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  • New Global Directors Join the 2018-2019 HFTP Board

    The HFTP 2018-2019 Global Board of Directors was installed during the association's 2018 Annual Convention and introduces new directors Toni Bau, Carson Booth, CHTP and Mark Fancourt. These extensive director profiles give insight into the distinguished professions and personal goals of HFTP's newest association leaders.

  • 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.

Your Top 10 Digital Marketing New Year's Resolutions for 2019

HEBS Digital ·6h
With new technology and digital innovations announced daily, it can seem overwhelming for hoteliers to stay on top of trends and work them into their own strategies. With voice search and AI, omnichannel marketing, and the use of influencers on the rise, hoteliers have the opportunity to reach potential guests at more touchpoints than ever before.It's important to start 2019 with a strong foundation to your digital strategy and be able to incorporate new initiatives as the year goes on. To get you started, we put together the top resolutions for hotels based on current and forecasted trends.1. Understand the importance of an updated website and technology. Implement design trends on your website that follow UX and are backed by the right technology that leads user towards a booking.Selecting the right CMS is important for your hotel's digital strategy. Content management systems can help your hotel implement website personalization, present real-time rates and inventory, promote offers and specials, and more. All of these factors will showcase the property and can turn website visitors into bookings and revenue.As mobile continues to dominate, you should also make sure that you have a mobile-first, fully-responsive website design. Last year, Google began to use the mobile page versions of a domain for indexing and caching in its search results, and subsequently, for ranking. Historically, the desktop version of a page was primarily used when evaluating the relevance of a page to a user's query.2. Make CRM a priority. The goal of customer relationship management is fairly straightforward - improve your hotel relationships with guests. A CRM solution can help to understand customers through data and deliver them messages that they want and care about.By engaging guests before, during, and after their stays, hotels can fuel loyalty throughout the customer lifetime journey. Own the conversation from the moment a booking is made, nurture the experience with marketing automation, and retain your best guests by showing them how much you value their business.3. Learn about the importance of omnichannel marketing. Multi-channel marketing has been around for some time now and has proven to be a successful strategy for hotels. Now, with consumers expecting more personalized communication from brands, comes omnichannel marketing. This refers to providing a seamless experience, regardless of channel or device.Consumers expect their experiences with a brand to be the same in a physical location, on a website or app, through social media, and across online advertisements on any device they use. All of these touchpoints create an omnichannel experience for the user. Hotels can take advantage of omnichannel marketing by monitoring what guests are responding to best (on social media and on the website) and create content that reflects the brand and property. Utilizing data can help hotels understand what guests really want from the brand. From there, hotels should make sure all digital touchpoints represent the brand. This can include look and feel, the tone of voice, and the use of colors. Multi-channel and omnichannel campaigns can help achieve high results on a fairly small budget, sometimes generating over 10X ROAS.The final aspect of omnichannel marketing is personalization. As mentioned above, personalization can connect users to brands and help develop relationships. By personalizing content, hotels can achieve the omnichannel experience where guests will feel noticed and appreciated no matter what platform they interact with the hotel on.4. Give website visitors a personalized experience. A personalized online experience is more important than ever for hotels as customers expect brands to remember them and present them relevant information.Data doesn't lie. It's evident that customers expect a personalized experience when they visit your hotel website. 74% of consumers feel frustrated when website content is not personalized (Infosys) and 77% have chosen, recommended, or paid more for a brand that provides a personalized experience.It's no longer enough to present potential guests with static website content and expect them to find what they're looking for and make a reservation. In fact, a Salesforce study found that, by 2020, 51% of consumers will expect brands to anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions.Through personalization, hotels can create a dynamic user experience. Rather than a broad experience that attempts to reach all possible travelers, hotels have the ability to create unique content that appeals to different segments in order to achieve specific business needs. In this way, the hotel website can--and should--be the primary channel for engaging your best guests.5. Invest in video. Video continues to dominate.70% of consumers have shared a brand's video (Wyzowl) and 52% said that watching a product video makes them more confident in online purchases (Invodo).Although investing in video assets can be costly, the payoff can be huge for hotels. Videos can be utilized on websites, shared on social media channels, and provide a great way for potential customers to get a feel for their experience before ever stepping foot on the property.A video on The Grand Ely Lodge homepage recently helped the property increase the time spent on the website and decrease bounce rate, both of which impact search engine rankings and the overall health of the website.6. Optimize for voice. As the use of voice assistants grows, hotels need to optimize their websites in order to capture this audience.Although still in the early phases of being a viable distribution channel for hotels, voice search is already shaping consumer behavior, with the use of digital assistants higher than ever. In order to stay on top of the changing landscape, hotels must optimize their website content for voice by combining traditional SEO, technical SEO, and incorporating patterns inherent to voice commands.A robust content strategy also helps in voice search optimizations for those in the beginning stages of the travel planning journey. At this stage, users can have their devices search for destination information. Further into planning, they may say to their device, "Siri, find me the best hotel rates in downtown Boston."The impact of voice search will have on the hospitality industry is still uncertain, but, based on current trends, we can anticipate that the voice search landscape will continue to evolve and hotels can expect to see new opportunities for engagement and revenue.7. Be aware of AI & BI. Over the past few years, we've heard about artificial intelligence. Advancements and innovations will have even more people talking about its potential impact on different industries, including travel.AI & BI (business intelligence) can analyze consumer behavior by utilizing data from across the web to help businesses understand users. By beginning to plan for AI technology this year, hotels can have an edge over competitors.8. Don't ignore the upper funnel. Often times, when analyzing the success of a campaign, hotels are led to believe the most important KPIs are bookings and revenue. While these metrics are significant, it's also important to understand the purchase funnel. Marketing to users who are still in the early phases of their travel planning journey means engagement metrics are equally as imperative as reaching those who are ready to book.When a customer is in the upper funnel, or the dreaming phase of the travel planning journey, they are undecided on which accommodation they will book, with 67% of users more likely to book with a brand that provides relevant information for the destination they're interested in (Google). Consider adopting or investing in some of the following initiatives to capture the attention of those beginning to think about their next getaway:SEO-Optimized Destination Content - feature local neighborhood guides on the hotel websiteLifestyle & Editorial Blog - create long-form editorial content about the destinationDestination Video - create and share video so travel planners get a better sense of the destination and hotel propertyDestination-Focused SEM - target keywords promoting destination-specific contentNative Advertising - reach potential guests with relevant content on websites where they spend their timeSocial Media - be visible on social media where travelers ask for advice from friends and family throughout the dreaming phaseMetasearch - have a presence on Google and TripAdvisor to ensure the hotel website is discovered during the early phases of travel planning9. Try influencer marketing. It's been a hot topic in the hospitality industry, but with 92% of consumers saying that they trust word-of-mouth recommendations more than any other type of advertising (Nielsen), it's clear that influencer marketing isn't going away anytime soon.Using influencers can be a very effective method to attract new customers to your property as well as a way to generate fresh content for your brand. The first step is to identify key advocates that embody your brand and can deliver the messages you want to convey in an organic way. Additionally, you need to look at the follower loyalty of the influencer. Having a high follower count is much less important than the engagement their content receives (i.e. how many people interact with their posts).10. Invest in a virtual concierge for your hotel. As a form of AI, chatbots or virtual concierges will make a splash in the coming year. This technology allows for instant messaging in real-time with website visitors.Many people are already used to interacting with chatbots online and 80% of businesses are already using or plan to use bots by 2020 (Oracle). And with the development of Facebook Messenger bots, it's easier than ever for hotels to utilize bots in their online presence. The bots are programmed to understand questions and provide answers.The benefits of chatbots include reaching an audience directly, saving time and money on customer care, qualifying customers, handling transactions, and re-engaging users. A good example of this is Marriot's Facebook Messenger chatbot The bot helps customers link rewards accounts and was so helpful that the company transitioned it into a booking bot.Overall, as you begin to execute your 2019 strategy, it's important to be aware of the continuously changing trends and technology updates. Your resolutions can be a guide for your digital plan and should adapt throughout the year as business needs change and as technology innovations become available to you. Using this as a "checklist" can help ensure that your strategy stays on the right track and that your digital performance is successful through 2019.

