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5 Examples of Hotel Website Innovation

Tambourine ·16 January 2019
Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) like Booking.com and Expedia are taking ever bigger bites out of hotel profits. As of last year, they captured 39% of the US online digital booking market. Phocuswright forecasts that trend to continue, reaching 41% of market share by 2020.But the good news is that hotel marketers are fighting back!It's taken years of investment, mistakes and hard work, but hotel marketers are now rapidly catching up with the digital savvy of the OTAs.The digital counterattack is well and truly underway for hotel marketers.And the main weapon in that counterattack is your direct-booking hotel website. We believe this tech platform should be viewed as a software application, not as a set-it-and-forget-it brochure. This is why we are constantly developing (at our own expense) new functions, features, and upgrades to our clients' hotel websites...we treat them as perpetually evolving applications, not one-time projects.Remember, your hotel website is not only the source of your most profitable bookings, but also the nerve center and crossroads of multiple other critical technologies (retargeting, CRM tracking, social media, etc).In the past, we've published numerous hotel website best practices articles, but today we wanted to share a few real-world examples of recent collaborations with our clients that have led to exciting hotel website innovations:1. Putting teeth into the Best Rate Guarantee (BRG)Consumers usually aren't aware that your hotel offers the exact same price as OTAs for the same rooms. So, it's up to you to continuously reinforce the message that booking direct is in their best interest.Unfortunately, it isn't enough to simply have a Best Rate Guarantee on your website. That has very little impact on the average consumer (and often requires them to go through the hassle of completing a form just to take advantage of it). Today's guests are all about convenience, so the smartest tactic is to build your BRG into your booking engine itself, where OTA rates are displayed next to your own rate, proving to the visitor that only booking direct gets them the best prices. This type of feature will also automatically match the OTA's cheaper rate if they are out of parity.Here's an example of one of our clients' website/booking environment where the BRG is automated... preventing abandonment to OTAs for price comparison.2. Video + Subtle AnimationVideo and subtle animation are great ways to make your hotel's website more dynamic.Video takes storytelling to the next level, giving your prospective guests a taste of your brand and a sense of place. Unfortunately, many websites slow down and lag with too much animation. It is critical to use smart technology to compress video without losing quality, so that your page load times stay lightning fast and your guests don't lose interest.Check out examples of this in practice at the Farmhouse Inn website in Forestville, California and JW Marriott Turnberry in Miami.3. Custom Interactive MapsFor guests, your property is just part of the experience.After all, they're not likely taking a trip just to stay in your hotel. They want to experience the best of everything OUTSIDE your property as well. Local/regional maps can bring your location page to life by showcasing the personality of your brand and what your surrounding area has to offer. It's also a feature that the OTAs are unlikely to have.Here's one we did recently for the JW Marriott Nashville:4. Instagram API IntegrationAnother way to keep your site up-to-date with fresh, experience-rich content is the Instagram API Integration. You can leverage the power of social validation and encourage new bookings by showcasing authentic guest experiences directly on your homepage, giving prospective guests even more incentive to book direct.Here's an example from The Dalmar in Ft Lauderdale, Florida.5. Dynamic Rate CalendarFor the Hermosa Inn in Scottsdale, Arizona, we made it easy for guests to find the hotel's best available rate by creating a search feature called a dynamic rate calculator. This provides value to your guests by making the vacation planning process easier... showing travelers a monthly view of rates that helps them save. This user experience enhancement makes them more likely to stay on your website and book direct.

5 Examples of Hotel Website Innovation

Tambourine Blog·15 January 2019
Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) like Booking.com and Expedia are taking ever bigger bites out of hotel profits. As of last year, they captured 39% of the US online digital booking market. Phocuswright forecasts that trend to continue, reaching 41% of market share by 2020. But the good news is that hotel marketers are fighting back!
Article by Dave Spector

The Marketing Tactic Every Hotel Sales Manager Should Be Using

Tambourine ·14 January 2019
Each week we share one impactful hotel marketing tactic that you can implement immediately to drive more conversions and more revenue.This week's freebie: Put those cold calls on hold. Instead, personalize the group sales process with intentional social selling.For years hotel sales managers have leaned on old-school sales tactics to engage with meeting planners, primarily cold calls or cold emails that run the risk of annoying the planner or getting deleted.However, today's meeting planners are relying less on hotel sales teams to help find venues and more on their own online research and planner network.How can your property's sales managers tap into this trend?Encourage your hotel sales team to embrace the digital for future relationship-based selling. Recent studies show that 82% of B2B buyers say vendor social media content has a sizeable impact on their buying decisions.Also, LinkedIn research shares that B2B buyers are 5 times more likely to engage with sales representatives who offer new insights about their industry.Through social selling, your hotel sales managers can effectively build relationships and nudge leads along the sales process with relevant, helpful and UNSELFISH social media interaction.This includes:Offering solutions to problems that event planners divulge on social channels like LinkedIn or Facebook groupsAnswering event-related questions about your destinationInteracting one-on-one with leads, either through direct messages or commenting on their postsLeveraging social channels to research clients' background, such as college attended, volunteer work, and passions to further personalize your outreachProviding destination suggestions that are helpful for those planning group activities and on-site eventsPublishing thought-leadership articles or videos on your industryKeeping in touch with old sales leads for potential repeat businessMake sure your hotel's personality and culture are embedded into every interaction. Spend some time with the group sales managers on how to best communicate that, while also allowing them to share their individual personalities.

