Posted in Hotel Online Marketing on July 18, 2012 by Ashley Stevens
As hoteliers, you've all been there: a group cancels at the last minute and you’re stuck with an excess of empty rooms. As the Director of Sales of a hotel, you’re scrambling to get guests into your hotel that same night but have little time to coordinate a huge occupancy push. It’s happened before and will likely happen again. But never fear! Next time, just turn to your online channel to drive some last-minute occupancy. Below are three easy ways to get some heads in your beds when you need them most.
1. Social Media Promotions
Start planning today--even when you don’t have the dire need for last-minute rooms--by creating an exclusive rate for social media channels. Next time you need last-minute rooms, open this rate to your guests and share an announcement of the rate via social media. You can work with your social media team to implement targeting strategies and focus on guests looking for same-night rooms via Facebook, Twitter and other social channels.
If you already have a large fan base on Facebook, create a post about the special rate and ask your fans to share the post to help spread the word. Be clear with your message: your hotel is offering discounted rooms and you should be sure people understand this is a “one night only” type offer. Also, you should make your content something your fans would want to share. Post a picture of your most beautiful room or best hotel photo and encourage people to like the post if they like the photo. In addition, you should ask your fans to share the post. This will increase your “people talking about this” score and get your rates in front of more potential guests.
Blue Magnet has seen great success sharing deals & discounted rates on Twitter because of its open and searchable platform. By using hashtags like #cheaphotel or #sale in addition to a hashtag for the city name (ie, #chicago), you can reach a much broader audience. The best news is that these tweeters are already looking for deals in your city so they’re likely to click through to your website and ideally book.
2. Same Day Sales
While some brands are shying away from using OTA sites for typical bookings due to high margins and decreased ADRs, many hoteliers agree OTA sites are still useful for gaining last minute occupancy. By running sales with your OTA of choice, you can see loads of extra exposure with very minimal management of the promotion. Not only that, but you get the added benefit of the billboard effect and its impact on future bookings.
As soon as you realize you may be desperate for same-night bookings, the first thing you should do is call your OTA market manager or online marketing manager. Explain that you are looking to drive occupancy for the same night. Most likely he or she will recommend you set up a same day sale and discount your rate.
Since same day sales run the same day as the booking, these deep discounted rooms don’t violate brands’ best rate guarantees. In fact, you could discount your room as much as you’d like and not have to worry about rate parity if the booking and stay are within 24 hours of each other. (This is true for most brands in the Blue Magnet client base, but please be sure to check with your brand performance team before assuming this is the same for your brand.)
Blue Magnet has also seen success with negotiating margins on top of using the one-day sales. For example, if we put together a same day sale on Expedia we typically commit to giving Expedia a slightly higher margin for the need date. Expedia sees this as a benefit and will temporarily bump your hotel up in the search rankings, thereby giving you even more exposure.
3. Expedia Travel Ads
This is another strategy where you’ll need to do some prep work ahead of time in order to execute during your last-minute need periods. Even if you have a full house tonight, contact Expedia Market Management (MM@Expedia.com) or your local area’s market manager and ask for details about signing up for TravelAds. Expedia Travel Ads are a budget-friendly way to pay for better rankings in Expedia.
In order to set up the ads, you hotel will have to buy into at least $250 worth of ads if you pay with a credit card or $500 worth of ads if you would like to be invoiced directly. Keep in mind that once you invest this money, it’s yours to spend as you’d like; you can spend until it runs out or pause it and use it specifically for need periods.
Once you set up your ads, be sure you start to target specific date ranges. If you need the rooms tonight, you can target guests searching for a hotel the same night. You can target only tonight, specific date ranges or general searches. Blue Magnet finds the most success for its hotels by targeting searches for specific need dates when our hotels need the rooms and are willing to pay the margins to the OTA for room nights.
If you know your hotel ranks poorly for organic searches in your market on Expedia, you may decide to use these ads more than just for need periods. (Secret tip: Tell your market manager to keep you in the loop for sales on ads - sometimes Expedia will offer deals on money for ads!) Otherwise, keep the money reserved for a day when you’ll truly need it, and you’ll be happy you planned ahead.
Be Prepared: Plan Your Strategies Today
Use the strategies above to help you gain last-minute bookings at your property. Whether a group cancels at the last minute or your forecast shows that you're heading into a high need period, plan ahead and take advantage of your online opportunities; you'll gain some extra room nights and look like the hero to your sales team! For even more ideas, contact your online marketing manager; he or she should have an arsenal of strategies on hand to drive incremental bookings at the drop of a hat.
