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  • HITEC Special: Does EU GDPR Affect U.S. Hospitality Companies?

    By Alvaro Hidalgo. The EU General Data Protection Regulation has set a path towards protecting personal data which many other countries will follow. In a global industry such as hospitality, it should be a primary objective to take the steps towards compliance.

  • HFTP Report: Hospitality Data Security — Strategy for Data Protection and Regulation Compliance

    This guide from Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP(R)) covers safeguards that can be implemented in hospitality businesses today, tips on how to continuously improve security and data regulation compliance.

  • HFTP GDPR Guidelines: Privacy Policies for Hotels

    This document offers points to consider in the development of a hotel’s privacy policy. In view of the multiple organisational and legal structures under which hotels operate, as well as the complexity of the third party landscape that may be part of the complete guest experience, this document serves as a guideline only.

  • HFTP GDPR Guidelines: Hospitality Guest Registration Cards

    This document offers recommendations for guest information collection on the guest registration card along with consent for use. It can be used as a guideline for loyalty cards, health data, export of data outside of the EU, privacy policies and direct marketing.

Case Study: Hotel Group in California Generates 2,169% ROI with Email Marketing

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·15 October 2018
A hotel group in California was looking for a way to promote their newest packages and drive online bookings to fill an upcoming need period. In addition, they wanted to generate awareness about the new offers on the Specials page of their website.

The Resort at Pedregal Brings Cabo San Lucas Online With New Website

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog· 5 October 2018
In partnership with HEBS Digital, The Resort at Pedregal has launched a new website with several leading-edge features that will captivate guests long before they arrive at the award-winning property. Inspiration for the new website was easy to find: seaside and cliffside, outside and in, The Resort at Pedregal is the ultimate Cabo San Lucas resort that places guests a world away in an excluded retreat. Paramount is the unmatched level of individualized service tailored to the whims and needs of each guest — a unique value proposition that website visitors need to sense immediately upon landing on the site.

Employee Spotlight: Janki, Web Analyst

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog· 2 October 2018
I am a Web Analyst here at HEBS Digital. I work on reporting and analyzing data within the Adobe Analytics and Google Analytics platforms. I think it’s super cool that I am able to understand basic analytics coding and also use various platforms to capture revenue and marketing initiatives for our wide range of clients.

HEBS Digital Wins Six Awards in the Travel Weekly 2018 Magellan Awards

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·27 September 2018
HEBS Digital was honored with six awards in the Travel Weekly 2018 Magellan Awards. Each year, the Magellan Awards acknowledge the extraordinary travel professionals who provide the best products and services in the tourism industry. HEBS Digital is pleased to be recognized among a pool of top travel organizations and professionals.

Case Study: Homepage Video Increased Time Spent on Hotel Website by 17%

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·26 September 2018
The Grand Ely Lodge, which boasts panoramic views of Shagawa Lake, is located in northern Minnesota and provides a much-needed escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Surrounded by nature, the hotel has a lot to offer their guests including an indoor pool and sauna, a game room, snowshoeing, fishing, kayaking and more.

Now Available for Download: Smart Hotelier's Guide to 2019 Digital Marketing & Technology Budget Planning

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·25 September 2018
With budgeting season comes the time to analyze digital marketing initiatives and plan for trends that may arise throughout the year. When constructing your budget, think about upgrades your property needs to make regarding digital technology and marketing strategy.

HEBS Digital Named the Leading Travel Merchandising Solution Provider in North Am

