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How do Smart Hotel Management Firms Actually Handle Guest Reviews?

April 4, 2017 • By


Key Takeaways:

1. Positive Reviews = Flag Happiness = More Deals for the Flag and the HMG

One of the primary reasons that HMG operations execs place such high emphasis on reputation/review management is because positive guest scores and reviews ultimately lead to more deals. If an HMG has a reputation for quality service in their hotels, everyone benefits.  In the case of a flagged hotel, more franchise agreements are written for the brand and more management agreements are given to the HMG.

2. Property Operators are Busy

Hotel General Managers no longer have the freedom to delegate all tasks.  They are working with their teams’ hands on to help run the property. Additionally, they need to be guest facing as much as possible. The more time a GM can spend on the floor ensuring a positive guest experience, the less negative reviews a property will have. This is where their time is best spent versus spending their time responding to reviews reactively.

3. Escalation Effect

What happens if a GM is busy while a scathing negative review, that could potentially escalate into something very damaging to the property, comes in? A hotel’s vendor/partner can quickly be called to help do damage control. Part of a hotel management group's responsibility is to safeguard the asset on behalf of the owner. A hotels reputation is one of the most crucial components of the asset.   

One of the biggest tasks hotel management firms face is managing the reputation of their portfolio properties. And it often requires different policies, processes and people than what might be occurring at the property level…

Reputation management software that monitors and responds to guest reviews makes things easier, but software alone can’t manage a hotel’s reputation.

People do that.

The Property Owner, General Manager, Operations Manager, management company and often an outside vendor drive these efforts.

How do hotel management companies handle this complex issue?

We asked a few for their advice.

A Common Bond

image2“Guests want acknowledgment,” says Delana Meyer, Vice President of Digital Strategy, Crescent Hotels & Resorts. “Whether complaining, praising or just commenting, they have taken the time to tell you and you, in return should acknowledge, empathize and, at minimum, say thank you, your feedback will help us be better.”

“The question is not 'what's the value of reputation management?' but rather, 'what's the cost of not participating?,'” she says. Hotels want guest feedback while they’re on property so issues can be taken care of right away. But that’s not always the case, and tools like Twitter, text messaging and Expedia's Real Time Feedback make it easier for guests to communicate their needs without coming to the front desk.

Still, these tools need managing, and an instant response is an expectation.

“We are constantly reviewing and updating our policies on guest reviews, responses and monitoring and have corporate (as well as brand) tools in place to assist with that,” says Meyer.

Don’t Go it Alone

Should hotel management firms handle reputation management at the property level or the management company level, or should they outsource it all?

A Forbes interview with Don Sorensen, the online reputation management expert, suggests the last, primarily because professional reputation management firms have the advantage of “leveraged knowledge” from working with numerous companies.

Another essential is a designated contact person to coordinate a seamless response. The biggest challenge hotels face is how to hire and train employees on property to professionally manage the increasing volume of guest reviews across multiple mediums. What happens if the position turns over? The property is back to square one. This is a fundamental benefit of outsourcing to a professional hotel reputation management firm.

An anecdote from Michael Cady, Vice President of Marketing for Charlestowne Hotels, attests to the value of such seamlessness.

Charlestowne uses proprietary software called InstantComments to facilitate guest feedback. When guests sign in to the on-property internet, a simple feedback request pops up. The hotel’s executive team receives the feedback in real time, and if there’s a problem, responds immediately.

Case in point: Last year, when InstantComments “asked” a guest about her stay, she said she wasn’t feeling all that well and the tissues available in the room were actually aggravating her condition.

The GM took immediate action, sending “one of his team members out to get the best tissues he could find, and within an hour of her comment, an attendant knocked on her door with a new box of super-soft tissues on a silver platter,” Cady recounts.

