Category Archives: hotel strategies

It’s Emotion And Not Price That Keeps Customers Coming Back!

I recently interviewed Adel Gutman, VP of Sales and Marketing with HKHotels & Hospitality and was impressed, to say the least, how she and her staff emotionally immerse themselves in their clientele.

Look at their reviews and you’ll agree that emotional “connection” is not lip service.

Holding on to a new customer has never been harder than before…or more important. Research shows that the key to attracting customers isn’t price. It’s emotion.  People stay faithful to brands that earn both their rational trust and their deeply felt affection.

One of my favorite hotels hardly advertise, rarely tweets on Twitter, posts on Facebook or has a rewards programs.

When I book with them I receive a personalized email, not a canned one, that welcomes me back and suggests that they look forward to my return.  At check in an additional hotel representative often comes to the front desk to greet me.  When I arrive at my room there’s a welcome message from housekeeping informing me that they are available whenever I need them.  Guest room rate…$129.00.

Frederick F. Reichheld, author of the widely read The Loyalty Effect: The Hidden Force Behind Growth, Profits and Lasting Value, showed that making loyalists out of just 5% more customers would lead, on average, to an increase in profit per customer of between 25% and 100%.

Is it safe then to assume that no matter how hip your hotel or how comfortable your bed, the key is to emotionally engage your customers?

I visited a new concept restaurant a couple of weeks ago and ordered a meal to go.  When I got home and opened the container I found that it didn’t contain the meal I ordered.  I was not a happy camper, especially since my last meal was a bowl of oatmeal.

I hopped into my car, headed back to the restaurant, and marched up to the check-out counter to make things right.  The cashier looked at my receipt, looked up and called me by name, calmly apologized for the inconvenience that they had caused me, and asked me if I would like the kitchen to prepare the correct order.

My blood pressure subsided slightly, my to go box came out quickly, and I was presented with a $25 gift certificate for my troubles.  In addition, the cashier asked for my telephone number, and shortly after I returned home I received a call from the floor manager apologizing for the mishap and invited me to enjoy a complimentary cocktail upon my return.

How could I possibly write this off as a bad experience when now I am emotionally bound to give them another chance?

So what are your thoughts about emotion vs. price?

Tom Costello is the CEO, Partner & Co-Founder of Groups International, a company that provides marketing, consultative services, and technology solutions to the group and leisure travel markets.  Connect with him on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter or contact him by email.


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Hotels Delivering Customers To TripAdvisor

Did you ever visit a hotel’s website and see something on their homepage that led you to say to yourself “Self, what the h.ll were they thinking about when they made that decision?”

That’s what happened today while conducting a search for a particular hotel, landed on their homepage, and noticed that little TripAdvisor owl icon displayed prominently between two of the hotel’s calls-to-action.

I clicked on the icon and guess what happened.  Your right, I was immediately transferred from the hotel’s website and delivered to the TripAdvisor page that displayed the hotel’s reviews.  Advantage TripAdvisor.

OK so your saying what’s the big deal!

One, this and every hotel that battles and pays to get prospective customers to their site lost this prospective customer in a matter of less than 10 seconds.  If the hotel spent hard-earned money and their e-Commerce team achieved their goal to get the hotel to rank in the top third of the search return then why risk this sort of “marketing strategy” that sends prospective customers to a competitor’s site?  Advantage TripAdvisor

Two, and this is even more confusing, guess what caught my attention while on the TripAdvisor site?  Your answer doesn’t count because you’ve done this before.  For those of you that haven’t I had the option to book that very same hotel, after I read their stellar reviews, with seven different OTAs.  Yes, Expedia, Hotels.com, Booking.com, Venere, Priceline, Travelocity, and Orbitz.  Advantage TripAdvisor and OTAs

Now, why would a hotel spend time and money to get me to their site then turn around and send me to a competitor’s site that could potentially cost that very same hotel eight times the transaction cost as compared to a direct booking on the hotel’s website?

Now I’m totally confused!

Tom Costello is the CEO, Partner & Co-Founder of Groups International, a company that provides marketing, consultative services, and technology solutions to the group and leisure travel markets.  Connect with him on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter or contact him by email.


10 Quick Ideas To Market Your Property Better Now

We meet or talk with GMs, DOSMs, and Revenue Managers on almost a daily basis and the follow 10 ideas that can help attract and retain new guests, as supplied by Larry Mogelonsky with LMA Communications, should be framed and hung in each one of their offices as a constant reminder that marketing a hotel is a 365-day campaign.

Many GMs think that marketing planning is done once a year, typically in the fall and in advance of the coming fiscal year. Here are a series of quick points you can spring on your director of marketing to see to help keep your marketing program on track.

