Hospitality and Travel Trends

The latest trends from the hospitality and travel industry.

Marketing

Tips for Taking Better Property Photos

Tips for Taking Better Property Photos Do-it-yourself advice from professional hotel photographers

If a picture is “worth a thousand words,” are the property photos on your profile telling potential customers what you want them to say? If you don’t have the budget to hire a professional photographer, there are ways to make your own property photos the best they can be.

When travelers are in the process of selecting accommodations, quality photos will help yours stand apart from the rest. Here are some tips from hotel photography pros, based on techniques they use for their own clients.

Consider Composition

“Spaces with really interesting lighting make for beautiful photographs,” advises Ken Wan, principal of ARC - Architectural Photography in Vancouver. Natural or artificial light work, so long as it’s abundant. “I also think spaces that allow the viewer to imagine themselves there, whether it’s a beautiful room with a view or an outdoor pool, can be really appealing and inviting.”

Conversely, he warns that using people in your images will communicate your property’s target clientele, and could turn off those who don’t fit that look.

All types of accommodations need photo inventories of entire rooms, especially the guest rooms. But there are other images you should incorporate into your portfolio as well.

DO try to include:

  • Candid portrayals of staff acting naturally.
  • Architectural details accentuated by natural light.
  • Lifestyle details (décor, furniture, food), shot in soft light.
  • Night time scenes that look “cozy.”

AVOID these types of images:

  • Staff or guests looking at the camera.
  • Pictures of empty lobbies, hallways, or room doors.
  • Rooms that aren’t tidy or clean.
  • Busy images with too much in them (don’t use a wide angle lens or a panorama view).

"Don’t be afraid to spend time moving furniture until the composition is right. Straighten the sheets on the bed, remove the dustbin, and straighten the pictures on the wall.” - Mark Bolton of Mark Bolton Hotel Photography

Set the Scene

Before you snap the first shot, stage your spaces correctly. Based in London, Mark Bolton of Mark Bolton Hotel Photography shoots hotels all over the world. “Don’t be afraid to spend time moving furniture until the composition is right,” he says. “Straighten the sheets on the bed, remove the dustbin, and straighten the pictures on the wall.”

Also consider the time of day to take advantage of natural light. Early morning on a sunny, clear day is ideal.

Maximize Your Equipment

You don’t need expensive and elaborate camera equipment to take good photos, but you should become familiar with the tools and settings on the camera to enhance the results. Relatively inexpensive accessories are also worth the investment. 

Bolton suggests using a tripod, which facilitates a level shot. “Try to shoot with the camera level so you don’t get dodgy angles, known as converging verticals,” he says. “You can buy a very small spirit level to fit on your camera.”

He also recommends using a small aperture on your camera to get deep depth of focus, which will bring all foreground and background objects equally into focus. Conversely, larger apertures will blur the background. Switch off tungsten lights, and set the ISO values at up to 400 ISO so that you don’t get too much “noise” in the image. A higher ISO number increases the camera’s sensitivity to light.

Wan recommends taking a few test shots and viewing them on a computer. “What looks right in person often looks weird in photographs,” he points out.

Integrate On-Trend Imagery

If you want your property images to feel current, consider the trends in hotel photography. Bolton is seeing a lot of natural light in images, with compositions that pay more attention to lifestyle (décor and cuisine, for example) than the architectural elements. It’s an “editorial feel” that portrays personal interactions, and moments in time that incorporate the senses.

However, trends come and go, as Wan warns, so he advises that you concentrate more about the message you want to communicate. Those lifestyle photographs that show people will be dated after a few years as clothing and hair styles change.

Take the time to create a photo portfolio that lets your property shine. Enticing images send the right messages to the customers you want to attract. 

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Social media success stories

Social media success stories A closer look at several award-winning hotel campaigns

Today, effective social media marketing means more than just posting on Facebook or Twitter once a day. Creativity is key to: maintaining frequency in a crowded online space; interacting with and building your customer base; creating a buzz and – potentially – making a message go “viral.”

When Travel + Leisure magazine launched its SMITTY (Social Media in Travel and Tourism) awards two years ago, hotels and resorts worldwide shared their success stories of social media campaigns, both big and small. A look at the varied programs from these 2013 award winners’ programs offers insight into what works online to capture consumers’ attention.

The Four Seasons won the SMITTY award in the “Overall Hotel Chain” category. The strategy, pushed through on both Facebook and Twitter, was to offer guests authentic recommendations from local hotel staff on things to do and see in each destination, as well as location-based tips and deals. Individual Twitter handles for 84 properties offer specific information on, for example, London, Bangkok, Mexico, Sydney, and New York.

The Four Seasons also won in a second category for “Overall Individual Hotel, Global.” The company used social media to create excitement about the opening of its property in Toronto. On Facebook, the campaign began 30 days in advance, with daily spa giveaways. On Twitter, a live “tweet up” was held during the hotel’s ribbon cutting ceremony, which any Twitter user could follow by searching for the stream with the #FSNewEra hashtag.

Several SMITTY awards were granted for campaigns in specific media channels. The award for Best Facebook Timeline” was given to Fairmont Hotels. The company’s posts highlight individual properties with jaw-dropping photography, encourage conversation and engagement with leading questions, promote deals and discounts, and offer itinerary ideas in specific destinations.

Award winners weren’t only large chains; recognition was rewarded to individual properties, as well. The W New York Times Square was the winner in “Best Contest/Giveaway” category, for creating the first-ever Instagram photography exhibit. The brand, known for great design, asked Instagram users to capture design images in their city, including architecture, street art, and interiors. To be entered into the contest, the users had to follow the @whotelsnyc account, and tag the images with #WDESIGN. This stream of similarly-indexed images became a digital version of a photo exhibit.

Social media, when used for public service initiatives, have the added benefit of doing good while raising exposure for a hotel or brand. There was a tie in the SMITTY Awards category for Best Social Media Use For Public Service.” Kimpton Hotels utilized its Facebook account to run a contest to give three U.S. military families a free stay over Christmas. During Hurricane Sandy, the InterContinental Barclay in New York City served as a site for relief efforts, sharing news and updates through its Twitter and Facebook accounts.

So, how will your business use social media in 2014?

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Capturing pre-stay marketing opportunities

Capturing pre-stay marketing opportunities Reach out to guests with offers as soon as they make a reservation

I’ve stayed at several hotels and resorts that did an excellent job of communicating with me before I even checked in. These properties went far beyond the standard email that confirms a reservation, provides basic property details and suggests an upgraded room. Instead, the hotels used this pre-trip period to introduce me to on-site services and amenities and to provide useful information on local attractions. I realized that these were sales messages but still appreciated the content – I felt more prepared for my visit and more connected to the hotel’s brand. 

How Palace Resorts utilizes email and social media

The Cozumel Palace resort in Cozumel, Mexico was one property that did an excellent job communicating in advance. I received an email a month before my trip describing the on-site spa services, which persuaded me to make an appointment. If I had waited until I arrived, I would have been too late to get a convenient appointment time and may have skipped the spa altogether. The email ensured the resort didn’t miss out on that extra revenue from me.

In fact, Palace Resorts, a brand with eight oceanfront properties located throughout Mexico and the Caribbean, keeps in contact with guests at several touch points prior to arrival. The process begins with a confirmation email, but doesn’t stop there. On the company’s website, a “LiveChat” tool allows guests to make inquiries in real time and receive an immediate response. Social media, particularly Facebook, is heavily utilized by the brand, both as a proactive method to share news and information, and as a reactive forum. There, guests can make special in-room requests, pose questions about on-property amenities and seek support with booking tours and activities. The company’s social media staff responds quickly and refers guests to specific staff as necessary. 

