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Showing posts from March, 2010

To Capture Those Customers Who Don’t Want to Leave Facebook

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I feed my blog to my Facebook page and LinkedIn profile so that my friends in my social networks can read my blog there as well. Facebook also allows my friends to leave comments there, but such comments are not linked to my blog. Soon, I noticed a friend of mine only posted his comments on Facebook. I asked him why he does not want to post his comments on my blog. If he did, he would be able to interact with other people who are not my Facebook friends. He told he prefers “Facebook” over other channels because he only “Facebook” things. He is a perfect example of those who like Facebook so much that they don’t want to leave Facebook at all.

In order to capture these loyal Facebook users, businessmen try their best to work on the technology, allowing customers to place orders without leaving Facebook. Most of all, “fans” who follow a business are probably loyal customers already. Smart businessmen have come up with several solutions. Kim Boatman (Inc.com) introduced several Facebook b…

An Example of Success

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Today, several regional managers of Archon Hospitality presented in my Hotel and Resort Operations class and conducted job interviews with SU students. They are Mark Miller, VP of East Coast, Jim Cornish, Area Director of Select Service Hotels, and Tania Cornish, Regional Property Support Manager.

Archon Hospitality just acquired a large number of properties in the 3rd quarter of 2009. It owns or operates more than 350 hotels in the U.S. Previously, we discussed opening new hotels under recession. Now, I would like to focus on the success of these three Archon managers. They came from different backgrounds. Yet, they are young, professional and have very progressive career paths with Archon. They set an excellent example for us. Here are some highlights:


· Being flexible in terms of locations and jobs is important. Companies that grow aggressively like Archon may open up tremendous opportunities whenever they acquire new hotels. If a person is willing to move (e.g. from Front Office t…

Making Travel Reservations on Facebook? It May Happen Sooner than We Thought.

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We discussed the possibility of making hotel reservations on Facebook in this blog before. Recently, a free platform was introduced by Swapsystem.com on Facebook, allowing travel agents, tour operators, and hotels to find their “perfect travel match.” Business users can upload their profiles, such as photos, service, and charges to the database. They, then, can build a partnership on Facebook by sending or accepting invitations from each other, negotiating special rates (such info will be kept confidentially), and even making reservations. Swapsystem can be used as a “booking engine, management system, sales system, and means of communication.” How much does it cost? Users pay 50 Euro for an introductory rate of training plus 1% of a completed transaction.



I don’t know how reliable this system is. However, I expect to see more and more B2B or B2C applications on Facebook, which makes it possible and easier to conduct business on Facebook. Do you agree? Soon, we may be able to make our …

“Restaurants See Signs of Spring” --- by the Wall Street Journal

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People see hopes in the spring, and I am glad to find some signs of recovery from the market. The new claims of unemployment benefits drop 14,000 from previous week on March 20. Today, the Wall Street Journal suggests that restaurant consumers are coming back and suppliers have lowered prices.

For example, sales of Palio d’Asti in San Francisco increase 30%, Olivia in Austin up 25%, and Savoy in New York up 15%. Suppliers have also cut prices on some items. Prices of Oregon mushrooms drop from $33 per pound last year to $20 this season. An herb-crusted roasted rack of lamb decreases from $35 to $28. California morels change from $24 to $12.5 per pound. As the food costs drop, creative chefs can offer better valued meals.

Even though the market is showing some good signs, it is too early to say that the business has rebounded. While I enjoy an early spring in Syracuse this year, I look forward to the summer!

References:
McLaughlin, K. (2010, March 26). Restaurants see signs of spring. Th…

No Tipping in Hotels? Will It Be a Trend?

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The Elysian Hotel in Chicago opened in December. It has everything that a high-end luxury hotel offers. Yet, it is different because of its no-tipping policy.

The purpose of this no-tipping policy is to eliminate guests’ needs of carrying extra cash during their stays. The hotel does not believe guests should pay someone who does something “extra” for them. Guests are notified the no-tipping policy at reservation and reminded the policy again upon checking-in. The hotel pays employees competitive wages and benefits. All employees are trained to refuse tips in a polite way. However, if a guest insists a tip, tip is acceptable.

