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HSMAI Digital Benchmark Study – Early Results: How Does Your Hotel Stack Up?

March 10, 2015 • By
Tambourine Hotel and Tourism Marketing Technology HSMAI recently announced it’s putting together a digital marketing benchmark report. Let’s take a look at the results so far:
  1. Approximately 60% of hotels spend more than 25% of their marketing budget on digital.
  2. About 55% of hotels see fewer than 10,000 visitors per month. A little over 30% see 10,001-50,000 visitors per month. We already know travelers are using the web for research. If your hotel is in the fewer than 10,000 group, it’s not unreasonable to set a goal to pull yourself up into the next category.
  3. Interestingly, the amount of traffic from search engines seems to be either a major strength or major weakness. Probably due the importance of being on the first two pages. 25% said over 60% of traffic comes from search engines. While over 30% receive less than 30% of traffic from search engines.
  4. Congratulations to the 79% of you whose hotel website design scheme includes a mobile website! We consider this a must-have. If you’re not there yet, it’s time.
  5. Finally, only 25% of hotels have a dedicated digital marketing manager who spends at least 75% of their time on digital marketing. At first this might surprise you, considering the growing importance on digital. Yet with so many outsourcing options, it may be that hotels are using other resources. The vital thing to remember is digital changes faster than any other marketing medium. Just keeping up on the digital marketing world is a full-time job. You must have someone looking out for your property in the digital world.
How do you match up? Do these numbers surprise you? Let us know in the comments below.  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

Fix This One Thing to Attract More Repeat Guests

March 3, 2015 • By
Tambourine Hotel and Tourism Marketing Technology While many folks are focused (rightfully!) on hotel website design, rate parity and direct bookings, smart hoteliers are rededicating themselves to good old fashioned service! In the hospitality world, the notion of good customer service is usually synonymous with attracting loyal customers and welcoming repeat guests. As a whole, the industry itself is known for being consumer-friendly, and a number of brands have implemented solid programs and procedures for communicating with customers and making sure that everyone’s experience meets – and often exceeds – expectations. In the United States, travel and tourism is among the nation’s largest services industries, and one of America’s largest employers. So, it’s no wonder that customer service is so important. In fact, according to an American Express survey in 2011: "7 in 10 Americans said they were willing to spend more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service." Five star hotel brands, such as Four Seasons, are known for being customer-focused in every way, but now mid-level chains and even limited service properties are more focused than ever on delivering a stellar experience.

A warm welcome

A smile and a friendly face go a long way with weary travelers. When an entire staff is properly trained to provide guests with kindness and empathy, it makes the hotel experience more authentic and memorable. Frequent traveler David Duran logs in over 150 hotel nights each year. He believes that the way guests are welcomed when they first step into a hotel lobby sets the stage for the entire stay. He says, “When I am a return guest and acknowledged as such upon check-in, it's a great first step at making me feel welcomed and special. During my stay, when a staff member directly addresses you by your name, it shows they have gone out of their way to know their guests. Every time I'm at the Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria resort in Maui, I'm welcomed like family and that's why I go back so often.”

Loyalty programs

Guests love loyalty programs and they have proven successful with the major brands, such as Hilton and Starwood. Encouraging guests to collect points regularly can quickly translate to free stays down the road, creating a positive experience for guests and an opportunity for them to show their brand loyalty. In addition, some loyalty programs are not just created to be redeemed for room nights. They provide guests with free amenities just for signing up, such as a welcome gift, an upgrade or free breakfast.

Embracing TripAdvisor

Not to be overlooked, hotels large and small understand the impact that TripAdvisor has on the industry today. A 2012 study from Phocuswright regarding Trip Advisor shows, "Travelers say that an appropriate response from hotel management is more likely to make them book (57%), improves their overall impression (84%) and makes them feel the hotel cares (78%)." TripAdvisor offers an array of online tools, tips and helpful suggestions to connect hotel general managers or representatives with guests. This includes analytics as well as competition with other local competitors.

Nip problems in the bud

An increasing number of hotels of all levels are implementing powerful software solutions to enhance the guest experience while they are still on property, before the guest departs and possibly posts negative reviews online. Solutions like Newmarket’s HotSOS enable service-smart hoteliers to automate, track and optimize guest requests and the overall service experience.  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

Want Better TripAdvisor Rankings? Do These 3 Things.