Palace Resorts is also responding to a growing number of inquiries through the Q&A section on each property’s TripAdvisor page. Questions posed on the Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort in Cancun, for example, include inquiries about specific room amenities, menu options, local transportation, and booking on-site activities and services.

“We’ve received pre-arrival feedback from guests that their booking decisions were influenced by our engagement on these channels,” said Michelle Catin, social media manager for Palace Resorts. “Through social media, our team directs guests to our tours department, so our guests can pre-book tours, romantic dinners and spa services prior to arrival. This is a win-win strategy, as it saves guests time while they are on property, and alleviates wait times at our Palace Vacation Planners desk.”

Ashford Castle’s approach: offer personalized services

Email is a well-utilized method of communication for Ashford Castle in Mayo, Ireland. This medium allows the property to share a greater volume of information, as well as links to online resources and attached documents. Upon booking, future guests receive a welcome message from general manager Niall Rochford that includes: a link to a map and directions to the property; the email and phone number to make special requests; links to its Facebook and Twitter pages; and a link to its newsletter subscription registration form.

The welcome email includes an attached preference form that the guest is asked to return prior to their arrival. Guests are given options for several complimentary services, such as choice of foam or feather pillow, and the opportunity to make reservations for tea and dinner on-site. They are also introduced to a range of additional fee-based services, such as: airport transportation via private car; in-room delivery of flowers, fruit, champagne, or a special occasion cake; appointments for spa treatments; and reservations for on-property activities such as falconry, archery, and clay pigeon shooting. Finally, an email address is provided for Catherine Kenny, the property’s guest services manager – an actual person, and not a nameless, faceless office.

These two companies prove the efficacy of reaching out to guests during the pre-stay window between booking and check-in. Both have created an opportunity to not only initiate a longer relationship with their customer, but also to capture sales of on-site services during the trip planning phase.

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Email marketing: Grab these engaging content ideas

Email marketing: Grab these engaging content ideas Email marketing is one of the strongest methods of customer engagement. Part 2 of this 4-part series shows you how to engage your subscribers with content that will increase brand loyalty and inspire readers to book their next stay with you.

As you remember from part 1, email marketing provides one of the highest returns on investment of any marketing channel. And hospitality customers are among the most engaged email subscribers.

Now that you’ve boosted your subscriber base with the tips from part 1, I’m going to help you deliver a steady stream of engaging and relevant content to your readers.

Consider this: brands that send out only one email per month see higher unsubscribe rate1 than those that send more frequent campaigns. I recommend you send two emails per month: a newsletter that features longer and more “newsier” content, and two weeks later, a short email with one fun feature.

Here are 7 ideas for compelling content that can be repurposed throughout the year for your email campaigns. Consider which topics below are most relevant to your customers and property.

Always monitor your statistics to see what your readers enjoy the most. Pay close attention to your campaign’s open rates, the percent of readers who open your email, and the click through rates, the percent of readers who clicked on a link in your email.

  1. Special offers and discounts. These are the most obvious choice for email marketing, but they should be used sparingly in favor of more content-based ideas below. You can always include any current promotion in the call to action. For example, “book now and save 25%”.
  2. Guest interviews. People like reading about people. Feature recent guests who represent your target market(s), such as couples, families or business travelers, and ask them about their stay.  Readers will see themselves in the satisfied customer you feature.
  3. Staff interviews. Write an engaging profile of a new chef or concierge, or introduce the service staff guests will encounter during their visits. Include a section titled “Next Time You’re Here, Ask Me About....” where the employee talks about their favorite places in town, recent travels or other helpful or interesting details that are relatable to customers. This makes your property more personal, and offers subtle encouragement for guests to return.
  4. Local events. Does your destination have a local festival, parade or celebration? Promote these as a reason to return. Also focus on what’s popular with the locals: a new museum exhibit, or an upcoming show at the performing arts center. Highlight what makes your destination unique and authentic.
  5. Reviews. Got a great review on TripAdvisor? Got a positive write-up from a blogger or magazine? Share it! But make it a conversation. Encourage readers to pitch in with their own review of their recent stay.
  6. Featured property. If you have multiple properties, use the newsletter to highlight all your locations. Show how your ski resorts entertain guests during the summer. Talk about all the exciting renovations your beach property is undergoing in preparation for the summer.
  7. Photos. Don’t have much to say? Let a high-resolution photograph of your property or amenities do the talking for you. Or feature property photos from your guests and encourage readers to share their own with you on social media.

Bonus tip: Share your content. Integrate social media sharing buttons on each article in your newsletter and encourage readers to share your amazing content.


  • 1. http://www.copyblogger.com/3-email-marketing-tips/
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Handling Negative Social Media Comments: Part One - Facebook

Handling Negative Social Media Comments: Part One - Facebook Social media offers businesses a golden opportunity to connect with their customers on a more personal level. But as many companies are learning, that personal connection can sometimes be a double-edged sword. While some customers will use their social networks to sing your praises, others may take advantage of this public forum to air their complaints.

If you’re like most businesses, you likely have a social media presence on a variety of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram or Pinterest. The two largest and most popular platforms are also those most likely to be the source of negative comments or customer complaints – Facebook and Twitter. Since these two social media giants offer unique methods of interaction will followers, it’s important to craft a tailored response plan for each.

But first, regardless of which social media network is the source of the complaint, there is one universal rule that will greatly improve your odds of successfully resolving the issue…

Respond (and respond quickly)

Don’t forget that handling a social media complaint is just like handling a face-to-face complaint in your hotel, restaurant or attraction – except that a crowd the size of Grand Central Station is watching your response. If you don’t respond promptly, you run the risk that others will respond for you, influencing both your current and future customers.

The key for success is to have a plan for how you will address complaints across all of your social media platforms. Like any effective customer service channel, complaints that are handled well over social media can lead to satisfied customers, who will tell their social networks how awesome you are.

The 3-step response plan for Facebook

With more than 1.3 billion active monthly users1, Facebook is a good place to start your social media response strategy. So how do you respond to complaints on your property’s business page? It depends on the specific complaint, but this 3-step plan is a good outline for developing a response that reflects your brand:

  1. Empathize
  2. Apologize
  3. Act

For example, Facebook posts about an unclean hotel room, a bad meal at a restaurant or a slow-moving line at an attraction are specific complaints that can be acted upon. Here’s how you handle them:

First, empathize. Let the customer know that you understand why they’re upset. Perhaps you would be upset, too, if this happened to you? It’s important to personalize the response to the specific complaint.

Second, apologize. Express your sincere (sincerity is essential) regret that their experience has been less than exceptional and that you want to make it right. And finally, act. At this point, it’s essential to take the conversation offline by requesting contact with the customer directly (either via e-mail or direct Facebook messaging). From there, handle the issue just as you would a face-to-face complaint.

Uniquely social customer service

On your Facebook page, use a contact e-mail address that is unique to social media complaints. If a customer has already had a negative experience with your standard customer service e-mail address, the last thing they want to see when they visit your Facebook page seeking another outlet is the exact same e-mail.

Remember, the longer a complaint sits on your Facebook page without a response, the angrier the customer gets and the more of your community will see it (and potentially offer their own opinions). The quicker you take the complaint offline or at least out of the public space, the better.

The importance of being empathetic

But what do you do when it’s obvious the customer just wants to vent? For example, in the case of a delayed flight. No airline social media manager in the world can make a flight take off on time, no matter how good they are. In situations where you have no ability to act to satisfy the customer, sincere empathy and an expression of appreciation for their business can go a long way. Sometimes we all just want to be heard and social media is today’s outlet for that.

To delete or not to delete

Once you’ve resolved the complaint, respond back again to the original post to say that you are pleased that you were able to help them resolve this issue and thank them again for their business. As a general rule, you should never delete a valid customer complaint from your Facebook page. You should, however, remove any posts that are inflammatory, derogatory, racist, etc. In those cases I would also block the user from further comments. 