Just Back From: Bangkok, Thailand

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·15 January 2019
Known for ornate shrines and a vibrant city life, Thailand’s capital is an experience unlike any other. The city welcomes visitors from all over the world and it’s not hard to imagine why. HEBS Digital’s SEO team member, Iana Rivera, recently escaped to the legendary city and came back with insights on everything you need to know.

Insights from The International Luxury Hotel Association's INSPIRE SUMMIT '18

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·11 January 2019
Each year, the International Luxury Hotel Association (IHLA) brings together hoteliers from all over the world to speak about current topics affecting the industry with tips and insights on building guest loyalty, increasing revenue, enhancing your hotel’s brand, and more. This year’s event focused on inspiring the luxury guest experience. Many presenters brought new and interesting perspectives on exceeding expectations of elite guests, while industry insiders described the influence of technology on the guest experience.

Learn from HEBS Digital Experts During Three Workshops at the 2019 HSMAI Digital Marketing Strategy Conference

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog· 7 January 2019
For more than 15 years, HSMAI’s Digital Marketing Strategy Conference has been where senior leaders in hotel marketing connect and engage in meaningful, thought-provoking conversations about the most important strategic issues facing the business today. The conference continues to provide hoteliers and their partners with practical information, insights, and strategies to drive revenue and engage guests – before, during, and after their stays.

HEBS Digital Wins Silver Adrian Award for The Resort at Pedregal's Here Comes the Sun Campaign

HEBS Digital · 3 January 2019
Known for its award-winning service and amenities, The Resort at Pedregal began development of this campaign with affluent travelers in mind. To attract the attention of this audience, HEBS Digital worked with the client to develop upbeat messaging and imagery with a memorable theme. The package included VIP round-trip airport transfers, a daily gourmet breakfast, 20% off exclusive excursions, welcome margaritas, and a complimentary bottle of Clase Azul tequila."We are always looking for creative ways to drive bookings that reach our niche affluent travelers; we thrive on providing guests with exceptional service and unmatched experiences," said Adriana Silva, Senior Marketing & Public Relations Manager at The Resort at Pedregal. "It's a collaborative achievement for all teams involved and such an honor to receive this recognition for our hard work."Utilizing SEO, SEM, email marketing, TripAdvisor display, social media ads, and merchandising on the resort website, HEBS Digital deployed creative across multiple channels that worked together to drive direct bookings for The Resort at Pedregal, including:9% increase in unique website visits1,816 visits and 5,247 pageviews from email marketing229 bookings totaling 829 nights57X ROI"The Adrian Award and performance of the Here Comes the Sun campaign are a direct result of the collaboration of talented individuals across HEBS Digital, The Resort at Pedregal, JRPG Hospitality, J Public Relations, and others. I am thrilled that we were able to develop an engaging, enticing campaign that drove awareness and new visitors to the resort," said Jacqueline Lucas, Senior Account Executive - Team Lead at HEBS Digital.About HSMAIThe Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) is committed to growing business for hotels and their partners and is the industry's leading advocate for intelligent, sustainable hotel revenue growth. The association provides hotel professionals & their partners with tools, insights, and expertise to fuel sales, inspire marketing, and optimize revenue through programs such as HSMAI's MEET, Adrian Awards, and Revenue Optimization Conference. HSMAI is an individual membership organization comprising more than 7,000 members worldwide, with 40 chapters in the Americas Region. Connect with HSMAI at,,, and

Celebrating 2018: HEBS Digital & Serenata CRM Reflect on Another Successful Year

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·18 December 2018
As the year comes to a close, HEBS Digital and Serenata CRM celebrate the many accomplishments of 2018, as well as the team members who made them possible. In the last 12 months, both companies were industry leaders in helping hotels around the world pave the way to digital success. Both HEBS Digital and Serenata CRM launched new products, innovated existing technology, and received multiple industry awards and accolades for award-winning advertising and marketing campaigns.

Employee Spotlight: Patrick, Team Lead Digital Media & Creative Strategy

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·13 December 2018
I’m the team lead of the digital media and creative strategy department here at HEBS Digital. My department is responsible for launching, tracking, and optimizing all of our display media, paid social media, and metasearch campaigns for our clients. We are also responsible for leading the collaborative effort in strategizing multichannel campaigns.

Case Study: La Fonda on the Plaza Boosts Brand Awareness and Website Traffic with Sweepstakes Campaign

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog· 5 December 2018
La Fonda on the Plaza was launching their newest program called Artist in Residence – a city-sponsored initiative bringing Southwestern artists and live painting to the hotel lobby for guests to enjoy – and needed a creative way to bring awareness to the ongoing events.

Hotelier's Guide to Creating Special Offers

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog· 3 December 2018
Finding and booking the perfect hotel takes time. Beyond rate, hotel shoppers are looking at plenty of other factors, such as amenities, local activities, and nearby restaurants. Hoteliers can leverage these unique features by packaging them into special offers that will help travelers be sure that they’ve found the best deal.

Google: Your Most Important Hotel Distribution Channel

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·30 November 2018
The latest whitepaper from Duetto (in partnership with HEBS Digital) focuses on how Google has evolved from a digital marketing medium to a major player in hotel advertising, loyalty, and distribution. Hotel operators need to be assigning the same importance to Google as they do to OTAs and their own websites. Those that don’t are going to be left behind.