Posted in Hotel Online Marketing on July 16, 2012 by Katharyn Molinaro
All hotels have the generic romance package and Stay For Breakfast special, but are your hotel's specials and offers elevating your property and setting yourself apart from the rest? Not only can hoteliers use specials and packages to capture the local flavor and personality of the market, but they can also use offers to target the hotel’s specific goals, strengths, weaknesses and needs.
Know Your Traveler
Does your hotel naturally attract business travelers, leisure travelers, or a pretty even balance of both? Do you tend to have families or more couples looking to get away? Knowing your traveler profile will help define weak spots, allowing you to better craft your offers.
What does your traveler want?
If your top feeder markets are all within driving distance, there is a good chance your visitors would be interested and thankful for complimentary parking. Trying to obtain more business visitors? Make sure that your Business Package, complete with complimentary wireless internet and shuttle service, is easily visible on your site.
For leisure travelers, dig a bit deeper. Are your leisure travelers families or couples? Couples may be intrigued by happy hour vouchers at the bar, while families are more interested in a Kids Eat Free promotion or something to do around the city, like museum tickets for four. However, think honestly about what your travelers want; a package thrown together without much thought will look out of place and won’t sell successfully anyway. Look at your onsite amenities, local opportunities, and business partnerships to create packages that will actually sell and not just take up space on your Specials and Offers page.
Building relationships with travelers
If you are determining what your travelers truly want, it sounds like you are trying to build relationships with your travelers that will translate online and off! Certain specials should be designed to foster relationships with long-term stays and recurring travelers. If you are an airport hotel, or located near the airport, take advantage of the recurring business of airline personnel stays. Is your hotel all-suite with full-size kitchens? Be sure to target extended stay visitors and people in the process of relocation with extended stay specials. With a longer length of stay, your hotel not only has the opportunity to generate some good revenue, but your staff also has the chance to wow your guest repeatedly during his or her stay. These two examples are situations where value-add packages aren’t necessary, but having the special rate available opens up a great opportunity for building relationships for repeat and long-term customers.
Know Your Goals
While it is important to have specials beyond the generic romance package, adding specials just to have them on your site won’t do much for your hotel. What are your actual needs, and what goals do you hope to meet?
If you need to fill rooms but cannot discount BAR, you can still fashion a package that promotes the savings that your visitors will receive. Try a Free of Fees package. Valet parking and wireless internet can cost upwards of $50 these days, so offer a package to save your guests from all those fees that can really add up. A hotel credit can work the same way. Book one night and receive a $25 credit to be used at the hotel spa, restaurant, or bar? This not only generates more revenue within different departments of your property, but it also translates to guests as free credit that will help contribute to their vacation.
The Sunday struggle
Sundays can be slow at hotels, but that doesn’t mean that your property has to stay dead at the end of the weekend. Encourage guests to stay until Sunday with length-of-stay specials. For example, if guests stay Friday and Saturday, perhaps they receive Sunday’s stay at a nicely discounted rate. You can even tie in something seasonal or local. This year is Comic-Con’s 43rd annual convention in San Diego. If your San Diego property is trying to build longer lengths of stay, you could build a special that was “Book Friday and Saturday, Stay Sunday for $43 To Honor the 43rd Annual Comic-Con.” This can easily translate to all days of the week if you are trying to improve your length of stay in general as well.
To target Sundays, hotels can also try Sunday Staycations. Sunday may be empty at your hotel as visitors drive and fly back home, but why not attract the people who are already in your city. Staycations are growing in popularity since traveling can be expensive, and what is better than escaping from the normal Sunday routine of getting ready for the new week? Extend the weekend for locals with an ultimate Sunday Staycation, complete with dinner, spa credit, and anything else that would scream “escape” before the case-of-the-Mondays hits.
Does your Presidential Suite never sell? Create a package that is specific to your actual inventory weakness. By creating a focused package you can shape a special to sell the inventory that you truly need to sell. Tiered specials can work effectively in this instance as well. For example, create specific booking windows for your new Presidential Suite Special with particular discounts for each window. If a visitor books six weeks in advance, the discount is 30% off; one month prior gets a 20% discount; and lastly, two weeks prior only receives a 10% discount.
Selling Your Specials
Now that you have your offers all packaged up for success, now you need to actually sell them! While you can definitely market your specials and offline with on-property flyers, QR codes, and attractive hotel collateral, having a strong online presence with high visibility to your specials page is key.
Brand website, of course!
