Reviews and Online Reputation Mangement

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Word of Mouth has always been one of the key success factors in the hospitality industry. Online Word of Mouth (eWOM) is an even more powerful marketing tool. We have heard from many new hosts that the first good review changed the game. The more reviews a lodging has, the more inclined potential guests will be to book. Research proves these observations:

93% of global travelers say their booking decisions are impacted by online reviews  (Trip Barometer)

70% of global consumers trust consumer opinions posted online (Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Survey)

49% of travelers will not book a hotel without reviews (Statistic Brain)

Beds24’s partnership with Review Express makes it easy to automatically generate reviews.

What is Review Express?
Review Express is a free marketing tool from TripAdvisor that makes it easy to invite guests to write reviews. According to TripAdvisor research Review Express users see an average increase of 33% in the amount of TripAdvisor reviews for their property.

How does it work?
Beds24 customers can automatically invite guests after departure to write a review.  All you need to do is opt in for Review Express in your Tripadvisor account and enable the function in your Beds24 control panel. Guests will automatically receive an Email from TripAdvisor asking them to write a review.

Managing Online Reputation

The impacts caused by online reviews are huge. This makes it important to actively monitor and manage them.

87% of survey participants agreed that an appropriate management response to a bad review improved their impression of the hotel (PhoCusWright)

62% agreed that seeing the hotel’s response to reviews generally influenced them positively to booking at that hotel (PhoCusWright)

Monitor reviews regularly and appreciate all guest feedback

Reviews help you understanding your customers needs. You can see your business through your guests eye and get a better understanding of your strength and weaknesses. Thus, feedback helps you shape your business.

Respond to comments quickly and regularly

Respond to all negative feedback or comments which call for an apology or clarification. Explain what caused the bad experience in a positive personalised way. Diplomatically correct false information. Occasionally thank guests for a positive review but do not reply to all good comments. If you want to thank every reviewer consider sending a private message.

There is a fine line between negative and offensive or irrational comments. There is no need to jump over every stick. It is ok to respond to “the Good, the Bad, but not the Ugly”. Damaging false reports or fake reviews can be reported to TripAdvisor through tools in their management center.

The Impact of Googles Next Major Update on Bookings

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Mobile devices have become a natural part of most peoples lives. More and more people are browsing the internet on mobile devices like smart phones and tablet. According to Phocuswright  mobile travel bookings will account for 27% of the U.S. online travel market by this year – from just 5% in 2012.

These developments will reflect in the next major update to Google’s search algorithm. Starting April 21 Google will use mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. Google announced that this change will have a significant impact on search results. Websites with flexible designs will be rewarded with higher search rankings than web sites which are not mobile friendly.

Mobile Friendly Hotel Booking

What does this mean for the accommodation industry?

Without a mobile friendly web site, guests searching for accommodation using mobile devices will not find you as easily on Google. The result might be less direct bookings.

Are you ready?

With Google’s Mobile Frindly Test  you can check your web site. Google’s Mobile Guide gives information on how to make your site great for mobile users.

Mobile friendly by default. No extra costs.

The responsive/advaptive design of Beds24´s booking page is mobile friendly. If you are a Beds24 customer you can be sure that your guests can enjoy a mobile friendly booking experience. The booking page automatically adapts to the device the guest uses. You will not need to change any settings and this service is included at no extra cost in every Beds24 account. If you are not yet using Beds24 you are welcome to use the free trial to test without obligation.

Photo: © DeathToTheStockPhoto

Increase Bookings with Up-To-Date Calendars

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Booking websites have become an important source of bookings. For some hotels or properties even the most important source. Using several sites usually means increased visibility and revenue. The downside to this strategy used to be the management effort involved.

Manually keeping multiple calendars up to date is tedious and time consuming. The solution to this are automated updates using a channel manager. This not only frees up time but also reduces the risk of double bookings.

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Synchronising Calendars which Support iCal
Many booking sites, especially in the holiday rental market support the industry standard iCal. iCal (or iCalendar) is a file format designed to transmit calendar data. Information can be exported from one calendar and imported into another. This also works for calendar apps on your smartphone or Google’s calendar. iCal can be used to import calendar information from a booking source or export bookings into another calendar.

Which calendars can Beds24 synchronise?
Specially constructed connections keep Airbnb, Wimdu, FlipKey, HolidayLettings calendars synchronised with your own web site.

What can you do with Beds24´s iCal sync?
You can use the Beds24 iCal Sync for automatic updates for example with 9Flats, ebab, Homewaway/VBRO/FewoDirekt, HouseTrip, Only-Apartments and many more.

Two Way Channel Management
While iCal can only transport calendar information XML allows transmission of more than just calendar events. The Beds24 channel manager lets accommodation providers manage availability and rates across multiple online booking sites from a single easy-to-use web page. Connections include Booking.com, Expedia, Agoda, Hostelworld, Laterooms and many more. Visit our website for a complete list.
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Improve Your Guests Experience

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An efficient check-in process, a clean room and quality staff are essentials a guest expects. To make a difference hosts need to move beyond the basics. Personalised service is one key to improve guests service experiences.

