Owning Your Guest

During the latest webinar from InnQuest that was discussing their new booking engine, Webbook, they also touched on the topic of guest management. More specifically, they talked about owning your guests and keeping the guests booking directly at the hotel, not booking through another channel like Expedia. 

A part of their discussion touched on TripAdvisor and how dangerous that site is becoming. With TripAdvisor Connect Instant Booking, TripAdvisor is now an online travel agency, not just a booking portal to help redirect guests to your hotel. They take ownership of the guest information, encourage people to use their site to making reservations, and do not place any emphasis on booking your specific hotel, but any hotel in the destination you are searching for. During the webinar, they put emphasis on removing any mention of TripAdvisor on your site or in your emails to keep potential guests on your site.

That is a difficult decision to make considering how many people actively use TripAdvisor as a research tool when picking a hotel or other activities to do. It is a vicious cycle where you want your ratings on TripAdvisor to be higher to encourage more people to visit your hotel site, and in order to do that, you need your guests to visit TripAdvisor to leave a review. Without promoting TripAdvisor, you miss out on the ratings boost and potential guests. I am on the fence about whether hotels should go to that extreme. 

What I am in agreement with is encouraging your guests to keep returning to book at your hotel again. I mentioned previously about two systems that can help you with guest management, CheckMate and Guest Folio. Here are some other ideas to keep ownership of your guests without spending money (though, both CheckMate and Guest Folio are rather affordable for any hotel operation.)


Discounts

Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) all charge a hefty commission in order to use their services. Expedia charges between 25-30%, Booking.com is 15%, and TripAdvisor Connect Instant Booking is charging 12-15% depending on how much you wish to have your site promoted there. The TripAdvisor percentage does not include their annual subscription services, which can be a few thousand dollars to. On top of the commissions, your CRS (InnLink, SynXis, TravelClick) will likely be charging a fee to have those reservations sent directly to your PMS. It all adds up. 

RATE EXPEDIA BOOKING.COM TRIPADVISOR
$150 $37.50 $22.50 $18.00
$5.00 $5.00 $5.00
Net Rate $107.50 $122.50 $127.00
% of Rate 28% 19% 16%

The fee I put in is likely less than what it is, but it helps show how much is lost to a booking on those sites.

Offering a discount on your website will encourage people to book directly with you instead of an OTA. The price shoppers will be comparing your RACK rate to the online discount and make the smart choice right away. The OTAs that compare rates to keep the hotels in parity will not be able to distinguish the difference either without looking at your site directly. That search would take them too long to do. 

The side benefit of offering a 10-15% rate discount is you make more money than when people book at the OTAs. Once they book directly at the hotel, they will likely skip over the process of price shopping the next time and book directly with you. 

Length of Stay Discounts

Another discount you can offer guests is based on the data you have on hand through your PMS. Encouraging guests to stay longer will cut down on your costs, because it is cheaper to rent out a room that is a stayover for a night versus a full checkout room. Labour is part of the equation and is likely half the time spent on a stayover compared to a full checkout room. The other costs are the laundry, the expendable amenities (soaps, shampoo bottles, etc.), and other small costs through the Front Desk that add up. 

Offering a 20% discount for a guest that stays a 4th or 5th night will help earn you more money by selling the room, and save money by cutting down on costs. The number of nights may vary with your property and should be dependent on the reservation analysis you do at your hotel. Most PMS systems should have the ability to extract the data that show you how many nights guests stay at the hotel. The majority will likely be 1 or 2 nights, but watch for when the nightly stays trail off by a larger margin. 

If your property is more of a resort, offering discounts for a week or longer may be more beneficial. A steeper discount could be made up with extra sales in the spa services or dining establishments, resort fees, and more. The property may even make more money with the discounted rooms with the extra revenue that can be generated. 

Book Direct Specials

bookdirectspecials.jpg

Modern CRS services offer the ability to include add-ons to help add value to the reservations before they reach the hotel- dinner reservations, flowers, discounts on spa services, and so forth. All of that encourages people to book at the hotel, but not necessarily book through your online booking portal. 

Offering free add-ons that enhance their stay, but are not available through the Front Desk once they arrive at the hotel, are a great way to encourage people to book through your website. Some ideas are included in the image above, but here are some others:

  • extended checkout without penalty
  • early checkin without penalty
  • receive the WiFi password via email prior to checkin
  • priority seating on a airport shuttle bus
  • free arrival cocktail in the restaurant/bar or free coffee
  • express checkout with receipt handed under the door or delivered by email
  • mini-travel guide delivered by email

Some of these options may have triggered other ideas in your mind. Feel free to leave them below for others to think about using.

These add-ons could also be grouped into different broad categories to make it easier for people to choose from. For example, a Business Package could include the WiFi password, early checkin, express checkout, and a free hour in the meeting room. A Leisure Package could include the WiFi password, free cocktail drink, and mini-travel guide delivered by email. Making the choices easier for a potential guest will make the booking process less stressful and more enjoyable, which increases the likelihood of them returning to book at the hotel through the website. 

Surveys

Surveys are an item that have been discussed before here (Improving Your Hotel Ranking on TripAdvisor), but it bears mentioning again. 

Offering a more localized survey will allow guests to be more expressive in their responses by knowing they won't become public without their permission. They will be able to offer suggestions about the restaurant, or note issues in the rooms that may have not been reported while at the hotel. By being polite and offering suggestions in a private manner, hotel management should be more appreciative that the problems were not escalated to the point where the guest is demanding refunds and concessions for future stays. 

They are simple to setup through SurveyMonkey or through Google Forms. Services like GuestFolio make the process even simpler by sending the surveys out automatically, and collecting the responses in a neat dashboard. 

These services will allow management to reach out to guests in a private manner to respond to their issues and make the guest feel happier. 


The above are merely suggestions in how a hotel can start to rebuild a relationship with a guest and take ownership over them to prevent them from booking the hotel through a more expensive booking portal, or switching hotels completely. The offerings to enhance their stay will build guest loyalty without the use of expensive loyalty programs. With guests being more loyal to your hotel, and by booking directly with you, guest satisfaction and revenues will only begin to climb.