News for the Hospitality Executive
|By Gregg Hopkins, President and CEO, Libra
According to Internet World Stats (www.internetworldstats.com), there are over 1.9 billion Internet Users (roughly 28.7% of the world’s population). Over 77% of the North American population uses the Internet, followed by Oceania/Australia (61.3%) and Europe (58.4%) with the highest levels. As of July 2010, 500 million people all around the world are actively using Facebook to stay connected with their friends and the people around them. There are now over 100 million Twitter accounts, tweeting 65 million messages per day.
Does your hospitality organization have an Internet strategy? That’s a loaded question. That’s because, today, there are various components to the Internet. First, most hotels are available to be booked on travel agency systems (GDSs) and other online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, along with thousands of others. In fact, approximately 90 million American adults planned travel during the past year, with 76 percent of them using the Internet to plan their trip. Most online travel planners are somewhat or extremely satisfied with their experiences in using the Internet to plan their trips. Importantly, most see the Internet as a very useful or essential tool for planning many/most aspects of a trip including where to stay overnight, planning travel routes, potential places to visit, attractions to visit, as well as learning about what to do. The primary tools for travel planning are online travel agency websites, search engines, company websites and destination websites. Airline tickets, overnight lodging accommodations and car rentals are the dominant travel products and services purchased online by travel planners. (Source: Travelers’ Use of the Internet)
Your organization’s website probably provides your customers the ability to book rooms directly. But, is that all it does? As the general public becomes more Internet savvy, it is more important than ever to position and represent your hotel properly on your website, while providing plenty of features and functionality. For example, in addition to pictures and directions, does your website allow you to communicate and exchange information with your customers? Can they make changes to their profile? Update their preferences? Manage past and future stays? Get a copy of a past folio? Make service requests?
A Customer Portal is a consumer-facing application that offers stay-aware content and self-service options for hotel guests and customers. It can also be extended to include links to your hotel’s web booking engine, car rental reservations or airline check-in options, thus providing your customers with a single access point to all their travel online. It’s been established that people are more likely to provide details about themselves (phone numbers, email address, birthdays, likes, dislikes) in a secure Internet environment than in a paper questionnaire or face-to-face interview. Embedding a Customer Portal into your website provides this security to your guests along with upcoming reservation information to print property maps, directions or even coordinate airport pick-up. Additionally, your customers may request room assignments, review concierge offerings and make activity reservations for their stay.
A Customer Portal can also provide a set of applications that are stay-specific. These features allow your in-house guests to learn about hotel amenities, along with local attractions, weather and maps. Customers can request housekeeping services or review their bills. They can even schedule spa appointments, golf tee times and other activities at the click of a button. From dining reservations and room service to posting their online survey, customers can directly customize their stay. And, for those guests that have already checked out, they are able to view past stay information and guest folios, sign up for email offers, post travel reviews and update their stay preferences for future visits.
A Customer Portal can also become an integral part of your loyalty and rewards program by offering program members a way to view and manage their membership data online, redeem reward points, purchase gift certificates and request room upgrades.
And here’s the best feature. A Customer Portal can integrate seamlessly with your Customer Relationship Management application. What’s the benefit? All information such as guest preferences, service requests, activity reservations or survey results is then automatically reflected on your customer’s profile, triggering any pre-defined task assignments and workflow rules.
About Gregg Hopkins
Gregg Hopkins is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Libra OnDemand LLC. Gregg has over 25 years of experience in hotel management and hospitality technology. He has worked with various enterprise property management and central reservation system providers, online travel agencies, and destination vacation portals. He has also provided consulting services to hospitality organizations on reservations electronic distribution, technology, e-commerce initiatives, CRM initiatives, marketing, sales strategy, and business development. Gregg is a subject matter expert on hospitality management systems, electronic distribution, and CRM. He also participates as a committee or board member of several industry associations. Gregg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gregg Hopkins, CEO
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