Travel 2.0 and what it means for Hotels
"With Travel 2.0 it is also possible to highlight the hotel experiences in addition to the price – and some hotels do not capitilase on this opportunity", writes Roshan McPartland.
For those of you old enough to remember booking a hotel in Ireland in the late 80’s early 90’s - it was relatively straight forward in that you either booked the hotel over the phone or perhaps by fax. In most cases you knew about the hotel, had stayed there before or a friend may have recommended it to you. However booking a hotel abroad during this time was slightly more complex, especially if you knew nothing about it. There was definitely and element of walking into the unknown and the only comfort you had was knowing that the hotel you booked had a 4 star rating from the national tourist board, and if you were lucky enough there was one picture of the hotel in the brochure.
Thanks to Travel 2.0, booking a hotel is now different. Travel 2.0 means that we as consumers have more information about hotels readily available at our fingertips. We can now go directly to travel portal sites or even better, go direct to the hotels own website to look for the information that we require. However, Travel 2.0 is not just about getting this information, but rather about getting impartial information from others. When it comes to booking a holiday or hotel online, we as bookers prefer to hear about other people’s stories and experiences. Consumers are now making decisions about where to stay based on other people’s recommendations. In fact when it comes to the hotel industry, perhaps more so than any other industry - word of mouth online is king.
In a recent Yahoo Travel survey (2007), the results revealed ’that 61% of those questioned now go online for vacation recommendations. Travellers are no longer just searching for a hotel based on price, they are now mainly looking for user reviews, user ratings and photos.’
Price remains a primary and vital factor when choosing a hotel, but with Travel 2.0 it is also possible to highlight the hotel experiences in addition to the price – and some hotels do not capitilase on this opportunity. Consumers are not interested in the corporate blurb that you sometimes find on hotel websites, they simply don’t care if ‘each guest room contains beautiful antique furnishings and exquisite fabrics which will indulge your senses’. Consumers of today want to hear real accounts from real people that have stayed there as well as reading something that was written by a real person.
Travel 2.0 Revolution
In simple terms, this is what the Travel 2.0 revolution is all about. Its about you, your friends, your neighbours, your colleagues and other people who love to travel and their conversations online about the places they have stayed and their personal opinions of them. It’s about these people sharing their photos, videos, stories, memories and reviews online through social networking, video and reviews sites such as Tripadvisor, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr.com.
So now that we know what these modern day consumers are doing, shouldn’t we join in with them? For hotels, the answer is yes. If these consumers are spending more time online then hotels must find ways to reach out to them by joining in on their conversations whether its through responding to positive and negative reviews posted on Tripadvisor, creating a corporate facebook site or perhaps adding a video hotel tour on Youtube.com or even adding images of the hotel on Flickr.com.
Before joining in on this online conversation, you must first begin by listening to them and as this is more important than talking. There are a few online tools you can use to monitor what people are saying about your property online, such as google blog search, google alerts and technorati alerts. Once you know what they’re saying about you, then you can start talking to them.
Tips to join in on the online conversation
1) Create a blog page and link it to your website. Invite people to leave reviews and share their stories and experiences with other potential bookers.
2) Post your corporate video on Youtube.com in addition to adding the video to your own website.
3) Add images of your property to Flickr.com (a site for sharing photos online)
4) Respond to both positive and negative reviews on Tripadvisor.
5) Create a corporate Facebook.com site.
6) Add podcasts to your site. With podcasts hotels can then provide information about the hotel, the location or events taking place in the location. They can even be created for different segments or age profiles of your guests. (A Podcast is a digital media file which can be downloaded to your guests' iPod or MP3 Player)
Role of a Traditonal Sales & Marketing Manager is changing
This online revolution requires adapation from the traditional role of Hotel Sales & Marketing manager as they must be equipped to deal with the challenges and opportunities of travel 2.0 and integrate social media into their marketing efforts not only to reach out to new travellers but also to create stronger relationships with their existing customers. It’s about creating your own corporate personality online and connecting with your guests as well as the your future guests of tomorrow.
Bookassist has been at the forefront of research into modern internet technologies and Web2.0/Travel2.0 developments and now brings these key technologies into a new product offering for client hotel websites.
Hotels can now avail of not just the most advanced direct booking engine technology in the marketplace, with live secure banking transacting, multiple languages and multiple currencies, multiple room booking capability, add-ons and much more, but they can also now
- Show customer generated reviews, automatically requested by the Bookassist system of customers who have actually booked with and stayed in the hotel.
- Display their location on their website using Google maps as a background with citywide information nearby for their customers' benefit, information which is continually added to by Bookassist.
- Additionally, hotel groups can enable group and individual website with these features to tie the group functionality together and increase business transfer between members of a group.
So once you’ve mastered how you create your own corporate facebook site, hotel blog, or podcast, you can sit back, put your feet up and wait for travel 3.0. We're already working on it.
Roshan McPartland is Operations Manager for Ireland at Bookassist's Dublin Office