“We’re trying to deal with any issue while guests are on-property, especially ones that wouldn’t normally warrant a call to the front desk. That way when they leave, they’re praising us all the more,” Cady adds, noting positive reviews have a direct correlation to revenue, “no ifs, ands or buts about it.”

image3Where Charlestowne uses a social media aggregator called Revinate to track its properties’ scores, 1859 Historic Hotels uses ReviewPro, says Josh Henegar, Corporate Revenue Director.

Revinate and ReviewPro are two of many software options that collect online reviews and guest satisfaction scores across multiple platforms, funneling them to a dashboard hotel executives use to handle guest feedback.

ReviewPro features a metric called Global Review Index used to benchmark a hotel or group of properties, reflecting guest satisfaction scores across all social media channels including Expedia, Facebook and TripAdvisor.

Say a guest has an issue with an F&B item, registering his or her complaint on TripAdvisor. The alert goes to the GM, the F&B Director and the Executive Chef, who “operationally figure out what happened, respond right away and do whatever they can to make it right,” according to Henegar.

Set up to trigger alerts whenever a guest satisfaction score registers at three or less, the system “works well assuming we’re on the other end to respond,” he says. “The more people on alert, the better chance we have of knowing right away and being able to respond to them.”

image4The Human Touch

Intelligent software is essential but it doesn’t stand on its own. Synergy among owner, asset manager and management company is also critical. Its lack can be costly, suggests a well-informed HotelNewsNow opinion piece written by Paul Breslin and Julia Zhang.

Also, enhance your brand by stressing what’s unique about it. Each property in the 1859 Historic Hotels portfolio has its own lore, says Henegar, noting some can effectively tell stories of their particular neighborhood, their atmosphere, even reputed ghosts. “Guest reviews constitute our reputation,” he says.

“Nothing will come close to what guests actually say about their experience and their satisfaction… what guests say about their experience, I would say, is the backbone of our reputation.”

Word-of-mouth no longer means face-to-face, but it’s still crucial.

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:

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

7 Signs Your Hotel Marketing is Out of Control

February 28, 2017 • By


It’s easy to see how things can go off course in hotel marketing.

With an array of channels, disparate vendors and multiple audience segments to manage, it’s inevitable that some things may fall through the cracks, questions will go unanswered and mistakes could quickly multiply.

The good news is that even if your hotel marketing is out of control from time to time, it doesn’t mean you’ve lost control.

You are still at the helm and can turn things around whenever you decide to acknowledge the wrong turns you’ve made and the missing pieces you overlooked.

Here are a few of the telltale signs that your hotel marketing might need a reality check… and how to turn things around:

1. You’re Clueless About How Much You Pay OTAs

Sooner or later, your owners or managers will ask you, “How much are these OTA bookings really costing us?” It’s a question that all hoteliers dread. Why? Because OTA commissions are often opaque. They generally pay a net rate to the hotel, after collecting their commission. Unfortunately, this means the fees being paid to OTAs will never show up as an expense on your P&L statements.

Not only do these invisible marketing expenses cost significantly more than direct bookings, they also pose a threat to your other marketing assets as well. When owners look at the budget to see which marketing costs to scale back on, the first thing on the chopping blocks are the expenses that are actually shown, even if they produce profitable bookings, such as your hotel website.

So hidden OTA costs are allowed to continue, while your other marketing investments are reduced. You should specifically examine and document how much each OTA booking costs vs the actual cost per booking of alternative channels.


2.  Too Many Vendors, Too Much Chaos

The more marketing vendors you work with, the more complications and chaos you can expect. Managing several, disconnected vendors to handle separate marketing functions, like advertising campaigns, hotel website design, email marketing or social media, can hurt you in several ways: First, you’re most likely paying more for each vendor’s separate services. You’re wasting time by managing and relaying messages from vendor to vendor. And, worst of all, no single vendor is held accountable for overall success. Instead, they likely point fingers at each other.   

The key is to consolidate.

Narrow down your marketing partners to those who you trust the most, who produce the best and those who can handle multiple critical functions.