February 24, 2015 • By
Tambourine Hotel Marketing To date, there are 4.4 million hotels and other travel businesses listed on TripAdvisor. You deserve to be at the top – you know it, your staff knows it. But what will it take for your property to place in the top 30 search results, placing you on the first page of results for your destination? While TripAdvisor keeps their sophisticated ranking practices a closely guarded secret, we believe 3 primary factors contribute to your search ranking: Consistency, volume and frequency. So, to boost your placement, you’ll need to address these three criteria in your online review strategy. Here’s how to make it happen:

1. Be Consistently Awesome

The most surefire way to hit the TripAdvisor trifecta - achieving volume, frequency and consistency - is to wow your hotel guests and meeting attendees during their stay, not after check-out.Your staff should be adamantly delivering remarkable service and authentic hospitality, day in and day out. The bulk of your reviews will come from one of two guests: Those who loathed their stay and those who loved it. So, it’s up to your staff today to influence what type of review you’ll get tomorrow.

2. Proactively Urge Your Guests to Leave Reviews

Sure, a ton of guests will write a review without you having to ask. But, what about the majority who forget? Or, who assume their opinion doesn’t matter? Or, who think it takes too much effort to leave a review? You have to take matters into your own hands and proactively ask and encourage your guests to leave reviews. Here’s how to do it: Approach Your Biggest Fans First Look to your hotel’s brand advocates for most leverage. 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. Don’t just go to them when you want something, (like an influx of good reviews). You should be communicating with them frequently. Always add a sentence in your communication about leaving a review if they haven’t already done so.

Carefully Select and Display Positive Reviews on your Website Let’s face it, your website visitors are going to check out your hotel’s webpage, and then go straight to TripAdvisor for a second opinion from previous guests. So why not satisfy their curiosities from the start? By hand selecting a stream of positive reviews to display on your website, your potential guests will be welcomed with nothing but good feedback. And to keep your content fresh, have your CMS pick new reviews to display quarterly. Using this method will ensure that no negative comments are reaching the eyes of your visitors, while satisfying them with the feedback they were searching for. 

Post Stay Emails Put a link leading directly to your TripAdvisor profile. Even better, track how many guests are clicking by using a URL tracker. Remind Guests During Their Stay, Not Just At Check-Out Your guests will come across many staff members during their stay. Make it common practice for your staff to encourage them to leave reviews if they hear any guests complimenting the hotel in any way. Place Your TripAdvisor Link In Your Email Signature Any email you send to guests or to anyone else, should have a link to your TripAdvisor profile.

3. Respond to ALL Reviews (yes, even the awful ones)

Hotel review tools like TrustYou and Revinate make it easy to monitor and respond to reviews. If time is tight, then use your time to address the negative reviews first. Bad reviews are actually an opportunity for your customer service to shine. Research shows that online sentiment rises when hotels show they are serious about resolving any issues and care about their customers feedback. Consider this: In Q2 of 2014, 128 million people had downloaded the TripAdvisor mobile app, and there are now over 170 million reviews on TripAdvisor. Yet many travel marketers still neglect to respond to negative reviews. This has to stop. When a guest complains in person, you work to accommodate them, so they will speak highly of you. You’d never ignore their complaint. Marketers must be as vigilant about keeping TripAdvisor reviewers happy online as they are about keeping the guest happy on-property.    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

