Four Things You May Not Be Thinking About—But Should Be

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June 01, 2007
Hotel | Distribution
John F. Davis III - info@pegs.com

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© 2008 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

The world of Internet travel is booming—a trend we’ve all been greatly anticipating. Advances in technology have allowed for hotels to play on a more level playing field, but the question today is what do hotels need to be thinking about to differentiate themselves in this increasingly competitive marketplace?

I don’t know what you’ve been thinking about, but your front end may require some attention, channel management is evolving, rate loyalty is being trumped by brand loyalty, and we should all have our eye on the global distribution systems (GDS).

1 It’s All About Looks
In today’s marketplace, your front end must be appealing to attract online travel customers. According to Keynote Systems, travelers are more likely to book on a Web site (67 percent) than by phone (57 percent). And when they visit your site, they want to window-shop as if they’re standing just outside the door, next to the pool, lying in bed, or sitting in the restaurant. Is the picture of your lobby years out-of-date, or do you have rich media content with virtual tours for every kind of guestroom, special attraction and feature your property has to offer?

And, how accurate is your content? Without the right details, you can’t expect end-users to make informed booking decisions regardless of delivery or presentation. Are your rates delivered directly from a central reservation system (CRS)? Do you provide custom Web descriptions for rates? Do you have multilingual support? It cannot be emphasized enough; at the end of the day content is king.

Research has shown consumers are five times more likely to click through rich media content. What does this mean to you? It means you must have the necessary tools to enrich the content on your site, and it has to remain accurate and up-to-date. The good news is, as technology grows and expands, new services are available that offer you the ability to host, manage and distribute rich- media content.

2 Channel Surfing or Channel Management
Besides ensuring diversified access to voice, Internet and GDS, there’s now a greater need to ensure control of your channels: what rates do you make available, how much room inventory do you provide, how many extranet sites do you manage? And further, hotels need channel management with revenue generation to take back control of distribution from online intermediaries, grow direct bookings and enhance customer relationships.

Of course, you can’t skip the update or miss the booking due to mismanagement—of price, branding or distribution. That’s why you need to effectively manage your channels with a strategy that offers you more control and less burden. Today, extranet sites can have access to more accurate information provided by hotels at a single entry point via emerging channel management technology.

3 Loyal Customers That Are Just Right
Someone’s been sleeping in your beds, but have you taken a look at who it is and how he got there? With the market at its peak, lower prices have not only become table stakes, but also secondary to your brand and the value it delivers. Brands are king, from the global Hiltons to the regional Leading Hotels of the World, or even the standalone independents. The merchant model to attract whomever, whenever has come back to attracting the right customer with the right message. It’s not just technology and transaction processes anymore, it’s about tailored marketing that generates revenue. Today, it’s recognition, Web analytics, loyalty programs and sound business strategy that bridge the gap between supply and demand to achieve your property’s objectives.

4 GDSs Considering an SOS
Online bookings are booming. The entire industry has more than tripled in five years. The GDSs—Amadeus, Galileo, Sabre, Worldspan—served as the foundation for this boom, but their dominance may waver. The online travel market has grown, but more informed buyers have jumped into a sea of new channels and tremendously successful brand sites.

GDSs now have new competition in hotel sites, where curb appeal and Web-savvy shoppers have deemed green screens limited and less attractive. Hotels are investing in their own site content and booking engines, developing and marketing loyalty programs that work all while managing channels and finding the right customers. GDSs, on the other hand, are not leveraging content, identifying appropriate audiences or maintaining pricing and positioning ideal for a hotel’s bottom line. There’s no doubt that there’s still a place for the GDS players, but today it is no longer the only effective channel.
 
In an industry that continues to evolve everyday, it’s important to take a look at how you operate and ask if you have what it takes to attract and retain customers today, and more importantly, in the future. If you haven’t started to contemplate the right path to remain competitive in the world of online bookings, considering these four things may help guide you there.


John Davis is chairman and CEO of Dallas-based Pegasus Solutions, a global leader in providing technology and services to hotels and travel distributors. He can be reached at info@pegs.com.



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