3. You Can’t Measure Your Contributions

Hotel owners and managers expect their marketing teams to contribute to their revenue targets IN MEASURABLE WAYS. 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.

To show how your marketing efforts are contributing to the hotel’s revenue, calculate your marketing cost per booking (MCPB). Use this figure to prove your team’s value and make sure you’re given the proper correlated amount of marketing funds next year. 4. You’re Unable (or Afraid) to Discuss Property Upgrades With Owners

For the past few years, major hotel brands have invested millions in revamping their current properties or launching new collections in response to the expectations of modern travelers. With so many of these new or freshly renovated/re-imagined properties vying for your guests’ attention, it’s more important than ever to keep up and stay competitive by offering remarkable experiences, aesthetics and amenities.

It’s vital that your ownership is on board to invest in the necessary renovations, redesigns and upgrades. Or else, don’t be surprised when guests pass you over for the newer kid on the block. No amount of creativity and provocative marketing can mask an aging and tired property.

Remind your ownership of that unavoidable reality in the nicest possible way.


5. You Fail at Rate Parity

We get it.

Managing rates can get complicated. Setting rates every day, for every room, on every channel can easily get overwhelming and confusing. And, not just for you, but your customers, as well. 

Maintaining rate and market parity is vital to your bottom line. If you and your revenue managers fall asleep at the wheel, you can bet you’ll quickly be surrendering revenue.

This is about diligently staying on top of all the channels, using the right automation tools and working with a conscientious revenue manager. Monitor your comp set’s rate strategy weekly to ensure you have market parity.

6. You Are Unable to Increase Meetings and Events Lead Flow Meetings and events are often a hotel’s game changer. And, you know that a single group’s spend on event venues, F&B, guest rooms and other ancillary services can quickly help you meet budget.

But, what if your group sales numbers remain stagnant, leads consistently go cold and sales calls fail to produce interest?

Something is wrong, but it’s nothing that you – a bold, brilliant and boundless hospitality leader – can’t fix. There are numerous ways to get in front of meeting planners, earn their trust and compete for and win their event contracts.

If what you’re doing isn’t working, it’s time to freshen up your sales approach with new tactics. Some of our favorites include:

7. Your Guest Sentiment is Plummeting

Every hotel has their share of negative reviews. But, this doesn’t give you a hall pass to shrug them off. How a hotel decides to manage guest reviews will determine if that property shines or stumbles in the future.

Notice your TripAdvisor score declining or stagnating? This means your owners and management staff have largely ignored the golden nuggets of feedback that guests leave for them. Do guests express their irritation with the noisy air conditioners in the rooms? Are there several complaints about the lackluster breakfast buffet? Do guests often mention a rude staff member?

Frankly, if you receive the same complaint twice, that is already one time too many. Bad service, bad sleep, bad food options and a host of other things can essentially ruin a guest’s opinion of you and their decision whether or not to come back.

Consider your guests as your eyes and ears to the problems that are holding your hotel back. When something is broken, actually fix it. Don’t just promise to ‘look into it,’ then walk away.

 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:

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

10 Secrets of Luxury Hotel Websites (Part 1)

January 24, 2017 • By


Unique amenities, exclusive experiences and personalized service used to be the proprietary domain of luxury hotels … but now these offerings have become mainstream in hotels from midscale upwards.

This means that high-end hospitality brands have had to raise the bar even higher to convey an extraordinary guest experience and differentiate themselves in meaningful ways.

But this isn’t easy in the online world, where pixels alone can't create a luxury experience. Making a webpage feel luxurious is indeed a challenge for many hoteliers.

Whether they are appealing to young affluents or established wealthy travelers, here are the secrets that luxury properties use to engage and convert their direct hotel website visitors:

1) Luxury Hotel Websites Tell a Story When consumers buy luxury goods they are buying into a story. BMW’s story, for example, is crafting luxurious cars. For Rolex, it's a long history of fine Swiss watchmaking. Consumers want to be part of a something with cachet.

