Browsing Tag

expedia

We’re Using the Wrong Message to Fight OTAs

October 10, 2017 • By
Have hotel marketers squandered their primary weapon? image1 Looks like we might have been going about this all wrong. The thought that a guest’s primary travel concern is saving money is an assumption that needs to be reexamined. According to JD Power & Associates’ North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study, guests are more likely to be dissatisfied with their hotel experience and come across more problems (like canceled reservations or last-minute changes) if they book through a third-party, such as Travelocity or Expedia. So, what does this mean for you?

It’s time to change the overarching hotel industry strategy from emphasizing price parity to tapping into consumer fears of OTAs.

Instead of obsessing about Best Rate Guarantees, we all need to start focusing instead on how reservations, cancellations, changes, room selection and refunds are perceived by consumers when they book direct vs indirect. Many consumers (especially older ones) have preexisting concerns about third-party bookings and fear that one mishap with an OTA could unravel their travel plans in seconds. Meanwhile, hotels offer two vital things that OTAs do not: a secure, direct reservation and a dedicated staff that truly cares. (Smart marketers like Hilton have taken this dynamic to another level by enabling loyalty members to select their own rooms. This is a powerful differentiator, which adds even more peace of mind and diminishes OTA value.) Trust Issues: Many Consumers Don’t Like OTAs It doesn’t take much to prove how unhappy customers are with OTAs. Both Expedia and Priceline have consistent and dismal 1-star ratings on a popular review site: Consumer Affairs. There are legions of horror stories by guests left in a lurch when they arrive to their hotel with an OTA reservation in hand, only to discover their hotel is sold out and there are no more rooms available. Or, even worse, that the hotel has no record of the reservation at all! image2 The internet is flooded with examples of angry OTA customers, such as this family who spent almost 7 hours on the phone with Expedia customer service reps to get a partial refund when their reservation was canceled due to overbooking at the hotel. Or, this traveler who booked a room in New Orleans on Priceline, only to have Priceline switch his reservation to a hotel of lesser standards, without an option to cancel. How to Take Advantage: The best hotel marketers have learned how to appeal to guests’ emotions, rather than rationale. Emotional messaging resonates more than simply selling physical amenities. One way to leverage emotional messaging is to reposition OTAs in a guest’s mind. In Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, marketing gurus Jack Trout and Al Ries teach businesses to build messaging around their competitor’s weaknesses. For example, Tylenol went after the aspirin business by adopting this message: “Aspirin can irritate the stomach lining, trigger asthmatic or allergic reactions and cause small amounts of hidden gastrointestinal bleeding… Fortunately, there is Tylenol.” In the case of hotels vs OTAs, we should remind prospective guests at every opportunity that booking direct is the safer play. That your family vacation, business trip or long-awaited romantic weekend is too important to risk in any way! Hotel marketers should communicate this critical message in key touchpoints with prospective guests during the research phase of their purchase journey:
  1. On your direct hotel website home page
  2. In your search/PPC ads
  3. In your retargeting display ads that follow consumers after they visit your website
  4. In social media posts
  5. In call/reservations center training
  6. Inside your booking engine, where more than 95%+ of date searchers will abandon before booking
The Bottomline:  Price parity is important, but tapping into consumer fears of booking with OTAs provides smart hoteliers with ample opportunity to migrate bookings back to the hotel direct. Hotels should remind prospective guests at every opportunity that their direct websites and call centers are 100% dedicated to handling the needs of their property... While OTA booking engines and call centers are servicing tens of thousands of properties (including your compset’s)!  

About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Business, Direct Bookings, Guest Experience, hospitality, hotel marketing, Hotel Marketing Advice, Hotel Revenue, Marketing Advice, OTA, Uncategorized

