Thursday, April 16, 2015

The impact of guest review on Hotel Business - Part II

In my first article (see it here) I've discussed about how to understand guest's emotional journey and hidden story behind guest reviews. Here is the second part of the article.

More positive reviews, more bookings and more revenue

According to a TripBarometer report by TripAdvisor, 90% travelers choose an accommodation based on ratings on a review site and 88% travellers are guided by online reviews and posts on TripAdvisor. Reviews with a rating on 4 - 5 generate more than double the conversion compared to a review with 1.0 – 2.9 rating on Expedia. Hotels that have a higher guest score typically will have better placement on the travel sites.  A better placement on the travel site means more bookings and more bookings mean a higher room rate, and eventually higher revenue for the hotel.  Identify what emotions your guests’ value at the key touch points in their journey with you and also those they want to avoid. No matter how difficult it is if you are not taking care of your guests’ emotion then you are doing a terrible mistake.




Go for Reputation Management Tool

As a hotelier, keeping track of who is saying what on which channel can be a nightmare.. Hence, it is essential to take an analytical approach to understand your strengths and weaknesses as per your guests and take a cohesive approach to address these issues. Guests share feedback on various review and travel sites – all this valuable information lay scattered and unstructured. Online reputation management tools play a big role in consolidating these guest reviews and presenting them to hotels in structured report formats. Usually, these tools pull guest feedback from various review websites including Qype, Holidaycheck, Yelp, Expedia, Facebook, Twitter etc. Data is then compiled together into review reports which include guest details (as it appears on the site) along with their feedback and the rating they provide to the hotel. A strong visible position on guest review websites indicate that your Price Quality Index is working well, that will enable you to make the right pricing decisions based on RevPAR performance.  This will allow the hotel to flex their rates based on a number of pricing strategies depending on booking levels. However, there are no short cuts. It is an evolving process that has to start today! As we move towards the age of consumer controlled brand conversations, hotels need to integrate customer feedback into their business approach and strategy planning.




















Contrary to popular belief, the greatest pitfall to customer reviews isn’t negative feedback. If all reviews are positive, or considered too similar, then the validity of the reviews can be called into question and the credibility of the brand put into doubt. The greatest mistake is actually not responding at all to your negative reviews, leaving your brand exposed and your customers find alternatives who give more attention to their needs.

So what’s the next step? Here are some suggestions for you to optimise the benefit of customer reviews:

- Encourage feedback, both on the brand website and third party platforms.
- Respond to comments quickly, outlining any action planned to address concerns.
- Ensure all reviews are genuine and never consider creating feedback artificially.

- Monitor brand noise across the entire web with regular online searches to ensure all channels are managed.


Francesca Stagi is Sales Manager at eRevMax.  She can be reached at francescas@erevmax.com

Friday, April 10, 2015

The impact of guest review on Hotel Business - Part I

Being a part of the industry, hotel reviews are something I always take with a pinch of salt. Especially those on the extreme sides.  However, internet is a place for opinions and if many more people join in the chorus to say negatives about a property, then I would rather give it a miss instead of taking a chance. But does that really make it a bad hotel? 

Truth be told, if most people are un-happy with the property, then there must be something wrong with it. Guests are expressing their dissatisfaction as they have had bad experiences. And hotels need to take them seriously. As the first rule of the service industry says customer is the king, and in this age of hyper-internet activity, they rule.



Understand your guests’ emotional journey

While interacting with hoteliers and visitors at ITB Berlin this year, I realized that in coming years personalised content will going to be a priority for hoteliers. With 3 billion internet users and 1.96 billion social media users in the world it is no wonder that key hotel investment trends in 2015 would include the development of one-to-one relationship with guests through reputation management and personalized marketing. As a form of direct communication, customer reviews clearly identify what are the most important things to the customers and what’s not. This also highlights where the hotel is performing well and where there is more room for development. Engaging with your guest in a direct conversation can possibly expose a more personable side of the hotel, build a greater level of trust with the customer and in the course spread a positive brand story. With TripAdvisor now offering direct bookings from their platform, a strong social media presence along with intelligent meta-search marketing can give hotels a real chance of improving, increasing conversion rates.

