Hospitality Hot Reads: iPhone 6, Net RevPAR and ProPAR

Here's what I'm reading this week to stay aware of emerging trends and opportunities:

Travel Weekly Consumer Trends 2014: Explosion in Mobile Bookings
With the launch of the new iPhone 6 by Apple this week, larger phones and "phablets" will continue to gain mobile share. The larger interface is a great canvas for hospitality sites and apps, which rely on rich media and large photos. Phablets have just 6% of the market share but 11% of the app usage, meaning owners of these devices are heavily device dependent and actively engaged.

Measuring Acquisition Cost alongside RevPAR
As focus shifts from gross revenue to net profit, acquisition cost per room night has come under more scrutiny. Is it acceptable to measure total RevPAR, or should hoteliers focus more closely on net RevPAR and ProPAR (Profit per available room)? This is a very intriguing topic and one conversation that most revenue managers are not fully prepared to have with their ownership.

Sea Change
A detailed discussion of new benchmarks for hoteliers, including ProPAR, ProPOR (profit per occupied room), Net RevPAR, Net RevPOR, and COA (cost of acquisition). This article, along with the previous piece, represent a strategic shift in revenue management. Great read.

10. September 2014 by Kevin Donahue
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TripAdvisor insights on Hotel Guest Engagement

TripAdvisor has compiled a study of guest engagement and found several key factors that drive hotel guest engagement on the review site.

Among the key findings, management responses to TripAdvisor reviews can drive bookings on the site by more than 20% Click to Tweet. Specifically, hotels that responded to guest reviews were 21% more likely to receive a booking via TripAdvisor than hotels that did not respond to reviews. And properties that respond to over 50 percent of their reviews further increase their likelihood of receiving a booking inquiry by 24 percent over those that did not respond.

In addition to creating guest engagement, management responses to reviews seems to have a "halo" effect of higher review ratings. Hotels that regularly responded to reviews from guests have consistently higher reviews as well. From the study:

0% response rate = 3.81 average review rating
5%-40% response rate = 4.04 average review rating
40% – 65% = 4.05 average review rating
65%+ response rate = 4.15 average review rating.

Additionally, hotels with photo displayed on the TripAdvisor site saw a 138 percent increase in guest engagement vs. properties without photos. And for those hotels with more than 1000 photos, the guest engagement factor is a 203 percent increase over those with no photos.

As past studies have shown, the impact of guest reviews on both hotel ADR and RevPAR are significant, so any increase in reviews represents a very meaningful impact for hoteliers and management companies.

In a release, TripAdvisor for Business President Marc Charron tied guest engagement directly to management/owner engagement on the website. "Looking at the results of this study, a clear theme emerges: the more engaged the business owner, the more interested the traveler," said Marc Charron, President, TripAdvisor for Business. "It’s no secret that traveler want to see pictures and read reviews of a property before making their booking decision. What’s really key is the upward trend in average review ratings, traveler engagement levels and booking inquiries on the site, the more frequently a hotel owner responds to reviews. Taking part in the conversation and demonstrating that the owner cares about feedback has a very real and measurable effect on converting a traveler from a casual browser into a potential guest."

08. September 2014 by Kevin Donahue
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How to Structure a Contract for a Hotel Group Buyout

Last month I participated in a LinkedIn group discussion with a meeting planner who was seeking advice on how to structure a contract for a hotel group buyout. Like any hospitality contract question, there isn't a "default" answer for group buyouts. The most important element for both meeting planners and hoteliers is to approach the event as a partnership, with a mutually beneficial contract and good pre-event communication.

Based on the strong feedback I have received from my answer, I've taken the liberty of sharing the question and my response in context on how to structure a hotel contract for a group venue buyout.

Group Meeting Planner:
Hi! I am in the process of negotiating a contract for a "virtual" venue buy out for a staff retreat. I say "virtual" because we'll take 100% of sleeping rooms and all meeting space for our program but the outlets (restaurant, marina, etc) will remain open and available to outside guests.

Any tips/advice/clauses that I should include? I obviously want to protect the sleeping rooms, meeting space and full use of the resort for our use. However I also don't want to get stuck with unused rooms/space if for some unforeseen reason our group size is reduced.

Thanks!

My Response:
In my experience, a buyout is very much a partnership arrangement with your venue and no two events are exactly alike.

