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Lodging Interactive Named Among the ‘Best Interactive Agencies Worldwide’

Lodging Interactive was recognized as one of "the best interactive agencies, designers and creators worldwide" for its creative excellence in website design by the International Academy of the Visual Arts. Last week, the full-service digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry was presented with three 2013 W3 Silver Awards in both the Hotel & Lodging and Travel categories, one for Green Mountain Inn, and two for Lakeway Resort and Spa. Also in September, Lodging Interactive earned a Gold Magellan Award from Travel Weekly also for the Green Mountain Inn product.

“On behalf of the more than 500 members of The International Academy of the Visual Arts, we are honored to recognize our winners as they continue to set a high standard of excellence for Web development," said IAVA Director Linda Day. "We were amazed at the caliber and quality of work we received this year.  Our winners continue to push the envelope of Internet creativity and web design, and it is gratifying to see such great work from the smallest agencies to the biggest firms.”

Green Mountain Inn and Lakeway Resort and Spa websites were chosen from among 4,000 entries. The W³ Awards honors creative excellence on the Web, and recognizes the creative and marketing professionals behind award winning Websites, Web Video and Online Marketing programs. The W3 Awards is sanctioned and judged by the IAVA, an invitation-only body consisting of top-tier professionals from a "Who's Who" of acclaimed media, advertising, and marketing firms. 

"We are delighted to have been recognized once again by the IAVA for our team's talent in designing websites that drive business," said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive founder and president. "The competition among full-service agencies is getting harder and harder every year. That pushes specialized digital marketing agencies such as ours to work even harder to develop online marketing programs and products that make our customers stand head and shoulders above the rest. To have been selected from among a group of some of the biggest the Fortune 500 agencies and international organizations is truly a testimony to our skill and commitment to customers.

"Lodging Interactive consistently wins awards because we consistently develop the latest website management tools to maximize results," Vallauri said. "Website design is just one piece of the puzzle. We combine our design expertise with a unique ability to manage website content, guest reviews, and our customers' overall online reputations. It is this full-service approach to online marketing that makes our customers' websites stand out and achieve maximum optimization."

Since 2001, Lodging Interactive has provided more than 650 hotels, resorts, spas and restaurants in more than 35 countries with proven ROI-driven online marketing services, including: website design and development, search engine marketing, social media marketing, and online reputation management. The full-service agency also has developed website management tools for optimizing search, maximizing bookings and protecting each hotel's online reputation.

Report Shows Trust in Hotel Online Reviews is On the Rise

A June 2013 Local Consumer Review Study reveals that 79 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Findings from the study suggest "more consumers are reading reviews as part of their pre-purchase research before selecting a local business to use. They are forming opinions faster and needing to read fewer reviews before they trust (or don’t trust) a local business. This puts increased emphasis on local businesses to manage their online reputation closely and ensure that any negative reviews are dealt with in a swift and positive way." As hoteliers budget for 2014, it's clear that guest reviews need to become part of their online marketing strategies. Hotels with limited staff and financial resources to manage the feedback process can easily afford adding the Guest Review System from Lodging Interactive.

"What this data shows us is that travelers are diligently seeking out online reviews before they make any purchasing decisions," said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive Founder and President. "This validates why hoteliers — especially those operating independent properties — should be adding online guest reviews to their websites. If resources are lacking, both in staffing and finances, the Lodging Interactive Guest Review System is an ideal option.

"Our Guest Review System is a web-based tool that is successfully helping hotels verify, review and display customer comments directly on their hotel websites," Vallauri said. "By allowing management to respond to comments in real time — or outsourcing that task to Lodging Interactive — hotels are improving two-way hotel-to-guest communications and boosting guest retention and loyalty."

Lodging Interactive is a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. The company's Guest Review System dispatches real-time alerts to hotel managers advising when pending guest reviews pop up. This eliminates delays in addressing concerns and turns potential problems into new opportunities. The system also stops fake reviews posted by competitors or dishonest guests looking for refunds, helping hotels to maintain their reputations. In addition, directing guests to the hotel's website to post comments and reviews keeps them from being redirected to an OTA where they will never come back to book direct.