You do not want to take the time to create awesome packages and not upload them to the brand site and invalidate the Best Rate Guarantee. Make sure that your specials are easily visible on your official Brand website, both on your Specials page and in the Reservation system. If your brand site allows you to add banner ads, use some visually-captivating and relevant photography to create an ad to promote a specific offer.
OTAs, third parties and other relevant sites
Having listings on OTAs and other third party websites is crucial for having a strong online presence, so making your specials and offers present and visible on these channels is very important. Work with your hotel's online marketing managers to highlight your seasonal or local packages, and showcase your business-driven specials on business travel-targeted sites like CVENT and HotelPlanner.
With a TripAdvisor Business Listing, you can not only highlight a specific special, but also have a link to your brand site Specials and Offers page. In addition, it is important to utilize relevant sites and blogs that will find your specials interesting and beneficial to their visitors and readership. These sites and blogs will bring you quality visitors to your booking channel, so market towards your specific demographic or profile for which your specials are targeted.
Reach out to the local CVB site to see if they have extra exposure opportunities, and build relationships for niche partnerships. If you are building your pet-friendly special, search for pet-friendly travel sites that would be interested in linking back to you. Not only will it give you the extra exposure, but it will also provide some link building opportunities. Plus, you can always use your social media channels to promote your new and exciting packages.
Making Your Specials Special
By addressing your hotel needs and goals, shaping offers around them, and marketing them effectively across your online channels, you can get your visitors intrigued by the interesting things you're doing on property. Use these guidelines to help your hotel build successful promotions, thereby increasing exposure for your hotel and ultimately its occupancy and revenue!
Posted in Reputation Management on July 02, 2012 by Diana Friess
In an increasingly technologically savvy world, it has become second nature for both business and leisure travelers to turn to the internet to research for a hotel destination, whether through a search engine, social media channel, brand website or online travel agency. The internet has made it fast and easy to research properties, view photos, read traveler reviews, and compare rates from virtually anywhere--at desktop computer in their own home, on their mobile phone or on a laptop computer. With the increased availability and access to information, hotels are not the only ones controlling their brand image and the content available to travelers and consumers.
The growing sophistication of online marketing in the travel industry has created more sophisticated consumers, who cut through the hype and marketing provided by a hotel and seek out independent opinions and reviews as their most influential source of information. In a recent survey conducted by TripAdvisor and Forrester Consulting, 81% of travelers said reviews were important when deciding which hotel to book, and almost half said they wouldn't book a hotel unless it had reviews.
The relationship between OTAs, review sites and hotels has always been complicated, but with the proper knowledge and practices, the hotel and third party sites can grow to have a loving, successful relationship! A major part of regaining control of the content about your hotel and making a significant impact in the minds of travelers is to respond to the reviews that travelers have posted online, often known as reputation management.
Here are Blue Magnet's top tips on how to respond to online traveler reviews of all types--the good, the bad, and the ugly!
Until proven guilty, assume all reviews are real and true
Do your due diligence in investigating each review. If a guest review is negative, investigate the issues presented by the guest and take the necessary steps to get to the bottom of the issue. Look to see if the guest issued a complaint while on property and ask your Director of Operations if there have been any issues in any departments that could attribute to the review. There are going to be false and misleading reviews posted about your hotel, but it can only help your cause by taking the high road and treating these reviews as real. If you do discover that the review is false, be sure to report it to the site with all of your supporting information in order to have the review removed as soon as possible.
Take a deep breath before submitting a response
It is easy to get defensive about your property and the criticism that a reviewer posts publically. But remember, you are representing the hotel brand, the property and all of its employees. Your response should demonstrate that all feedback, both positive and negative, is important to you by being polite and professional.
The guest is always right...online
No matter how much you believe this to be true or false deep down in your gut, your public online response must address the needs and concerns of the guests first. For example, a guest writes a review that they were unable to control the temperature of their room because the directions on how to use the thermostat were hard to understand. If you were to look at the directions, as part of the hotel staff they might be clear to you since you are familiar with the thermostat system. However, the guest is always right and there is usually a kernel of truth to extract from their experience, which you can use to improve your product. Take the opportunities that guest reviews provide to reevaluate the issues that guests bring up to strengthen your property thus enhancing the guest experience.
The following steps will help hoteliers structure their property's online reviews and manage their online reputation more effectively:
According to TripAdvisor, 50 million travelers are utilizing the site every month, so it is crucial to your hotel business to be an active part of the online correspondence. Management responses give you the opportunity to engage with your past guests and market your property to future guests. Industry research shows that management responses are highly influential with travelers during the booking process. When an owner responds promptly and professionally to a review, addressing any specific complaints as well as the positive comments, it can make a big impact on prospective customers! While responding to reviews might seem like a trivial, grass-roots public relations effort, it does make a strong impression on travelers when it comes time for them to book.