Finally, understand that your business’s Facebook page truly is an extension of your customer service department and should be managed as such. The steps outlined here will help you craft a response plan suited to your business. The reality is, social media is here to stay and managing it effectively will benefit both you and your customers.

Coming up next, we’ll look at why successfully handling Twitter complaints requires a slightly different approach.


  • 1. http://www.statisticbrain.com/facebook-statistics/
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Get the Scoop on Restaurant Branding from America's Top Ice Cream Parlors

Get the Scoop on Restaurant Branding from America's Top Ice Cream Parlors Here are five branding tips you can learn from America's top ice cream parlors.

There are few treats as delectable and satisfying as an old-fashioned ice-cream cone. But what about the parlors that serve them? On TripAdvisor, you can find the best ice cream parlors in your location.

What are their secrets to success? After scouring the reviews of the best ice cream parlors around the United States, I have a few ideas.

Embrace local ingredients when possible - and don’t keep it a secret

The stars of the show at Woodside Farm Creamery in Hockessin, Delaware, are the cows grazing next to the ice cream parlor. The cows don’t just supply milk for the ice cream; they also provide undeniable proof that Woodside uses local ingredients.

Customers love it. “It doesn't get any better or fresher than this. You can sit right next to the cows that made the ice cream,” wrote one reviewer.

You don’t have to build a livestock grazing field next to your restaurant to prove your ingredients are fresh. Instead, highlight on your menu that you work with local farms. If it goes with your decor, hang  photos of these farms on your walls. These pictures could also be used on your social media channels.

Even a few potted herbs can communicate that your restaurant embraces fresh and local ingredients whenever possible.

If you need help coming up with a story, embrace your area’s history

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is home to one of the most important battlefields in American history, as well as one of the best creameries in the country, the Sunset Ice Cream Parlor.

Here the history of the 1863 American Civil War Battle of Gettysburg is told in ice cream flavors named after the competing sides: Rebel Yell for the south, and Yankee Hurrah for the north. The restaurant is decorated with American flags. Reviewers said the parlor’s quaint storefront and friendly staff only added to its small-town, old fashioned appeal.

If you’re looking for help coming up with your restaurant’s story, take inspiration from your city’s history. Is there a well-known site nearby that you could name a dish after? Or a famous person from your city whose photos you could feature on your menu?

By weaving your city’s story into yours, you’ll make it easier for customers to remember you over the competition.

Educate your customers

Martha's Dandee Creme serves towering cones of pistachio and raspberry-flavored ice cream from a roadside stand 15 minutes outside of Glens Falls, NY. Because Martha’s changes its menu daily, several reviewers mentioned they check the parlor’s website to see which flavors are on tap before making the trip out of town.

The lesson here: customers like information. They want to know what they’re getting into before they trust you with their time and money.

List your menu online. This is easy to do directly on your TripAdvisor listing. You can learn more about how to post your menu here.

Don’t be afraid to experiment

At Rococo Artisan Ice Cream in Kennebunkport, Maine, the daily rotating menu features flavors like chai cardamom and sweet avocado cayenne. Reviewers love the adventurous variations. “The ingredients are exotic, but somehow they all conspire towards deliciousness,” wrote one Rococo customer.

Human beings are innately curious. Even if a customer orders plain old vanilla, they’ll still be drawn in by the idea of ham or bourbon-flavored ice cream.

Experiment with seasonal ingredients, cooking trends, and new recipes that align with your brand. You may find the new flavors spice up your menu and your profits.

...

Reputation Management

Travelers share what great service means to them

Travelers share what great service means to them

If you want to win over guests, you can’t just do the bare minimum.

That’s why popular travel video blogger Kate Thomas asked travelers, “As a hotel guest, what does great service mean to you?”

Based on this video (in English), delivering great service to your guests means:

  • Welcoming guests warmly and checking them in quickly
  • Being attentive to guest needs
  • Giving insider advice on where to eat and what to do
  • Having happy staff who genuinely enjoy what they do
  • Recognizing guests by name
  • Solving any issues quickly

For Kate personally, she’s always impressed by a complimentary cocktail or snack upon her arrival.

Posted by: http://travelwithkate.com...

Best hotel service – are you included in the video?

Best hotel service – are you included in the video?

Want a shortcut for finding out what kind of service impresses travelers? Watch these video interviews (in English) from Kate Thomas.

She asked travelers, “What is the best service you’ve received in a hotel?” Here are just a few of their insightful answers:

  • Giving the traveler a cell phone to contact the concierge
  • Going above and beyond to get guests medicine and other needs
  • Providing unexpected delights, such as leaving a treat on the pillow during turndown service
  • Helping solve common traveler issues, such as a lost wallet
  • Sharing tips on the best place to enjoy a local activity or learn a new skill

After you watch the video, ask yourself: “What can I do to provide exemplary service to my guests?” Put those ideas into action and you just might get travelers talking about your property when they’re thinking about the best service they’ve ever received.

Posted by: http://travelwithkate.com...

Free Reputation Management Webinar for Lodging Operators

Free Reputation Management Webinar for Lodging Operators Watch this webinar (available in English) for expert strategies to build and maintain your online reputation. In a recent TripBarometer study, the majority of businesses identified “online reputation management”...

Mobile

Mobile Marketing: How to Get Your Share of $8 Billion in Mobile Bookings

Mobile Marketing: How to Get Your Share of $8 Billion in Mobile Bookings

The big deal about small screens

Don’t have a mobile-friendly site yet? Debating the value of developing a mobile app? This guide’s for you.

Consider that 51% of mobile web users research travel options using cell phones and iPads or other tablets.1 And they book too, projecting to $8 billion in mobile bookings in 2013.2 

The first thing you should do to boost direct bookings and get your share of a rapidly growing mobile audience? Make it easy for travelers to find, research and book your property on mobile. Here’s why.

Over 50% of mobile web users research travel on mobile

Mobile-friendly is bookings-friendly

45% of mobile web users choose to browse on their smartphones even when a computer is nearby.3 Why? Because it’s so convenient — their phone is always with them and it’s always on. So if your potential guests are stuck with a website built for people using a computer, you could be losing out on a lot of prime business.

That’s because viewing a full website on a smartphone or tablet distracts and frustrates visitors with:

  • Slow load times
  • Small links that are hard to tap
  • Pages that require resizing 
  • Layouts that inhibit booking
  • Too much typing

The good news? 

You can turn mobile visitors into mobile bookings, with just a little work on your part. We’ll give you an overview of two popular options for mobile-friendly sites: Responsive websites and separate mobile websites. We’ll also help you decide if a mobile app makes sense for your brand.

Responsive design is…flexible, efficient, cool

What’s responsive web design? 

It’s a flexible approach that automatically reformats your layout based on the user’s screen size. 

If someone visits your site on a computer, they see the “traditional” version. If they visit on their tablet or phone, they’ll see the same content laid out differently for a better smaller screen experience. No more squinting to read text or having to resize pages while on-the-go.   

How it works

CSS3 (Cascading Style Sheets Level 3) is a technology that helps style the look and formatting of your website. CSS3 lets you perform a media query to determine a device’s screen size and adjust how content is displayed accordingly. 


Example: visitmusiccity.com, the tourism site for Nashville, TN. You can sample the site’s responsiveness by resizing your computer’s web browser, or by doing a side by side comparison with a computer and a tablet or smartphone. 


Responsive design pros: 

  • Efficient way to optimize for any device, big or small.
  • You only have to maintain and update one version of your site.
  • Having just one set of content maximizes SEO benefits.

Responsive design cons:

  • More complex and expensive to build from scratch — you’ll probably need to hire a digital agency or web design specialist.
  • Fine tweaking how your site displays on different devices can be time intensive.
  • CSS3 technology is very new, and what displays well on one device might look suboptimal on another (especially if it’s not brand new).
  • Not much customization for what you show to mobile users, just how it displays.

