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How to make the most of Facebook's ad audience targeting [slideshare]

GuestRevu ·22 March 2018
If you told a hotel marketer in the seventies that you could show their ad to someone based on their age, marital status, and recent travel activity, they would have raided their company's coffers. If you told them you could ensure that they would only pay if these people actually opened their catalogue, they would have all of their worldly possesions boxed up and ready to be sold.
Article by Lara Salomon

5 Reasons why The Shed shouldn't scare you

GuestRevu ·20 March 2018
When freelance writer Oobah Butler decided to make a fake restaurant for the purposes of proving that "TripAdvisor was a false reality", he realised that he had a number of hurdles ahead of him. From overcoming TripAdvisor's fraud checks, to convincing friends to write over 100 realistic-looking reviews and relying on the gullibility of the public, running The Shed became a full-time job, and all for a restaurant that never existed, and never had paying customers to satisfy.Those of you with real patrons may be thinking, "Well what stops anyone from doing this? Why should I trust TripAdvisor? Could my competitors be exploiting the same flaws in the system?" But, The Shed really shouldn't scare you. Fortunately, if a real hotel or restaurant attempted to pull off a stunt like this, it simply wouldn't be viable - and here are five reasons why:1. TripAdvisor goes to great lengths to check for fraudulent reviewsThe technology that the review giant uses to map electronic data and look for patterns in behaviour is based on the techniques that banks use to detect fraud. Not only does TripAdvisor subject reviews to over 50 filters, but it also employs over 300 specialists from fields such as law enforcement, credit card fraud and forensic computing to monitor for abnormal activity. So part of Butler's deception would have involved monitoring how many reviews were getting flagged -- no doubt a full-time job in itself!As the company's CEO explains, "We are not blind to the challenges a site like ours faces. We have invested heavily in fraud detection technology and personnel to improve the safeguards we have in place. We don't claim to be perfect. But we know that for the vast majority of people using TripAdvisor, the information they are able to gather from our community's reviews is both useful and accurate."So how did The Shed get past all of these safety measures to obtain over 100 reviews and rise to its #1 rank? The answer is actually quite simple: the entire restaurant was fake. There were no legitimate reviews to use as a basis for normal behaviour -- falsified reviews were the norm in this case, rather than the exception -- and there were no actual customers to refute the great experiences or report the reviews, since there was no restaurant to dine at and no experience to be had. The three sections that TripAdvisor sorts fake reviews into -- boosting, vandalism and optimisation -- didn't really apply to The Shed.To put it in banking terms, it would be like someone walking into a bank and opening an account under a fake name, not to steal money or commit fraud, but simply to prove that you can do so without the fraud division catching onto your scheme. There was no scheme to catch on to!2. People are learning how to spot fake news and reviewsThey are a common problem faced not only by TripAdvisor, but by sites from Yelp, to Facebook, to Google, and beyond. It's not only banks that need to monitor for fraudulent activity these days, and just about every website will have measures in place for making sure that its users aren't trying to trick others. With the amount of fake news in circulation, people are also becoming more sceptical - and more aware of how much falsity the internet allows for - and users will often check multiple sources (or even use tools like Fakespot and ReviewMeta) before they believe anything they read.The fact that The Shed was only looking to scam TripAdvisor means that if you tried to look into the restaurant further, you would find little to sate your curiosity -- everything from their website to their TripAdvisor and Facebook pages (the only two that were set up) is filled with scant details designed specifically to induce curiosity rather than satisfy it. If a real restaurant or hotel were to attempt to follow in The Shed's footsteps and fake their reviews, it wouldn't take long for potential guests or customers to realise that the overly positive sentiments that were expressed were out of sync with the feedback from others who had come before.3. TripAdvisor was onto The Shed before the news brokeBy the time that the fake restaurant had decided to come clean to the public, TripAdvisor had already become more than a little suspicious. It may have taken longer than one would have expected due to the entire restaurant, rather than just one or two of its reviews, being falsified, but The Shed was on the review giant's radar, according to the statement that they released after the full story behind the deception was posted online."In fact," TripAdvisor's statement explained, "we had already applied a penalty to the property which reduced its position within our Popularity Ranking and removed a number of its reviews, prior to the listing itself being identified as fraudulent and removed from the site. From the moment our system identified a suspicious pattern of reviews, it was only a matter of time before we caught and shut down this listing."The Shed may have reached the number one spot, but their success was short-lived. Butler also had nothing to lose, unlike a real restaurant, where the risk of penalties and a damaged reputation far outweigh the supposed benefits of fraudulent reviews.4. Fake reviews are a false economyConsidering the penalties that businesses caught faking reviews can be subject to, it stands to reason that only an entirely fake business would find the risk to be worth the reward, so to speak. Especially since the reward in this instance was nothing more than proving a point and achieving a certain amount of notoriety and a bit more than fifteen minutes of internet fame.Consider that, for a legitimate restaurant or hotel, falsified reviews can not only lead to penalties on the site itself (and the accompanying big red notices that outweigh any positive influence the fake review might have), but can also be considered unlawful or contradict consumer protection policies in a number of countries. And then consider that, unlike The (entirely fake) Shed, the establishment would have customers or guests who are able to flag or contradict suspicious reviews. The risk that a company takes by either writing or soliciting fake reviews becomes entirely unworth any reward that the company could hope to achieve from the small and short-lived boost that they may receive.5. Listings with only positive reviews look suspiciousIf you look at the current #1 restaurant in New York or #1 hotel in London, you may notice that there is one thing that they have in common. While the two both have a large number of overwhelmingly positive reviews, they also have a handful of terrible, poor and average reviews alongside those great ones. And that's to be expected! No hotel is perfect, and no restaurant can satisfy every single customer that walks through their doors. No one expects perfection either, and that is why a listing with only positive reviews comes across as pretty suspicious to most readers. This is part of the reason (aside from possible legal ramifications) why you should never block (or try to prevent people from posting) a bad review -- not only can it land you in legal hot water if you did, but by their very existence, negative reviews with great management responses can build trust with potential guests.At the end of the day, The Shed was an experiment that may have been successful for its creators, but that is meaningless to real restaurants and hotels, simply because it would never have reached its high status if its goal had been to gain customers or to make money. The lessons that hotels and restaurants can learn from Butler and his falsified results is purely that they would not work in the real-world since, as TripAdvisor put so succinctly, "real businesses, whether they try to game our system or not, have a footfall of genuine customers coming through the door and those customers contribute to the review patterns we would expect to see. Spotting the difference between a business' genuine customer reviews and its fake reviews is one of the ways we catch fraud."
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4 Ways that feedback can get your priorities straight

GuestRevu ·15 March 2018
Managing a hotel is all about making tough decisions and finding answers to difficult questions: Where do you spend your limited budget? Whose side do you take – a valued employee’s or a guest’s? Do you motivate your staff with the carrot or the stick? Does the expensive wifi package really make a difference to guest experience, or could you get away with a cheaper one? How do you find out who is pulling their weight and who is napping in room 8?
Article by Lara Salomon