I grew up in mainland China, where no-tipping is the norm. When I travel to Hong Kong many years ago, people left roughly 10% tips in restaurants. After experiencing the financial crisis and recession, I notice tipping in Hong Kong has changed quite a bit. Today, people often leave less than 10 Hong Kong dollars for tips, regardless of the bill (about $1.25; $1 ≈ H…

Are You Ready to Put Your Ads on Facebook?

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Last week, Facebook out-passed Google and became the most visited website in the U.S. Thereafter, Inc.com hosted a discussion on whether companies should post advertisements on Facebook.

I remember years ago, I used to search information at Yahoo. Then, I started “googling” things. Now, I am “facebooking” updates. When people use Google, they need to type in keywords to find what they want to see. Facebook, on the other hand, can “anticipate” users’ needs according to their ages, geographic locations, interests, education levels, connections, and networks. Compared to Google Ads, Facebook allows companies to target a more specific group and better “anticipate” consumers’ needs.

Some companies are switching their online ad expenditures from Google Ads to Facebook. Facebook is expecting $2 billion revenue from global advertising next year. Are you ready to put your ads on Facebook? How will you allocate your advertisement budget?

References:
Inc.com: http://tinyurl.com/LinchiKwok03242010
Pi…

Respond to Online Negative Reviews

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Web 2.0 (social media) allows customers to post their reviews online, which creates Word-of-Mouth (WOM) marketing effect for hotels and restaurants. As managers, we certainly want our guests to post positive comments and hopefully, spread such positive feedback to as many people as possible. However, no matter how hard we try, we may occasionally see some negative reviews. The questions are when we shall respond to a negative review and when we should NOT respond to a negative review.

Lisa Barone initiated a discussion at SmallBuzTrends.com on March 17. I think she made some really good points. I agree with her that we shall respond to a negative review when
(1) we made a mistake --- then fix it,
(2) guests made a false claim --- then defend for ourselves,
(3) more and more guests agree to a negative comment --- probably that is real problem. Then, acknowledge the problem and fix it,
(4) we are certain that we can win back the customers by addressing the problem --- then address the proble…

$1 Deals on Hotels, Dining, and More in Syracuse, N.Y.

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Syracuse Orange is competing for the championship in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. The city is proud to support the Orange and launches a “1 for 1 Orange Special” in 23 participating hotels, restaurants, museums, spas, and attractions. For example:

1. Book three nights and get the 3rd night stay for $1 in Best Western Liverpool Grace Inn & Suites and the Arbor House Inn.
2. 750ml bottle of wine for $1 at Lakeland Winery
3. $1 for a second entrée when you buy the first one at regular price at Speedy Greens Organic Restaurant.

Offer is good until the Syracuse Orange wins the NCAA basketball tournament or loses a game (we certainly want it to last until Orange wins). Rules and regulations apply. For more detail, visit www.visitsyracuse.org/alltheway.

Last but not least, I claim that I do not work for Syracuse CVB. I just feel proud of our team and want support Syracuse Orange. Go Orange!

References:
MSNBC: http://tinyurl.com/LinchiKwok03222010
Picture was copied from: http://tinyurl.com/Li…

What Can Go Wrong in an Event? A “Funny-or-Die” Marketing Approach

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Corporate America has seriously cut meetings and functions in hotels, which makes 2009 and even early 2010 a tough time for hotel event managers. Traditionally, Hyatt Hotels used the message of hosting successful meetings to communicate with meeting planners. Now, Hyatt found from its internal research that (1) over 50% small meetings (100 people or less) are not organized by a professional event planner and (2) meeting planner wants great food, reliable audio-visual equipments, and simply not being yelled at. Hyatt uses a new approach to market its corporate event business. Here are some of the highlights:

1. Hyatt paid less than $300,000 to Funny or Die website to produce video for advertising (the embedded video is an example).

2. Majority of Funny or Die website’s audience can be described as “young, male, and upscale.”

3. Funny or Die website has 1.5 million Twitter followers and almost 50,000 Facebook fans.

4. Hyatt’s media agency plans to spend between $2 to $3 million in 2010 wi…

Coming Soon: Possible Upgrades of Extended Stay, $1 Drink by McDonald’s, and 4G Mobile Networks

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Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (MarketPlace) reported several pieces of hospitality and technology news that caught my attention. I feel these issues might have great impact to the hospitality industry.