The Hidden Story within Reviews

A recent survey by Laterooms.com suggests that 90% of travellers would avoid booking hotels labelled as “dirty” in online review sites. Sure, the situation might not be as bad as the guests made it seem, but the hotel cannot prevent the reviewer from expressing his/her opinion. However the beauty of online reputation sites is that most will give the property an option to respond. And it needs to do just that - Respond! More so for negative reviews. No hotel deliberately sets out to create negative emotions for guests, but it happens, and you need to know what those are so you can work out how to reduce their impact on your guests.




As revenue management evolves, it is getting away from simple rate management and is now incorporating customer relations and social media into its strategy. The more satisfied guests you have, the more likely they are to return and spend more money, as well as recommend you to others. Reputation has a positive correlation with the hotel’s overall Average Daily Rate (ADR) and revenue. It’s time now for the revenue management department to work hand in hand with the marketing team, if they are not already doing that.


In my next edition I'll talk about how positive reviews and reputation management tool can can add more revenue to your hotel.


Francesca Stagi is Sales Manager at eRevMax.  She can be reached at francescas@erevmax.com

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Big 5 – a look into top performing channels in the APAC region - Part II

There are total 2.92 billion people in the world having access to internet. Nearly half of them or 1.3 billion are from Asia Pacific. Last year, Asia Pacific became the largest regional ecommerce market and now contributes for more than a third of all business to consumer ecommerce sales in the world. The increase in online penetration has changed the travel behavior which traditionally preferred travel agencies, group bookings and in-person sales. Many are now choosing to travel in smaller groups, or even alone and preferring to self-manage travel by booking online.



PhoCusWright reports that in 2012 APAC region surpassed Europe to become the world’s largest regional travel market with US$326 billion in gross travel bookings. Despite slow economic growth and political turmoil in some countries in the region, an average 8% growth is expected this year taking the online travel market to $126billion, which is pretty mind-blowing. With 46% APAC travelers planning to book online, no wonder global giants like Expedia and Booking.com are eyeing for a share of the pie, where regional OTAs still rule.

Consider this - 69% of Chinese OTA market is controlled by three regional travel agencies Ctrip, eLong & Ly.com. In India MakeMyTrip, Cleartrip and Yatra have 60% of the market share. Japan, one of the largest online markets in the region, is dominated by Rakuten Travel.

In this article I list out five online travel agents who are playing vital role in shaping the online travel industry in Asia Pacific.



Agoda, acquired by Priceline in 2007, is the most popular online travel agency (OTA) in five countries, namely Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea in South East Asia and the only OTA to hold the top spot in multiple Asia Pacific (APAC) markets as per PhoCusWright.  According to a recent report by Skift, Agoda receives total 30.7 million unique visitors per month of which 14.2% came from Indonesia and 7.8% from India. The channel is gaining preference as a leading site among Asia-Pacific bookers by adding inventory, enhancing mobile functionality and localizing content.


Baidu controlled Qunar.com is the fastest growing online travel agency in China. Qunar, which has its roots in meta-search has been offering bookings on its site. Given most of China’s hundreds of thousands of hotels are independent and previously offline, Qunar is working on a hybrid model - meta-search plus transaction one to bridge the needs between the hotels and the Chinese consumers. The channel now features over 200,000 properties in the domestic market for travel accommodation of which over 140,000 are small independent hotels, B&B and apartment-oriented listings.


Japan's online leisure/unmanaged business travel market is by far Asia Pacific’s largest. Founded in 2002, Rakuten Travel is one of Japan's largest online hotel reservation website with over 3.7 million room nights booked per month. The channel, a 100% subsidiary of Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten receives 5.34 million unique visitors every month. The firm has access to more than 20,000 domestic and 15,000 international hotels and has a presence in South Korea and China.

Even though majority of travel booking in Asia still comes from offline, travelers in the region are rapidly moving from offline to mobile and online travel penetration is expected to reach upto 31% by end of this year. PhoCusWright predicts that aggregate mobile travel bookings in China, Japan and India will jump from US$4.6 billion in 2012 to $18.7 billion in 2015. Channels which have been early adapters to mobile travel will be ready for the challenge.

As hoteliers, are you ready to tap into the Asia Pacific market? Are you managing your channels well and keeping them automatically updated with rates and availability on a regular basis? eRevMax is developing 2-way XML connections with all global and regional distribution channels. Contact us today if you want to connect with these channels or want a platform to manage these channels smartly.