HEBS Digital ·25 September 2018
Founded in 1993, the World Travel Awards is an established organization created to acknowledge, reward, and celebrate excellence across all key sectors of the travel, tourism and hospitality industries. Today, the World Travel Awards brand is recognized globally as the ultimate hallmark of industry excellence."At HEBS Digital, we constantly innovate and strive to provide a best-in-class CMS solution for the industry. Our team is focused on delivering new features and functionalities that help power our client's easy-to-use, fast, and revenue generating websites", said Eric Ruvio, Chief Software Engineer at HEBS Digital. "It is humbling when respected organizations like World Travel Awards recognize us for our hard work and dedication."The smartCMS is the core of HEBS Digital's guest acquisition suite and powers some of the most cutting-edge and revenue-driving hospitality websites in the industry today. HEBS Digital's award-winning team of innovative programmers, developers, and designers work together to power the smartCMS and keep it at the forefront of the industry.At HEBS Digital, the team constantly makes edits and updates to improve the smartCMS website technology platform. The team completes updates in 6-week "sprints" with the goal of improving the technology to better serve its users: the hotelier. Some key features and benefits include:A Software as a Service (SaaS) Cloud-First Technology, with 50+ modulesFully responsive multi-property, multi-brand, and single property hotel website designsOptimizations for mobile with innovations like Google AMP EnablementAbility to serve personalized website messagingA Merchandising Platform, allowing the hotelier to sell on value vs. sell on rateA suite of Reservation Recovery tools to recover abandoned reservationsNumerous modules that can be implemented to increase conversion rate of hotel bookings and upsell potentialFull compliance with SEO best practices with innovations such as automated schema codingClients of HEBS Digital who utilize the smartCMS Website Technology Platform see unparalleled results including an average low cost of sale of 4.5% and an average ROI of 2,200% - 22 times the investment in working with HEBS Digital.

Product Spotlight: Facebook Dynamic Ads for Travel

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·20 September 2018
At the beginning stages of the travel planning journey, visitors have shown intent to travel to your destination and are clicking on your marketing ads. However, these people are still browsing and shopping around – not yet ready to make reservations and using valuable marketing dollars. How can hotels effectively stay top of mind throughout the user’s planning phase until they are ready to book?

The Top 5 Things You Need to Know Now in Hotel Digital Marketing: September Edition

HEBS Digital ·20 September 2018
1. SEO: The Google search algorithm update on August 1 is now officially rolled out. Overall, the search engine update is considered a broad core algorithm update, so there are no specific optimizations that the SEO community should be focused on. However, now more than ever, marketers should ensure that the website offers a great user experience, rich content, and is valuable and relevant to website visitors. While some sections of the website might drop in ranking, other website content may rise in the rankings and become more favored by the search engines. The arts and entertainment, auto and vehicle, beauty and wellness, finance, and health industries saw the largest impact from this algorithm update, while the travel vertical remains the least affected industry.2. SEM: Google Ads introduces ad strength indicator for responsive search ads. Google has stressed ad diversity as an AdWords best practice for quite some time now. Google claims that the more ad variations an ad group contains, the more impressions and engagement the ad group will achieve. In light of this, a new ad strength meter will measure the relevancy, quantity, and diversity of ad copy for responsive search ads. The meter ranges from "poor" to "excellent" and provides actionable insights for optimizing ad groups for best performance. Google is also introducing reporting for responsive text ads so marketers can gauge the performance of these changes and learn from their optimizations. For hotel marketers, this will help further boost performance of responsive text ads and provide more tools to understand what is working for the hotel brand in search results.3. Display: Go beyond organic marketing with user-generated content. User-generated content is commonplace in social media marketing. However, a new trend in display advertising is turning user-generated content into paid marketing gold. It's no secret that customers are the best brand advocates, and that consumer trust in paid advertising is on the decline. Bearing this in mind, why not take authentic content from your hotel's best brand advocates and get permission to promote this content across channels? This strategy was highly effective for Coca-Cola with their "Share a Coke" campaign, and with so many postcard-ready vacation shots being shared on Instagram every day, this could be the perfect way to showcase a getaway at your hotel through the eyes of a guest.4. Social: Facebook opens up new video ad format to more advertisers. Ad Breaks, a new Facebook in-stream ad unit, will allow advertisers to include a 15-second pre-roll and mid-roll ad unit throughout video on Facebook in addition to image ads displayed just below the video. Pages within the US, UK, Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia with more than 10k followers that were able to generate more than 30k video views in the last 2 months are eligible. This new feature is great for hotel brands with a strong Facebook following and video content. Include special offer and package promotions throughout hotel and destination video or promote a multichannel campaign throughout rich video content.5. Design: Actions speak louder than words with animated typography. A design trend that is gaining even more traction as we move into 2019 is animated typography. Bold typography that takes up major real estate on a page has been a trend for quite some time, and now with interesting and engaging animation, it's making an even stronger impression on website visitors. Animated typography is perfect for highlighting emotive copy and taglines throughout your hotel website and draw a visitor's attention to key selling points of the hotel.

