Browsing Tag

OTA

The Gloves Are Off: Big Brands Throwing Direct Booking Punches

March 7, 2016 • By

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Hotel industry giants have had enough. Like you, they appear to be sick of the big commissions, the declining customer loyalty and the loss of revenue to OTAs.

But, instead of grumbling under their breaths, two big brands have been publicly investing their marketing dollars in mass media campaigns to drive the message: Book with us, not with them.


Hilton Unveils Largest Campaign Ever to Win Back Market Share

The global audience first got a glimpse of Hilton’s monumental marketing campaign during the February 15 Grammy’s broadcast. Entitled “Stop Clicking Around, the campaign showcases travel consumers trolling their phones in a futile search for the best travel deals to the tune of Rolling Stone’s "Satisfaction."

The big call to action? Get the lowest prices and biggest value online at Hilton.com. 

This is Hilton’s latest calculated move to win back direct bookings. Last year, Hilton started offering exclusive HHonors deals — up to 10 percent off published rates — but only at certain destinations, properties and brands. They negotiated with OTAs and wrangled for lower commissions, the elimination of OTAs’ last room availability and the opportunity to offer Hilton’s most loyal guests with preferential pricing.

Now with the launch of their new campaign, Hilton can extend these exclusive discounts for HHonors members to about 98 percent of their entire worldwide portfolio. Marked as the biggest campaign the company has launched in its 97-year history, this shows that Hilton is pulling out all the stops to win back market share.

In addition to offering the lowest prices online, Hilton’s campaign is aiming to show consumers that they could have more of a personalized experience and value by booking directly with Hilton. They’re strongly pushing their Hilton HHonors program, where members can earn points that will go towards free Wifi, complimentary room nights, digital room keys and the opportunity to select their room ahead of check-in.


Marriott Targets Millenials With Lighthearted Youtube Campaign

Similar to Hilton, Marriott last year negotiated with OTAs to allow them to offer Marriott Rewards members with a best rate guarantee. With this BRG, Marriott states that if a Marriott Rewards member finds a lower rate someplace else, they’ll then match the rate and offer an additional 25 percent discount. They also are encouraging travelers to sign up as Marriott Rewards members to get perks like complimentary Wifi, mobile check-in and the opportunity to earn points for free roomnights.

To show travelers the virtues of booking direct, Marriott recruited the talents of popular YouTube star and comedian Grace Helbig in a digital campaign called “#itpaystobookdirect.” Playing on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, the campaign’s six videos show Helbig in a variety of humorous situations where she shows people that it makes more sense to book direct. Since its launch, the campaign has garnered more than 8 million views on YouTube and showed the brand’s desire to increase direct bookings and invigorate its stodgy image.

With both Hilton and Marriott investing big talent and big media placements, its clear the companies are getting bolder and bolder in their attempts to drive more direct bookings and take back market share from OTAs. Plus, they’re using a combination of preferred rates and personal, privileged perks to do it. We’re excited to see what other creative campaigns hotel brands come up with and are looking forward to helping all of our partners win back bookings along the way!

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

Best Rate Guaranteed, Direct Bookings, Guest Experience, hospitality, Hotel Marketing Advice, Increase in Online Bookings, Loyalty Programs, OTA

Hotels Are Crushing It… So Why Is Wall Street Crushing Hotel Stocks?

February 15, 2016 • By

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Can you guess who will win the Academy Award or the next presidential election?

Want to know who will win the Super Bowl?

We all have our own favorite and biased theories, but the winners are often best predicted by what’s commonly referred to as the “wisdom of the crowd.”

Why is our collective wisdom so good?

According to Wikipedia, “A large group's aggregated answers to questions… has generally been found to be as good as, and often better than, the answer given by any of the individuals within the group… Trial by jury can be understood as wisdom of the crowd, especially when compared to the alternative, trial by a judge, the single expert.”image2

Things get even more statistically juicy when “the crowd” puts its money where its mouth is... which is why Las Vegas uses crowd behavior to set odds on sporting events. They know that when lots of folks put lots of money on the line, their collective “wisdom” is often very accurate.

Similarly, if you want to predict the direction of a specific industry or a particular sector of the economy, you should understand the wisdom of the crowd that risks real money on that sector or business.

