Travel BLOGS

If you are here you know what a BLOG is!  How do you use BLOGS for your business?  Or do you?  BLOGS are predicted to become as relevant as email or instant messages.  You can use them to promote your services, ask questions about business related issues or just share your opinion or ideas.

Soon you will see more advertising on BLOGS.  You will see BLOG links on most major websites.  Travel reviews are hot on the search engines and third party travel sites.  Why not have your own BLOG and let guests or passengers share their experiences with you.  What  a great way to find out how your service is being received.

Tell me how you use BLOGS ….

Travel is #1 in Internet Sales

Here are the latest stats on Internet sales.  Travel is the leading online service.  What do you do to promote your service or product online?  Let me know . . .

Consumers are becoming more comfortable with using the Internet, and that has led to rising retail sales online. Online sales will top $200 billion this year, up 20 percent from 2005, according to the National Retail Federation’s online division, Shop.org. That’s nearly double what online sales were just three years ago.

Online sales are projected to be $211.4 billion in 2006 vs. $176.4 billion in 2005.

"This is the real growth engine for the retail industry overall," says Scott Silverman, executive director of Shop.org. Retail sales are growing 3 percent a year, vs. double-digit growth online.

The rate of growth is slowing somewhat, however. Sales jumped 51 percent in 2003 from 2002, 24 percent in 2004 and 25 percent in 2005.

Travel is by far the largest type of product bought online, making up nearly one-third of all online purchases, according to the survey of 174 online retailers. Online travel sales hit $62.8 billion in 2005 and are projected to rise an additional 17 percent in 2006.

Buying computer hardware and software online is No.2, and buying autos and auto parts online is No.3. Nearly half (44 percent) of all computers and software sold are sold online, according to the survey.

"Consumer comfort and familiarity with the Internet has been a hurdle to growth in the past," Silverman says. "But people are used to the Internet now, for e-mail and doing research. If you aren’t in that game (as a retailer), you’re at a huge disadvantage."

Website Content is STILL KING

Yes, website content is still King believe it or not.  The more "value added" content you provide to your online visitors the greater the chances you have of converting that shopper into a booker.  While this seems like common sense thinking to most of us, we still see many, many hoteliers who still don’t "get it."

Here is a link to an interesting article about website content as it relates to our hospitality industry.  Enjoy.

Click here to read article.

Independent Hotel Booking Engine “IBE”

An Internet Booking Engine (IBE) is absolutely necessary on your property website today.  The challenge is chosing the right one.  There are dozens of booking engines on the market, including those provided by the PMS vendors.  In chosing an IBE, it is, of course, necessary to consider price.  The prices range from a flat monthly fee around $100 to as much as 5% of your sales revenue.

The most important functional aspect is the system’s hosting facility.  You need to know your future bookings are stored on a reliable server and that there is frequent backup storage.  Next is compatibility with your PMS.  If the system is not provided by your PMS is it possible to interface one way or two ways with your PMS.  One way is the ability for your PMS to receive bookings from the booking engine and the other way is to synchronize your IBE availability and rates when the PMS is updated.

The next most important functions of the book are those that affect the consumer when they are o your website, these are functions that match your hotel’s market segments.  Does the IBE enable group bookings?  Can the consumer build their own package?  Does it enable a package booking?  Does it accept corporate or travel agent secure bookings?  How easy is the backend to manage when loading and updating rates, availability, photos, policy and so on.

There is also the appearance of the booking page on your website.  Does the supplier match your website page design?  Is it a flash IBE?  A flash IBE is attractive, but it can inhibit some Internet users due to their computer setup or limitations.  Generally, the flash is not worth the minor benenfit.

Don’t forget to have your phone number on the booking engine pages so the shopper can always reach you as a default.  Just some thoughts about choosing a booking engine.

We’re So Excited About Our Interactive Maps!

We’re so excited about our new Interactive Mapping Services for hotels (hotelMASHUPS)!  What a great way to add value to your existing website in an economical way.  Simply put, our hotelMASHUPS service takes Google maps and overlays information which is vital to your online shoppers:

  • Corporate office locations
  • Airports & train stations
  • Local attractions
  • Theme parks
  • Golf courses
  • Theaters
  • Shopping Centers
  • More…

hotelMASHUPS also creates an opportunity for your hotel to create it’s own affiliate network.  Now you can partner with a local attraction and place them on your interactive map in exchange for a link to your site from their site! 

Plus all our interactive maps are search engine optimized to help increase your search engine rankings on Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL and other engines.

Please contact Richard Walsh, our Vice President of Business Development for more information.  He can be reached at rjwalsh@lodginginteractive.com.

So MASH IT UP!  Click here to see a sample.

Three Steps to An Internet Plan

Step One – Analyze your website or research creating a one if you don’t have one. In the hotel industry, the big question facing the brand hotels, who comprise 70% of all hotels in North America, is whether or not to invest in a Vanity Website. The brand website is supposed to solve their Internet marketing issues and deliver a positive ROI.