New Zealand based Heritage Hotels launches new, multi-property website on HEBS Digital's smartCMS

HEBS Digital ·29 November 2018
Heritage Hotels in New Zealand is an experience out of the ordinary. A healthy indulgence, and a refreshing contrast, to everyday life. You might seek calm of Kaikoura, the bustle of the city in Wellington, a conference in Queenstown, or a party in Paihia. With Heritage Hotels, the experience is up to the traveler.With 18 individual properties throughout New Zealand, Heritage worked with HEBS Digital to launch a new, multi-property website on the smartCMS platform, allowing for full control of each sites content in one place. Users can now access the Destinations page, where theyll find an interactive map and details on cities and regions each property is located. With a custom Venue Showcase, all relevant information for event planners is easily accessible. These features and more create an improved, seamless user experience for all types of website visitors.Were delighted to launch our new website. Heritage Hotels now has leading-edge digital technology to encourage direct bookings. The HEBS Digital content management system is user-friendly for our marketing team, and our team was very efficient in creating the new website that encompasses our 18 properties as well as the overarching brand, says Graham Yan, Chief Executive of Heritage & CityLife Hotels and Heritage Collection. Innovative functionality in the HEBS solution allows reservation recovery, where a booking may not have occurred. The abandonment application solution and Heritages marketing program are 100% focused on delivering strong growth in direct bookings for Heritages properties. Over the next few months, we are rolling out our new rewards program and on-property guest portals, as part of our focus on T.H.E. Heritage Experience ensuring guest are recognized as well as experiencing a user-friendly engagement when on the Heritage Hotels website, adds Graham Yan.Explore this project by visiting the new Heritage Hotels website.

New Zealand Based Heritage Hotels Launches New, Multi-Property Website on HEBS Digital's smartCMS(r)

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·28 November 2018
Heritage Hotels in New Zealand is an experience out of the ordinary. A healthy indulgence, and a refreshing contrast, to everyday life. You might seek calm of Kaikoura, the bustle of the city in Wellington, a conference in Queenstown, or a party in Paihia. With Heritage Hotels, the experience is up to the traveler.

The top 5 things you need to know now in hotel digital marketing: November Edition

HEBS Digital ·27 November 2018
1. SEO: Google launches a follow button for businesses in Google Maps.Earlier this year, Google added a posting feature to Google My Business listings, allowing businesses to post updates directly to their local listing. Now, Google has added a follow button for businesses featured on Google Maps so users can subscribe to a businesss updates, which will display in a new tab for users called For You. In light of this new feature, businesses will be able to launch a Google My Business listing three months prior to opening, in order to build awareness and traction.Now hotels have a new way to engage with potential guests, keeping them in the know of spa or dining specials or driving awareness of new hotel openings on Google Maps, up to three months before the first guest sets foot in the lobby.2. SEM: Google expands Exact Match to include close variants focused on query intent.Google has officially rolled out exact match to include variants that share the same meaning of the keyword, including implied words and paraphrases. Now, instead of focusing on the exact wording of the keyword, Google is focusing more on the intent of the keyword to potentially reach more users with relevant ads, even when the query itself might be worded slightly differently.In light of this change, hotel search marketers may be able to spend less time building out exhaustive lists of keywords for campaigns and more time analyzing search term reports for new and negative keywords once a campaign gains traction.3. Display: AMP Story Ads come out of beta with Google Ad Manager support.AMP Story Ads are full-screen ads that appear directly within a Google AMP story to promote products, services, and content. Theyre now accessible to everyone with the Google Ad Manager. Hotel brands with a strong blog presence or editorial content hub can utilize AMP Story Ads to promote content to mobile users on the go.4. Social: TripAdvisor goes social with personal ways for travel planners to connect and share advice.The new TripAdvisor expands its community beyond travelers to also include brands, social media influencers, publishers, and friends. Travel planners can now follow and connect with individuals or content creators who share information that is relevant to their travel research and interests.Complementing our more than 661 million reviews and opinions, TripAdvisor members will be able to create and view inspirational and helpful new forms of content including photos, videos and articles, TripAdvisor announced on their investor relations forum. Members will also have the ability to create Trips, which can be in-depth travel guides, itineraries, or simple wish lists of things to do while traveling. Trips can be made private and saved for personal use or shared with the community to inspire and help others.As TripAdvisor evolves more into a social community, theres potential for TripAdvisor to dramatically change the way travelers research and plan travel. While the impact of these changes remains to be seen, hotel brands should keep a pulse on these changes to find new ways to leverage in their digital strategy. HEBS Digital is currently developing best practices on ways hotels can take advantage of these new TripAdvisor features.5. Design: Particle website backgrounds.Hotels with limited video assets that still want engaging animation throughout their web design should consider a particle background. Particle backgrounds are lightweight java script animations that allow movement to be created as a subtle part of the website background. This is a great way to make a website more exciting and interactive without overwhelming visitors.