With this bankable principle is mind, its interesting to note Wall Street’s recent wisdom and attitude towards the hotel industry. In 2015, the widely followed Baird/STR index of 41 hotel stocks fell 20.1%. And according to a recent article in Fortune: “here’s the confounding thing: the stocks plummeted even as the industry posted all-time highs for occupancy rates and revenue per available room.”

What’s up with this strange logic?

Is this just a case of savvy institutional investors taking profits off the table?

According to a number of industry analysts, the answer is no. Hotel stocks are being sold off for three fundamental reasons, which should cause everyone in the industry – from hotel owners and asset managers to on-property staff – to sit up and take notice:

  1. Concerns Over Growth: Record-setting performances are hard to sustain year after year. Many Wall Street analysts question the industry’s ability to outperform other sectors. "Hotel stocks finished near the lows of the year (2015) as investors remained concerned about slowing global growth and other macroeconomic headwinds,” said David Loeb, Senior Hotel Research analyst and managing director at Baird.
  2. Concerns Over Competition: AirBnB, HomeAway and VRBO.com continue to grab market share, especially among transient consumers and family travelers. Also, record profits have attracted new players and the pipeline of new product concerns many analysts.
  3. Concerns Over Margins: Costs associated with acquiring new hotel customers through new technology/distribution channels are rising faster than hotel revenue growth itself. Also, some analysts perceive a “race to the bottom” mentality in the fight between OTAs and hotels that has caused the majority of consumers to shift loyalty to the lowest price provider.

Meanwhile… OTA Stocks?

Wall Street’s negative attitude towards hotel stocks is further revealed in its outlook on OTA stocks. Apparently, Wall Street doesn’t have the same concerns about the prospects of publicly-traded OTA companies, and for good reason.

Expedia is growing at a healthy pace. In the most recent quarter, the company’s gross bookings increased 40% year-over-year and revenue surged 29% year-over-year, and hotel reservations continue to be the most important contributor to revenues for all large OTA. (Hotels account for 67% of Expedia’s revenue). 

Now What?

Apparently, Wall Street believes the record growth in AOR and RevPar is winding down. For hotel stocks to shine again and sustain their value over the long term, enlightened hoteliers must focus on the things they can control. Owners and their management teams must find ways to reduce exorbitant customer acquisition costs and build loyalty without cutting down on the quality of their product.

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, Data Analysis, Future, hotel marketing, Hotel Revenue, Industry Trends, Market Research, OTA

Hotel Marketer’s 10 Most Popular New Year’s Resolutions

January 11, 2016 • By

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Based on feedback from your peers, here are the 10 most popular new year's resolutions from hotel marketers around the globe.

Repeat after us: this is the year I will…

1. Stop Blaming OTAs and Rate Parity for All My Problems

It’s easy to make third parties and their stringent contract restrictions out to be the arch enemy of the hotel industry. After all, they whittle down the margins of each booking with their high commissions, hold onto their customer data and commoditize the hotel experience. Why shouldn’t we point fingers at them? Because there’s more to filling vacant rooms than just relying on OTAs.

What are YOU doing to drive direct bookings? Are you presenting a unique story in the market, creating unique experiences for guests or investing in building a direct booking audience? There are so many points in the travel journey where your hotel can regain control. Focus on what you can do, rather than merely pointing fingers.

2. Refine My Property’s Unique Story

Your guests have nearly endless options when looking for accommodations. From competing hotels, to Airbnb, to staying with nearby relatives. The only way to stand out is to spotlight what’s truly unique about your property and doggedly sharing that in every marketing touchpoint. Is it the locally sourced breakfast in the morning? Your storied past? Your funky décor? Build a personality around your unique selling point, add on complimentary experiences and celebrate the heck out of it.

3. Be Steadfast Regarding Budgets

We’ve seen it before. Management and ownership making sales goals higher and harder to achieve with an already dwindling budget. This is your year to put an end to it. Part of it is educating management on what can be reasonably achieved with your funding and staff. Then, raising the bar and showing them the ROI that’s possible given more resources. Don’t simply accept the amount they offer to you. Fight to align the revenue goals with your hotel marketing budget!   

4. Commit to Flawless TripAdvisor Reviews

Guest reviews play a major part in every guest’s decision to purchase. In fact, reviews have more power to influence others than all of your best marketing tactics combined! So, work with your staff to aim for happy guests and glowing reviews. And, when someone does leave a negative comment or asks a question within a review, respond that same day. Don’t address them a month later with a canned response. Travelers know better.