Image Courtesy: Hong Kong Street: Frédéric DUPONT – Freepik Images




Christy Toh is Sales Manager at eRevMax based out in Singapore.  She can be reached at christinet@erevmax.com 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Big 5 – a look into top performing channels in the APAC region - Part I

There are total 2.92 billion people in the world having access to internet. Nearly half of them or 1.3 billion are from Asia Pacific. Last year, Asia Pacific became the largest regional ecommerce market and now contributes for more than a third of all business to consumer ecommerce sales in the world. The increase in online penetration has changed the travel behavior which traditionally preferred travel agencies, group bookings and in-person sales. Many are now choosing to travel in smaller groups, or even alone and preferring to self-manage travel by booking online.



PhoCusWright reports that in 2012 APAC region surpassed Europe to become the world’s largest regional travel market with US$326 billion in gross travel bookings. Despite slow economic growth and political turmoil in some countries in the region, an average 8% growth is expected this year taking the online travel market to $126billion, which is pretty mind-blowing. With 46% APAC travelers planning to book online, no wonder global giants like Expedia and Booking.com are eyeing for a share of the pie, where regional OTAs still rule.

Consider this - 69% of Chinese OTA market is controlled by three regional travel agencies Ctrip, eLong & Ly.com. In India MakeMyTrip, Cleartrip and Yatra have 60% of the market share. Japan, one of the largest online markets in the region, is dominated by Rakuten Travel.

In this article we list out five online travel agents who are playing vital role in shaping the online travel industry in Asia Pacific.


MakeMyTrip, the only local site to be amongst the top 10 most popular online booking sites globally has been consistently dominating the Indian online travel market with over 47% market share.  Rising disposable income and the corresponding expansion of the Indian middle class have triggered more cash flow in households, opening up possibilities for spending and leisure. Working on a hybrid model which offers both online and offline travel services, MakeMyTrip now has a customer base of over seven million, and page views crossing 20 million every month. To cash on the smartphone led internet revolution in the country, MakeMyTrip has invested heavily on their mobile application with full booking capabilities for flights, hotels and bus ticketing across all major platforms.  The application which has seen more than 3.2 million downloads, more than 29% of their monthly unique visitors and 25% of total online domestic hotel transactions come from mobile.


With the rise in disposable income levels, and an expanding middle class, China has emerged as the biggest outbound market. China has 632 million Internet users and 46.9% of them are pure mobile. Ctrip which receives over 1 million transactions per day is the largest Chinese online travel agency by revenue and valuation.




Ctrip.com controls 54% of Chinese online travel market and receives 8.6 million monthly visitors to its website of which 73.52% comes from China only. Ctrip has been partnering with local regional travel portals to consolidate its dominance in Greater China. The channel has formed a partnership with Priceline which gives Ctrip access with Priceline’s 500000 inventories and improve the cross-promotion of each other’s hotel inventory and other travel services.

In my next edition I'll talk about three more online channels who are playing vital role in shaping the online travel industry in Asia Pacific.

NB: Oriental People Image by Stockvault and Chinese Street by Freepik Images



This is a view point by Christy Toh Sales Manager at eRevMax based in Singapore.  She can be reached at christinet@erevmax.com

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Why hotels can’t afford to ignore business intelligence in 2015- Part 2

Why BI can do what current tools don’t ?

The current kind of retrospective – your rate shopping or production data analysis is no longer adequate to ensure the best business decisions. Yes, you can see your competitor set’s rate movement in your rate shopping report, but at a time when competition is cut-throat, you need to be always prepared for sudden increase / decrease in demand. An advanced business intelligence like RateTiger Analytics gives you high quality market insights for your revenue strategy to respond to opportunities and threats in real time for optimizing business outcome. Benchmark your competitors on key parameters to make informed pricing decisions. Plan and forecast with greater precision with historical and future data analysis.


Quality data is essential for producing accurate forecasts. Production Reports, which comes with booking pace, reservation and budget gap analysis, provides revenue managers with booking demands from all sources of online distribution broken down into market segment. Compare demand and booking pace to identify whether your sales strategy should be in promotional or allocation mode. Analyze forecasted revenue and occupancy and compare the forecasts to the same time last year. By analyzing the performance metrics, they can get a clear understanding of what makes travelers to book the property. Which channel delivers the most booking? Which OTA provides the highest RevPAR? And which delivers the most advanced bookings? What type of package are people buying here? This helps hotels identify their most valuable guests, their demography and the channel they are using for booking, and adapt strategies accordingly to maximize revenue.


