For any efficient hotel revenue management, Direct Booking is always the foremost objectives which are seen as a solid & permanent revenue enhancer. Irrespective of the size of the hotel direct bookings are the topmost recommendations when it comes to rolling out an effective revenue management strategy. If you are in the Hotel industry then it need not be elaborated upon the fact that Online Travel Agents today have become a pivot entity in controlling the hotel room prices. But then the end effect is it leaves very less space for the hotels to create a niche or even a brand entity. This is certainly a negative impact on the hotels who many a time struggles to build a fair value for themselves in the minds of the customers. In such a scenario it goes without saying that it’s the direct booking strategies which need to be more focused upon as that only will help hotels take the advantage of having repeat bookings, and thereby create a brand loyalty which ultimately gets converted to higher revenues and profits.
We try to evaluate in this article the various possible methods via which you can increase your direct bookings.
Increase multi-channel communications with customers: Communication is and always will be the key to a successful marketing strategy. With the exponential growth of the social media and various technological evolutions on the internet, one has to focus on getting as many numbers of channels open with your customers as possible. Email marketing, social media, your website are all possible communication channels via which you can directly start interacting and talking to your customers.
Have your hotel marketing plan to include advertising on the loyalty program via social media and also to invest in targeted marketing via Facebook and Google to get to the right audience instantly. And that’s not all, as an after sales customer service the best to do is to keep your social media chat channels open as your customers can directly speak to you giving you an opportunity for quickly responding.
Your customers have to be your brand ambassadors:
If you are keen on retaining your customers as loyal brand ambassador then it’s imperative to say that your customers have to be rewarded and benefited. A good incentive scheme or a referral program is the best way to make your customers feel privileged thereby increasing the possibility of hotel customer acquisition. If an apt and attractive referral programme is worked out then that will lead to encouraging direct bookings thereby increasing repeat customers to your hotel.
Advertise and showcase the best rates and facilities:
Almost every single time a customer goes to various options on so many online platforms which provide various discounted rates rather when going directly to hotels. No wonder today a customer doesn’t seem to remember the hotel of stay rather the OTA from where he/she made a booking. This doesn’t add any advantage to the hotel as it creates zero brand visibility. The best way to counter it is to implement the best price strategies and well advertise the same with proper highlights of the facilities and infrastructure of your hotel. Only then will customers feel the necessity and see it as an advantage to doing a direct booking at your hotel. Always the best rates should be a direct rate.
Make your hotel experience a unique one:
All said and done ultimately it’s the experience you offer customers that matters the most. If you are successful in giving the unique experience to your customers then that’s the most valuable element which will contribute to customer loyalty. A hotel which offers service is way less preferred to a hotel that offers an experience. Let it be from the decor which speaks about the history and how it makes the premise unique along with your food menu or let it be any other USP which you have, it all adds up to driving more direct bookings. Identify your unique selling points and try to advertise and communicate it well to your customer. That itself will be a major contributor to an increase in your hotel’s direct bookings.
Hence to wind up on what we have discussed, if you are hotelier eager enough to establish your hotel as a well known sought after brand with all intentions of seeing an increase in growth and customer retention then its time you seriously start thinking about your direct bookings.
The hospitality industry is flourishing at an exponential pace and it has started to embrace and adopt technological innovations to enhance revenue generation and increase customer loyalty. As it goes without saying, customer service is always the prime focus for any business and the same is perceived to be applicable in the hospitality industry as well. Every industry seems to be in a rat race to see customers as just opportunities for ringing their cash desks and spends hours to create services which can be pushed onto the customer. The world is going through a digital transformation and almost every interaction happens via the internet today. But there is also a growing concern that with so many methods and ways to target your prospects to subscribe to your business, are we handling our customers as merely a means of revenue generation?
We are in an industry which needs to work completely different from the conventional methods of providing service. This is the only industry which cannot see its prospects as customers or revenue generators but as interactions for much longer durations. We are dealing with real people to whom we need to reach out, understand and be felt which will help us in better knowing what we need to deliver.
For any hospitality consultant or hotelier would be wise to agree that we are not in a business which provides only services. The foundation of any successful hotelier is not to have customers rather guests and to imbibe in itself and its team the very fact of the trade that it is not guest service that we aim to provide rather “Guest experiences”. Experience can be in any form but the success is in how unique and enjoyable you can make it to your guests. Right from providing the local cuisines of the place to the creation of that perfect magical and exquisite ambiance or the adventurous activities which can be incorporated into your offerings, it’s the experience which remains in the minds of our guests for a very long time.
We live in a world with different kinds of personalities and with traits which are either inherent or created by many societal influences. Many of our guests come from various walks of life and it is very important that we learn the persona of our guests even before their stay. A clever understanding of their requirements will contribute in formulating a felicitous experience to guests.