DOSM Checklist for 2019

Tambourine · 9 January 2019
How many are on your list?We spend all our time helping hotels and resorts with their marketing and that includes working with some very talented and successful DOSMs. During the course of our collaboration, a number of common traits have emerged among the most effective DOSMs we work with...Based on our working experience with these highly effective hotel DOSMs, here are the 10 things we recommend to all DOSMs seeking better results in 2019:1. Be vigilant on your product/service experienceAlways remember that no matter how smart your hotel sales and marketing tactics may be, they will only go so far if guests are given an inferior product and experience at your hotel. Or, as one genius executive said: "Advertising is the tax for an unremarkable product." In the age of Tripadvisor, Google reviews, etc., this is the kiss of death, and will perpetually haunt your efforts until the problems at the property are resolved, whether it's a physical condition, the F&B, or the service levels that are dragging you down.Keep that in mind this year when the inevitable conversation arises with ownership about investing in property improvements and upgrades.The best DOSMs are fearless and vigilant about holding ownership accountable for product quality.But don't expect checkbooks to open from your own personal desires. Instead, keep records of what your guest review/sentiment monitoring has revealed over the last year and present an annual report to ownership that details recommended renovations based on these findings.2. Own a UVPThe greatest marketers in the world know that a primary key to success is to constantly convey ONE MESSAGE over and over again to targeted consumers. Similarly, at the root of all great hotel marketing is a deep understanding of the respective hotel's unique value proposition (UVP), or simply, its story. Communicating that story--rooted in the specific truthful aspects that make your hotel unique in its market--should be a key focus across all marketing channels, as the prime reason travelers should choose to stay in your property.That means you'll need to understand your target audiences, recognize which assets and personal storylines at your hotel that they'll be most interested in hearing about, and visualize how those elements combine to offer an experience that's clearly unique compared to your competitors.3. Know your MCPBMeaningful metrics and KPIs are essential tools in the arsenals of smart hotel marketers, and knowing the real marketing cost per booking (MCPB) for each of your hotel's channels and segments are one of those core calculations. Understanding the MCPBs at your property is mandatory for three reasons:1. With ADRs and occupancy at all-time highs, the cost of guest acquisition may be the only avenue left for hoteliers to increase profitability2. Planning where to invest marketing dollars in the future requires a clear understanding of ROI3. Showing a year-over-year reduction in the MCPB demonstrates your value to ownership"It's crucial to refocus efforts in the direction of profitability, rather than just top-line revenue growth or index growth, which sometimes can be misleading measures of success," According to Jennifer Hill at Kalibri Labs, a leader in hotel benchmarking and reporting systems and analysis that recently published a widely respected special report, "Demystifying The Digital Marketplace.""If you're growing top-line revenue like crazy--but you're spending a lot to do it--then you're ultimately less successful in contributing to overall profits. Not an optimal strategy."And most important of all... remember to pay close attention to your OTA costs per booking when performing this analysis, so you can then compare the MCPB from your paid advertising channels against your OTA costs. You may be surprised to find what that those third-party conversions are really painful: With fees ranging from 15% to 30%, OTA costs typically surpass all other marketing channels. These fees are hidden, however, since hotels usually receive a net rate after the OTA's commission.4. Track conversion and results against budgetSavvy DOSMs memorialize an annual sales budget (and quota for each team member), then scrutinize the variance of results vs budget at regular intervals with the entire team.In these meetings, review top opportunities, get a no- B.S. status on critical deals and determine actions each salesperson can take to edge closer to winning that piece of business.Achieving budgeted sales goals also requires an intimate knowledge of an arithmetic-based sales "funnel." The most successful DOSM's know how many leads, opportunities and deals they need to meet their promised objective (and earn their bonus)!!Do you know your conversion percentages from lead to opportunity? How many leads does it take to generate a proposal? Or how long the average deal takes to close?Without these KPI trail markers, you will struggle on your way to the top.5. Listen to your guests (and your call center)Smart DOSMs love getting out from behind their desks and meeting real live guests! Sometimes there's just no replacement for human, face-to-face contactThese are the people that matter the most to your brand, so start a conversation and see how things are going. Chat with guests in the lobby or walk your meeting spaces and chat with attendees during their downtime. Ask what could make their stay or meeting experience even better.Discover what really matters to them.Jot down and collect their responses and use that as inspiration to drive your sales and marketing efforts. All of this intelligence can be used to attract more transient bookings or group business in the future. And don't forget to talk to your call center reservations team, these folks remain a vital link in the booking and communications chain and are a near boundless source of guest information and insight.Being a good listener extends to online "social listening" as well. Today, smart DOSMs are practicing "social listening" to accomplish real business goals.They have made it a priority to allocate resources to actively monitor and respond to guest sentiment and behavior on social media, eyeing opportunities to resolve guest issues, but also, to go above and beyond and delight customers with amazing service.6. Personalize your marketingPersonalization became mainstream in 2018.Hotel marketers up and down the chain scale have more customer data than ever and they've started making darn good use of it. Fundamental personalization techniques for serious hotel marketers now include:* Segmented email promos based on past purchase behavior* On-the-fly dynamic pricing via RMS systems like Rainmaker based on multiple variables* Personalized responses (from a human) to reviews, UGC and social media posts* DRIP email campaigns to meeting planners based on past event history* Dynamic personalization of content of hotel website design based on visitor behavior/demographics* Promos inside the apps of major chains and soft brands based on demographic and behavioral triggers* On-property/in-stay promo offers and messages based on past purchase behavior in the PMS* Localized F&B promos in targeted advertising to viewers in the geo-region as the property7. Bond with your revenue managerThe most successful DOSMs confer with their revenue manager almost every day. Filling sporadic gaps in demand requires forethought and careful planning. That's why successful hotel marketers always make a point to check-in with their revenue management team, far in advance, to identify upcoming, cyclical and ongoing periods of weakness.Break down the walls dividing the marketing, sales, and revenue management departments.Just like your top sales opportunities, you also need to stay on top of your hotel's pace reports, upcoming low periods, performance vs. budget and the strategies to drive more revenue from ancillary products. The days of sales and marketing departments operating in separate silos from revenue management are firmly over. Check out this brief article on how to connect all the departments that affect your property's revenue.8. Harvest and infuse local flavorOne of your most effective hotel marketing tools may not be to highlight what's INSIDE your hotel, but rather, what's OUTSIDE your property. With travelers now more than ever seeking unique, authentic local experiences, smart hotel marketers are seeking out what's cool, memorable and unique in their market, and then making their hotel the center of that experience.Start by posting rich destination content on your hotel's website and social media, including blog posts, travel tips, staff picks and "insider" information, targeting the guests and groups who will be most interested in these offerings. And remember, meeting planners LOVE unique experiences too!Talk to your staff, read your local newspapers (especially the alternative newsweeklies) and monitor local social media to learn about new hotspots. You can explore partnering with these local businesses, attractions and experiential providers, to devise special packages that you can then market to prospective guests.9. Mind the compsetKeeping a close eye on your comp set is Hotel Marketing 101, but this should go far beyond just viewing the numbers in your latest STR report. Smart hotel marketers make a concerted effort to glean real insight into the operations, culture, improvements, and promotions of competitors, through whatever means available.There are many new tech tools to surveil the compset, but one of the most effective, yet often underutilized, methods is to follow the hotel social media accounts of competing properties. This will offer valuable insight on their latest promotions, their UVP, their campaigns, as well as a look into the latest guest reviews and feedback on the property. This will help with formulating competitive strategies while revealing more on the desires and preferences of your shared customer base.Further, smart DOSMs should set aside a few hours each week to ready about industry trends and success stories, an often overlooked task that most DOSMs feel like they're too busy to do. Some of our favorite industry resources include Skift, Hotel News Now, and Hospitality Net.10. They check the numbers... and check them againUnfortunately for hotel DOSMs, the industry is drowning in metrics.From "look-to-book," to unique visitors, to sentiment scores, to clicks...the list of stats goes on and on. With so much to measure, it's easy to get caught up in the wrong metrics.Instead of leaning on metrics that only sound impressive on paper, highly effective DOSMs memorialize the most meaningful KPIs with ownership, then pay obsessive attention to the numbers that will actually measure their contribution to hotel revenues.Every day, you should be checking the KPIs that actually matter to your hotel's owners and asset managers.Savvy marketers are constantly evaluating their efforts, budgets, and staff in relation to budgeted business mix targets.

The Most Important Metric In Hotel Marketing: What's Your OMTM?