Posted in Hotels on June 26, 2012 by Diana Friess
"In the United States alone, hotels represent more than 5 billion square feet of space, nearly 5 million guest rooms, and close to $4 billion in annual energy use. Business meetings in the United States constitute a $175 billion industry, and Americans make more than 400 million long-distance business trips each year." - United States Green Building Council
Take a look at those numbers and think about the environmental impacts of the hospitality and travel industry. All hotels, whether a big box hotel or a boutique hotel, have a considerable opportunity to lessen their carbon footprint and make a positive impact on the green movement. Each area of a hotel--guest rooms, event space, back of house operations and general facility use--have operations that can have negative environmental impacts. Energy and water efficiency, waste reduction and management, sustainable and local purchasing, and use of alternative transportation are all areas that offer opportunities for better cost efficiency and environmental efficiency. The most recent topic that has been considered in the green movement is the status of human health. Hotels can contribute to this cause by providing healthy, comfortable, and productive indoor environments with improved air quality, locally and organically grown food, access to daylight, and guest control of lighting and heating control in guest rooms.
In order to stand out in today's marketplace and in the hospitality industry, hotels can now attain a certification for their eco-friendly practices. As of today, the most prominent green building certification a business can achieve is a LEED-certification. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is an independent, non-profit, third-party rating system established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). By becoming a LEED-certified property, hotels provide numerous benefits for the environment. In turn, hotels reduce operating costs gained from energy efficient practices and utility cost savings, while also attracting a widely growing population of eco-conscious guests.
How can my hotel become LEED certified?
When it comes to achieving LEED certification, Kermit the Frog might have said it best back on the very first episode of Sesame Street when he sang, "It's not easy being green." He of course meant it in the literal sense, but this phrase has been used by some to describe the process of achieving environmentally-friendly certifications.
The LEED certification process can be tedious, time-consuming, and costly, but the benefits of this certification outweigh the costs tenfold when you look at the long term effects on the environment, the human health element, and your hotel's bottom line. Let's take a look at the steps towards becoming LEED certified:
Levels of LEED certification:
The LEED certifications depend on a 100-point scoring system. In order to attain the lowest level of certification a hotel must meet a minimum of 40 points. Whether you are building a brand new hotel from the ground up or are currently operating a full service hotel, LEED certifications are available for new construction or existing buildings. The four levels of certification based on the qualifying points of the 100-point scale are:
There are seven different categories in which your hotel has the opportunity to earn points. These categories are as follows:
What are the online benefits of LEED certification?
With more and more travelers booking their travel online, becoming LEED certified opens up numerous online marketing channels that can help book more business. Here is a list of the websites that list "green" hotels and provide links to your hotel's website:
Social media is also a great tool to use to engage with and find eco-friendly travelers that support the green movement. Find green businesses on both Facebook and Twitter. Some of the best Green organizations on Facebook are the U.S. Green Building Council, Earth Hour, Green Lodging News, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Participate in the Twitter hashtag #EcoMonday - it's a great way to get involved in green conversation and helps find eco-conscious travelers who might be looking to visit your city. Other green Twitter hashtags that are popular are #greentravel, #sustainability, #responsibletravel, #ecotourism, #ecotravel, #LEED, and #greenbldg. Writing a press release is also a good way to get the word out about your new LEED certification and all the environmentally friendly initiatives in which your hotel is involved.
Why should I strive to be a LEED-certified hotel?
LEED certification is fast becoming the standard in the hospitality industry. By focusing on environmentally friendly practices there are multiple benefits for both the hotel and guests. From cost savings to the positive publicity surrounding the green movement, a LEED certification can bring substantial business to your hotel. The Hotel & Conference Center Environmental Questionnaire located at the end of the Green Venue Selection Guide is a perfect tool to help you get started in the green certification process. This questionnaire can help you outline your property's progress on key environmental metrics in LEED certification. Check it out and get your hotel started on the path to LEED certification!
For more information visit: www.usgbc.org/hospitality
Posted in Hotel Online Marketing on June 04, 2012 by Kim Armour
What is a Business Listing?