Something special and aspirational.

In the same way, affluent customers don’t just book rooms, they seek hotels that offer a story they want to be part of. Luxury hotel brands understand that booking a night on their property isn’t a functional or financial decision – it’s an emotional one. So, they know that their website has to craft a story that transcends the brick and mortar property itself.

2) Luxury Hotel Websites Celebrate F&B

Luxury consumers consider food to be a vital component of their travel experience. So, smart upscale hotel brands know how to showcase their unique food and beverage offerings, including the connection to local, sustainable, and organic markets and purveyors, their chef’s background and inspiration, as well as showing their hotel’s proximity to authentic foodie finds, like local restaurants, farmers markets, etc.

3) Luxury Hotel Websites Emphasize Health and Wellness Affluent guests are invested in keeping a healthy and active lifestyle both at home and on the road. Luxury hotels create experiences centered around their guests’ strive for wellness, including fitness programs like spin classes, outdoor yoga and meditation, nature walks, “bootcamp” classes and special menus focused on clean eating. Spas are also being reinvented as wellness retreats where guests not only get pampered with spa treatments, but indulge in therapies for their mind, body and soul. 4) Luxury Hotel Websites Offer Social Validation

Luxury brands understand the power of social proof. Known as one of the six weapons of influence, social proof is the idea that people are more apt to purchase things that are endorsed by people they trust.

Affluent guests are highly cynical about marketing fluff and hyperbole. But they do trust each other … so they will spend time carefully reading past guest reviews to see what other travelers have experienced before them. They want to know that you are what you say you are and that you’re worthy of their investment. The best way for you to establish trust and “social validation” directly from your website is to prominently showcase select TripAdvisor reviews, previous guests' Instagram photos, respected magazine awards and any major industry accolades.


5) Luxury Hotel Websites Promise to Change the Viewers’ Perspective

While affluent consumers have the ability to buy whatever they want, they invest in the products and experiences that inspire them and promise to change their perspective on life. They don’t just want front-row access to the destination, they want to be a part of it. According to a TripAdvisor study, experiences and the promise of an enhanced perspective are what ultimately drive travelers to pull out their wallets.

Check out this chart from the TripAdvisor study, which shows the disparity between what travelers actually want vs. what hoteliers THINK travelers want:


Luxury hotel brands respond to this desire by showcasing a culturally relevant experience that thrills and excites, rather than simply focusing on their plush beds or the premium coffee in the rooms.

Next week, check back for Part 2 of this article

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:

Guest Experience, hospitality, hotel marketing, Hotel Marketing Advice, Marketing Advice, Uncategorized

