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July 17, 2014 / BSP Marketing

Five Ways the New Facebook Layout Affects Hotels

Facebook can be a powerful marketing tool, but hotels should be aware of how recent changes will affect their performance on this social media site.

Facing Facebook ChangesAny hotel that is committed to growth understands the potential of Facebook. Because of this, some recent changes to Facebook are of great importance to hotels. Although some of the changes may seem dramatic, it is essential to understand the nature of the changes and their full scope. To help make sense of things, here is the breakdown in five simple points.

1. Feed layout. One of the most visible changes is to the content feed. This is the main part of any Facebook account, where users can post their own content. Previously, the content feed was broken up in order to provide different outlets for posts and status updates. In the updated version, however, all this content has been streamlined into one column. This shift makes the page less cluttered. Now users will be able to see all content, including posts, videos and photos, in one centralized location.

2. More contact information. The left column has always been reserved for personal information at a glance. However, with the new layout, there is more space for information. In particular, hotels can now include a full address and phone number in addition to their hours of operation. There is even a map feature, which can display the location. Other information that can be displayed includes likes, visits, posts from other users and more. This long list of possible customizations makes it easy for hotels to pick the items that are most relevant to their overall marketing plan. Part of this redesign means that the apps tab has been relocated from the top to the left side. This can make it harder for users to find, but its new location on the expanded left side is very intuitive for most visitors.

3. Updated header design. The top of the page has also received an overhaul. Buttons are now included on the cover photo to make it fully interactive. The information on the header now includes the hotel name and industry. Users will also have the option to use “like,” “follow” and “message” buttons on the cover photo. There is also a new drop down menu to give users other options, which can include a review, apps and more. Because all of this is now located on top of the cover photo, it is important to choose your picture with even more care. Look to see where these buttons appear in order to avoid a photo with too much detail in that area.

4. New administrative options. There is also a new range of administrative tools that can be better employed by hotels on Facebook. Now it is easy to see more information about your page with minimal effort. In particular, hotels can use a handy administrative panel to see how many likes and other notifications they have received. Private messages and unread posts are also visible in this area. These tools can give administrators the power to see how well ads may be functioning on the page. There are even more ways to see who is visiting your page and where they are from. All of this information can show how effective the Facebook page is, which can lead to future changes and more effective marketing strategies.

5. Advanced tracking capabilities. The updates also allow hotels to track other users more carefully. It is now easy to monitor as many pages as desired, which can give hotels the opportunity to stay up to date with other hotels on Facebook. This is more than just reading the posts of rival hotels, but actually includes details about how many posts they have published and how many likes they have received. This analysis can show what works and what does not, giving hotels even more ideas to help their own marketing development. This feature is included under the Insights tab, and other users will not know they are being watched.

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June 2, 2014 / BSP Marketing

Hotel Brands in the Future – What Will Hoteliers Have to Do to Survive

Future Hotel Brands SuccessIt is safe to say that you will receive the same high-level of service whether you are staying in a Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco, Paris, Budapest or Hong Kong. The Four Seasons brand is well-established. Both business and leisure travelers, who are looking for luxury accommodations, know what to expect when they check in to any Four Seasons Hotel or Resort anywhere in the world. The reason the Four Seasons has such a loyal following is because they deliver on the promise of their brand.

The hotel industry is comprised of many well-known brands as well as many unbranded properties. It is dangerous to draw any conclusions about whether you will have a more enjoyable stay if you choose a branded hotel or a family-run hotel, without a well-known brand, two blocks away. In Deloitte’s Hospitality 2015 report entitled, Game Changers or Spectators, the role that branding will play on the future success of hotels was discussed in detail. The key points of the study center on the difference between the mass market and luxury market, the emergence of Lifestyle brands, and the use of social media.

