An unapologetic look at Hospitality

Mac users sleep better!

July 26, 2012 · Leave a Comment

Just about a month ago now, the Wall Street Journal published an article about Orbitz presenting more expensive hotels to Apple Mac users. They found out that people using Apple products spend 30% more on hotel rooms than Windows and/or Android users and are 40% more likely to book 4 and 5 star hotels.

I fail to see how this is news… We all know that Apple users pay more for a computer than Windows users and it seems they do for hotel rooms as well. How dare Orbitz target customers? The horror! For serious now, that whole storm in a tea cup got me to thinking…

Several times in my hospitality career I have been asked if it is possible to track “page positioning”. That is, if a consumer looks for a hotel in my city, on which page do I show up and on that page in which slot do I sit? Sure that’s possible! Matter of fact, I’ve already built it. But there is one question, the longer I look at it, that looms darker and darker… Why would you want to measure that?

The WSJ article makes something painfully clear. There isn’t a damn thing you can do about it anyway!

The first few slots, high up on the page, are reserved for hotels paying for placement. After that, it’s anyone’s guess where your property is going to display. Most of the things that affect placement can only be influenced by the consumer, not the hotel. That means that worrying about it is roughly as effective as painting your house with a mascara brush. Here are some of the things that are being used by sites to influence search results.

Location. It turns out that people living in New York typically book a different type of hotel than people from other places.

Referrals. If you end up on a site because you were referred by Kayak.com you are most likely to be price conscious. Likewise, if you come from Tripadvisor.com you are more likely to care about quality and less about price.

Repeat traffic. If you keep looking (even if you are just window shopping and not booking) at Holiday Inn, more than likely you will start finding more and more of those on consecutive search results.

Dollars off. Throw a nice little discount in the mix and all of this stuff is out the door yet again.

Most web sites also offer a handy little sort tool to their users. Regardless of how the site decided to display my search results, I can obliterate any of these efforts with a simple click. After all that research into which of my competitors are listed above and which below me, what have I really learned?

 

 

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Google Hotel Finder (experiment)

August 10, 2011 · Leave a Comment

GoogleGoogle Hotel Finder quietly launched an experimental web site named Hotel Finder. Well not too quietly as I’ve seen more than a few mentions of it online. Just like all of Google’s offerings it has sparse design, offers a few unique tricks and is (for the most part) lightening fast. So if it walks like Google, quacks like Google and smells like Google, then it must be a duck, right? Creating Hotel Finder may have been duck soup for Google (so why didn’t they do it sooner), I think Hotel Finder is pretty much a dead duck (I promise no more duck jokes for the rest of this article).

Google’s new Hotel Finder is “the Google way” to quickly find hotel deals. Like you would expect from Google, it simply works. It being Google, I had expected more. Shamefully there isn’t. Just like with their other new offering Google+, they had plenty of products to copy from and Hotel Finder even more so, looks like a “me too” product.

The lackluster name of the product aside, Google gives us four ways to “find the perfect hotel” (see image on the left). It wouldn’t be Google if they hadn’t improved on the way you can search for a hotel and I must admit this rocks! After you type in the city you want to stay in and your dates you are presented with a map that shows a polygon representing where the search effort was centered. The beauty of it is that you can adjust the shape of the polygon and even add more. This makes searches like “I could stay in uptown or in east but want to avoid downtown” a snap. This would normally take multiple searches, but not with Google because I can lay multiple shapes on the map. Well done! Keep reading →

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Get your hotel on the tube – Part II – Lowering the bar

August 2, 2011 · Leave a Comment

I was going to make part two of my articles on video (part one is here) about equipment, but then I realized something… There is a high likelihood that you simply will not consider creating your own video because you are under the impression that it will hurt your brand. Let’s face it, you are not a professional director, much less a seasoned camera operator and you might not even consider yourself good at creative marketing. Using “home brew” video to promote your hotel is going to be a disaster right?

Take a look at the video below. It’s from the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. The Peabody is an institution in the southern US. This world renowned hotel posts home-made videos on YouTube, and so can you.

I could point out that the lighting in that first shot was horrible, or that whoever was operating the camera in the zoo had a serious case of the jitters. But did you notice that? It’s a brilliant video that shows family friendly fun in Memphis while promoting the hotel! The fact that it was produced in-house only adds to the authenticity.

You can do the same thing! All it takes is a half decent camera and some creativity! Start shooting already! And when you are done, let us know where to find your video!

