collection will provide hotels, resorts and spas with a new opportunity to provide distinguishing guest experiences, while at the same time ensuring that the products will withstand the rigors of hotel and industrial laundering.”


Hotel Search Engine for Pro Sports Teams and Agents

Sports - equipement_1Pro Sports Hotels was designed to increase hotel revenue by generating new quote requests from sports teams, associations and agents. Pro Sports Hotel’s powerful search engine uses a range of sports filters to quickly search multiple destinations to find a comprehensive list of sports hotels that best meet a team’s needs.

There are no hidden costs, no commissions on bookings, and no hotel pricing is required. The company has a long term view and will not introduce a fee for membership until the system generates revenue for the hotel.

The benefits of Pro Sports Hotels are:

  • Hotel added to any sports category it can offer training camps for.  (Football/Soccer, Rugby, Athletics, Golf, Tennis & Swimming)
  • 2 Special Offer entries per yearly membership. The special offers will be posted on the special offers page for a month. The link for each special offer posted will appear on all Pro Sports Hotel’s social media platforms.
  • Events Page (to help find opponents for friendly games)
  • Comment Feature (feedback from teams that have stayed in the hotels)
  • Facilitates contact with sports team decision makers and sports agents that represents some of the biggest teams in the world.

Membership Approval is based on these requirements:

  • The hotel must have sports facilities on site or close by of a high standard suitable for professional training camps.
  • Once the hotel receives a quote request from a sports teams, association or agent they must provide a package offer that includes training and accommodation costs. If you do not have a package offer in place, but have suitable sports facilities, you can get a quote template after registration by contacting

Pro Sports Hotels is driven by founder and CEO Kevin Marry who is a qualified commercial pilot with a passion for the travel business. Kevin and his team have extensive experience of chartering aircraft and organising accommodation in many countries for governments, sports teams and businesses.

To register, visit, Once you receive your user name and password you can login and add your hotel (details and photos).


Do You View Hotel Marketing as a Cost or an Investment?

I am often asked, “What is the most important factor in a good hotel marketing strategy?” One of the top factors (that no one likes to talk about) is how a hotel’s owners and management view their marketing budget.

Those who treat hotel marketing as an investment will be able to maximize their online revenue potential. They will keep spending investing online, as that is where their audience lives, breathes, researches and books their trips.

Those who view it as a cost will treat it like any other cost; they strive to keep costs down. This group is the one that gives away revenue and market share to the OTAs and their competitors.

Here is a detailed review of the two approaches.

Approach #1: Treating Online Marketing as a Cost

If you are treating online marketing as an expense in your budget that needs to be kept under control, you are very likely on the losing side of the marketing battle. When you apply the cost reduction approach, it puts tremendous pressure on your already limited budget to perform quickly, while limiting your ability to test and optimize your marketing efforts.

No testing or expansion of marketing => Stagnation and decay in your online presence and decline in direct revenue

(Let’s be clear: Your OTA-contributed revenue continues to increase. That’s because they never hold back, while you agonize over every cent you spend.)

Cutting costs might work when it comes to laundry, lotions and soaps that you use in your hotel, but it can hurt you badly when applied to digital marketing.

Here are some specifics on why your revenue will suffer in the long term:

Online travel is huge and getting bigger.

Yes, online travel is like the Beatles in the 60s or yoga pants today. In numbers, it’s going to be hitting $830 billion in 2017. The pace of growth in the Asia Pacific region is enough to make you dizzy. When it comes time for you to sit down and plan your hotel marketing budget for the year ahead, you have to know that online is where all the action is happening. Deciding to sit this one out because you are keeping marketing “expenses” in check is a recipe for disaster that has cost the hotel industry billions in direct revenue.

ROI is a deathtrap.