The problem with this thinking is that the majority of shoppers search for a hotel or resort based on location and price, not the brand name. To find a hotel based on anything other than brand name requires the shopper go to a 3rd party vendor like Expedia.com or to a search engine. The more shoppers you can attract through the search engines the better your yield per guest. Your website is your point of sale. It is the lobby of your hotel and your Internet booking link or engine is your front desk. Keep the lobby clean and the front desk open.

Step Two – Figure out who is really your market; business, leisure, group, meetings, seniors/AARP, AAA, government per diem, transient. Know how that market books; via travel agents, corporate travel system; what Internet channels or by phone.

Now, what is your value proposition for your major markets? I think you can assume, since the Internet affects more than half of all hotel bookings, that an Internet plan will affect your success. So what is your value proposition and how do you target your top three market segments online? What Internet tools and services enable you to target your guest segments? Don’t worry about the cost of these services yet, that is a budget issue. What is the benefit or value of your hotel or resort? If your audience is upscale you want to be linked to or advertising on upscale sites; golf, tennis, weddings or local events. If your hotel or resort’s value is location that is what you advertise and especially optimize on the search engines. And, make sure your optimization is about your location in as many ways as possible.

Step Three – Now that you have your Internet marketing wish list with monthly and annual costs you need to calculate what percentage these costs represent of last year’s REVPAR. What percentage of your room sales comes from the Internet? With no increase over last year what percentage of your revenue will go for marketing, then what percent of that will go for Internet marketing. If your average occupancy is 70% and your total marketing budget is $200,000 and 25% of your occupancy currently comes from Internet channels and you goal for the year is to grow your overall occupancy while increasing the share of Internet sales at a higher ROI per room night, you need to take these three steps. As you create develop your budget for advertising channels, link affiliation, search optimization, new website features, web pages directing shoppers to your brand pages and online affiliations, you make sure each of these costs are accountable and measured each month. That is why it is a budget, it will change and you need to change quickly. Raising it when a marketing method works and shifting funds when something is not working. If the service requires a one year contract make damn sure you are getting reports to show its success and if you are not sure try phasing the service in with a low end service to see how it will work for you.

Once you have taken your steps; your lobby is beautiful, your front desk and cash register are operating and you know what expenses and income to expect sit back and hope the economy and world situation stays the same at least for the next year.

Where Does the Marketing Stop and the Point of Sale begin?

The worldwide web is your best sales source! What does that mean? It should mean more sales at your best yield per sale ROI per sale. Your website is your Internet point of sale and the Internet brings you a global buyer market that can be targeted, contacted and convinced effectively.

 

There is a plethora of data on how consumers shop and buy online. This information can help you make the right decision on where you need to be online and what to expect from your investments. It is also easier to track online visitor activities and most important their purchases.

 

So the bottom line is all about knowing what online marketing opportunities exist, what ROI to expect and how to measure your results. With this said, when you have made your marketing decisions it is important to keep your lobby door open and someone at the cash register, this is your website. Your site has to contain good photos, informative text and easy navigation to get to and conclude a sale. Compare your site to your competition and look at other website and ask those companies what is working. 

 

It is most important that you are able to track your shopper once they enter your website and to track whether they booked or not. Then, given the correct data, you can research why they did not book. Was it rate, room type, location or something they saw on the website or didn’t see.  This is where you turn the marketing research into a sale.

Are we ready for PRE PAID Hotel Bookings

Recently, Air Canada launched the ability for passengers to buy pre-paid travel passes in advance for future travel on the carrier.  Their plan allows consumers to buy a set number of flights for a fixed price.  The intent of course is to take their loyalty program to the next level.  Think about this, IBM prepaying for 1,000 flights in order to gain a financial discount.  This is good for IBM as well as ensures loyalty for Air Canada.

Now think about how this can effect the lodging industry!  Would you offer your best corporate clients the ability to buy – upfront – a set number of room nights for future stays.  Great for building guest loyalty!

Click here to get the full story.

Search Engine Marketing Cost Management

"Internet use as a means to research and to book travel will continue
to trend-up as technology and users become more sophisticated.
Competition will increase and companies that are able to invest in
travel research and booking feature improvements, targeted promotions
and robust CRM programs will reap the greatest benefits." This
statement is an extract from a report provided by the company; Research
and Markets. This same report projects that 30% of all travel bookings
originate on the Internet.

Click here to read more…

Search Engine Marketing Competitive Analysis Methods

One of the best ways in which to propel your own search engine
marketing (SEM) program is to spend your time properly researching what
your competitive set might be doing with SEM. While there are many ways
to evaluate your competitive landscape, we have amassed a few tools to
help you get on your way. These tools will provide insight into how
well your competitive set is positioned and how to beat them by being
smarter about SEM.

Click here to read more…