Friday, May 22, 2015

Scandinavian hotel group Your Hotels Worldwide endorses eRevMax as the Preferred Channel Manager Partner

Your Hotels™ Worldwide, a leading hotel chain of independently-managed properties in Scandinavia, has strengthened relationship with eRevMax by implementing its 2-way XML connectivity solution for seamless data transfer between its property management system and online sales channels.  All 65 properties under the group are using RateTiger Channel Manager to update rates and availabilities across their distribution mix in real-time. RateTiger is a fully integrated e-distribution platform with 2-way XML channel connectivity, market intelligence and revenue management capabilities.
Your Hotel™ Worldwide is an established hotel chain consisting of around 65 privately owned hotels across Sweden, Norway, UK, Germany and Austria. Head Quartered in Stockholm, the group offers 2500 rooms across the portfolio. All hotels under the group are getting benefits of real-time rates and inventory update and receive reservations directly into their PMSs ensuring online sales optimization and eliminating chance of overbookings.  They can monitor booking trends across all channels on a single reporting dashboard to react instantly with a more effective distribution strategy.



“We have been using RateTiger solutions since 2010, and know from experience that they have a great product portfolio in a stable technology platform. By upgrading to 2-way XML connection, our member hotels would be able to use their PMS to process updates, which will streamline their distribution, save time and improve revenue opportunities. Their transition from a traditional channel manager to web based business intelligence and connectivity solution provider has helped our hotels greatly. For us eRevMax is the ideal technology partner which meets demands of our hotels,” said Percy Henriksson, Managing Director, Your Hotel™ Worldwide.


Our long-term relation with Your Hotel™ Worldwide reinforces the value eRevMax's innovative technologies and services bring to the hotel industry to improve distribution processes. eRevMax solutions help the revenue management team of these properties to increase online revenue by ensuring real-time room availability across all distribution points through automatic adjustment from a pooled inventory,” said Cristina Blaj, Sales Director - Europe at eRevMax.

eRevMax’s flexible, multi-platform solution to manage online sales and exposure, has  been used by over 20,000 hotels globally. eRevMax’s Channel Ecosystem (CES) offers two-way XML connections with leading global and regional sales channels for seamless connectivity.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Google’s Mobilegeddon: How it will impact hospitality industry?

It's been two weeks since Google has launched "Mobilegeddon" their recent algorithm, and since then it has been one most the most discussed topic among the digital marketers. At a time when in every 4 in 5 searches are being done through mobile, the latest update from Google decisively tilts the advantage to mobile friendly websites, predicts the search engine experts.



To make it simple, this means if a guest is searching through his smartphone, sites which are mobile optimized, will get better placement in Google search results. The results on desktop and tablets will still remain unaffected. However, given that over 27% of US travel bookings are being made on smartphones now, this has a huge impact on hotel industry, especially the small and independent ones.


Mobile has changed the way we search, connect to brands and make travel arrangements. By the end of this year global smartphone users expected to reach 2.5 billion and if your brand is not visible to this large audience then you need to rethink the way you target and engage with your potential customers.

Today’s tech-savvy travelers use the internet to find their favorite brand while on the go. In our recent article- The Rise and Rise of Mobility: how it is Changing WorldTravel we discussed how mobile is changing the world travel and online travel is shifting from PC to mobile phone. The recent update from Google shows that the search engine giant is only responding to consumer preferences by asking businesses to give them better experience while searching on the devices they most use. It is now hoteliers turn to take right mobile strategy to avoid getting buried in the 60 trillion web pages.

Are your Website Mobile-Friendly?

Before you start thinking to optimize your website, know how the change is going to impact your daily business. With 50% of its search coming through mobile devices, Google has updated its algorithms to ensure users discover more relevant and mobile-friendly results. Our web consists of 60 trillion individual web pages, finding a relevant result in a fraction of a second is not easy.



Google has begun including mobile friendly web pages as a factor in its mobile search engine rankings. Your hotel website would fare better in search rankings if the pages are legible and usable on mobile devices  Though a mobile-friendly website does not always guarantee online bookings but it could lead more direct traffic and individual page views to your hotel website increasing your brand presence in the online world.
                   
If you don’t have mobile optimized websites, no worry, there is still time for you. Find out if your website is mobile-friendly with Google’s Mobile Friendly Test and if you don’t qualify the test then it’s time to revamp your website with responsive design, as many travellers may only visit mobile version of your hotel’s website.