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

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·26 November 2018
Staying innovative in your digital marketing strategy means staying up-to-date with the ever-changing digital landscape. From TripAdvisor evolving into a social travel platform with new research and sharing tools to Google Maps adding a follow button for businesses, learn more about the top things you need to know now in hotel digital marketing.

Top 5 Blog Posts Hotels Should be Writing

HEBS Digital ·20 November 2018
The importance of having a blog on your hotel website can't be stressed enough. In addition to serving as a platform to share informational and inspirational content to past, current, and future guests, blogs can enhance your inbound marketing efforts--driving traffic to your hotel website and attracting even more prospective guests.Key Benefits of BloggingDrive more traffic to the hotel website. With more relevant content on the hotel website, you can increase your organic visibility and traffic. As users search for information on Google, or discover blog posts that have been shared on social media, website clicks and visitors can increase.Enhance SEO efforts and search engine rankings. Search engines love fresh content. Since blogs provide the opportunity to frequent add new content, Google and other search engines can serve your website listing in more organic search queries.Position your hotel as a destination expert. It's important for hotels to position themselves at the heart of their destination, which is the main reason people want to travel. Blogging about your destination will position your hotel as a destination expert, build trust with potential guests, and allow them to find useful information and answers to their questions without having to search elsewhere on the internet.Blogging Best PracticesIn order to see successful blog performance, it's important to follow best practices. Before getting started on your hotel blog, develop a content strategy that works for you, including the topics you'll focus on and how often you'll update the blog. If possible, it's helpful to have multiple contributors, to offer different perspectives and share the work load. Consider these blogging best practices:Create content for your readers first, and to promote your hotel second.Avoid being overly promotional. The purpose of a hotel blog is to share destination content through the unique lens of your hotel's brand. Inspire and inform your best guests with your content. Look at sites like Conde Nast Traveler and Fodors for inspiration on the type of travel stories that users are searching for.Tailor posts to specific audiences.Identify your target audiences and create each blog post with one in mind. A simple trick is to ask yourself if you are trying to reach past guests, present guests, or potential guests. Additionally, developing a customer persona for your hotel's "best guest" can help you keep a consistent tone and style.Be consistent.Consumers seek engaging content. When they find something they like, they keep coming back for more. Make sure your hotel blog is consistently updated so you don't lose their interest. Once a month should be the minimum, while once a week is the most ideal frequency.Utilize attention grabbing headlines.You've created amazing content, now you people to click on it. Entice readers with attention-grabbing titles that clearly identify the topic of the content and what they'll find by clicking through.Be visual.Captivate users with high-resolution imagery. Adding strong visual components will enhance the stories you are telling on your blog.Distribution is everything.A distribution strategy is key to blog success. Share your blog post on social media channels and in monthly email newsletters. Go a step further by implementing push notifications on your blog site, which allows readers to subscribe to your content and receive a pop-up notification for each new post.Promote content using social media advertising.Promoting content on social media can be accomplished with a fairly small budget. Promoting posts on Facebook and Instagram can lead to more eyeballs on your content than ever before.Set goals and measure results.It's extremely important to measure the effectiveness of your blog posts. Each quarter, look at the last three months to identify which types of posts get the most traffic (page views) as well as how long people spend on different types of content (average time on site). Using these findings, you can deliver more of the content your readers engage with the most.5 Types of Blog Posts for HotelsNow it's time to put the best-practices to work. These are the five types of posts you should be creating.1. The ListThere's a good chance you have come across this type of post. "Top 5 This" or "8 Tips for That" (much like the one you are reading now) are very popular. This format streamlines information into an easy-to-digest list that allows the reader to skim quickly. These posts often generate the most clicks, which means more exposure for your brand.Titles to consider:8 Ways to Explore San Diego Like a Local10 New Restaurants in New York City to Try Now2. InterviewsConducting interviews is a fun way to add personality to your hotel blog. Whether introducing readers to your staff or sourcing insider information on the best things to do in your destination, an interview format offers personal touch that readers today crave.Titles to consider:The Best Bars in Miami According to Food & Beverage Director Bob SmithNew York Artist Jane Smith on Her Favorite Museums in Lower Manhattan3. Behind the ScenesSo much goes on behind the scenes at a hotel. Giving readers a glimpse into how the magic is made is an easy and fun way to connect on another level with past, present, and future guests.Titles to consider:True Stories: The Best Conversations Overheard at the Hotel BarYoga at {Hotel Name}: Front Office Manager Bob Smith Shares How to Relax Behind Your Desk4. Destination GuidesFrom generating more bookings in need periods by sharing the best off-season activities to guiding guests to the best in-season experiences, your blog is a great place to share the best things to see and do in your destination.10 Unexpected Reasons to Visit Aspen This Summer (off season)7 Things to Do in Aspen After You Hit the Slopes (in season)5. Food & RecipesFood and travel go hand in hand. Many times, culinary experiences and dishes are part of the initial travel plans, with online visitors being inspired by images of food they may have seen. Help further showcase your property values and the talent behind your chef and kitchen staff by writing about special dishes and creations. The same can be done with your hotel bar, by providing drink recipes and inspiration.Topics to consider:In the Kitchen: Chef Jane Smith's Tips & Tricks to Make Our Signature Burger5 Cocktails That Will Spice up Your HolidaysNo matter what type of hotel or where it's located, there are endless topics to blog about. And from an increase in organic visibility to more website traffic and, hopefully, direct bookings, there's no reason to delay this fun and exciting digital channel.