Mobile sites are…customizable, speedy, testable

What are mobile websites? 

A mobile website is a separate site that you create just for your visitors using a tablet or smartphone. 

Because your mobile website is independent of your full site, you’re free to adjust page layouts for smaller screens and minimize photos to cut down on load times for mobile devices with slower internet connections. It’s all about making things easier for busy travelers who could be walking up stairs, standing in line at the airport, or riding in a speeding taxi.

How it works

Mobile sites are like full websites, with a few key differences. Some things, like page sizes and photo dimensions, are smaller. Meanwhile, buttons are bigger so they’re easier to tap and text is bigger so it’s easier to read. Content and branding should be similar on both your mobile and full website, with your mobile site being more stripped down so on-the-go users can find what they want right away.

Examples: Hilton’s mobile homepage focuses users on a booking form, with secondary links to call a booking agent or view the full version of the Hilton website.

On the other hand, Marriott’s mobile homepage features a “quick links” navigation with five key links, including, “Find and reserve a hotel” and “Take a mobile survey,” with a secondary link to download the free Marriott app. 

Mobile website pros:

  • You can customize text and images specifically for mobile users.
  • It can be cheaper to create a mobile site than a responsive one.
  • Pages can load faster if you reduce images and image file sizes.

Mobile website cons:

  • You have to build, update and keep track of two sites instead of one.
  • Having two identical or similar sites can adversely affect your SEO — unless you use the same URL for both sites (checking user agent lets you direct mobile users to the mobile version of the page without needing a separate mobile version of the URL).

Mobile apps are…Convenient, customizable, costly

What are mobile apps? 

Chances are, you use apps all the time: Angry Birds, Instagram, TripAdvisor…you know, the essentials.

Mobile apps are applications you download and use on your smartphone or tablet. They can be expensive to create, so only develop an app if you have enough frequent travelers who’ll use it often enough. 

With an app, you ask a lot from travelers. First, they have to download the app. Then find it and log in. And then actually take the time to use it. So your app has to be helpful, easy to use and work well enough to justify all that effort.

How it works

The most popular and successful type of mobile app, especially within the travel industry, is a “native” app designed specifically for Apple or Android or Windows devices. It takes significant time and money to custom build an app for each platform (it’s like translating an entire book into different languages), but then you can take advantage of each operating system’s
unique features. 


Example: Take a look at the Priority Club Rewards iPhone app. It’s highly rated with plenty of positive reviews. Why? Because the app makes it easy to book reservations, keep track of upcoming trips and check on loyalty points. In other words, the things busy, frequent travelers care about most.

Mobile app pros:

  • You can customize the experience for your frequent (and most profitable) guests.
  • Users get a convenient, centralized way to perform important actions.
  • Your brand gains a new channel to engage and motivate qualified users, with push notifications, in-app announcements and more.

Mobile app cons:

  • A mobile app can take months, and cost tens of thousands of dollars, to develop.
  • Your audience is mostly limited to your brand’s power users — unlike a game or even general travel app with mass appeal.
  • Mobile apps have a very high barrier to entry.

Seven key takeaways

  1. Travelers are increasingly using tablets and smartphones to research and book travel. 
  2. You need a mobile-friendly website to capture direct bookings.
  3. You have two options: A responsive site or a standalone mobile site.
  4. Choose a responsive site if you want display flexibility for a variety of screen sizes and have the resources to invest in a more intensive, technical process.
  5. Choose a mobile site if you want more ability to customize content for on-the-go users and don’t mind maintaining your desktop site and a separate mobile site.
  6. If you go with a responsive site, TripAdvisor advises you not to focus solely on how content displays across devices — the quality of the content is equally important to how it looks.
  7. Hold off on developing a mobile app unless your brand has a strong base of business travelers and other high-volume repeat guests. 

  • 1. PhoCusWright, Traveler Technology Survey (December, 2012)
  • 2. PhoCusWright, Mobile Hits the Mainstream: Technology and Industry Trends (February, 2012)
  • 3. Source: PhoCusWright, Traveler Technology Survey (December, 2012)
Last Updated: August 5, 2013

How to succeed on Instagram: Part one

How to succeed on Instagram: Part one In this two-part series, you’ll learn how three hotel brands built active communities of more than 100,000 followers.

Smile! Instagram’s more than 150 million members want to see your picture. Well, not a picture of you exactly.

Since launching in 2010, the image-based social network has grown into a tightly-knit network of professional, aspiring, and just plain average photographers. Companies are also getting in on the fun, using the community as a free channel for brand building and customer engagement.

“We use Instagram to showcase our brands, not to promote sales. That's not the point on Instagram; it's about sharing a guest experience."

For hotels, Instagram is a place to show off your property, amenities and location, as well as your brand’s personality. The hotels I interviewed used Instagram to promote the openings of new properties, highlight the offerings of select destinations, and engage with local influencers.

Added bonus: the photos you post on Instagram are also great content for your TripAdvisor property profile. Research shows that travelers spend the most time on profiles that feature at least 30 photos, and many won’t even consider staying at a brand that doesn’t feature any photos in its description.

To help you hone your Instagram strategy, I sat down with the social media masterminds at W Hotels Worldwide, Four Seasons Hotels, and the boutique Thompson Hotels. Combined, these brands built a community of more than 100,000 active and engaged followers. Read on to learn how, and why, they did it.

The case for Instagram

Why should hotels embrace Instagram?

“There is no better channel to show off your properties and get people daydreaming about your destinations.” – Alyssa Kiefer, W Hotels Worldwide Global Social Marketing Strategist

“Instagram is an amazing visual platform that provides a behind-the-scenes look at a hotel experience that guests can’t see via a traditional website. Instagram also allows hotels to showcase the entire travel experience, including surrounding areas, through their photos, which is another example of content that guests can't typically find on a hotel website.” – Fiona Goldstein, Thompson Hotels Director of Social Media + Brand Content

“The platform is ideal for sharing travel experiences. Instagram is also evolving into a real-time communication platform. Four Seasons hotels monitor geo-tagged Instagram posts to bring our promise of personalized service into the digital realm. One of our locations has a “Social Butterfly” on staff who intercepts Instagram posts from guests on-site and promptly delivers a personalized amenity. “– Sorya Gaulin, Four Seasons Director of Global Corporate Public Relations and Social Media.

How would you describe the Instagram community? Is it different from other social media networks?

“We’ve found Instagram to be a very positive and engaged community. The content we post to this channel receives high engagement, and Instagram is one of our top channels for user generated content. We find hundreds of photos of our properties, restaurants, and bars each day as people share their vacations and travels with friends and family.” – Alyssa Kiefer, W Hotels

“As the only major Western social media channel that is not restricted in China (as of publication) and integrates with the Chinese microblogging site Weibo, Instagram presents a unique opportunity to engage with a truly global audience. It is also a highly engaged and passionate community, boasting the highest engagement rate of any social media channel. On Instagram, everyone is an artist.” – Sorya Gaulin, Four Seasons

“I love that there's a huge emphasis placed on the quality of images on Instagram, and great photography is celebrated. The Instagram community is so engaged and tight-knit – it's really incredible.” – Fiona Goldstein, Thompson Hotels

Do you use Instagram as a brand-building tool or a sales generator?

“Four Seasons views Instagram primarily as a brand-building tool, showcasing aspirational photos from our destinations around the world and also allowing guests to become brand ambassadors.” – Sorya Gaulin, Four Seasons

“Instagram is primarily a brand-building tool. It does not allow you to link to your website within an image caption so it is really not set up to drive sales. Instead, we find it is an important channel for affinity that has helped gain exposure for our properties and happenings. Our hope is that it inspires followers to plan future travels to our destinations and strengthens their desire to choose W over other brands.” – Alyssa Kiefer, W Hotels

“We use Instagram to showcase our brands, not to promote sales. That's not the point on Instagram; it's about sharing a guest experience, not selling rooms”. – Fiona Goldstein, Thompson Hotels

Want the full picture about Instagram and hotels? Continue reading part two.

