Hotel Online  Special Report



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When Developing an Internet Hotel Marketing Plan, 
Try Looking at It from the On-site and
On-line Perspective

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by Richard Walsh, February 2005

Given the usual expert hotel industry reports that come out this time of the year on the 2004 results and 2005 projections, three things are very obvious and I must say very encouraging:

  1. For the Americas and Western Europe, 2004 occupancy is up and will continue to grow in 2005 and 2006.
  2. The average daily rates were higher in 2004, moving us back to the ADR levels of 2000/01. They are projected to continue their growth as well.
  3. The percent of hotel reservations that are coming through the Internet is growing at an outstanding pace. All indications are that the share of room nights sold over the web for the average hotel will exceed 30% of their total business by the end of this year.
Truly, there is no limit to the amount of reservations you can derive from the Internet and at your lowest cost per sale. When developing an Internet marketing plan, try looking at it from the On-site and On-line perspective. The on-site plan should address what you know about and need from your current guests to facilitate an effective Internet marketing action. What specific actions have you taken to make your property more Internet savvy? Are you making an effort to collect your guest’s email address and getting a signed opt-in commitment? Do you promote a property specific "frequent guest" program to generate guest loyalty and return business? Do you track WIFI usage to evaluate what percent of guests are serious Internet users and possibly identifying them for targeted promotions? 

The simpler on-site actions that you might implement are as easy as promoting your proprietary website to your guests with tent cards that offer contests or referral awards. Is your sales staff promoting your proprietary website to group organizers or private parties to manage group bookings online or offering incentives to business travelers to book their negotiated rates on-line? These are just a few of the on-site actions you can use to show your guests that you are only a "click" away. Your goal is to move more on-line bookings to your most profitable channel, generally not the 3rd party websites. 

It is great to see more hotels adopting on-line marketing into their total marketing plans, but it is still, my belief, that Internet marketing is not getting the time and cost commitment it demands. Today, 10% to 20% of your room nights are sold on-line. Take that to the next level and determine what percent of the 10% to 20% is coming from the third party sites, the brand site, GDS and your proprietary website then decide how much to invest where. Your investment should be in the channel that offers the best return on investment, not necessarily the most sales. 

There is no doubt that Internet marketing is a very labor intensive operation and often can be confusing or too time consuming for the property marketing manager. What on-line marketing can you outsource efficiently and improve your productivity? 

Do you do your own email blasts on-site to past guests or website visitors? Does your website have the ability to harvest email addresses? Does your Internet booking channel offer both inclusive and dynamic packages, combining leisure or business add-ons to increase value and generate incremental income? Have you added online air and car bookings to your website? These are all added services that produce incremental income and enable you to compete with other Internet sales channels.

What keywords are you managing for your organic as well as paid online advertising? Who is making these choices? Someone who knows your property and the surrounding attractions you hope. What is your return on investment for pay per click or pay per impression advertising? Do you get an accurate conversion rate report from your current marketing services? Do you even know what your conversion rate is from each marketing channel?

Then there is the growing concern about having to manage too many channels. Some hotels believe the solution to this problem is to interface with your PMS. I am not convinced this is the end all solution. You still have to sort out allotments and rates by channel according to each channels policies and demands. Is it not just as easy to look at the source of your business and where your best ROI is coming from and allocate rooms and rates accordingly?

If it all sounds a bit overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. It all starts with aggregating data and ideas about your hotel and developing a plan. Make sure you set deadlines and measurements in your plan. Due to the time and resource restraints, more and more companies do outsource the day to day work load, but be sure to outsource to a company that will guarantee the reports and analysis you need to measure grow your online business. Most important, make sure your on-site services and information compliments your on-line services and promotions. Keeping up with both on-site and on-line changes is critical. Always have the same message for your guests and potential guests. Remember, to have more business on-site, stay on-line and develop your insight for change!

Richard Walsh is president of Travel Marketing Dynamics (www.4TMD.com) and Hotel Web Pro; www.HotelWebPro.com. Richard has been an innovator of travel marketing for the past twenty years. He is past president of Amadeus North America, vice president of marketing for Avis Wizcom and President of Innovata LLC. "My experience has taught me one thing and that is what works today will change tomorrow". Please direct any questions to Richard Walsh at www.hotelwebpro.com or phone (1) 866-857-5473.

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Contact:


Richard Walsh
(1) 866-857-5473
rjwalsh@hotelwebpro.com
www.hotelwebpro.com
 


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