Why Hotel Management Companies are Obsessed with Marketing Costs

October 3, 2017 • By
Hotel marketing costs are affecting profitability more than ever. image1-2 With profit growth slowing in the lodging industry, the focus among hoteliers is now shifting toward closely controlling costs, especially among management companies, whose earnings are directly tied to property performance (and incentives are tied to profits). As the pressure to find cost savings mounts, experts say one of the most significant expenses to watch is marketing, which has only grown more expensive with the rapid growth of digital media. In general, hotel management companies care deeply about costs, which have a direct linear effect on their ability to achieve profitability/incentive targets. And these days, marketing costs (especially OTAs and third-party channels) are rising at an alarming rate. Industry averages for marketing expenses typically range from about 4% to 7% of overall expenses, but can vary widely depending on the hotel and its management. image2 “Marketing is a minimum of probably 6% of your expenses, so it’s a pretty big number,” said Richard Millard, Chairman and CEO of Trust Hospitality. “It could be as high as 8% to 10%, depending on what you’re doing.” Between just internal staffing, OTA commissions, digital marketing programs (paid search, banner ads, etc.) and other forms of advertising (print, radio, TV, billboards, etc.), hotels are currently fighting a rising tide of seemingly obligatory marketing costs. And all too frequently, it forces managers to scrimp elsewhere. “Marketing is costing more and more, and that means the training and service level of people on the hotel side suffers, because some way, somehow that money has to be saved,” Millard continued. “So what we as an industry often cut back on, instead, is human resources and training.” But it doesn’t need to be that way. Finding the Right Balance Smart management companies can still find methods to keep marketing costs from getting out of hand, while continuing to do all the right things to get their properties noticed in the marketplace. It requires careful planning, but it’s not impossible. Experts say one core strategy for reducing and controlling hotel marketing expenses is to strategically outsource certain aspects of hotel marketing to third-party vendors and consultants, based upon the management company’s need and resources. For example, while it may clearly pay to hire a skilled, full-time revenue manager for internal staff, it may be more cost-effective to hire an outside agency for critical recurring functions that drive direct bookings such as email promos, search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search/pay-per-click (PPC) and metasearch campaigns. image3 “Marketing as a discipline has grown exponentially in how you reach a potential guest or interact with a guest. The reach has become enormous,” said Michael Tall, president and COO at Charlestowne Hotels. “There are certain disciplines and components of marketing that we feel are better left to those that specifically do that as their discipline. The key is figuring out what it is that you want to do internally as a management company, and what needs to be outsourced, and then it’s just selecting the right vendors and hiring the right people inside.” Another critical method is managing OTA relationships and working to drive customers toward booking directly, rather than through OTAs. OTA commissions can run anywhere from roughly 14% to 25%, depending on the scale of the relationship (rates tend to be higher for independent, unbranded hotels) and the company’s contract with each OTA, but savvy managers can save considerably by optimizing this particular channel. “We want people to book in the lowest cost channels,” said Tall. “Understanding whether you are able to get a guest or enough guests to book on the lowest cost channels, versus having to go out and market or pay for acquisition to OTAs, is really the balance that you try to understand. That’s a huge part of our business: understanding what it is we desire from the OTAs, and what are we willing to pay to the OTAs to acquire the guests.” It also comes down to making sure hotel marketers are constantly up to date on the latest marketing techniques and trends, and then both planning and acting accordingly. (This is another area where a mix of both internal and third-party guidance can prove effective.) Most importantly, marketers need to regularly analyze their various channels for a firm understanding of what’s working and what isn’t, as well as where the future lies. “You can only cut so many corners. It’s not just about trying to save marketing dollars; it’s about spending those marketing dollars wisely,” said Millard. “The secret is to be on top of it. Marketing is changing and you can’t depend on one thing. Experience is great, having people who know what they’re doing is great and having the right technology is great. But you’d better pay attention. Don’t be too sure that what’s working in September 2017 is still going to be here in January 2018.”

About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com  

(SEO) Search Engine Optimization, advertising, Business, Direct Bookings, hospitality, hotel marketing, Hotel Marketing Advice, Hotel Revenue, Marketing Advice, OTA, Uncategorized