Hotel Marketing Lessons From Mom

May 6, 2016 • By
MothersDayMoms think they know best. And, you know what? We agree. In addition to reminding us to clean our rooms, comb our hair, and be nice to our teachers, Moms love to shower us with sage advice and thoughtful quips to get us through any situation. And, it turns out that their advice is directly relevant to our work as hotel marketers as well. Let’s take a look at some of our favorite Mom-isms and see what marketing wisdom lies behind them all: Mom: “Nobody said life was fair.” Hidden Hotel Marketing Advice No matter how much funding, research and staff you invest in a marketing campaign to drive direct bookings, some of them will result in blazing success, while others will fall flat. Don’t cry over your marketing failures, especially when you and your team did your due diligence ahead of time. No matter how careful and resourceful your team is, at some point you just won’t hit the target with your audience. Admit your errors, pick up the pieces, then move forward and try something else. Mom: “Don’t you lie to me!“ Hidden Hotel Marketing Advice Above all else, today’s travelers are looking for authenticity. We live in a world where industry giants are being challenged everyday for their cringe-worthy mistakes or lame publicity stunts. Travelers want to trust who they book a room with, so be real and be worthy of their trust. Your marketing should always exude that you are a destination for remarkable experiences, rather than just a business trying to pull in profits. Whenever someone leaves a guest review calling out your mistakes, admit your fault (if it was your hotel’s fault), tell them how you’re going to fix it, and then do it! Mom: “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?”
 Hidden Hotel Marketing Advice
 Don’t blindly jump on the bandwagon of new marketing trends. You need to first determine if your hotel would benefit from leveraging the new platform, plus if it genuinely aligns to your hotel’s marketing goals and strategy. Be selective when choosing which marketing tactics and tools you’ll implement, and do what’s best for your hotel. Mom: “Who do you think you’re talking to?” Hidden Hotel Marketing Advice It’s surprising how many hotels haven’t taken the time to create any hotel guest personas of their most frequent guests. Before you embark on any marketing idea, even a social media post, everyone on your marketing staff should know exactly who your target customer is, what their likes are, what they hate, what other interests they most likely have and what type of voice they respond to. Brilliant hotel marketing doesn’t happen by mistake. It first takes a deep understanding of who your hotel’s customer really is… Mom: “I brought you into this world. I can take you out of it.”
 Hidden Hotel Marketing Advice
 You are a host – first and foremost. A mistake we see too often in hotel marketing is putting too much emphasis on your property’s self-serving accolades, awards and amenities. But, the focus needs to always be on your guests. They are the reason you’re in business and the reason your hotel could easily go out of business! Mom: “Will you sit still for once?”
 Hidden Hotel Marketing Advice
 When your marketing message and focus are all over the place, you’re making it harder for your guests to grasp your unique selling points and distinguish you from all the other hotels in your comp set. Avoid frantic, flailing marketing tactics. Slow down, create a strategy, determine your channels, gauge results (especially the ones hotel owners care about most), then implement with consistency.

 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:


April Fools: 8 Ways Hotel Marketers Can Avoid Looking Foolish

March 31, 2016 • By


Even the most suspicious and perceptive people can fall for cleverly executed April Fools jokes. 

As hotel marketers, we have so many details, programs and tools to juggle and master. It’s easy to make foolish mistakes. You can fall victim to missed opportunities, budget shortcomings and your own competition stealing business from right under your nose. But we know you’re no fool! And, we want to make sure you are never mistaken for one. So, here are eight things that hotel marketers should always be on top of and never foolish about.

1. Remember the Four P's

We know it’s easy to get buried by all the new marketing apps, social networks and activities your hotel marketing team is investing in. Clear all of that clutter from your mind at least once a day by focusing on your property’s big four marketing pillars: price, product, promotion and placement. Quickly review each, determine which need attention and what you’re currently successful at.

2. Your Revenue Targets

Today’s hotel marketers are now responsible for more than just logos, branding strategies and slick copy. Hotel owners and GMs are holding you accountable for contributing to lead generation and bringing in revenue in a tangible way. This means setting a measurable revenue target and mapping out the marketing activities to get there. Get intimately familiar with your hotel’s sales goals and your KPIs, and be ready to present to your owners how your marketing efforts are contributing to those initiatives. 

3. Your Marketing Budget

One of the most foolish things a hotel marketer does is not asking for the resources they need to hit their revenue targets. Don’t shortchange your department when you’re asked to forecast a marketing budget for the upcoming year. Be true to yourself, your marketing team and their abilities. When management asks you how much to finance towards marketing activities, don’t spit out an arbitrary number or leave it open to negotiation, or else you’ll be struggling to get the results they’re expecting and DIYing marketing assets. Plus, don’t just think about dollars. Funding can come in the form of extra staff, improvements to be made to the hotel product and experience, etc.

4. Your Guests’ Opinions of You

Your hotel is only as good as your guests say it is. In a time when reviews are the most trusted content out there, this is one area you do not want to be ignorant about. Your guests’ experience will directly impact your hotel’s future success. Read your past guest reviews daily, know what people love and hate about their stay, which staff members are offering the best/worst service, and what is dragging down your hotel experience.

