Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Stay Healthy on the Road - Hotels Respond to Travelers' Demand

President Obama was caught on tape working out in a hotel during a trip to Poland.  Leaving politics aside, this video shows Obama is just like many other travelers: They all work out in a hotel gym. 

According to a 2012 survey conducted by TripAdvisor with over 1,400 U.S. travelers, healthy eating and exercise have played an important role in Americans' vacation.  Sixty-nine (69) percent mentioned healthy eating is important during vacation, and 53 percent said they always or often do exercise while they travel.

I am glad to see the industry is responding to what travelers want. Many hotel brands have already updated their workout facilities through renovations and/or re-branding.  Today, travelers can easily find up-to-date equipment in a large workout room in hotels.  There are also websites that are specifically developed for hotel gym reviews (e.g., HotelGymReview.com).  My recent stay at the Hilton Portland and Executive Tower was a great example.

So, what should hotels do to respond to travelers' demand for healthy lifestyle?  I made the following suggestions on MultiBriefs.com:

  • Make sure all existing machines, equipment and swimming pools are working properly. Because travelers are more likely to use the workout facilities in hotels now, any problem would trigger complaints or dissatisfaction.
  • Purchase small equipment that is designed for in-guestroom workout activities, together with a training kit (or DVD/app) for those exercises, both of which can be checked out by hotel guests.
  • Renovate the old workout facilities if budget allows.
  • Research the neighborhood and provide directions to hiking and jogging trails, as well as walking and biking tours.
  • Partner with a local gym to provide additional full-service workout service.
  • When marketing a hotel, highlight a property's state-of-art workout facilities if applicable.

What else should be included in the list?  


Friday, June 13, 2014

Chinese and Tourist Desinations: A Love-Hate Relationship

I was in Hong Kong and mainland China for a conference in May.  During my visit, I witnessed a debate between Chinese tourists and the local residents in Hong Kong.

On one hand, Chinese tourists spend a lot of money on luxury goods and daily necessities in Hong Kong.  On the other hand, the overflow of Chinese tourists brings in many inconveniences to local residents.

Many other tourist destinations also experience some negative effect from the overflow of Chinese tourists.  I wonder why people seem to love and hate Chinese tourists at the same time.  More importantly, what can Chinese tourists do to win the harts from other tourist destinations?

Visit Multibriefs.com for my in-depth discussion on this topic.

Other relevant discussions from this blog:

Starbucks and Pizza Huts: Time Has Come for aRapid Expansion in Mainland China 


References: The picture was downloaded from thatsmags.com.  

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Power of a Single Search: Offering the Right Deals to the Right People (by Cesar Tenorio)

How powerful can a single click on the internet be?  One click can search up endless opportunities on the internet, 'like' a video, or even just simply view a picture.  Now with companies such as MGM Resorts International, a click is all you need to be exposed to their services.  Does it work?  An increase of over 300 percent in revenues may make MGM think so. 

MGM introduced a new digital marketing strategy in 2010 that hones in on their most relevant customers.  By simply searching up prices on hotels or even 'liking' their photos, MGM can specifically advertise to these customers with tailored materials in addition to the "regular" ones of MGM.  What is interesting is how MGM states that they create individual profiles of their customers so that they can determine whether or not someone is more of a big spender or a penny pincher.  With the right data, MGM then targets past customers, as well as the potential with this personalized campaign.  For those who think they cannot afford Vegas, MGM has exclusive offers in their geographic areas.  It even goes as far as to offer nice incentives to lure those customers who are viewing multiple hotels into MGM's website.

This kind of marketing is fascinating to the point of downright scary.  More and more do we see corporations switching over to this approach as opposed to the traditional ways of television and mail.  Of course those mediums will always have their place but the future looks dim as the importance of social media grows.  It is not uncommon for a customer to receive email advertisements of a one night stay at a hotel just because s/he searches on the internet what weekend packages this hotel offers.  That really makes people think twice before entering a site or simply do anything on the internet.

But is it really working?  Personally, yes and no.  Many things I view are out of curiosity such as how much a single night at a luxury resort might be or what hotels fall under MGM in Las Vegas.  However, I still will get advertisements from these companies.  Although a two for one night special at the Luxor sounds appealing, my interest to stay was relatively low. However, there have been times where I viewed events occurring in New York City early last year and actually followed through by purchasing concert tickets when I visited for New Year's Day.

A major improvement to this strategy is to weed out those "careless" searches from those "serious" searches.  This can be accomplished by analyzing a wide range of data such as if a customer has previously stayed in a hotel, how long a customer is on the website, how often a customer stays in a hotel, and if they are looking up various hotels in the area in a particular period.  Another important thing to look at is the personalized trends that these customers are creating.  If a customer loves traveling to different places over time, why not offering new destinations where s/he has never searched before?  If a customer booked a room that has children involved, companies may then advertise local kid-friendly events. What boils down to is giving customers what they want in the most effective manner.

