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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.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

Why Offering Local Tours and Activities Is A Huge Revenue Opportunity for Hotels

HEBS Digital · 7 August 2018
Background:Offering local tours and activities - i.e. experiences in the destination - is a multibillion dollar business, with the OTAs having shown a growing interest in this sector. Expedia alone is looking to grow its local tours and activities sales fivefold - from approximately $400 million a year to over $2 billion. Expedia currently has 4,000 suppliers providing 27,000 tours and activities worldwide. Airbnb, through its Experiences offering, has been rolling out tours and activities in many of its key destinations with the goal of bringing its offerings to 1,000 cities. Recently, Booking.com acquired Fairharbor.com and TripAdvisor acquired Bokun.com, both cloud-based software platforms that enable local tour and activities operators to make their services bookable online.Yet, in spite of all the industry buzz and its huge potential, less than 20% of local tours and activities are bookable online. Why is that? There are two main reasons: the highly fragmented nature of this sector and travel consumer preferences.This sector is greatly fragmented, consisting of millions of small, independently-owned operators. This explains the lack of businesses offering bookings online. They simply do not have the resources available for online booking systems and website technology.Another reason is travel consumer preferences. According to a new consumer report from Arival, which surveyed U.S. adults planning a trip this summer, only 24% of travel consumers will book most of their activities before departure. The rest book while in their destination. Travel consumers are not fully convinced that booking tours and activities in advance brings any value in the form of better choice, better service, unique offerings, meaningful savings, etc. It is no surprise that 85% of activities are booked while on location - many of the best local tours and activities are simply not available online!Why should hoteliers consider offering local tours and activities?The commoditization of the hotel product, in which hotels are forced to compete with the OTAs strictly based on rate, leaves the hotel little opportunity to communicate the value of the hotel product to potential guests. To combat this and "sell on value" as opposed to "sell on rate," hoteliers need an effective merchandising strategy, including offering a vast range of experiences as part of the property website offerings, in multichannel and seasonal campaigns.Travelers are fully onboard: 98% of survey respondents (tnooz) said having "local experiences" in a new city was important.The direct online channel offers limitless opportunities for the hotelier to present the hotel as the "hero of the destination" and the perfect choice to stay while exploring all the destination has to offer such as museums, galleries, family attractions, shopping, dining, nightlife, entertainment, and more. Combine this with a strong website merchandising program, focused on the uniqueness of the hotel product and its value proposition, and you have a successful strategy!Hotels are local businesses and this is a major advantage over the OTAs when selecting and contracting local tour and activity operators, monitoring their performance and customer service, and ensuring timely payments.So, what makes hoteliers best suited to offer their guests local tours and activities?Hoteliers know their guests and their preferences much better than the OTAs, allowing them to customize and tailor the local tours and activities accordingly.Hoteliers know their local neighborhoods and immediate destinations far better than the "far and away" based OTAs.Hoteliers know the local tour and activity providers much better than the OTAs. In many cases hotels have been using trusted local operators for many years now.Locals unite: local properties can connect to local operators on an emotional level, as local business operators, something that is completely absent in any big OTA-small operator relationship.How can hoteliers make money from local tours and activities?By positioning the property as the "hero of the destination", hotel marketers will make the hotel more attractive thus increasing occupancy, an indirect revenue effect.In the same time, there is a strong direct revenue benefit for hoteliers:Bundling local tours and activities with hotel accommodations: city tour, family, museum, theater, shopping and weekend packages, girls and romantic getaways, etc.Referral fees and commissions from sale of local operators' tours and commissions. Hoteliers can easily negotiate a reasonable commission for offering a local operator's tours and activities: advance sales, at the front desk and by the concierge. Typically, the OTAs are charging local tour and activities operators commissions to the tune of 20%-35% to enable and sell their offerings on the OTA online platforms, so there is plenty of room for negotiating a fair reward for the hotel.Action plan for hotels to launch local tours and activities:Hoteliers are uniquely positioned to offer tours and activities and work closely with fellow local business operators. So, where should they start? Develop the product: Based on property specifics such as location, bandwidth, and richness of the local destination, create both:Packages