I have written in detail about this and have personally seen this tragic scenario unfurl like a bad dream. It’s like my own personal Groundhog Day. “ROI” is notoriously hard to track in this multi-device, constantly connected world. For many hotels, especially the ones struggling to meet their overall objectives, any unquantifiable expense can seem like the perfect candidate for a budget cut. So, hotels keep doing online cost-cutting and “vendor hopping” because they are “not seeing the ROI” (cringe). Agencies who try to win your business based on 5700% ROI promises are always a bad choice. You’ll pay them a small fee, helping you balance this year’s budget; but when the contract is over, you’ll just limp into the arms of the next vendor. The big picture: your direct revenue continually declines, your brand suffers, and you have to start all over again every year. Meanwhile, your online competitors (particularly the OTAs) keep building their long-term strategy and converting the traffic that should be yours.

Google is still King, and it wants more money.

Google is still the king of travel marketing, and looks like it will be sitting on the throne for some time. The beauty of Google is that it has all the phases of the booking cycle covered: Discovery, Research, Rate Shopping, Getting to and From a Destination… all the way to the drive back to your home after the vacation. Google has it all. The SEO Bubble burst in 2013, so now you have a clear choice: pay to play.

Google will be your best friend as long as you are willing to pay for it. Hotel pay per click is one of the cornerstones for generating direct revenue. You want to reduce your marketing costs? Sure, go ahead. Google will be happy to sell its ads to willing and highly motivated online travel agents who make millions billions bidding on your name, location and destination. It’s great for them when you are not there to compete, especially on your brand name searches.

Cliché Alert: It takes money to make money.

It might seem easy to cut back on marketing expenses to save money, but you have to consider what else you’re losing. Example: Reducing your Google PPC budget from $10,000 to $3000 a month saves you $7000 a month. But at the same time, your ads don’t run, your revenue starts to decline, and your leads have been cut way back. No new leads and no new conversions are a lethal hit on your profitability and direct revenue. It used to take months, but now you will feel the revenue hit in a matter of weeks. That sinking feeling? Yes, it’s your revenue tanking because you stopped spending. Welcome to the reality of doing business in 2014.

Approach #2: Treating Online Marketing as an Investment

This is the winner’s circle. Online marketing really is an investment in your present and in your future. It cannot be thought of as an optional expenditure. Think of it as a paying career and a retirement fund rolled into one. Effective marketing pays your bills in the short term and sets the foundation for the long-term profitability of your hotel. The hotels who are doing it right will exponentially increase their profitability over time.

Here is how it’s done right:

Target the entire travel funnel.

The smartest hotel ownership companies and individual asset owners understand the dynamics of the entire sales funnel. Their investment in hotel marketing is targeted toward prospects in every part of the funnel (research, planning, booking). Efforts include:

  • Investing at the top of the funnel to attract prospective new guests (ie, Boston Vacation, Boston Hotels, Boston Things To Do)
  • Investing at the bottom of the funnel to convert prospects into guests (ie, Your Hotel Name)

Push the limits.

The most dramatic successes that my partners and I have achieved for hotel clients had one thing in common: We were asked to investigate and give them the dollar amount needed for total market domination. Whether they were rebranding, opening a new hotel, revitalizing a faltering asset, or preparing to sell the asset… they knew that the striking results they wanted required proper investment. Instead of racing down to the bottom, the owners were looking to make a lot of money. There was no room for light or smooth jazz online marketing. Done right, with revenue as the supreme goal, we’re talking hard core Spinal Tap style marketing, cranked way up to 11!


Hotels who treat online marketing as a scalable cost are seeing a decline in their direct revenue and losing market share to their competitors and online travel agencies. A cost-based approach hampers your growth today, and prevents you from being able to build your brand online. Vendor-hopping toward low profitability and automated marketing platforms is a sure shot way to lose revenue. Let’s face the facts: Print media is not making a comeback anytime soon. Nor are carrier pigeons going to bring you your future reservations. If not online, where else should you be investing? If revenue is important to you… wake up, and put your money where your revenue is!


Olive Garden Is Offering 7 Weeks Of Unlimited Pasta For $100

Olive Garden is trying a new tactic for drawing in customers.

The struggling Italian chain is offering a “Never Ending Pasta Pass” for $100 that buys seven weeks of unlimited pasta, breadsticks, salad and Coca-Cola beverages, USA Today reports.