Tambourine · 8 January 2019
For more than three years we have shared one impactful hotel marketing tactic every Friday that hotel marketers can implement immediately to drive conversions and revenue.This week's Freebie: Determine the single most important metric by which you will be judged this coming year by management/ownership, then align your actions and energy around it.As hotel marketers, we have dozens of metrics to deal with.... but we humbly suggest there's one that should matter more than any other. The One Metric That Matters (OMTM) is a powerful concept derived from a renowned thought leader in Silicon Valley. But the idea transcends every industry and is especially important for serious-minded hotel marketers.We fully recognize that the OMTM may be different depending on your property's needs, your career stage or your personal comp plan. It may change as your property evolves and other goals are met... And the OMTM doesn't give you a hall pass to ignore other responsibilities or to stop monitoring other KPIs.But adhering to OMTM can be a "north star" that guides you to success in the often confusing and complex hotel marketing landscape.Why it's important to know your OMTMAccording to well-known, marketing thought leader Neil Patel, there are four reasons to focus on one metric:1. It answers the most important question you haveWhat is your marketing cost by channel?What is my ratio of direct revenue vs OTAs?What is my direct website conversion rate?Is my loyalty program growing?The OMTM is responsible and necessary for measuring and answering the most burning question in your purview.2. It focuses youThe One Metric That Matters will force you to set realistic targets and analyze your results honestly and transparently. Let's say your OMTM is increasing the number of NEW members in your hotel brand loyalty program...you'll need to set a realistic target for the number of new members you hope to gain this year and ensure you have the resources and budget to achieve that target.3. It focuses your teamAccording to Patel: "Focus is good. In fact, it's better to run the risk of over-focusing (and missing some secondary metric) than it is to throw metrics at the wall and hope one sticks..." By rallying everyone on the hotel marketing team around the OMTM, there should be no surprises when it's time to review performance vs budget (or employee reviews).4. It inspires innovationKnowing your OMTM and achieving it are clearly two different things. If your OMTM is relevant and truly meaningful, it will surely take hard work and innovation to achieve it. Inherently, the reason your OMTM exists is because it MATTERS more than any other. And if matters that much, its' not going to be easy to conquer.OMTMs for consideration:In our experience working with some of the most successful hotel marketing firms in the world, we have seen many OMTMs, including:MCPB (marketing cost per booking): Tracks the cost of each sales and marketing channel versus actual conversions. Try using this for OTA commissions as well... and see how that channel stacks up versus your other campaigns.DRR (direct revenue ratio): Measures percentage of online revenue from direct sources (your website) versus pricey third-party sources, like OTAs. If you're not garnering 40 percent of your revenue from direct reservations, you still have work to do!Website conversion rate (from unique visitor to entrances into the booking environment): Converting a higher percentage of visitors into booking searches (or phone calls) is critical to reducing your cost of revenue and MCPB.Variance from revenue target: This metric showcases revenue goals versus actual results (by segment).TripAdvisor sentiment score: Using a reputation/sentiment monitoring tool allows hotels to measure guest satisfaction. This reflects whether your guests are enjoying your product, along with alerting you to hotel deficiencies. A bad hotel experience will outweigh any of your clever sales and marketing tactics.

The most important metric in hotel marketing: what's your OMTM?

Tambourine Blog· 4 January 2019
Welcome to the first Friday Freebie of 2019! For more than three years we have shared one impactful hotel marketing tactic every Friday that hotel marketers can implement immediately to drive conversions and revenue.

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly: A 2018 Hotel Marketing Review

Tambourine · 2 January 2019
The Good:1. The digital counterattack is well underwayIt's taken years of investment and work, but hotel marketers are now rapidly catching up with the digital savvy of the OTAs. The digital counterattack is well underway. In 2018 we saw more hotel marketers than ever before deploying more efficient digital marketing campaigns, create streamlined booking experiences, closed-group loyalty rates, e-check in systems, elevated app experiences, CRM campaigns, RMS automation and powerful guest personalization, among many other initiatives. In the quest to retake control of revenues from third parties, hotel marketers came a long way in 2018!2. Revenue accountability2018 saw more and more hotel and resort marketers are embracing personal quotas for KPIs like lead generation, revenue, and direct bookings. Quantifying marketing performance in this way is actually a help rather than a hindrance: This method comes in handy when communicating performance to owners and asset managers in a meaningful way, and also helps the marketer request higher compensation based on real performance metrics.3. A strong economyThe solid performance of the U.S. economy in 2018 has continued to help maintain lodging industry results at near record levels, leading to surging KPIs across the board and robust demand levels in a host of market segments. Smart hotel marketers have been using this period to their advantage, convincing optimistic owners to reinvest in their properties and marketing campaigns, while courting demand sectors that have been increasingly active, like meetings/group/SMERF business.4. Cross-departmental cooperationIn some organizations, there are still legacy walls dividing the marketing, sales, and revenue management departments, when optimally, these three players on the sales and marketing team should be working together closely to execute their goals. However, 2018 saw many of those walls breached or eliminated altogether. Cross-departmental cooperation became a buzzworthy concept as sophisticated hoteliers pushed hard for innovation amidst record ADRs and occupancy levels.5. PersonalizationAlthough recent data privacy events threaten to derail it... one of the most important positive trends of 2018 was the move towards greater marketing personalization of the guest journey, especially personalized hotel email marketing that targets customers with pinpoint precision. As hotel marketing technology becomes more affordable and integrated, hotels know more about who's looking, booking and bouncing than ever before. With this robust "big data," more and more hotels are personalizing and optimizing offers email campaigns, dynamic website content and pricing.And the rewards are huge: Accenture found that 58 percent of consumers would switch one-half or more of their spending to a provider that excels at personalizing experiences without compromising trust.Website personalization tech has become more mainstream, enabling hotels to trigger custom promotional offers for guests with recognizable past purchase behavior6. The arrival of social advertisingThis past year, hotel advertising on social media continued to grow as an effective and budget-friendly means of conducting promotions and branding initiatives, especially in cases where pricing for Google PPC ads through Google AdWords isn't always an affordable option. Social advertising in tandem on Facebook and Instagram has proven particularly potent and can be a great help to marketers looking to fill their hotel during slow periods where there are gaps in demand.7. Actionable dataAlthough hoteliers have been gathering guest data for some time, 2018 was the year hotel marketers truly began to analyze and utilize that data. Guest data is the essential ingredient for crafting segmented campaigns (see #4 above) and improving service. Smart hotel marketers are now using data from numerous hotel systems (ie PMS, CRM, POS, hotel CRS and booking engine, social media channels, etc) to activate touchpoints that improve marketing messages and the on-property guest experience. Some hotel marketers took data aggregated from "social listening" even further in 2018.... compiling guest review data and sentiment analysis to prompt owners to make sorely needed upgrades and investments. 