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 You Just Gotta Love The Hotel Business! In Spite
of its Self-inflicted Roadblocks and Blunders
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By: Neil Salerno October 2005

I really love this business, but lately it seems to be saturated with gamesmanship, innuendo, and unusual interpretation of data. There’s actually so much data available that I guess one can find data to support almost any position one may want to take. An adaptation of the old saying “Figures can lie and liars can figure”. 

One of my favorites is the data which shows the increase in direct-to-supplier Internet bookings versus third-party aggregators. The last article I read elaborated on the huge increases in direct-to-suppler bookings. I guess this was supposed to demonstrate that consumers now prefer to book direct with supplier sites. What a turn-around in just a couple of years, but as you might also wonder, perhaps, the numbers are now where they should have been four years ago; and what was the cost.  

Has anyone stopped to consider that maybe direct-to-suppler bookings could and should have been at today’s levels, years ago, if hotel franchises and others were not fast asleep at the helm a few years ago? Thank goodness many people woke up in the last couple of years. Let’s face it, third-party aggregators believed in the power of the Internet at a time when most hoteliers thought the Internet was just a cute novelty. Are the increases in consumer direct-to-supplier bookings merely a result of finally getting our act together? 

When the big wake-up call occurred the industry scrambled to play catch-up with third-party aggregators, but third-party aggregators already had a firm foothold on the Internet. They still have marketing power which is unequalled in the hotel industry and have carved-out a niche market; packaging air travel with hotels and car rentals. 

In the process of playing the catch-up game, franchises did their best to destroy their enemy; third-party web sites. Several franchises created “guaranteed lowest rate” programs to thwart third-party preferences; and it did make things difficult for third-party aggregators. This rate guarantee worked well for promoting brand web sites; hence the current increases, but this tactic did little for the profit lines of their franchisees. These programs also threatened to turn the Internet into a shopper’s bargain basement, as well.  

If franchises concentrated more on marketing their web sites with programs like pay-per-click and advertising like the third-parties do, they would not need to resort to selling by rate alone. Has anyone ever considered value-added programs? Thank goodness most of those rate guarantees are not as prominently promoted as they once were. Maybe franchises are starting to realize how silly it is to sell hotel rooms by lowest rate available instead of the merits of their products. 

The hotel industry needs reservations from all sources in order to grow. Third-party sites are here to stay. Many hotels need a good close relationship with every potential source of business. Hotels that need base business to build average rates need a healthy third-party structure to promote their products.

It took a while, but now, most hoteliers are finally believers in the Internet’s power. Web site design is improving. No longer are hotel web sites just the end-product of the “office techie”; many hotel web sites are now being designed by hospitality professionals working with technical designers to develop searchable web sites that work the way they should… by producing reservations.  

We now know that web sites are interactive sales pieces, not online brochures, which need input from genuine hotel marketing people in order to function at their best. We learned that hotel web sites must contain specific information in a specific order to convert “Lookers to Bookers”. We learned that there is a difference between site design optimization and search engine optimization. We learned that search engine optimization without site design optimization is often a waste of money.

We learned that there is help available for web sites which are not producing well. There are now many qualified hospitality professionals who will analyze your site and recommend improvements at reasonable rates. In most cases, this can be much more economical than starting all over again with a new site. 

We learned that a hotel web site has to be built to work within accepted hotel marketing techniques and it must conform to the rules of search engine parameters and not just look pretty. We learned that a site’s text is critical and it is text which enables the site to be found in organic searches. We learned that “location” is still the most important factor in choosing a hotel; the hotel’s address is not the hotels location. 

We learned that a properly designed web site involves more than that which one actually sees online; proper construction involves properly defined Meta Tags, links, well developed text, and properly selected key words and phrases in its design to gain popularity. Content is king. 
 
We learned that a web site is always a work in process. Independent hotels are learning that an online booking engine is essential to maximize booking results; most consumers searching online want to make a real-time reservation, online. Frankly, I have never seen a poor rate-of-return on online booking engine expense. 

We learned that eMarketing is especially important for Independent hotels in order to keep them competitive with their franchised competition. Independent hotels can obtain the same exposure on the Internet as their more popular franchised competition; that exposure translates to increased reservations. We know that eMarketing is still the best value in one’s marketing budget; cost versus net results.  

We learned that the Internet, as wonderful as it is, is only one segment of our business. Traditional sales and marketing is still an important part of the overall effort to generate revenue. We learned that a good sales solicitation program is still a necessity. 

In spite of our self-created roadblocks and blunders, the hotel business appears to be alive and well. You just gotta love it. 