What are your opinions on this?  Have you purchased anything because of an e-mail marketing message your received?  Is there a better approach to target the right customers?  If yes, how?

About the Author
Cesar Tenorio is a full-time, senior undergraduate student at the Collins College of Hospitality Management in California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.  He has held several different positions on campus including Resident Advisor, Orientation Leader, Executive Director for the Up 'Til Dawn fundraising event, and more.  He also held an internship position this past summer in the selective Hilton Worldwide Program.  He has also received scholarships from both The Collins College and the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Cesar currently aspires to receive a management program upon graduation and the opportunity to travel.
 
References:  
Dupre, Elyse. "Making Social Pay Off." Direct Marketing News. 27 Mar. 2014.
Hertzfeld, Esther. "MGM Grows Segmented Social Marketing." Hotel Management. 15 Apr. 2014. 
Kuchinskas, Susan. "Segmented Social Marketing Grows MGM Revenues by 300 Percent." ClickZ. 11 Apr. 2014.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Business Intelligence: Your Part-Time Business Sidekick (By Rachel Shabtai)

Technology has become the norm in today’s society, which has greatly impacted the hospitality industry from all different angles.  Restaurants depend on easy to use point of sales (POS) systems such as Squirrel or Aloha, but what about other departments such as Revenue Management and Sales and Marketing? 

The business intelligence goal is to solve this issue by providing the most efficient and up-to-date information on tracing booking patterns as well as maximizing promotional marketing to external outlets.  It is important for hotels to understand the efficiency that business intelligence can offer; it isn’t the technology that seems complex, but rather the algorithms used to collect all the data.  Of course, those who may use this program won’t have to worry about complicated calculations or data collection, even though they already have the experience of gathering the information.

Business intelligence should be used hand-in-hand to complement the skills a revenue manager or sales and marketing director has to assist in efficiency.  Using this kind of resource can shave time off a busy schedule to focus on things such as improving performance in budgeting or pricing.  

Another way that business intelligence comes in handy for the marketing segment of a hotel would include bridging promotional designs to the performance of the advertisement’s effectiveness. Although marketing strategies will vary, performance and revenues can significantly increase if done correctly.  The data collected would enhance the accuracy of the target market that a hotel strives towards; the analysis provided by business intelligence would include scanning information based on who the demographics of guests traveling in the area, what kind of travelers guests are (e.g., business, leisure, etc.), how much guests are willing to spend, and possibly membership program perks.  

This would also benefit in calculating revenue stream because there would be more accurate information on the types of guests staying in a particular hotel, their length of stay, and how much they would spend during their stay.  With this in mind, business intelligence also promotes seasonal campaigns to maximize revenue for seasonal and off-season periods.

Finally, business intelligence would increase the productivity of measuring the booking pace in many different segments in sales and marketing or rooms.  Although managers manually analyze this sort of data, business intelligence would be able to bring forth more details about which mechanism works best for booking pace in sales and marketing as well as which room types may sell better to specific travelers.

Of course using an external source may have flaws, however human error exists as well; if managers decide to go forth in reaching out to these sources, then it can only do more good than harm.  It is only reasonable that businesses move forward with technology because it is and will be the future of measuring a business’s failure or success in reaching out to guests or customers.

Because business intelligence encourages seasonal and off-season promoting, would it be worth investing in off-season promoting or would it be leaning further towards risk?  Is there any outsourcing of any kind required if businesses decide to use business intelligence?

About the Author:
Rachel Shabtai is a full-time undergraduate student at the Collins College of Hospitality Management at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management with an emphasis in hotel operations.  She has had many hospitality related experiences geared specifically towards hotels including a Revenue Management internship at the Hilton Financial District in San Francisco this past summer.  Rachel has also received the Starwood STAR scholarship through the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality organization.  

References:
Coleman, Kevin. "Using Business Intelligence in Hotel Marketing." Using Business Intelligence in Hotel Marketing. N.p., 9 Apr. 2014. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Will Meta-Search Push More Travelers to Book Rooms Directly on a Hotel's Website? (by Melodye Jung)

As technology advances in our society, it creates a myriad of changes that help improve people’s everyday lives.  A particular advancement, the creation of the Internet, has proven to be essential to the success of the hospitality industry.  It efficiently tracks, records, and provides information in a matter of minutes when it would have taken hours to do it manually.  