TripAdvisor boasts 40 million monthly visitors. Knowing people consult TripAdvisor for recommendations from friends and strangers makes managing your hotel’s listing on the site a top priority. So when looking to make the most out of your TripAdvisor listing you may want to consider investing in a TripAdvisor Business Listing. The Business Listings are enhanced listings promoted on several pages within the review site. They offer more information to a searcher and ultimately make the booking process easier for the consumer.
The new components of a TripAdvisor Business Listing consist of:
Why should my hotel upgrade?
Purchasing the upgraded TripAdvisor listing will not affect your ranking on the site. Your hotel’s rank will still be determined by the standard TripAdvisor algorithm, which considers (among other things) the number of positive reviews, the recency of comments being made and the frequency of reviews left on your listing. The cost of the TripAdvisor Business Listing varies by hotel and is determined by location of the hotel and the number of rooms on property.
Already ranking well? Convert those lookers to bookers!
If your hotel is ranking near the top of the page you may find many benefits by upgrading to the Business Listing. Hotels near the top of the page receive the most visits and, in effect, convert the most bookings. Instead of referring all the traffic from your TripAdvisor Listing to an OTA like Expedia or Travelocity, direct all your traffic to your brand site instead. Lead people to book on your brand site and avoid paying the third party sites' commissions for your bookings.
Not ranking well? Get better exposure!
For hotels not ranking on the first page of results in their area, a Business Listing exposes the hotel on other pages of the site. TripAdvisor displays the hotels with Business Listings and their special offers at the top of the results page. So even if you aren’t ranking on the first page, you will at times appear at the top of the page along with your special offer.
In addition, hotels will also receive more exposure through TripAdvisors Special Offers emails. TripAdvisor emails members who are interested in travel to certain regions and includes special offers from hotels with Business Listings. The additional exposure via email and placement at top of page will drive more traffic to your listing that people wouldn’t have seen on the first page of search results. More traffic to your listing will result in more direct bookings, and your TripAdvisor audience will be all the more likely to leave a review after staying at your hotel. The more (hopefully positive) reviews will, in turn, help raise your ranking on TripAdvisor so your hotel will eventually rank on the first page of results organically.
Upgrading To A Business Listing
If you are looking for more results from TripAdvisor and have the budget to upgrade, then visit here to begin the process of creating your Business Listing. Then, continue to improve your listing on the site by following TripAdvisor best practices. With a little attention and some time your hotel will start ranking well in your city organically and your TripAdvisor Business Listing will have paid for itself!
Posted in Reputation Management on May 30, 2012 by Abby Heft
Google Alerts is a free tool that every hotel should be using to manage their online reputation and monitor the web presence of competitors at the most basic level. Essentially, Google Alerts notifies you via email any time Google discovers your hotel's name (or any search query you specify) within any webpages it crawls. We at Blue Magnet know the importance of managing a hotel's online reputation and Google Alerts is just one of the many tools we use.
When you set up a Google Alert, you are automatically notified when Google crawls new web content that matches a search term you select. For example, I have created a Google Alert for "Blue Magnet Interactive," which means that I receive an email notification every time Google finds a new mention of that search phrase ("Blue Magnet Interactive") anywhere on the web. This can include content from news, blogs, videos and discussion groups, letting me quickly monitor discussions or posts about Blue Magnet Interactive. This is a quick and easy way for hotels and other businesses to monitor the online gossip about their particular company.
How to Set Up a Google Alert in 3 Easy Steps
How Google Alerts Work for Hotels
There is no limit to the number of alerts you can set up. This free tool not only allows hotels to regularly monitor their own online reputation, but also helps keep hotels updated on their competitor's online presence. With competitor alerts, you can stay informed about new hotel specials in the area, competing hotel events or a wide range of guest reviews--and it all comes straight to your inbox!
Online reputation management for hotels is important and requires a strategic approach. Google Alerts isn't the only ingredient in our recipe for online success, but it's definitely a great jumping off point for hotels looking for simple (and free!) reputation management solutions!
Posted in Social Media on May 22, 2012 by Katharyn Molinaro
Following Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest is the third most popular social network, but have you been giving Pinterest the attention it deserves? As pin-tastic Abby Heft outlined in her post about how Pinterest works, Pinterest is a great way to present your property in a very visually captivating way, share travel and industry knowledge, and engage with your online community. Just as it applies to all other social networks, it's not enough to simply set up an account and then sit back and relax. You also have to ensure that the right audience discovers your account and that you regularly interact with that community. To get started, you're going to need to optimize your Pinterest account!
What’s In A Name?