Budgets Are Coming: 7 Lessons from Game of Thrones

August 22, 2017 • By
Hotel marketers are sharpening their pencils for battle. image1 Just as winter (and a terrifying army of the dead) descends on Westeros in Game of Thrones, budget season is looming in the real world and hotel marketers all across the kingdom are arming themselves for battle. To help hoteliers prepare, we turn to the lessons, themes and quotes we’ve learned while watching the battle for the Iron Throne between power-hungry lords and ladies: 1. GoT QUOTE: “When you play the game of thrones, you live or die.”  LESSON: Your budget is your armory. Ask for everything you need to survive. Hoteliers usually only think dollar amounts when working on their budget. How much will this marketing technology cost? How much should we dedicate to advertising spend? How much will our hotel website design cost? But, here’s the surprise: you are not restricted to only asking for marketing funds during budget time! If you need more marketing staff or outsourced vendors to help you achieve your hotel’s revenue goals, then ask for them! If your hotel is in dire need of upgrades and updates in order to effectively compete with newer properties and win market share, then ask for them. If you depend on another department’s performance to help you reach your targets, then ask to oversee them. Here’s an example of what that request could look like: “For me to achieve the revenue targets set forth by ownership… I need $_______ in funding, specific hotel upgrades to be made, and _______ new staff (contractors). Plus, I would like the ________ department to report to me.” The road to achieving your property’s revenue goals begins with your ability to ask for what you need. Show your management team that without these items, you won’t be able to deliver the results they’re looking for.  image2 2. GoT THEME: Three Dragons versus Everyone Else LESSON: Focus on quality, not quantity. Forget the mass of Lannister soldiers that Queen Cersei has under her belt or the thousands of eerie wights brought back to life by the White Walkers. All it takes are three massive, fire-breathing dragons to wipe them out completely. This year, vow to keep your budget uncluttered and uncomplicated. Your 2018 hotel marketing plan should be built on a few powerful initiatives, not on a mess of disjointed marketing tactics that just produce small bursts of wins and revenue. Build a strong budget that includes only marketing tactics that will have a measurable impact on your audience and the bottom line. 3. GoT QUOTE: “Words are wind, my friend…” LESSON: Getting what you want takes proof. Asset managers, hotel management firms and GMs are under more pressure than ever to deliver real bottom line results. However, many hotel marketers still shy away from being accountable for any revenue responsibilities. Instead, they lavishly tout their “rebranding initiatives,” number of social media followers or new hotel photography. This continued disregard for numerical evaluation will put you in a difficult position next year, when you attempt to request a larger marketing budget. Without measuring your success, owners and managers will be more apt to cut back on marketing expenses and staff, believing that your intangible branding results can be achieved with less. So it’s important to have complete fluency in the KPIs that affect the bottom line. For example, if you know last year’s marketing cost-per-sale (CPS), you should be able to extrapolate that against future revenue targets to determine the budget required and make statements like this: “Last year, we achieved a marketing CPS of X. To achieve next year’s budget, I need $_______ .” But remember, you will also be expected to reduce your CPS over time as you learn and tweak your programs. 4. GoT QUOTE: “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”  LESSON: You have data. Use it.  This catchphrase, originally spoken by the red-haired Wildling Ygritte as she aggressively flirted with Jon Snow, has become one of the show’s most popular. But, don’t let it become your catchphrase. You should know everything about your marketing program results and not be guided by assumptions or gut feelings. You should rely on data culled from the right sources to guide all future hotel marketing decisions. And again, data is your ally when you need to ask for more marketing funds! Some data that you should always have on hand include key performance indicators, like DRR (direct revenue ratio), MCPB (marketing cost per booking) and your STR index versus the compset. All of these numbers will show you, and your hotel’s executive team, how much your marketing team is actually contributing to your hotel’s revenue. 5. GoT QUOTE: “Winter is coming.” LESSON: Apathy about 3rd party costs is dangerous. For a while, it seemed like winter would never come to GoT, despite numerous warnings with this ominous phrase. Yet, it was still on everyone’s minds. In hotel marketing, this means: Don’t ever be too comfortable in the here and now. For example, if more than 15-20% of your revenue is coming from OTAs, you need to prepare for the eventual downturn and start investing in programs, campaigns and assets that will deliver higher margin bookings. When “winter comes” to the hotel industry and AOR goes from 75% to 50%, you don’t want to have the majority of your bookings incurring a 20% OTA commission! 6. GoT Quote: “A Lannister always pays his debts.” Lesson: Ask hotel owners exactly what they expect from you. Before you determine what marketing resources you’ll need for 2018, you need to find out the exact amount your hotel owner (or hotel management company) expects your marketing team to contribute to the hotel’s revenue. Don’t move forward on a budget without knowing exactly what goals your team is beholden to. Get as much clarification as you can, including how many room nights, booked meetings, corporate bookings, etc. should be attributed to your marketing efforts. Ask management/ownership early on in the budget process, because this one question will give you clarity and insight to build out any other projected expenses. Don’t waste time or make costly guesses, nor should you allow your hotel owner to determine how much they want to give you. Don’t place your hotel marketing in a dangerous position of always being underfunded, but tasked with lofty goals. Instead, use your hotel owner’s revenue goals to correlate the assets you need to achieve them. 7. GoT QUOTE: “I may be small, but I won’t be knitting by the fire while others fight for me.”  LESSON: Don’t surrender your property’s destiny to 3rd parties. Spoken by everyone’s favorite young spitfire, Lady Lyanna Mormont of Bear Island, this empowering quote hits at the heart of every hotelier. OTAs have had their moment, but now it’s time to take back control of your booking destiny. So, stop depending on third-party sites to fill the house. Instead of paying commission fees of 15-30 percent, invest in the right tools and technology for your hotel to pull in your own reservations. One place where hotels will see big ROI is by investing in their hotel’s mobile experience. Offer a mobile-compatible booking engine. Have a responsive website and hotel marketing emails. Offer immediate online chat. Investing in mobile is paramount to your success in 2018.

