Hotel Online  Special Report

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Adapt Your Hotel Web Site To Lock-in
More Corporate Transient Business 

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By: Neil Salerno – July 2006

Just a few short years ago, the Internet turned the corporate transient market topsy-turvy.  It seems like just yesterday that we simply negotiated rates with corporate clients. We based those rates on their potential room night volume and travel pattern; and, hopefully we were able to count on their business unless or until another hotel came in to bid against us. 

In those days, all rates were opaque, except for our published rack rates. Companies loved negotiated rates because they were able to get a good deal as compared to our rack rates; hotels loved it because we were able to negotiate good base business. 

We sold rooms which started at rack rates and worked down to special promotional rates as needed; super-special rates for companies with volume. For the most part, companies with the highest volume and best travel pattern got the lowest rates; companies earned those special rates with volume business. In turn, companies encouraged their travelers to use the hotels they designated as a partner hotel. All was well in hotel-land.

The Internet changed all that

One of the strongest advantages we had in those days was that rates, other than our rack rates, were hidden and not easily discerned by the public. The process of shopping hotel rates, in those days, was pretty difficult. It required searching through hotel company directories and/or making many phone calls. Rack rates, the only visible rates, established the value of our negotiated rates by the comparison between the two.  

As the popularity of the Internet exploded, hotels gained the ability to market to the entire world, but, at the same time, lost the flexibility to control their own rate structure. Suddenly, corporate consumers had the ability to check rates on the Internet to find the best rates available; no more hidden rates. This really complicated the corporate rate negotiation process.

Franchises Impacted the Industry’s Rate Quoting Process 

To make matters worse, realizing that third-party aggregators were quickly taking-over control of travel on the Internet, several major franchises began to fight–back by declaring “lowest rate guarantees” on their web sites. It made sense; how else would they draw consumers away from third-party sites?

This one act made the Internet a bargain basement for consumers and forced hotels to sell rooms by lowest rate. Yes, it worked well; it continues to boost traffic to franchise web sites, but it also changed the way we sell rooms. All of a sudden, discounted rates were not only visible to the public, but also promoted internationally. Thank goodness promotion of lowest rate guarantees have subsided a bit in the past year or so.

Their decision to guarantee lowest rates on their web sites helped franchises to re-capture their share of the Internet channel, but it provides little benefit for their individual hotels except to force them to sell by lowest rate instead of the merits of their hotels. It also helped teach consumers to shop by rate on the Internet. 

The early success of third-party portals threatened the very existence of the franchises. After-all, why would one pay a 5 or 6% franchise fee on all room business, whether it is generated by the franchise or not, if hotels can get the same volume from third-party portals and pay only for the room nights they generate. Now that the franchises have been able to cut their own deals with the third-parties, the war turned cold, but the competition between them is still tense; and hotels lay somewhere in the middle.

The biggest benefactors of the war for web dominance have been consumers; especially corporate travelers. In order to maintain their contracts with companies, many hotels were forced to offer even deeper discounts, but without the promises from corporate accounts to produce any volume of room business in return. Suddenly, corporate clients were comparing their negotiated rates with our lowest published rates instead of our higher rack rates. 

Until the franchises learn how to compete with third-party portals with anything other than simply promoting their lowest rates first, this controversy will still exist. The “bedding wars” were a good step to promote the merits of their hotels and not just lowest rates; unfortunately, I can’t imagine many franchisees being pleased with the large investment required.  

We need to provide more services  

Corporate transient business has never based on rates alone. Hotels that profit by negotiated rate corporate business learned to think “outside the box”. They created formal corporate rate agreements, which included special value-added benefits and amenities. These benefits became “special” to that company and could not be found on anyone’s web site. In many cases, this was enough to lock-in that company’s business. Value-added features have never been more important than they are today.

Think outside the box; the old amenities of free local calls and continental breakfast just won’t cut-it anymore. To be effective, negotiated amenities cannot be available to the public; otherwise they are no longer special. Free high-speed Internet is now a necessity; so, how about free long distance calls for those who want to save minutes on their mobile phones; it’s possible today with Internet phones. Find those things that are important to that company and use them to lock-in their business; what better way to find them than to ask them.

How about creating a link to your site to be placed on your client’s office computers? How about a volume reward program designed specifically for the corporate traveler; these can be easily tracked on your web site. Be creative.

Make your web site a better corporate sales tool by offering potential clients their own special page on your web site. This page can be made public or, better yet, private to that company with pass code access. Provide a link on your site to their company web site directly from their page on your site. It can be a valuable link for you and encourage the company to provide a link from their site…to their page on your site. This is a simple task for your web master.

Create a business resource page on your web site listing all local major companies; this will increase traffic to your site and give your site more accessibility to the local business environment. An often forgotten tool is to include the names of major companies in your area with your Meta Tag key words and phrases on your web site. Wouldn’t you like your site to show, as a search result, if someone is searching for those companies? 

Use the Internet to Research Potential Clients 

I couldn’t even begin to count the number of hours I spent in the public library, in the years before the Internet, researching potential business. That’s all gone today. Many times one can determine the needs and wants of a company by reading about their structure and corporate goals online. Names of and information about their decision-makers can usually be found on their web sites.

Selling is easy; finding someone to sell is the hard part. Sales people, who master the art of prospecting and soliciting business on the Internet, win more often. Learn to use the Internet and your web site to find and lock-in corporate business. There are many additional ways to get the Internet and your web site to work for you; sit down with your team and discover them. 

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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: Good Ideas are a Dime a Dozen…But, Success or Failure is in the Execution / Neil Salerno / June 2006
More Hotel Web Site Hints, Tips, and Tricks - Unwrapped / Neil Salerno / June 2006
Nine Tips to Create a Dominant Hotel Web Site / Neil Salerno / May 2006
Your Hotel Web Site: If It Ain’t Broke…Break It! / Neil Salerno / May 2006
Independent Hotel Web Sites - Marketing Winners…and Losers / Neil Salerno / May 2006
Tired of Hotel Sales Training That Excites… But Doesn’t Change Anything? / Neil Salerno / April 2006
Hotel Web Site Productivity…The New Way to Measure Your Site’s Effectiveness / Neil Salerno / April 2006
Hotel Revenue Management. . . The Way I See It / Neil Salerno / April 2006
Hotel Web Site Lookers & Bookers; Want to Convert Lookers on Your Web Site? / Neil Salerno / March 2006
Hotelier Rebuts Article Concerning Third-party Online Aggregators / Neil Salerno / February 2006
Great Opportunity for Independent Hotels - Cash-in on Electronic Sales / Neil Salerno / January 2006
Some Hoteliers Still Don’t Recognize the Benefits Derived from Third-party Listings; Shame, Shame, Shame on You! / Neil Salerno / January 2006
Online Hotel Rating Sites Driving Anxiety into  the Hearts of Many Hotel Managers / Neil Salerno / December 2005
Hotel Web Site Priorities –Some Do’s, Don’ts; Why the Heck Did You Do That? / Neil Salerno / November 2005
The Best Hotel Sales Director I Ever Met; What Do The Good Ones Have in Common? / Neil Salerno / November 2005
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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