8. The emergence of MetasearchWhile many argue that rate parity and OTA dominance reduces the value of metasearch sites, players like Kayak, Google, TripAdvisor, and Trivago have a powerful consumer perception as one-stop shops to check desired travel dates, read reviews and compare prices between different booking channels (including the OTAs). For hotel marketers pushing direct rates, metasearch sites have become a positive channel enabling them to increase visibility, lower cost per booking, own and guest reservation data.9. SPAC gets on track...One of the main elements of the digital counterattack (see #1 above) that occurred in 2018: smart hotel marketers learned the value of SPAC: Simultaneous Promotion Across All Channels, which keeps timely promotions uniform, clear and consistent for the customer. Launching the same promo on every channel at the same time creates comfort and avoids the confusion that arises when guests see a variety of offers out there for the same rooms at your hotel. While inconsistency causes mental discomfort and may prompt a potential guest to look elsewhere.10. UGC widely adoptedOne of the net effects of the rise of social media has been the increased importance of user-generated content such as photos and video, which is perceived and more authentic and reputable in the eyes of users than the stock imagery and contrived content many hotels still post. So instead of operating separately in their own social media world, in 2018 smart hotel marketers spent more time than ever working to source user-generated content. Consumers no longer trust advertising... they trust each other. As an article in Ad Age so aptly put it: "Your brand is defined by the interactions people have with it." User-generated content (UGC), especially photos, videos and posts about on-property experiences are more authentic, less sales focused... and let's face it, more creative than anything you could ever dream up yourself.The Bad:1. The wild west of social media "influencers"In 2018, hotel marketers handled countless requests for comp rooms, meals, drinks and more from self-professed social media "influencers," promising to promote the property to the influencer's "followers." While some of these inquiries can lead to valuable returns, many others do not, which is why in 2019, hotel marketers need to thoroughly validate influencer marketing opportunities before proceeding. Key metrics like user engagement can be illuminating for this process.Hotel social media execs were besieged by inbound requests for free rooms from social media influencers2. The stress of excess tech and vendorsLike many other sectors before it, the hotel industry is now besieged by technology, tools and vendors purporting to revolutionize the guest experience and become the must-have asset you need to attract more guests. While this may sometimes be true, it's easy to lose focus while perpetually chasing these dangling techno-carrots, so be sure any time and/or money invested to this end is truly in line with your marketing goals and guest profile. The more vendors a hotel uses, the more difficult integration becomes between systems and the less efficient all related processes become. Working with one, or at least a smaller group, of vendors that can offer a range of solutions will help with integration, boost accountability for each vendor and save the time that would typically be spent coordinating and communicating among all the various vendors. Moving into 2019, it's time to simplify and optimize.3. The agony of ROI attributionMeasuring key KPIs and utilizing data analytics is harder than ever for hotel marketers. There's lots of data, but more data often means more complexity, for example: how do digital marketers calculate ROI when consumers use multiple devices? Instead of eyeing metrics like bounce rate, online page views and social media followers, savvy hotel marketers are embracing new KPIs like marketing cost per booking (MCPB), direct revenue ratio (DRR), website conversion rate and variance from revenue target. These emerging KPIs highlight marketing-specific performance and align marketing's efforts with the overall success of the property.4. Recruiting nightmaresAttracting strong digital talent plays an essential role in the success of a hotel marketing team, yet hotel marketing executives are having increasing difficulties with recruiting efforts, particularly among millennials. The dilemma is partly due to comparatively lower compensation levels, versus the strong demand for digital talent in all industries, as well as a perceived lack of innovation in hospitality that makes other opportunities--like Silicon Valley, for example--seem all the more exciting. Don't settle, either; be sure your hotel digital marketing team deeply understands the hotel experience and booking process.5. Pulling teeth for product upgrades No matter how brilliant a hotel marketer may be, they can only go so far if they are saddled with an inferior product to promote. Or, as one genius executive said: "Advertising is the tax for an unremarkable product."Truly, there's no substitute for a compelling product and marketers continued to struggle this past year to convince owners to make a commitment to keeping their properties up to the level of the compset and new supply. To get an owner onboard this year for needed upgrades, be sure to show them recent reviews where customers discuss the need for these renovations. The Ugly:1. OTAs continued dominanceDespite major investment and emphasis by large players like Marriott and Hilton, almost every credible industry analyst reports little to no erosion in OTA penetration of overall hotel revenue (See chart below from Phocuswright). There are myriad reasons for this troubling issue, including: OTA marketing power, lack of consumer loyalty, consumer perception of OTAs as lowest price provider, hotelier failure to differentiate, hotel marketer apathy and hotel owners with short-term "flip" mentalities who refuse to invest in building a long-term direct guest flow. Hotels would be wise to deploy direct booking campaigns that are proven to work. And fight back with anti-OTA messages with real teeth...2. The rising cost of guest acquisitionWhile the cost of OTA revenue continued to erode margins for hoteliers, the cost of other channels also continued to rise at an alarming rate. According to a recent AHLA report, entitled: Demystifying the Digital Marketplace, "revenue retained by US hotels after paying all customer acquisition costs declined by almost .4% or $600 million... That $600M in additional cost would have contributed directly to net operating income. Using an 8% capitalization rate (which most investors require), these additional acquisition costs of $600 million reduced the asset value of the overall hotel industry by at least $7.5 billion."That's why hotel owners and asset managers are looking more closely than ever at variable marketing costs--particularly the cost of guest acquisition--which is also rising fast. According to experts, acquisition costs commonly in the range of 5% to 10% less than a decade ago have jumped to between 15% and 25%. If a hotel cannot acquire guests at a tolerable, sustainable rate, then the property is worthless as a long-term asset.There are a number of reasons why the cost of acquisition continues to spike (along with the blood pressure of some owners) including: Lack of differentiation and low conversion rates, the dominance of costly OTAs, the rising cost of advertising and the owners own short-term "flipping" mentality.3. "The Privacy Paradox"GDPR was just the beginning... 2018 was the year that hotel marketers confronted what famed venture capitalist Mary Meeker dubbed the "privacy paradox" in her annual Internet Trends report: Essentially, personalization is a profitable technological process dependent on data collection. Everyone is doing it and that draws the attention of regulators (especially when hotel giants like Marriott get hacked). So hotel marketers are facing a "privacy paradox." They're caught between using data to provide better guest experiences and pushing the envelope with consumer privacy. This intrinsic conflict between hotels, their guests and regulators will surely complicate the lives of hotel marketers going forward.