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Contact:

Neil Salerno, C.H.M.E., C.H.A.
The Hotel Marketing Coach
www.hotelmarketingcoach.com
NeilS@hotelmarketingcoach.com
607/331-3626

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Also See: The Best Hotel General Manager I Ever Met / Neil Salerno / October 2005
What’s your eMarketing Proficiency? Using Electronic Marketing Tools / Neil Salerno / October 2005
When Times Get Tough…Get Tougher! Sell Harder Before You Cave-in on Rates / Neil Salerno / September 2005
The Web Site Conundrum…Are You Winning the Electronic Marketing Game? / Neil Salerno / August 2005
Lions and Tigers and Bears…Oh My; The Hotel Yellow Brick Road is Less Scary than It Used to Be / Neil Salerno / August 2005
Running Dry on Good Hotel Ideas? It’s not What You Know - It’s Who You Know / Neil Salerno / July 2005
Revenue Grabbing Tips for Independent Hotels; Start Thinking Like the Chains / Neil Salerno / July 2005
Hotel Web Basics That Really Work…Content is King / Neil Salerno / July 2005
Hotel Supplier Sites versus Online Travel Agents; The War Chronicles / Neil Salerno / June 2005
New Hotel Technology Surround Us; Yet Face-to-face Selling is Still Most Productive / Neil Salerno / June 2005
The Internet…The Great Equalizer For Independent Hotels / Neil Salerno / June 2005
Third-Party Booking Sites Still Dominate Internet Sales;  Why Do So Many Consider this Bad? / Neil Salerno / April 2005
Now That Online Hotel Booking Is Here to Stay, New Challenges Emerge / Neil Salerno / April 2005
Independent Boutique Hotels Can Compete With their Big Box Neighbors / Neil Salerno / April 2005
Who Are Your Most Important Guests? We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby! / Neil Salerno / March 2005
New Consumer Hotel Booking Preferences - They Love the Internet…Now What? / Neil Salerno / March 2005
Who Would Have Thought - Today's Hotel Marketing Necessity Is Also its Best Value / March 2005
Time For a Hotel Web Site “Make-Over”? Methods for Building a Successful Web Site Change / Neil Salerno / March 2005
Create Impact by Developing a Link Strategy For Your Hotel Web Site / Neil Salerno / February 2005
Steps to Develop Your Hotel's Presence on the Web / Neil Salerno / February 2005
Five Hotel Internet Marketing Myths - Busted!/ Neil Salerno / January 2005
How Does Your Hotel Web Site Measure-Up? 2005 Will Be the Internet’s Most Productive Year so Far / Neil Salerno / January 2005
Are You Being Out-Hustled By Your Competition? How to Dominate Your Hotel's Market Set / Neil Salerno / December 2004
Why Are Some Hotel Companies Plagued By Management Turnover? Is This Systematic of Poor Performance? / Neil Salerno / December 2004
Basic Components of a Hotel Website: Current Weather, Flash Animation, and Virtual Tours?? Plain Talk About Internet Sales / Neil Salerno / February 2004
Don’t Compromise Your Goals In 2004; Five New Year’s Resolutions You Will Want To Keep / Neil Salerno / January 2004
No More Whining About Third-Party Suppliers; You Control Your Own Fate On The Net / Neil Salerno / December 2003
Six 'Maxi’s' Guaranteed To Boost Hotel Sales / Neil Salerno / November 2003
It’s Time To Take Back Control Of Rates & Rooms - But Is The Enemy...Us? / Neil Salerno / November 2003
Booking Engines Are Like A Box of Chocolates...You Never Know What You’re Gonna Get! / Neil Salerno / October 2003
Hotel Web Site & Search Engine Optimization; Always A Work In Progress / Neil L. Salerno / October 2003
Hotel Budgets and Marketing Plans; Oh No, Is It That Time Again? / Neil L. Salerno / September 2003
Increasing Hotel Internet Sales Is Not Rocket Science...And It Doesn’t Have To Be Costly Either / Neil L. Salerno / September 2003
Are You Treating Third Party eWholesalers As Competititon Or a Valuable Marketing Partner? / Neil L. Salerno / August 2003
How Often Have You Heard, 'I could have gotten a better rate but the client saw our rates on the Internet' ? It’s Time To Get Back To Selling Location, Facilities, and Services / Neil L. Salerno / August 2003
Before You Begin that Marketing Plan Challenge Your Sales Team; Expect More and Get More / Neil L. Salerno / July 2003
Jump Up and Shout Yes - Delivering Best Online Customer Experience, Nice Job Vividence! / Neil L. Salerno / July 2003
Is The Internet Delivering On Its Promise? Well, It Depends on How you Look at It / Neil L. Salerno / June 2003
Coaching and Mentoring, Sometimes A New Paradigm Can Go A Long Way / Neil L. Salerno / June 2003
Sales Training Works Well, But Sales Mentoring Makes It More Effective; Mentoring Lasts a Lifetime / Neil L. Salerno / May 2003
Is It Time For A Sales Tune-up? How Healthy Was Your Last Forecast? / Neil L. Salerno / May 2003
Hotel Web Sites; Want it Creative or Effective? / Neil L. Salerno / May 2003
If You Always Do What You Have Always Done.... You’ll Always Get What You Always Got! Hotelier’s Mantra... Thinking Outside The Box / Neil L. Salerno / April 2003
Good Sales Planning - The Basics Still Work / Neil L. Salerno / April 2003


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