The Top 5 Things You Need to Know Now in Hotel Digital Marketing: September Edition

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·19 September 2018
This month, Google’s search engine algorithm update takes full effect, Facebook rolls out new video format to more advertisers, and animated typography helps website content pack a punch. From SEO to design, read on to learn the top5 things you need to know now in hotel digital marketing.

Employee Spotlight: Pete Seidenberg, CEO

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·18 September 2018
Every month, we turn the spotlight on one of the team members responsible for bringing our industry-leading products and services to life. Meet our CEO Pete Seidenberg.

What is RFM? Top 5 Ways to Elevate Your Digital Strategy & Increase Direct Bookings

HEBS Digital ·17 September 2018
Understanding the lifetime value of guests, including the type of content and promotions that compels them to book direct, is crucial to an effective book direct strategy.So, what's the secret to understanding the value of your guests and knowing your most profitable guest? The answer lies in RFM (recency, frequency and monetary) modeling. In a nutshell, this means:How recent a guest has stayed (recency)How frequently a guest stays (frequency)Total monetary value of a guest (monetary)How is RFM analysis done?RFM analysis looks at all of the bookings and transactions in your customer database during a specific time period, usually the last 2-3 years. The purpose of the database analysis is to determine the value of your guests based on how much they spend with your hotel brand, how often they stay with your hotel brand, and how recently they've made a booking.With the combined power of RFM data, hotel marketers can get a deeper understanding of a guest's relationship with the brand and use this data to reach a more qualified audience with personalized messaging.How is RFM modeling used to build segments?Based on RFM, you can classify your guest database into different value segments. Here are some example segment classifications based on recency, frequency, and monetary values:High-Value RFM Classifications:Premium Best Guest: High revenue, active guests who have stayed within the last year, and have stayed with your hotel brand three or more times.Best Guest: High revenue, active guests who have stayed within the last year, and have stayed with your hotel brand two or more times.Potential Best Guest: High revenue, active guests that have stayed within the last year, and have stayed with your hotel brand at least once.Lower Value RFM Classifications:Frequent Smart Shopper: Low revenue, active guests that have stayed with your hotel brand within the last year two or more times.One-Time Smart Shopper: Low revenue, active guests that have stayed with your hotel brand within the last year one time.Inactive Guest RFM Classifications:Former Best Guest: High revenue, inactive guests that haven't stayed within the last two years but have stayed more than two times.Former Potential Best Guest: High revenue, inactive guests that haven't stayed within the last two years but have stayed at least twice.Former Frequent Smart Shopper: Low revenue, inactive guests that haven't stayed within the last two years but have stayed at least twice.Former One-Time Smart Shopper: Low revenue, inactive guests that haven't stayed within the last two years but have stayed one time.These are just some examples of RFM segmentation to help digital marketers better classify the value of past guests.How can you utilize RFM modeling to elevate your digital strategy and drive revenue?Classifying your RFM segments is just the beginning. How you utilize these RFM segments on your hotel website and in your digital marketing strategy and campaigns will achieve the most impact on your bottom line. From design to personalization and multichannel campaigns, it's crucial to take a holistic approach when integrating RFM segments into your digital strategy. Here the top5 ways that RFM segmentation can increase direct bookings:1. Build customer personas and get to know your guests. So, you've classified your guest profile data into RFM segments. Now what? While it's great to see a comprehensive list of names classified under 'Premium Best Guest' (aside from an average monetary value and stay frequency) what exactly does this really mean, and more importantly, who's included in this segment, what are their online behaviors, and what do they love about your hotel brand?The answer lies in guest data.Analyze demographic data: Take a deeper dive into your hotel's RFM segments and make note of demographic trends. For instance, for your Premium Best Guest (those who stay often and spend a lot with your brand), you may find that this is an older demographic with a higher household income. Does it skew male or female? What room type do they stay in most often?Analyze customer interests: Once you make note of demographic trends, look for trends in interest and behaviors. Do you notice that customers that fit this demographic are more likely to open an email when it contains food and wine? Art and culture? Overall, what campaigns this demographic engages with most can be very revealing to the demographics' top interests.Analyze customer reviews: Once you get more insight into your target demographics' interests, it's important to look at reviews from this segment to uncover both the emotional and functional benefits this segment associates with your hotel brand. A functional benefit could be the location while an emotional benefit could be the stylish decor or the communal spaces for socializing.Once you analyze these key data points, you should start to get a better understanding of who your high-value guests are, what they are interested in, and what they love about your hotel. With these insights you can shape a customer persona, give it a name, and begin building website content and campaigns that go beyond targeting a blanket demographic