Earn more direct bookings for your hotel with transparency

GuestRevu · 9 March 2018
Armed with prices from Booking.com, other online booking platforms, and the hotel's competitors, I sent them an email. Imagine my surprise when they quoted me 56% more than the Booking.com price!A few days later I had a similar experience with a serviced apartment provider, this time ending up with four different prices (sourced from their website, their OTA listing, a phone conversation and an email conversation) for the same apartment.There could be a few possible reasons for these inconsistencies:Front of house staff may not be aware of online pricesThere may be hidden costs that are not being included in prices displayed on their websites and OTA listings.Management may not realise that potential guests have already researched prices online and feel the need to charge more when potential guests book directly to make up for losses due to high OTA commissions.What it boils down to is this: either these hotels are not aware of what their prices are online, or they think that their prospective guests aren't.Ignorance is no longer blissWith 45% of travellers searching online to compare deals, and the average searcher visiting 38 websites to find the best deal, neither of these situations are ideal.If you are looking to pay less in commissions, you'll be interested to know that your prospective guests do actually prefer to book direct, provided they are getting a fair price. In one controlled experiment, Koddi found that:More than half their participants (65%) chose to book direct rather than through an OTA when the price was the same.Even when it was 10% more expensive, 51% of travellers still rather choose to book direct than through an OTA.The reason for this, according to Triptease, is that guests "believe they will get better treatment, better customer service, and they will be more likely to get room upgrades and other freebies" (which are, in fact, great ways to encourage direct bookings) if they book with hotels directly. But, more than pricing, what influences guests' decisions on where to book is trust. Whether the study's participants booked through hotels directly or through OTAs, they said it was because they trusted that vendor. This can work in your favour - as an individual hotel brand providing accommodation and comfort, it is far easier to build trust than as a big online travel agency that guests will never see or interact with in person.Being transparent about your pricing is one way to build trust -- not only will guests be more likely to book direct, but they will also feel better about doing so, and hopefully turn into repeat bookings or loyal brand evangelists.Transparency in all departmentsTransparency is hardly a new concept, but in recent years, we've seen pricing transparency becoming more of a selling point. Some properties are really upfront, displaying OTA or competitor prices alongside their own on their websites. This conforms with the recommendations that come from a study done at Pennsylvania State Universityin 2006, which suggested that, to tackle the challenge of getting guests to book directly, "branded websites may need to consider adding links to competing hotels' websites or major travel intermediaries." This shows that a hotel is confident in their pricing policies, which encourages guests to book.But transparency doesn't begin or end with revenue management, and cannot be implemented by one department on its own. A commitment to transparency permeates throughout, from the way that staff are managed and treated, to the information that you provide to guests, to the marketing team and the way that they portray the hotel.While you might not be able to (and should not seek to) micromanage every interaction staff have with guests and potential guests, there are some important goals that you can aim for when it comes to encouraging staff to secure more direct bookings:Guest-facing staff should not only be up to speed with your pricing for direct bookings, OTAs and any specials or discounts, but should be well acquainted with what is included and what is not.Team members should feel confident that they can get clearance for special discounts or waiving of fees from the manager on duty if it means more heads in beds.Being transparent with staff about the way that the hotel operates, the ideals that are valued and the experience that you aim to provide will serve to motivate and empower them. If staff know that guest experience is your number one priority, they will be motivated to make decisions that are in the best interests of guest experience every step of the way, especially when the guest feedback and online reviews that come back tells them how much that experience really means.If you have a guest relations manager at the hotel, they will know how important it is for transparency, and for your hotel's online reputation in general, to have recent and relevant reviews online so that potential guests are encouraged to choose you over a competitor. Online review sites mean that hotels and other accommodation providers are forced into a measure of transparency, whether they like it or not, and accounts of what stays with you are really like - the good, the bad and the ugly - are out there for the world to see.The good news is that if your property is committed to transparency, then this is all to your benefit, since you have the opportunity to show potential visitors how much great guest experiences mean to you and your team. A great guest relations manager or GM can inspire trust in both staff and guests, and earn you bookings for the hotel, by responding to (even) negative feedback in a positive way. The marketing team can also contribute to transparency by using social proof to show what a good time past guests have had.How all of this can help you to get direct bookingsAs World Hotel Marketing put it, "holidaymakers aren't always looking for the very cheapest deal they can get when it comes to hotel prices - they simply want to know upfront how much their trip will cost, feel they are getting good value for money and not perceive that they are being tricked by the brand they're looking at." By making a commitment to transparency throughout a property, you have the opportunity to provide your potential guests with exactly what they're looking for -- clear information, fair pricing, and trust in the brand that they're booking through.By making your pricing transparent, you'll find that guests will be encouraged to book, since you're making it easy for them to compare pricing, and making it clear what it is that you offer. Guests will prefer to book directly if they feel like they are getting more value out of the deal, and even if your rates are higher than those found on an OTA or your competition's, it may be because you offer more value than they do. Unlike OTAs, you also have the opportunity to offer incentives for potential guests that book direct. A perk like a room upgrade (even if it's just to one with a better view), free room service, or a gift voucher to a local spa may help win over travellers that are on the fence. Making that clear to potential guests, and being confident in your pricing, will encourage those guests to have confidence in you and make them more likely to book direct than through a third party.By encouraging transparency through asking guests for feedback, requesting that they post reviews online, and sharing those reviews far and wide, you are also encouraging direct bookings, simply by promoting the transparency of your brand. It will also show potential guests, and you, the value of the experience that you provide, especially when you are actively monitoring your reviews and online reputation through a review collection partner. Once again, it comes down to being confident in the experience that you are able to provide, and gaining the trust of your guests by showing how much their experiences matter to you.Making your brand a transparent one, from your pricing, to your operations and ideals, to the information that you make available to your clients, is not just a good idea -- it's one that can see you taking advantage of a number of opportunities to:Motivate staffProvide better guest experiencesInform decisions relating to pricingMonitor reviews alongside your competitorsIncrease occupancy with direct bookings.Transparency is a commitment which will take time and effort to implement though, and which cannot simply take place in one area of your hotel, or your staff and your guests will see right through it.

Hospitality technology in an international market [interview]

GuestRevu · 8 March 2018
With an impressive background in the hospitality technology field behind him, including positions on the boards of companies such as Blue Runner Solutions, Click Travel, Guestline and GuestRevu, Phil Davidson knows all about the capabilities and capacities for technology in the international market. We had a chance to speak with the tech guru about the role that technology plays in providing better guest experience, as well as promoting hospitality in developing countries.
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Trend Digest: Is VR a reality for hospitality?

GuestRevu ·22 February 2018
Virtual reality (VR) may have its roots firmly planted within the gaming realm, but the potential that it holds for the hospitality and tourism industries is hard to ignore. Whether it’s used by marketing to inspire travel or encourage booking, or in-house to improve experience, it’s clear that the technology can be an asset to properties of all shapes and sizes. But what is VR, how can you use it, and is it simply the latest fad, or something that will take hold in hospitality? We answer these questions and more.
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Earn more direct bookings for your hotel with transparency

GuestRevu ·15 February 2018
On Monday morning, I decided that since I knew all about the high commissions that hotels are charged for bookings through online travel agents (OTAs), I would do the right thing and book direct for an upcoming Easter weekend break.
Article by Lara Salomon

The end of the professional critic (and why you need to get over it)

GuestRevu ·12 February 2018
Everyone's a criticNo longer does one person's opinion act as a placeholder for all. The advent of the internet means that every guest is a critic, all of their opinions holding equal weight when it comes to reviewing your hotel. It's no longer enough to have one room prepared once a year for the grading inspector. Instead, every room needs to be given that treatment. Every guest expects a great experience when they book your hotel, and it's up to you to make sure that they get one, or face the wrath of the bad TripAdvisor review.Why professional reviews don't mean as much anymoreHaving an outstanding review published in an internationally recognised magazine used to be the pinnacle, practically the definition, of success. It would see guests from around the world swarming to your hotel and booking for months and years in advance. Now, a review published in a magazine is nothing more than that -- one review. It may still carry weight with some readers, but is unlikely to be the only source of advice that they look to. It will be followed by a trip to TripAdvisor, a browse of Booking.com or a glance at Google, and the reviews found there will tell the reader more than that single article ever could -- it will tell them what an average experience at your hotel is like.While some hoteliers and chefs may lament the death of the professional critic, for others, the more egalitarian review system allowed by an internet to which everyone is a contributor has been a decidedly positive development.Now, hotels that may never have come across the radar of professional critics get their time to shine too. Review sites cover wide ranges of accommodations, so while your safari camp or self-catering cottages may never get the chance to grace the pages of Cosmopolitan, they are exactly what some visitors to TripAdvisor are looking for, and potential guests get the chance to read about how others have found their stays with you.The rise of the publicly accessible opinionWith the rise of review sites like TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Yelp, Trivago and thousands more, suddenly opinions are public, and you're seeing reviews from people who had good and bad experiences alike. Though it can feel as though all these sites do is provide a podium for disgruntled guests to rant, or unscrupulous visitors to blackmail their way to a better room, they're doing so much more - they open up the world for hoteliers and travellers alike. You're no longer relying on one or two reviews in magazines, newspapers or guidebooks to get your name out to the public, but could have hundreds of reviews for potential guests to base their decisions on. Not only do they give travellers the power to make better-informed choices, they're giving you the opportunity to learn more about the guest experience that you provide and to respond to any criticism that you might receive.People having opinions about their stays with you is nothing newThe fact is, none of this is really new. Your guests have always been critics -- they simply haven't had the public platforms before. Word of mouth is hardly a novel concept -- think of all those great stays that saw your guests suggesting you to their friends and family. But the other side of the coin wasn't quite as noticeable -- the awful stays that saw your unhappy guests telling their real-world social network to avoid you at all costs. You didn't notice those instances, because you didn't know about them. You simply never saw the bookings. You couldn't stop the negative word of mouth from spreading or add context to it, because you didn't know where it was coming from, or who it was reaching.You can add your voice to the discussion onlineNow, the negative reviews and naysayers may be reaching more people than they were before, but, while you should obviously be trying to ensure all guests have positive experiences, bad reviews aren't necessarily something you should be scheming to circumvent. Now, you also have the opportunity to address negative reviews, and make sure that more than one side of the story is being heard. Where before, you couldn't know who was talking about your hotel, now you can be a part of the conversation.Perhaps your guests are raising points that you haven't considered before -- you have the opportunity to improve what you offer, and raise your standards. Better yet, you can make sure that your unhappy guest, and all those who may read their review later, know that their opinion matters, and that you take their suggestions to heart. Showing that you care about your reviews and your guest experiences enough to change will encourage others to consider your hotel, and maybe even have that unhappy guest considering giving you a second chance. Research by TripAdvisor suggests that a professional response to a bad review may even improve readers' impressions of your hotel, and make them more likely to book.Creating a balanced picture and getting a better rating require more reviews, not fewerWhen it comes down to it, you should really be encouraging every single one of your guests to post reviews on travel sites! The more reviews you have, the more balanced a picture you can give, not only of the accommodation that you provide, but of the atmosphere and attitude that you inspire. And, while it might be tempting to just have the ten best reviews that you've ever received displayed on every site where a potential guest might see them, the algorithms that sites like TripAdvisor use take into account not only the score of reviews, but the number of reviews and their recency as well. Therefore, the more reviews you have (even if they could be described as average at best), the better you're likely to rank, and the more uncharacteristic those few negative ones will seem to readers.Use reviews to your advantage offlineNot only are the number of reviews and the opportunity to engage with reviewers fantastic for your business, but the content of the reviews that you get will be more helpful than information that professional critics provide. People who are paid to write reviews are reviewing you for their readership, not for your benefit, and whether they're packed full of praise or niggling negativity, it can be difficult to find information that you can actually use to improve what you've got to offer. When it comes to online reviews, on the other hand, there are no holds barred, and you have the opportunity to learn exactly where you are getting things right, and where work is needed. Whether they act as the basis for making operational decisions, or creating marketing campaigns that highlight what sets you apart, your reviews can be used online and off to improve your hotel and bring the right kinds of guests to stay.For better or worse, professional critics are part of the past, along with floppy disks and VCRs. Every one of your guests has an opinion to wield and air, and it's a wonderful development that you should embrace! After all, it's not going to be changing any time soon.