Hospitality is an industry which deals with the two most important ( E’s ) of human nature and it can be conquered only by providing an another integral ‘E’ in Hospitality. If it’s the persona of your guests that needs to be studied then it is the first ‘E’ to be satisfied and it comes with a big caution message ‘handle with care’. This E which amplifies the superior self-existence in any human being is the ‘Ego’. Analysing a person and knowing his/her requirements is necessarily studying the Ego of your persona because it is this letter E which can be altered unimaginably. So the goal and the start point of your service deliverance is to satisfy the Ego of your guest. Rightly said, “We are in the Ego business” and it’s crucial to find out the key touch points of your guest’s ego as it opens up various opportunities and aspects for service. Handle the ego of your guests with care and satisfying it is the start to a good service deliverance.
Once you have identified the Ego and found out the various opportunities for your service deliverance the next important E which needs to be tackled is ‘E’ for ‘Emotions’. Emotions are more personal and no technology can replace the feeling of oneness when you interact with your guests. Emotions are the only way to establish a direct and personal relationship with your guests and Hospitality is all about relationships. Emotions cannot be expressed through lifeless electronic media but have to be one to one, between you and your guest. Talk to your guests rather directing them to fill in endless columns in forms. It goes a long way when you take the time to converse with your guests and make them feel that you are not just a service provider but a friend who has invited them home. That’s the most eminent touch point anyone would want and paves the way to ensure your guests that they have come to the perfect place.
Handling the Ego and tackling your customer Emotions are the two hardest parts in the hospitality industry but once achieved then it automatically creates a roadmap to success. It creates the exact picture to the next E which is the focal point for your deliverance and that being ‘Experience”. You must have by now well understood your guests ‘Ego’ and ‘Emotions’ and are all set to showcase that exact, unique and exquisite experience to your guests. It is not the service which need to be delivered but that much-expected experience which eventually is guaranteed to stay in their minds. It goes beyond the obvious sectors of providing accommodation, food and drinks but to the more finer and innate tasks of elevating the human senses to an all altogether different level of their existence in your property. Once that kind of experience is delivered then you are in the absolute path to being a successful hotel entrepreneur.
India in the recent months seem to be gripped with a lot of discussions and debates on ‘GST’ and after a lot of contemplations and revisions finally, it is all set to be implemented. As per the latest reports, the finance minister Mr. Arun Jaitley has announced that GST will be rolled out with effect from the 1st of July 2017. Before we start off with our introspection of the implications and effects of GST on the hotel industry it’s important to get a quick perspective of what GST is all about and an understanding of the advantages of GST as a whole.
What is GST?
‘GST’, the acronym stands for Goods and Services Tax and in simple terms can be explained as an indirect tax reform to be implemented with an aim to remove tax barriers between different states and the centre thereby creating a single market and a single structure of taxation across the country and industries.
The existence of GST is governed by the GST council and the chairman being the Union Finance Minister of India – Mr. Arun Jaitley. To give you a quick picture of the taxation structure under GST henceforth the goods and services will be taxed under the following five primary tax slabs as 0%, 5%, 12%, 18% and 28% irrespective of any state. Hence a uniform tax structure on goods and services across the entire country.
Now let us extract the key elements of GST pertaining to the Hotel Industry and access the implications GST has on the hospitality industry at large.
Key Highlights for Hotel Industry:
1. One of the key highlights and the biggest benefit of GST is that it is supposed to replace both the present service tax and luxury tax as hotels till date were suffering from the burden of multiple taxations. In order to bring in a uniformity and eliminate the requirement for unnecessary taxations in various states, GST will be implemented that will necessarily subsume excise, service tax, state VAT, entry tax, octroi and other state levies.
2. According to the council, the GST has set taxation slabs on hotel room tariffs under which an 18 % tax will be levied on rooms with tariff between Rs 2,500 to 7,500 which is a great relief to hoteliers. As per the current scenario, 21.3 % taxes are levied on this traffic range and with this decrease, to 18% the remaining 3 % of the tax discount will be passed on to the customers. There was a huge repercussion initially when the GST was first announced on these tariff as it was initially decided to levy a 28% taxation on room tariffs above Rs5,000. With much resistance and discussions and as a great relief to hoteliers it has finally been decided to increase the threshold from Rs 5,000 to Rs 7,500. Hence with this revision, the highest tax rate of 28% is assigned to tariffs of Rs 7,500 and above. This was finally decided by the GST council led by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in a meeting held on the 17th of this month.
3. A big cheer is also certain for those who like to dine at 5 star and luxury hotels as bills are likely to get much cheaper with the GST. The GST on five-star hotels will be reduced to 18 per cent from 28 per cent which will bring it at par with standalone air conditioned restaurants.