Right Content for Mobile travelers

Today the first point of contact (POC) for a guest on travel search is your website; they search your brand name on Google, reads relevant content which depicts about your product and services. As use of mobile phone increasing exponentially you need to rethink the way you reach out to your travel consumers and last minute travellers. If you think only optimising mobile friendly website is going to boost your ranking in Google then probably you are on the wrong track. Ensure your website has rich content with engaging imagery for your visitor to spend more time on your brand.com site and eventually make it to the booking window.


As the shopping journey is changing constantly you have to stay one step ahead of recent trends to feed your guests with the services they are looking for. Today’s hyper-connected travelers wait for the right time to get their preferable accommodation at reasonable price. Leveraging mobile friendly websites means you are not only providing better guest experience but creating an opportunity to make relationship your potential guests.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Booking.com fires away strict rate parity: What it means for hoteliers - Part II

In the first part of my article (see here) I've focused on Booking.com's new rate parity agreement and how hotels now have regained control over their pricing. Here is the next part of the article.

Loosening rate parity with a caveat

The commitment comes with a caveat: the hotels had to maintain same rates and booking conditions on Booking.com as they do through their own direct website. Term this as a narrow ‘Most Favored Nation’ agreement, the OTAs require a minimum allocation, or some availability, from hotels. Predictably, hotels are not happy.



They fear that the big OTAs, with their marketing budget would be able to manipulate the search results, which they claim would continue to affect their business adversely. In a strongly worded statement, the British Bed and Breakfast Association calls Booking.com a “bully” and says, “that this new settlement, thrashed out behind closed doors in Europe, is wrong and anti competitive, and against the interests of consumers.” The powerful British Hospitality Association has shown similar disappointment, and terms the commitment as falling short of progress and not benefit customers or hospitality businesses in a meaningful way.


Paris based Accor, Europe’s biggest hotel chain has taken a cautious approach and expressed satisfaction. However, InterContinental Hotel is not impressed. In a market, where close to 70% reservations come through OTA with Booking.com alone contributing over 43%, no one can afford to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

For now, they have the option of promoting discounted rates to their closed groups for more direct bookings. But then again, Booking.com with its excellent loyalty program, which accounts for close to 50% of their overall reservation will give then a tough run. In fact, industry watchers believe that the next war will be fought over loyalty programs between the OTAs and major hotel brands. Elimination of rate parity might trigger ‘price cannibalism’ between OTAs and brand sites that could (at least potentially) lead to a worse-case scenario for the industry as a whole.

Make the most of the opportunity

As travellers spend more time on research, hotels need to be present at every touch point to their target audience. This is why, hotels need to evaluate each channels for the opportunities they present, and create tailor-made pricing strategies - all while staying within rate parity constraints – for optimizing rate and revenue.

To start with, hotels need to look at analyzing margins from each channel and allocate rate and inventories with margin as base-line. Select channels that bring key value to their properties – ones that support not just when the circus is in town but on a rainy day. With access to reservation reports to identify the customer demographics, hotel can develop intuitive packages to help customers actually find what they are looking for. The basic of every pricing strategy is to know the value of the product and the elasticity up to which consumers would be ready to pay.



Which leads to the importance of evaluating different distribution platforms. Without a foundation of platform based pricing it will be extremely difficult to manage pricing to the players sitting on the various levels of distribution, such as  traditional OTAs, Same-day booking sites, GDS, Tour Operators, Own Website, social media, mobile applications, fenced groups, loyalty programs, specific credit cards, and so on. By introducing a platform based pricing methodology, hotels can optimize their rate matrix while staying within their contractual obligations.


Mature distribution markets are moving from daily rate changes to real-time changes from a revenue management perspective which has a positive impact on profit optimization.  Remember, price is only one of the four P´s of marketing. Give equal importance to other 3, namely product, place and promotion. Parity is not so evil after all, only misunderstood.



Cristina Blaj is Sales Director at eRevMax.  She can be reached at cristinab@erevmax.com

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Booking.com fires away strict rate parity: What it means for hoteliers

Just when we have been thinking that the rate parity issue have been sorted out, comes the news of Booking.com amending their parity agreement in Europe. In an announcement last week, the OTA giant has said that they are abandoning its price, availability and booking parity provisions with respect to other online travel agencies. Putting it simply, this means, as an hotelier, you can now sell the same room in another OTA at a lower price. As Booking.com CEO says: “We welcome and encourage fair competition in the marketplace because competition drives innovation, efficiencies, and most importantly, greater value for consumers.”



For independent hoteliers, and smaller OTAs, this development can be ‘THE BEST THING’ that has happened to them for a long time. And they are thanking regulatory bodies in Sweden, France and Italy, who have forced Europe’s biggest online channel to bend its rule. Investigation on Booking.com’s alleged ‘anti-competitive clauses’ are going on in Germany, Austria and UK. So does that mean that the rosy days are in the corner for the hotel industry?