with a human-centric approach that resonates with potential guests.These customer personas can influence every aspect of your digital strategy from website design, user experience, and content to digital marketing and your CRM strategy.2. Use RFM to fuel your digital marketing. By now, many hotel marketers are using customer data to build look-a-like audiences across marketing campaigns to reach new potential guests that match the demographics and travel planning behaviors of past guests. Hotels can take their CRM data and utilize RFM segmentation to reach new potential guests that match their high-value guests and are more likely to book at a higher price point. RFM segmentation to fuel your digital marketing doesn't just allow you to reach high-value guests, it also allows you to reach value-driven guests. For instance, if you need to launch a campaign to fill last-minute inventory at a lower ADR, it's a good idea to market to Frequent Smart Shoppers (segment of guests that stay frequently at a lower price point).Implement customer data RFM segmentation with intent-display: Using your RFM segmentation to build act-a-like audiences on travel ad networks like Sojern and ADARA and layering on intent data is a highly effective strategy to reach high-value potential guests during the travel planning process. It is also an effective strategy to promote value-driven special offers to Frequent Smart Shoppers who will book rooms at a lower ADR or discounted rate in a shorter booking window.Implement customer data RFM segmentation on Google Display Network: Similar to travel ad networks, you can use your RFM segmentation with Customer Match targeting on Google to build look-a-like audiences focused on a high-value segment or value-driven frequent traveler.3. Use RFM to implement data-driven design. Once you build personas to understand who your high-value guests are, their interests, and what they love about your hotel, next it's important to understand what they want and need from your hotel website. For instance, if when exploring your RFM segments you find that your Premium Best Guest is predominately over the age of 55, you may want to go with a more traditional navigation structure on your hotel website vs hamburger navigation. If you find that their interests tend to center around arts and culture, your website design should prioritize a calendar of events in content hierarchy ensuring events are prominently displayed and easy to navigate.Build customer user flows. Based on your RFM segmentation and customer personas, your website sitemap should include customer user flows for each target segment that map out the top pages each segment visits. This will provide the design team with an understanding of what content is most important to each segment to prioritize in the UX of the website design.Create mood boards. To build an aesthetic that resonates with each audience, creating a mood board with imagery and color schemes that capture the essence of each customer persona is an important step in inspiring a website design that will resonate with high-value past and potential guests. For instance, if you find that your Frequent Smart Shopper segment is comprised of mainly the Millennial demographic, the website design should be more experiential and destination focused with lifestyle content and imagery.4. Utilize RFM in your content personalization strategy. Website content personalization focused on CRM data is highly effective in driving conversions. Take your personalization strategy to the next level by utilizing RFM segmentation to personalize content throughout your website. For instance, if you know that your Premium Best Guest typically stays in a suite and purchases breakfast, create a suite package including complimentary breakfast and serve this package first when a Premium Best Guest visits your website. If the Frequent Smart Shopper segment prefers a more affordable room type but tends to spend more money at the destination, serve this website visitor a more affordable room type and a call-out to a map of things to do nearby the hotel. 5. Launch RFM focused multichannel and CRM campaigns. Launching campaigns that are targeted towards profitable, high-value guests is one of the best ways to increase revenue. Multichannel campaigns focused on a high-value RFM segment should have more luxury and experiential messaging across channels while multichannel campaigns focused on a more price-conscious segment should be centered more on savings. This is where building customer personas and uncovering both the functional and emotional benefits they associate with your hotel brand become crucial to launching campaign messaging that resonates with potential guests. The same strategy applies to your hotel's CRM campaigns. When deploying CRM communication, messaging, imagery, and design should be tailored to each RFM segment to increase CTR and engagement. Reach the right segments to accomplish your goals and KPIsWhen analyzing your RFM segmentation in your CRM data, make sure the segments you are targeting are profitable. For instance, while an RFM segment may spend less money with your hotel brand, if the cost per acquisition is low and it's a large enough segment of your existing and potential customer base, it may be worth investing more than a high-value segment that may be expensive to acquire. In evaluating the profitability of each RFM segment to help you reach your revenue goals faster, the focus should be on cost per acquisition, addressable market, and revenue potential.Overall, RFM segmentation of your CRM data can be a powerful tool to launch a more personalized, effective, and cost-efficient digital strategy. Whether your top priority is design, content personalization, digital marketing, or simply getting to know your customers better, integrating RFM segments into your digital strategy will make your digital presence more impactful resulting in more direct bookings and ultimately, more loyal guests.