1. Starwood and Extended Stay Chain were negotiating a deal. I used W Hotels by Starwood as an example for hotel design trend. I would like to see how Starwood may help Extended Stay turn around its business. Regarding the extended-stay segment, I tweeted an article by Inc.com about four great extended-stay hotel examples (http://bit.ly/bXWzUO). From the pictures of a guestroom in Vdara Hotel & Spa, Las Vegas, NV and a kitchen in Element by Westin, Lexington, MA, we can see the design trend for extended-stay hotels --- contemporary, light color, chic decors, etc. I feel it is time for the “old” extended-stay hotels to update their images. I will pay a close attention to the changes of this segment.

2. McDonald’s is going to offer $1 soft drinks for all sizes. Even though $1 seems a …

Seeing Is Believing: An Update of Holiday Inn Express Syracuse-Fairgrounds

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We discussed the changes and even some surprises that Holiday Inn brought us before. Today, I toured the newly-renovated Holiday Inn Express Syracuse-Fairgrounds. I really like the new design. It looks clean and modern. Seeing is believing. Here are some pictures I took during the tour.

1. Top right --- Front Desk: new logo, new lighting, fresh blue color, and a friendly Front Desk agent.

2. Middle right --- Guestroom: this hotel also has refrigerator, microwave, and electric safe in each guestroom. How nice! (Not every Holiday Inn Express features these facilities though.)

3. Top left --- Breakfast: it serves typical continental breakfast plus some hot items like sausage, bacon, cheese omelette, etc. The blue colar and the lighting enhance the "freshness" feel.

4. Bottom right --- Mini Market: a small convenient store. Many limited service hotels have mini market now.




5. Bottom left --- Small conference room: using blue-color bottle water shows the attention to details.



How do y…

Social Media and Event Management

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Social media has become an important marketing and communication tool for event management companies. A recent survey released by Earthtimes.org reveals that 65% event managers have already been using social medial to promote their events and maintain communication with their partners and clients.

As a hospitality product, events are intangible; service is provided simultaneously while it is consumed. In many cases, clients only have one-shot experience of their wedding or events, which further pushes them to seek information from online reviews or through their social networks. This makes social media critical in event management business. The potential problem, however, is “social media is incredibly time consuming” (Minda Zetlin at Inc.com). I feel some of Zetlin’s ideas are helpful in managing social media. For example:

1. Delegate some responsibilities to staff. Facebook had 111 million visitors in 2009. In March 2010, Facebook just out-passed Google and became the most visited web…

Kitchen Gadgets from the 2010 International Home & Housewares Show in Chicago (ABCNews.com)

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ABCNews.com shows us some interesting innovative products from the 2010 International Home & Housewares Show in Chicago (http://tinyurl.com/linchikwok03162010-02). Many of these gadgets work better at home because they are not designed for commercial kitchens. However, I think a restaurant may still find some useful tools or ideas, such as the Spin & Go Mop System (even though it is expensive; $49.99 each). I personally don’t like the champagne opener --- the opener is indeed safer, but it is just not as much fun as to watch the capsule poping out of a bottle. How do you think of these inventions?

References:
ABCNews.com: http://tinyurl.com/linchikwok03162010-01
Pictures were copied from: http://tinyurl.com/linchikwok03162010P-01 and http://tinyurl.com/linchikwok03162010PP

The Opportunities of International Medical Tourism

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A news article at Tempabay.com reported that more Americans seek medical treatments overseas. The number of U.S. residents who traveled abroad for health care will jump from 648,000 in 2009 to 1.6 million by 2012.

The benefits of travelling overseas for care are obvious. People pay as low as 80% of the costs in the U.S. for a vacation-medical-care package, where they can complete medical procedures in a five-star resort and hotel facility. The factors of more overseas hospitals earned international accreditations, as well as more U.S. employers provide insurance with overseas coverage, also push the popularity of outbound medical tourism in the U.S.