Whether it is using analytics to predict customer behaviour, set pricing strategy, optimize ad spending or manage risk, analytics is moving to the top of the management agenda.

To progress on their analytics journey, hoteliers will need to focus on ways to generate insights from their technology investments, connect the insights to the relevant processes, and then link them to tangible business outcomes. Those, who implement business intelligence as an ancillary activity to a routine and integral part of doing business will make it to the finishing line faster than others.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Why hotels can’t afford to ignore business intelligence in 2015- Part 1

There are two types business organizations today – one who rely on incorporate business intelligence in their decision making process and another who still relies on ‘gut’ feeling. At a time when we live in a perpetual state of hyper-competition, organizations which are using business intelligence to get key insights are responding more quickly to correct things that may be problematic.

Business analysts predict that bad data or poor data quality costs US businesses $600 billion annually. According to Gartner, poor data quality is a primary reason for 40% of all business initiatives failing to achieve their targeted benefits. With advanced analytics, they can improve their revenue by 10 – 20%.


Wikipedia defines Business Intelligence as the set of techniques and tools for the transformation of raw data into meaningful and useful information for business analysis purposes. BI makes easy interpretation of large volumes of data which helps businesses identifying new opportunities and implementing an effective strategy based on insights. Sharlock Holmes has summed it up long time back, “Data! Data! Data! I can't make bricks without clay". BI does exactly that – builds insights by placing data at the right place.

Internet has been a great leveler in narrowing the information gap. Today’s customers are empowered with ample sources to get information on almost everything they want to know, social media for peer feedback and mobile connectivity to stay up to date even on the go. To say that we at hospitality industry are finding it challenging to cope up with changing guest behavior would be an understatement. British Airways paid a heavy price when a disgruntled customer bought promoted tweet to complain about their customer service, which became global news. In recent times United Airlines and Air India had to face lot of flak when videos on their customer service went viral in social media.

This constant scrutiny has forced us in the hospitality industry to continuously adjust and refine our marketing strategies. Let’s face it – we are dealing with the multifaceted traveler whose preference changes depending on type of trips. He might not need high-speed internet during his family vacation, but for his business trip that’s an absolute necessity. The way people plan trips is also changing.

Google, which has done a detailed study on consumer’s purchase path, has identified how different marketing channels such as email, social media, display ads, direct search, referrals, paid and organic search add different values to the customer at different stages. Some channels will act more as an assisting interaction, i.e. by building brand awareness – these are the channels which make a customer consider a brand while others will act further downstream, when the customer’s decision and transaction, is made. For hotels it has become imperative to understand guest buying behaviors, price elasticity and changing market dynamics for yielding the optimum rate from the most desired consumer set.

Organizations need to capture information at every stage and correctly analyze it to get the right strategy in place. However this is easier said, that done. In this era of information explosion, hoteliers are overloaded with data, but not enough understanding to map them to business needs. Clearly the problem has shifted to making sense of the data which is far more complicated than gathering information.



This is where business intelligence comes in. Data becomes valuable only after it is shaped into insights, and when those insights inform the key decision processes that lead to better outcomes. We at eRevMax, view business intelligence as something much more than a technology with an ROI; it’s a transformational phenomenon that will fundamentally change how business will be conducted and decisions made. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Rise and Rise of Mobility: how it is Changing World Travel - Part 2

Mobile Specific Promotion

True, that a large section of mobile bookers are last-minute guests, but does that mean it’s a channel to sell distressed inventories at a discounted rate? Hardly so. The fact that it’s primarily a last minute distribution channel should be a good enough reason for hotels to hold on to their last-minute best available rate. Treat mobile as a high demand channel and create promotions dedicated to this channels to grab instant attention of your guests.

Smart Pay

The days of carrying your wallet and paying through cash are gone. Paying in mobile sites or within the apps has become easier with Apple Pay- with a single touch. With iPhone, Apple Watch or iPad travelers can pay with breakthrough contactless payment technology within a unique secure gateway. With 62% smartphone users using mobile device for their travel planning, travel biggies are warming up to online wallets to this segment.


