Lodging Interactive More Than Doubles its Growth and Service Offering in 2012

The adage "You can never have too much of a good thing" is ringing true to hundreds of hoteliers worldwide who received extraordinary Internet marketing services from Lodging Interactive and its subsidiary CoMMingle this year. Over the last 12 months, the interactive and social media marketing agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry racked up an unprecedented list of accomplishments. 

"2012 was a very good year for Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle, but it was even more impactful for our customers," said Founder and President DJ Vallauri. "We planned to introduce a few new services and robust business models, but once we got rolling, ideas for even more breakthrough services were proposed. Thanks to the creativity and expertise of the Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle teams, we provided more new services to hotels in 2012 than in the last 10 years combined. From limited-time FREE audits to full-service website design and management, social media marketing, mobile marketing, and measurement and accountability services, 2012 was truly a banner year for Lodging Interactive."

Since 2001, Lodging Interactive has provided hotels, resorts, spas and restaurants in over 35 countries with proven ROI-driven online services, including: website design and development, search engine marketing, social media marketing, and online reputation management. In 2012 alone, the company achieved a 85% increase in growth, a 40% increase in staffing, and more than doubled the number of services it now offers to hotels — some of which are absolutely FREE of charge to its customers.

In 2012, Lodging Interactive earned the following for website design:

• Three Interactive Media Awards™ for Outstanding Achievement in the Hotels/Resorts category for its website design of the Marriott Burlington in Massachusetts, the Denver Renaissance in Colorado and the Doubletree Oak Brook in Illinois by the Interactive Media Council Inc. This was the third consecutive year that Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle was recognized by the IMC for its aptitude in designing, developing, managing, supporting and promoting hotel websites.

• The Silver Magellan Award from Travel Weekly for the Courtyard by Marriott Ft. Lauderdale Beach, Fla.

• Two Web Awards / Hotel and Lodging Standard of Excellence from the Web Marketing Assn. for the Courtyard by Marriott Ft. Lauderdale Beach and the Marriott Burlington in Massachusetts.

• The 2012 Silver Award / Creative Excellence in Hotel and Lodging from the International Academy of the Visual Arts for the Courtyard by Marriott Ft. Lauderdale Beach.

Like its coveted website design service, Lodging Interactive's Guest Review System also was in high demand in 2012. The hotel-based guest comment system enables guests to post comments about their hotel experience and provides hotel management with the ability to respond in real time when reviews are received. The Guest Review System ensures there are no delays in communication, and the appropriate staff can immediately fix any pending problems before the customer leaves the property or has the opportunity to post negative reviews on third-party websites. Additionally, travelers can share their guest reviews on their Facebook wall and to their network of friends.

The success of the Guest Review System spurred Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle to develop and introduced the following new Internet marketing services this year:

• HotelWebShows — A service enabling hotel marketers to add a personal touch to their websites by using crisp HD Video. All video produced through HotelWebShows by Lodging Interactive are 1080i quality and delivered in TV, Web and Mobile formats. Videos are available in 30 second, 60 second and 90 second lengths, and will include music and graphics.

• CoMMingle Social + — A service for hoteliers managing their own Facebook and Twitter accounts but who also want to get involved in the new, emerging social engagement channels such as Google+ Business Page and Pinterest, but do not have the resources in-house to handle it. CoMMingle Social+ adds weekly postings on Facebook and Twitter for hotels that have pages but find it hard to consistently post during the week.

• InnterACT Performance Portal — A website analytics and social service providing real-time website analytics, key performance metrics, and the latest social media monitoring tools. The InnterACT online client portal was made available to existing customers at no cost.

• Hotel Website Solutions — A service offering online marketing services at a low, monthly fee with all upfront costs removed. The service includes website design and management, reputation management, search engine marketing, real-time analytics and accountability, PLUS Lodging Interactive's Content Management System and its coveted Guest Review System.

• Mobile Website Development — A FREE service made available to all new customers contracting full agency services, including website design and development, search engine marketing, social media marketing, and online reputation management. Through this service, hotels received up to 10 static pages of their online website in a mobile format, with an option to purchase more.

To help its customers stay competitive, Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle also offered the following FREE services:

• FREE Website Audit — Determines if a website is performing properly and achieving rankings
• FREE Social Media Analytics Reporting Tool — Delivers weekly analytics about a hotel's activity on the top social media networks, including: Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, Google+ and blogs.
• FREE Content Management Systems + FREE Mobile Website.

"To say we were busy in 2012 is an understatement," Vallauri said. "In addition to creating a bevvy of new services to keep our customers performing successfully, we managed to show support to our brand partners and industry associations as well. In 2012, Lodging Interactive became a Best Western Preferred Vendor, and we support the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Assn. International (HSMAI) and the American Hotel & Lodging Assn. We also participated in select industry conferences and events to network with our customers.

"While being visible is important to Lodging Interactive, it's far more important for us to ensure that our customers are visible via the various online and social media channels and that their online reputations are being properly scrutinized and managed," he said. "This new year, those who partner with Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle will be well positioned to socialize and engage with their target audiences. If your hotel needs to be seen in 2013, then it's time to call Lodging Interactive."