Social Media Benefits
"The Lodging Interactive Guest Review System is also proving to be a valuable part of a hotel's social media marketing initiative," Vallauri said. "Travelers can share their reviews on Facebook with their network of friends, opening up avenues to new booking audiences, and again, more revenues. Lodging Interactive's Facebook Widget links comments from the hotel's website to its Facebook page in real time. This enables potential guests to read guest reviews on Facebook and enables past guests to leave reviews directly on Facebook as well. Leveraging social media as a communications platform for guest reviews is a natural extension for Lodging Interactive's solution. Better yet, there is no additional cost to implement the Guest Review System on Facebook and our team will even handle the set up for the hotel.”

According to the latest Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising report, which surveyed more than 28,000 Internet respondents in 56 countries, 92 percent of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising. Nearly six-in-10 global online consumers (58 percent) trust messages found on company websites, and half trust email messages that they signed up to receive.

If your hotel is lacking a guest review program or the resources to manage the one you already have, call Lodging Interactive at 877-291-4411 ext 701 or visit  www.GuestReviewSystem.com. The Company offers a 10 day FREE trial of its Guest Review System and no credit card is required.

eNewsletters Proving to be Very Effective for Hotels

While fax machines and snail mail have entered into the "here today, gone tomorrow" category, email newsletters continue to serve as a cost-effective way for hoteliers to provide content and offers that guests will find informative and inviting. Although social Media channels are fast-becoming the preferred eMarketing method for communicating with consumers, 68 percent of marketers agree that eNewsletters are the top email messages, which help to achieve their business goals (Direct Marketing Association National Client Email Report 2013).  Lodging Interactive, a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry, has recently developed a Fully Managed eNewsletter Service for hotel marketers with limited resources.

"Hoteliers understand the importance of sending out email newsletters, but finding the time to develop fresh, interesting, and relevant content, is not easy," said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive Founder and President. "We often hear complaints that hotel marketers are scrambling to compile content just moments before deadline, grabbing at last minute news and information, and creating special offers or promotions on the fly just so they have something to promote. Not only is this practice not effective, but it can negatively impact the hotel or its brand marketing message. To be effective, an email newsletter campaign needs to be planned and focused.

"Lodging Interactive has developed an eNewsletter service for hotels that uses professional copywriting, creative design, email list management, distribution and analytics reporting to keep email subscribers opted in, interested and excited," he said. "As a fully managed service, we use our team of skilled bloggers and copywriters to create a dynamic monthly eNewsletter on behalf of the hotel containing inviting content that past, present and prospective customers will look forward to receiving. A carefully crafted monthly eNewsletter that contains consistent messaging will help build loyalty and revenues."

The Lodging Interactive Fully Managed eNewsletter Service includes:

• Email signup widget placed on the hotel's website to build their list
• Email list management of unsubscribe requests and de-duping
• Uploading and cleansing of the hotel's existing email list
• Creative design and development of the eNewsletter
• All copywriting and editing
• Hotel approval of all eNewsletter drafts prior to sending
• Sending of the eNewsletter to the hotel's email lists
• 24/7/365 web-based email performance reporting portal

Fully-Managed Service
The Lodging Interactive eNewsletter service uploads the hotel's email database into its proprietary servers. The entire process is managed on the hotel's behalf, from content creation to distribution. Lodging Interactive also provides data analytics that hoteliers can use to determine the effectiveness of the eNewsletter program. Data, such as the number of eNewsletters sent and opened, the number of click-throughs on embedded links, the number of people who shared the eNewsletter with someone else, and where it was shared on the social channels, such as Facebook or Twitter, will be provided in the analytical report.

"Outsourcing the hotel's email newsletter process to Lodging Interactive is the easiest and most professional way to enlist a professionally managed eMail marketing campaign that mirrors the hotel's website and brand imaging," Vallauri said. "Plus, it's being produced, distributed and managed by a team of highly skilled online content experts who are vested in the hospitality industry. Hotels that are struggling to keep up with their eMarketing initiatives will do well by working with an award-winning team who will lead the way."