5. Your Biggest Group Business Prospects

Group business is big business. Your comp set wouldn’t dare get lazy when it comes to pursuing meetings and event bookings, so you shouldn’t either. In fact, you and your team should be making DAILY progress in wooing your top prospects. Sit down with each sales person, review their room night goals and their top sales opportunities, and go over what the sales person will do that day to push the meeting planner’s decision further in your favor.

6. Your Revenue Management Team and Activities

Your revenue managers are the epicenter of your property’s ability to fly or flounder. They are the ones who will determine not only next week’s revenue, but if your hotel will succeed for the rest of the year. Just as with your sales team, stay on top of your numbers — your hotel’s pace reports, REVPAR & ADR index vs your comp set, and upcoming low periods — with daily (not weekly) meetings with your revenue managers.

7. Your Competition

Today’s travelers are extremely fickle and can be easily swayed by the latest competitor promo. So, never lose track of what your comp set is doing. There are so many tools and tactics at your disposal that there is never a good reason to be taken by surprise when a competitor starts outperforming you. Subscribe to Google Alerts, leverage STR reports, read their reviews, follow their social media feeds and subscribe to their email offers list.

8. Your Online Presence

Think of your hotel website design as having the same impact as your hotel’s exterior. If it appears unwelcoming, messy and confusing, then you shouldn’t be surprised that only a few people are willing to move past all the unsavory blockades. In the same vein, many hotel marketers are completely unaware of all the booking blockades that live on their own website and booking engines. From cluttered homepages, to slow load times, to messy design, to complicated booking procedures, your website could be deterring visitors and killing revenue with one glance. Test your website user experience, review your analytics, find out what is converting guests and where they are likely to bounce.

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:

April Fools, Brand Story, Business, Comp Set, Digital Marketing, Direct Booking, Guest Experience, Hotel Marketing Advice, Hotel Revenue, Hotel Sales and Marketing Compensation, Importance of Web Design, Reputation Management, Web Design

Are You A Hotel Marketing Groundhog?

January 27, 2016 • By


Next week is Groundhog Day.

According to the tradition, a clairvoyant groundhog in Pennsylvania named “Punxsutawney Phil” cautiously emerges from his cozy hideout each year. If Phil sees his shadow and returns to his hole, he predicts six more weeks of winter. If Phil does not see his shadow, he predicts an early spring.

It’s a silly holiday, but a helpful symbolic event for many hotel marketers. After all, you can’t lead your property if you’re hunkered down in your hole or sitting behind your desk, stuck behind closed doors returning emails and analyzing spreadsheets.

Let the brilliance shine and spring into action. Here are three smart ways to get out of that winter rut: 

1. Get out and talk to people… yes, really talk.

Build time each and everyday to walk your property. Chat with guests, find out why they’re visiting, how they found your property, how they’re enjoying their stay and if there is anything that could have been done to improve their experience.

Do the same with your conference space – walk the hallways and mingle with the event planning team and the attendees. Not only can this daily socializing unearth issues that would normally go unnoticed, but also queue up ideas for future marketing campaigns, ancillary services and unique amenities that you would never have discovered being holed up in your office.

2. Review compset properties that are outperforming yours.

Scour their website and, if time permits, stop by for a visit. Find out what they’re offering that your hotel isn’t. What is their staff doing differently? What makes their experience outshine yours? Take a look at what their guests are saying on TripAdvisor, how the hotel is responding and how they communicate on their social media channels. What promotions are they running, what packages do they offer, what are they offering meeting planners?

Read: 6 Ways for Hotel Marketers to Keep An Eye On Their Comp Set

3. Create an authentic, local experience.

If you can’t upgrade your physical property, then enhance your hotel’s programming and destination experience. 