What is RFM? Top 5 Ways to Elevate Your Digital Strategy & Increase Direct Bookings

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·14 September 2018
The digital landscape is constantly evolving. Hotel digital marketers continue to seek more effective and cost-efficient ways to reach the right audience, at the right place, and at the right time. But do hotel marketers truly know the value of each and every guest and, more importantly, do they understand what motivates guests to choose their hotel, then choose to stay again?

HEBS Digital's Sister Company, Serenata CRM, Voted the Best Hotel Technology Provider in Asia

HEBS Digital ·11 September 2018
Serenata CRM, the sister company of HEBS Digital and the leading specialist for customer relationship management (CRM) and E-marketing, was recognized as the best hotel technology provider in Asia at the World Travel Awards Asia & Australasia in Hong Kong. This prestigious award is presented annually by a high-ranking international jury made up of global travel and tourism experts."We have had a strong presence in the region for years and count ourselves lucky to enjoy the trust of a distinguished customer base of unique and high-quality brands. That is why this is a special tribute for us, and we are very proud and grateful to be honored with this renowned award in this growing market," said Dieter Dirnberger, CEO of Serenata CRM.Since their inception 25 years ago, the World Travel Awards have evolved into a globally respected brand. Established in 1993, they celebrate excellence across all key sectors of the travel, tourism and hospitality industries. Traditionally, after five regional run-offs in Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, the global winner of the Awards is chosen in a grand finale. This year's World Travel Awards Grand Finale will be held in Lisbon/Portugal in November.Serenata CRM is a three-time consecutive winner of the World Travel Awards, most recently in 2017. Part of NextGuest Technologies, Serenata CRM and HEBS Digital, are the creators of the hospitality industry's first Fully-Integrated Guest Engagement & Acquisition Platform. About Serenata CRMSerenata CRM is a worldwide leading provider of guest communication and CRM solutions for the hotel industry. Founded in 1996, Serenata CRM has many years of experience in the hospitality business and is a subsidiary of NextGuest Technologies, which also includes HEBS Digital as a specialist in digital marketing. Through the cooperation of both companies, Serenata CRM offers comprehensive CRM and E-marketing solutions for the hotel industry. A special focus is placed on attracting new guests by integrating all digital channels. With the integration of guest information from Property Management Systems (PMS), Central reservation Systems (CRS), websites and other systems, Serenata CRM offers a 360deg guest profile view. With Serenata CRM, guests are contacted by a targeted, dynamic and relevant communication before, during and after their stay with the aim of long-term guest loyalty.www.serenata.comAbout NextGuest TechnologiesNextGuest Technologies is an integrated hospitality technology and digital marketing company comprised of HEBS Digital and Serenata CRM. Combining our leading technology with innovative strategy, design, and digital marketing solutions, we are closing the loop on the customer journey with the first fully-integrated guest engagement, acquisition, and marketing platform. NextGuest Technologies helps hoteliers to increase direct bookings and revenue, lower distribution costs, and increase the lifetime value of guests by combining the power of CRM with guest acquisition marketing. Its diverse client portfolio spans the globe and consists of top luxury and boutique hotel chains, independent hotels, resorts, casinos, franchised properties, hotel management companies, and DMO and tourist offices. NextGuest's mission is to continue to build a portfolio of innovative technology companies that are paving the way in the industry--exclusively focusing on companies that are the best at what they do in the hospitality