The good, the bad and the ugly: A 2018 hotel marketing review

Tambourine Blog·31 December 2018
With 2018 essentially in our review mirror, it’s time to take stock of what was another eventful year in hotel marketing. That includes the good, the bad and the downright ugly hotel marketing trends and practices we witnessed this past year.

The Official Gift Guide for hotel marketers

Tambourine ·19 December 2018
Listen up, hotel owners and asset managers.Want to sleigh the holidays this year for your hotel marketing team?No holiday is complete without our annual Official Gift Guide for Hotel Marketersto keep the season bright.Just one heads up: This wish list is unlike any other.Don't expect to be asked for the latest tech gadget or an all-expenses paid vacation.What hotel marketers reallywant are the necessary assets, funds, and tools to reach their 2019 goals.So, pass the festive cocktails. Bring on the cheer. Here's what hotel marketers REALLY want this year:1. They want a budget correlated to revenue goalsLet's be realistic. If you're holding your marketing team accountable to loftier revenue goals, you'll need to support that with a loftier budget. Unfortunately, there are still many hotel owners who believe marketers are miracle workers who can achieve more revenue with less resources, less tools, less staff, and less funds.Want to achieve more in 2019? Calculate how much you spent in OTA commissions in 2018, you'll quickly realize that investing in DIRECT marketing is one of the smartest moves you can make to boost margins. Support your hotel marketing team's efforts with the appropriate budget needed to hit revenue goals and to make the desired impact on 2019 profits.2. They want compensation for driving measurable revenueThe sales team isn't the only department accountable to revenue goals anymore.Hotel owners and asset managers are now expecting hotel marketers to contribute to the bottom line in a tangible way, beyond pretty pictures, Instagram posts and squishy "branding projects." In return, hotel marketing teams are beginning to track direct ROI, such as marketing cost per booking (MCPB), return on ad spend (ROAS) and direct website conversions.Armed with these figures, hotel marketers want to be rewarded and compensated for contributing to their piece of the hotel revenue pie.3. They want better digital marketing talentTo outperform your compset, you need an army of top talent at every level of your marketing department. After all, someone is behind every digital touchpoint - from social media, to the hotel website design, to email. Not to mention all the expertise needed behind-the-scenes, such as search marketing, data analytics, and CRM systems. While talented digital marketing professionals are aplenty all over the country, they are being reeled in by other industries that offer higher pay and better benefits and perks (think Google, Facebook, and virtually any major corporation with a website).The first step to building an unbeatable team is recruiting employees who have both digital prowess and hotel marketing instincts. This means hiring staff who understand the hotel experience. Rethinking your compensation packages. And, making sure they understand the stages of the travel purchase funnel, ROI of each, and how to usher a visitor onto the next phase.Read more: Hotel Digital Talent: Why Is it So Hard to Find4. They want property upgrades ...Please!Every week, a hotel is announcing a stunning redesign or renovation, or breaking ground on a new property entirely. With so much shiny and new inventory on the market, it's getting near impossible to compete with an aging, tired product. No amount of innovative and brilliant marketing (and trust us, your marketing team is trying) can mask a shoddy hotel experience.The solution IS NOT leaning more on your marketing team. It's to invest in the necessary property upgrades to remain competitive. Travelers are more sophisticated and vocal than ever. It's vital to keep up with modern amenities, aesthetics, and experiences. Without improving your hotel product, trying to win over the hearts and wallets of guests simply with more marketing will be a never-ending battle.Read more: Are You Putting Lipstick On a Pig?5. They want the time and tools to handle more dataThe effects of Big Data are enormous.Think deep insight into your guests' behavior and preferences - past, present and future. Knowing which customers have the highest lifetime value and how to reach them. Aptly leveraging peaks and dips in your hotel's business cycle to reap the best possible net profit.Not to mention, the responsibility to protect your guests and their personal data. The hospitality industry has been a target of security breaches since 2010. No hotel is immune and the effects on customers' security have been far-reaching. From independent properties to Marriott to Sabre Hospitality Solutions' reservation system, hackers have been able to collect secure customer data, including credit card numbers, addresses, names, login credentials, dates of birth and passport information.Collecting, managing, analyzing, and protecting all this data can be exciting but also overwhelming. Hotel marketers need the tools and the funds to pull this off.6. They want better benchmarkingAlmost every hotel marketer we have spoken to has the same question: "How am I performing compared to similar properties?" While we can rely on common benchmarks like STR's indexes, other key performance indicators like direct vs 3rdparty revenue ratio and website conversion rates can vary by market and property type. Thankfully, smart analytics companies like Kalibri Labsand others are helping hotel marketers understand critical KPIs and provide actionable advice7. They want better vetting and yield from social influencersHotel marketers are besieged by social media influencers.Not all should be avoided, nor should all be showered with comp stays.Hotels, especially luxury resorts, are a favorite of Instagram brand influencers. While it may be tempting to dismiss these seemingly ruthless freeloaders, there IS massive value in partnering with legitimate content creators who have sizeable followings and engagement.The key is thorough vetting to find the content creators who are worth the investment and who will produce actual deliverables beyond a few selfie Instagram posts. The more worthwhile influencers produce additional content on the hotel's behalf that you can use for future marketing campaigns. Some even assist with the hotel's social media efforts ongoing. Either way, standardize the process by requiring an application covering demographics, engagement, following and a minimum amount of deliverables. This will make it easier to discern which influencers are worth a partnership.8. They want continued investments in direct booking campaignsWhat started as a big-bang movement by Marriott and Hilton with campaigns like "Stop Clicking Around,"has now filtered down to hotel collections and individual properties of all sizes, locations, and brand affiliations. Battling massively funded OTAs not only takes time and gumption, but a steadfast investment and long-term outlook in getting the message across about direct booking.There are plenty of good reasons for your guests to skip the OTAs and to book direct.But, don't sit back and rely on AHLA, Marriott, Hilton and all the other major brands to raise awareness and get the point across. You will have the greatest impact on your own audience. Continue to fund best practice direct booking campaigns and the technology to guide visitors to your website and deliver an easy booking experience, instead of allowing them to drift back to OTAs.Read more: We're Using the Wrong Message to Fight OTAs9. They want better integration with local, authentic experiencesModern travelers are a different breed from customers of the past. For them, it's no longer just about what's inside the confines of your property. They're looking beyond the hotel walls for remarkable experiences they can't achieve at home. So, for the past several years, hotels have answered the call by redefining their guest experience... and attempting to become the epicenter of their destination.From chef-led farmers market tours to lobby art shows featuring local upcoming artists, hoteliers are hoping their curated local experiences will prove to drive more bookings and boost their bottom line.10. They want decreased dependence on OTAsWe get it.... no surprise here.Sometimes you feel as if your hotel can't survive without OTAs. They bring bookings seemingly out of nowhere and consistently fill your rooms with a minimal amount of effort. However, the fact remains that those rooms are booked at rock-bottom prices. On top of that, OTAs still pocket 15-30% on top of the already reduced room rate.Yet, driving your own reservations and relying less on OTAs IS possible. ROI-obsessed hotel marketers like many of our hotel marketing clientshave created tools and perfected marketing techniques to take back bookings, such as booking engines that decrease bounces, copywriting that drives conversions, and pricing psychology that convinces guests to purchase.

Have you walked the chasm between your hotel website and booking engine?

Tambourine Blog·14 December 2018
This week’s Freebie: Do you really know what’s causing online visitors to bounce? Test drive your own booking engine to experience it yourself. Take your blinders off.

We took a million hotel photos: here's what we learned

Tambourine ·13 December 2018
When it comes to your hotel's presence across all online channels, photography is undoubtedly one of the most important elements to optimizing traffic and conversion. TripAdvisor found in 2016 that 86% of travelersconsider a hotel's photos vital to their final decision to book an accommodation.But, it's not just the presence of photos or the amount of photos. "Hotel photography is first and foremost about storytelling,"according to Tambourine's Creative Director Stephany Bermudez, a globally-recognized expert on hotel, resort and tourism photography. "We don't take great pictures... we MAKE great pictures."Steph and our in-house photo/video team have been handling photo shoots for hotels of all sizes since 1984. In the last few years alone, we've taken more than a million pictures for our clients. 99% never get published... what are the commonalities behind the great images that can make or break your property?Here's what we've learned:1. Don't: Undervalue skilled, hotel-specific photographyHere at Tambourine, we've seen a lot of different quality levels of hotel photography, and from our view, no matter what your budget, hiring the right professional to do the work is the most critical part of the operation."Photography is expensive, but it's an investment,"says Bermudez. "When you do a high-quality shoot, your return on investment is huge because it can last you several years, and it is so much more effective than a budget shoot. Today's hotel photographers are thinking specifically about the online environment, the mobile-first approach, and how to construct and capture the story of your hotel that connects with your guests. An amateur or photographer with a different specialty isn't going to have that insight or perspective."2. Do: Hire separate "specialists" for architecture vs lifestyleBased on our experience, there are two very distinct types of hotel photograph: informational and inspirational.Informational, or architectural, photographs are very technically precise. They show the customer what the hotel looks like with shots of the rooms, the lobby, pool, exterior, and other amenities. Inspirational photographs, on the other hand, are more about the hotel's story--what does the placefeellike? What is the vibe?These photos might be a roll of towels placed in a certain way, the cappuccino setup, or a group of people enjoying the pool."The biggest mistake hotels make is to hire the same photographer for everything,"says Bermudez. "An architectural photographer won't be the best lifestyle photographer, and vice versa."She also notes, "Some hotels also make the mistake of hiring the local wedding photographer, or a real estate photographer. That doesn't usually work either because they have a very specific skill set that doesn't necessarily translate to either of these two disciplines,"she adds.3. Don't: Use amateur models for lifestyle shotsOne serious mistake hotel marketers make, according to Bermudez, is to use employees for lifestyle shots. "Authenticity is important, but it doesn't always work,"she says. "Professional models are experts in knowing how to move, how to swim, and how to create that moment that will sell the experience of your hotel to your customers,"she adds.Professional models --even kids-- know how to move comfortably with the camera on... Of course, whether or not a hotel decides to use models is the defining line between a small budget shoot and an investment. "Once you decide to use models, then you need to hire makeup and hair artists, wardrobe specialists, and more. That's where it starts to get expensive,"says Bermudez.Not all hotels can afford to invest in a photoshoot at this level. In this case, finding a highly skilled lifestyle photographer is even more important. "The right photographer can create those lifestyle moments with a plate of cookies and the right light. If you're not going to hire professional models, it's usually best not to fake it with amateurs. The results are pretty bad more often than not,"she says.4. Do: Shoot video and photos simultaneously"Once you've decided to invest in models and their associated costs, we highly recommend doing a combo shoot of stills and video,"says Bermudez. "You will walk away with a lot more content for your money this way."However, she cautions, it's important to consider video production teams and photographers that already have a working relationship. "If you hire a video production company and photographer that don't know each other, they may not work together very well,"she says.5. Do: Hire a stylistIdeally, hotels should prioritize hiring a stylist, according to Bermudez's experience. A stylist is someone who comes in and preps the hotel for the photoshoot. "Having a great stylist that knows how to prep hotel beds is a huge distinguishing factor between lower budget and high-end shoots,"she says. "You don't realize how much goes into bed prep. A stylist will bring their own pillows, steam the sheets, add batting to the duvets, and really go edge-to-edge to build the ideal picture of your hotel."For smaller budgets, Bermudez says that housekeeping can be coached on how to prep a bed. "It's not as efficient, and while we can do a lot of work in post-production, the results are never as good as a natural photograph,"she says.6. Do: Use natural light"If you have lamps turned on in the room during a daytime shoot, you give the impression of a dark room,"says Bermudez. "Every guest wants a bright, fresh, airy room. We can give that impression with even the smallest window. Let the natural light pour in and we'll brighten it with the right exposure,"she adds. Stephany notes that if you want to shoot the room at night with the lamps on, it has to be done at dusk, before the sky turns black.