Build Brand Loyalty

It takes money and time to create and build a strong brand. Over the years, some of the world’s most successful companies like McDonald’s and Coca Cola have spent millions, if not billions, protecting, promoting and improving their brand’s image. Every customer that orders a Big Mac at McDonald’s knows that they will get the exact same Big Mac in San Diego, Miami or Mountain View. A loyal Coke drinker will not buy a Pepsi or any other type of cola drink. Without their brand, McDonald’s and Coca Cola would be just another hamburger joint or soda company. Brand loyalty is what every non-generic company wants.

In the hotel industry, brand loyalty tends to be a greater choice factor for travelers who stay at luxury hotels and not as important for travelers who stay in economy or more modestly priced hotels (mass market). The person who chooses to stay at high-end hotels is more interested in the experience than the price. The person who chooses to stay in more modest accommodations is more interested in the price than the experience.

Mass market hotels attract hotel guests primarily because of price and location. Other than price, and possibly location, they do not perceive much of a difference between staying in one two-star hotel or another two-star hotel. People who book rooms in two or three-star hotels are looking for a comfortable bed, a clean room and competent service. Brand loyalty is low as this large group of travelers are driven more by the cost to stay overnight than having a special experience.

Major hotel operators recognize that there is opportunity to build brand loyalty in every market segment. Almost every major chain participates in a loyalty program where guests earn points and rewards each time they stay. Hoteliers can also help build their brand and differentiate themselves from their competitors by adding value to a guest’s stay. Common extras that guests enjoy include such things as free in-room WiFi and continental breakfasts.

Turning to the luxury segment, the best way to build brand loyalty is to offer guests something they want that they can not get at your competitor’s hotel. Individuals stay at high-priced hotels because they want a wonderful experience. Almost every top-of-the-line hotel has high thread-count sheets and comfortable beds. They have business centers, exercise equipment, swimming pools, a bar, and a nice restaurant.

It is not always easy to differentiate your hotel from that of your competitor’s hotel, but that is the key to creating brand loyalty in the luxury hotel market. Hotels have to work hard to know their guests and understand what really makes them happy. Instead of putting chocolates on the pillows, surprise your guest with a gift basket of unique local items. Go the extra step and slip your guest’s home town newspaper under the door so he’ll have something familiar to read with breakfast. Use your imagination to create good experiences and positive impressions for your guest.

Another reason why companies pay so much attention to differentiating themselves from other brands is that the luxury hotel market has become very saturated in many of the major cities in the United States.

• 11 branded luxury hotels in New York City
• 9 branded luxury hotels in San Francisco
• 8 branded luxury hotels in Washington D.C.
• 6 branded luxury hotels in Boston

Competition is fierce for the traveler who can afford to stay in the most expensive hotels in these cities. The available pool of guests who stay at luxury hotels is only a small fraction of the pool of guests who stay at more modest hotels.

Consider Building a Lifestyle Brand

Many hotel groups are already pouring money into building lifestyle brands into their family of hotels. This rapidly growing brand has achieved RevPAR that is about 25 percent greater than other hotel brands. Lifestyle hotels are designed to enhance a guest’s stay by offering such things as healthier menus, recreational activities and in-room exercise equipment. Many such hotels are environmentally friendly and the staff is very conscientious of their guest’s needs. Some of the popular Lifestyle hotels are:

• Starwood lifestyle hotels include W Hotels, Aloft Hotels and Element
• IHG has Hotel Indigo
• Marriott has Edition
• Hyatt has Andaz Hotels

Use Social Media Effectively

It is common practice for almost every hotel brand to have an active presence on social media sites. If done properly, a good social media strategy can enhance a hotels name and brand recognition, create loyal customers, and drive profits. Social media can also be a two-edged sword. If your hotel disappoints guests, and does nothing to remedy the situation, that can quickly erode brand loyalty. Today, and in the future, hoteliers must pay close attention to how they use social media.

In the future, hotels will have to step-up their game in order to not fall behind their competition. Hotels that differentiate themselves from their competition by providing better service, better value, and better guest experiences, will prosper. Hotels that do not do such a good job will lose business and struggle to survive.