Get inspired! See the hotels interviewed in action at instagram.com/fourseasonsinstagram.com/thompsonhotels and http://instagram.com/whotels.

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How to succeed on Instagram: Part two

How to succeed on Instagram: Part two In this two-part series, you’ll learn how three hotel brands built active and engaged communities of more than 100,000 followers.

In part one of our series on Instagram for hotels, we talked to the social media pros at W Hotels Worldwide, Four Seasons Hotels, and the boutique Thompson Hotels to learn why they think Instagram is an important tool for engaging current and potential customers.

Today they share how they manage their Instagram feed, the science behind their strategies, and how they determine success.

Who, What, Where, When and How to Post

Who manages your feed? Do you recommend hotels manage their account or hire an outside consultant?

“The @whotels brand account is led by our Global Social Media Strategist who manages all of our social media channels with the support of a Social Media Coordinator. Our social media channels are the public facing voice of W Hotels and are best embodied by someone who knows and lives the brand. We encourage all of our properties to own their own Instagram channels themselves as well.” – Alyssa Kiefer, W Hotels

“More than 80 of our hotels around the world are active on Instagram. Our corporate marketing team manages our brand channel, @FourSeasons, while the PR team at each individual property manages their own hotel account, in addition to traditional public relations.” – Sorya Gaulin, Four Seasons

“Our Director of Social Media and Community Managers manage the feed. We feel our social networks should be handled by employees rather than an external consultant.”  – Fiona Goldstein at Thompson Hotels

What should hotels post: photos of their property and amenities, or shots that show a little personality?

“All of the above! Post photos of the property, the amenities, the neighborhood, featured staff members, and even activities guests can participate in when staying at your hotel. Showcase the entire travel experience!” – Fiona Goldstein, Thompson Hotels

“Photos of our hotels and amenities are very well received by our audience (especially pool and beach shots!), but it is equally important for us to share the brand as a lifestyle.” – Alyssa Kiefer, W Hotels

“Variety is key. Beautiful property and destination photos are always popular, but Instagram is also about being in the moment. We want to be able to give our followers an exclusive behind-the-scenes view into the world of Four Seasons so they can take the hotel experience home with them and form a personal connection to the brand.” – Sorya Gaulin, Four Seasons

How frequently should a hotel post photos?

“At least once a day. Instagram is an incredibly fast moving platform and it needs to be updated frequently.” – Fiona Goldstein, Thompson Hotels

“At Four Seasons, we advise that our properties post once or twice a day. Any more than that can result in audience fatigue.” – Sorya Gaulin, Four Seasons

How much time do you spend setting up and editing your photos?

“We want to portray our hotels and events in the best way possible so we definitely pay attention to composition and lighting when taking photos. But we also feel it is important to give a true representation of our product, so rather than use too many filters or heavily editing our images, we let the design of our properties speak for itself.” – Alyssa Kiefer, W Hotels

Which photo editing apps do you use?

:We’re fans of VSCOcam, but most often a clear photograph and minor edits within the Instagram app is all it takes.” – Alyssa Kiefer, W Hotels

“Just Instagram. Their new editing features are on par with other photo editing software out there.” – Fiona Goldstein, Thompson Hotels

Spreading the Word and Tracking Results

How do you promote your Instagram profile and grow your audience?

“When we first launched the account, we used our existing Facebook and Twitter channels to increase awareness. Now that our account is established, it’s more about engaging with the community within Instagram. We scan content daily that has been geo-tagged at our properties or features brand hashtags like #whotels. By liking and following the accounts of guests who are excited to show off their W stays, we let our fans know we are active on the channel and tend to see a lot of follows in return.” – Alyssa Kiefer, W Hotels

“We cross-promote our Instagram images on our other social channels, and promote them on-property as well.” – Fiona Goldstein, Thompson Hotels

What metrics do you track to determine if your feed is successful?

“We track follower growth, image likes, comments, and hashtag mentions on a monthly basis. That allows us to best see what is working and plan future content accordingly. Growth is important of course, but we want to see likes and comments on our photos. Those show our content is resonating with our audience.” – Alyssa Kiefer, W Hotels

“Growing our audience is certainly important, but we’d prefer to have a smaller, more highly engaged audience than a large inactive following.” – Sorya Gaulin, Four Seasons

“We are interested in engagement metrics, specifically likes. You can have 1,000,000 followers but if no one is liking your photos, that's not success to us.” – Fiona Goldstein, Thompson Hotels

Get inspired! See the hotels interviewed in action at instagram.com/fourseasons, instagram.com/thompsonhotels and instagram.com/whotels.

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Building A Mobile Marketing Toolkit

Building A Mobile Marketing Toolkit

Our phones and tablets have become critical components in the travel planning process. We use them to get inspired, to learn about a destination, and to find fellow travelers’ recommendations on what to see and do.

According to the recent TripAdvisor 2015 TripBarometer survey, customers are also growing increasingly comfortable using their mobile devices to book and pay for trips. Nearly half of respondents said they used their phones to reserve an accommodation or travel activity.

To learn more, I sat down with Dulani Porter, executive vice president at the branding and advertising agency SPARK. Porter leads the marketing initiatives for clients including VISIT FLORIDA, Marriott Autograph Collection and Hilton brands.

To engage mobile consumers, you need the right tools, Porter said. Here are five items every hotel needs in its mobile marketing toolkit.

1) The Strategy

When Porter sits down with clients to talk mobile, the first thing that usually comes up is the technology involved. But before you start fussing over the latest photo editing tools and social networks, Porter advises you consider the human component of mobile marketing.

“Technology has changed over the centuries but human nature has not,” she said. “We’re social beings, drawn to people we have something in common with. It’s that tribal mentality that shapes how mobile and online interactions affect travelers’ behavior.”

“The quality of your mobile interactions says something about you as a brand,” Porter said. “Think of them as a cohesive part of the guest experience.”

Based on that, Porter says it’s important to develop what she calls a “mobile enabled guest experience.” The goal is to create interactions and events customers will want to share with their networks.

Empower employees to deliver the stellar customer service travelers will rave about on Twitter. Create photo opportunities in rooms and common areas for guests to share on Facebook. Adopt and share a hashtag that enables customers to easily find posts about your business.

“The quality of your mobile interactions says something about you as a brand,” Porter said. “Think of them as a cohesive part of the guest experience.”

2) Responsive Online Presence

Considering more than half of Americans use their phones to surf the web and read emails, another critical component in your mobile toolkit is an online presence that looks good on all screen sizes.

“People are constantly on the go,” Porter said. “You want to stay relevant on the platforms they are using.”

Responsive websites and email templates adjust to the viewer’s screen, whether it’s a 27-inch monitor or a 4-inch iPhone screen.

3) Online Booking Tools

Imagine a customer shares on Facebook how much he enjoyed staying at your accommodation last weekend. One of his friends sees the post while checking Facebook on her phone and decides she too could use a little getaway.

She looks at your TripAdvisor reviews; they’re stellar. She clicks through to your site, hoping to make a booking. But the only way to contact you is via phone. And your property won’t be taking calls for another three hours.

“With mobile booking tools, it’s all one-stream,” said Porter. “Travelers get inspired, do research, and then book.”

At this point the best you can do is hope she remembers to call when the business opens. But if your site featured mobile booking tools, she could have made a reservation at the very moment she was drooling over photos of your breakfast buffet.

“With mobile booking tools, it’s all one-stream,” said Porter. “Travelers get inspired, do research, and then book.”