5. Gently Advocate for Product Improvements

There’s nothing worse than being old, dusty and dated in a sea of shiny and new. Unfortunately, thousands of hotels are dealing with this situation right now. Don’t let this happen to your property. With new brands being built from the ground up, whose DNA was created to appeal directly to modern travelers (think: Canopy by Hilton, Virgin Hotels, 1 Hotels and Resorts), older properties can’t ignore their need for upgrades any longer if they want to stay in the game. No amount of marketing can mask a dated hotel product.

6. Talk to More Guests and Meeting Planners

Think you know what matters to your guests while staying hidden behind your office doors? The best way to know what’s lacking and what’s working at your property is to walk your property and talk to your customers face-to-face. Commit to doing this every day for at least 10 minutes.

7. Make Decisions Based on Data, Not on Instinct

The smartest hotel and resort marketers lean on hard numbers and figures, not intuition. Analytics and tracking can reveal insight into your bookings and your guests in a way that no gut feeling can. Can your intuition tell you your exact demographics, who your top three geographic markets are, which guests spend the most money, which sites give you the most leads, or how well your comp set is doing?

8. Stop Depending on My Flag/Brand Team

Your remote, flag/brand sales and marketing team handles dozens of other properties (many in your region). They don’t really know your property or your specific market segments. This year, take back ownership of your property’s success and augment the basic marketing assets your flag affiliation gives you. Invest in a hotel vanity site, create and publish timely packages and specials, and launch campaigns targeting key groups and local events.

Read: Why So Many Flagged Hotels Are Taking Marketing Into Their Own Hands

9. Get Comfortable With Owner KPIs

There are many opinions on the key metrics for hotel S&M teams, and they can vary depending on your property's location and key segments. Here are the six we recommend monitoring:

- MCPB (marketing cost per booking)

- Revenue variance from target

- Sentiment score on TripAdvisor

- DRR (direct revenue ratio)

- RevPar Index vs compset

- Website conversion

Read: The Six Metrics Every Hotel Owner Cares About!

10. Try to Have More Fun and Worry Less!

This isn’t the insurance industry we’re working in. We’re here to sell worthwhile experiences and make visitors happy. Plus, people will never lose their desire to explore and discover. You will have a part in that no matter what. And, that alone is enough to smile about. ;-)

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

Digital Marketing, Direct Booking, hospitality, hotel marketing, Hotel Marketing Advice, Hotel Revenue, Marketing Advice, Marketing Mistakes, Marketing Plan

10 Things Hotel Marketers Are Thankful For This Year

November 23, 2015 • By

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Tis the season to look back and reflect on what made 2015 a remarkable year for hotel marketers and what to be excited about just over the horizon. This Thanksgiving, let’s gather around for a bout of gratitude and appreciation for everything that has made our jobs easier, more exciting and massively rewarding.

1. A Stable and Strong Economy

Studies show that we’re sitting on the edge of the best economic years that the country has seen in a decade. This means travelers feel better where they stand economically and are looking at their future with optimism. About eight years of economic doldrums have left the hotel industry with pent-up demand as travelers regain confidence in their spending and are booking travel at record rates. This means ADR is up. Occupancy is up. And, our gratitude is through the roof.

2. More and More Consumers Are Preferring to Book Direct

What hoteliers lacked in pricing power because of rate-parity clauses, they regained by luring in direct bookings with coveted perks and privileges not given to OTA customers. Think complimentary Wi-Fi, better rooms, digital check-in, late check-out and even the ability to pick your room. And, the perks are paying off as more and more travelers catch on that booking direct means a better travel experience, period. A recent survey of nearly 3,000 leisure travelers discovered that there was a noticeable drop in how often the respondents booked with OTAs compared to 2014. They also found that consumers are still frequenting popular third-party sites, but mostly for researching their options and to compare prices. 

3. An End to Rate Parity Is in Sight

This past summer, hoteliers and lawmakers in France made history by striking down rate parity.  With this newfound freedom, French hoteliers can now differentiate their hotel product, charge whatever they’d like for direct bookings, and essentially, take back the power to market their properties, drive direct business and turn a profit without the burden of OTA contractual language holding them back. It’s only time before the end to rate parity makes its way across the Atlantic, and that’s reason enough to break out the champagne and cigars.

4. Continued Low Prices for Gas and Airfare

The low prices at the gas stations (and airlines) are continuing to lure travelers to get on the road and indulge in much-needed vacations, getaways and business trips. And, it gets better. As people save money at the pumps and on airfares, they’re happier to expand their travel spending in other places, such as their lodging, dining and ancillary products, like a trip to your hotel spa!

