By Larry and Adam Mogelonsky
It’s the night before the storm for the start of a solid recovery in hospitality. It will happen first at the domestic level, then internationally. For the latter, all eyes are on IATA to open some bubbles amongst the most vaccinated countries, with our particular interest on an EU-US reopening.
But there are some issues associated with this reopening of flight routes in that customers have changed where and how they are booking their hotels since the pandemic started early last year. You have to be ready, and this means ensuring that your content is fully up to date on all the channels where potential guests may look – those that you have direct control over as well as those that you have never even heard of.
Similar to how rate parity helps revenue managers automate the push of a uniform nightly rate across the vastness of cyberspace, what’s needed now is consistency in how a hotel’s story is told – that is, its USP, key facts, images, Covid safety standards, facility hours of operation and so on. This type of dissemination across all channels is what’s described as ‘content parity’.
As a start, think about all the content updates the average hotel has made in 2020 and perhaps some more that are yet to come. These include but are not limited to:
• Detailed descriptions of onsite Covid safety protocols (which will also work to decrease average voice call length as guests opt to speak with a live agent for reassurance)
• Images showing the latest renovations, branding and Covid safety features
• New hotel name, rebranding or post-Covid property reopening date
• New room types, product tiers or in-room amenities, while also ensuring that these conform to each third party’s internal system of locked categories
• Flexible cancellation and refund policies
• What onsite facilities or services have reopened as well as their hours of operation
• F&B menus including touchless ordering options
• Explanation of any other contactless technologies set up to protect guests
While researching the issue of content parity, I interviewed Andreas Posmeck, the CEO of GIATA, a pioneer in the digitization of the travel industry that has been working since 1996 to deliver uniform information distribution to tour operators, OTAs, GDS and search engines. More recently, the company has launched a product for hotels that allows marketers to seamlessly disseminate content to all third parties without the need for hours upon hours of manual entry by using a universal property identification code.
“In a time when traveler confidence was high and there wasn’t a deluge of fear over a novel airborne virus (also known as the year 2019), a hotel could get away with letting minor updates to its website and third-party webpages slide in favor of more pressing tasks,” commented Posmeck. “Now, in 2021, there’s much more supply than demand, so hotels must be present on as many websites as possible to reach customers, and all channels need to be kept in total alignment to not compromise traveler confidence any further.”
Keeping it all fully up to date is a full-time job. And even if you have a manager or associate who has the time to slog through manually updating each website where you own your presence, you still have to worry about all those other third parties you don’t work with directly who are pulling inventory from wholesalers, likely containing outdated and inaccurate information about your hotel.
Even with herd immunity via a vaccine, guest confidence is still shaky. If your information isn’t kept fully up to date – especially regarding Covid safety measures – prospective customers will go elsewhere. But bean counters being bean counters as we hoteliers often are, any piece of tech has to produce tangible results in the near-term. Aside from the time savings from deploying a content distribution system, during the demo of GIATA, Posmeck also showed off an ROI calculator whereby all it would take is a handful of extra room nights per year to break even. After all, what good is your latest FF&E upgrade or full-property renovation totaling millions of dollars if no one can see it online in advance of their stay?
The forthcoming travel recovery favors those hotels that are nimble and can pivot on a dime. Moreover, it favors those that already have their engines roaring prior to getting the greenlight insofar as a swell of new traveler inquiries. While keeping a skeleton team, you need automation to not only prevent a stymying number of phone calls about your Covid safety measures, but also to help spur ancillary revenues in F&B, spa, golf and so on.
For example, if someone knows the spa has reopened at the time they are booking – because the information has been updated on whatever website they are looking at – then said customer will be much more likely to schedule an appointment or, at the very least, be primed for a cross-sell at a later time. To bring it full circle back to the opener, these little updates become exceedingly important when dealing with international travel where the specific Covid rules may differ from territory to territory or where there’s a language barrier.
In this sense, content parity may be just as important as rate parity for the rest of 2021 because it will boost guest confidence to thus increase bookings versus your competition. We implore you to investigate your options and to align your organization so that nothing about your hotel is out of date.
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Editor’s note: To discuss business challenges or speaking engagements please contact Larry or Adam directly.