About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Business, Direct Bookings, Guest Experience, hospitality, hotel marketing, Hotel Marketing Advice, Hotel Revenue, Marketing Advice, OTA, Uncategorized

Friday Freebie: How Free Parking Can Reduce OTA Commissions

August 11, 2017 • By
FridayFreebie-Tambourine-600x600 Welcome to the Friday Freebie! Each week we share one impactful hotel marketing tactic that you can implement immediately to drive more conversions and more revenue. This week’s freebie: Capture more DIRECT Labor Day bookings from drive markets by showcasing free parking on your hotel website.  Millions of travelers will be hitting the road this Labor Day weekend, looking to celebrate their last summer weekend. Your drive markets are your best audiences to promote a last-minute getaway for the holiday. Travelers are already enjoying the lowest gas prices in years. Sweeten the deal by including free parking in your Labor Day packages and specials ACROSS ALL CHANNELS…. But emphasize it on your direct hotel website. OTAs have hundreds of thousands of properties on their websites, they cannot keep up with the promotions at all of them! By prominently showcasing the free parking perk (“Book direct and get free parking!”) you will create the perception that free parking is a special, direct-only benefit, without jeopardizing your OTA relationships. Get more: 5 Ways to Attract Last Minute Labor Day Bookings from Your Drive Markets

About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Business, Direct Bookings, Guest Experience, hospitality, hotel marketing, Hotel Marketing Advice, Hotel Revenue, Marketing Advice, OTA, Uncategorized

5 Things Hotel Marketers Are Celebrating This July 4th

July 3, 2017 • By
Hotel sales and marketing pros have a lot to be happy about this year. image1 This Independence Day, hoteliers are not only celebrating a long weekend bustling with holiday travelers, but all the other indicators that prove there are more sunny skies ahead for the industry: 1) A Winning Trifecta: Thriving Group Business, Stable Economy & A Positive Hotel Market  The hotel industry’s up cycle has exceeded expectations. Occupancy rose 1.5 percent, driven by an increase in demand of 3.4 percent. ADR increased 2 percent and RevPAR rose by 3.6 percent – making May 2017 the 87th month of consecutive RevPAR growth. Even after two months with a declining pipeline of new rooms, the number of new room construction reached 192,000. This is a small increase (April 2017’s count was 189,000) and shows that the pipeline of new construction is flourishing, but at a slower pace. Most of the new construction focuses on select-service hotels without substantial meeting space, which is a boon for hoteliers overseeing full-service properties who continue to see an uptick in their booking pace as large groups compete to lock in venues.  image2 2) Owners’ Investment in a Remarkable Product You can be out-of-this-world creative. You can have the wittiest, most clever and memorable hotel marketing concept. You can even have a generous hotel marketing budget to pay for massive exposure in front of all the right audiences. Yet, all of that means nothing without a truly differentiated hotel product. If your property is providing a lackluster experience with frayed edges, outdated décor, and musty smells, no amount of brilliant marketing can save you from the downward spiral of lost revenue. New hotels with bold concepts and fresh guest experiences are springing up in all directions, so hotel owners need to invest in their properties to keep up with modern expectations. Thankfully, more and more hotel owners are realizing that the best hotel marketing investment they can make is in enhancing their property, the experience and the service. 3) The Lowest Summer Gas Prices in Years The start of summer is not normally a time for low gas prices, since so many people are taking to the road and creating demand. However, with the recent drop in oil costs, travelers are elated to find some of the lowest summer prices at the pumps for the first time in 12 years. In fact, this holiday weekend’s prices could be the lowest 4th of July gas prices since 2005. According to AAA, gas prices have been falling every day since June 2nd and are expected to keep dropping. Consider us pumped for all the road travelers ahead. 4) Expanding Awareness of Book Direct Benefits Fueled by affordable digital marketing tools and increasing comfort in deploying them, hotel marketers are feeling more confident and emboldened to push for direct bookings instead of relying on OTAs to fill their rooms. In April, Hyatt Hotels became the latest brand to offer a discount to guests who book directly from the Hyatt website, following similar programs by Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide and Starwood Hotels & Resorts. These moves by the major chains are heightening public recognition of the benefits of booking direct and are chipping away at the myth that OTAs save money. With the stage set by industry titans and all the advanced marketing tools and metrics available to hoteliers, we expect this momentum to continue to swell. 5) Social Media Evangelists Hotels now have small, private armies of unpaid marketing staff: guests who Instagram, Snap, Facebook and Tweet while eating breakfast in bed, lounging by the pool, and watching the sunset from their balconies. Each post boosts awareness for your hotel and bolsters your hotel’s reach… all without your staff lifting a finger or spending a dime. And, even after checking out, guests continue to post photo albums and videos of their vacations. When guests gush about their travels, they’re creating content that is hotel marketing gold. You can even easily discover and collect Instagram photos posted by your guests using a tool like our new Tout.