We took a million hotel photos: here's what we learned

Tambourine Blog·12 December 2018
When it comes to your hotel’s presence across all online channels, photography is undoubtedly one of the most important elements to optimizing traffic and conversion. TripAdvisor found in 2016 that 86% of travelers consider a hotel’s photos vital to their final decision to book an accommodation.

Try These Proven Direct Booking Incentives

Tambourine Blog· 7 December 2018
This week’s Freebie: What’s working right now to motivate guests to book direct? When competing against powerhouse OTAs, hotel marketing success relies on consumers’ perceived value of booking direct.

Entice Business Travelers to Linger Longer

Tambourine Blog·30 November 2018
This week’s Freebie: Compel guests to add on extra nights to their conference or corporate stay. With the potential for higher ADRs, more room nights, and more spend on-property, it’s easy to see why “bleisure” travelers are a hotelier’s favorite guest. Want to widen your revenue opportunities with corporate guests and meeting attendees?
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Tamourine's 5th Annual Hotel Marketing Thanksgiving List

Tambourine ·20 November 2018
God bless America.It's also the time of year when we survey hundreds of clients, colleagues and industry experts what they are feeling good about.Based on the results, here are five things hoteliers are feeling thankful for this Thanksgiving:1. The continued strong economy and surging KPIsHotel marketers have plenty of reasons to be thankful this year that the U.S. economy remains strong, as does overall hotel industry performance, which continues to hover at or near record levels. (See chart below: experts at CBRE forecast ADR and RevPAR growth exceeding 2.5% for 2019.) For one, the hotel industry's currently robust metrics are helping to make most hospitality marketers look like geniuses-- whether deserved or not--by fueling major gains across numerous key marketing KPIs. The present economic strength also creates a thriving job market, both within the hotel industry and in the larger workforce. This helps keep hotels staffed, brings business travelers through the door and gives leisure travelers more of the disposable income they need to take vacations. It also fosters strong group business, since companies are more willing to spend on corporate events and SMERF groups are typically more active.As we've stated many times before, this is absolutely crucial, since even marketing geniuses can only do so much with a sub-par property.2. Their growing comfort with all things digitalThere may have been a deep learning curve at first, but hotel marketers are getting increasingly comfortable wielding the same digital weapons OTAs have used in recent years to hack off a big chunk of the bookings market. That's changing now that marketers are adapting to this new competitive landscape, and as more millennial/digital-native employees enter the workforce.There are now hotel marketers everywhere working to employ more efficient digital marketing and SEO, create streamlined booking experiences, harness CRM and RMS systems, and build better guest personalization, among other innovative pursuits.Although many of the traditional, old-school hotel marketing basics still apply, the new tech-driven weapons being employed were a desperately needed upgrade in order to remain competitive with the major third-party channels. Hotel marketers are no longer bringing a knife to the proverbial gunfight.3. The rise of social advertisingUsing the advertising capabilities of social media platforms is proving to be a great means of offsetting the rising costs of Google AdWords PPC campaigns, while offering expanded audience targeting capabilities. Now that's something to truly be thankful for.More and more serious hotel marketers are embracing these media channels, and for good reason: 30% of Gen Z (18- and 19-year-olds) and 42% of millennials (20- to 36-year-olds) believe social media is the most relevant channel for ads, according to Adobe's State of Digital Advertising 2018 report. Respondents over the age of 37 still find TV ads are more relevant, according to the report, but they rank social media second. Clearly, that's a lot of eyeballs that can be garnered through social, and for a relatively inexpensive price when compared with PPC and traditional mass media. But the benefits of social advertising don't stop there for hotel marketers.It's also great for creating promotions intended to specifically boost business during "low periods," like those inevitable times when seasonality or the unexpected cancellation of a large group suddenly impacts occupancy projections. Smart hotel marketers are finding great success during these times by working Facebook and Instagram ads in tandem, with clear, timely, specific and hyper-focused pitches that utilize lots of eye-catching graphics and video. The more unique customer groups one can target with these specialized messages, the better.4. The cornucopia of available guest dataHere in the era of "big data," hotel marketers are drawing upon more knowledge than ever about guests to craft segmented campaigns and improve the guest service experience, cultivating this vital customer intel from a wide range of sources, including their hotel's PMS, CRM, POS, RMS, social listening and more.This burgeoning flood of information is leading to unprecedented consumer insights.With so much valuable data now in hand, marketers can better understand who their best guests are, by closely looking at who is spending the most, when they spend it and where on property these revenues are generated. Campaigns can now be better customized to attract these big-ticket guests.Hotel marketers can also monitor guest sentiment through methods such as social listening and on-property guest/relationship management software, which can reveal underlying product or service problems at the hotel and/or opportunities where guests can be delighted with great customer service. From there the hotel staff can analyze these findings, perform the necessary research and devise plans that address areas of improvement in the future.5. The non-impact of GDPR (so far) in the U.S.The European Union's 2018 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) took effect on May 25, mandating that companies receive customer consent before storing, processing or using personal data from all EU citizens, while also providing a means for those citizens to remove their data from databases. Among U.S. businesses this was particularly noteworthy for hotels, which often serve international guests.The new GDPR regulation has sent hotel marketers scrambling in recent months to ensure compliance, but six months later it's proving to be less of a factor here in the U.S. than was originally feared. The immediate result was a flood of permission-seeking emails and cookie requests sent to users by respective sites, which have likely all been read, clicked and deleted by now. Otherwise, there have been relatively few (if any) relevant lawsuits here in the States involving hotels.
Article by Dave Spector

Do This To Gain Instant Trust With Hotel Website Visitors

Tambourine · 9 November 2018
Social proof is critical to easing the worries of potential guests. In fact, a study in the Washington Post showed social proof had more influence over customers than a discount. This is why a guest review site like TripAdvisor is so popular and impactful on purchase behavior. As travelers and meeting planners are faced with more and more hotel options, it's vital to win their trust first, to win their heart and their wallets.Here are the four core methods of leveraging social proof online:1. Awards, Accolades and Media LabelsProminently display any accolades or awards from reputable travel industry organizations or media that have recognized your hotel. Just a quick glance can lock in buyer confidence.2. Guest-generated Social Media PostsPhotos and videos increase trust. Today, some of your best property photography and most poignant stories will come from the guests themselves, whether from their Instagram photos, YouTube videos or Facebook Livestreams. Use your geotag to search for these posts, ask permission to use, then re-post or reuse for your own hotel marketing assets.3. User Testimonials & ReviewsSkip the generic "Great service!" reviews and instead showcase testimonials that explicitly share how the hotel and your staff made the stay or the meeting extraordinary, not just pleasant. If possible, include a photo of the person leaving the review, which enhances the perceived legitimacy of the testimonial.4. Partner LogosShowcase logos of partner organizations and businesses, even if they are lesser-known brands. These partnerships will go a long way to bolster credibility and draws other customers and partners to you.