Of course, these benefits also come with potential risks, such as unknown quality standards of treatments, difficulty in assessing physician credentials, lack of follow-up care after patients return to the U.S., and limited legal options if the surgery goes wrong. As a result, consumers need to weigh the benefits and potential risks when mak…

A New Challenge for Chefs: Cooking without Salt

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Felix Ortiz, a New York assemblyman, proposed a bill that prohibits restaurants adding salt on food. If restaurants are caught doing that, a fine of $1,000 will be issued. New York City has banned unhealthy ingredients like trans-fats in food preparation. Many restaurants in the City have also listed calories information on the menu. Now, the governors switched their attention to salt because about 1.5 million New Yorkers have high blood pressure. Some governors believe the new bill of banning salt will help New Yorkers consume less sodium and possibly solve the high-blood-pressure problem.

I understand the reason of banning trans-fats because restaurants may find some replaceable. I am not sure about salt. I admit I am not a professional chef. Neither did I spend much time working in a commercial kitchen. My experience of cooking at home informs me I cannot cook without salt unless I want to eat bland food every day.

As a matter of fact, even though eating too much sodium will increase…

Luxury Movie Theater

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Probably because people spend less money on travel and restaurants, movies become more popular these days. Sales are up to $10.6 billion. The trends are: we see more 3D movies; restaurants in a theater location often offer dinner-movie specials. Now, consumers can even enjoy “luxury experience” in theaters.

As reported in the video, Boston introduced a high-end movie theater in August 2008. In addition to luxury seating, consumers can request service from waiter and waitress during movies. USA Today also discussed the luxury trend of theaters. Developers are building more luxury dine-in movie theaters. This “dine-in” concept has been tested in Australia and Singapore, which attract 2.5 million moviegoers a year ($35 each). Amenities in some luxury theaters include adult-only clubs, lounges, and outlets for Hors d’Oeavres.

Luxury theaters create a new experience for consumers. Just because they want to enjoy a movie, they don’t have to give up tasty food and good drink for soda and popco…

Mobile Coupons

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Target released a mobile coupon program yesterday. This program allows consumers to receive a hyperlink in text message. With the hyperlink, consumers can launch a website with coupon barcodes in their cell phones. Then, they can redeem the coupons by scanning the barcodes on their cell phones at the register (You may watch the embedded video for more detail).

On February 10, we discussed the returns of coupons in the mobile form (http://linchikwok.blogspot.com/2010/02/coupons-are-back-in-what-way.html). Hotels and restaurants, especially quick service restaurants, can certainly take advantage of this technology. However, as far as I know, the questions of who is using mobile coupons and how they are used still remain unanswered. Nevertheless, when the mobile coupon market becomes mature, we will see a variety of mobile coupon programs targeting different groups of consumers.

Do you want to try this new app in your smart phone? You may sign up for this service at the following website:

The Internet: Something We Cannot Live Without

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Yesterday, students in the hotel operations class and I toured the Embassy Suites (ES) Hotel in East Syracuse. Thanks to Mr. Thomas Olsen, the General Manager, and other executive members of the hotel, we got a chance to observe and hear some great ideas of hotel operations. Some highlights include:

1. It is not exaggerated to state that a hotel cannot operate without the Internet. ES is ahead of the game in terms of using iPhone apps and social media (we discussed this trend, e.g. on Jan 21st in this blog). Internet plays an important role in sales and marketing at the ES East Syracuse, which agrees to the industry trend. In 2009, a survey of the top 30 hotel brands suggested that every reservation channel is declining except for Internet. In 2010, 45% of hotel reservations are expected to come from the Internet.

2. In today’s economy, “adding value” is the way to survive. Guests at ES pay one price for the room but can enjoy complimentary cook-to-order hot breakfast and manager recept…

Travel Smart during Spring Break

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MSNBC reported the changes of travel experiences during this year’s spring break: airfares up 9% but hotel rates down 3%. As a result, if we want to save some money this year during spring break, we may consider the following alternatives:

1. Traveling with your own vehicle or a rental car instead of flying. The trade-off? Options are limited to those destinations within driving distance.
2. Balancing the expenses in selective locations --- the saving in hotels may offset the expense of airfares.
3. Be more flexible, a Tuesday-to-Tuesday and Wednesday-to-Wednesday trips are cheaper than Fridays or weekends. I bet professors won’t like anyone missing any class though.

What’s your plan for spring break? Any money saving tips to share with us?

References:
MSNBC.com: http://tinyurl.com/linchikwok03082010
Picture was copied from: http://tinyurl.com/linchikwok03082010P

Protect Our Privacy during a Hotel Stay

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Today’s MSNBC News reported Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in downtown LA was hacked. The hotel has informed customers of the incident. Guests who used credit cards at the hotel’s four restaurants or valet parking may get affected.