A quick internet search will help you learn more about the latest mobile booking applications. TripAdvisor’s instant booking also helps you connect with travelers who are ready to make a reservation.

4) Wi-Fi

Guests traveling outside their mobile provider’s network can’t share photos and updates about your business on social media if they can’t access the internet. Make sure your Wi-Fi signal is strong and easy to access in rooms and common areas.

5) Mobile Payments

Locations that have long been offering credit card payment methods are seeing customers grow increasingly comfortable using their personal devices, rather than cash or credit cards, to pay for goods and services.

Accommodations might find a mobile payment tool helpful in checking out a large number of guests. Rather than buying additional cash registers and setting up multiple front desks, staff can process guest payments from their phones and tablets.

Keep on top of the trends, Porter recommends, and know when it’s your business’ turn to take the mobile payment leap. 

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Texting your way to sales and traveler engagement

Texting your way to sales and traveler engagement With a 98% open rate, the humble text message is one of the most effective forms of digital communication. Here’s how you can take advantage of this powerful – and simple to manage – marketing channel.

While many hospitality brands are chasing the latest trends in social media, Tweeting and Snapchatting their way into customers’ hearts, it’s easy to overlook perhaps the simplest form of digital communication: the text message.

Simple, sure. But that’s what makes it so powerful. Consider the following:

  • At least 4 billion people worldwide use their phones to text.
  • Text message campaigns don’t require users to download a new mobile app or create yet another social media profile.
  • According to the TripBarometer Connected Traveler report from TripAdvisor, almost half of the survey’s respondents said they used their phones to plan a vacation, reserve accommodations, or book a travel activity.

Read on to learn how text messaging campaigns can help you reach and engage these phone-savvy customers.

How a text message campaign works

Text messaging campaigns work a lot like your email outreach. You build a list of recipients. You send them messages. You try to drive results.

Like email, each country has rules and regulations on how you can communicate with subscribers. People have to opt in to receive messages and there must be a clear path to unsubscribe. This helps customers whose carriers charge for texts avoid unwanted expenses.

Text messages have a 98% open rate, while even the strongest email campaigns are lucky to hit 30%.

But where text messaging and email campaigns differ is the opportunity for engagement. Text messages have a 98% open rate, while even the strongest email campaigns are lucky to hit 30%.

Another point for text messaging is that everything can be done on the same platform. For example, let’s say you want to invite customers to a special event. You send the invitation via email, but in order for users to RSVP they have to register through an external webform.

With texting, it’s just a matter of replying “yes” or “no”.

How restaurants are using text messaging campaigns

To learn more about text messaging campaigns for the tourism and hospitality industry, I reached out to Bobby Angilella, VP of Business Development at the SlickText.com text marketing platform. Restaurants are among the platform’s biggest customers.

SlickText recently worked with the USA chain Wing City Grill. The brand’s two locations wanted to grow their text subscription list and develop a program that encouraged repeat visits through special events and exclusive offers.

The first step was to boost Wing City Grill’s current subscriber base. Instructions for signing up, i.e. “text JOIN to 12345”, were promoted on the restaurant’s table tents, digital signage, and even on the back of its bathroom stalls.

“There was no verbal engagement from their employees at all,” said Angilella. “The business owner wanted it to run without distracting employees or management.”

Everyone who opted in to the list received a $2 instant coupon and was entered into an ongoing weekly drawing for a $25 Wing City Grill gift card. The chain also used SlickText’s platform to capture email addresses and birthdays.

Every few weeks the restaurant sent out an exclusive list-only promotion, and subscribers were lured in with special offers on their birthdays.

In two months the brand doubled its subscriber list. Customers who used the $2 instant coupon typically had a larger tab size, Angilella said, leaving managers to suspect the discount encouraged people to order an appetizer or an extra drink. Whenever the brand sent out a text promotion they saw a spike in orders using the coupon code included in the message.

“There’s no doubt text messages have a much higher open rate and a much higher redemption rate than email when you provide a strong offer,” said Angilella.

Text messaging campaigns for hotels

But text messaging campaigns for hotels is a different story. Simply put: People may go out to eat a few times a month, but most travelers need a hotel room only a few times a year. Customers will expect different text-based services and a less frequent engagement schedule, said Angilella.

Hotels could integrate a text messaging platform into their existing customer management software and use the tool to confirm reservations, he suggested. The lodging could then send out special offers every six months or so.

One project he’d like to see come to fruition is using the SlickText platform as a text concierge. Guests could get information from the front desk without having to log into their email or fill out an online form. Questions about dinner reservations and check in times can be sent in the taxi on the way to the airport, or just before takeoff.

“Texting is a more preferred way of communication if you just have a simple question,” Angilella said.

For more information on how brands are using mobile marketing to engage customers, check out the most recent TripBarometer report.

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How to provide hospitality in a riot zone

How to provide hospitality in a riot zone The first explosion nearly made me drop my wine glass. My fiancé and I were wrapping up a 12-course meal at Restaurant Hachiko when the June 2013 riots in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil began. Across the street from the restaurant, 100,000 people gathered at the state legislative building to demonstrate their discontent over education, healthcare and alleged government corruption.

Within an hour we would be huddled in the middle of the restaurant while blasts rattled the glassware and a torched car outside turned the windows orange. It was shaping up to be the scariest night of our vacation – and our lives. But the wait staff went out of their way to keep us safe, calm and comfortable.

From the perspective of a guest who spent four hours trapped in a sushi restaurant while the country roared outside, here are five tips for providing hospitality in a crisis:

1) Stay calm
Guests, especially those from out of town, will look to you and your staff for how to respond. At Hachiko, the waiters continued the ritual of breaking down the dining room while the protests raged on. The clinking together of glasses and silverware was a soothing accompaniment to the drone of helicopters, firecrackers and screaming.

2) Explain to guests what’s happening
Despite the language barrier, the Hachiko staff tried to keep us updated on what was taking place outside the restaurant. When they explained that a car was on fire, it made us feel better to attribute the horrible hissing noise to something concrete. Don’t pretend that everything is fine. Your guests will appreciate your honesty and trust you more for it.

3) Provide context, but don’t get political
Our waiters explained that these were the biggest protests they had seen in years. They gave some background on why people were upset. But they didn’t take a side, which could have led to a debate among the staff or guests. Let the riot be the only source of unrest.

4) Use your local expertise to help your guests
Our waiters called all their cab driver contacts but none would pick us up. They tried to explain an escape route, but it didn’t translate. In the end they asked us to wait for them to finish cleaning up the dining room so we could follow them out safely. We were so moved by their kindness we ended up giving them all hugs and high fives before getting in the cab. You can bet we will recommend this restaurant to anyone who visits Rio.

5) Have an emergency plan
You can’t predict a natural disaster or know whether a peaceful protest will escalate into something more. Keep an eye on current events – including social media – and trust your instincts, closing your business for the night if necessary. Don’t sacrifice your or your guests’ safety for profits. And in addition to following the tips above, always heed the safety instructions from local authorities!

Helen Anne Travis is a writer and marketer who runs the travel blog FromWayUpHigh.com. Connect with her on Twitter: @Helen_Anne.

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4 opportunities you may be missing, according to TripBarometer

4 opportunities you may be missing, according to TripBarometer

For the hospitality industry, 2014 is shaping up to be a great year.

According to the annual TripBarometer survey from TripAdvisor, 21% of global travelers plan to spend more on their trips this year compared to 2013. International leisure travel is expected to rise 12%, and 85% of travelers surveyed said they’re willing to sacrifice spending in other areas so they have more funds for travel.

Great news, right? Now all you have to do is wait for the bookings to pour in, right?

Well, almost. According to TripBarometer, travelers and hoteliers have different opinions about what’s important.