Top 5 Blog Posts Hotels Should Be Writing

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·19 November 2018
The importance of having a blog on your hotel website can’t be stressed enough. In addition to serving as a platform to share informational and inspirational content to past, current, and future guests, blogs can enhance your inbound marketing efforts—driving traffic to your hotel website and attracting even more prospective guests.

Hotel El Ganzo Invites Visitors to San Jose del Cabo with New, Creative Hotel Website

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog· 7 November 2018
Hotel El Ganzo is far more than a hotel, it’s a headspace. The unique property worked with HEBS Digital to design a custom website that brings the creative aspects of their San Jose del Cabo hotel online, with a goal to attract artists, musicians, filmmakers, and more to the shores of the Sea of Cortez.

Now Available: The Q4 Hotel Digital Marketer's Whitepaper

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog· 5 November 2018
Now available for viewing and download, the HEBStrategy Q4 2018 Whitepaper Edition: The Hotel Digital Marketer’s Whitepaper, covers current trends and industry insights hoteliers should be paying attention to in order to have a strong digital presence. The whitepaper takes a deep dive into strategies that will help to reach different audiences.

The End of the Hotel Metasearch Model as We Know It

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·31 October 2018
Price comparison engines, better known as metasearch engines or simply metasearch, have been around since 1995. Remember websites like BargainFinder, NetBot and Nextag? In travel, price comparison sites have been in existence since the early 2000s. Early flight metasearch entrants were SkyScanner and Kayak, followed by Momondo and Google Flights.
Article by Max Starkov