Articles/Photos/Graphics Copyright ©2014 – All Rights Reserved

May 31, 2014 / BSP Marketing

US Hotel Industry Happy to See Higher International Visitor Count in 2014

January 2014 Totals Beat January 2013 Totals by Six Percent.

The US Department of Commerce recently announced that the number of international visitors in January of 2014 beat the January 2013 international visitor count by six percent. Over 4 million of the total 5.1 million international visitors to the United States came from just 10 countries.

International Airport Terminal
Canada and Mexico, countries that both share a common border with the United States, held the top two spots. China was a very distant third on the list. The list below shows the top 10 countries, the number of visitors to the US in January 2014, and the percentage change from January 2013.

Canada …………………..                1,580,761          0%
Mexico ……………………               1,228,663         +8%
Japan ………………………              270,598            -3%
People’s Republic of China ….. 221,705            +33%
Brazil …………………….                208,646            +2%
United Kingdom ……………..      186,438            +3%
South Korea …………………         138,917             +10%
Germany …………………….          89,069              +4%
Australia …………………..             81,167               +3%
Argentina ……………………          71,538               +11%

Notable among the US Department of Commerce figures is the big year-over-year increase for China in the month of January and Japan’s slight drop in total visitors from the prior year. South Korea, with a 10% increase, further illustrates the growing number of Asians interested in visiting the United States.

You must remember that these numbers only represent one month of an entire year. According to the National Travel and Tourism Office’s 2014 Spring Travel Forecast, there were annual international visitor count to the US in 2013 was 69.7 million, an increase of 3 million over calendar year 2012. The forecast for all of 2014 calls for 72.2 million international visitors.

Canada and Mexico accounted for almost 55% of all international visitors in January 2014. Overseas visitors made up the remaining 45% of the total 5.1 million January, 2014 international visitors to the United States. Miami, New York, and Los Angeles ports once again accounted for 41% of all overseas arrivals.

More visitors mean more money for the tourism and hospitality industry. California, for instance, is the most popular US destination for Chinese travelers. Hotels are doing their best to cater to the Chinese traveler, in part because they stay longer and spend more than travelers from almost any other country.

A combination of factors may explain the steady rise of international travel and tourism to the United States. Recognizing the importance of international tourism to the economy, President Obama issued an executive order that encouraged and made it easier for more international citizens to visit the United States. America has devoted a substantial amount of resources in many countries to help market and promote travel to the US. The standard of living is going up in places like South Korea and China, making it possible for more people to travel abroad.

While hoteliers in the United States are not throwing big parties or setting off fire works to celebrate the positive January 2014 international visitation numbers, they are smiling a little more. The hotel industry welcomes every guest from all corners of the world.

Articles/Photos/Graphics Copyright ©2015 – All Rights Reserved 

May 16, 2014 / BSP Marketing

Will US Hotels be Able to Sustain 2013 Growth Rates in 2014

STR and Tourism Economics Predict Slower RevPAR Growth in 2014/2015

Growth Rates 2014 Hospitality IndustryA forecast predicting that revenue per available room (RevPAR) will continue to grow at a decreasing rate in 2014 and 2015 is no reason to panic. Although the US hotel industry will face challenges if STR and Tourism Economics analysis of industry trends is correct, there will still be growth.

According to the forecast model, RevPAR growth for 2014 is expected to come in at 5.3 percent in 2014 and 4.7 percent in 2015. In 2013, STR/Tourism Economics was overly optimistic when it predicted 5.8 percent growth and the actual number came in at 5.5 percent. Actual demand growth for 2013 was 2.3 percent, which was better than expectations for a 2.1 percent growth in demand. For 2014, the forecast for the growth in demand for hotel rooms is predicted to be 2.2 percent.

Why Do the Numbers Matter so Much?