Hotels Rolling Out The Rainbow Carpet for LGBT Travelers

February 18, 2015 • By
Tambourine Hotel and Tourism Marketing Technology   With all the newly-announced gay-friendly legislation in the USA, more brands are showing their pride by offering great gay-friendly hotel packages and stylish wedding options, rolling out the “rainbow” carpet for LGBT couples. At resorts across the globe, today more than ever there are many viable options for weekend getaways, as well as gay wedding ceremonies, both large and small. Gay-friendly Marriott Hotels is featuring their #LoveTravels program for the LGBT community. The brand provides professional services for commitment ceremonies of all kinds – no matter where couples choose to wed. In fact, the brand has enhanced its hotel website design to include a section devoted to LGBT weddings. With a portfolio of upscale properties and stunning resorts across the globe, Marriott has all the romantic settings and a full staff to ensure the big day is simply wonderful. Hilton is also enthusiastically reaching out to the LGBT community with their extensive “Stay Hilton. Go Out” program. Offered at many properties worldwide, this package extends discounts to couples as well as their friends, (or wedding guests,) traveling with them. (Perks include: free Internet, welcome drinks, upgrades, and other special treats.) With many Hilton hotels in exotic locations, couples can wed by the sea, on a rooftop or in a garden – anywhere they choose. The W hotel company, a Starwood brand, is known around the world for being gay-friendly, offering unique and distinctive packages at their properties. For example, one of their exclusive resorts in Puerto Rico is the secluded W Hotel on Vieques island. This unique location offers an intimate and tranquil beachfront destination for same-sex couples who wish to make their dream wedding a reality. With plenty of upgrades and special packages, this hotel ensures that every wedding is memorable and personalized. Another gay-friendly brand is Kimpton, offering a “sense of pride.” Its KPride team welcomes gay couples at all of their hotels and invites them to tie the knot with a personal twist -- whether it’s a big and boisterous reception or an intimate gathering. Kimpton has many delightful choices for the perfect wedding, with plenty of cool elements at every price point – from small ceremonies to top chefs custom designing a marvelous meal or a fabulous cocktail party. 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

5 Things Hotel Marketers Are Loving This Valentine’s Day

February 9, 2015 • By
Tambourine Hotel Marketing   What has a hold on hoteliers’ hearts this year? Cupid must be exhausted shooting arrows in our direction because there are MANY factors that have put hotel marketers in a happier and more profitable place than previous years. Besides the romance of this special day, here are the top 5 things hotel marketers are loving right now:

1.  A Prosperous Global Economy

Occupancy is up. ADR is up. Group and meetings business and leisure travel is up. What’s not to love? Both hotel marketers and destination marketers are excited for all the potential ahead, as people are back to booking travel plans with all the extras – tours, meals, and spending on a hotel they feel offers the best experience, instead of the best deal. Travelers are reaping the benefits too, as hotels are investing in improvements, better experiences and new amenities at their properties.

2. More FREE Marketing Tools Than Ever Before

No doubt, marketing can get overwhelming. From SEO, to content marketing, to creating videos, to retargeting, marketing can easily become a confusing and complicated maze. Thankfully, there are legions of FREE marketing tools that make it easy to stay on top of all of your marketing efforts. You can effectively keep an eye on your comp sets’ digital marketing programs, find out when most of your Twitter audience is online, determine the ROI of your direct marketing campaign, or figure out your RevPar from your smartphone. Yes – all for FREE. Here are 17 of our favorite complimentary hotel marketing tools to try out.

3. Robust Analytics That Helps Us Convert More

Today, our hotel Websites are keener and ROI tracking is much simpler with the robust analytics we now have at our disposal. This has been a goldmine for hotel marketers, who are now in a more powerful position for customizing marketing campaigns to targeted audiences. The massive amount of data and customer intelligence that we now have at our fingertips means we can personalize offers and emails to streamline direct marketing.

4. Unpaid Marketing Staff: Brand Evangelists and Ambassadors

Never before has hotel marketing become so personal. Social media has changed the ways hotel marketers interact with guests throughout all stages of travel, from when they are first dreaming of their next vacation to well after checkout. One of the most powerful forces to emerge from social media is the past guest evangelist. These are customers who spread their love for your hotel, (most often without any prompting from you,) via word-of-mouse. These special customers have the social clout to influence opinions, behavior and most of all perception through posting and sharing of photos of your hotel onto their social media channels – all without any cost to you.

5. Declining Gas Prices

Everyone is rejoicing over the plummeting gas prices – especially hoteliers! Cheaper gas means more people out on the road, period. Getting to your hotel from your drive markets is cheaper than ever, giving people more confidence to take impromptu getaways. Even better - as travelers save money on gas, they feel they’re in a better position to stretch their travel budget on other places, such as booking rooms, meals and amenities such as spa treatments. What hotel marketing assets are you celebrating this Valentine’s Day? Let us know! 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

What can Travel Marketers Learn from Groundhog Day?

February 3, 2015 • By
Tambourine Hotel Marketing Every year, northerners pin their happy weather hopes on a furry, little rodent. It seems a bit crazy until you look at the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney attracts over 40,000 visitors. That’s just a little less than Disneyland sees on an average day. Punxsutawney offers no rollercoasters, princesses, or even warm weather. The only thing Disney and Punxsutawney have in common are rodent mascots. Of course, it’s not all about the rodents. If it were, everyone would have a rodent. They’re easy to come by. What’s difficult is marketing a furry creature people normally don’t like. You know what they say: If you can market a rodent, you can market your hotel!