It's the End of the Hotel Metasearch Model as We Know It

HEBS Digital ·30 October 2018
BackgroundPrice comparison engines, better known as metasearch engines or simply metasearch, have been around since 1995. Remember websites like BargainFinder, NetBot and Nextag? In travel, price comparison sites have been in existence since the early 2000s. Early flight metasearch entrants were SkyScanner and Kayak, followed by Momondo and Google Flights. Hotel metasearch was also introduced in the early 2000s with early entrants such as, (acquired by, and over the past 13 years Trivago, Momondo, TripAdvisor and Google Hotel Ads.Price shopping, including flight and hotel metasearch, is needed by consumers only when there are hundreds of price choices but becomes completely irrelevant when there are only a handful of choices left.Flight Metasearch vs. Hotel MetasearchThere is a monumental difference between the business model of flight metasearch and hotel metasearch:Flight Metasearch (Kayak, SkyScanner, Google Flights): These sites compare airfares between Point A and Point B. Example: NYC - LAX with 10+ airlines operating this route and offering hundreds of price and service options: nonstop, one stop or multiple stops; different departure times; different classes of service and seats; various routes and flight durations; and more. The hundreds of airfare and service variations are the reason why air travelers need price comparison sites (flight metasearch) to sort out all of their options and make an informed decision. Ultimately, this need is what determines the future and longevity of flight metasearch.Hotel Metasearch (TripAdvisor, Trivago, Google Hotel Ads): These sites promise to compare rates on hundreds of sites for the same hotel. Travelers are promised to find the best price for the property they have chosen, not the best hotel in the destination they are traveling to. All of the TV and digital advertising campaigns by TripAdvisor and Trivago communicate the same message - "We search over 200 booking sites to find the best price for the hotel you want".This leads us to ask the following question: what exactly are the hundreds of websites where hotel metasearch get their rates to compare? Expedia,, Orbitz and Travelocity offer the same user interface and rates and have no differentiating value proposition. It is clear that these sites are all part of the same entity.Why Hotel Metasearch is Inherently Flawed?The very promise to compare rates on hundreds of sites for the same hotel is what makes hotel metasearch inherently flawed. Back in 2003-2005 there were dozens of OTAs and hundreds of affiliate sites giving hotel metasearch relevance. The issue today is that many of those OTAs and affiliate sites are non-existent after many went out of business or were acquired by bigger OTAs. On top of that, hoteliers became more savvy revenue and channel managers and began to enforce rate parity across the board.As a result, today there are only three websites worth travel shoppers' time when researching the best price for the hotel they have chosen: two OTA sites ( and Expedia) and the hotel's own website. What is there left to compare with only two OTAs left in much of the world?A choice of three options does not warrant a price shopping service such as hotel metasearch. Hotel shoppers are very savvy at this point and see clearly through the fake choices offered by the hotel metasearch players. This is why Trivago and TripAdvisor are showing a decline in business and financial performance in recent years.Can Meta-On-Meta Save Hotel Metasearch?Recently, some of the hotel metasearch players like TripAdvisor are buying traffic by bidding on Google Hotel Ads. At an estimated 6x ROI from Google Hotel Ad (GHA) campaigns, there is no way the economics of meta-on-meta can work. In other words, TripAdvisor is losing money from every click and booking they generate from GHA. This is definitely an unsustainable way to buy traffic and position TripAdvisor as a booking channel, something TripAdvisor has not been able to convince the traveling public of after spending millions in advertising for the past 5 years. Travelers have already made up their mind about what the hotel booking channels are: the hotel website and the mega OTAs, and Expedia.At HEBS Digital, we have been running GHA campaigns since 2010 for thousands of our hotel clients, seeing ROIs of 6x - 12x. ROIs vary based on how appealing the rate is, the hotel location, and how well known the brand is. However, these ROIs are aided by the fact that travel consumers perceive direct hotel campaigns as the "official" presence of the owner of the inventory, in this case the hotel. TripAdvisor is perceived as an intermediary therefore their ROI is inevitably lower. Even if TripAdvisor's ROI from GHA is 8x, they are losing money from every GHA click. At an effective commission rate of 12% they make from Instant Booking, they would still be losing approximately $4 -$5 per booking. They need to be reaching ROIs of 10x - 12x and above to break even, but it is unlikely their ROIs even come close to what we are seeing from the hotels' official GHA campaigns.What is the Future of Hotel Metasearch?I believe at this point it is too late for hotel metasearch players like Trivago and TripAdvisor to:Change their business model from promising hotel shoppers the best price for the property they have chosen to promising them that they will find the best hotel in the destination they are traveling to. Travelers have long chosen and Expedia as their favorite research tools for finding the best hotel in the destination they are traveling to, and both OTAs offer a wealth of research tools to facilitate this: maps, descriptions, rich media and customer reviews. For example, both Expedia and offer over 700 hotel choices in New York City, far more than any metasearch player.Position themselves as "booking sites" in the collective mind of the traveling public. As witnessed by the attempt by TripAdvisor called Instant Booking, and Trivago's Express Booking initiative, this is hardly an achievable task.So, what is the future of hotel metasearch players? The answer can be found without looking far. Take online retail as an