bundling together hotel accommodations with local tours and activities.Experience add-ons, which can be added to a hotel reservation, in advance, upon arrival or while the guest is on property.In both cases the packages and special offers around activities and attractions in the destination should be tailored to fit the demographics and preferences of the hotel guests.Case Study: Local Tours and Activities Offered by a Full-Service Hotel in New York City:Bloomindale's Shop Till You Drop packageBuild-a-bear workshop Fun packageStand Up Comedy PackageManhattan Museum PackageNYS Super Sale Package (Room + 20% off 4 attractions)Guggenheim Museum PackageGotham City Government PackageNYC Business Traveler VIP PackageThis property is one of the very few hotels among the 600 plus hotels in New York City to offer this extensive range of local tours and activities. Partnering with local tours and activities operators could easily solve all the logistics of delivering the local tours and activities product to the hotel guests.It is also important to make the service delivery of tours and activities convenient and attractive to the hotel guests:Offer local tours and activities starting from the hotel or with a pick-up point near the hotel.Offer guaranteed departure of local tours and activities, for example:City Tour, leaving daily from the hotel lobby.Museum Tour, leaving Friday, Saturday and Sunday.Shopping Tour, leaving daily from the hotel lobby. Promote the experiences throughout the guest lifecycle Hotels are uniquely suited to proactively offer local tours and activities throughout the hotel guest lifecycle, at all touchpoints in the Dreaming, Planning and Booking Phases, as well as during the In-Stay and Post-Stay Phases:In the Dreaming Phase:Include local tours and activities in the property's marketing messaging in digital marketing campaigns, including paid search, online media targeting, social media and multichannel campaigns.Include local tours and activities in the CRM marketing automation promotions, sent to past guests and loyalty members.Present the property as the "hero of the destination" in all public relations pieces, pressers, and during visits by social media influencers.In the Planning Phase:On the property website, create Local Travel Guide - destination guides featuring local places of interest, tours, activities and attractions to influence travelers, making the hotel the hero of the destination for advance bookings. An added benefit is that typically these Local Travel Guide have tremendous SEO value that will boost the organic search engine rankings, bookings and revenues.In the Special Offers section of the property website, include detailed descriptions and imagery of the local tours and activities offered by the property, including pricing, schedules, etc.Promote the local tours and packages throughout the merchandizing platform on the property website: via opening promotional slides, Featured Offer banners, marketing messages, lightbox reminders, etc.Case Study: Travel Guide on an Independent Hotel WebsiteHere at HEBS Digital, we include a comprehensive Local Travel Guide on every website we launch for our clients. HEBS Digital worked with an independent hotel to create comprehensive neighborhood guides surrounding the hotel, and after just 30 days live, 57% of visitors came to the guide from search engines. But this Local Travel Guide played an even greater role in the planning phase with 60 bookings initiated in the same timeframe inspiring travel planners to consider booking the accommodations.In the Booking Phase:Run tours and activities promotions on the property website, including via opening promotional slides, Featured Offer banners, marketing messages, lightbox reminders, etc.Promote tours and activities via direct-response marketing initiatives: paid search, email marketing, social media postings, Limited time Offers, etc.Include local tours and activities as add-on booking upsell options:in the CRM reservation confirmationin the CRM pre-stay messagingIn the In-Stay Phase: Upon check in, hand all guests a flyer describing all of the local tours and activities offered by the propertyInclude local tours and activities in the CRM in-stay messagingFeature local tours and activities on the Guest Portal - version of the property website for on-property guestsPromote and sell local tours and activities via the front desk and conciergeIn the Post-Stay Phase: Include local tours and activities in the post-stay CRM messaging and ongoing drip campaigns and marketing automation promotions, targeting past guests and loyalty members. Conclusion:The overall growth in room revenue, occupancy, and RevPAR that many hoteliers have been enjoying in recent years cannot possibly compensate for "the loss of wealth" in the form of steadily increasing distribution costs via the OTA. Revenue capture -- net room revenue that remained with the hotels after distribution costs -- declined from 84.9% in 2015 to an estimated 83.5% in 2018 (Kalibri Labs).By positioning the property as the "hero of the destination," offering local tours and activities by the hotel - bundled with hotel accommodations or offered as add-ons - hoteliers will not only increase occupancy, but also provide proactive hoteliers with much needed incremental revenues and significant competitive advantages over their competitive set and the OTAs.
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Now Available for Download: From Dreaming to Booking eBook