Hotel owners, executives, managers, and investors all pay close attention to RevPAR, ADR (average daily room rates), and occupancy rates to measure hotel performance. For those closely involved with daily operations, keeping track of monthly data can help them recognize early trends and perhaps take steps to avoid problems in the future. For investors, the numbers are an indication of the health of individual brands as well as the lodging industry as a whole.

Monthly Reports

Hendersonville, Tennessee-based, Smith Travel Research (STR) is a leading provider of data and market analysis for the hotel industry. Just about every large hotel chain and many smaller hotel operators anxiously await the newest monthly reports. Positive numbers for all three key performance metrics for the hotel industry– RevPAR, Occupancy, and ADR – were reported for March, 2014 by Smith Travel Research.

March 2014 RevPAR

In March of 2014, US hotels saw a 7.2 percent increase in revenue per available room as compared to the same period in the prior year. In dollar figures, RevPAR was up $4.92 from $70.39 in March, 2013 to $75.31 in March, 2014. The surprising gain was attributed, at least in part, to the luck of the calendar.

In 2013, both Easter and Passover began near the end of March. Recognizing that many employees would be inconvenienced if they had to travel and attend business meetings and conferences, meeting planners pushed those meetings into early April. While the influx of business travelers drove RevPAR up in April, 2013, it hurt business in March of 2013. In 2014, just the opposite situation took place. Both Passover and Easter started in April of 2014. Business planners loaded-up on March business meetings and travel and that skewed the March, 2014 RevPAR number higher.

March’s excellent figures can be attributed to both a surge in business and the pricing power of the hotel industry. Hotel managers were able to raise their average daily rates while also enjoying some growth in occupancy rates. While April, 2014 RevPAR figures were not yet available at the time this article was written, it is expected that, when published, they will be more subdued.

Looking at the Top 25 Markets, RevPAR increased year-over-year by at least 15 percent in the following cities.

• Denver was up 37 percent to $82.56
• Nashville was up 23.9 percent to $92.17
• Atlanta was up 20.4 percent to $66.32
• Dallas was up 17.9 percent to $69.85
• St. Louis was up by 15.7 percent to $60.93
• Houston was up by 15.3 percent to $84.48

While many other Top 25 Markets saw positive growth rates, one city stood out because it had a negative growth rate of 8.3 percent, down to $180.21. Can you guess? New York took first prize for the biggest decline in RevPAR for the month of March, 2014.

March 2014 Occupancy Rates

In 2014, occupancy rates grew by 2.9 percent in year-over-year comparisons for the month of March. The rate increased from 63.7 percent in 2013 to 65.3 percent in 2014. Denver showed the most improvement with an 18.4 percent increase to 75.7 percent and Atlanta followed with an 11 percent increase to 72.4 percent. Miami and New York City tied for the dubious distinction of having the lowest (negative) occupancy growth rates of -3.5 percent. Nonetheless, both Miami, with an occupancy rate of 85.8 percent, and New York, with an occupancy rate of 81.2 percent, far exceeded the national occupancy rate of 65.3 percent.

Occupancy rates can be affected by many factors including the supply of new rooms and the popularity of a particular destination. With more than 50 million annual visitors, New York will have a higher than average occupancy rate even with temporary dips in the occupancy growth rates. Bad weather can explain a weak occupancy growth rate and the economy might also influence travel habits. Averages are fine for establishing a baseline number, but to know how your hotel is doing, you have to compare your historical numbers to the current numbers and then compare your hotel’s occupancy rate to that of the other competitors in your local market.

March 2014 ADR

The average daily rate for March, 2014 grew by 4.1 percent when measured against the March, 2013 average daily rate. ADR for March of 2013 was $110.57 and it rose to $115.28 for March of 2014. ADR growth rates for March of 2014 were greater than 10 percent in five of the Top 25 Markets that were analyzed by STR.