The old ideas behind new technologies [Infographic]

GuestRevu · 1 February 2018
Technology is rapidly affecting how we live our everyday lives, from using our smartphones to stay constantly connected to using online reviews to help us make purchase decisions. Research shows that this behaviour is having an impact in the travel industry as well, for example: 60% of travellers are more likely to choose a hotel that allows guests to check in with a smartphone than a hotel that doesn’t. 76% of social media users post their vacation photos to social networks, while 83% of travellers find social media a top source of inspiration when browsing online.
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Trend digest: What to expect in 2018

GuestRevu ·25 January 2018
The hospitality industry moves so fast that keeping up with all of the latest news and trends would take up all of your time if you let it. That’s why we’ve been keeping an eye on it for you, and have put together this list of the top five trends we think you should keep an eye on in 2018.
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5 tips for an award-winning guest experience from 2017's BoHo Award winners

GuestRevu · 9 January 2018
The Boutique Hotel Guest Experience Awards are not your run-of-the-mill ceremony, where accolades are bestowed by panels of judges who had barely even heard of your hotel before selection began. Instead, the BoHos, as they are fondly referred to, are awarded based on the feedback from those that really matter -- your guests. Find out more about how the BoHos work and enter your hotel >As the deadline for entering the 2018 BoHo Awards fast approaches, we asked the owners, managers and operators of the winning hotels from 2017's Awards to let us in on the secrets to their success, and have put together these five tips for award-winning guest experience based on their expert insights.Tip 1: Keeping guests comfortable means getting the details rightSometimes a great guest experience is about a big moment that stands out in a guest's mind. But, more often than not, it's the small details that make a stay memorable. Your guests might not consciously notice how wonderful the carpet feels beneath their feet, how soft the sheets are, or how perfectly lit their room is, but, as the proprietors of Cedar Manor Hotel know, these all add up to making guests feel comfortable."Ensuring that everything possible is 'right and ready' with the rooms before guests arrive goes beyond making them spotlessly clean, warm and functioning correctly. We have refurbished all our guest rooms using the best wall covering, fabrics and materials; we plan for the lighting to be right for anything, from makeup to reading; and we make sure there's lots of hot water and big fluffy towels." -- Jonathan Kaye, Cedar Manor HotelTip 2: Ensure your team cares about guest satisfaction as much as you doThe management team at Rivonia Bed & Breakfast know that their staff are the backbone of their business, and without them, providing great guest experiences would be impossible! Making sure that everyone has a positive attitude towards providing excellent experiences will help create a fantastic guest culture and show your team how instrumental they are to your success. Positive feedback from guests about particular staff members will also be very motivating."Having the right calibre of staff is critical, but we have found that having the right attitude far outweighs competence. We reward our staff for guest satisfaction, which creates its own feedback cycle: we and our staff try hard, guests are happy and jovial during their stay, our staff are complimented directly by guests, leaving us all feeling rewarded and wanting to try even harder." -- Nikki Swart, Rivonia Bed & BreakfastTip 3: Use data to personalise your guests' staysPersonalisation is more than just a buzzword -- it's a necessity for making your guests feel like more than just a head on a bed. Once a guest has booked a room, you have a wealth of data at your fingertips, and making the most of that information will make your guests' stays that much more memorable. As Raithwaite Estateknows, making the most of the information they have access to allows the team to find creative ways to engage with their guests, giving visitors an unforgettable experience."Know your guest! Personalisation of a traveller's experience will show that you value them as an individual. We use information, communication and consistency to build our knowledge of a guest, then let loose our creative operations team to tailor their experience throughout their journey at Raithwaite. We want to create memories for them that they will enjoy and treasure." -- Helen Blower, Raithwaite EstateTip 4: Make guests feel like part of the familyThere's something wonderful about coming home after a long time away, and Klaserie Sands River Campmakes sure that every guest feels that sense of belonging when they come to stay. Whether it's by greeting your guests with a genuinely welcoming smile, or a cup of coffee made just the way they like it; making your guests feel at home will give them an experience that will be hard to forget, and see them coming back to visit again and again."At Klaserie Sands, we never regard guests as just another reservation number. We make them feel part of the family and welcome them 'home' upon their arrival." -- Lee-Ann Rautenbach, Klaserie Sands River CampTip 5: If you offer it, make sure it's exceptionalWhile the team at Cedar Manor Hotel go out of their way to make their guests feel comfortable in their rooms, they know that a truly great guest experience goes beyond the bed that they provide. Last impressions matter just as much as first ones, and from the moment a guest arrives in your hotel until they make their way back home, you have the opportunity to make their stay memorable by giving them exceptional services. From something as simple as providing reliable, high-speed WiFi at no cost, to making sure that your customer service and your restaurant are not just adequate, but exceptional, it's the details of the stay that will turn a good experience into a great one."Breakfast is often the last time you engage with the guests, so excellent service along with excellent food is critical. It's the memory that goes home with the guest." -- Caroline Kaye, Cedar Manor HotelHaving a great guest experience is not only essential for your hotel's success, but it might help you win an award. Whether you offer 5 rooms or 500, are based in Gloucestershire or Greece, you have a chance to join hotels from over 30 countries worldwide in vying for a Boutique Hotel Guest Experience Award. So don't let the chance pass you by -- make sure that you enter before it's too late.Registrations for the 2018 Awards close on 19 January, and entering is absolutely free. As part of the Boutique + Lifestyle Hotel Summit, the awards are open to any UK or international boutique, lifestyle or hybrid hotel. You simply need to be making use of a verified guest feedback partner so that your guest feedback data can be sent to Glion Institute of Higher Education for independent analysis. If you don't have a feedback partner, or would prefer to use the BoHo Awards' preferred partner, GuestRevu is offering their services free of charge throughout the data collection period to make sure that any hotel who prioritises guest experience is able to participate.Helen Blower, of Raithwaite Estate, put it best after the Estate became a winner in the 2017 Boutique Hotel Guest Experience Awards: "Winning an award is always wonderful, but even more so when they are based on what people say about their time with us." Follow the tips from 2017's winners and, who knows -- you may find yourself announced a winner at the 2018 BoHo Award Ceremony in London on 21 May!Find out more about how the BoHos work and enter your hotel >
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5 tips for an award-winning guest experience

GuestRevu · 4 January 2018
We asked the owners, managers and operators of the winning hotels from 2017’s Boutique Hotel Guest Experience Awards to let us in on the secrets to their success, and have put together these five tips for award-winning guest experience based on their expert insights.

Trend digest: 5 hotels taking guest experience to the extreme

GuestRevu ·28 December 2017
Experiential travel is what the modern guest is after. Very often, to satisfy your clientele’s wanderlust and exceed expectations, your hotel needs to provide not just a bed, or a room for the night, but an experience worth travelling and paying for.
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How smart hotel marketers get the most out of guest feedback and online reviews

GuestRevu ·21 December 2017
Everyone and their aunt can do marketing. All you need is a Facebook account, right? Maybe throw a tweet or two in there as well, and you’re good to go! What sets smart marketers apart from the crowd of want-to-be’s is how they use all the resources available, including guest reviews. Whether it’s online reviews or direct feedback through surveys, with great guest feedback can come great insight. We look at some ways that smart hotel marketers use feedback and reviews to manage guest expectations, discover differentiating factors, analyse trends and build trust.

The big list of mobile marketing stats every hotelier should know

GuestRevu · 7 December 2017
mobile-marketing-statistics-hotelier-guestrevu.jpg Remember the days back when mobile phones were nothing more than keypads for calling? These days, even the most basic mobile devices come with WiFi, and 44% of Facebook's most active users only use their phones to check on their feeds. What does this mean for your hotel? At every stage in the traveller’s journey, your potential guests are on mobile, and if you know what they’re using their devices for, you have the opportunity to connect with them. That’s why we’ve put together our latest ebook — The hotelier’s complete guide to today’s mobile traveller.
Article by Sarah Came

Why you should never block a bad review (and what to do instead)