Budgeting for 2014? Remember Reputation Management Plus Social Media / Web / Mobile Marketing

If there is one thing hoteliers can't forget to budget for in 2014, it is digital marketing. Keeping website and mobile web content fresh, scrutinizing the property's reputation via the web and social media channels, plus responding to guest reviews is critical for operational success and true customer-relationship management. The good news is that hoteliers can count on the fully managed digital marketing programs and expertise offered by Lodging Interactive and it’s social media marketing agency, CoMMingle.

"'It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.' Hoteliers need to heed this advise [offered by one of the world's most savvy and successful businessmen, Warren Buffett], especially in today's digital marketing age," said DJ Vallauri, Founder and President of Lodging Interactive, an award winning full-service digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. "Many hoteliers are already finding it hard to keep up with managing content on Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube. Throw in rapidly growing channels Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and others, and marketers are realizing they’re going to need help in order to be effective. The same is true for responding to online guest reviews and managing a hotel’s online reputation. If any of these digital marketing touch points are not being properly orchestrated, the hotel's reputation and revenues will be negatively effected.

"The most cost-effective and productive way to manage and maintain a robust digital marketing program is to work in partnership with an experienced digital marketing agency, and one that is exclusively serving the hospitality industry," Vallauri said. "Budgeting for digital marketing today — including inflation for pay-per-click programs costs — will ensure success in 2014 and beyond."

Lodging Interactive has identified six must-haves that hoteliers need to build into their budgets for 2014 for an effective digital marketing campaign:

1. Staffing to set-up and maintain a Google+ page. Not only do marketers need staff to support a G+ page, but they need to budget sufficient time for staff to engage with the hotel's target audience and support ongoing conversations. Today, two-way communication via Facebook and Twitter pages is not enough. The name of the game in 2014 is aggressive participation on Google’s social network, Google+.

2. Staffing resources to reply to all guest reviews on top travel review sites and social networks. Whether a review is positive or negative, it requires a response. For many properties this can be a full time job. Think of the service as a way to reach the next potential guest who is reading your reply.

3. Guest Review Widget deployment on the hotel’s website, or vanity website if the hotel is branded.  Marketers need to provide guests with a place to leave reviews on their hotel's website, and not online travel agent (OTA’s) sites. By implementing such a tool, hotels are removing OTA's from the equation and taking ownership of the guest-communication process and reducing their contribution of lower rated net rate business.

4. Streamlined mobile website exclusive for smartphone users. Forget about a 75-page responsive design . . . placing too much content on a mobile website can be more of a traveler deterrent rather than an incentive to book or buy. Hotels must have a dedicated mobile website that delivers a dynamic and streamlined user experience regardless of mobile device.  Remember, mobile is about speed and efficiency. 

5. Website redesign. Last year's website is obsolete. Ensure your website has been re-designed to leverage large photography – consumers have larger PC screens than ever and expect to see stunning visuals on your website.  Every hotelier should budget for new photography and re-designing of their existing website.

6. Inflated Pay-per-click Advertising. If your hotel has not increased its pay-per-click advertising budget in the last year of so, you had better do so for 2014. Year over year, travel related PPC costs have increased and there is now more competition than there used to be. The end result, the cost per clicks are increasing and hoteliers need to keep up.

"Hotel owners and marketers must consider adding each of these six line items to their 2014 budgets in order to be competitive, Vallauri said. “Lodging Interactive can provide hoteliers with guidance and support in all the areas mentioned and ensure properties remain competitive and maximize their online revenues in 2014.”

Fully Managed Social Media Marketing
Like Lodging Interactive, CoMMingle can also provide services above and beyond what hotels can provide themselves, especially in the area of social media monitoring and reputation management.