• Denver was up 15.7 percent to $109.00
• New Orleans was up 14.8 percent to $169.04
• Nashville was up 14.7 percent to $117.15
• San Francisco/San Mateo was up 11.0 percent to $185. 59
• Houston was up 10.4 percent to $108.29

New York City fared the worst with a 5.0 percent decline in ADR, dropping to $222.02

April 2014 STR Pipeline Report

US hotel development is moving forward at a steady report as evidenced by the positive April, 2014 pipeline report. The pipeline report includes projects under construction, and in the planning stage, but does not include projects in the unconfirmed stage. For the month, 3,174 projects, representing 383,348 new rooms, were either under construction or in the planning phase. Compared to April, 2013, there were 16 percent more rooms under contract and a 42.6 percent jump in rooms under construction.

Upscale and Upper Midscale properties dominated the increase in hotel development projects, representing 68 percent of all rooms under construction and 60 percent of rooms in the final planning stage. Compared to April of 2013, the number of rooms under construction in April, 2014 was up by more than 50 percent.

One segment that did not fare well in year-over-year comparisons was Economy hotels. There were only 899 rooms under construction in April of 2014, representing a 22 percent decrease in new rooms under construction in April of 2013.

Looking ahead for the rest of 2014 and 2015, growth in the hotel industry is slowly coming down from previously higher levels. RevPAR is still expected to grow by about 5 percent over the next 18 months. Some cities, like Denver and Nashville, should do much better than the average, while New York may struggle to meet the 5 percent national growth rate.

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May 8, 2014 / BSP Marketing

How to be Successful in the Hospitality Industry

Hospitality Industry Success Tips 2015Success in the hospitality industry starts at the top. Senior management calls the shots and sets the tone. If the staff isn’t happy, the customer knows it and revenues fall. It goes without saying that managers need to know the business, but how many know how to build and inspire a team?

First of all, managers need to look less at an applicant’s resume and more at the character of a person. Anyone can learn specific skills; developing a recluse into a team player is a much harder task. Look for qualities that promote excellence and team cohesiveness.

Managers should strive to surround themselves with people who are smarter than they are. Strong egos are an asset in a leader, but self-evaluation is absolutely necessary. Leaders must develop their own strengths and hire others to fill in the gaps. The hospitality business is too complex for any one person to master it all.

Once the team is in place, continually inspire them to do better. Reward them for their successes and give credit where credit is due. Let the spotlight shine on other people and praise their accomplishments. Treat them well, and they will treat the guests well. Happy guests are good for business.

Senior managers need to get out of the office and walk the hallways. Be visible and accessible. Talk to the staff and guests. Listen to them. Read the comment cards. Find out what the competition is saying. View problems as an opportunity for growth. There’s always room for improvement, even at the top.

Address issues quickly and train the staff to do the same. Procrastination is never good for any business. In today’s world, guests have easy access to online travel sites. Avoid bad reviews by taking action. Acting too quickly is better than not acting at all.

Delivering a quality product is never easy. However, hiring quality people and showing them that they are appreciated will go a long way toward creating an inviting environment for the guests. Pay attention to the details for they are the building blocks of a successful business.