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Get your hotel on the tube! (part one)

July 20, 2011 · 1 Comment

Video is super easy these days. Honestly, if I can do it, so can you! Look at the video below this text. It took me 10 minutes to create and less than a minute to throw it up here! Other than the camera used, this was entirely done using free tools available from around the web. And frankly, this being essentially a slide show, it didn’t even require a video camera.

Besides the obvious “everyone is doing it”, there are some very good reasons to get a video of your property online.

  • It adds authenticity to your product
  • A picture is worth a 1000 words
  • It’s good for SEO
  • It gives consumers another way to contact you
  • A video is easy to share

People still pay more mind to visual information. I can describe my product as an “environmentally luxurious duffel bag” but as soon as I show a picture they will know it’s a burlap sac. Instead of telling you about a green car I can show you an image and instantly give you much more information than I could trying to describe it. More content online will (if done correctly) give you better results in the search engines. Your video on YouTube may spark discussion among your (potential) guests for which there is no place on your own web site and, video sharing sites aren’t called video sharing sites without reason.

Even so, a lot of people think that video is either difficult, or expensive, or both. The truth is that video is as pricy and as complicated as you want it to be. Most people own a video camera already and don’t even realize it. If your laptop is less than two years old, it most likely includes a webcam that is capable of fairly decent recordings. Likewise, your smart-phone probably does video (and a lot of them offer HD). A dedicated video camera doesn’t have to cost more than 200 dollars.

Putting your video online has also become super easy. How else do you think that 24 hours worth of video is added to YouTube every 60 seconds?

In upcoming articles here on this blog I plan to tackle some of the stuff that is helpful in putting your hotel video online. Meanwhile, if you are one of the champs that has already done so, leave a link in the comments so that others can get inspired by your work!

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Beware the Guru… Social media is a scam?

July 9, 2011 · 2 Comments

BEWARE: this is not entirely safe for reading at work!

As much as I gave the PriceLine guy a hell for calling social media a scam, which of course it is not (although — credits below — it was pointed out to me that coming out of the gate with a denial is fishy), there is enough crap to go around. I am talking about all those guys (and gals too) that call themselves experts just because they have a Facebook page.

Sturgeon’s Law states that 90% of everything is crap. This law was created in the 1950’s, much later Gary Vaynerchuck stated that 99.5% of all social media experts are clowns. Remember the early 90’s when everyone and his brother all of a sudden became a “web designer”? My late father (a REAL designer) is still rolling over in his grave when he hears that word… Web designer. The same thing is happening all over again!

TwitterIn 2010 B.L. Ochman did some research and found that Twitter was the home of 17,283 “Gurus”. Using titles such as “social media ninja”, digital marketing guru” and my own personal favorite, “change agent”. What the hell is a change agent? Somehow I am supposed to understand, from that title, you are NOT the guy putting orange cones on the road during periods of construction? I mean, that is change right?

Anyway, that number led someone else to project that by 2013 there will be 360 million social media experts out of an expected 375 million total Twitter users. In other words, a contingency of people larger than the population of the United States, will somehow be helping us “getting the word out”. Yeah Right! That begs the question, who are these people and who are they working for besides each other?

You really ought to watch the AMAZING presentation that Scott Berkun did called “Calling BS on Social Media Gurus”. You can watch it here. Humorous and informative, Scott shows how to call BS (yes that stands for bullshit) on the so called social media experts to a group of social media experts (that’s guts right there). During the presentation Scott explains why social media is not a “fundamental shift” or “transformative”. That if people start by saying “it’s not a fad” they probably have something to hide (coming out of the gate with a denial is fishy) and that anecdotal data should probably not be trusted.

If you still don’t believe that 90% of everything is crap (Sturgeon) or that 99.5% of all social media experts are clowns (Vaynerchuck), then maybe you should read Alex Blom’s “Why social media gurus should be trampled by elephants“.

Lastly (thanks, Scott) it’s probably a good thing to inform yourself of the true meaning of the word Guru. According to Wikipedia:

The syllable gu means shadows
The syllable ru, he who disperses them,
Because of the power to disperse darkness
the guru is thus named.

Advayataraka Upanishad 14—18, verse 5

That’s some heavy stuff! That’s almost Darth Vader shit! Do you want one of those 300some million clowns going all Star Wars on your bee-hinde with your marketing budget? As always, the comment lines are now open!

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Parity, is it the answer?

July 1, 2011 · 1 Comment

This site should be called the rate parity blog with how much I am writing about this! But there is just so much discussion sparked by the simple word “parity” (the practice of keeping your product price the same everywhere a potential customer looks) , it seems to be on everyone’s mind. If you read my earlier musings on rate parity in the hotel industry, you will undoubtedly know I don’t understand parity at all. That is… I get it, but I don’t get it. If you know what I mean.