GuestRevu · 1 December 2017
As a result, many hoteliers have come up with ways to prevent negative reviews from reaching the public, some of which are distinctly unsavoury. Some hotels have attempted to stifle poor reviews simply by preventing guests who had negative experiences from receiving the establishment's usual review request email, and others have gone so far as to attempt to sue or fine guests for bad reviews.As dreadful as it is to see your life's work slated online, however, you should never attempt to block, censor or circumvent negative reviews by duplicitous means or force. Between brand damage, operational oversight and possible legal consequences, the harm that can be done simply isn't worth it.Here are just a few of the reasons why you should accept criticism gracefully, and some steps for managing your online reputation the right way.Why you shouldn't try to block negative reviewsIt doesn't workFirst and foremost, trying to silence people in the information age doesn't work. There are simply too many ways for people to share their opinions and experiences - there are hundreds of review sites, online travel agents (OTAs) and social media platforms where people can write whatever they like, there are news outlets always looking for a story, and there is still good old fashioned over the garden wall word of mouth.By raising expectations you could set yourself up to failEven if keeping accounts of negative experiences off review sites successfully influences people to choose you over your competitors to begin with, you can still be setting yourself up for failure by presenting a more positive image of your hotel than you can deliver, which will result in even more disappointed guests, and more people who want to write negative things about you online.For many of your guests, travel is a big investment of both time and money. By manipulating your reviews, you mislead your potential guests, denying them the opportunity to get a complete picture of what a visit to your hotel might be like, and preventing them from making an informed decision - not a good start to a relationship.People's opinions on what is "negative" differNot everyone has the same views on what constitutes a drawback in a hotel. For example, your hotel might get a bad review because the club next door pumped all night, but while Mrs Beige who was missing her cats might not have appreciated the noise, Nikki and her party-loving group of friends will be thrilled to learn about your area's nightlife.People suspect censorship when there are no bad reviews, and don't like itResearch has shown that 68% of people trust reviews more when they see both good and bad opinions, and, if they only see positives, 95% of people suspect censorship or faked reviews and distrust the establishment. Considering the aforementioned investment of time and money that you are asking potential guests to make in your property's ability to offer them a good experience, trust is not something you can afford to jeopardise.You face public backlash if you are exposedAs the Union Street Guest House in New York found out the hard way, trying to suppress bad reviews can, unsurprisingly, create a groundswell of public outrage. Although they are not the only business to have one, the Union Street's "gag clause" attracted a fair bit of criticism online in 2014. The guest house attempted to claim the right to fine bridal couples $500 dollars for every negative review posted online by a member of the wedding party. The Economist referred to it as a "car crash of a policy" and the guest house's Yelp listing was inundated with hundreds of negative reviews within days of the public getting wind of its attempt to threaten patrons into silence.It's against the rules, and possibly illegalMost review sites have regulations and terms of use in place to prevent travellers being misled. TripAdvisor, for example, has a list of practices it considers fraudulent and will penalise. Among these prohibited behaviours are "selectively soliciting reviews (by email, surveys or any other means) only from guests who have had a positive experience" and "prohibiting or discouraging guests from posting negative or critical reviews of their experience".If the site's own terms of use aren't enough to discourage these underhanded tactics, consider that they are also potentially illegal. There are laws in place across economic regions that protect the consumer's right to complain online, and forbid the enforcement of "gag clauses" such as Union Street Guest House's.As the Meriton Chain in Australia has also just discovered, even doing something as subtle as selectively excluding people from a mailing list can land you in legal hot water. The group was found guilty in court of "misleading or deceptive conduct" because they were preventing their review invitation emails from being sent to guests they believed might write poor reviews.You block your own chance to show you care and are dedicated to solving problemsPeople know that you can't be perfect all the time, and that things do go wrong. More important than whether a stay was perfect or not is how your hotel's team handled the imperfections.For example, rather than stopping review requests being sent to patrons who were at your hotel when something went wrong (as Meriton did when their lifts broke or when they had no hot water), give these guests the chance to tell others how you promptly rectified the problem or graciously made up for it.What to do insteadRespond quickly, politely, and professionallyResponding well to negative reviews is essential to maintaining a positive online reputation. When negative reviews do end up online, they give you the opportunity to respond as management and show the public that when the inevitable does happen, you deal with it appropriately, and are dedicated to rectifying your mistakes.The way you respond to reviews can sway people to either book with you or not. 87% of TripAdvisor users say that an appropriate management response to a bad review improves their impression of the hotel, while 69% say that a defensive or aggressive response makes them less likely to book.Use the feedback in reviews to improve your hotelWhen guests share negative experiences online, they give you the opportunity to see your hotel from their point of view and may help you to identify strengths or weaknesses you never knew existed. If you keep track of trends in criticism and act appropriately upon negative feedback to rectify problems, you will improve future guests' experiences, and ensure that you earn more positive reviews through providing a superior offering.Dilute negative reviews with more positive onesMore reviews are almost always better. Most people prefer to read several reviews to get a balanced perspective of a property before they decide for or against booking. 79% of TripAdvisor users prefer to read 8 - 12 reviews before they choose a hotel, and the TripAdvisor algorithm that calculates your ranking is also influenced by the number of reviews you have (as well as recency and rating).By proactively asking guests for reviews, you can encourage people who were satisfied but who may not have been inclined to write a review on their own to give you a review. Often, the guests compelled to write reviews online are either of the very happy or very angry variety, while the "silent majority" - those whose expectations were met but not exceeded or fallen short of - don't bother to go through the effort if left to their own devices.Provide guests with a way to communicate with youDon't force guests to use public forums such as TripAdvisor and Yelp as a way to let you know that your establishment didn't make the grade. Rather, give guests a direct line of communication with your hotel. This lets them know that their concerns have already been heard, and by the time they come to writing their TripAdvisor reviews, they are less likely to want to air all of their grievances publicly.Fight review blackmail and fraud the right wayNo hotelier should accept unjust reviews or allow themselves to be bullied and blackmailed. If you suspect a review is fraudulent in some way (for example if it was written by someone who wasn't a bona fide guest or was posted in an attempt to blackmail you) there are ways to bring these reviews to the attention of review site moderators and combat review blackmail.How to move aheadAttempts to prevent negative feedback from reaching the public have been a hot topic in the travel industry in the last few weeks, but if recent events have taught us anything, it's that attempting stifle or censor criticism is not only futile, but can potentially do irreparable damage to your brand.When it comes to managing your online reputation, you have two options: Be transparent and part of the conversation and reap the rewards, or do it wrong by trying to falsify your image and suffer the consequences.
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Trend digest: Calling a truce in the battle for bookings

GuestRevu ·30 November 2017
Trend digest: Calling a truce in the battle for bookings The battle between hotels and online travel agents (OTAs) is well underway. To travellers, the two sides might seem like peas in a pod, working together to provide the best accommodation at the lowest prices. To hotels, however, OTAs are often seen as limiting their margins, and making profit from excessive commissions - sparking a movement by hoteliers to try encourage potential guests to book with them directly instead.

Are you giving your guests a room or an experience?

GuestRevu ·23 November 2017
Enticing guests to stay with you has become one of the biggest obstacles in the hotel industry, since guests now have a range of options available to them - many of which are far more affordable than a traditional hotel. What many guests want from hotels also seems to have changed. While some are still looking for the familiar comfort that hotels provide, others are longing for a local experience. Hotels are uniquely equipped to cater for both.What is an experience exactly?There is often a sense of sameness between hotels. It doesn't matter if you are in Barcelona or Johannesburg, you get to your room, and know what to expect. As GoCanvas explains, "In general, guests know what to expect when they walk into a hotel room. They know there will be someone at reception, a clean bathroom stocked with travel-size toiletries, a neatly made bed, TV, phone, closet with hangers, and maybe a couple of extras -- like a microwave or mini fridge." In short, hotels offer consistency, and it can be reassuring to find that some things never change, no matter where you are on the planet.While providing that sense of comfort works well for business travellers and guests who prefer to explore on their own, many prefer to be taken out of their comfort zone. They want to experience what a city or country is like, rather than simply sticking to the hotel lobby.A great customer experience is taking customer service to the next level, and going out of your way to ensure that your customers have the best possible stay, not only at your hotel, but in your area. Doing this doesn't necessarily mean making drastic changes like upgrading every guest's accommodation or buying iPads for every room. Perhaps the biggest change that your hotel needs is a change of attitude.Engage with guestsThe foundation for a great customer experience is getting to know your guests. This is where AirBnB has an edge, according to Layer.com, and is part of what has made it so popular. "There's great appeal to staying in what feels like a home, feeling connected to the person who owns it," they state. "Perhaps even being treated to insider info about a true local experience so you may have one for yourself." Staying in an AirBnB, a guest has one point of contact, who will often go beyond simply providing a room; offering insight about the area, chatting to their guests and forming a more personal connection. Staying in a hotel usually involves minimal contact with staff, based on the assumption that guests have come to you, not to make friends, but to relax.Relaxation and enjoyment have never been exclusive though, and guests are looking more and more for an interaction that goes beyond a passing smile or a friendly waiter. The number of staff that you have work in your favour here. If your staff are engaging with your guests in the same way that an AirBnB host could, they can help you to understand who your guests are and what they enjoy.Encouraging your staff to read your guests' subtle cues can mean telling the difference between guests who would prefer to be left to themselves, and those who would appreciate advice and input. This can even serve as a motivator for your team, as they will have gone from simply doing their jobs, to being vital to your guests' experiences. Even better, your guests will feel more connected to your hotel, and this connection could see them evolving from a one-time guest to a loyal customer.Personalise their stayEngaging with your guests will often give you a lot of information about them - why they are in the area, what activities they enjoy, what amenities they are taking advantage of, even what their favourite meals or drinks are. This information can be used beyond just getting to know who your guests are. As Entrepreneur explains in their 6 Ways to create a memorable customer experience, and as we mentioned earlier this year, it can help you to personalise their stay with you by anticipating what they might need."Don't we all have a story about the coffee shop waitress who doesn't ever need to be told how we like our iced tea, or the diner where the cook starts to make the same thing you always order the minute he sees you walk in the door..." asks Entrepreneur. "These experiences add value, and they also instill an enormous amount of loyalty."Personalising a guest's experience will make them feel less like just another customer. It can be the difference between a good stay and a great experience. If you know what it is that your guests want from their stay, you will be in a better position to make recommendations for things outside of the hotel that they will enjoy. This kind of advice is always appreciated, and can leave guests feeling like they have a connection to your hotel instead of seeing it as simply a place to sleep.Show your appreciationPersonalising a guest's experience of your hotel doesn't need to end when they leave. As we've pointed out before, it doesn't even have to start when they arrive. Once a guest has booked with you, you already have information about them - how many guests there will be, how old they are, if they are travelling with others, etc. You can use those details to start their experience before they even arrive. Maybe you noticed that they have children. You could send them information about your kiddies entertainment, or family friendly restaurants in town. If it's a couple, romantic restaurants might be more their style.Once your guests have left your hotel, you can take the opportunity to thank them for their stay and offer them a chance to give you feedback. Perhaps they were visiting for a special occasion. An annual email sending them your well wishes will serve as a great reminder of their stay. And, as Routier points out, if they come and stay with you again, you could already have a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips about their preferences to personalise the experience even further."Think about it - each time a customer comes back, they will have an even better, more customized experience," says Routier, "and as they grow in brand loyalty, they will be more likely to continue using the same hotel."Now that you know...Hotels are in a great position: they have the ability to not only provide the comfortable familiarity that they have for years, but they also have the opportunity to engage with guests on a more personal level. All that it takes is a change of attitude and a willingness to go out of your way (and perhaps out of your own comfort zone) to provide customers with more than just a bed, but an experience of your hotel, and your area. Succeeding has the chance to not only motivate staff, but to see your guests forming deeper connections with your hotel, and coming back year after year.