These conflicts between guests’ wants and proprietors’ perceptions are opportunities. Fill in the gaps below and you can reach, engage and convert more travelers, and gain repeat bookings in the process.

Opportunity #1: Give the people what they want: special offers

My jaw dropped when I read that only 4% of global hoteliers who participated in the TripBarometer survey thought special offers impacted their bookings.

I’m not alone. Almost half of all travelers interviewed agreed that special offers influenced their decision to stay at a hotel, with the majority willing to postpone making a booking until they found a great deal.

Travelers are literally waiting for you to make them an offer - any offer. What can you afford to give? A free night? An upgraded room? Maybe a free breakfast or discounted parking?

Find a way to add a little extra value to your bookings and you’ll get ahead of 96% of your competition.

Opportunity #2: Amenities. Amenities. Amenities!

Only a quarter of hoteliers surveyed for TripBarometer said amenities affected their bookings, while three quarters of travelers said perks like pool access or free Wi-Fi could sway their decisions.

Hoteliers, it’s time to take a good look at your accommodations and prioritize what, if any, improvements can be made. You don’t need to install an Olympic swimming pool or hire a full-time masseuse. Little things like free bike rentals, in-room hair dryers, or a complimentary cookie at check-in can go a long way.

The most popular perks among travelers who participated in the TripBarometer survey were free Wi-fi (an absolute must), free breakfast and free taxi or shuttle service.

Perhaps you already offer all of the above, or you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford to upgrade or add new features. In that case, make a point of highlighting all your offerings to guests before, during and after their stay. This can be done on your website, with in-room signage, and in a post-checkout email campaign.

As pointed out in a previous post, calling attention to new and existing amenities increases the likelihood travelers will not only notice them, but also mention them in reviews.

Which brings us to...

Opportunity #3: Boost your bookings with online reviews

Almost 90% of travelers said online reviews affected their booking decisions, while only 64% of hoteliers surveyed thought reviews mattered.

Personally, I have never ever made a booking without researching what other customers have to say about the hotel first, and I won’t stay anywhere that doesn’t have at least a handful of positive reviews.

Take time to ensure your profiles on review sites like TripAdvisor are up to date and then encourage your guests to share their experiences. You can do this with signage, or in that post-checkout email we mentioned earlier.

A basic profile on TripAdvisor is free. All it takes is a little bit of time to reach and engage 90% of potential customers. We’re out there looking for you!

Opportunity #4: Treat guests like superstars. (And know it matters.)

My jaw dropped again when I saw barely a third of hoteliers surveyed thought guests’ experiences affected repeat bookings. Even writing that sentence feels strange.

Look at it from our perspective. Travel planning is hard. Finding the perfect hotel takes time. If we’ve already had a great experience with an accommodation or brand, why would we stay anywhere else?

In this year’s TripBarometer survey, 86% of travelers said they would consider returning to a hotel they enjoyed staying at in the past. And just think, those people have friends, family and colleagues. Your customer service and brand experience has ripple effects. Don’t take that for granted.

Hoteliers, we’re traveling more than ever. Update that TripAdvisor profile, offer us a deal and throw in a few perks, and we’ll be back for more.

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How Going Green Can Help Your Business

How Going Green Can Help Your Business Going green doesn’t have to be a hit to the bottom line

When hotels consider making their property greener, the chief concern tends to be funding. But the long-term cost of ignoring sustainability is enormous and going green doesn't have to be a huge expense. It can even prove to be profitable down the road.

An investment in the future

The Saybrook Point Inn and Spa sits at the merging point of the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound in Connecticut, USA. The Saybrook Point's innkeeper recognized that in order to preserve this tranquil area that draws visitors, he had to be more than just a steward of a hotel and also look after the land.

One of the property’s biggest green endeavors takes place beneath the car-park. Waste water passes through an underground sand filtration system and returns clean to the sound. While there's no actual dollar return that can be calculated for this investment, it helps to preserve the environment, especially since it’s the inn’s greatest asset.

Besides having solar panels installed on the roof, most of the inn's sustainable machinery hides in the basement, where everything that might be considered waste is recycled. They run super spin washing machines that reach 300 G-force, reducing the energy needed for drying time. There's a co-generation system that takes waste heat and uses it to warm guest rooms, domestic water, and pools. And an electrolysis device desalinates salt water into free chlorine used in the pools.

Saybrook Point also appointed a Green Team – a group of employees that finds green options to simple and affordable problems. For instance, the grass around the hotel required maintenance, but the team decided to replace it with herbs that are now used in the kitchen. This change also eliminated the need for mowing and reduced the property's carbon footprint. Instead of using pesticides, the inn put up birdhouses; the creatures do the job for free. When the Saybrook Point Inn designed and opened their second property, which now sits opposite the inn, the Green Team equipped it with the latest technology like occupancy sensors in rooms that control the thermostat of vacant spaces.

Giving back without the costs

Maya Ubud, a certified Green Globe property that scored highest among Southeast Asian resorts, is also committed to being environmentally friendly. The hotel (that also has a Green Team) goes beyond instituting the typical eco-friendly tasks of composting, recycling, collecting rainwater and treating wastewater. And the property does it all for very little money.

How? By focusing on partnerships. Alongside the Ocean Conservancy, Maya Ubud's staff bags trash along the river, records the collected materials, and reports back to help the conservancy understand how manufactured items impact the environment. Maya Ubud also teamed up with Friends of National Park Foundation, which supplied the resort with about seventy trees. To cover the costs, the resort allowed guests to purchase, dedicate, and plant trees along their nature walk.

As citizens of Bali, the resort recognizes that improving its section of Ubud means bettering the island, too. They educate students on the logistics of recycling and sustainable gardening. The resort recycles used linens, towels, and books by sending them to an orphanage. Maya Ubud has also incentivized workers to adopt their green philosophy, encouraging those who carpool, walk, or ride bikes to work with a rewards system.

Whether you're willing to make the big investments of Saybrook Point Inn or institute the creative measures of Maya Ubud, start with a few initial steps. First, research green options for any new additions or changes that will be made to your hotel. You can also look for partnership opportunities with local organizations so you’re not going at it alone. Lastly, make your staff a part of the sustainability efforts. Begin by setting up a Green Team, and encourage regular brainstorm sessions to reveal the easy and inexpensive changes that can be made.

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Babymooning: a new travel trend

Babymooning: a new travel trend The ABC’s of making your business babymoon-friendly

As expecting parents prepare for their new arrival, many hope to work in one last vacation. That trip, which celebrates this approaching milestone, is the babymoon. However, few companies in the tourism industry are catering to this audience of two and a half travelers. 

As an expecting father planning a babymoon, I turned to the women on Baby Center's forum to better understand what pregnant women want. One expecting mother had posed her dilemma to the community: Should she spend a romantic babymoon away with her husband or reserve that money for the forthcoming baby? 

Of the 24 different soon-to-be mothers who had responded, everyone favored some variation of a babymoon, whether it was an all-inclusive resort in the tropics or a quaint bed and breakfast in the mountains. Most interesting, location always took a back seat to feeling. Future moms didn't care about place, they wanted the babymoon to be relaxing, romantic and a chance to celebrate that last real alone time together.

Here are some of the things that resorts and hotels can do to make their business babymoon-friendly. Let's call them the ABCs of babymooning:

Atmosphere 

The vibe must be relaxing, romantic, and allow for a couple's seclusion. My pregnant wife and I visited St. Barth for these very reasons and we enjoyed all of these elements at the Tom Beach Hotel. During the day, we strolled St. Jean beach, took dips in the Caribbean, and kicked back on lounge chairs, reading our literature on parenting. It was to our liking because the property didn't offer all of the attractions that sometimes cause distractions. Like the Tom Beach Hotel, it's also a good idea for accommodations to rethink their nonalcoholic beverage selection. While I drank mixed drinks, my wife enjoyed fresh-pressed juice, which was a more salubrious alternative to the common beachside pregnant cocktail: a sugary, virgin pina colada. And this brings us to B.