1. Repeat customers are easier to cultivate than new guests. Make sure you don’t forget to capture as much information as you can for each guest. Expand your database to know: why they visited, what they did (spa, golf, meals, room type, etc.) Then, maintain a relationship with your past guests, encouraging them to revisit by appealing to their interests.

2. To everything there is a season. Mark your calendar in advance. Plan every holiday with military precision. Unlike every other promotional program that you create, these no-brainer events deserve your full attention. If you’re not full, shame on you! You have the power and the knowledge. Just do it. No excuses.

3. Everybody eats. Of course you have a spa and you might have a golf course, too. But at best a quarter of people regularly visit spas, with lower numbers for golf. However, with almost perfect certainty, I can guarantee that your guests eat, Make it your business to ensure that they eat with you. Create menus and venues that give your guests what they want. Incentivize them with room and food packages if need be.

4. Remember there are five weekdays and two days in the weekend. Depending upon your property’s location, this typically means that business groups take precedence to leisure travel. Now examine your sales and marketing plan spending. Is this reality accurately reflected?

5. Marketing needs to start the minute your guest interacts with you. Once you have a reservation, start your engines! Remember the importance of initial experiences. A welcome packet on check-in beats a myriad of tent cards.

6. You don’t control price; the market does. Only your owners are interested in comparisons to pre-2008 ADRs. Be realistic in your expectations. It’s a different world out there. If your competitive set is at $250 per night, don’t even think that the old days of $400 per night are in the cards. Remember that without occupancy, rate is irrelevant.

7. The minute you wean yourself off the OTAs, the better. Sure, they provide a quick fill. But they drive your rate down and do nothing to generate loyalty in your product. For example, the latest OTA deal is to offer a four-star property at a two-star price. Think about it for a moment: they are commoditizing all the work it took you to get to four stars, relegating you to an equal with others at that level.

8. Invest in your local neighborhood. Hire and train. Promote and motivate. Donate and participate.Give back and tell everyone about it. It pays to be a friend and a community leader. Treat everyone as family and they will return in kind.

9. Socially savvy makes sense. Don’t just pay lip service to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, Invest in appropriate programs to harness the energy of these programs and fully integrate them into your marketing programs and brand strategy.

10. Your website is your window to the world. Make it sing, and make sure that it works effectively. Don’t expect to be No. 1 in Google search if you are an independent in a busy market. Use creative programs to drive links.

And One Bonus Idea
Advertising still works. The best way to find you is through your website. Advertise its presence. Create meaningful advertising campaigns that combine eye-catching imagery with calls to action. And remember to measure the campaign, not just each and every individual ad.

Larry Mogelonsky (larry@lma.net) is the president and founder of LMA Communications Inc., a, full-service communications agency focused on the hospitality industry. Larry is also the developer of Inn at a Glance hospitality software. As a recognized expert in marketing services, his experience encompasses Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and Preferred Hotels & Resorts, as well as numerous independent properties throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Larry is a registered professional engineer, and received his MBA from McMaster University.

Tom Costello is the CEO, Partner & Co-Founder of Groups International, a company that provides marketing, consultative services, and technology solutions to the group and leisure travel markets.  Connect with him on TwitterLinkedIn, and Facebook or contact him by email.

Five Wishes for Hotels and Social Media in 2011

Brian Bagel, TIG’s Social Media Manager, has some tips for hoteliers to use in the social media space this year.

  1. Put your on-staff experts to work. Many hotels have a tremendous advantage in social media. People on their staff have a duty to be experts in certain subjects. Your concierge is an expert on your hotel’s surroundings. Your chef is a food expert. Your gardener’s job is to make things grow. Your decorator’s job is to make the environment warm and beautiful. People want to know about what they know! There are entire TV networks dedicated to this stuff. If you can get them to write a few sentences every month, you’ve got yourself some tremendous social media fodder.
  2. More social media only offers. Social media specific rate codes for your fans and followers still aren’t utilized to the extent that I think they should be. You want your social media following to think they’re getting something special from time to time. An extra 5 or 10% off on a room for certain periods can go a very long way. The discounts don’t need to be Groupon-level steep, but enough to show your biggest fans that you appreciate them.
  3. Someone to really take a big foursquare/Facebook Places leap. I’ve seen plenty of specials that offer people glasses of wine, food, and rewards points, but I haven’t seen anyone go all out yet. Why not try to get some buzz and give away free rooms for a larger number of check-ins? Or why haven’t brands really taken to the services and linked check-ins across multiple locations for super-offers like major retailers have? I’d love to see that and I’m sure frequent customers would as well.
  4. Cross promotion. Social media doesn’t live on an island. I’ve said this many times, and yet I still want to see more. Social media is best supplemented by online and offline collateral. People need to be made aware that your property has a social media presence. I’ve seen more and more commercials touting a Facebook page rather than a website. I think now is the time for hotels to get in that game.
  5. Fewer minutias. There was a time when a post like “it’s sunny today” went over like gangbusters. It was simple, felt personal, and kept a social presence active. I’m not saying that those kinds of posts are now bad, but there are too many of them. I’d love to see more depth. Tell me about an interesting event going on in the area that people from outside your location might not know about. Or tell me about an interesting sign you saw near your property, and post a photo. That’s the kind of content that has a better chance of getting shared and keeping your fans and followers engaged.
 Social is no longer something that can be ignored. And while it might not be perfect for every hotel, it is an important option for most. There are a number of benefits, including the rise in social media’s footprint in natural search results that can be taken advantage of with a little bit of effort and ingenuity. While many hotels have done an excellent job in social media, there’s no reason hospitality shouldn’t be a leader in the social space.