HEBS Digital's Sister Company, Serenata CRM, Voted the Best Hotel Technology Provider in Asia

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·10 September 2018
Serenata CRM, the sister company of HEBS Digital and the leading specialist for customer relationship management (CRM) and E-marketing, was recognized as the best hotel technology provider in Asia at the World Travel Awards Asia & Australasia in Hong Kong. This prestigious award is presented annually by a high-ranking international jury made up of global travel and tourism experts.

Technical SEO On the Hotel Website: One Of the Most Important Revenue Drivers

HEBS Digital ·30 August 2018
It is really mind-boggling that after more than 23 years of SEO historical data and solid SEO best practices, technical SEO is one of the least understood and very much ignored digital technology and marketing disciplines in hospitality.Over 30% of hotel website revenues come as a direct result of SEO, and technical SEO plays a major role in influencing Google and the other search engines to rank your hotel website higher in search engine results pages (SERPs), which results in qualified website visitors and bookings.Good technical SEO on the hotel website sends Google multiple "signals" used by the Google search algorithm Hummingbird to determine how to rank your website pages in response to various searches and directly affects the PageRank score of the webpage. For example, if a webpage is determined to be mobile-friendly, this is a signal that is registered by the Googlebot and used in determining the page ranking.Google has frequently stated that it is using more than 200 major ranking "signals" with many thousands of sub-signals and variations. The following three categories are well within hoteliers' control, and if the hotel website is optimized to communicate these signals to the search engines, will achieve higher ranking in SERPs and reward the property with significant organic revenues.Content: unique, highly relevant and enticing website content that is professionally written, informative, useful and of travel guide-level quality.Links: links to the hotel website from highly authoritative non-paid websites like CVBs, online magazines and newspapers, blogs, social media, etc.Technical SEO: an ecosystem of technologies, configurations, and processes implemented to the website and server designed to optimize the hotel website and enable the search engine bots to access, crawl, interpret and index your website, which ultimately results in increased search traffic and revenue.NOW AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD: TECHNICAL SEO ON THE HOTEL WEBSITE EBOOKRead more by downloading the ebook today.

Now Available For Download: Technical SEO on the Hotel Website Ebook

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·29 August 2018
In hospitality, technical SEO is one of the least understood and very much ignored digital technology and marketing disciplines. Technical SEO plays a major role in influencing Google and other search engines to rank your hotel website higher in search engine results pages (SERPs), which results in qualified website visitors and bookings.

The Top 5 Things You Need to Know Now in Hotel Digital Marketing: August Edition

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·27 August 2018
The latest digital innovations this month include big announcements from Google, new Pinterest video opportunities, and geometrical shapes making a statement in website design for lifestyle brands. From SEO to design, read on for the top five things you need to know now in hotel digital marketing.