Baby First

After all, the trip is meant to be a healthful and stress-free experience for the mother and her unborn child. So you'll want to offer healthy food and good living. When we had stayed at the Balinese resort Maya Ubud pre-pregnancy, we ate organic foods and practiced yoga each morning, (though if you're looking to offer a yoga service, instructors should be trained to teach pre-natal yoga). On a second babymoon trip to the Finger Lakes, innkeepers at the Black Sheep Inn focused on the little things and catered specifically to my wife's needs. They asked her about her diet, slightly modified their breakfasts, and helped us plan an itinerary suitable to our needs. It doesn't have to cost properties anything to put baby and mother first.

Cost

The last thing that couples want to do on a babymoon, as they are gearing up for one of the greatest joys and expenses of their lives, is to worry about their accounting on vacation. Too many places nickel and dime visitors after they arrive. A babymoon should be delivered as a package, so that the costs are handled up front and there are no surprises in the end.

Some hotels and resorts are addressing all of these ABCs by providing unique services specifically for babymooners, some of which include professional photography of the baby bump, candlelit baths for two, 24-hour catering in accordance with the mother-to-be's cravings, recognizing dad with a good cigar and whiskey, and couple's spa treatments. While many expecting mothers consider an all-inclusive experience a good option, they do not want an all-inclusive that caters to partiers or a resort that attempts to appeal to all. 

It's important to remember that for a package to appeal to expecting parents, it needs to focus on these ABCs.

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Dubai hotels as tourist attractions

Dubai hotels as tourist attractions How the hotels in Dubai have made themselves the stars of the city and attract tourists from all over the world.

At times, travelers choose hotels the way folks with laundry choose dry cleaners... location, location, location. For the most part, jet-setters want their hotel to be close to the attractions. Often, they select their destination first and then worry about accommodations. But in Dubai, the opposite is true.

Dubai sprang from the desert over the last two decades. Before finding oil back in the middle of the 20th century, the city was a network of palm huts. The great riches inherited from the earth allowed Dubai to revamp its architecture and construct some of the world's most incredible buildings, including the world's tallest towers and largest malls. Today, many of these striking edifices are hotels. 

Hotels in Dubai aren’t viewed as comfortable accommodations near an attraction. The best hotels and resorts in Dubai are the attractions. Hoteliers can do much to emulate Dubai's success by putting these principles into play:

Make benefits accessible to all

The JW Marriott in Dubai is currently the world's tallest hotel. But not every guest will be able to afford the rooms on the uppermost floors. So, what's the incentive of staying at the tallest hotel, if one's view is no higher off the ground than the office building they vacated to go on vacation? By installing a bar and restaurant on the top floors, guests who inhabit rooms in the teens still get to enjoy the property’s best amenity. Whatever benefit your hotel or resort boasts, make it available, in some form, to all.

Levels of awesomeness

While all benefits should be accessible, hotels can have levels of awesomeness. At Atlantis, The Palm, a very basic package provides guests access to the aquarium and water park, while the most elaborate accommodations offer underwater views of the aquarium from the guest's bed and tub. The worst mistake a property can make is to show guests amazing options, but prohibit access to them. Items that do cost more shouldn’t be flaunted in front of those who can't or won't upgrade. Yet these exclusive options should be presented for those who want the experience. A lower cost alternative with reduced benefits should also be made available. There's nothing worse for your guests than to be constantly reminded of what they're not entitled to.

Not going overboard

A good example of a hotel centered upon a motif that could become kitschy, but doesn't, is the Meydan Hotel. The hotel is attached to the track that runs the richest horse race in the world, has tasteful horse sculptures in their lobby, and features views of the track from their huge lobby windows and rooftop pool deck. But they avoid getting too carried away. Not even horse race fans want to be submerged too deep in horse decor. The Meydan was also not afraid to stray from their theme and invested in Dubai's first pay and play golf course and the largest movie screen in the region. The thing to remember is that if the thematic addition adds no value, you risk being tacky.

Give guests no reason to leave

When adding value to your hotel, consider the cultural events that make your destination famous. For example, Dubai is well known for its Sunday brunches, hookah lounges and bellydancing performances. Naturally, the next step would be to bring these activities to the property. The Atlantis has one of the city's most popular brunches, and Rixos The Palm has a great hookah lounge adjacent to their lobby. Especially since both of these hotels are far from the city center, it's smart to keep their guests on property. Allow visitors to enjoy the best of your destination on site.

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Creating Packages That Attract Customers - Part 1

Creating Packages That Attract Customers - Part 1 How to create themed packages that boost profits and drive sales

Leisure travelers want more than just a place to stay. They want to dine out, visit local attractions, and attend events. Why not provide a valuable service to your guests by taking the guesswork out of creating their itineraries? Working with the marketing staff at area attractions, events, and restaurants, can help you create and up-sell specially-priced themed packages. Here’s how to start.

Get behind it

First, let’s address why you should make the effort. Packages can boost profits, and increase occupancy during slow seasons. Also, guests who buy packages are less likely to cancel their trips.1 You can create packages that tie in to popular trends, and update them regularly to promote repeat visitation. For example, you could include passes to a local museum with a “Harry Potter” exhibit, or partner with a watersports outfitter offering paddle boarding. Creative packages are also a tool to publicize your special features, such as your award-winning restaurant or your pet-friendly rooms.

There is also value to promoting — and keeping — business within your local area. This is what motivates Judy Dalessandro, Director of Sales at the HYATT house™ in Fishkill, New York. “Our area is so uniquely rich in the arts, historic landmarks and culinary experiences,” Dalessandro says. “It’s important for our hotel to work with local attractions in order to increase tourism here in the Hudson Valley.”

Consider your brand

If yours is a luxury property, don’t think of this as a “discount” offer; this is a value-added experience. Your guests aren’t concerned with saving money, but they do want more for it. However, if your property falls into the “budget” category, promote the savings your guests will enjoy as a result of package pricing.

Identify your target market

Next, identify the travelers who would take advantage of the promotion. If you have a family-friendly property, consider partnering with theme parks and museums. If you have a small luxury property popular with couples, think about cultural offerings and winery tours.

Choose your partners

The Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino in Aruba gives their guests what they want: off-property activities such as sunset sails and butterfly farm tickets. Keirsin Tjon Pian Gi, the property’s PR & eCommerce Manager, admits that some thought goes into choosing package partners. “There are preferred vendors that the resort works with, and we also make a decision based on the popularity of their tours and activities.”

Work in the add-ons

Most travel packages include a lodging component and an activity component, but don’t forget the in-house add-ons. You can add even more value to the package by incorporating hotel services such as dining, in-room movies, and spa treatments. You could include the full price of the service within the package, or offer the service at a discount. This will encourage guests to try your supplemental offerings while boosting revenue.

Think about timing

Packages should offer enticements to stay during shoulder periods when you need to fill rooms. Urban business hotels use them to fill rooms on weekends. If there’s a special event or festival taking place, work with the organizers to offer timely promotional deals. You can even require a minimum night stay to increase the booking period.

Start small

Try two or three packages to start, and monitor how they are received. Each partner should be committed to a trial of at least six months. Never offer more than five different packages at a time to avoid diluting the effort. While it makes the most sense for the hotel partner to sell the package, any participating business that takes credit cards can also sell them. Once the packages are officially launched, make sure all partners list them on their respective websites and social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


  • 1. Source: Matt Zito, Travel Business Academy, www.mattzito.com/2010/06/16/how-to-create-vacation-packages-for-your-travel-business/
Posted by: http://gobigorgohomeblog.com Last Updated: April 16, 2014...