Technology and online hospitality experts believe many hoteliers are losing business and wasting opportunities when it comes to technology.
Speaking to Hotelier Middle East before Arabian Travel Market - where a Technology Theatre will host technology experts - CEO of Evision Worldwide, Vikram Singh, said hotels were “usually focused on the wrong things, putting short-term gains ahead of long-term strategy”.
“Guests are getting smarter about researching and buying travel, but hotels are not keeping up (Expedia is). Hotels need to stay educated on how the online travel industry and their own guests are evolving. If they can’t do this, getting direct bookings will become more and more difficult,” he asserted.
“Also, there are still a lot of hotel e-commerce managers that don’t pay enough attention to their own website stats — basic information that will help them determine their marketing performance, growth potential and new/emerging markets such as distribution and geographical markets.”
Singh said that not enough effort was being made to understand how online marketing works, adding that North America had been online marketing for more than six years, but the companies there are still doing the same things they did six years ago, while consumers had changed their buying habits.
“Their understanding of search engines, social media and OTAs (online travel agencies) is flawed to a point where channels that should work closely together are being managed by different departments or vendors,” he continued.
Frommers Unlimited director EMEA, Giles Longhurst, said you could suggest that filling your hotel has never been so easy in terms of routes to market, but managing yield while remaining competitive was key.
“The biggest challenges hoteliers face in marketing themselves online is the number of distribution channels they need to manage and optimise their business for,” he says.
“Hoteliers have always needed to juggle occupancy levels against room rate and this has only become harder with the combination of GDS distribution models, OTA demands, direct marketing via websites, mobile, newsletters etc. and now the group deals and flash sale sites.”
Paul Richer, senior partner of travel technology consultancy, Genesys, believed that there are still hotels who hadn’t worked out how to overcome the two main challenges when a potential customer reaches their websites.
“The first is to convey sufficiently compelling information about the hotel so that the potential customer is persuaded to book,” he explained.
“This should include all the text information, images — perhaps photographs and video — that the potential customer will wish to see. The second challenge is to implement a booking system that is easy-to-use and puts no obstacles in the way of the customer completing the booking process.”
While these challenges may sound fairly simple to overcome, Richer warned that “there is plenty that can go wrong”.
“I have seen hotel websites that have lacklustre images, for example, room shots that are yellow from tungsten lighting, so looking very old, videos that are amateurish and boring and a navigation structure that makes it difficult to work one's way through the information.
“Booking processes can easily become too complex, for example, presenting a bewildering array of room types and board plans,” he added.