example. Has anyone ever heard of the top online retail price comparison/metasearch engines out there? The price comparison leaders in retail include Nextag and PriceGrabber, as well as Shopzilla,, and Pronto. Hardly well known, yet these are the top online retail metasearch engines, which are confined to a very niche status by and the extraordinary consolidation in the online retail space.Due to the OTA consolidation in travel, the same is already happening in hospitality. Hotel shoppers looking to find the best price for the property they have chosen go to the hotel website, or Expedia. Hotel shoppers looking to find the best hotel in the destination they are going go to and Expedia.As a single-category-focused hotel metasearch player, Trivago will be confined to the status of a niche player at best. As for TripAdvisor, which is the largest travel website on the planet and has a much broader business model and multitude of product lines, the site needs to refocus on monetization of its large amount of website traffic by revamping its media product while scaling its restaurant and experiences product lines.What Should Hoteliers Do in Hotel Metasearch?TripAdvisorTripAdvisor hurt metasearch advertising on its own website when it introduced Instant Booking a few years ago, a commission-based CPA (Cost-Per-Acquisition) model.The much-promoted Instant Booking has been struggling ever since, mainly because travel consumers do not perceive TripAdvisor as a booking channel. A negative effect from Instant Booking came as most hotel advertisers abandoned metasearch advertising (Cost-Per-Click) and switched to the Instant Booking (Cost-Per-Acquisition) model thus treating TripAdvisor as just another OTA distribution channel.Recommendations for hoteliersTreat TripAdvisor as a soft-OTA distribution channel. If you have occupancy needs and you haven't already done so, ask your CRS provider to sign-you up with Instant Booking at the best possible terms. Ask your revenue management team to monitor closely and report on the contribution of this channel separately from the other OTAs. Evaluate participation every 3 months.If you haven't done so, test banner advertising on TripAdvisor. At HEBS Digital, we are seeing consistently good results for our clients with ROIs of 8x - 12x.TrivagoTrivago is strong in Europe. If this is an important feeder market for your hotel, it is worth considering this metasearch site and its Express Booking CPA program.Recommendations for hoteliersTreat Trivago as a soft-OTA distribution channel. Ask your CRS provider to sign-you up with Trivago's Express Booking at the best possible terms. Ask your revenue management team to monitor closely and report on the contribution of this channel separately from the other OTAs. Evaluate participation every 3 months.Google Hotel AdsOver the years, Google has become the most important direct booking channel in hospitality. Over 50% of hotel website bookings are direct referrals from Google: 30% from organic and 20% from paid initiatives.Over the past several years, hotel advertising on Google has become increasingly complex, due to changes instituted by Google itself, changes in travel consumer planning behavior, and advancements in technology.Based on all of these developments, hotel marketers must plan accordingly and understand that the Google Ecosystem has become a fully-integrated advertising platform where all advertising formats are intertwined and work together: Google Ads (formerly AdWords), Google Display Network (GDN), Google Hotel Ads (GHA), Google Admail, YouTube. User engagement in the upper funnel influences conversions in the lower funnel, and a campaign in one advertising format on Google influences the results from all other Google ad formats.Treating Google as a fully-integrated advertising platform requires hoteliers to utilize all available advertising formats in the Google Ecosystem in order to reach travel consumers throughout the travel planning journey.Recommendations for hoteliersContrary to industry lore, with its GHA program, Google is not trying to become an OTA. It does not have the OTA CRS technology, the deep industry distribution and revenue management expertise, the local sales force and offices needed to signup hotel supply, customer service or support.Google cares only about providing the most relevant information to its users. There are four crucial pieces of information needed by any hotel shopper before making a booking decision: hotel location, hotel description (ex. a 4-star, 600-room branded hotel or a small, 5-star boutique hotel), customer reviews about the property, and price and availability. For many years, Google has been able to provide answers to the first three questions. Since the introduction of Google Hotel Ads in 2010, now Google is in a position to provide answers to the fourth question about price and availability.This is why hoteliers must participate in GHA to take full advantage of the Google Ecosystem.Quite often hotels are asking the question: 'Is GHA a digital marketing format or is it a distribution channel?'. The answer is very simple:If the hotel operates a CPC (Cost-Per-Click) campaign on GHA, then this is a pure digital marketing format, andIf the hotel uses the CPA (Cost-Per-Acquisition/Agency Commission) model, then this is a pure distribution channel.The situation is similar with a number of other metasearch players like, TripAdvisor's Instant Booking, Trivago's Express Booking.ConclusionIn my view, the biggest mistake the hotel metasearch players are making is their inherently flawed business model that promised hotel shoppers to find the best price for the property they have chosen. They did not focus on teaching the traveling public to use their sites to find the best hotel in the destination they are traveling to. With only two viable OTA choices left in most of the world, and Expedia (and Ctrip in China), what is left to metasearch?This is the reason for the increasingly lackluster performance by the major hotel metasearch players, and the reason why they will be confined to the status of niche players at best.About the Author: Max Starkov is a Founder & Director at HEBS Digital, a NextGuest Technologies Company.