In your specific example, you are looking to ensure full exclusivity – rooms, space, facilities – and mitigate all of your risk at the same time. I see these as competing priorities and it may be necessary for you to evaluate the importance of each.

It may also be beneficial to understand that the venue is taking on risk as well. In allocating the totality of their facility to you, they "risk" the opportunity to sell to other groups/guests at a higher rate. They also "risk" lost revenues if your group size is reduced.

If exclusivity is most important to your group, it is absolutely reasonable to expect that the venue will ask you to fully guarantee all of your rooms and your banquet minimum, both with no attrition allowance. This should ensure full use of the facilities without interruption from other guests and ensure the expected revenues to the venue. (WIN-WIN)

If it is more important to mitigate risk from reduced group size, then I suggest working with the venue to establish a reasonable attrition allowance that permits the hotel to resell your unused rooms/space. The venue will mitigate its risk through resell and there would likely be other guests in the facility, but you will not be "stuck" if your attendance falls. (WIN-WIN)

A third alternative may be a bit of a blend. If the event takes place further out, perhaps the two parties would mutually review the anticipated usage and make adjustments to the room block/space hold based on reasonable assumptions. If the group is reasonably expected to be smaller, you could return some of the rooms/space without liability and allow the hotel to resell them. However, if your numbers are on target, you could ensure your full exclusivity. (WIN-WIN)

Again, the most important component of a buyout is partnership. Be confident that you have selected a true partner and you will ensure your mutual success.

17. June 2014 by Kevin Donahue
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How Guest Targeting is shifting the OTA landscape

For years, Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity have been entrenched OTA players in a static hospitality landscape. With back-end connectivity to the GDS, these OTA giants represented a simple, at-home entry point for many travelers. Over time, aggressive marketing and rate parity have established OTAs as a reliable retail outlet for hotels, airlines, and rental cars.

But in the past 18 months, a seismic shift has begun to change the landscape for the online travel agencies. Foreshadowed by Google's 2010 acquisition of ITA Software, the rise of "big-data" represents the greatest challenge to OTAs in more than a decade Click to Tweet and is beginning to change the landscape for many of the largest online travel agencies.

Armed with data on preferences, interests and even search histories, big-data providers like Facebook and Google have built platforms by which hoteliers can offer highly targeted packages and promotions to small groups of retail travelers. The result looks to net higher conversions at a lower cost of sale for hoteliers, all while delivering a more satisfying retail experience for guests.

This shifting landscape could bring the eventual downfall of the parity-based model for OTAs. Just this week, Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi confirmed to CNBC's "Squawk Box" show that Expedia is looking for ways to shift its offering to hoteliers away from parity towards a guest-targeting model. (Note: Khosrowshahi's comments about Expedia's future model begin at 2:20 into the video.)

In my opinion, the biggest challenge OTAs face in delivering a targeted guest model is the access to a larger guest dataset. While Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz capture travel search data, the legacy OTAs lack access to broader preferences that are game-changers for the big-data companies. OTAs will likely need to purchase guest data directly from their new competitors, Facebook and Google, Click to Tweet which will drive down profit and make the challenge even more pressing.

I believe that the pressure to build a more profitable, guest-targeted model may drive OTA consolidation. It's also quite possible that we will see the larger OTAs pursue big-data through acquisition of social media properties such as Pinterest or Gogobot.

Does this mean that Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz are about to fold up shop? Not at all. Although consolidation within OTAs is possible, the likely path for OTAs will be less emphasis on non-targeted results through the GDS and more focus on generating guest-targeted offerings at a higher margin.

07. May 2014 by Kevin Donahue
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Five Fresh Hospitality Reads for the Week

This week, as many begin to focus on budget planning and creating strategic plans, I'm reading more about how the hospitality industry continues to evolve in the social media era. Here are five fresh hospitality reads:

The Future of Travel: Eight Things You Need to Know | Marketing Magazine
Great piece on the critical importance of innovation in the hospitality industry.

STUDY: 44% of Luxury Guests Choose Hotels through Word of Mouth
You know it. I know it. And yet… it continues to be overlooked. For all that you are doing through sales, marketing and PR, the most critical component of hospitality remains guest service.