In the past, people normally went to travel agents and spoke to them in person to arrange their trip.  When the Internet was created, travel agents took their business to the Internet.  Guests were happy to make the switch; after all, it was more convenient for them to book their travel online than in person.  Realizing that guests could book directly from the hotel’s website instead of from OTAs (Online Travel Agents such as Expedia.com), hotels have long tried to persuade guests to book through their own website.  After all, why pay someone else to do the job when you can do it yourself?

Today, everything is easily accessible through the web.  It has assisted many guests with searching for rooms, looking up reviews, and booking rooms.  Hotels have particularly made it very easy to book rooms through their own websites.  They provide information about all the different types of rooms, discounts and rates, amenities, and etc. that a guest would look for when booking a room.  Not only is the website informative, but it was also aesthetically designed to streamline the reservation process without a whole lot of hassle.  Though as convenient as it is to a book room directly from the hotel’s website, some guests have continued to use OTAs to book their rooms for their own personal reasons.

Now, with the help of meta-search, OTAs may finally disappear.  Max Starkox, president and founder of HeBS digital, believes that meta-search will encourage more consumers to book rooms through the hotel’s direct online channel instead of going through OTAs.  He claims that meta-search will “improve the value proposition to online travel consumers” by providing real-time availability and rate comparisons (Starkov).  With real-time availability and rate comparisons on hand, consumers can readily decide whether to book the room or not, because they can see how many rooms are left at the current price.  Starkov believes that by providing these two additional pieces of information in addition to having hotel location, hotel information, and customer reviews, meta-search provides all the information that a guest would ever need in order to make a well-informed decision on when and where to book a room.   With everything laid out for the consumers on the hotel’s website, people won’t need to use OTAs to find better deals.  People won’t also need to depend on OTAs’ expertise to book a nice room, since they’ll be fully equipped with the all the information that they need to make the right choice.

It’s no surprise that people today are all about having the facts instantly.  The Internet has changed how people gather and process information.  Companies in the hospitality industry must adapt and change to best meet the needs of its consumers in order to be successful.  As meta-search becomes more prevalent, it will change the way hotels market and price their rooms.  With real-time availability and pricing information available for customers to see, hotels may see the rise of dynamic price marketing in the hospitality industry within this year.  If hotels implemented dynamic price marketing in their marketing campaigns, the way hotels advertise their rooms will change.  Rather than posting a message of “Our weekend get-away package starts at $159,” the advertisement might read like “Four rooms left for $135 a night, get them while you can!"

Though I believe that meta-search will cause a significant drop in the use of OTAs to book hotel rooms, I don’t think that OTAs will completely disappear.  As many people as there are who avid  Internet users, there are still quite a few people who don’t use the hotel’s website to book rooms.  Seniors and other people may simply stick to OTAs, because they trust in the OTAs expertise.  There are some people who are just not aware of all the hotel brands in their particular area.  OTA’s can help them shorten the search and find a better fit for the consumers.  Others may stick to OTAs simply out of loyalty after using them for a long period of time.  Either way, OTAs will find a new way to market itself so that it can maintain its current consumers.  It will be interesting to see how OTAs will respond to the emergence of meta-search.

Do you think meta-search will completely eliminate the consumers’ need for OTAs?  Should hotels implement meta-search into their websites?  How will real-time availability affect the hotels’ advertising campaigns?

References:  
Starkov, Max. “4 Multi-Faceted Ways That Meta-Search Can, and Must, Help Hotels Take On the OTAs”. Hotel Online. N.p 11 Apr. 2014. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.

About the Author
Melodye Jung is an undergraduate student in Hotel and Restaurant Management at California State Polytechnic University of Pomona.  Her emphasis is on Event Planning.  Since her first year in college, she has been very active on campus.  Listed on the Dean’s and President’s Honor List, she has continued to pursue academic excellence while holding several leadership positions on campus.  After graduation, Melodye would like to move back to the Bay Area and pursue an MBA in Management.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

What Is the Core Principle of Social Media Marketing?

I attended the Social Media Marketing World Conference 2014 in San Diego (#SMMW14).  I heard many case studies and real success on social media marketing, which were drawn from different industrial sectors and represented a variety of social media platforms.  In the end, I made one conclusion: Listening and responding to customers is the core principle of social media marketing.  Companies now can answer the following questions by analyzing the consumer data on the Internet:

  • For what purpose or on what occasion do customers use a product/service?
  • What do they like or dislike about a product/service? And for what reasons?
  • Who is actually buying and using a particular product/service?
  • When is the best time to communicate with the target customers on social media?
  • Where is the best "place" to reach the target customers?

Is it that simple?  Just "listen" to what customers said online, and then "respond" to what they need?  Check out my reflections on #SMMW14.