"Hoteliers typically can't afford to have internal, full-time social media watch dogs on staff, so CoMMingle will provide due diligence on their behalf," said Rosella Virdo, Director of CoMMingle Social Media Marketing. "CoMMingle will cost-effectively monitor conversations and post replies on the hotel's behalf. In addition, we can set up a Google+ page if needed and maintain weekly postings on the page; create a Pinterest hotel account, relevant pin boards, and then pin images weekly to the boards; establish and manage a customized blog focused on promoting local demand drivers and, create additional apps for the property — above and beyond what is presently being managed by the hotel. CoMMingle will even go a step further and assist hotels that don't have the time to post content consistently to Facebook and Twitter by posting content weekly on the hotel’s behalf. "

As hotels of all sizes begin the arduous 2014 budgeting process, it's imperative that digital marketing and its many nuances don't get overlooked. If they do, the hotel's or brand's online reputation can suffer. Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle have the human resources and expertise on hand to cost-effectively maximize exposure and credibility to both loyal and prospective customers.

Hotels Looking to Heighten SEO and SMO Need to Engage with SoLoMo

Just when you thought you knew every possible acronym for hotel technology, a slew of new social media terms emerged, many of which are as important to learn as they are critical to implement for business success. Topping the list is SoLoMo, the convergence of Social, Local and Mobile strategies that is dramatically changing the way that businesses and consumers communicate. Lodging Interactive, and its outsourced social media marketing agency CoMMingle, are fluent in speaking the SoLoMo language, and together they are helping hotels improve conversations with global guests across the social, local and mobile channels to tap new revenue streams and target new customers.

"eMarketing today is an art, especially in a SoLoMo environment," said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive founder and president. "The Internet, smartphones and social channels have made it possible for even the smallest hotel to share its messaging with the world with just a click or a touch. While the process sounds simple, the intricacies of SoLoMo marketing are quite complex. Which social media channels are the most effective to reach the right audience? When is the right time to push local offers and to whom? How do you manipulate web content for mobile devices and get users to engage with the offers being made? Who is monitoring the various SoLoMo conversations to protect the hotel's reputation? Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle have the time and the talent to address those questions and many more."

Lodging Interactive is an award winning full-service digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. The company provides ROI-driven online marketing services, including: website design and development, search engine marketing, social media marketing, and online reputation management. CoMMingle manages hotels' use of social media channels, provides reputation and consumer sentiment monitoring, and social search engine optimization.  

The SoLoMo Connection
According to "Technopedia," SoLoMo is defined as: A more mobile-centric version of the addition of local entries to search engine results. SoLoMo emerged as a result of the growing popularity of smartphones, and provides greater local precision to search engine results than what's available via a PC.

Consider this:

• More Internet access occurs through mobile devices than by laptop or desktop (Expedia)
• Two-thirds of Americans sleep with their mobile device in range (Expedia)
• Current number of bookings via mobile device is about 16 million, and it's expected to double by 2016 (Expedia)
• 97% of consumers now search for local businesses online (Eventility)
• 72% of consumers consider online reviews trustworthy (Eventility)
• 61% of Millennials reference social media when deciding where to go out (Eventility)
• 78% of small businesses now get at least a quarter of their new customers through social media (Eventility)

"Hoteliers can't turn their backs on these who are searching for the very services they offer," Vallauri said. "It's time to grab consumers' attention . . . and those consumers will tell their friends, and so on. The convergence of social, local, and mobile channels is key to how hoteliers can effectively communicate with guests, and how travelers willingly engage in return with hotels. Social addresses 'where' travelers share their hotel experience; Mobile is 'how' they send and receive information with the hotel; and Local speaks to the immediate environment or 'when' travelers can receive the best offers at the best rates for the best experience. When hotels harness the power of the SoLoMo initiative, it enables them to stay hyper-connected with their guests like never before."

Finding the expertise at the property level to launch a strong SoLoMo strategy is challenging, and being able to analyze its effectiveness once it goes live is equally as difficult. Next-generation hotels need to engage with guests socially via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, etc. They must respond to online reviews . . . provide locally-meaningful content and offers . . . and manage that data to ensure that it is relevant to each audience on each channel. Having the staff and expertise to make all this happen is even more challenging. This where Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle can be a valuable resource.