What's Haunting Hotel Marketers This Halloween?

Tambourine ·31 October 2018
Continuing our annual Halloween tradition, we've asked hotel marketers nationwide, across all chain scales and property sizes, what they're most spooked about right now. In past years, the list has included:* Unrealistic goals set by ownership* Product deterioration* The cost of guest acquisition* Shaky job securityMany of those were on the minds of the folks we spoke to this year, however, here are five particularly frightening problems keeping hotel marketers up at night right now:1. Brand Proliferation/DifferentiationMany hotel marketers (and owners) view the industry's numerous and ever-growing assortment of brands as an increasingly frightening issue, especially considering that many of those brands are owned by a handful of massive conglomerates. For some marketers, as more brands enter each competitive marketplace, it becomes proportionally more difficult to convey the identity of their own brand to consumers and build lasting brand loyalty... Further commoditizing hotels in the eyes of consumers.There are hundreds of hotel brands currently operating, according to STR's latest global chain scale list. And as was reported in Skift, at least 30 of those brands are owned by Marriott, AccorHotels owns 25 (not including luxury rental purveyor Onefinestay), 20 are owned by Wyndham and Hilton and InterContinental Hotels Group each have 14. The list keeps growing too, as companies add more brands, without removing older brands that may no longer have the same appeal, partly due to the long-term nature of many brand agreements.One solution, according to experts, is to view each property as a brand unto itself, and focus on communicating the unique qualities, location and selling points of that hotel. This way, the hotel stands out on its own merit when searched by travelers, who may be more loyal to a third-party aggregator like TripAdvisor, as well as their own specific wants and needs, than anyone traditional hotel brand.2. Recruiting Digital TalentStaff turnover among job-hopping millennials can limit your hotel marketing successThe hotel industry stands to benefit from high-quality digital marketing even more than many other businesses, yet hoteliers frequently struggle to hire and retain skilled digital marketing professionals. It's partly due to the overwhelming competition for digital talent by multiple industries, the difficulty of marketing competitively against the OTAs and specific issues and perceptions within the hospitality business itself.When trying to attract candidates who might also be considering options ranging from joining Silicon Valley giants to creating hip new startups, hotel marketers often need to combat the (unfair) assumption that hotel marketing is a stagnant, slow-to-change profession. There are also issues with compensation--the hotel industry sometimes lags behind--as well as a lack of candidates who possess both the required digital skills and the experience demanded by owners and their hotel management firms.In addition to these hiring difficulties, you also need to be sure your digital team deeply understands the hotel experience and booking process. Look for hires who have substantial personal travel experience, understand the travel purchasing funnel and have the knowledge and skills to turn that funnel into tangible digital action.3. Integration WoesEven though it's a problem long bemoaned by hoteliers, the continued lack of integration between the numerous and growing list of software applications and vendors used by hotels remains a major nightmare for hotel marketers. Far too many hotels are still operating with a disparate hodge-podge of systems (PMS, CRS, POS, CRM, website, etc.) that each performs their given role, but may not communicate properly with one another.More seamless integration would enhance both the effectiveness of these systems and their reporting abilities, while eliminating some of the job frustration caused by the disparity. Reducing the amount of vendors utilized at each hotel will also boost accountability for each vendor, while saving the time that would typically be spent coordinating and communicating among all the various vendors.This is why it's best to partner with vendors who can potentially satisfy multiple needs under the same relationship and do it well. By paring down your vendor list, you'll be surprised at just how many fewer nightmares you'll experience.4. Vetting Social Media 'Influencers'The rise of hotel social media "influencers"--users who claim sway over a vast legion of social media followers, particularly on Instagram--has resulted in a sustained flood of requests for comp stays at hotels by numerous self-dubbed influencers, some of whom are flat-out scammers. As a result, the process of vetting these requests and determining their potential has become a growing problem for many hotels.Some marketers are now utilizing a standardized process where influencers complete a form when submitting their request. Management can then look deeper into validation metrics, like user engagement on that influencer's posts, which can help determine whether the influencer has real followers, or has purchased them. Once vetted, hoteliers can decide whether the influencer's audience is aligned with the hotel's customer base, and if the influencer's posts can bring pertinent value to the hotel.Hotels and resorts are being bombarded by social media influencers seeking free travel... creating another challenge for already beleaguered hotel marketing decision-makersIf your hotel does partner with social influencers, be sure to communicate in advance what the expectation will be for a return on your accommodations (i.e. the specific amount of posts or content that the influencer will deliver). You also want to be sure the posts will spotlight the features that are the most important selling points for the property.5. Big Data/data securityHotel marketers are increasingly called upon to harness data in the quest to enhance one-to-one consumer marketing, anticipating each potential guest's wants and needs, including the specific times of the year for those needs, amid a customer relationship that will hopefully last a lifetime."Big data" is also great for identifying peak and off-peak times, lucrative customer segments and a host of other analytical applications. However the realities of cultivating and maintaining that data--including keeping it safe--have become more perilous and onerous over time.Over the last decade, the hotel industry has tallied a lengthy list of data breaches, many of which were quite substantial, impacting even the largest hotel companies. Hotel IT staff do all they can to lock down systems and try to prevent future breaches, but the reality is hackers will continue their efforts, making the concept of "security" a constantly moving target.Further complicating the situation is the European Union's 2018 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which took effect on May 25, mandating that companies receive customer consent before storing, processing or using personal data from all EU citizens, while also providing a means for those citizens to remove their data from databases. For hotels, GDPR compliance is a great excuse to change all data-related processes, regardless of guest nationality; in the future, hotel marketers will be increasingly juggling big data and these heightened privacy and security fears.

What's haunting hotel marketers this Halloween?

Tambourine Blog·30 October 2018
Continuing our annual Halloween tradition, we've asked hotel marketers nationwide, across all chain scales and property sizes, what they're most spooked about right now.

Mastering five key guest touchpoints

Tambourine Blog·19 October 2018
The guest experience is a critical component of driving loyalty and guest satisfaction. So it makes sense to perfect every communication touchpoint.

10 Essentials of a Killer Hotel Website

Tambourine Blog·16 October 2018
What is the most important technology in your hotel? While many would say it’s the PMS or CRS, your direct hotel website is a vital, revenue-generating platform hub that is rapidly growing in importance as hotel marketers struggle to reduce the cost of guest acquisition and shift share from OTAs.

Hotel SEO: How will Google's new EAT Algorithm affect your property?