Are you keeping your guests' personal data safe? Interview with Alan D. Meneghetti

GuestRevu ·23 October 2017
Having previously been a partner at Clyde & Co LLP and Locke Lorde LLP, and with a legal career that includes specialisation in data protection, privacy and IT, few are better equipped than Katten Muchin Rosenman UK LLP Partner Alan Meneghetti to offer guidance to hoteliers on how to handle sensitive guest data carefully.We chatted with Alan to get the expert's opinion on how hoteliers can ensure they are treating their guest data with the care it deserves, and in compliance with current and incoming data protection laws.Where did you first begin to work with hotels and the hospitality industry?My first venture into hospitality was working as a room attendant at Sir Rocco Forte's fledgling group's first hotel, the Balmoral Hotel, in Edinburgh. I went on from that to be a trainee hotel manager at the Balmoral and then to work as Restaurant Manager at Sir Rocco's first purpose-built hotel in Cardiff Bay, the St David's Hotel & Spa (which the group has since sold).I knew that I loved the hotel business and spent a long time trying to work out how I could combine it with law, which I had read at both the University of Cape Town and the University of Aberdeen.How do you think hotels will be affected by the new privacy laws coming into effect next year?Hotels, as with most other businesses, will need to ensure that they are up to speed with the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which commences across the EU on 25 May 2018, and ensure that their systems and agreements with their contractors are compliant with the requirements detailed in the GDPR (many of which are either new or extensions of the requirements under the existing European legislation).It is also worth remembering that the GDPR does not only apply to hotels operating in the EU, but also to those which offer services to customers in the EU (for example, gift cards, mail order and so on).With the rise of personalisation and hotels asking guests for more data than ever and often on different platforms, do hotels in general put enough emphasis on data security?No, but then I don't think most businesses do! Hotels hold an enormous amount of personal data and, quite often, personal data which is of a sensitive nature (for example, information about guests' medical conditions or meal choices which may indicate a religious preference), not to mention credit card and billing information. As a result of this, the data that hotels hold is particularly valuable and presents a prize target for thieves and fraudsters wishing to exploit vulnerabilities in a hotel's IT network.Hotels need to ensure that they know exactly what data they hold, how long they are holding it for, where they are holding it and what security measures they have in place to safeguard that data (as well as whether that security is currently sufficient - something which requires constant evaluation).Can hotels expect increased pressure to be transparent about how they are protecting guest data?Not necessarily so, in a general sense, although if there is an incident relating to personal data held by or on behalf of a hotel, the hotel must be in a position to respond to that. It is imperative that hoteliers have a plan in place for handling data incidents that is agreed upon and rehearsed in advance. Hoteliers also need to be prepared to explain to an investigating regulatory authority how its systems are set up and why it believes them to be sufficient to protect the data which the hotel holds.What is the first question a hotelier should ask when assessing whether their security measures are good enough?How strong, and where, is the weakest part of my network? This is where the vulnerability lies.Is there a chance that hotel staff could unwittingly be breaching privacy laws or regulations, particularly in smaller hotels?I think that there is every chance that this is the case. For example, does the hotel use a cloud service provider to back up its personal data and, if so, where does that cloud service provider physically store the data? If it is outside the European Economic Area (EEA), is the hotel able to point to a lawful ground (such as guest consent) to permit the export of this personal data outside the EEA?What advice would you give to independent hoteliers to ensure they comply with the new privacy laws?Spend a little bit of time getting to know your obligations under the GDPR and your network infrastructure. You can then work out if you need to update your customer and supplier agreements and your IT network, and create a plan to detail the areas that need addressing in order of priority.What's the best hotel you've ever stayed at?May I have two please? I love the Balmoral in Edinburgh because it is just so beautiful and perfectly decorated and I have watched it evolve since I first went there in 1996. Hadrian's and Number One are also two of my favourite restaurants - amazing food, great service, and both in settings which perfectly complement the food they serve. And then the Imperial in New Delhi, which has the most amazing food and service, and is a haven of calm and tranquillity in the middle of a thriving, bustling and generally very busy city.
Article by Stuart Dickinson

Three steps to a sterling online reputation for your restaurant

GuestRevu · 5 October 2017
Results from BrightLocal's 2016 research revealed that 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and 90% will read up to ten reviews before making a decision to visit or not. This, coupled with an ever-growing variety of trusted platforms that accommodate customer reviews, means that online reputation management is becoming more and more crucial for the long-term survival of all restaurants, regardless of size.Platforms like TripAdvisor and Google continue to streamline the review submission process, and are placing an increased focus on restaurant reviews in the user journey. If anyone has left you a review online, these ratings are very likely to show up as soon as someone searches for your restaurant.Unfortunately, leaving it up to your guests to post reviews online of their own accord might not result in your online reputation being an accurate reflection of the experience you provide, as guests will often only go out of their way to review an establishment that has either fallen far short of or exceeded their expectations.The good news is that GuestRevu has found that when asked directly for a review, it is the guests whose expectations you did meet who are happy to oblige. But how does this affect your bottom line?A Harvard Business School study showed that a one-star rating increase on Yelp can result in a revenue increase of 9%Even just a half-star improvement on Yelp's five-star rating system makes it 30 to 49% more likely that a restaurant will be fully booked during peak hoursThis means that your revenue is directly impacted by how well you actively manage your reputation. But where to begin? Below, we take a look at three simple steps to a sterling online reputation for your restaurant.1. Getting the lay of the landWhat are people currently saying about your restaurant? Do a Google search and trawl through as many review sites as possible to get a clear understanding of how your business comes across to the world, focusing especially on the first page of results. Some major review sites include Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, OpenTable, The Fork, Dining City, Gayot, Zagat, Zomato and Foursquare.This will show you if there are any glaring issues that you need to address urgently.Next, do a search for your closest competition and make sure you're not missing any opportunities. These could include strengths that you share, or areas where you know you outperform them but maybe your customers don't know about. Do you serve the best pizza in town? Make sure your front of house and kitchen staff know what to improve on and where they are exceeding expectations.Tips:Set up a Google alert so that you receive an email whenever your restaurant is mentioned onlineImprove your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Search for things in your area that travellers would potentially search for, like attractions, accommodation and so on. Do you feature in the results? If not, improve your web content to include mention of these, increasing the likelihood that Google pulls up your restaurant as a resultOnce you have a better idea of where you stand, you can then focus on enhancing your reputation.2. Improve your online reputationJust askAccording to BrightLocal research, "7 out of 10 consumers will leave a review for a business if they're asked to". With some gentle prompting, you'd be surprised at how many customers will take the time to write a positive review. Send a follow-up email kindly encouraging customers to write a review, create a business card to hand out with the bill, and train staff to casually mention that, if the customers had a great experience (they'll be able to tell), your restaurant would appreciate an online mention.Remember, if you don't ask, the answer will always be 'no'.Harness the power of social mediaYou can also use your social media channels to ask customers to share positive feedback or favourite moments. But to make it fun and interesting, why not run a social media competition offering discounts or freebies for the most creative food snap, for example.Social media is a great way to make social proof work for you. People will be far more inclined to visit if they see what a great time others are having, and this creates a knock-on effect that you can leverage off.Beyond encouraging others to tag your restaurant, make sure you post high-quality imagery of your finest dishes to get people drooling. At least the content you post is in your control.Offer a signature dish or serviceThink about those times you appreciated food or an experience enough to snap a pic or video and share on your social channels - could you harness this for your restaurant? It could be a signature dish, special feature or weekly event that no one else offers.Businesses that have successfully done this have hit the online marketing payload. Set yourself apart from the rest, and you'll open yourself up to glowing reviews and positive promotion.Re-post positive reviewsUtilise all available channels at your disposal to re-post positive reviews, and thank consumers for taking the time to write them (more on dealing with reviews below). Create a review page on your website, dedicate one social media post a week to reflect on good reviews, and even use your own premises if you can.Founder of First Page and online marketer Jeanna Barret shares an effective example: "Recently I ate at a brewery in Guerneville, California that had a chalkboard on the wall of their bar with one positive and one (funny) negative review from Yelp. The chalkboard showcased the positive side of their restaurant, but also made light of how ridiculous some online reviews can be. It showed the restaurant had clout, but also humour, and made me like the place even more."3. Managing your online reputationUsing trusted reputation management softwareBy now you might be reading this and thinking, "This sounds like a lot of work." But it doesn't have to be.A solution like GuestRevu's reputation management tool can help by collating reviews from a selection of top review sites, and notify you whenever your restaurant is mentioned.It can also help you generate customer feedback with custom surveys, monitor the reputation of your competitors, and track the performance of your staff and managers - all on one convenient dashboard. This certainly goes a long way towards taking the headache out of your job.Responding to reviewsPerhaps the most important aspect of managing your online reputation is how well you respond to reviews, both good and bad (especially bad).Taking the time to respond to good reviews might seem pointless, but has important benefits - not only does it encourage loyalty and turn those customers into brand ambassadors, but also leaves a positive impression for other potential customers scrolling through the reviews.When dealing with negative reviews, it's essential that you don't get defensive or angry. First, read the review thoroughly to make sure you understand all points made. Respond in a timely, respectful way that addresses all of the customer's concerns.Dealing with fraudsters and blackmailersWhile bad reviews are almost inevitable, you might also come into contact with unscrupulous individuals who write fake negative reviews in the hopes of gaining a free meal or bill reductions.If you believe the review is purely malicious, report it to the admin team on whatever platform it's posted on (most will allow you to do this). If justified, you can also write a well-worded response clearly outlining why the particular review is unfounded, so that other potential customers are made aware you are not at fault.Read more on dealing with blackmail hereManaging your social media channelsDon't let your Facebook page gather dust. If you can't be bothered to maintain it, why should customers bother interacting with you? Since January 2016, active social media users on mobile have grown by over 30%. That's an extra 581-million users.People are interacting online, and you need to be there with them. Social media is also a great place to monitor what people are saying about your brand.As you can see, managing your online reputation is incredibly important if you want to stay afloat in a highly competitive environment. Start by getting the lay of the land, move on to building a positive reputation online, and then manage it effectively with the tools available.