About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Business, Direct Bookings, Guest Experience, hospitality, hotel marketing, Hotel Marketing Advice, Hotel Revenue, Marketing Advice, OTA, Uncategorized

Stop the Noise: The 10 Things That Matter to Hotel Marketers Right Now

May 23, 2017 • By
Hotel marketing has never been so cluttered and noisy. image1 Every week it seems as if there is something new and important competing for your attention and causing FOMO (fear of missing out) stress. With all this marketing overload, it’s easy to forget what is really important and which marketing assets actually have the biggest impact on results. We’re here to help... Of course every property has unique demands and market conditions, but we want to try and free your mind from all the nonsense, hype and clutter and review the 10 things that should TRULY matter (in our humble opinion) to the majority of hotel marketers right now: 1. Having a Remarkable Product Boundless creativity, clever marketing concepts and even a robust marketing budget are essentially useless if your hotel is crap. Great marketing can only begin with a great product. If your hotel is showing its frayed edges and providing lackluster experiences (or no real experience at all), no amount of brilliant marketing will save you from a downward spiral. Scour your hotel reviews and find out what guests complain about the most. Then, present this to your owners and champion the improvements your hotel needs to turn the tide and rise above the comp set. 2. Telling a Compelling Story  There is a reason why “storytelling” has become a hotel marketing buzzword over the last several years. Storytelling captivates your audience, draws them in emotionally and entices them to want more. Travelers – both leisure and business – don’t need to be sold on your thread count, the hours of your fitness center or the square footage of your ballroom. When they research hotel options, they are really looking for how your hotel will impact their lives during and after their stay. Follow these steps to use storytelling to win over the hearts and wallets of your target hotel audience.   image2 3. Integrating Systems and Technology Using different providers for each of your critical marketing technology needs (i.e. CRS, website, hotel booking engine, PMS, and CRM) is a recipe for disaster. Many hotels are missing out on countless reservations because of one simple reason: they don’t have integrated technology. The key is to work with as few providers as possible to make sure each component of your marketing can seamlessly speak to each other and simplify reporting for stressed-out hotel revenue, marketing and sales execs who are tired of system incompatibility and reporting nightmares. 4. Measuring Cost-per-Booking  Think you’re impressing your hotel owners with news about your social media followers, your cool new marketing videos or your rebranding initiatives? Think again. Today, hotel owners expect their hotel marketing departments to contribute to the hotel’s revenue targets in ways that can be measured. Without tracking and showing numerical evaluation of your marketing efforts, you’re going to face a difficult time later in the year when you need to request next year’s marketing dollars. To prove how your marketing efforts are adding to the hotel’s revenue, you’ll need to calculate your marketing cost-per-booking (MCPB). Use this number to show your marketing team’s value and to ensure you’re given the proper amount of marketing dollars to continue bringing in business for the hotel. Be especially vigilant to know your cost-per-booking from OTAs as well. Avoid the trap of viewing OTA bookings as purely revenue with no cost of acquisition. 5. Consolidating Vendors The more hotel marketing vendors you work with, the more chaos and confusion you should expect.  Hiring multiple, disconnected vendors to handle separate hotel marketing tasks, like hotel website design, hotel email marketing, hotel social media and hotel PPC campaigns, will halt your property’s success in so many ways. First, you’re paying way too much for vendors handling only one function. Second, you’ll spend most of your day relaying messages from one vendor to the next. And, lastly, no one vendor can ever be held accountable for your marketing success or failure, since they can easily point fingers at each other. Smart hotel marketers avoid juggling vendors… thereby reducing stress and gaining time to spend on proactive campaigns. 6. Sticking to a Plan Marketing to everyone will get you nowhere fast. Smart hotel marketers have a roadmap with a breakdown of exactly how much revenue they expect from each segment of the hotel’s business. This enables the firm to correlate its separate investments in marketing for leisure/transient, group, corporate and F&B. The best hotel marketers understand that generic, aimless and ‘pretty’ marketing won’t cut it. Every marketing activity they create is built with the intention of drawing direct business from one or more of a hotel’s pre-defined guest segments. This will allow you to delegate the proper amount of investments to market to group, corporate, leisure/transient or F&B business. Every marketing activity you craft should be built with the intention of pulling in direct business from one or more of your target guest segments. 7. Consistency Across All Channels  Sure, setting rates and keeping content consistent across the vast array of digital channels can get overwhelming. But maintaining rate, image and promo parity is vital to your hotel’s bottom line. Smart hotel marketers also know that their USP (unique selling proposition) has to be consistent across all brand touchpoints and channels. If consumers see your property described as “urban chic” in one place and “a traditional business hotel” in another… dissonance occurs, causing erosion and attrition. Consistency matters. Whether it’s sending out email offers on a steady cadence, updating your hotel’s social media accounts or communicating with your group clients, it’s critical to set schedules and maintain consistency regardless of season or current results. Your core marketing activities need to be sacred and deserve to be given the attention, resources and budget required. 8. Stunning Photography  Awe-inspiring photos are worth a thousand bookings. Evocative images provoke an emotional response and directly contribute to booking decisions. Your images prepare potential guests for what’s to come. Along with your hotel's website design, they convey your experience with a single glance. So, be ruthless and replace all bland property images, including those that are old, grainy, dark or fail to convey a remarkable guest experience. Hire a hotel photographer trained in shooting real estate or architecture. Even better, complement those professional images with authentic and free photos taken by your hotel’s best photographers – your own guests. 9.  Simultaneous Promotions Across All Channels  Filling periods of need is not easy… which is why smart hotel marketers launch promotions across all channels simultaneously. (See #7: Consistency, above.) Imagine you are the general of all your forces, you’d want them to coordinate operations and move in unison! Launching the promo on every channel AT THE SAME TIME gives consumers comfort and avoids confusion. If guests see different special offers for your hotel on a 3rd party channel than what is shown on your own direct hotel website, they will get uncomfortable with the inconsistency and find another hotel that gives them greater mental comfort. 10. Continuing to Boost Online Guest Sentiment Guests will always trust other guests more than you. This is why past guest reviews are one of the most influential factors impacting your hotel’s future success. Whether glowing or scathing, every review is an opportunity to stumble or shine. Get rid of the canned corporate responses and strive to always answer genuinely and authentically. Graciously own up to any mistakes and correct mistaken guests with grace. Even offer solutions for problems you can’t control, like the noisy nightclub across the street or the construction next door. Keep all of your responses thoughtful and they’ll have a greater chance of turning negative reviews into shining moments that make your hotel even more likable and worthy of a visit.