Tambourine Blog· 9 October 2018
In August, Google rolled out a new algorithm update that is already causing widespread changes in both organic and local search engine rankings.

Resort Marketing: 10 Ways To Dominate the Comp Set

Tambourine Blog· 2 October 2018
Resorts face unique challenges. They are usually more expensive, geographically harder to reach and incur longer stays than standard full-service hotels. Many are built in “clusters” in a destination, too, which can make it tough to differentiate one’s product from the resort next door.

Segment Your Past Guest List For Greater Returns

Tambourine Blog·28 September 2018
This week’s Freebie: Sending the same message and offer to your entire past guest database is a thing of the past. Savvy hotel marketers have invested time and effort in smart segmentation.

Friday Freebie: One Timeless Rule Every Hotel Marketer Should Follow

Tambourine Blog·21 September 2018
Charles Revson, the founder of Revlon Cosmetics, famously said,“In the factory, we make cosmetics. In the store, we sell hope.” It’s all too easy to get caught up in selling rooms each night. Most often, hotel marketers are buried under a barrage of daily marketing tasks that take up most of their time. It’s little wonder then that some hoteliers may start seeing their hotel as a commodity – as a physical product rather than a “creator of emotion.”

Hotel Marketing Budgets: How Much Is Actually Enough?

Tambourine ·20 September 2018
According to a recent study, Booking.com and Expedia return $16 for every dollar spent on marketing. This looks great on paper, but the reality is that over the last decade OTAs' return on marketing investment decreased by 15%.This explains why Booking.com dramatically decreased its advertising spend.The same story is playing out across the hotel marketing landscape... cost-per-acquisition is soaring, and if the Goliaths of the industry had to change their strategies, it's probably time to sit down and address the elephant-in-the-room: how much should you be spending on marketing?First: What's in the Marketing Budget?Allocations within the marketing budget vary from company to company. According to The CMO Surveysponsored by Duke University, Deloitte LLP, and the American Marketing Association, "less than half (47.9 percent) of companies include expenses for marketing employees in their marketing budgets. Most companies (61.3 percent) include direct expenses for marketing--such as advertising, trade promotions, and direct marketing--in their marketing budgets, but this varies by industry (See below):What does your hotel or resort include in its annual marketing budget? Do you include employee or outside agency costs in your budget How about OTA commissions or GDS fees?This is a critical definition that will determine how much you need and how your results are perceived by ownership.THE INVERTED U-CURVEHotel marketers can learn a valuable lesson from Malcolm Gladwell in his inspiring book David and Goliath. In the book, Gladwell talks about "inverted U-Curves:""Inverted-U curves have three parts, and each part follows a different logic. There's the left side, where doing more or having more makes things better. There's the flat middle, where doing more doesn't make much of a difference. And there's the right side, where doing more or having more makes things worse," according to Gladwell.The curve has been around for over a century and it has been applied to a wide range of different situations:Money: Scholars who research happiness suggest that more money stops making people happier after they exceed $75,000 per yearClass Size: Contrary to popular belief, a class size decreases beyond an optimal number, learning effectiveness decreases. Apparently, the optimum number is 18-24 students per classPunishment and Crime: Past a certain point, cracking down on crime and locking people up stops having any effect on criminals, makes crime worse and the juvenile delinquency rate increasesSimilarly, hotel marketing budgets have an inverted U-curve; doing too little will result in sub-optimal results, but doing too much is often wasteful.So how can you identify this sweet spot?WHERE ARE YOU ON THE CURVE?Hotels on the left side of the curve (usually large branded properties) typically allocate little to no budget in marketing beyond their brand fees.They often have a lackluster brand.com web page, no outside marketing investments and their distribution relies almost entirely on third-parties. The good news is that if your flagged hotel is on that part of the curve, any additional marketing investment will help you move to the flat middle of it, where investments and return are in balance and your profitability is at its zenith.The majority of hotels fall between the left side and the flat middle of the curve (and need to spend more to achieve their goals. However, if you categorize OTA commissions as marketing costs, virtually every hotel immediately moves to the right side of the curve, where spending more often delivers diminishing returns. As Kalibri Labs notes in their recent report: Demystifying the Digital Marketplace: "if you're growing top-line revenue --but you're spending a lot to do it--then you're ultimately less successful in contributing to overall profits. Not an optimal strategy."However, if profit is not your primary goal (i.e. hotels rebranding, new openings, brand awareness projects, etc.) spending MORE may be the correct strategy, but for the vast majority of hotels (if you believe Malcolm Gladwell) it is not.So, how much is too much when it comes to hotel marketing?Marketing effects profitabilityAccording to a recent Gartner Research study, companies spend an average of 12% of their annual revenue on marketing. A recent CMO Survey comes to similar conclusions, highlighting how tech companies are among the biggest spenders (14%) when it comes to marketing. The hotel industry, however, seems to pay an even higher price (up to 25%, according to Kalibri Labs). Tom Klein, the former CEO of Sabre, recently stated in a Tnooz interview that Travel "is not 90% margin like many of the businesses that Google and Facebook and others are in." With OTAs' average commission at 19% and direct booking cost-per-acquisition growing year after year, industry margins are under siege.So while ADR and RevPAR are important metrics, you should also focus solely "ProPAR" (Profit per Available Room): the revenue generated per room minus the investments needed to acquire the guest. Here again, we strongly recommend categorizing OTA commissions as marketing costs to get a true picture of your marketing budget and its effect on profitability!WHAT ABOUT DIRECT BOOKINGS?Because of high 3rd party acquisition costs, there has been a lot of attention on building direct channels, just think about Hilton's Stop Clicking Around campaign:The unavoidable truth is that it is also very easy to overspend when it comes to direct booking investments and you can find yourself on the right side of the inverted-U curve without even realizing it. Similar to the OTA channel, direct reservations also have growing costs.Special discounted rates, loyalty programs, hotel digital marketing, PPC, metasearch engines and social media ads to name a few. Our advice to clients has always been: "you should have an unlimited budget for things that work..."This philosophy requires a near-manic obsession with ROI tracking and analytics that requires serious software and some intensely nerdy data, scientists. As the CMO Survey reinforces: when respondents were broken into three groups--high, medium and low usage of ROI analytics-- marketing budgets were 70 percent larger in the high group than the low group.HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?Before you can determine how much to budget for marketing, hotel execs need to answer three critical questions:1. What are the revenue targets by segment? (more on this here)Without a concrete understanding of targets by segment, hotel marketers cannot quantify (or deploy) their budgets properly... leading to misalignment with ownership and missed targets.2. Where is the property in its lifecycle?Recently opened hotels, or properties which went through a rebranding, in fact, should be less focused on return on investment and more on building awareness. In cases like these, 20-25% of annual revenue spent on marketing is common. If, on the other hand, your hotel has matured to a more advanced stage and it's been in business for 3+ years, then 8-15% of your annual revenue on marketing should be more than enough to guarantee you a good balance between profit and visibility.3. How much revenue is marketing accountable for...?As the CMO Survey points out: "Marketing is responsible for leading revenue growth at 38.4 percent of companies. These companies have larger marketing budgets as a percentage of the overall company budget than companies that do not assign primary responsibility for revenue growth to marketing."

Hotel Marketing Budgets: How Much is Actually Enough?

Tambourine Blog·18 September 2018
According to a recent study, Booking.com and Expedia return $16 for every dollar spent on marketing. This looks great on paper, but the reality is that over the last decade OTAs’ return on marketing investment decreased by 15%.

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