Technology and the luxury guest experience: Interview with Arun Kumar

GuestRevu ·19 September 2017
From his first role on the front lines of guest satisfaction as a room service waiter to management positions at four- and five-star InterContinental and Hilton properties, Arun Kumar's impressive hospitality career has taught him a thing or two about keeping guests satisfied.With around two decades of experience in the hospitality industry, Arun is an indisputable thought leader in his field, and has been recognised on "The Brit List" as one of the UK's Top 25 Most Influential & Inspirational Hoteliers and has earned a place on the Boutique Hotelier Power List for 2017.Arun's impressive credentials attracted the attention of Indian luxury hotel group Lalit Suri, which afforded him the opportunity to oversee the redevelopment of a grade II listed building in London into the group's first European hotel, The Lalit London.We asked Arun to share some of his guest experience wisdom, and tell us how technology will influence the management of luxury hotel guest satisfaction in the future.Where did you begin in the hospitality industry?My foundation for a successful hospitality career started with my first role as room service waiter.What's your role now?I am now General Manager for The Lalit London.What would you say are the cornerstones of a luxury hotel experience today?I would say that humility, trust, a good personal rapport and personalised and professional service are essential for creating an excellent luxury guest experience.You were a key part of launching The Lalit London hotel, was there an initial focus on the guest experience and what would make this up?Everything we do here at The Lalit London revolves around our guests, both internal and external. Right from the construction and design stage of the Lalit London, every aspect of this project was focused towards guest experience.Based on your experience, have guest expectations and demands changed with the rise of mobile technology?I think there has been a huge change, the online world is changing how efficient our clients expect a business to be, and with mobile technology there is now an expectation of 24/7 service. Additionally, the word "fast" in the hotel business has been redefined by social media.Does the feedback you get from guests and your online reviews play a role in how the hotel is managed?Client feedback is vital for any organisation's success; a clear sentimental analysis of guest experiences has always helped us to prioritise operational and service improvements.A lot of hotel general managers talk about the importance of using big data in terms of exceeding guest expectations - what does big data mean to you at this point?Big data is invaluable in helping us to provide an exceptional guest experience. It helps uncover a lot of hidden patterns and opens up new opportunities, helping us to design new services and products to present to our clients. It also plays a key role in better and faster decision-making processes.How do you think guest expectations might evolve over the next 5 years?I believe it is clear that guests will want a more personal, connected and informed experience, and technology will be a major brand differentiator. Areas such as virtual experiences will play a major role. At the Lalit London we have already changed the traditional model of hotel check in with our in-room check in.What's the best hotel you've stayed in and why?The Royal Mansour Marrakech - the architecture of the building, service, food everything is perfect.
Article by Stuart Dickinson

Back to basics: What is a chatbot and does my hotel need one?

GuestRevu ·12 September 2017
And chances are you've already interacted with a chatbot. Think about Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana, Google Assistant or Amazon's Alexa - these are all advanced forms of chatbots. Or put simply, computer programs powered by artificial intelligence (AI) that are designed to simulate conversations with human users.What is a chatbot?If you're familiar with instant messaging platforms (like Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp and so on) you'll understand the basics behind a chatbot. A chatbot is essentially the next generation of this instant messaging technology that we use every day. Run using artificial intelligence, a chatbot is basically a computer answering your guests, instead of a person.Talking to a computer may not sound like a very personal experience to offer guests, but with the help of natural language processing, chatbots can expertly mimic a real, human conversation.According to Chatbot Magazine, there are essentially two types of chatbots:A chatbot that functions based on rules:This bot only responds to very specific commands (it's only as smart as it's programmed to be). If you say something it doesn't understand, it will typically reply with an error message.A chatbot that functions using machine learning:This bot has an artificial brain (artificial intelligence) and gets smarter as it learns from the conversations it has with people. You don't have to be extremely specific when you're talking to it, and it understands language, not just commands.How can a chatbot help me delight my guests?So, if we consider that a chatbot is essentially your own messaging app powered by AI, that can plug into larger messaging platforms that you already use - like Facebook Messenger, text messages, etc. - and that no human needs to man it, hotels using chatbots to provide their users or guests with information will help them achieve their goals quicker, making their user experience quick and painless.Having a chatbot means that your guests can get on-demand information in a natural and conversational way, 24/7 and in just one click, and the chances of losing a guest during the booking journey reduce considerably.Large hotel companies like Hyatt and Starwood have recently installed chatbots to act as convenient, helpful customer service channels, while Expedia, Skyscanner and Booking.com have also made use of this technology to assist their clients in different ways.Meet Edward - Edwardian Hotels use a chatbot called Edward to help guests with a variety of things, from online check-in, to letting them know their rooms are ready. In fact, Edward is so good at his job that many guests thought they were dealing with a real person, and praised him with glowing reviews on TripAdvisor."Edward kindly secured me a late check out and was keen to help with anything else I needed," wrote one happy TripAdvisor user. A guest even brought an envelope to down reception with a generous tip!In April 2016, Voyages-sncf.com created a chatbot in Facebook Messenger that interacted with people after they made a booking. The bot handled simple requests, while humans picked up the more complex questions. Thanks to a large tech team, this service has since evolved to allow people to share their train ticket with friends and book together via Messenger.Weighing up chatbotsChatbots are still relevantly new to the hospitality industry, with large hotel brands and OTAs mostly taking advantage of them. For independent hotels and smaller chains, human-maintained instant messaging systems are still providing a good, cost-effective alternative while the tech matures.Below we weigh up some of the pros and cons of implementing your own chatbot system.Pros:Help enhance guest communicationThey are always on, and provide guests with 24/7 smart communicationThey can be multilingual, catering for international guestsBots help move guests along the booking path faster and more efficientlyReduce workload of your staffImproved profiling of guests to help you later in your efforts to boost loyaltyCons:When needed, they can't provide that human touchThe complexities of languageThe best chatbots are expensiveLet's look at these in more detail...Benefits of using a chatbot1) Enhanced guest communicationBecause the messaging system is managed by AI, chatbots are there for guests 24/7. This promptness can help make them feel special and greatly enhances brand loyalty. Additionally, chatbots can be multilingual, helping international guests feel far more at ease when they deal with your hotel in their own language.A chatbot can also help guests check in and out on the fly with their mobile device, and provide a seamless platform to ask questions or raise complaints that can be dealt with quickly by staff.2) Increase booking conversions and reduce abandonmentA chatbot can quickly direct guests down the booking path, and reduces a hotel's dependency on online travel agencies to increase direct, non-commissionable booking revenue. If your bot is always present within popular messaging apps used by millions of people every day, eventually guests will start to use this method as a natural way to book their trips.3) Reduce workload of your staffA chatbot frees up staff from the often time-consuming task of responding to hundreds of guest requests. Now they can focus on enhancing hotel functions that only humans can do. And as mentioned above, hotel staff might not be able to give guests the instant satisfaction that only a ChatBot can.4) Improved profiling of guestsBecause a chatbot interacts with guests at most (if not all) stages of their stay, you're able to gather valuable information which can later be used to automate personalised services for current or future stays. This enhanced personalisation also goes a long way towards building brand loyalty.Read about pre-stay communication techniques that help improve guest experienceConsidering the negatives1) Failing to meet expectations"The expectations of people who use bots are very high," says chief experience officer at travel firm Travelaer Mike Slone. "They think they should operate like something they see in a movie, whereas the reality is that conversational bots are quite immature today."Certain situations require a human touch, and having a bot reply to a stressful request with an automated response will often only make the situation worse.2) The complexities of languageHuman language is incredibly complex. Words have different meanings in different situations and contexts, and getting artificial intelligence to fully understand that can be massively challenging. Guests will have to understand that to get the most of a chatbot, they should use simple, direct requests.Multiple languages can also pose a problem. How do you accurately communicate with guests from countries that speak different languages?3) ChatBots are expensiveIt's estimated that building a chatbot from the ground up can cost anywhere between $30,000 and $150,000. It's a complex task to build a friendly, reliable and helpful bot that won't give you headaches along the way, so be prepared to pay the premium.There are cheaper ways to construct chatbots through pre-built apps, but these are basic shells that will need to be fleshed out further by developers.All things consideredWhile chatbots still have room for improvement (and a few complex hurdles to overcome), it's an exciting new technology that has the power to help you improve customer service, increase revenue and drive bookings.If you have the budget and need to automate the guest interaction process, then a chatbot is definitely something worth considering.
Article by Stuart Dickinson