Customer Service is the New Marketing*
Service has always been a differentiator. Due to the growing influence and importance of ratings and social media for the hospitality industry the impact of every single guest experience can be huge. Knowing guests needs and delivering proactive service is the differentiator in a competitive environment.

Guest Management for positve guest experiences.

Personalization is not only a benefit to the guest. It can also provide sales opportunities by offering the right customer the right services or extras.

The newly added Guest Database gives Beds24´s users the option to not only view a guests previous and upcoming bookings but also store additional information and preferences. Thus, hosts can incorporate proactive strategies to optimise guests experiences. The guest database is included in all Beds24 accounts at no extra charge.

If you don’t have an account you are welcome to use the free trial to test without obligation.

*Quoting Brian Solis who explains his thesis on his blog.

Bitcoin Payments for Hotel Bookings

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The digital currency Bitcoin is growing in popularity. A few days ago Expedia was the first mayor online travel agency to announce they accept Bitcoin transactions.

What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a decentralized virtual currency introduced as open-source software in 2009. Payments work peer-to-peer without a central repository or single administrator.

According to the Wall Street Journal Bitcoin has grown massively over the past 18 months now being accepted by more than 60,000 retailers world-wide. Still the price continues to be highly volatile.

How can businesses collect Bitcoin payments?
Businesses selling goods or services over the internet can use a Bitcoin merchant solution to accept payments in Bitcoin. These usually opt to have Bitcoins converted to USD or other currencies automatically eliminating the risk of holding a virtual currency.

Why not let your guest pay for their accommodation in Bitcoin?
Beds24 gives innovative hosts the option to collect Bitcoin payments. The Bitcoin payment processor bitpay is the technology platform for processing transactions. With bitpay merchants do not need to hold Bitcoins. bitpay will instantly can convert Bitcoin payments straight back into any mayor currency.

Other ways to collect payments from guests
If you are not ready to for a digital currency – most common payment methods are still credit cards, Paypal or simply cash upon arrival.

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Beds24 offers multiple options to collect deposits:

  • Accept Credit Card payments using one of the connected payment gateways.
  • Collect payments with Paypal.
  • Securely Collect Credit Card Details and process the payment through your bank or merchant account.
  • Ask guests for bank transfer or to post a cheque or other.
  • Accept Bitcoin.
If you don’t have an account you are welcome to use the free trial to test without obligation.

Increase Revenue: Distribution & Channel Management

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Fifteen years ago bookings were generated through travel agencies, write ups or ads in publications, repeat-customers and referrals. Today travelers go on-line and search the web. Of course, repeat customers and referrals are still important, but in a world where billions are connected to the Internet, on-line marketing channels are the dominant driver for business.

According to PhoCusWright’s predictions OTA gross bookings in Europe will see double-digit growth through 2015 then representing almost half (41%) of on-line bookings. The OTA market is driven by fierce competition among global heavyweights spending enormous budgets on SEM to be on top of search results.

Own website bookings are most desirable but increasing distribution by listing on third-party sales sites is the easiest way to bost bookings. To do this effectively it is essential to keep inventory and rates accurate.

A channel manager (Beds24 being a leading example) allows accommodation providers to manage availability and rates across multiple online booking sites from a single easy-to-use web page. When a booking occurs on any site the system will automatically adjust inventory across all channels. This maximises the chance of being booked without risk of overbooking.

Hotel Channel Manager

Benefits of using a channel manager:

  • Elimination of double bookings
  • Accurate availability and price parity on on-line booking channels
  • A single change updates multiple websites minimising staff and training
  • Adding additional OTA’s causes little or no additional effort for each channel

Connections can be one-way (single) or two-way (reciprocal). Beds24 has certified two-way connections with leading booking channels and is certified TripConnect partner. Visit our website for a complete list of connected booking channels.

Increase Hotel and B&B Revenue: Gift Vouchers

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Gift vouchers for hotels & B&B#sThe popularity of voucher codes has rapidly grown over the past years. This is because they are an easy and flexible way of promotion. The hospitality industry is no exception. Many hotels already use vouchers and discount codes.

With people thinking about what to give at the moment it might be a good time to give the topic a thought. Popular uses for lodgings are:

 

Selling gift vouchers
Selling hotel gift vouchers can be a real boost to your revenue. Especially around the holiday season when people are looking for special presents.

Rewarding loyal guests with a gift voucher
Say thank you with a voucher for a free extra or even an extra night.

Promotional discount codes
Everyone loves a bargain. This is why discount codes can really drive bookings. Use discounts to boost direct bookings to maximise occupancy when you need it. Or promote bookings from specific sources.

Corporate rates
Discount codes can be used to offer special rates for certain customers.

Of course discounts lower the margin. But it basically is a from of acquisition cost. And if used wisely the benefit of any promotion should outweigh its cost.

We have upgraded the Beds24 discount code feature to offer even more flexibility for discount codes and gift vouchers. If you don’t have an account you are welcome to use the free trial to test the system without obligation.