Absence of a Guest Review System Could Land Your Hotel on the NAUGHTY List

Looking for the "gift that keeps on giving" this holiday season? A gift that gives travelers a feeling of appreciation, knowing their personal service requests have been heard? What about a gift for owners that improves the hotel's perceptions in the online marketplace and impacts purchasing decisions of future guests, resulting in a more healthy bottom line? This ideal gift is not a specialty item, nor is it a here-today/gone-tomorrow fad. It's something that 71% of travelers say they want and 68% say determines whether or not they at your hotel, according to Forrester Research and TripAdvisor. This gift is the Guest Review System available from Lodging Interactive.

Lodging Interactive's Guest Review System is hotel-based guest comment system which enables guests to post comments about their hotel experience and provides hotel management with the ability to respond in real time when reviews are received. The Guest Review System ensures there are no delays in communication, and the appropriate staff can immediately fix any pending problems before the customer leaves the property or has the opportunity to post negative reviews on third-party websites. Additionally, travelers can share their guest reviews on their Facebook wall and to their network of friends. If the legitimacy of a negative review is in question, hoteliers can validate guest stay information before reviews are posted on their website, providing hotels with complete control on which reviews are made public.

Do You Hear What I Hear?
"No matter how great the service, there will always be a Scrooge ready to write a bad review," said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive Founder and President. "Oftentimes complaints are justified and demand an immediate response and resolution. Other times, the rant is simply a bad seed planted by a competitor looking to give the hotel a black eye. Nonetheless, each provides a critical opportunity for the hotel to put its best foot forward."

A 2011 Forrester study found that close to 50 percent of consumers will not book a hotel that doesn’t have online reviews. Likewise, PhocusWright reports that people who read online hotel reviews are 59 percent more likely to book. Hoteliers can't afford to ignore these statistics, yet many still do. As of August, only 32% of hotels worldwide are responding to reviews, according to a recent Tnooz article. That leaves a large universe of hoteliers who are turning a blind eye to their customers. The hotels that are engaging with guests are seeing a 6% increase in review scores (Tnooz).

"Replying to reviews gives travelers confidence that they are booking at a hotel that will take care of their needs," Vallauri said. "Even responses to negative reviews written about a hotel makes 79% of travelers feel reassured, according to Forrester researchers. In today's economy, giving guests assurance and comfort is critical to gaining market share and boosting occupancy, average daily rate, revenue per available room and the bottom line. Investing in a Guest Review System is a small price to pay for loyalty and repeat business."

The Guest Review System from Lodging Interactive is low cost and can be implemented in about 10 minutes. All that is required for a hotel to get up-and-running is a snippet of code inserted on the hotel's Website. Once initiated, managers can immediately begin collecting real-time reviews on their own websites and respond to customer concerns in real time. As an option, the company is staffed to reply on the hotel's behalf if staffing is an issue.

"Lodging Interactive can help hotels that may have had below average guest-satisfaction scores move from the NAUGHTY to NICE list easily while rebuilding credibility, restoring consumer confidence, and regaining lost business from third-party review sites simply by adding our Guest Review System to their websites," Vallauri said. "It's easy to win guests' over — even before they arrive — simply by posting your position about guest service, immediately fixing what may be broke, and saying 'thank you' to those who complement you for a job well done."

The following are the Top 10 Rants and Raves in 2012 based on a survey of 1 million guest reviews that landed hotels on either the NAUGHTY or NICE list as reported on Tnooz:

 NAUGHTY
  1. Unprofessional/incompetent service (11,785 mentions)
  2. Small room (8,669 mentions)
  3. Expensive/overpriced (8,390 mentions)
  4. Tasteless, bad breakfast (8,243 mentions)
  5. Bad food (5,956 mentions)
  6. Dirty room (5,439 mentions)
  7. Unfriendly service (5,123 mentions)
  8. Bad bathroom (4,600 mentions)
  9. Bad service (4,266 mentions)
 10. Loud, noisy room (4,123 mentions)

  NICE
  1. Friendly, professional, efficient service (103,440 mentions)
  2. Great, well-situated location (98,668 mentions)
  3. Good room (40,191 mentions)
  4. Great food (42,868 mentions)
  5. Great breakfast (41,356 mentions)
  6. Clean room/hotel (27,513 mentions)
  7. Large room (23,867 mentions)
  8. Good, affordable price (23,292 mentions)
  9. Good bed (11,369 mentions)
 10. Nice view (9,147 mentions)

"Travelers have no problem telling the world what they like and don't like about your hotel," Vallauri said. "It's important that hoteliers take the NICE approach to their response: Be thankful, polite, and respectful of guests, even if the complaint is not warranted. Remain calm and always be courteous. Tell the guest how the situation will be addressed and what the next steps are. Tell the guest that you deem the complaint to be serious, and that there is a plan in place to resolve the matter. More importantly, give each guest a way to stay in touch with management, and invite further feedback."