About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Business, Direct Bookings, Guest Experience, hospitality, hotel marketing, Hotel Marketing Advice, Hotel Revenue, Marketing Advice, OTA, Uncategorized

Friday Freebie: Nudge Your Happiest Guests to Leave a Review

May 19, 2017 • By

FridayFreebie-Tambourine-600x600

Welcome to the Friday Freebie!

Each week we share one impactful hotel marketing tactic that you can implement immediately to drive more conversions and more revenue. 

This Week’s Freebie: Convince more happy hotel guests to leave good reviews by reminding them at several touch points. 

See those guests who wrote a TripAdvisor review of your hotel?

They make up a teeny, tiny percentage of guests who actually stayed with you. They represent the few who either remembered to leave a review OR felt compelled to because of an extraordinary experience (or a horrible one). 

Now, imagine how much better your TripAdvisor rankings would be if more happy and satisfied guests wrote a review of their stay. The good news: It only takes a simple reminder. 

Stop leaving your guest reviews to chance. Here are a few ways to gently remind your guests to share their experience on TripAdvisor:

Post Stay Emails Every hotel should have an automated process that emails every guest asking for feedback after the guest checks out. And don’t be afraid to put a link leading directly to your TripAdvisor profile. This will likely increase the overall number of reviews you accumulate and show your commitment to transparency! 

Approach Your Social Advocates Turn to your hotel’s brand advocates – those who have posted to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter before. Research shows that hotel properties that reach out to their loyal guests to build up reviews will see not only higher rankings, but increased online sentiment. Remind Guests During Their Stay, Not Just At Check-Out If your staff hears a guest complimenting the hotel in any way, have them encourage the guest to share that tidbit in a review.