5. Trend in Authentic Travel

Modern travelers are losing interest in bland and cliché experiences and attractions that are “touristy.” Instead, they’re indulging in authentic and locally inspired experiences that give them a "sense of place." And, when it comes to booking a hotel, more and more travelers are seeking options that give them front-row access to these immersive activities, and perhaps even offer some themselves. Marketing for authentic travel allows hotels to be more creative when differentiating themselves from their compset and allows them to easily position their properties as destinations themselves, not just cookie cutter rooms with a bed.

Read: Want More Revenue? Start Selling Your Destination

6. New Lower-Cost Channels

OTAs aren’t the only game in town. Now hoteliers can partner with TripAdvisor to have rooms booked using their new Instant Book feature. While TripAdvisor receives commissions, they are only half of what OTAs would charge. Similarly, Google Hotel Ads allows hotels to post their available rates, along with perks. Google’s commission amounts are TBA.

7. Tech-Enabled Travel

The proliferation of smartphones, tablets and wearable technology have allowed us to streamline bookings, engage in conversations with our guests pre- and post-travel, offer express check-in, communicate on-property offers, empower social sharing and enhance the guest experience like never before.

8. Word-of-Mouse Marketing by Social Media Enthusiasts

One of the best things to emerge since the advent of social media is the brand evangelist/ambassadors. You know them well. They are the guests who gush and brag about their stay on Facebook, who post foodie pics to Instagram and who take quick Vine videos of their hotel rooms. Not only have they made marketing travel engagingly personal and authentic, they come at no cost to the hotelier.

9. TripAdvisor

No matter how stunning your photography is or how captivating your copy is written, the fact remains that travelers trust travelers above anything else. This is why TripAdvisor has become synonymous with travel research and decision-making. Their consumer-facing platform of unbiased reviews gives hotels the chance to post public responses to showcase their customer service prowess. Plus, they offer plenty of hotel marketing tools and programs to lure TripAdvisor visitors directly to their hotel Website.

10. Digital Intelligence That Drives Conversions

Everyday, hotel website designers are getting smarter and smarter about who’s visiting, looking and booking. The robust analytics and monitoring technology at our fingertips give us unprecedented power to customize marketing campaigns to specific travelers, personalize offers and track ROI.

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

Digital Marketing, Direct Bookings, Guest Experience, Holidays, hospitality, hotel marketing, OTA

What Is Wrong With Your Best Rate Guarantee And How To Fix It

September 29, 2015 • By

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Even as hotels around the globe are adopting cool technology to enhance the guest experience – such as mobile check-in and all-encompassing touch screen remotes to control lighting, TV, music, service requests and room temperature – your hotel is most likely using a tired and antiquated tool meant to persuade guests to book directly.

The Original Brilliance of the Best Rate Guarantee Created as a way to compete during the early days of online travel agencies, the Best Rate Guarantee (BRG) was meant as a hotel’s solid reassurance to travelers that their prices were the lowest throughout the internet. 

The idea itself was brilliant, yet straightforward. If a guest found a cheaper rate on an OTA, the hotel would match that rate and sometimes sweeten the deal with an additional incentive such as complimentary breakfast, parking, or in some cases, a free night’s stay.

Since the cost of these incentives or discounts were much less than the commissions paid to the OTA, hoteliers wrote them off as a justifiable expense. 

BRGs get hacked…

Over the years, it became apparent that hoteliers weren’t the only group to find major opportunity with Best Rate Guarantees. Hotel “promo hackers” soon started cataloging and rampantly sharing hotel chains’ Best Rate Guarantees to take advantage of free nights and free perks.

Not to be abused, hoteliers then responded by tightening the restrictions on their Best Rate Guarantees by implementing more rules and limitations.

The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of hotel shoppers ignore your BRG by shopping your rates regardless, and they certainly don’t want to invest the time to take advantage of it. Modern travelers want to find the lower price immediately, not hours later. 

As further evidence on how outdated BRGs have become:

An entire DECADE ago, Cornell researched low price guarantees and came to the conclusion that BRGs “have little value to the consumer.” It also argued that a new model was necessary so that guests will be driven to make a reservation without the need to search for a lower price elsewhere. Again, they said this a DECADE ago!