There are only 1,000 passes and they will be sold on the company’s website beginning at 3 p.m. If a customer uses the pass once every day for the 49-day period, they would effectively be paying about $2 per meal.

The chain’s pasta dishes average around 1,000 calories for a single serving.

“What we’re trying to do is get some attention,” Jay Spenchian, Olive Garden’s executive vice president of marketing, told USA Today. “It’s sure to provoke a reaction.”

Olive Garden’s same-store sales dropped 1.3% in the most recent quarter.

Olive Garden

The new promotion is running at the same time as its “Never Ending Pasta Bowl” offer, which lets customers eat unlimited pasta for $9.99.

This is the latest in a string of promotions offering unlimited food by struggling casual dining restaurants.

TGIFridays launched a $10 “Endless Appetizers” deal in July and Red Lobster is currently offering “Endless Shrimp” for $15.99.

When Marketing Personalization Fails

Imagine a company that addressed single women about their pending nuptials or congratulated women on their first child even though they never have been pregnant. These are just a few of the marketing snafus in over recent months by big companies (Pinterest and Shutterfly, respectively).

All the hype in marketing these days is about personalization. The idea is making every interaction highly relevant and tailored to a specific individual, based on his or her online, social or app behavior, shopping history, preferences, tastes, family and lifestyle details.

The proliferation of mobile devices has accelerated the desire by companies to personalize marketing efforts, but with embarrassing gaffs happening — and consumers all too eager to share their experiences on social networks — marketers need to protect themselves. Here’s four ways to do so:

1. Cross-reference all data.

Integrate and cross-reference data from all available first-party data sources (email, customer-relationship management tools, apps and transactions) and second-party sources (social media). When dealing with subjects about which emotions run high (such as pregnancy or other life-changing events), companies should have a double-confirmation system.

Was there a status change on Facebook? Did the customer purchase related items? Did this customer change her status within a profile on the company’s site? Only when there is second nod of validation, should companies use certain criteria to target a customer for the purchase of a product.

In the Pinterest case, the social site sent out emails to users who had pinned any wedding-related content but these people weren’t necessarily engaged. Some women start dreaming about a wedding day as little girls. Teens might use sites like Pinterest to save inspiration ideas for a future wedding even without a suitor yet on the horizon. Just because a person shows interest in the topic of weddings does not mean she is tying the knot.

2. Always act in context.

To increase the chances of delivering a relevant message or experience, companies need to not only leverage the data that makes a message personal but also be sure to trigger it when it’s contextual or appropriate to a person’s immediate circumstance and intent.

The context surrounding a consumer is what’s trending around her and what’s viral among her peers. Using a variety of big-data tools, such as semantic and virality analysis, a company can better understand what a given person might want at a certain moment. Virality simply refers to how viral something is online, on social or other channels.

Acting in context, a hotel would send to a 25-year-old guest in town with friends a message about an Oktoberfest beer event that’s trending on Instagram and issue an alert for a symphony concert in a park to a couple in town to celebrate an anniversary.

3. Learn from the past.

Create user segments based on customer behavior, interests, needs, demographics and psychographics. By segmenting and then analyzing the behavior of long-standing customers, a company can predict the actions led to certain profile attributes, such as recent marriage or being a new mother.

An over-the-counter allergy-medicine company could anticipate what additional allergies a person may experience based on long-standing customers’ shopping and in-app behavior and user-generated profiles. Thus, the company could predict that a person with a strong allergy to ragweed might be wrestling with a specific allergy rampant in a town she’s visiting and provide an offer or tip.

4. Monitor sentiment in real time.

By tracking real-time feedback and chatter about a company online and applying a sentiment analysis, employees will be able to see almost immediately if a mistake has been made, enabling them to stop further damage from being done and to apologize to those affected.

If a company makes a mistake, the worst thing it can do is ignore it. During Hurricane Sandy, for instance, companies like Gap and Urban Outfitters promoted free-shipping offers to those in affected areas. These tactics quickly blew up on Twitter with harsh criticism about insensitivity. Apologies followed.

These recent high-profile personalization flops should not deter marketers from personalizing their efforts. Tailoring experiences is not a nice-to-have item. It’s a must-have in today’s customer-centric society.