Trend digest - A guide to online advertising

GuestRevu · 4 September 2017
These days, online advertising is often inescapable if you want your hotel to remain relevant and successful. But with so many strategies and different approaches to consider, it may seem like an intimidating space to venture into. Luckily, platforms like Google, Facebook and other social media channels have drastically simplified this process over the years, making it easy and affordable to market your hotel to the masses.We take a look at some of the easiest ways to kickstart a successful online ad campaign.Direct booking tips: Add some AdWords - GuestRevuWith millions of people using the web to find and book accommodation, flights and travel-related activities on a daily basis, it's important that your hotel and its offerings stand out amongst all the online clutter. A clever Google AdWords campaign can help you do just that."You don't need to spend a lot to see results, and with the right approach, you can ensure that your hotel's direct booking numbers climb each month. AdWords provides a cost effective, measurable and highly targeted solution, allowing you to pinpoint your audience and maximise your ROI." - GuestRevuGetting started is easy. This handy guide explains the basics, and will help you avoid costly mistakes when creating your first campaign.Read the full article >>Five types of campaigns your hotel must run on Google Adwords - NetAffinityAs we mentioned earlier, the online advertising space can seem a little daunting. What campaigns do you choose? How do you set them up?NetAffinity have done a great roundup of five different types of campaigns you can run, and what metrics to watch when doing so, including:Brand Search CampaignsGeneric Search CampaignsRemarketing on the Google Display NetworkGeneric Display CampaignsVideo Remarketing"Google AdWords is a powerful tool, and your hotels needs to have it as a major part of their marketing strategy to be truly competitive. Hopefully, even if you don't work with a digital marketing agency, this guide will give you the right tools to start promoting your hotel on AdWords." - NetAffinityAccording to NetAffinity, these are the five most important types of campaigns for the hotel industry. Here's a breakdown of how to run them, which metrics to watch out for, and why they work so well.Read the full article >>The Basics of Facebook Advertising - Fuel TravelSetting up a Facebook ad campaign is a painless process, and can often yield great results if you're working with quality content. You can target your ads to reach the most relevant audience, drive traffic to your website, and dramatically increase brand awareness, to name a few advantages."Facebook ads come in many shapes and sizes and are designed to achieve different goals, many of which align nicely to a hotel marketing campaign. Before you get started, it's important to have a solid grasp on the fundamentals of Facebook advertising." - Fuel TravelLearn more about Facebook Ad terminology and budget requirements, find out how to create a targeted campaign, and much more.Read the full article >>The 10-point checklist for a successful digital marketing campaign - NetAffinityWith so many considerations to make, setting up a digital marketing campaign can be a daunting process. NetAffinity have outlined a tried and tested method of planning and executing digital marketing campaigns, expanding on the following steps:Set your goals. What do you want to achieve? Make sure they are SMARTDecide on a campaign conceptDefine your target audienceChoose your timingDecide on your messageDetermine your budgetAgree on the marketing platforms you will useGet creative with designLaunch your campaign and test itReport and measure your success"Why run a marketing campaign? A few of the most common reasons are to fill an off peak season, reward loyal customers, or build brand awareness - or sometimes all three." - Hollie McHughWhile every hotel is unique, the fundamentals of running a strong digital campaign remain the same. Make sure you're clued up before creating yours.Read the full article >>Can your hotel learn from these social media campaigns? - Hotel SpeakA social media campaign, conducted over a set amount of time with specific goals in mind, can go way beyond just attracting a few more page likes or follows. If done right, you will build meaningful connections with your audience, increase customer loyalty, and ultimately attract more people through your doors."Social media is about showing up everyday rather than spending millions on one all-important TV spot. It means engaging with customers in a two-way conversation that goes way beyond 'this is our product, you can buy it here for this price'." - Otium BoutiqueLooking at a number of successful social media campaigns, Hotel Speak extract important information that could help your hotel ramp up its digital marketing efforts.Read the full article >>Digital marketing is inescapable if you plan on standing toe-to-toe with your competition in the hospitality industry, especially in such a competitive landscape. By utilising all the tools at your disposal, from Facebook and Google AdWords, to other social media channels like Twitter and Instagram, you'll be able to better engage with a relevant audience and improve your business.
Article by Stuart Dickinson

6 Must-ask questions to consider before buying a PMS

GuestRevu ·28 August 2017
Change is a constant reality in the hotel industry - new technologies, online competition and modern guest expectations are just some of the major driving forces, and nearly all aspects of hospitality are affected.Keeping ahead of these changes, as well as new emerging technologies, is a daunting task for anyone. But to ensure that your hotel keeps ahead strategically, a good place to start is taking a critical look at your PMS and making sure that it supports your growth.A good PMS controls and automates a number of processes within a hotel, ideally reducing time-consuming tasks and inefficiencies within your operation.It's not just about capturing bookings or keeping track of finance, but as technology evolves and expands, so does the need for your PMS to play an integral role in guest experience and loyalty management. Ideally, it should form the core of almost all hotel activity.According to the 2016 Smart Decision Guide to Hotel Property Management Systems, the biggest benefits of having the right property management system include:Improved guest satisfaction and quality of the guest experienceStreamlined hotel operations and reduced costsIncreased hotel occupancy, revenue and profitabilityImproved performance reporting and business intelligenceThe considerations of a new PMS might vary depending on the size and needs of different hotels, so we have taken a look at some of the most important questions you should ask during the research and evaluation process, as part of the study mentioned above.1) Does the solution offer flexibility in functionality, including data access and performance reporting?According to 87% of hoteliers interviewed in the study, gaining access to PMS data and business insights is "important" or "very important".A good PMS offers unprecedented visibility that allows you to take full control of your hotel's administration, and will come with a wide array of options when it comes to data report dashboards. Having said that, it's still important to find out what level of custom reporting is available to you before buying.Tip: Confirm that the solution is flexible in terms of keys areas of functionality, including custom report generation.2) How easily and seamlessly does the PMS integrate with third-party technologies and data?With the constant development of new technologies, having a PMS with a growing integration partner list is becoming more important. An integrated partner could be anything from a channel manager to a mobile app or online guest feedback system. Less integration opportunities could mean that you end up with data spread over a number of different applications, or having to settle for apps that don't serve your needs like they should.A great place to start is to make a list of all the third-party providers or applications you work with, or would like to work with, and check how many of them can be integrated with the PMS you are assessing.Tip: Ask about PMS compatibility and interoperability with third-party technologies in place or anticipated.3) How long will it take for problems to be resolved?It's important to have a clear understanding of the PMS platform's customer support process before making a buying decision. It's also important to consider what kind of training is provided to hotel staff who will be using the system for the first time. More than 80% of hoteliers agree that user training is a key success factor in getting the most out of a PMS.Tip: Make sure that problems will get resolved in a timely manner. Some solution providers will go so far as to guarantee response and case resolution times.4) What is the total cost of ownership? Are there "hidden" costs?Thanks to rapid developments in technology, PMS platforms today aren't nearly as expensive as their predecessors.However, whether you choose a cloud-based or traditional computer-based system for your hotel, it's important to find out if you'll be making any surprise payments down the road - some examples include future software updates, technical support, infrastructure or maintenance etc.Tip: Ascertain that all associated installation, licensing, maintenance and ongoing service as well as support fees are included in the pricing.5) What return on investment (ROI) can be expected?How much time your new PMS will save in terms of managing front desk activities, like check-ins and check-outs, consolidating guest accounts, and managing rates and availability across all of your different channels (OTAs, travel agents and so on) is a critical consideration to make.How will the new system improve sales revenue? Will it help you increase bookings thanks to seamless booking engine integration, or allow you to increase your average daily rates using integrated revenue management and forecasting tools? Analyse how the PMS will improve your ROI.Tip: Keep in mind that enhancing the quality of the overall guest experience through the deployment of a next-generation PMS should lead to a greater number of repeat guest stays and a higher volume and intensity of positive brand advocacy. The correlation between favorable guest reviews and positive economic outcomes should factor into the equation.6) What is the PMS solution provider's track record of success?Lastly, it's important to look at the company's track record before making a buying decision. Even if they've been in business for years, check their client base to determine how reliable they are. The last thing you want is to be promised the world, only to be let down by poor service delivery.Tip: Seek information about what, if any, performance issues may arise through conversations with existing clients, preferably ones in the same hotel category.Making the right decision for your hotelThe right PMS can help you streamline your business and save you hours by automating repetitive front-desk tasks, help with bookings, channel management, housekeeping and finances, to name a few.But before you make your final decision, consider:Does the solution offer flexibility in functionality, including data access and performance reporting?How easily and seamlessly does the PMS integrate with third-party technologies and data?How long will it take for problems to be resolved?What is the total cost of ownership? Are there "hidden" costs?What return on investment (ROI) can be expected?What is the PMS solution provider's track record of success?Having a firm grasp of the answers to these questions will place you in a much better purchasing position, and set you on the path towards streamlining every aspect of your hotel's day-to-day operations.