The battle between American Airlines and Online Travel Agencies has hotels cleared for take off

Along with a brighter outlook for the hotel industry comes a new alternative to the high cost of doing business with online travel giants like Expedia and Orbitz.

If you conduct a Google search for “hotels in New York City” the search return will provide more than 84 million results where most feature links to third-party travel sites offering rates for hotels in New York City.

When a consumer elects to book his hotel room through one of these third-party sites it could cost the hotel more than eight times the transaction cost as compared to if the same transaction were to be booked directly with the hotel.

According to a much discussed article released by Hospitality eBusiness Strategies titled In Hospitality, Not All Internet Bookings are Created Equal a direct booking through the hotel’s website is approximately $13 per transaction whereas a booking through a third-party site could cost the same hotel nearly $108 per transaction.

“During tough economic times hotels historically relied on the OTA distribution model to help get rooms sold,” said Chris Wenz, Partner & Co-Founder of Hotelmine, “but now that the hospitality industry appears to be in a recovery mode, there’s no better time than now for them to re-think their distribution strategy.”

‘Digging in their heels”

OTAs are not going away and most industry insiders would suggest that they may be digging in their heels with hoteliers much the same way they are with American Airlines in order to control product offerings, pricing, and lucrative contracts that provide abnormally high commissions and wholesale rates.

“A number of hoteliers and hotel management firms that we have known for years are suggesting that they will address their online marketing strategies and ‘best practices’ in order to take back some of the ground that they lost over the past four years,” Wenz said.  “That’s why a direct connect distribution model makes sense for both the hotel and the consumer because the hotel can reduce their distribution and conversion costs and have more of a profit margin to create incentives and value-adds for the consumer.”

Examples of these best practices include;

  • Strict rate parity, a best rate guarantee, and don’t allow a third-party to undersell a hotel.
  • Hotels will need to expand their social media presence on sites like Facebook and offer special deals or promotions to those who are following them on the site.
  • And finally, a hotel needs to begin to analyze options that will move them beyond traditional search methods and engage prospective consumers the very moment they start thinking about travel.

“The Concept”

Wenz, who has a background in developing technology solutions for group and leisure travel, recognized a void in the marketplace and began to design a solution that would directly connect a customer with a hotel.

“I have been following online leisure travel and social media trends for the past five years and came up with the concept that is now Hotelmine,” said Wenz.

Hotelmine may look like any other leisure travel site but that’s where the similarities stop.

The site’s model combines a Business 2 Consumer platform with a Peer 2 Peer social media architecture that allows consumers to book direct with the hotel and to share their research, travel plans, and transactions with family and friends on the top social media sites.

Hoteliers have full control over their offerings and sell products, services, and value-adds the way they want to sell them in a transparent environment where consumers can make an informed decision about which hotel best suits their taste or budget.

When it’s time to book, the consumer books directly by calling the hotel or through the hotel’s website booking engine.

“The countdown’s on”

“We are now tying up some loose ends with the site and should have it ready for the scheduled soft launch on February 14th,” Wenz stated, “and we are continuing to pre-register new hotels on almost a daily basis.”

“We couldn’t be at a better place and at a better time,” suggested Wenz, “and the feedback and response from the hotel community has been overwhelming and continues to spur us on to the successful launch of Hotelmine.”

Tom Costello is the CEO, Partner & Co-Founder of Groups International, a company that provides marketing, consultative services, and technology solutions to the group and leisure travel markets.  Connect with him on TwitterLinkedIn, and Facebook or contact him by email.