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog· 6 August 2018
We all know from experience that a lot goes into planning the perfect vacation, and with so many devices and planning resources, the journey is complex. According to a leisure travel study conducted by Phocuswright, 60% of respondents reported that a vacation was their largest discretionary purchase. In light of this, before making this large investment, travelers are thoughtfully taking time to research all the possibilities.
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Now Available for Download: HEBStrategy Q3 2018 Hotel Digital Marketing, Technology, and Trends Whitepaper

HEBS Digital · 6 August 2018
Download the HEBStrategy Q3 2018 whitepaper to learn about:What's Trending: Stay in the loop with the must-know trends of the quarter, including an updated Google Maps experience, Alexa for Hospitality and more.From the Design Studio: Get inspiration from some of our most creative clients who use their websites to provide a compelling look at the property while driving direct bookings.Metrics that Matter: Learn how to take a data-driven approach to your creative decisions, and ultimately see a positive impact on your hotel's bottom line.A Look Outside the Industry: Find inspiration in initiatives outside the hospitality industry. We take a closer look at Coca-Cola's Share a Coke campaign as well as an airline's email campaign that captivated users by posing the questions: If you could visit any vacation destination, what would it be and who would you go with?Plus other valuable insider information, including a recap of last quarter, creative concepts from the HEBS Idea Shop, and more.Gain access to these insights when you download the Q3 2018 HEBStrategy whitepaper today.
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The Logan Strengthens Its Title As A Curio Collection Hotel With The Launch Of Its New, Contemporary Website

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog· 1 August 2018
Located in one of the country’s most historic and vibrant cities, The Logan combines local works of art and contemporary design to immerse their guests in an authentic Philly spirit. As a hotel included within the Curio Collection by Hilton, it was crucial for the property to revamp its digital presence so that it embodied its lively culture and upscale prestige. Together, The Logan and HEBS Digital created a custom website that matched the warmly inclusive vibe of The Logan and the city of Philadelphia.
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The Top 5 Things You Need to Know Now in Hotel Digital Marketing: July Edition

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·30 July 2018
This month, the latest digital innovations include big announcements from Google regarding new merchandising features on Google AMP Stories, new LinkedIn advertising opportunities, and Instagram’s new questions sticker functionality for Stories. From SEO to design, find out the top five things you need to know now in hotel digital marketing.
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What Google's New Price Insights Means For Hotels

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·27 July 2018
Google is testing out a new search engine result page (SERP) element called Google Price Insights that adds hotel price comparisons to the knowledge graph. Google Price Insights include a hyperlinked call-to-action, “Explore Insights,” which takes users to a market comparison page that displays hotel prices against the rates of other hotels in the area for the same date range.
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Why Offering Experiences Is A Huge Revenue Opportunity for Hotels

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·25 July 2018
Background: Offering local tours and activities is a multibillion dollar business, with the OTAs having shown a growing interest in this sector. Expedia alone is looking to grow its local tours and activities sales fivefold – from approximately $400 million a year to over $2 billion.
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Coffee Chat: APEX Hotels & HEBS Digital

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·24 July 2018
HEBS Digital’s Executive Vice President Jason Price chatted with APEX Hotels’ Digital Manager Steven Howe, based in the UK, to discuss Steven’s career, GDPR, and the latest from APEX Hotels.
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Now Available for Download: HEBStrategy Q3 2018 Hotel Digital Marketing, Technology, and Trends Whitepaper

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·20 July 2018
HEBS Digital’s third installment in 2018 of the HEBStrategy—our whitepaper series covering the latest news and trends in hotel digital marketing and technology—is now available for download! The HEBStrategy Q3 offers strategies for hoteliers to reach potential guests throughout the travel planning journey.
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Employee Spotlight: Angela, Senior SEM Specialist