Luckily, technology systems are becoming more advanced to put safeguards in place so marketers can personalize with confidence.

Visit Florida launches hospitality training program

With officials expecting Florida’s tourism number projections to grow to 127 million visitors by 2020, the state’s chief tourism marketing agency is launching a new training and certification program aimed at the state’s hospitality employees.

Visit Florida says the new training curriculum is aimed at strengthening and growing guest satisfaction in all Florida markets and driving repeat visits through a variety of industry-specific topics. Executives estimate an additional 315,000 hospitality jobs will be added in the next six years to support the tourism industry.

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association will present the online curriculum modules starting Nov. 1.

Topics will focus on increasing employees’ knowledge of tourism in Florida, understanding visitor diversity and differences in communications, creating positive personal interactions with guests, and the reinforcing the importance of tourism to Florida’s economy.

Hotel Social Media Strategies in 2014

Strategy #1: Identify and target social media personas

Hotels often try to be all things to all people in social media, but you’ll be more effective if you identify and focus on key target markets. “Traditionally, hotels have broken target markets into categories like corporate, group and FIT and by geography or demographics. But those segments often miss critical questions,” said panelist Robert Cole, founder of RockCheetah.

Cole recommended targeting social personas. Identify who they are, what they want and why they stay with you. Give them a name such as “adventurous honeymooners” and write down everything you know about them: income, lifestyle, hometown, needs, etc. “Then identify the services you can provide to give them an incredible, unforgettable time,” he said.

Strategy #2: Integrate content

Panelist Suzie Wotton, vice president of marketing at Red Carnation Hotels, recommended integrating three types of content in marketing campaigns to amplify visibility and reach.

Paid content includes cost-per-click, display ads and OTA listings, whereas owned content includes your website, blog, media releases, Facebook page and Twitter feed. For both types of content, you control the messaging- but its influence is limited.

Earned content is what other people say about your hotel. It includes user-generated reviews and imagery, media and blogger coverage, and social endorsements such as “likes,” “pluses” and shares. You don’t control the messaging, but it has high influence because consumers trust other consumers more than advertising.

“Traditionally, marketers focus on paid and owned content, which often involves ‘aspirational’ brand messages,” Wotton told ReviewPro webinar attendees. “Social media provides an optimum platform for integrating all three types of content. The key is to understand how all three types work together.”

As an example, she cited a recent post to Red Carnation Hotels’ Facebook page about gift certificates. The post is owned content, controlled by the brand. It received several shares and over 500 likes, which is earned content. The company advertises it as a sponsored post, which is paid content.

All three content types increase reach, but, “It’s the earned content in the form of guest comments that authenticates the message,” said Wotton. To maximize opportunities, she recommended “creating unique, bite-sized pieces of content that encourage engagement and can easily be shared across multiple channels.”

Strategy #3: Make reviews the priority

Review sites must be the priority because people visit them to shop, whereas social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are primarily used for socializing. Moreover, reviews are a valuable resource for guest feedback. That’s not to say social networking sites aren’t important; they have emerged as important marketing and guest service channels.

Panelist Adele Gutman, vice president of sales, marketing and revenue at Library Hotel Collection, shared the remarkable story of how her four New York boutique hotels climbed the ranks on TripAdvisor’s Popularity Index.

“We started out in 2004 with no budget for advertising whatsoever,” said Gutman. “When one of our hotels, Hotel Giraffe, reached the top-seven on TripAdvisor, our phones began to ring off the hook.” So they set a bold goal: get all four hotels within the top 10. Six years later, they occupied the top four rankings, and today they consistently rank within the top 10. As a result, “the majority of our bookings come direct from our website,” she said.

Gutman’s advice for achieving similar success? “Start by imagining the kind of reviews you want, and become the hotel that inspires those reviews,” she said. “Share your vision with your team. Expect the best and don’t settle for less. Give staff the coaching they need, and let them know you’re all striving to reach the goal together. Your reward will be the thousands of people who visit your page on TripAdvisor.”