The Best Rate Guarantee remains a noble concept. It’s the implementation that renders them impotent. Under the current format, customers are required to search for cheaper rates elsewhere, submit a lengthy email form, then wait around for a response. Is that any way to guarantee great rates to our guests?

The Solution

There’s really only one way to regain all the benefits of a lucrative Best Rate Guarantee program. It must be built-in and automated by your hotel booking engine itself, where current 3rd party rates are displayed alongside your own rate. The best hotel booking engines prevent customers from leaving the booking engine to go look elsewhere for better rates. If prices are out of parity, the booking engine will automatically match your rate to the lower 3rd party rate.

Now that’s a Best Rate Guarantee that makes everyone happy.

For more, read: How to Recapture Abandoned Bookings

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

Best Rate Guaranteed, Direct Bookings, Guest Experience, hotel marketing, Hotel Marketing Advice, search engine optimization

The Little Box That Is Costing Hotels Millions

September 14, 2015 • By

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Modern travelers are savvy, deal-seekers.

If a hotel deal exists, they’ll find it, use it, then expect it every time.

Such is the case with that prominent "promo code" field found on practically every hotel’s booking engine. Widely used by hotels (check out the example from Hilton above) to close the gap during slow periods, to compete with deal-heavy OTA rates and to entice travelers to book direct, promo or discount codes also hold dire consequences when it comes to getting travelers to book at all.

The Perils of Promo Codes

Think promo codes are a magic bullet that will give travelers that extra shove to make a reservation? Think again. Here are some of the most likely scenarios you’ll face instead:

After researching for hours for the perfect hotel for her family’s next vacation, a mother finally makes the decision to stay with you. She goes to your site, plugs in her vacation dates and selects a room type. She’s almost done – all she has to do is fill out her information and reach for her credit card. Then, she sees the box asking for a promo code.

“Oh, there’s a promo code?” she asks herself. “Where is it? How big of a discount can I get? I better find it so I can save money.” She tucks her credit card back into her wallet and opens a new window in her browser in order to search for the elusive promo code. Then, it goes from bad to worse.

She has already abandoned her initial reservation and left your site, even as she was in the final stages of booking. In fact, a study by ComScore showed that 27 percent of online consumers end up abandoning shopping carts in order to go search for a coupon or discount.

She’ll find a discount for your hotel from another site, perhaps even an OTA, since she is now convinced that your published rate is too expensive and that she can get a room there for cheaper.

Her search may lead her to another property entirely, where she’ll end up booking instead because she’s convinced they’ll have a better deal.

She’ll find a promo code, use it, then expect a similar special offer for all future visits. 

That prominent discount or promo code field makes online visitors doubt their purchase decision and will convince them that, if they look hard enough, they can get money off of the room rate. If they’ve made it far in the booking process, which is usually the case since that is where promo code boxes are placed, that means they were likely dead set on completing the reservation before the call for a promo code changed their mind. 

There IS a place for promo codes in smart hotel marketing. Here’s how to use them:

1. Lure Back Unfinished Reservations

When travelers don’t complete their reservations, which can happen for several reasons, lure them back by offering a promo code through your reservation abandonment system and retargeting ads. This way, promo codes will only be shown to a highly engaged audience and will not show up in search results across the web. Use the principle of scarcity to make this even more appealing by adding a deadline to use the promo code before it expires. For example, “Come back and complete your booking within 24 hours and we’ll take 15% off.”

2. Create Your Own Page of Current Promos and Link Back to It

Macy’s has a brilliant solution to keeping shoppers on their Website while they’re looking for promo codes. Next to their Promo Code box, they invite shoppers to take a look at all of their current promotions and provide a convenient link to the list of codes. In your hotel’s case, include a direct link back to your special offers page where travelers can look at all of the promos you have available at the moment. By offering an internal link to your own promotions, you’ll reduce the number of visitors who would have abandoned their reservation to search for a discount or promo code on another site. Plus, you’re also showing transparency to the guest by letting them know you are willing to help them find travel savings.

3. Track and Measure Advertising ROI

You can use coupon and promo codes to track and measure the success of your advertising. The concept is easy – just publish a different code for your different ad buys. For example, use a different code in your email marketing than your Facebook and pay-per-click. This way, you can track how many sales are generated from your various media placements.