Everything! Make sure to include crucial keywords in your Pinterest name, even if they aren’t in your official property name. For instance, DoubleTree by Hilton Seattle Airport’s Pinterest account looks great at first glance, but their name is missing one important word! If I were to search “Seattle hotel” to check out different properties on Pinterest, this hotel would not populate in its search results.
A main point in online strategies is to be easily found and highly visible; whether your goal is for search engines or TripAdvisor; the same should apply here. By including these small but crucial keywords into your account name, your Pinterest will be that much more visible and therefore effective. In addition, make sure to add your location (which can be found and updated when you select "Edit Profile"). Pinterest currently does not have a specific format for inputting your location, so you can also include indicator keywords such as Downtown Seattle, Washington versus Seattle, Washington or Seattle, WA.
Links on Pinterest are now nofollow, which means that the search engine power behind Pinterest links isn't passed back to your site. But just because you don’t get the link juice doesn’t mean you should disregard your backlinks. Make sure that your links are pointing to the correct pages so Pinterest users can easily find what they are looking for, make bookings, or pin other images onto their own boards from your site. In addition, be sure to add links to your Facebook and Twitter accounts from your Pinterest page so users can easily follow and connect with your other social media channels.
Beautify Your Boards
Just as having a visually captivating Facebook Timeline Cover Photo impacts users coming to your Facebook page, the same goes for Pinterest users coming to your page. Make sure that your page’s main image grabs users’ attention, and update your board covers to show off your best pinned images right from the get-go. Pinterest now allows you to choose and position your board covers so your page can have its best face forward.
Know Your Pinners
To keep up with the attention span of a pinner, you will need to update frequently to stay top of mind. Having your beautiful, visually appealing photos cycling through on your followers’ “Pinners You Follow” feeds is crucial for having your pinners visit your actual page, and for getting comments and repins. Additionally, keep in mind the pinner community and what pinners are generally interested in.
According to an RJ Metrics study, the top categories on Pinterest are Home, Arts and Crafts, Style and Fashion, and Food. Just because travel is on the lower end of the pinning spectrum, you can still use this channel to show off your hotel’s hip style, catering creations, and fashion-related images for the stylish jetsetter. Use these categories, create keyword strategies to target those pinners, and add targeted keyword hashtags into your pin descriptions for added exposure.
Pin For Engagement, Not Self Promotion
Of course you should pin your own photos that link users back to your website, but Pinterest users can easily become disinterested in your page and pins if they are always self-promoting. Include a board for area attractions, travel tips, and wedding inspirations to ensure that you are providing your Pinterest followers with useful, relevant, interesting content.
There's no denying the buzz around Pinterest and how it can work for your business, but because pinning can be so fun, it is easy to forget about optimization. Make sure to use our easy-to-follow steps to ensure that you are effectively reaching those millions of Pinterest users and engaging with them!
Posted in Hotel Online Marketing on May 14, 2012 by Ashley Stevens
According to a recent survey by the World Tourism Organization, there were over 940 million international tourist arrivals worldwide in 2011. Almost 60 million of those travelers are coming in to the United States. This presents a huge market that hotels in the US should be sure to target in any online sales strategy. International travelers tend to book early, stay longer, and rarely cancel, all attributes that make international travelers ideal candidates for staying at your hotel.
In order to reach these travelers as they start their online planning, your hotel must make a conscious effort to target them in the channels they use the most. Because these travelers are coming from countries around the world it's important to note that they're not always going to use the typical online travel planning sites that we use here in the US. Some travel websites do have a strong international presence, but other sites may be specific to individual countries, while having little to no presense in others. For instance, while Google is the dominant search engine in the US, the Chinese rely heavily on a local search provider known as Baidu for the lion's share of their search queries, despite Google also providing Chinese search results.
Below are some of the most budget-friendly and ROI-producing strategies for targeting international travelers online.
Long term strategies:
Short Term Strategies:
Of course, the best strategies for targeting international travelers depends on your hotels market and top international feeder markets. With the number of international travelers consistently increasing every year, international travelers are a market you want to be sure to reach no matter what your hotel's size or location.
Posted in Hotel Online Marketing on April 18, 2012 by Andrea Mann
A hotel's ultimate goal is to put heads in beds while increasing ADR, so it's not surprising that most hotels focus all of their online marketing budget and efforts on promoting the hotel's rooms, amenities and location. In regards to SEO, a hotel is typically concerned with website optimization, link building and OTA management, all of which ensure that the hotel is targeting the appropriate keywords and highlighting the best aspects of the hotel across all online channels. With so much emphasis on filling hotel rooms, hotel restaurants often get left in the dust. While you work towards increasing occupancy in your hotel restaurant, you will inadvertently market your hotel's guest rooms as well.