Strategy #4: Get social with Google

Google reviews still lack in terms of volume, recency and helpfulness, but their integration with Google products like Search, Maps, Places and Hotel Finder make them an essential part of a hotel’s marketing strategy. Once you receive five reviews, your star rating will be displayed in gold.

By now, you should have verified your Google Places listing. To take things to the next level, create a Google+ business page and merge it with your Places listing. Then link it to your YouTube channel.

Referring to The Milestone Hotel’s merged page, Wotton said, “This is the perfect example of owned, paid and earned content working together to quickly present the consumer with an informative, localized and socially inspired page with which they can engage at any stage of travel.”

Strategy #5: Optimize Facebook for Graph Search

Graph Search turns Facebook into a search engine for friends, and friends have more influence than strangers. The more Facebook users like your page, check in, tag photos, the higher the likelihood you’ll show up in searches. You should also optimize your About page much like your website for search engines.

And now that star ratings and review boxes appear on Facebook brand pages, Facebook reviews must become part of your reputation management program.

Strategy #6: Engage guests visually and interactively

“Social visuals are more important than ever,” RockCheetah’s Cole said. He encouraged hoteliers to use social in creative ways to make the experience “very visual and personal”.

As an example, Cole sited Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts’ “Pin. Pack. Go” board on Pinterest. The trip planning service allows users to create a board based on an upcoming trip, and local experts will pin recommendations. “It’s a remarkably creative and effective use of social technology,” said Cole. “It shows how social media can truly be leveraged-not just for broadcasting information.”

Remember that social networks are searchable, so tag imagery with your brand name, location and description, and use consistent hashtags across platforms.

Strategy #7: Make your website the social hub

Your website remains the primary platform for promoting your business online. Make it a living, breathing entity by integrating social content.

As an example, Wotton showed Red Carnation Hotels’ Get Social page, which features streaming content from various social channels. “This way, all owned, paid and earned sits on,” she said.

Strategy #8: Manage guest expectations

A huge part of success in social media lies in setting realistic expectations. Said Gutman, “At Library Hotel Collection, to minimize negative comments we ensure that descriptions on our website and OTAs are as authentic and honest as possible.”

As an example, she cited the “Petite” room category at the Casablanca Hotel. “Is it bad marketing to tell our guests these rooms are small?” she asked. “I don’t think so. Why mislead them? If I don’t tell them, they will tell everyone. I’ve disarmed them with a painfully authentic description.”

“If there’s no view,” she said, “we tell them up front there’s no view. We’d rather they be happy somewhere else than unhappy at our hotel. This drives brand loyalty. Also, it helps sell the bigger rooms. And it prevents guests from booking wrong room. So everyone’s happy.”

Gutman also discussed the importance of synergy between operations and the sales and marketing department. “Front desk and all staff are our stars, our secret sauce, who guests will fall in love with and rave about,” she said.

Gutman considers it her job to be their advocate, and to make sure that they have the tools and support they need. “Happy, empowered staff create happy, loyal brand ambassadors who give great reviews. This generates far more demand that I could knocking on doors.”

Strategy #9: Use social media for service

Red Carnation Hotels dominates the charts on TripAdvisor in London, occupying four of the five top positions of over 1,200 hotels. But managing all social channels is important, said Wotton. Increasingly, travelers turn to Facebook and Twitter for service, often in real-time. “We’re looking at implementing an infrastructure and procedures to support the monitoring and responsiveness of these platforms 24/7 next year,” she said.

Wotton acknowledged that not all hotels have the resources for this, but she thinks 24/7 social media coverage is where the industry is heading. “If a guest calls the front desk at 4:00 am, do we ignore it?” For any category of hotel, the key is to provide a consistent level of service online and offline.

Wotton added that 2014 is said to be “the year of help, not hype.”

To that end, her company is focusing on publishing more helpful content on social channels. “We research questions travelers are asking on forums like TripAdvisor and integrate them into our content strategy,” she said.

Strategy #10: Measure performance

Lastly, Cole stressed the importance of measuring performance. “You don’t know if you’re doing well unless you have your goals quantified and are measuring performance against those goal. Measure the gap and either close it or set a new goal,” he said.