4. Get Rid of the Promo Code Box All Together and Replace With Auto-Fill

Customize your advertising links so that, if there is a promo code available, the inbound ad link in your website will take prospects directly to your booking engine where the promo code will automatically be plugged in. This way, you don’t have to have the promo code box on your website at all. Which means, shoppers won’t leave your site to go find a discount somewhere else on the Web.

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, Mistakes to Avoid, Online Bookings, Promo Codes

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

5 Signs Your Hotel Has Surrendered to Its OTA Addiction

August 6, 2014 • By
Tambourine: Hotel Marketing TechnologyOTAs can be a tough addiction to kick. Owners know they cut into your profits. They can take control of your bookings. If competing with OTAs feels like an uphill battle, you’re not alone. All hoteliers want more direct bookings, but it’s become a bad habit for many to give up and let the OTAs take over. They’re addicted to the bookings OTAs bring in, even when those bookings come at a high price. OTAs are here to stay. For most hotels, quitting OTAs cold turkey is not an option. However, you can start to move towards a better balance of direct and indirect bookings. And the sooner you recognize your problem, the sooner you will be motivated to take action. Know the Signs of OTA Addiction
  1. You get more OTA business than Direct: What percentage of your online revenue comes from OTAs vs direct? If the ratio favors OTAs and other third party sources, then you have a problem and need to start moving the needle in the opposite direction.
  2. You’re not consistently reaching out to guests: OTAs grab a lot of guest information and keep it. When you accept this as part of your fate, you allow the OTAs to take over guest remarketing when your guests leave your property. Use every opportunity to gather information and further your interactions with guests. Collect email addresses at the front desk in exchange for future discounts. Encourage guests to take an online survey when guests dine at the restaurant. Ask if they prefer to have their check-out bill sent via email....
  3. You ignore this key metric: In addition to ADR, AOR and RevPar... add MCPB to your vocabulary. Marketing Cost Per Booking is an easy way to evaluate the cost of bookings that come from OTAs vs direct campaigns. If you paid $25,000 to OTAs last month for 250 bookings, that’s a MCPB of $100. How does that compare to your direct campaigns on PPC, email etc?
  4. You don’t give guests a reason to stay on your website: Check your bounce rate. If guests come to your site, look at one page, and click away, you’re essentially handing them over to the OTAs. Your direct site should promise the best value and provide a glimpse inside your property that sterile OTAs cannot match.
  5. You recognize the signs and take no action: You read a lot of advice on improving your marketing, but take little action. You might be caught up in big ideas of what you could do, should do, or would do. It’s a common problem. However, you’ll never beat your OTA addiction until you start doing. It is better to start with one small step today than to think about all the big things you can do tomorrow.
The First Step is Admitting You Have a Problem I know it’s hard. Nobody wants to admit it. But we’re all friends here. Do any of these signs sound like your hotel? Let us know how you’re fighting for your hotel in the comments below.

About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 30th year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

ADR, AOR, Bounce Rate, Direct Bookings, MCPB, OTA, OTA addiction, Past Guest Database, RevPar

Get out of your comfort zone and copy these 3 OTA secrets

July 1, 2014 • By
hotel-marketing-secrets It’s so frustrating. It makes hotel marketers want to rip up all their OTA agreements. But it wouldn’t help. The OTAs charge you big fees. And you never feel good about how they represent you. But you can’t seem to break free. You know guests flip back and forth from their websites to yours. Yet when it comes time to book they head back to the OTA to complete the purchase.

Why do guests go back to the OTA to book?

Because OTAs do something that is so against every hotelier’s nature, I’m almost afraid to tell you. You will rebel against this idea. You won’t want to do it. But hear me out. This is important.

Unlike you, OTAs love making guests uncomfortable. And to compete, you must make them uncomfortable too.

Wait! I know the words “uncomfortable guest” causes a little indigestion. Of course, you want them to have comfortable stays. However, while they’re booking, they should be uncomfortable with their own indecision. That is where OTAs excel, and hoteliers often fail. When you spend your life focusing on comfort, this mind shift is difficult. You know direct booking is best for you and your guest. So, think of it as the little discomfort you cause them upfront that helps them in the end.