Follow all these Tips and your Hotel will Be Successful

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May 3, 2014 / BSP Marketing

Strong Summer 2014 Predicted for Hoteliers

2014 Growth Predicted In The Hospitality Industry This SummerTripAdvisor recently released the results of its annual summer survey, and it is good news for the travel industry. Of the more than 2,500 people who responded, a large percentage plan to take a vacation trip over the Memorial Day weekend (34 percent) or during the summer (89 percent). These numbers reflect a 7 percent increase over last year in Memorial Day travel, and a 6 percent increase in summer vacation travel. The best news is that sixty-nine percent of vacation travelers intend to stay in a hotel. The rest intend to stay with people they know or in a rental property.
The harsh winter that many people experienced this year is the inspiration for 18 percent of the travelers who want to leave town. Consequently, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that beaches are the planned destination for 45 percent of those who participated in the survey. Forty-two percent favor cities, and 21 percent want to explore a national park. Lakes and resorts comprise an additional 31 percent of favored types of locations. Seventy-one percent replied that they plan to go to a new location this year.
Statistical data confirms the stated preferences. According to TripAdvisor’s analysis of its website searches, the 10 top vacation sites for summer travelers this year are Myrtle Beach, Las Vegas, New York City, Destin, Ocean City, Orlando, Virginia Beach, San Francisco, San Diego and Key West. Our teams in Las Vegas, San Francisco and San Diego stand ready to welcome these guests.
Fifty-four percent of the survey respondents want to shop during their trip, and 36 percent plan to spend more on their vacation this year than last year. Restaurants can benefit from this intent to splurge by increasing their supply of favorite summertime foods and beverages for the hungry and tired shoppers. Ice cream, lobster and watermelon rank highest in the edibles’ category while beer, margaritas and lemonade top the list of preferred liquid refreshment.

The forecast looks promising, so let’s get ready for a busy and profitable summer.

 2014 Growth Predicted in the Hospitality Industry This Summer

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April 23, 2014 / BSP Marketing

Effective Blogging Can Increase Hotels’ Revenues

Effective Blogging Can Increase Hotels RevenuesThe hospitality industry is wearing blinders. For whatever reason, many hoteliers are failing to incorporate blogging into their marketing strategies. Perhaps they are overlooking this advertising approach because it’s inexpensive and only takes a few minutes a day. Perhaps their existing static website doesn’t have a blogging capability. If that’s the case, consider this a call to action. Hire a software developer to modify the existing platform or to create a dedicated blog site. Stop paying commissions and offering discounted rates through travel agents. Companies that use a blog effectively can generate their own business leads at minimal cost.

Travelers want to read about an area. Write about upcoming concerts, shows or tours. Let the public know if there’s a change in venue or performers. Perhaps there are neighborhood restaurants or bars that are particularly appealing. The blog can serve as a written concierge service and direct guests (and prospective guests) to the best the area has to offer. Ideally, the blog will allow comments by its readers that require management approval before they post and become visible on the site. This provides the hotel a chance to control the content while engaging positive readers in an ongoing conversation.

The overall goal of the blog is to generate frequently updated pages of relevant content. The topics will keep the readers interested and encourage visitors, but the number of frequently updated pages will improve the visibility of the hotel on the Internet. An active blog may even eliminate the need to pay for Google AdWords.

Google is one example of an Internet search engine that indexes all the material it can find online. The more often a keyword or phrase is published, the easier it is for the search engines to find related material when a user types in appropriate search words. For example, if the blogger includes the name of the hotel in all its blogs, the indexes get better at retrieving links that point back to those blog pages when a prospective guest types in the hotel’s name. As the number of indexed pages mentioning the hotel’s name increases, searchers will see links to the hotel’s website more often and links to discount reservation sites less often; this should generate more revenue for the hotel.

BLOGGING AINT EASYIf management decides to use a stand-alone blog site, WordPress is a good choice for inexpensive, flexible software. It is probably best to hire a developer who’s a WordPress expert because he can easily design a page that reflects the character of the hotel. Multimedia sites attract more visitors, so include the ability to add pictures, videos and audio clips to the postings. Don’t forget to include a link back to the main website. The developer can also recommend tag lines for the posts that may help improve the search engines’ optimizations and increase the visibility of the site on the Internet.

The WordPress community itself can contribute to the success of a business. Millions of worldwide WordPress bloggers re-post blogs and bookmark favorite pages. In addition, management can publish the blogs to other social media sites including Facebook and Twitter. A well-done site can generate an enthusiastic following in a relatively short period of time.

Once the blog goes live, it should be maintenance free. Bionic Sisters Productions already know how to draft effective marketing material so blogging is just another tool in their arsenal. Go out and embrace the technology. It’s easy, effective and may even be fun.

Articles/Photos/Graphics Copyright ©2015 – All Rights Reserved Bionic Sisters Productions
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