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·18 July 2018
Each month we turn the spotlight on the team responsible for bringing our industry-leading products and services to life. Meet Angela Mates, Senior SEM Specialist, and learn about her role at HEBS Digital as well as her favorite travel experiences.
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Just Back From: Barcelona, Spain

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·17 July 2018
I recently embarked on a spontaneous European getaway with my friends. Deciding between London, Paris, and Barcelona was not easy. However, the latter seemed to have everything that we were looking for: a city feel, great food and a lively nightlife paired with sunny beaches. Below are some highlights, insights, and tips I learned from my 5 days in Barcelona, Spain.
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The Evolution of Traveling - From Leisure To Luxury

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·12 July 2018
World outbound travel is booming and, according to IPK’s World Travel Monitor®, the global travel industry set new records over the first eight months of 2017. The luxury travel sector, in particular, has embarked on a paramount transformation fueled by changing consumer preferences that will have far-reaching ripple effects in the years to come.
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Coffee Chat: ReviewPro & HEBS Digital

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·11 July 2018
HEBS Digital’s Executive Vice President Jason Price chatted with ReviewPro’s Founder & CEO, RJ Friedlander, to discuss ReviewPro’s recent acquisition, and RJ’s career path that led up to this milestone.
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Google's Mobile-First Initiative: Everything Hoteliers Need to Do Now

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog· 9 July 2018
Google’s mission as a search engine is simple and successful: provide web users with the highest quality search and surf experience available. Search queries completed on mobile recently surpassed desktop as the majority Google search type, a trend that is expected to continually rise as mobile searching becomes more ubiquitous with smartphone usage and the popularity of voice search continues to bloom.
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Expanding Our Global Presence With The Launch Of TIME Hotels' New Website

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog· 6 July 2018
Founded in 2012 with the art of international hospitality in mind, TIME Hotels grew to be a premium multi-property hotel brand with seven properties located throughout the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. Each property emphasizes its unrivaled dedication to its guests, anticipating and exceeding all travel needs. TIME Hotels, wanting to bring its exceptional customer service to its online platform, teamed up with HEBS Digital to revamp its website.
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Case Study: A Luxury NYC Hotel Increased Revenue and Bookings with Google Hotel Ads

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog· 5 July 2018
Boasting a sophisticated and upscale atmosphere, Hotel 48LEX was in need of a way to stand out in the crowded search engine results pages of New York City hotels. With both hotels and OTAs competing for placement on results pages and on Google Hotel Ads, a strategy was needed to stack up to the competition.
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Employee Spotlight: Jasmine, Senior Project Manager

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·29 June 2018
In this month’s Employee Spotlight, Senior Project Manager Jasmine M. Hamlette fills us in on her agency background, her favorite part of working at HEBS Digital, and more.
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Coffee Chat: Emaar Hospitality Group & HEBS Digital

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·27 June 2018
HEBS Digital’s Executive Vice President Jason Price connected with Emaar Hospitality Group’s CEO Olivier Harnisch, who is based out of the United Arab Emirates, to discuss his career and Emaar Hospitality.
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Hotel Madison, Now Open With A Captivating Website To Match Its Comfortable Elegance

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·26 June 2018
Hotel Madison, located in Harrisonburg, Virginia and surrounded by breathtaking Shenandoah Valley scenery, launched a website that encompasses comfort, sophistication, and community while exhibiting exemplary hospitality.
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Ravel Hotel: Penthouse, Pools, and Pleasure

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·22 June 2018
The Ravel Hotel, a trending boutique property a short ride away from the heart of Manhattan, is on the must-visit list this summer for New York travelers and locals alike.
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Top 5 Things You Need to Know Now in Hotel Digital Marketing: June Edition