Today’s travelers are hungry for one-of-a-kind experiences, so build packages around immersive activities that give them a true sense of place. What are the locally inspired gems in your neighborhood? Where do the locals love to go? We’re not talking about the famous, big-ticket attractions that everyone already knows about in your destination. We’re talking about the small farm tours, the food tastings at a family-owned restaurant or winery, the tours run by a locally owned tour company.

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:

authentic Travel, Comp Set, Customer Service, Guest Experience, hospitality, hotel marketing, Reputation Management

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

January 11, 2016 • By


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:

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

10 Things Hotel Marketers Want For Christmas

December 22, 2014 • By
Hotel Marketers Christmas 30 years of holiday decorating. 30 Christmas trees in the Tambourine offices. 30 years of clinking eggnog-filled glasses. After all these years, We’ve developed our own Christmas tradition. We like to gather ‘round and check the Christmas lists of our fellow hotel marketers. While the items have changed immensely since 1984, (nobody wants a dot matix printer or box of floppies this year,) the sentiment behind the list stays the same… Hotel marketers want things that make their guests happy, their jobs easier and their hotels prosper. This year is no different. We asked around to see what’s on this year’s hotel marketing Christmas list and this is what we found:

1. Acknowledgement for all the responsibilities of a hotel marketer:

It’s not about ego. It’s about progress. Marketers aren’t looking for a pat on the back. What they need this Christmas is for executives, owners and hotel asset managers to understand all that falls under the job of marketing. When management truly understands the resources required, the marketing department usually gets the team and the budget required to keep up with technology and move forward.

2. More direct bookings:

Hotel marketers are tired of putting in the work and watching OTAs profit. Yes, OTAs bring in an important stream of business, but at a high price. Direct bookings bring in more revenue and are more likely the product of loyal fans. Marketers want all the guest information that comes with a direct booking. So, it’s easier to encourage them to book directly the next time.

3. The continued decline of gas prices:

Not everyone can take a sleigh ride to your hotel. Whether your guests have a per diem set by the corporate accountant or by the family checkbook, the decline in gas prices is good news for hotel marketers! The drive-in trip to your hotel is less expensive than it’s been in years. Guests have more money to spend on your rooms and amenities. And they feel better doing it!

4. Global prosperity:

Global economies continue to prosper… and hotel marketers hope it stays that way! Bullish consumers and prosperous businesses take more trips and owners feel confident in reinvesting in property and product improvements.

5. A spike in your TripAdvisor ranking:

Whether you’re stuck on page six or hovering at number two, this year you want to see your TripAdvisor ranking go up. It’s time you were on page one. And if you’ve been on page one hoping to move up to that coveted number one spot, you’re asking yourself if this could be the year you make it to the top.

6. Automated everything:

Some days you feel like Rudolph, the elves, and Santa. You guide your team, build the campaigns and make guests happy. You do the job of an entire North Pole of workers! Since you can’t clone yourself to complete all of these tasks, (and Santa seems unwilling to share his elves), automation has become a necessity. From automated revenue management systems to automated content promotion, hotel marketers want systematic help this Christmas. There’s nothing like a trusted system to help get everything done.

7. Bigger data with a simpler management system:

Like Santa, you want to give your customers what they want. Unlike Santa, you can’t know when they are sleeping and when they’re awake. Or can you? Big data wavers between exciting and daunting. You can now know more about your guests than ever before. You can target your marketing not only to their demographic, but also to individual guests. It feels foolproof, until you start to consider the immense possibilities. This year, hotel marketers want to reign in all of this information, so it is usable in a realistic way.

8. Accuracy and sanity on TripAdvisor and other review sites:

Whether it’s another hotel in your comp set or a misunderstood guest drunk on internet power, inaccurate reviews are frustrating. Once something is on the internet, it’s difficult to combat. One upside of the increased popularity of these sites is guests are becoming savvier when reading reviews. This year several stories of overly critical customers went viral much to the embarrassment of the guest. While no hotel wants to see a negative review of their hotel, this year marketers wish for even more public discernment when reading reviews.