Follow these five extra tips to optimize your hotel restaurant's online presence to improve your restaurant occupancy as well as supplement your hotel's overall SEO strategy.
Creating inbound links to your hotel's website is vital for both SEO power and referral traffic, so why not build some links that highlight your onsite restaurant? There are several marketing opportunities for restaurants to list their address, phone number, hours, menu, photos, and of course, website!
Whether you choose to promote your official brand site or a custom, independent site, establishing a link to your dining page will benefit your hotel in more ways than one. Not only will you spread brand awareness to local folks who may not think to dine at a hotel restaurant, but you will also be creating a new online citation with a link!
Hate linkbuilding? Don't worry! Many of the sites that collect and share local restaurant information are user-generated, meaning you can manually upload and edit the information yourself rather than seeking out a third party website's IT guy. Create a login for the hotel and find the add venue, add menu, edit or claim button to submit your requests. Here are a few sites to get you started: Urbanspoon, Metromix, MenuPages and Yelp.
2. Local Listings
Hopefully, you have already grasped the importance of claiming and optimizing your hotel on the various local listing channels, such as Google Places, Bing Local, etc. Search engines are becoming more personalized, offering tailored search results that are narrowed down by your city or zip code; thus, it can be extremely beneficial to optimize and claim your hotel restaurant as a separate entity from your hotel.
Since your restaurant most likely uses the same address as your hotel, it is important to differentiate the restaurant listing slightly so that it is not considered a duplicate. For example, use the restaurant's direct phone line rather than the hotel's front desk number. Also, direct the website link to the interior dining page that offers the visitor relevant information rather than the hotel homepage.
Creating a business listing for your restaurant will allow you to target an entire range of new keywords, which will populate as a search result for people intending to find a bite to eat rather than a hotel room. This also gives your hotel a new platform for receiving and responding to reviews, opening up another channel of communication with customers. As Google is the biggest player in the game, start by making sure your Google Places restaurant listing is owner-verified and optimized, but also check out Yahoo! Local, Bing Business Portal and MQVibe, which is MapQuest's newest local business center.
Some of these local sites also give businesses the opportunity to create special offers. For instance, after claiming your Google Places listing you can craft a coupon to redeem special offers that will display prominently for viewers to see. Be creative (but follow Google's guidelines) and establish enticing offers. Try giving away something like one free dessert with the purchase of one entree or complimentary valet parking when you spend X amount. Also, make sure to include terms and conditions as you see fit!
3. Keyword Research & On-Page Optimization
Your hotel's website should already be optimized for the appropriate keywords that you have decided to target, but take that a step further and ensure that you are actively SEOing your dining page as well. Use Google's Keyword Tool to determine what restaurant keywords you might want to target and include them seamlessly throughout your copy. Check that your meta-title incorporates highly-searched city dining keywords too!
4. Social Media
Does your hotel restaurant feature special events periodically that might garner a following? Special happy hour deals? Live bands on Friday nights? Monthly wine tastings? If so, your restaurant may deserve its very own social media profile to showcase its personality.
While managing two separate pages can create a bit more effort on your part, it may be worth it since it can actually extend your fan base. Your restaurant will likely target a more local or regional market whereas your hotel's official Facebook page will appeal to a much wider audience. To make it easier to manage, set up the two unique Facebook pages under the same Facebook account so you can easily switch back and forth to scour your newsfeed and review your analytics. Post high-quality pictures of your best dishes with detailed captions, boast about your exceptional cocktails, announce your daily chef specials and, most importantly, engage with local customers on your Facebook wall. Don't forget that Facebook is a two-way street! Why not use it as an outlet to ask your followers what they'd like to see on the menu? Keep in mind that you can use the @tagging feature to create a partnership between your hotel's official Facebook page and your hotel's restaurant Facebook page.
Facebook also recently introduced Facebook Deals, a similar concept to Foursquare Check-In Specials, which encourages guests to check-in on their mobile device to redeem special offers. Foursquare Check-Ins and Facebook Deals both promote a healthy word-of-mouth marketing that takes very little management effort. Businesses can select from a variety of deal options depending on what your objective may be. You can opt for a simple check-in reward, you can foster a sense of community by requiring X amount of friends to check-in together or you can encourage loyalty by requiring X amount of previous visits, like a virtual punch card. Just make sure that your restaurant staff is well-versed on the deal's stipulations to ensure all transactions run smoothly!