Utilize geo-location data

According to Google, geo-location data is going to be the key differentiator between mobile and desktop web. Providing information relevant to your guest’s location will help you to reach out to them more appeal which will lead to higher conversion.


2015 is likely to be year of mobile in travel industry and that is the reason major travel players have come to consolidate in the mobile sector and combine services for a cohesive planning and booking experience. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Rise and Rise of Mobility: how it is Changing World Travel - Part 1

More people today own a mobile device than a toothbrush. At the beginning of this year, about 5.1 billion, or 5 out of 7 people have access to mobile phones.  To say that the figure is mind blowing would be an understatement. Truth be told, mobile technology has occupied our daily lives – it has changed our relationships with family, spouses and close friends, altered communication modes and social behavior.


For hospitality industry, this effectively means fundamentally changing the way we do our business. Putting that in perspective, today we deal with a customer who has access to market data all the time. Right from planning to booking to sharing feedbacks – the traveler is using web, largely through a connected mobile device at every step.

As a customer today uses multiple devices to complete purchase journey, hotels need to ensure that guests get a ubiquitous experience. Here is what I think will be key factors hotel needs to consider while developing their mobile strategy.

Mobile Optimized Site

The days of tracking your customers through Desktop / Laptop IP address are gone. According to Global Online Travel Overview by PhoCusWright, about 22% of online bookings will be made in mobile this year.  Experian, in a recent report suggests that about 97% of tablet owners have made a purchase on their devices, and 83% have been engaged in shopping-related activities immediately before, during, or after visiting a store. Clearly it has become an integral part of the travel buying journey as they use the device from planning to “showroom’ viewing to purchasing to finally posting review – in other words using it at every stage of the travel journey.  However, do remember, your probable guest is most likely to use mobile while on the go, and hence has a shorter attention span. Make sure they don’t need to visit too many pages to get the right information. A responsive web-design which provides an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices should get the top priority in your wish list for 2015.
 

Ease of Booking

1.75 billion people today own a smartphone, a number you can hardly ignore for being used by elites. More than 50% of leisure travelers and 74% of first-class travelers today use a smartphone making it a platform which hotels must adapt to. By now, mobile internet usage has surpassed desktop internet usage, and mobile devices – and one in every five booking will come through smart phone and tablets. Peer-to-peer apartment rentals booked through mobile is even more at 34%. For the hospitality industry, this essentially indicates that unless they have a mobile friendly direct bookings, baked by a focused marketing strategy, lion-share will go to the OTAs which have been early adapters of this change.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Four Trends to Watch for in 2015 - Part 2

It’s all about personalization

Google has been making suggestions based on previous search and purchases for a while now. Your guest today expects personalized recommendations based on his preferences. As someone who needs to travel frequently, I go into a certain OTA application to make my bookings. Whenever I log in to the application, based on my earlier preferences, the site shows my favourite flight and hotel directly and upfront. It saves me lot of time, and as a result I get back to it for all bookings. In other words, they have created a loyal customer in me. All major OTAs today study your spending patterns to predict what you want, and what you're willing to pay for. With the latest technology available in the market place, hotels can collect customer likes and dislikes. Access cookies to personalize the online experience, such as recognizing guests’ name when they revisit and display customized offers and promotions based on their previous searches. Customer intelligence is key to delivering a customized campaign to your guests. Social media provides hotels with vital inputs to map the customer’s state of mind and hence elasticity. The more the revenue manager knows about the price sensitivity of a particular segment, the more he or she is able to price optimally.



Mobile booking taking center-stage

According to a recent PhoCusWright Report, mobile devices will account for 27% of U.S. online bookings this year, up from just 10% in 2013. The report also forecasted that mobile will account for 20% of online bookings in both Asia-Pacific and Europe next year. Consumers do not care whether your priority is on desktop site or application. All they are bothered about is their experience. As they switch from desk top to mobile to tablet, they want to have a seamless experience. Brand experience is not about having a nice website anymore. You need to have a presence in desktop, mobile and application. Nearly 45% travellers travel with two or more devices and they are always connected. Working on multiple platforms will help hotels to track individual-level behavior within and across channels, deriving valuable insights regarding consumer behavior and draw an effective marketing strategy.




Dhiraj Kumar is Associate Product Owner at eRevMax. He is based out of Kolkata and can be reached at dhirajk@erevmax.com