How Luxury Hotels Mine Social Data in the name of Comfort
Great reminder that (a) there is so much information available online about each of us and (b) some hoteliers are using that public data about their guests. I think there's a lesson in this piece about the importance of balancing hospitality/privacy.

Airlines testing new ways to Board Planes
All aboard (faster!) Also… 100 times YES!

How TripAdvisor wants to own the Travel Cycle
TripAdvisor has evolved from a review site to an efficient booking engine. Now the TripAdvisor teams wants to be the provider of choice for local area information and concierge service. I will be interested to see if crowdsourced hospitality data can ever truly scale.

Another clear indicator of how important it is to know your audience and to continue to refine your message to each guest.

For more hospitality trendspotting, follow me on Twitter.

24. October 2013 by Kevin Donahue
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Three Luxury Hospitality Reads for the Week

Here are three short, compelling reads regarding luxury sales and marketing in the hospitality segment. I found each of these very poignant for guest service and hotel sales in our industry:

 

Twenty percent of Virtuoso's customers drive 71% percent of sales
This statistic speaks to the old adage of how important it is to take care of your best customers, especially in the luxury hospitality segment.

Biggest risk to luxury brand dilution? Partner Offers
A new study finds that luxury brand cross-marketing is a dangerous tightrope, bringing in new customers when done well but risking market share for both brands when poorly executed.

Four Seasons Hotels are active on 393 social media channels
Is there an effective limit to the "be where your customers are" mantra that has driven CMO and social marketing? Also, is there a limit to the effectiveness of "be where your customers are" in the luxury segment?

 

Interested in seeing more about luxury hospitality sales and marketing? Follow me on Twitter

30. September 2013 by Kevin Donahue
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Quotes: Wisdom

25. September 2013 by Kevin Donahue
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The Answer: How TripAdvisor Rankings Are Calculated

Given the popularity of TripAdvisor and the impact of hotel reviews on ADR and RevPar, hoteliers and guests want to know the answer to one pressing question: How are TripAdvisor Rankings calculated?

TripAdvisor RankingsTake New York City, for example. A recent ranking of hotels by TripAdvisor found the Best Western Herald Square to be among the top hotels in Manhattan.

No disrespect to the Best Western, but many travelers may be asking just how this limited service property is ranked higher in New York City than the Trump International, Four Seasons New York, and – of course – The Ritz-Carlton, New York Central Park. (There's also a pretty good chance that hotel owners and managers are asking the same thing!)

The answer, according to TripAdvisor, is that hotel rankings are determined by the following:

TripAdvisory Hotel Ranking Criteria

  • Number of Reviews per Hotel
  • Recency of TripAdvisor Reviews
  • Rating given to Hotel by Reviewers

TripAdvisor takes these three core elements – quantity, quality, and recency – and runs them through their proprietary algorithm to determine the rankings for hotels in each city.

The more highly rated reviews a hotel receives in a short-period, the higher their ranking will be on TripAdvisor.

It's worth noting that TripAdvisor rankings are updated for each city are updated approximately once per week, to incorporate new reviews and ratings.

So, there you have it… the "secret" to how TripAdvisor calculates rankings for every city.

Source: TripAdvsor Help Center

12. August 2013 by Kevin Donahue
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Leadership Lesson: Recognition

10. August 2013 by Kevin Donahue
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Want to Connect with more Customers? Stop being a Morning Person!

I can't believe how many emails I receive every weekday morning that ask this key question:

"Do you want to connect with more customers?"

And the answer, of course, is "Well, yeah! Don't we all?!"

A study by GetResponse.com suggests that the timestamp on emails might be as important as your message.

GetResonse analyzed more than 21 million customer emails and found that while almost 50% of all emails arrived in customers inboxes before noon, customers opened a much higher percentage of mails sent between noon and 6pm.

Additionally, the study found that 23.63% of emails are opened within one hour of when they are received. The number falls by half in the second hour and more than 90% after five hours. Clearly getting your email into your customers hands during the business day is key.

So, does this mean I have to stop being a morning person? Well, maybe not. But, if you are connecting to customers via email, you may have increased success if you time your message for receipt between 12 noon and 6pm.

Though highly, highly unscientific, my own study finds that the best time to send a handwritten card is… ALWAYS Click to Tweet.

05. August 2013 by Kevin Donahue
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