While hotels are working hard to protect consumers’ privacy (l believe they do), we, as consumers, can also be smart in protecting our privacy. Here are some examples:
· Use our business contact information at all time. People can easily look up such info in a company’s website or some sort. In this sense, I consider business contact info as “public info.”
· Utilize online banking to monitor the expenses. Reports showed people check their balances more often if they use online banking. If we don’t feel comfortable in online banking, check our monthly statement often and report any suspicious transactions.
· Check our credit report every year. I use AnnualCreditReport.com (https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp). This website does not show me my…

Coke or Pepsi: A Factor Influences Consumers’ Hotel Choice?

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I did not notice people will choose a hotel over the others because of a soda sold in hotel’s vending machines. Actually, I never imagine anyone would. Well, I was wrong. According to USA today’s forum, soda brand may influence people’s decision in their hotel stays.

“Marriott and their brands have Pepsi, I avoid them. Hilton brands have Coke, so all other things equal, I go there.” Obviously, this is a response from Coke’s fan.

Selling what soda is often the corporate office’s decision. It deals with vender relationships and customer relationships. Pepsi and Coke have been always fighting with each other. Some people choose one over the other; some don’t care much. My point is yes, indeed, we need to listen to our customers. However, at the time when we cannot satisfy everyone (nobody can anyway), we have to make a choice. The key is whether we can satisfy our target customers’ need --- if our target customers like Pepsi, then we will work with Pepsi. If they like Coke, we will put Cok…

Doing Business on Facebook: One More Step Forward

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Buxter launched a new app on Facebook today, allowing Facebook users to send payments of £45 or less. However, users can only transfer money within their network. In addition, if users want to use Buxter, they have to sign up a ClickandBuy account. Receiving payments with Buxter is free, but the service will charge users a minimum of £2 transaction fee if the money is transferred from another source, like a bank account. Additional fees may apply if the payment is not in pounds.

Even though Buxter does not sound like a convenient app for now, I feel this is another step forward for doing business on Facebook in the near future. Hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality and tourism companies can soon take advantage of this Facebook trend (relative discussion can be found via: http://linchikwok.blogspot.com/2010/02/one-day-we-may-be-able-to-make-hotel.html). With these money paying tools, fans can purchase gift cards from a business. Meanwhile, managers can also find new ways of keeping…

Foreign Entrepreneurs Will Get a Green Card for Starting a Business in the U.S.?

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According to the newly proposed Start-up Visa Act by Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar, foreign entrepreneurs will have another alternative of getting a green card and staying in the U.S. permanently. Before, they can only go through the EB-5 or H-1B process, where EB-5 requires they invest $1+ million in the U.S. and employ 10+ people and H-1B is for skilled workers employed by a U.S. company.

Under the Start-up Visa Act, foreigners will be granted U.S. visas “if they can secure at least $100,000 from a sponsoring angel investor or at least $250,000 from a qualified venture capital firm. After two years, if the immigrant entrepreneur can create 5 or more jobs (hiring his or her children or spouse is not included), attract an additional $1 million in investment, or produce $1 million in revenue, he or she can become a legal resident.”

Hospitality industry is a business where people serving people. America is a country that welcomes diverse culture. If this bill is passed, I can se…

Welcome to America, and Pay Ten Dollar

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With the attempt to raise $200 million a year for the U.S. travel and tourism industry, foreign visitors will soon need to pay a $10 fee for traveling into the U.S. The bill has been passed by the House; the Senate approved the legislation last Thursday.

While foreign travel worldwide increased 39% since 2000, the number in the U.S. is down 9% for the same period. With a $10 fee, the government plans to “attract 1.6 million additional foreign visitors annually, pumping $4 billion in the economy each year, and creating about 40,000 U.S. jobs.” I hope the government spends this $200 million wisely and turns the U.S. into a must-see destination. If nothing changes, I don’t see how adding a $10 fee will attract more visitors.

Assuming the government would successfully attract more foreign travelers, gateway cities like New York, San Francisco, and LA will probably benefit from this bill the most. California along is expected to see $650 million income from tourist spending and 6,500 more jo…