A quick recap of rate parity controversy

For long smaller OTAs have been alleging against unfair arm-twisting by big OTAs to maintain rate parity. Based on claims made by Skoosh, a pan-European hotel booking site, UK’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has investigated allegations that hotels are colluding with Booking.com to keep room rates at an artificially high level. Following a three-year investigation by the OFT in 2013 ruled that InterContinental Hotels Group, Expedia and Priceline Group could no longer enforce rate parity agreements for certain types of bookings.

Since then, hoteliers in the U.K. have been able to offer discounts to “closed groups,” such as members of their loyalty program. And third-party distributors will be allowed to reduce their commissions and margins in order to discount hotel rooms to certain “closed groups,” such as website members or travellers who download their mobile app.

Europe now, world awaits

The latest move by Booking.com is somewhat similar to their stand in UK after the OFT verdict, but has broader scopes. Effective from July 1, the amendment will allow an accommodation provider the freedom for properties to offer different pricing and booking policies (e.g. free cancellation, WIFI, breakfast) through different online travel agencies. For independent and smaller hotels, who cannot afford to stay away from the mighty channel, but are burdened with  paying high commission (up to 20% in some cases), price parity has always been a bone of contention.


With the recent changes, does it mean hotels now have regained control over their pricing?

In my next edition I'll talk about how hoteliers can utilize maximum opportunity from the rate parity amendment by Booking.com

Cristina Blaj is Sales Director at eRevMax.  She can be reached at cristinab@erevmax.com

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Last Minute Booking: How big is it?

The rise and rise of last minute booking has become a double edged sword for revenue managers. On one hand they have opened up an opportunity  to sell otherwise perishable inventories even if at a discounted rate to make some money; on the other hand guest, more smarter than ever with wide range lodging option, is now in charge, and forcing hotels to lower prices.

With increasing ubiquity of mobile devices, there is a certain change in consumer behavior. Guests today are more confident than ever to research and find lodging option at the very last minute. According to a recent study by PhoCusWright, about 30% bookings come from Hotel Mobile booking  platform; 70% of them are from same day bookings.



A look at last minute travel booking

It all started in 2010 with the launch of HotelTonight. Since then there have been multiple entrants and OTA majors like Booking.com, Orbitz, Priceline, HRS and Expedia are making investments in this segment. For example, Expedia has been aggressively building its presence on mobile to meet its customers changing needs and 70% of its travel booking comes from last-minute bookings.
So what really is last minute? In the hospitality industry, bookings windows of up to seven days in advance are known as last-minute booking. Within this there are three categories- seven days or less, three days or less and same-day. Same-day booking are done on the day guests wants to stay. Mobile applications like HotelTonight allow travelers to book a room for the same day.



How big is last minute travel?

While researching on how the growth of last minute booking segment, I has come across some eye-catching stats which I would share with you.  PhoCusWright reports   that overall mobile search and booking volume is growing rapidly with gross travel bookings via mobile (phones and tablets) accounting for 27% in the US, up from just 5% in 2012. In UK, 1 in every 3 Britons book on the same day. The trend is more or less same in Asia Pacific as well, with 70% of mobile booking coming for same day stays.



Don’t ignore last bookers

As a major share of all hotel bookings are shifting from desktop to mobile and it is done at the end moment you can’t deny its importance in your business. Sojern research data shows Tuesday is considered for the most productive day for last minute bookings and Friday for same-day bookings. Last-minute travel accounts for 25% of trips lasting a week or less. When travelers prefer to go for short vacation i.e. for two to three days the likelihood of their last minute booking increase significantly this means if you are not prepared to serve these last-minute travelers then you are losing a large share from your unsold rooms. Keeping in mind everything about last-minute travelers, you should ask yourself a few questions to understand your potential guests and take right strategy to avoid revenue disaster.

1. Ask yourself what does last-minute travel mean for your product or location? Know what are the latest trends in the hospitality industry by analysing big data generated from own PMS such as guest information, length of stay or you may avail it from third party. This will help you acquire key information to understand travel journey of your potential guests and take right action by offering them suitable offers.

2. Are your revenue managers are taking right decision and promotional tactics which is compatible to fulfil increasing demand for last-minute travelers? Review closely your current revenue & marketing strategies and analyse how can you attract and win more last-minute travelers.

3. Make a plan how can you reach to this group of travellers.  To understand you need to analyse your revenue management tactics and find out gaps in occupancy. List your unsold room in last minute booking sites such as HotelTonight, Jettsetter, PriceLine, Travelocity which is more affordable to you.

Image Source: PhoCusWright, HubSpot

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