All said and done accordingly to main trade analysts this is arguably a very welcome revision with the new GST but it also has to be noted that if India has to remain competitive as a tourist destination this surely is not enough. As rightly pointed out by HRAWI President Mr. Dilip Datwani almost all our neighboring countries pay 5 – 12 % GST or equivalent tax whereas at the same time hotels in India would be levying 18 and 28 per cent of GST. This surely will not augur well with foreign inbound tourists who are normally lured with super deals by our neighboring countries. Hence this is going to be a big concern to attract tourists around the world. It is just a matter of time as we need to wait and watch after the GST rolls out and is operational.
Every year there is a change in the way we do business as with the growing and emerging changes in either the demands of the consumers or in the environment or economy. One most important factor which contributes a lot to any business of today is the evolving changes in technology and its applicability in the daily operations. As we all know that technology is an enabler and it helps us to establish an effective communication with our customer thereby contributing to driving our businesses to greater heights. When it comes to the Hotel industry technology has started playing the role of a major game changer and it’s important to find out what are some of the most emerging trends related to this industry that will contribute a lot in providing that unique and utilitarian experience to our guests which will also help us create a much stronger and longer lasting relationship.
Technology and its implementations have been snail-paced in the way it was used in the hotel industry with no major changes, but the time has come where the trends have already picked up. Hotels are in the people business and one of the only primary objectives of this industry is to cater to the requirements of the customers to provide them the best services at any point of time. Delivering the ultimate in hospitality and service is the primary focus and today technology plays a major role in facilitating just that. What we do need to know is if there are any innovations being developed by technology in keeping up and delivering the promises of a better hospitality industry. One of the challenges in this industry is its dynamic nature as it has to listen and understand the requirements of diverse customers who have different preferences and it’s important for hotels to concentrate more on delivering customized services. This diverse range of guest expectations has spawned a fascinating scenario for companies in developing state of the art technology which is the current driving factor to take the industry beyond.
Let’s take a look at the various technologies that will have a major impact on the hotel industry in the year 2017 and the years to come.
- Service based technology: Technology needs to be flexible to meet the kind of diverse types of guests and their requirements. As technology acts as an enabler to the services it has to adapt likewise and facilitate the smooth deliverance of services to the customers. Now a day’s guests are not interested in spending their time walking towards to front desk and wait in lines for the checking process to happen. They want themselves to be checked in even before they arrive at the hotels as they just can walk into their respective rooms. This is facilitated by today’s Smartphone’s where guests are been given technology in their hands in the form of smart mobile apps as their digital keys to their rooms. Such service based technologies are going to be the must-have in 2017 and the years to come. This is the next frontier and it will soon be seen that front desks will disappear from many hotels.
- Wireless Technology: It’s 3G, 4G and going to 5G may be somewhere in 2018 and that’s the speed at which technology is progressing. With high speeds of internet connectivity’s and a paradigm shift of infrastructure to the cloud, this is surely going to have an enormous effect on the hotel industry. Gone are those days where Wi-Fi was treated as an added feature for many hotels and was promptly advertised in the hotel premises. Today having a Wi-Fi facility is something which is expected by your guests and without it, your premise will be lacking with something which is very basic nature. Every hotel will be equipped with high speeds of internet availability not only for their guests but for their normal operations as everything would be well connected via the internet.
- Social Listening: It’s the world of social networks and what more a channel do you need that helps in amplifying what you need to communicate with your audiences. Today a large segment of the population are present almost a good amount of time on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Companies have started to understand the power of this medium which has become a very credible listening platform. This social influence platform has made companies to develop hotel industry technology that would listen to what consumers have to say about the services offered cater to their requirements via their reviews. It also helps the industry to gain knowledge about the trends and what is popular amongst the broader guest’s audiences. The hotel industry should be able to leverage this data to deliver better services to their guests.
- Cloud Technology : The hotel industry is going through a serious transformation as it has started moving beyond reactive service. Today it wants to deliver a real time and more personalized experience to its guests. This is possible only via the data they gather through various channels cloud technology is going to be major factors in helping them achieve it. Not only that the cost of setting up technology and infrastructure is a major financial concern and that’s why cloud technology can be used to bring down costs yet deliver the best productive tools.
- Conserving Energy: Eco-consciousness has become a pivotal norm in the Hotel Industry and more and more emphasis is put on ensuring hotels and hotel companies are being more energy conscious. What it really is trying to do is to give the guest and hotel management controls of things like room lighting, water consumption and temperature via innovative and technologically enhanced tools and methods.
- Loyalty Programs: Loyalty programs are offered by many hotels and companies as it creates a sense of privilege for the guests who will surely make them come back to your premises. Hotels need to look at new software technologies that will help their guests avail the rewards programs available which will thereby help them increase loyalist in a more authentic manner.
There are various other detailed technological trends that surely need to be considered but we have just enlisted a macro view of it. Having said that its time for all in the Hotel Industry to do the apt research and find out the best technological deployments available and which is current to provide the most valuable hospitality services to their guests.