Place Your TripAdvisor Link In Your Email Signature Any email you send to guests or to whoever else, should have a link to your TripAdvisor profile.

Get more: Want Better TripAdvisor Rankings? Do These 3 Things


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Business, Guest Experience, hotel marketing, Hotel Marketing Advice, Hotel Revenue, Marketing Advice, OTA, Uncategorized

Video: Watch What Happens When OTA Users Actually Shop Online

March 21, 2017 • By

Everybody has theories about why so many people prefer to shop for hotels on OTAs… but have you ever actually seen them do it?

To find out why so many guests prefer booking hotel stays on an OTA instead of a hotel brand/direct website, we hired UserTesting.com, a well-known website testing company that records unbiased (but demographically relevant) consumers while they search and book hotels online.

See for yourself!

Here are two videos of actual users (listen to their comments) as they shop for rooms on Expedia and then directly from the hotel's website:

Video 1: Click here to view. Participant using desktop computer. Male | 35–55 | United States | Income $100K–$150K+

Video 2: Click here to view. Participant using smartphone. Female | 35–55 | United States | Income $100K–$150K+

Here Are 3 Key Lessons to Take Away From These Two Customers' Experiences:

1. A Slow Booking Process Will Hurt Revenues

What we found reinforced a lot of what hotel marketers already know: guests think OTAs are easy-to-navigate and appreciated their simple process. In comparison, a hotel’s site was lengthier, not as intuitive and required too much information to complete a booking.

One user said, “Expedia was a lot easier and a quicker process to use. While the hotel’s website experience was not a bad one, it was more …’time-consuming,’ asked for more details. As a busy traveler, I would prefer to navigate through the check out process quickly.”

Consider this: It requires TWO steps to book a hotel on an OTA, inputting personal information and payment details.

To make the same reservation directly from the same hotel found on Expedia, the user had to navigate through SIX steps. This included asking the customer to select optional amenities like wine/champagne or flower arrangements, input a loyalty membership number, request a room preference and enter arrival and departure information.

2. Prominently Showcase Direct Booking Benefits

Your guests are not hotel industry insiders.

They don’t immediately understand why it’s best to book direct. So, it is up to you to tell them WHY they should. After all, once a customer discovers your property on an OTA, the next place they go is to your hotel’s direct website. So, give them legit reasons to book direct rather than returning to the OTA.

Make it obvious if you offer free Wifi, free parking, discounts at the spa and restaurant, or whatever other perks you offer guests REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THEY BOOK DIRECT OR NOT (sometimes, OTAs fail to showcase these perks)!

People have fleeting attention spans, so it’s important to make these benefits prominent and distinct, not buried in small letters or on an interior page of your hotel's website. Put them on the homepage and make them obvious in as many places as you can.

3. Automate Your Best Rate Guarantee

Besides usability, another OTA benefit that users really appreciated was seeing all the options in one place. These users enjoyed being able to see many hotels and pricing options from one site. 

This is yet another brilliant OTA tactic: Show your competition and their prices, so that customers aren’t tempted to leave your site to compare prices on their own.

Borrow this winning strategy by showing rates from various channels directly on your website. After all, guests don’t know that OTAs offer the same price for a room, nor are they aware of the concept of rate parity.

The best way to tackle this is to place your Best Rate Guarantee into your booking engine itself, where rates from OTAs are displayed alongside your own. Not only does this satisfy a guest’s desire to comparison shop, it proves that booking direct offers the best value.


While it’s easy to point fingers at OTAs for siphoning customers and bookings, let’s not forget who truly drives their success… the customers themselves.


It’s the customers who decide where to research room rates. It’s the customers who decide where to spend their money.

If anything, OTAs need to be credited for their marketing prowess. It’s only because of their careful attention to the user experience and customer preferences that customers are drawn to them in the first place.


 About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Direct Bookings, Guest Experience, hotel marketing, Hotel Marketing Advice, Hotel Revenue, Marketing Advice, OTA, Uncategorized

Why Is This Goldman Sachs Report Scaring The #@!% Out Of Hoteliers?

March 2, 2016 • By
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Ten years ago, who would have predicted that one of your guests would ever opt to stay in the home of a complete stranger instead of your hotel?

Well, it’s happening. Right here, right now, to your hotel, as we speak.