9. To cash in on the authenticity trend:

The authenticity trend often lures in unexpected business, because travelers seek an out of the ordinary experience. The authentic traveler can fill gaps during slow periods. A small hotel in Maine might typically see a drop in business in winter. It’s the authentic traveler who wants to get to know the locals instead of other tourists that boosts winter revenue.

10. The steady cash drip of more corporate accounts:

You’d love to have Santa stay with you. It’d be even holly and jollier if he brought his whole corporation—Donner, Blitzen, and the elves. Corporate accounts are like a safety net for many hotels. You may not make as much per sale, but once a corporate account is in place they practically market themselves. Plus, you never pay OTA fees and they bring in year-round business. Did you know Santa reads our hotel marketing blog? He’s a big fan. So let us know what’s on your Christmas list. And we’ll make sure he’s checkin’ it twice. 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:

authentic Travel, Increase Direct Bookings, OTA, Top 10, tripadvisor

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. 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:

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

What Do Hotel Marketers Want for Christmas?

December 20, 2013 • By

TambourineWhatMarketersWantforChristmasWhat do hotel marketers want for Christmas?

Before we break for the holidays, we asked our staff, client GMs, revenue managers, hotel owners and partners to tell us what's at the top of their professional holiday wish list. The answers might surprise you!
  1. A sympathetic ear: Many of the hotel marketers we surveyed asked for something very simple and poignant: they asked to be heard. Too often, decisions are made by owners or more senior execs without asking the opinion of the sales and marketing team actually responsible for revenue goals. The most common complaint? Budget mandates being passed down with no say in the resources required to achieve the budget.
  2. More corporate accounts: Even though they get significantly discounted rates, businesses that send a steady flow of travelers are deeply desirable to hotel marketers. Their contracts and year-round arrivals form a healthy baseline for many of the folks who responded to our holiday wish list question.
  3. Lower OTA fees: We may solve world peace and find a cure to cancer before most hotel marketers find a way to significantly reduce their OTA commissions, but this item is a clear indication of the frustration hotel leaders have with their ongoing inability to shift share from OTAs to direct revenue.
  4. A #1 TripAdvisor ranking: Unfortunately, Santa's little elves' can only conjure up one of these for every market!
  5. Less fraud on TripAdvisor: Scoundrels who surreptitiously post false reviews on their comp set's page is dirty business, but apparently still all too common based on our survey results. TripAdvisor claims they are doing everything they can to resolve the issue.
  6. Automated revenue management software: Most properties we spoke to have various degrees of manual labor involved in their rate setting and distribution activity. Quite a few told us they would love a more intelligent solution that truly automated competitive analysis, rate updates and dynamic distribution across all channels.
  7. A simpler data dashboard: So many sources of data… so little time to analyze it all! A number of hotel marketers would be happy campers if they woke up on Christmas morning with a simple, plug-and-play dashboard with all their KPIs in one safe place.
  8. Better F&B: The desire for branded, upgraded F&B outlets was a common request in our informal survey. The explosive growth of "foodie" travelers and consumer demand for healthier food is surely driving this…
  9. Economic prosperity: Things are looking up for global economies… and hotel marketers hope it stays that way! Bullish consumers and prosperous businesses take more trips and owners feel confident in reinvesting in property and product improvements.
  10. Lower airfares: The cost of airfare is an intrinsic part of any hotel/vacation product. High airfares, reduced capacity, new taxes or municipal landing fees can wreak havoc on your P&L, especially if you are a resort far from your top feeder markets.
Tell us what's on your holiday wish list and we'll send you our favorite Egg Nog recipe (think 151 Rum)! Happy Holidays!

About Tambourine

Tambourine drives revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide using advanced marketing technology. The firm is celebrating its 30-year anniversary. For more information, visit

OTA, Top 10, TripAdvisor Fraud