Just Back From: Havana, Cuba

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·29 October 2018
Maybe it’s something they put in the mojitos, but a trip to Havana is unlike any other. I recently took a trip to the beautiful Cuban capital, where I was immersed in their local culture and discovered the historic city. Read on for the highlights of my time spent in Havana.

Product Spotlight: Countdown Banner + Promo Tiles

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·25 October 2018
When running a limited time offer, it’s important to promote it throughout the duration of the sale on the hotel website. Visibility of the promotion and how much time remains are key factors when a website visitor is considering completing a booking. Often times, if the information the website visitor is not looking for cannot easily be found, they will leave the website without ever completing a booking.

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

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·22 October 2018
As Q4 begins and the holidays approach swiftly, it’s time for hotel marketers to kick their digital marketing into high gear. From Google unveiling new search tools (perfect for travel planning) to Facebook adding new, festive holiday design elements to its ad platform, here are the top things you need to know now in hotel digital marketing to take your digital strategy to the next level.

Five Tips for a Successful Cyber Monday Campaign

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·17 October 2018
It’s no secret: Cyber Monday is a huge opportunity for hoteliers to drive bookings. What began as a one-day online shopping holiday has, over the years, extended into Black Friday and Thanksgiving, with some brands promoting deals even earlier. As a result, consumers aren’t just searching for deals earlier, they’re also making more purchases over a longer period of time. According to Adobe Analytics, American consumers spent $19.62 billion online between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday in 2017, a 15% increase year over year.

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.


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