Mattress Sale!Surely keeping your room rate the same everywhere you publish is better than the alternative of dumping your distressed inventory on one or more aggregation sites , watch sales skyrocket but paying large commissions on already deeply discounted rooms, while alienating your customer from your own web site that expects them to book the same room at a much higher rate… Keep reading →

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+google +alerts +hotel +wisdom

June 28, 2011 · Leave a Comment

Someone is selling a set of silver plated dessert spoons (ca. 1945), on AuctionDeals.com there is a postcard for sale and someone posted a cell phone video of Miss Memphis 2011 on YouTube. Oh, and five women, all being charged with disorderly conduct,  got kicked out of the lobby, where legend has it the Mississippi Delta begins. Neither management nor Memphis Police are clear what started the altercation.

Go on, ask me what on earth I am talking about!

All these are nuggets I found using Google Alerts. All of them are about the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. I love the Peabody Hotel and especially their ducks, but that is a different story.

Peabody

The grand hotel of the South

I couldn’t have found all these interesting tidbits if I just followed the Peabody’s official channels. I am sure that management was aware that Miss Memphis was visiting, or that the hotel is currently hiring new staff (no really, they are)… But I don’t think I would have found a press release about five women being arrested on their Facebook or Twitter page (and to be fair, they probably just had a bit too much to drink, happens to the best of us). That is the beauty of Google Alerts, it shows me not only what you want me to see, but also everything people write about you. Can you see where this going? This is reputation management for cheap! Keep reading →

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Blame yourself, not the customer!

June 26, 2011 · Leave a Comment

Ever booked a hotel at a great rate only to find an ever lower price the next day? Happens all the time right?

But if the sign outside your front door says 59 dollars, maybe it’s not such a good idea to list your room on mytotallycheaphotelrooms.com.au (yes I made that one up) for 79. That’s what happened to an obviously annoyed tripadvisor reviewer.

…and if we had not paid in advance, we would have moved on. Rate we paid was around $79 and when we arrived there was a sign outside advertising rooms “from $59”. I feel we vastly overpaid for what we got.

Oops! But what is really surprising is the response from the management of the property.

If you paid a 3rd party agency in advance, we are unable to accommodate that kind of issue. Booking direct with ANY hotel is always the best method of booking.

Come again? No, it’s highly unlikely that this guest will come again. I have no idea what happened here, but not refunding because the room was booked through a third party agent, really? Of course I have no idea which third party agent the customer booked through, but it seems to me that the hotelier padded the room rate with the commission he is paying out to the OTA.  Of course booking direct is sage advice, but not as an excuse for your unwillingness to accommodate a customer.

NO REFUNDSYou are the master of your domain! You set those rates on the various channels, or at the very least should be aware of how you allow third parties to adjust them. To the consumer it makes no difference. We all make mistakes, but this could have easily be turned into a positive.

While we do indeed offer rooms at a lower price, one of those rooms would not have accommodated your party as they contain only single beds without room for a roll-away.

It’s sad to see that in an industry dedicated to people’s comfort this kind of stuff is going on. Worse yet, that we hide behind 3rd party agencies to cover our own shortcomings and even feel the need to do so on a review web site with millions of visitors. But… this is the beauty of social media. The customer has a voice. It’s now our job to learn to deal with that voice. Of course anyone that puts a sign in the lobby saying “Absolutely NO refunds without Manager’s approval” may have a hard time with that learning process!

What are your horror stories about dealing with unhappy customers? Leave a comment and let me know.

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Jack, you don’t know Twitter! (Why having one account for multiple hotels sucks)

June 24, 2011 · Leave a Comment

More and more I notice that hotels operators are trying to consolidate their social media effort by establishing a single account on social networks. It seems easier, if you have limited staff (or your resources are otherwise stretched) to house all your activity under one stream. Now your social media person/marketing wizard only has to manage a single account for all your hotels, motels, hostels, resorts… you name it! Seeing how these are all similar products you can use the one single account to promote multiple destinations and your social contacts now only have to friend/like/follow you once. What’s not to love?

It sure beats having to manage several Facebook, Twitter and what have you accounts, but the benefits are quickly outstripped by the drawbacks once you sit down to think about it. Let’s start with why people follow you to begin with. Keep reading →

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@Hospitalitystat Twitter top 10

June 13, 2011 · Leave a Comment

As you know I have got this side project going on (www.campsydney.com), collecting interesting stats about how hotels use social media. I just used all that information to come up with the first ever “Hotel Twitter Top more than 10 less than a 100”. The results and full analysis are over this way!

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