5. Flash Deal Sites
Hotel restaurants share a common challenge: distinguishing themselves as local dining establishments rather than the food and beverage department within a hotel. Because a restaurant is often hidden within the hotel's intricate design, it doesn't typically offer as much curb appeal as an established, individual restaurant; therefore, it's easy for local folks to disregard a hotel restaurant when selecting a lunch or dinner spot. However, in some instances, restaurants can be a significant revenue generator for hotels, so how can hotels market their restaurants to people living in the area who may not think to frequent it? This is where flash deal sites come into play!
Groupon, Living Social, Travel Zoo Local Deals, Google Offers and countless local "knock-off" deal sites are popping up left and right. They offer people unbeatable dining deals based on location. While restaurants do have to offer a steep discount to make their deal shine, the value to both the customer and the restaurant is very strong. Deal sites take a creative approach--they encourage people to spend money locally, while still inherently saving, and they offer restaurants a unique, online advertising opportunity with a targeted reach. Who can say no to a good deal on food?
There is no doubt that a hotel's online marketing efforts should largely concentrate on promoting their accommodations, but that doesn't mean it should miss out on additional services that can bring in revenue. These simple suggestions to market your hotel's restaurant online will ultimately direct more traffic to your hotel's website and location.
Posted in Social Media on March 29, 2012 by Jennifer Dewey
The importance of social media to the travel industry is a well-known fact by now, and we’ve helped to show you the way to the best Facebook apps, how to optimize on Foursquare, how to create captivating content, and even persuaded you into building a Google+ profile. Just as you thought you had everything under control on the social media front, Facebook unleashed a new format for brand pages last month called Timeline and brands everywhere are working hard to make their pages look their best. Looks like it’s time to roll-up our sleeves once again and tune-up our Timelines. But, before you jump into your Facebook makeover, take a minute to read over these five tips.
1. IDENTITY CRISIS: New format for Business Pages looks just like the format for Profile Pages.
The new brand pages (for businesses) now look just like personal profile pages (for people) with a large cover photo and two columns with the “timeline” in the middle and a sidebar timeline to jump through the years.
If you include any of those elements, Facebook will penalize your page.
2. FACE-LIFTED: Tab Visibility has been reduced to only 3 tabs
The panel of tabs on the left-hand side of the old page, which many brands used as landing pages to introduce potential fans to your brand, have been moved and reduced. On the new Timeline, tabs (which contained Facebook applications) are now displayed as application boxes under the large cover photo. Additionally, now only 3 tabs are visible before expanding the “see more” option. Be sure to note that the “Photos” application box will always be visible and automatically consumes one of the 4 available boxes on display.
3. FIRST IMPRESSIONS: No Default Landing Pages
Without the aforementioned tab pages used as landing pages, brands no longer have the ability to send visitors to designated landing pages upon arriving at a business's Facebook page. Instead, the "homepage" of a business Facebook page will always be the new Timeline page with the large cover photo. This change will dramatically affect the user’s first impression of your brand, and it changes marketing strategies for “Likes” and email signups. Brands that previously relied on "Like walls" (where users had to like the page before viewing exclusive Facebook content) will no longer be able to grow their community base in that way. However, on the positive side, removing this marketing tactic for “Likes” means the guests who continue to “Like” your brand page will be high-quality fans, which translates into high-quality engagement with people who really DO like your brand.
4. OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW: Fresh ways to feature content
With the tried-and-true methods of marketing to new fans and incorporating fresh content removed from the Timeline format, marketers need to learn innovative ways to feature fresh content. Luckily, as the saying goes, “When one door closes, a window opens.” In this case, although landing pages have been removed from marketers' arsenals, pinned and highlighted posts have been added as new opportunities.
How to optimize: Facebook added new features to posts on your Wall, including “Pinned” posts and “Highlighted” posts.
5. PERSONAL CONNECTION: Engage with your fans privately
As you may know, private messaging was not available through the original Facebook pages. However, the Timeline format encourages more socialization, and with that comes deeper interaction between the brands and customers through the addition of private messaging.
How to optimize: Although this isn’t exactly considered “optimizing,” there are times when it’s best to use private messaging. For example, the Timeline format creates a scattered, disorganized feel for some users. When a customer or guest posts an inquiry on your Wall, it can become overwhelming and appear scattered as the responses multiply or when multiple people begin posting. This would be a perfect opportunity to move the conversation into a private message so that you can address all the customers’ questions without clouding up your valuable Timeline space. One thing to note: Brands can receive and send private messages with users, but the user has to initiate the private conversation by sending the first message.
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