Insights from the 2018 Hotel Data Conference

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·24 August 2018
Last week in Nashville, I attended the Hotel Data Conference. Now in its tenth year, the HDC is a well-established gathering of hospitality professionals who come together to discuss the future of the industry. Over the week, I attended breakout sessions about Alternative Accommodations, Loyalty Sessions, and Independent Hotels. Below are a few of the takeaways I gathered from these sessions.
Article by Max Starkov

Another Move By The OTAs That Is Harmful To Hotel Profitability - What You Need To Know

HEBS Digital ·22 August 2018
Background:Two recent events in hotel distribution created a mild media buzz, but unfortunately were ignored by some hoteliers and quickly forgotten by the industry: Expedia's Add-On Advantage and Booking.basic.Below we will discuss the issues with these two new initiatives by Expedia and, reminiscent of the old Wild West times of hotel distribution and the early years of unruly OTAs, before rate parity and best rate guarantees. Both OTA initiatives use package or wholesale rates in clear violation of package and wholesale rates contract terms.We feel compelled to remind hoteliers how detrimental these new OTA offerings are to the hotel bottom line and suggest several action steps hoteliers must undertake to remedy their negative impact on profitability.What is Expedia's Add-On Advantage?Simply put, this initiative sells "naked" discounted hotel package rates, which were never meant to be sold unbundled with air, car rental, etc. For the Package Booking Program, typically hotels provide Expedia with discounted rates--20%, 30%, and even 40%--with the caveat that these rates cannot be offered "naked" to customers and must be bundled in a package with air, car rental, etc.Here is how the Add-On Advantage Program works: After customers book an airline ticket (Step 1), Expedia sends them an email (Step 2) with steeply discounted hotel rates in the destination the customer is flying to, pushing customers to book a hotel in addition to the airline ticket they have purchased. The problem for hoteliers is that the steeply discounted hotel rates Expedia is offering in Step 2 are from Expedia's Package Booking Program and these rates are not meant to be sold unbundled, i.e., "naked."In Step 2 of the Add-On Advantage program, customers clearly see the discounted hotel rates that were supposed to be offered by Expedia only as bundled package rates, which is in clear violation of the terms of Expedia's Package Booking Program.But the damage does not end there: Today's travel consumers are exceptionally savvy travel shoppers, and they will go and compare the discounted hotel rates Expedia offers in Step 2 to the rates on the hotel own website. The result? Consumers will see that, yet again, Expedia offers the best rates in the market, and next time they will go straight to this OTA website, not even considering the hotel website.Expedia is widely promoting this new Add-On Advantage program via TV advertising in key markets, and throughout the digital marketing channel.Why is Expedia doing this? Although over 60% of transactions on Expedia are airline reservations, this OTA makes practically no money from selling airline tickets, except for GDS kick-backs, since the airlines stopped paying agency commissions a long time ago. So the only way for Expedia to make some money from airline tickets is to bundle air with hotel, car rental, or local tours and activities in some form of a package, and markup all the package components.Unfortunately for Expedia, Americans do not like to book packages, and typically prefer to book air first and, if they can, use miles for free tickets or upgrades, and hotel second and, if they can, use points for partial or full stay, upgrades, and more.In the past 15 years, in spite of very aggressive promotions by Expedia and other OTAs, travel consumers refused to change their trip planning and booking behavior. As a result, package bookings on OTA sites never took off: Packages now linger at levels below 10% of all transactions. Hence the new Expedia Add-On Advantage Program, which allows Expedia to sell airline tickets and separately sell uniquely discounted hotels without the need to bundle air and hotel rates into packages, which Americans hate to book.What is Booking.basic?Using the Booking.basic logo and the slogan "Save more with just the basics," now features discounted restricted "basic" rates that must be prepaid and are non-refundable. These "basic" rates are out of parity and lower than's own rates. The reservations for these rates are "facilitated by third party business partners," which industry analysts have identified as (which is part of Booking Holdings, Inc.) and, the Chinese mega-OTA (Booking Holdings Inc. owns 8% of and is a strategic partner of the Chinese OTA).The problem is that these "basic" rates come from wholesale and group rates hotels have given Agoda and Ctrip for specific package programs, not for public use or unbundled sales and global transient distribution, which is in clear violation of the wholesale contract terms.Action plan for hoteliers: Expedia's Ad-On Advantage Program: If your property participates in Expedia's Package Booking Program, review your contract terms and explicitly disallow Expedia to offer the discounted package rates unbundled in any shape or form. In other words, the package rates cannot be offered "naked" to the customers and must be bundled in a package with air, car rental, etc.; the package should be offered with a single package price to the travel consumer. If you experience any resistance from Expedia, simply stop participating in the Package Booking program.Booking.basic Program:Amend your agreements with Agoda, Ctrip, and other OTAs, bed banks, and wholesalers to include provisions banning the use of group/wholesale rates for transient customers or selling discounted rates that are meant for packages in a "naked" form, i.e., unbundled from air, car rental, or local tours and activities. If you experience any resistance, stop providing these OTAs, bed banks, and wholesalers with wholesale inventory and pricing altogether.Focus on the direct channel to improve profitability:Endemic under-investing in direct online booking-generating technology and digital marketing is one of the main reasons why hospitality has allowed the OTAs to continuously gain market share over the years.Hotel owners and managers must realize that falling hotel profitability is due to OTAs increasing market share and "sneaky" initiatives like the Add-On Advantage and Booking.basic. The only option to increase profitability is to boost direct bookings, maximize incremental revenue opportunities, lessen dependence on the OTAs, and invest adequately in website technology and digital marketing to engage past, present, and future guests and drive direct bookings throughout the entire path to purchase.