HEBS Digital ·22 June 2018
1. SEO: Google announces clarification surrounding the mobile-first index and what it means for your website.As Google begins rolling out mobile-first indexing to more websites, it recently announced some clarifications as to how the mobile-first index will work. Here's a quick rundown of the clarifications:URLs in mobile-first indexing: If your hotel website has different URLs for mobile versus desktop, Google will show the mobile searchers your mobile URL and the desktop searchers your desktop URL. In both cases, the indexed content will be the mobile version of the site, even if Google shows the desktop URL. Sites that are designed with a single URL for mobile and desktop do not need to worry.Crawling changes in mobile-first indexing: Google reported that the crawl count per day won't really change, but the balance will shift from desktop pages crawled to mostly mobile pages crawled. Google also may temporarily increase crawling when it re-indexes your website.The mobile speed update is unrelated to mobile-first indexing. The speed update that is coming up in July is unrelated to mobile-first indexing. Yes, you should make your site fast, especially for mobile users, Google says, but the speed update is not directly related to mobile-first indexing.We strongly recommend having a fully-responsive website with a seamless experience across both desktop and mobile devices with relevant, engaging content to ensure search engine visibility.2. SEM: Bing is piloting in-market audiences and Google allows users to 'turn off' ad targeting.Bing recently announced in-market audiences that will allow advertisers to target groups of users who are actively in the market for a particular product or service category. In building in-market audiences, Bing Ads takes into account user purchase intent signals from Bing, MSN and other Microsoft properties. Bing says pilot participants saw up to 28% higher click-through rates (CTR) and up to 48% higher conversion rates, compared to ads without in-market audiences the same time last year.In other SEM news, Google updated its Ad Settings feature to give users more options for limiting ad personalization and is expanding the "Why this ad?" notices across all services that display Google Ads.With the changes, users can turn off some of the interest signals that Google uses for targeting ads. The options are located in the "Personal info and privacy" section of users' account Ad Settings.The feature allows users to manage their ad settings and opt out of allowing Google to personalize ads per data it collects on users, including information based on a user's actions, information a user has added to their Google account, or data Google's partner-advertisers have shared with Google about the user (e.g., if a user has visited an advertiser's website or signed up for a newsletter).What does this new Google privacy feature mean for your SEM strategy?It is now more important than ever to ensure you are reaching the right audience with a relevant, meaningful message that resonates without being too intrusive. Some ways to do this include limiting the frequency with which you retarget a user, and choosing the right targeting options for your ad messaging to lessen the chance that ad viewers will click "Why this ad?" due to its lack of relevancy.3. Display: Digital Audio becomes more accessible via DoubleClick Bid Manager.As investment in digital audio advertising continues to grow, Google's DoubleClick Bid Manager is rolling out support globally for buying audio ads programmatically across a handful of streaming services including Spotify, TuneIn, SoundCloud, and Google Play Music. Advertisers can upload .mp3 audio spots in a variety of lengths, including 15- and 30-second versions, and an optional companion image or HTML5 asset to display around the publisher's audio player.Audio ads are an effective upper-funnel strategy to increase brand awareness. Just imagine your hotel in the Caribbean running an audio ad with the sound of ocean waves in between top hits of Jimmy Buffet, or your New York City hotel near Madison Square Garden playing an audio ad in between the songs of an upcoming artist at MSG.4. Social: Instagram adds e-commerce to Instagram Stories.Instagram is giving a select number of e-commerce brands a new feature to help boost sales through Instagram Stories. Advertisers can add a shopping bag icon to their Instagram Stories that will display more details about the featured product. Clicking on the shopping bag icon can display various types of product information, including more images of the featured product, images of other products contained in the story, descriptions and pricing information for the product, and links that lead directly to the brand's website to purchase the product. While still in beta and not available for all business accounts, this could be a great opportunity for hotels to showcase room types with images and detailed descriptions.5. Design: Hand-drawn design elements.Hand-drawn design elements and illustrations are making a splash in 2018. While illustrations are not the best way to sell your destination and hotel experience, they can be used in creative ways on your hotel website. For instance, if your hotel brand is targeting an artistic, creative customer segment, consider having hand-drawn illustrations of your hotel property transpose into rich photography to make the travel experience come to life in an artistic way.
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Top 5 Things You Need to Know Now in Hotel Digital Marketing: June Edition

Max Starkov | The HeBS blog·20 June 2018
This month, Google nudges SEO marketers in the right direction with clarifications to the mobile-first index as it rolls out to more websites; Bing pilots in-market audiences; and Instagram gets more serious with Stories by adding e-commerce features. From SEO to design, read on to learn the top five things you need to know now in hotel digital marketing, and stay informed.

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