Commission Free Online Bookings Without Your Own Website

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You don’t need your own website to accept online bookings. Check out these two easy options to sell online without paying commission:

Use Your Booking Page as Website
The design and the content of Beds24’s booking page is fully customisable. You can add custom content to use it as a stand-alone web presence.

online-booking-system
  • Add pictures or your logo – even picture galeries or sliders
  • Display texts like information, descriptions, policies
  • Embed a map
  • If you have one use your own URL or a custom Beds24 URL with your name
  • Offer multiple languages
  • The mobile friendly design adjusts to the device the guest uses

Links in your Emails, websites like local directories or other marketing activities can be used to direct guests to your page.

Visit www.beds24.com/paradisebnb or www.beds24.com/sunshineinn to get an idea what you can do.

Make Facebook Your Booking Channel
The Facebook app lets your guests see your availabilty and book directly on your Facebook page. A BOOK NOW Button opens your availabilty calendar directly in Facebook. Have a look at our Facebook page to see a live example.

All you need is sign up for an account with Beds24, set up your rates, inventory and booking page and you are ready to accept commission free online bookings. Use the Free Trial to test without obligation.

Tripadvisor Transforms to Booking Channel: Don’t Miss Out

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There has been alot of tweeting, blogging and facebooking about Tripadvisor´s new service recently. It is sheduled to start in September. Here a summary of the facts:

taTripadvisor Connect will allow independent hotels and B&B´s to display real-time availability and online booking on their Tripadvisor profile and let them participate in the hotel price comparison search.

So far these  services have been only available to major online travel agencies and hotel chains while independent accommodation owners had no direct connectivity.

What does it mean for independent lodgings??
Connect give accommodation owners the ability to manage their online promotion on themselves. BUT if you don’t accept direct online bookings you will miss out.

What do accommodation owners need to participate?
To use it you will need to be a registered and verified owner on Tripadvisor, subscribe to a Tripadvisor business listing and use a certified internet booking engine. Beds24 is a certified premium launch partner. If you don’t already have an account you are welcome to join for a FREE trial.

How will it work?
The higher the CPC bid, the higher the rank in the hotel price comparison search results. A link will send travelers directly to the hotel online booking page.

Tripadvisor announced to give owners access to simple online tools to analyse their advertising results as well as to encourage more user reviews through automated post-stay emails.

What will it cost?
Tripadvisor Connect will be a cost-per-click (CPC) solution. Lodgings will be charged each time a user clicks on their URL link in Tripadvisor and is redirected to their own booking page. The cost will be determined via a bidding auction.

When will Tripadvisor Connect be available?
Launch is scheduled for Q4 2013.

Cancellation Policies for Accommodation Businesses

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cancellation-policyCancellations are always unpleasant for the host but often also for the guest. Most hosts have a cancellation policy. Which strategy is used can make a big difference in terms of guest relations and revenue management. Common strategies are:

No Cancellation
No matter when or why the guest cancels the full price of the booking will be charged. Except for discounted rates or special booking periods this strategy is very harsh towards guests.

Cancellation Fee
All cancellations or cancellations within a certain period before arrival occur a fee. For example: If a guest cancels outside of 10 days before their arrival  there is a €30 cancellation fee. If they cancel inside of the 10 days, there is a cancellation fee of €100 or the full price is being charged.  Another common strategy is to charge for the first night.

Deposit
If a booking is being cancelled the guest either looses their deposit. For hosts this is very effective and easy because you already have the money and don’t need to fight for it when the guest cancels.

Vouchers
The guest is offered a voucher which can be used to book another date. If the voucher is not being redeemed within a certain period a cancellation fee applies.  Especially  used in combination with a deposit a very creative way to create a win-win situation.

Unrestricted Cancellation
While this is very nice for guests it can hurt your business.

Dual Strategy
Many professional lodgings offer two prices. For the full can be cancelled without restrictions. A reduced rate cannot be cancelled. This is quite clever because you can use the cancellation policy as part of a competetive price strategy.

Some lodgings are very strict regardless why the guest cancels. As long as your policies are fair and clear, most guests understand. The risk is though if you are strict and the guest has a very good reason you are risking a bad review. This is why other hosts are very generous when it comes to cancellations which then also has a negative effect on business.

Which cancellation policy you choose should depend on your chance to resell the lodging and on the efforts you will have to make to do so. If it is almost impossible to resell you might want to enforce a rather strict policy. Depending on circumstances it might be a good idea to have different policies depending on the season.

If you have a cancellation policy make sure it is communicated to the guest. They should be published on your website as a link or full text on your booking engine.

Beds24 online booking system offers a variety of functions which help you handle cancellation policy:

  • Display your policy or a link on your online booking page
  • Deposit collection
  • The cancel function lets you set a cut off date prior to the arrival where cancellations are allowed. It is also possible to set individual cancellation periods depending on season, rate and even per individual booking. If you use this function the guest can log in and cancel themselves within your rules.
  • Set a dual price strategy and offer different prices on your booking page.