"With SoLoMo becoming such an integral part of consumers' global travel habits, hotels are struggling with finding the internal resources to manage social networks and establish effective social media marketing campaigns," said Rosella Virdo, Director of CoMMingle Social Media Marketing. "Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle will assist hotels by engaging online with social media strategic planning, growing and managing social media channels, word-of-mouth marketing and experiential marketing, reputation and consumer sentiment monitoring, and social search engine optimization.

"We monitor content and keep conversations going," she said. "We become the eyes and ears of the hotel, monitoring conversations and posting instant replies if desired. We also serve as an extension of a hotel's Public Relations and Marketing teams, and as a consultant to its customers, advising hotels how to deal with social media reviews and giving them tools to manage their social presence effectively. The bottom line is that hotels need to tap into their customers, and having properly managed social, local and mobile profiles will keep them coming back and growing revenues while you are growing loyalty."

SoLoMo Portfolio
Leveraging a team of more than 50 highly skilled online content experts, Lodging Interactive offers the following services that work together or independently to support a hotel's SoLoMo campaign:

• Website design and management
• Hotel reservation services
• Social media marketing
• Reputation management
• Email newsletter marketing
• Guest review system
• Video production
• Strategic marketing
• Advertising agency services
• Measurement and accountability

"There is no time like the present to begin leveraging the power of SoLoMo," Vallauri said. "Hoteliers that don't know where or how to begin can tap the expertise of the Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle teams to receive a customized strategy for each property backed by superior customer service.”

Lodging Interactive’s Top 5 Budget Items for 2013

As the dreaded budget season draws near, hoteliers need to place a more strategic focus on digital marketing for 2013, especially when it comes to their social, local and mobile marketing efforts. Lodging Interactive and its subsidiary CoMMingle have identified five digital marketing must-haves to add to the budget in order to remain competitive in 2013, especially today's price-conscious mid-size and independent properties.

Lodging Interactive is an award-winning, interactive and social media marketing agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. CoMMingle by Lodging Interactive is an outsourced social media marketing agency that develops customized solutions for hospitality entities. Together, the companies have identified the following top five ways for hoteliers to interact with their guests and prospects and better grow and manage their use of online marketing and social media channels for 2013 and beyond:

1. Keep Your Hotel’s Website "Fresh":  Just because a hotel updates or makes corrections to its webpage doesn't automatically make it "fresh." Hotels need to continually add new photos to make the website more visually appealing. New content also needs to continually be added, such as press releases and blogs that also can be linked to the various social media channels to ensure more chatter and visibility. Finally, there needs to be accountability to ensure that the web page is meeting goals and reaching its attended audience.

All these things can be accomplished easily and affordably in 2013 via Lodging Interactive's Hotel Website Solutions program. By adopting Hotel Website Solutions, hoteliers can refresh their web site every two years, at no additional cost. Included in the package is:

• RFPLink group lead capture and reporting
• Online analytical reporting
• Homepage call-to-action tile images
• Website Hosting and Server Management
• Robust Content Management, and
• Guest Review System at no additional cost.

2. Take Control Of Your Hotel’s Guest Reviews: It's a known fact that hotels are dependent on reviews and that travelers will seek online reviews just prior to making their online reservations. Knowing if a review is legitimate is confusing for travelers, but knowing how to best manage guest reviews is even more perplexing for managers. Lodging Interactive has designed a way to simplify the guest review process. The company's Guest Review System offers a turn-key system that enables a hotel's proprietary website with the ability for travelers to post reviews and score their hotel experiences based on service attributes. Hotel managers receive real-time alerts advising when pending guest reviews pop up, eliminating delays in addressing concerns and turning potential problems into new opportunities.

In addition, Lodging Interactive's Guest Review System keeps guests on the hotel's website and turns lookers into bookers at higher hotel rates when compared to the OTA’s. Hotels risk losing website visitors if those potential bookers are forced to leave the website in search of guest reviews on third party websites such as Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia or Hotels.com that sell rooms purchased from hotels on a net rate model. Once gone, they may never come back.