Another Move By The OTAs That Is Harmful To Hotel Profitability - What You Need To Know

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·21 August 2018
Two recent events in hotel distribution created a mild media buzz, but unfortunately were ignored by some hoteliers and quickly forgotten by the industry: Expedia’s Add-On Advantage and Booking.basic.

Just Back From: Reykjavik, Iceland

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·21 August 2018
A few months ago, my best friend from college texted me on a whim, asking if I’d like to plan a long weekend in Iceland. Mesmerized by photos I’d seen of the Blue Lagoon, fangirling over Game of Thrones, and itching to go abroad, I jumped at the opportunity. We had been on several trips together and knew we traveled together well, due to our similar personalities and a “must see everything worth seeing” mentality when it came to a new place. By that weekend, we had booked our flights and giggled with excitement at the thought of another international adventure.

Coffee Chat: SHR & HEBS Digital

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·16 August 2018
HEBS Digital’s Executive Vice President, Jason Price, chatted with the CEO of SHR—Sceptre Hospitality Resources—Rodrigo Jimenez, to discuss his career and CRS strategies.

New eBook: How To Choose The Right CMS Technology For Your Hotel Website

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·14 August 2018
The road to a direct booking starts with a powerful website CMS technology. As the path-to-purchase for consumers becomes increasingly complicated across multiple channels and multiple devices, your hotel website must be more than a “pretty face” or read as a static brochure. The right CMS technology helps engage, retain, and acquire past and future guests. The long-term cost of choosing the wrong CMS technology is a dramatic increase in OTA dependency, higher distribution costs, lower revenues, and lower customer engagement.

Employee Spotlight: Elisa, Senior Web Designer

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·13 August 2018
Each month we turn the spotlight on the team responsible for bringing our industry-leading products and services to life. Meet Elisa Yi, Senior Web Designer, and learn about her role at HEBS Digital as well as some of her favorite travel experiences.

Product Spotlight: Mobile-First Responsive Website Design

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog· 8 August 2018
Search queries completed on mobile devices recently surpassed desktop as the majority Google search type, a trend that is expected to continually rise as smartphone usage increases and the popularity of voice search continues to bloom. As the shift in the digital landscape moves through its many stages, Google has followed suit, solidifying that the mobile web is here to stay by placing a greater focus on the mobile experience with the announcement of mobile-first indexing.


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