3 Tips to Make Guests Uncomfortable

(Bet you never thought you’d see that line on a hotel marketing blog)
  1. Limit their booking page options: Once a traveler reaches your initial booking page, you should start eliminating choice. Remove your menu bar from these pages. Make going through with the booking process the only option. They’ve already made their decision. Encourage them to stick to it (Tambourine CRS, a fast-growing CRS/hotel booking engine, does this well). Expedia uses a popup. After hitting ‘Book’, you have two options: Pay now or Pay at hotel.  Orbitz gives you one option: ‘Continue booking’.
  2. Make it cutthroat: Travelers are doing more than booking rooms on OTAs. They compete with other guests. Booking.com tells the guest who else is looking at the room. Orbitz has a bubble that tells you ‘Two Rooms Left’. This isn’t booking. This is a battle and your hotel website is the frontline. Even if you can’t imagine inundating your guests with pop-ups and brightly colored buttons, add a line to the top of your booking page that states, “While you’re online booking travel plans, it’s likely someone else is too. Our rooms book up quickly. We’d hate for someone else to get your room. Book now to guarantee your spot.”
  3. Push them to checkout: You advise your guests to checkout on time, so they don’t incur a fee. Consider doing the same when they checkout of your website. Although they may pay the same wherever they book, remind them that they will enjoy more flexibility and better customer service when they book direct. Include the word, ‘Now’ on your booking page. Explain the benefits of booking immediately. Expedia warns guests to “Hurry! Prices and inventory are limited.” You may want to tone it down to match your brand. However, you need to create urgency. Remind your guests that it behooves them to book now.

Are you ready to celebrate your independence?

If so, share this post on social media. Let them know you ready to stand up and fight for your guests—even when it’s a bit uncomfortable.

 About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 30th year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Comfort Zone, Creating Urgency, Direct Bookings, Fighting Back Against OTA, Increase Direct Bookings, Making Guests Uncomfortable, OTA, TravelTripper

Cinco de Mayo: 5 Hotel Marketing Tips

May 2, 2014 • By

Tambourine: Hotel Marketing

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, Tambourine is celebrating with a fiesta of some of our favorite digital marketing tips. From fine-tuning your content for on-the-go travelers to zeroing in on your prospect’s emotions and true priorities, these tactics are fit to be implemented seamlessly into your current marketing efforts.

UNO - Edit Down Your Content For Mobile Users

Cut down on the fluff, be succinct and get to the point.
When it comes to your hotel’s mobile site, don’t simply reuse the copy you wrote for your desktop site. Instead, repurpose and rewrite your mobile content so that it’s easier to digest by people on-the-go. Because people have shorter attention spans on their smart phones, the copy on your mobile site has to be faster, shorter, and punchier than your desktop version. Use bolded headlines and bullet points. Cut down on the fluff, be succinct and get to the point.

DOS - Don’t Settle for Weak Calls-to-Action

When all is said and done, it’s copywriting that will compel people to book your hotel. Don’t leave people hanging without instructions on what to do next after combing through your site. And, be clear about it. Start with verbs and keep it simple.  Beyond the typical ‘book now,’ you can use ‘plan your escape now,’ 'schedule your site tour today’, or 'start your adventure here.’

TRES - Identify and Leverage Your Hotel’s Biggest Fans

Find out who your brand advocates are and treat them like all-stars.
First, find out who your brand advocates are. You can find them on your social media pages (who is always liking and commenting on your posts?), your TripAdvisor reviews (look for the 4-5 star ratings), and your meeting planner testimonials. Then, treat them like all-stars. Give them first dibs on any promotions or deals. Offer exclusive room upgrade codes. Send them a personal invitation to meet with your top management. Extend a special room rate just for them and their friends and family. Make it easy for them to share their love for you with everyone they know.

CUATRO - Share Content That Answers ‘What’s In It for Me?’

Whether it’s through email newsletters, social media updates, or hotel blog posts, never forget your audience’s first priority: What’s in it for me? Ideally, all of your messages and content should be a mix of hotel news and useful destination tips. For example, when you send out an email about your Valentine’s romance package, include relevant content made up of gems of information, such as ‘Fun Date Ideas Under $50 in Chicago’ or ‘5 Best Places to Kiss in Seattle.’

CINCO - Make Booking Direct More Appealing Than Using an OTA

Who says you can’t out-market an OTA? The key is to make your offer sweeter than your OTA rate. And, don’t worry about rate parity, which only applies to the exact room offer the OTA displays. The workaround is to offer a larger value to that same room using the same rate. For example, include complimentary parking, dining discounts, or free breakfast vouchers.  Make the decision to book direct a no-brainer.  

advertising, Business, destination marketing, hotel marketing, marketing, mobile advertising, search engine optimization, Travel, Uncategorized