3 Innovative loyalty programs to be inspired by

GuestRevu ·21 August 2017
An Accenture study revealed that it is becoming more difficult to retain loyal customers, with 61% of consumers switching some or all of their business to a different brand within the last year. This means that hoteliers need to look into tailoring far more personalised loyalty programs that really speak to your guests and provide the value they want.Remember, it costs five times more to attract a new customer than to keep an old one, and customers will remember their experience with a brand long after forgetting a discount. A good loyalty program will provide your guests with something truly convenient that they want to be a part of.But you don't need a massive budget to offer guests the type of innovative loyalty programs offered by larger hotel brands. Once you know what your guests want, you can take inspiration from brands like Hilton Hotels to tailor unique loyalty programs that provide great value for money, and sustained business for your hotel in the long run.Looking at Hilton's convenient app functionality, Shep Hyken sums it up perfectly: "Members of the [Hilton] reward program can download a mobile app to their phones and then use it to check the status of their hotel room, check in when the room is ready and even use the phone as a key to get into the room. All of this without ever having to visit the front desk."Once you learn how to use it, which is a simple process, you find it more convenient to do business with Hilton. And, the company that is most convenient and easy to business with wins."Below, we take a look at some innovative and successful reward programs and how you can emulate their success.Marriott RewardsMarriott's reward program was called the best loyalty program of 2017 by Smarter Travel, and is widely regarded as one of the best loyalty programs out there.But one of the most innovative aspects of their Marriott Rewards program is that guests can earn loyalty points just by posting about their stay on Twitter, checking in on Facebook, or posting a picture on Instagram using a predefined hashtag.It's such a simple but effective win-win scenario, and a brilliant way to connect with a growing demographic of millennials with major social influence.Users download and sync their social media accounts to the Marriott's Rewards app, and can earn up to 2 000 points a month simply by interacting with the hotel in various ways.Think of innovative ways you can use your social media channels to reward guests.Wyndham's intuitive membership tiersClose behind Marriott in loyalty program popularity (and some would argue ahead of) is Wyndham's tiered reward program. As members ascend the four ranks, the benefits get more luxurious and exclusive.By creating levels that guests steadily ascend, Wyndham keeps their focus fixed on very attainable loyalty goals that they can easily reach if they stick with the program.In October last year, the hotel chain also made 25 000 properties from its vacation rental and timeshare businesses available for loyalty members, who could redeem points for free stays once they reached the top tier.By inviting guests into your exclusive inner circle, you make them feel like an integral part of your brand. Adapt their approach to your own strategy with some of these ideas:Create a simple, easy to follow tiered reward system that offers rewards scaled to each tierSet an ultimate goal that members are excited to work towardsTurn the loyalty program into a fun game. Offer bonus points if guests accomplish certain tasks en route to the top tier, and offer one or two big benefits early on in the programRemember to keep it simple. There's absolutely no need for a convoluted points system with conditional clauses that only serve to confuse and frustrate your guests.Kimpton's personalised reward programThe Kimpton hotel group knows that guests today crave more personalised and uniquely memorable moments when travelling, and their rewards program reflects that.Karma Rewards focuses on creating "ridiculously personal experiences" for its guests, who have since responded by rewarding Kimpton with the highest customer satisfaction scores (93%) and emotional attachment scores (89%) of any hotel company in the United States, according to Market Metrix Hospitality Index.The proprietary algorithm inside Karma Rewards tracks a member's stay and purchases, including whether they book via the hotel's website, attend Kimpton events, or interacts with the brand via social media."This allows us to truly treat individuals as individuals," says senior vice president of marketing at Kimpton, Kathleen Reidenbach. "We find unique ways of delighting guests when they least expect it."One example tells the story of a guest who posted an Instagram photo of Kimpton's fun yoga mats in her room. She came home to a new Kimpton yoga mat waiting at her doorstep a week later."But we don't promise anything," says Reidenbach, explaining these little extras are randomized among guests.By finding ways to tailor rewards to each individual guest, you'll make them feel truly special. Make them feel like they can't get this personalised attention anywhere else, and there's every chance they won't even bother trying.Extra tips to considerWhen considering your own loyalty approach, it's important to first note that the needs of a business traveller will differ from those of a leisure traveller (even though the lines are blurring these days), and you'll encourage loyalty from a broader audience if you offer rewards tailored to each segment of guests that stay at your hotel.Generally speaking, leisure travellers seek instant gratification (dining discounts, free gifts and tours), while those travelling for business prefer points that accumulate towards future stays (free nights, upgrades or bonus points).Having said that, try to blend a mix of short and long term benefits to your reward scheme that apply to all traveller demographics.Some good general ideas include:VIP check-in, where guests can avoid lines just by being part your loyalty programRoom discounts on a guest's first stay with you (a thank you bonus for signing up)A booking condition, like receiving bonus points for signing up and making a dinner reservation on your first stayLoyalty programs in 2017 and beyond should strive to be more than just thinly-veiled marketing schemes. They should offer your guests something truly useful, and encourage them to be an integral part of your brand.
Article by Sarah Came

Hotel valuations and online reputations: Interview with Nam Quach

GuestRevu ·14 August 2017
With a background in investment banking and a solid portfolio of deals he has helped to facilitate, including the sale of the Danube hotel portfolio (seven intercontinental hotels in Europe) for MSREF to a private investor, the sale of four iconic luxury Concorde Hotels for Starwood Capital to Constellation Hotels and the sale of Hilton International to Hilton Hotels Corp, if there is one thing Nam Quach can spot excellently, it is value - particularly in the hospitality and leisure sector.We decided to find out what attracted this Managing Director of the UK branch of merger and acquisition firm, DC Advisory, to working with hospitality and leisure clients, what he looks at when evaluating businesses in the sector, and what he believes the true value of online reputation is for hospitality and leisure brands.Where did you begin in the hospitality industry?I started my professional career at a Swiss bank called Warburg Dillon Read (now known as UBS) and worked as an analyst in their investment banking division focusing on Leisure & Hospitality. It was a small team and I learnt a great deal from the people there. I enjoyed the sector so much that 17 years on, I am still focused on that industry.What is your position now?I've recently joined DC Advisory as a Managing Director. We're part of Daiwa Securities and we focus on mid-market M&A transactions as well as raising capital for our clients across Europe.What role do sites like TripAdvisor play when you're evaluating a hotel?When we assess potential hotel opportunities for our clients, particularly portfolios, TripAdvisor is a very useful tool in gauging customer feedback. In particular, it allows us to assess quickly on a desktop basis the relative quality of the hotels in question vs. competitors in the area.In some of our presentation materials to investors we would analyse the relative TripAdvisor ratings and highlight some of the feedback that comes up most often. This could be positive, such as great customer service or quality of rooms, or negative, for example the upkeep of the bathrooms. Nothing could replace an onsite inspection of the hotels, but if you had a portfolio of say, 30 hotels to assess quickly, TripAdvisor was a great initial tool to get an overall impression.How does a hotel's online reputation affect its valuation?Managing the online reputation of a hotel is very important. Valuation is made up essentially of two parts; the cash flow of the business, and the multiple that investors are willing to pay for this cash flow stream.Firstly, from a trading perspective, a better online reputation will lead to more visitation and higher spend. This will appeal to repeat customers and attract new ones, and increased cash flow will lead to higher values. Customers today analyse a number of different touch points before making a buying decision, and analysing the online reputation (through sites such as TripAdvisor) is one important component.Secondly, a better reputation online may signal other traits such as a well invested business, and therefore additional upfront investment required to address any shortfalls could be less. This could be in form of physical assets (carpets, the restaurant, etc.) or human capital. A hotel that has a good reputation online could also signal that it is well run from a CRM point of view and that it actively manages customer feedback.Are there specific things that you look at when deciding on a valuation?Every investor will look at valuation differently, and that is what, essentially, creates the market. The most common valuation factors when looking at hotels is a measure of profit and cashflow, say EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) or NOI (net operating income) and the yield or multiple which is applied to these earnings. DCF (discounted cash flow analysis) is another way of assessing value by discounting the future earnings stream of a business. Every investor will have a different view on the earnings potential and the future, and will have a different view on risk, and hence value.If a hotel wanted to ready itself for a sale, what are the key things you would advise it to do?The key thing is preparation. These intense processes last a number of months from start to finish. Preparation is not just important from the transactional perspective that I focus on, but is also important for the business itself and the people affected by the sale (be it employees or management). It is often forgotten that hotels are a people business. Not being fully prepared could add delays to the process, or, worse still, give the impression to investors that it is poorly run. Being upfront and efficient with material portrays to investors that management is on top of the details.Making sure that management and employees are continuing to drive the business forward during a sales process is also critical. This can be managed in a number of different ways (confidentiality, incentives, etc.) but the last thing we would want to see is a trading dip as employees are switched off. This will affect valuation.What's the best hotel you've stayed in and why?After 17 years in the industry I've stayed at a number of hotels, but for me the best hotel I have ever stayed in was the Conrad Pezula in South Africa. It was off-season, so very few guests were around. The hotel was beautiful and I had a lovely suite. I remember opening the doors in the evening as the sun was setting and just hearing nature play its song - truly spectacular.

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