An Unexpected New Threat

Since its meager beginnings in 2007, AirBnb has disrupted the way your guests travel. People are booking stays in spare rooms, private homes, (even Airstream Trailers and tree houses!) located all across the globe. image2

Bookings are made on the AirBnb website every two seconds.  They have outpaced our industry giants as the world’s largest hotel chain with more than 300,000 rooms. And now, a recent Goldman Sachs study has revealed another unsettling fact. After travelers try AirBnb, or one of its peers like HomeAway or FlipKey, half of them decide not to go back to hotels.   

We’ll say that again: half don’t go back to hotels.

Hoteliers aren’t the only ones affected by this shift in lodging choices. Our OTA “frenemies,” like Priceline and Expedia, are feeling the burn since they receive a bulk of their revenue from our hotel bookings.

Is It All Bad?

While AirBnb bookings are expected to balloon and skyrocket to 80 million this year, the news isn’t all dismal. Throughout the country, hotel occupancy has been hitting all time highs for several years, and further growth is expected from major brands and hotel management companies.

Plus, there will always be the traveler who will never give up the creature comforts and luxury of staying in a hotel. Those guests will always want to rely on impeccable cleanliness, a staff eager to serve, and a carefully crafted experience no matter how awesome their AirBnb experience is.

Local governments are starting to crack down and in some cases, charge homeowners thousands of dollars for renting out rooms and homes on AirBnb.  And, in an ironic twist, the ones who are allowed to profit from being AirBnb hosts now have more income to travel with and potentially stay in hotels elsewhere.

Still, the journey for AirBnb is just beginning. As they continue to grow, hotels may have to work and adjust to win back their guests. We’ll keep a close eye on the developments and lend a hand in helping you drive more direct bookings to overcome the unexpected challenges AirBnb brings.

About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com  

AirBnb, Guest Experience, hospitality, hotel marketing, Hotel Marketing Competitors, Industry Trends

A Mess of Millions: OTAs and The Truth Behind Their Unpaid Hotel Taxes

April 7, 2015 • By
tax The OTAs have been spending a lot of time in the courtroom lately. What’s behind the courtroom drama? Unpaid hotel taxes. The figures are eye-opening, the depth is staggering. Here is the shocking truth surrounding the striking tax disparity facing our industry:

OTAs are choosing how much to shortchange the Government

Online travel agencies and companies currently calculate local and state hotel occupancy taxes by the net amount they pay to the hotel, NOT the higher amount they pull in from a customer for that room. In other words, they aren’t paying taxes on their markup because they claim that the transaction did not occur in the State where the hotel is located.. their position is that the transactions occur in tax-free cyberspace! The result? Local and state jurisdictions collect lower taxes for the rooms booked thru an OTA, than from a hotel. And, OTAs are pocketing the full difference. Amplifying their revenues and enabling them to continue to extend their domination over hotel marketers seeking to increase direct revenues.

OTAS are aiming for Federal exemption from local tax laws

Jurisdictions across the country have become aware of this OTA competitive advantage and the unpaid tax revenue. Lawsuits have been filed against the OTAs from Hawaii to Florida. And, in response, these travel agencies are proposing legislation that would protect their tax practices by naming it as a legitimate tax exemption, compliments of a federal preemption of local and state authority.

The numbers start small, but add up to a mammoth figure

The states’ lawsuits are trying to grab back what basically amounts to a few dollars per room night. However, those small numbers add up. Together, OTAs have suppressed local and state government receipts up to $396 million each year, according to the Washington DC-based Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Meanwhile, the largest online travel sites have seen their revenues grow by up to 70 percent.

Lawsuits are heating up

The City of Los Angeles was the first to file a room-tax suit in 2004. Since then, dozens of municipalities stretching across the country have filed similar suits. In the past six years, Oregon, New York and Washington, DC, have amended their hotel tax regulations that clarify OTAs DO owe taxes on the retail rates they charge to customers, not the wholesale rate they pay to the hotel. (See where other states stand here). Without federal legislation on the matter, there’s no end in sight to the lawsuits by cities, counties, states, consumers and towns, as well as enforcement actions by numerous tax authorities and audits.

Expedia’s current tax bill

The leader in U.S. online travel bookings, Expedia, is currently facing a hotel tax bill of more than $800 million if it loses all of its appeals. This figure is how much Expedia would owe the scores of U.S. county and city governments in unpaid tax payments across a decade, according to tax-revenue records and lawsuit reviews. Let’s all stay on top of this issue, especially when lawsuits are filed against these OTCs by our local cities or states. Track the courts, media outlets and state legislatures by going to Hotel Tax Fairness.

OTA