Everything is a Marketing Opportunity

Initially, Groundhog Day was a German holiday called Candlemas. It evolved into Groundhog Day around 1887 when a newspaper claimed Punxsutawney Phil could predict the weather. Somehow the story stuck. Although, it’s likely that there were always small-minded folk who couldn’t grasp the groundhog’s genius. Luckily, enough Punsxutawnians believed for the holiday to grow into a national tradition. They showed off their groundhog like a YouTuber with cats. And it’s paid off. You might look around your area and think local events only make sense to your residents. An event may seem small to promote or too odd. However, that is exactly what many of today’s travelers are looking for... authentic experiences!

Don’t Kid Yourself: If It’s Broken, Fix It

While Punxatawnians claim Phil can predict the weather, history tells us Phil is bad at his job. He’s been predicting the weather for 129 years and has about a 39% success rate. Much to the dismay of northerners, he almost always sees his shadow. Now, I’m not suggesting we replace Phil. Let the Groundhog be. Punxatawnians must know Phil fails most years. Although they continue to stand behind him, because Phil attracts tourists. They can afford to kid themselves. You can’t. If your marketing plan isn’t creating direct bookings for your hotel, it’s time to make changes.

Know Your Options

Despite his failures, you might hire Phil if you needed a weather-predicting groundhog. (Let’s hope you never need one.) After all, how many of these groundhog’s can there be? Well, there’s Staten Island Chuck, who once bit the mayor; Balzac Billy, who is really a man in a groundhog suit; and Gary the Groundhog, who claims Missouri groundhogs are smarter than Phil. Many of them have better success rates than Phil. You can’t just go hire a groundhog; you need to do your research. Likewise, when you consider a new marketing tool or service, it’s easy to get blinded by the hype of one company. But all services are not the same. Your needs are unique. Your guests are special. Get informed before you act.

Marketing wisdom is everywhere you look.

Whether Phil sees his shadow or not, we see marketing potential everywhere. What’s your favorite story of finding a marketing metaphor in everyday life? 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

Pet-Friendly Hotels Getting a Paw Up on The Competition

January 22, 2015 • By

Tambourine Hotel Marketing

Hotel guests no longer need to leave their best friends at home, as traveling with pets is becoming more popular and widely accepted among many hotel brands. Today, a multitude of national hotel companies and smaller independent properties across the country are realizing the value of being truly “pet friendly” and rolling out the red carpet for Fido and Fluffy. More than just a hotel marketing ploy, many hotels are debuting elaborate, carefully crafted programs, converting rooms to designated “pet friendly” spaces, and actively promoting to a pet-loving crowd. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook for 2012, there are approximately 70 million pet dogs and 74.1 million pet cats in the US. (The Sourcebook is updated every five years). Most hotel owners understand the impact of these numbers and are working hard to attract guests who appreciate a pet friendly culture. Here are just a few cool hospitality programs that welcome pets and offer some creative amenities, too: Kimpton Hotels has been a leading pet-friendly company since its launch, and has become a favorite among pet owners for welcoming any pet without added fees— regardless of size or weight. In addition, Kimpton hotels offer special pet beds, food and water bowls and snacks in the lobby. The individual properties also provide information about area pet-friendly attractions and businesses…. and some Kimptons have dogs on staff to manage the all-important “pet relations.” Choice Hotels offers about 3,400 pet-friendly properties worldwide and features a special website page that allows travelers to search for specific properties. It also features a few value-added extras, such as an updated list of the best dog-friendly cities, local dog parks, and associated travel tips. W Hotels is also known for pampering pooches. This brand accepts pets under 40 lbs. (Heavier pets require the GM’s permission). Their program includes a “welcome kit” for owners with info about dog parks and nearby areas for exercise. Guests also receive posh pet beds, floor mats, food bowls, ID tags and more. In addition, to help pet owners identify the most pet-friendly hotels, companies like GoPetFriendly.com and PetFriendlyHotels.net are great resources for choosing the best places to stay when traveling with furry friends. Also, travel sites like TripAdvisor, Expedia and Travelocity offer “pet friendly” options and reviews when making reservations. 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

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.