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. This empowers hoteliers to interact personally with their most valued direct customers. When guests take the time to post their experiences, their time, effort and patronage should be recognized and rewarded with an immediate reply. The Guest Review System alerts management in real time when reviews are posted. This ensures that there are no delays in communication, and the appropriate staff can immediately fix any pending problems before the customer leaves the property.

3. Mobile Marketing: Industry analysts predict that the mobile web will be more far reaching than desktop Internet use by 2015. Therefore there's no time like the present to jump on the mobile bandwagon and start reaching mobile savvy travelers via the channels and devices they depend on daily. With a mobile website, hotels can offer mobile users a dynamic and streamlined user experience regardless of mobile device.

Lodging Interactive provides FREE Mobile Website Development to all new customers contracting full agency services. Any hotel company partnering with Lodging Interactive for website design and development, search engine marketing, social media marketing, and online reputation management will receive a complimentary mobile webiste. Mobile pages can detail the property, including description of rooms, amenities, premise, packages, restaurants, spas, recreation facilities, loyalty programs and online reservations. Additional features may include mapping and directions, click-to-call functionality, photo gallery, embedded video capability, convention and/or meeting listings, social media links, guest reviews and more. Mobile website management and hosting also is provided by Lodging Interactive.

4. Social Media Monitoring & Management: Today hoteliers are getting comfortable with social media giants Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and You Tube. But new sites are emerging, such as Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and Wikipedia to name just a few that are making an equally big online marketing impact. It's critical that hotels are covered across all social media channels in order to be effective. The problem is finding the internal resources to manage social networks and establishing effective social media marketing campaigns. CoMMingle will assist hotels in engaging online with social media strategic planning, growing and managing social media channels, word-of-mouth marketing and experiential marketing, reputation and consumer sentiment monitoring, and social search engine optimization.

Hotels that can't afford to have an internal, full-time social media watch dog can now cost-effectively budget the services of Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle in 2013 to become the eyes and ears of the hotel, monitoring conversations and posting replies if desired. CoMMingle will work with hotels to initially establish, then manage on an ongoing basis, the following social networks & engagement channels:

• Google+ Business Page – CoMMingle will set up the page if needed and maintain weekly postings on the page. 
• Pinterest – CoMMingle will create a Pinterest hotel account, relevant pin boards, and then pin images weekly to the boards. CoMMingle will also monitor and engage with consumers as needed.
• Facebook – CoMMingle will create additional apps for the property, above and beyond what is presently being managed by the hotel.
• Ongoing Facebook & Twitter postings – CoMMingle will go a step further and assist hotels that don't have the time to post content consistently to Facebook and Twitter by posting content weekly on the hotel’s behalf.
• Wikipedia – CoMMingle will set up a Wikipedia listing if one does not exist and create social links. CoMMingle will also monitor the Wikipedia listing quarterly and check content for accuracy.

5. Reputation Management: Hotels of all sizes have begun to add social media technologies that monitor a hotel's or brand's online reputation, but unless those tools are being maximized, reputations and business practices can still suffer. Lodging Interactive believes that it takes people, in addition to technologies, to make reputation management effective. That's why Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle have teamed up with leading hospitality reputation-management companies to supplement their technology applications whereby CoMMingle provides the human resources necessary to answer guest reviews and manage guest responses on behalf of the hotel.

Hotels using solutions from companies such as Revinate can outsource the social media monitoring and guest review response portion to Lodging Interactive. Logging in as the hotel, the CoMMingle team will reply to guest reviews accordingly, always keeping the hotel apprised of comments and alerting it to concerns.

2013 Bonus Tips:
In addition to Lodging Interactive's top 5 budget recommendations, here are other items every hotelier should plan for in 2013:

1. Quarterly landing pages to promote seasonal activities through the website.  When properly keyword optimized landing pages provide fresh, relevant content for search engines and website visitors.
2. Facebook applications development to leverage a hotel’s website promotions on the largest social media engagement channel.
3. Create independent videos for the promotion of hotel meeting space and packages, weddings and other social events.  Once created, optimize them and host them on YouTube.
4. Consistent email marketing programs targeting travel agents and meeting planners.  Email marketing remains very effective and every hotel website should maintain it’s own email capture widget.