Trend Spotting: Consumer Spending on Hotels is Booming

New data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows consumer spending on hotels and lodging is booming.

From 2011 to January 2017, consumer spending on lodging has increased 41.8%, outpacing other sectors. The food-and-beverage sector came in second, growing 31.2% for the same time period.

With the US economy nearly full-employment and consumer debt levels down, a potential uptick in wages would likely extend this boom trend for hotels well into 2018.

The cardinal rule still applies (Marketshare, Marketshare, Marketshare!) but – given the increases in F&B spend – savvy marketers should be keenly focused on less broad metrics as well, including F&B marketshare, RevPAS and ProPOR (Profit per Available Room).

Analysis Shows Hotels Are Not Losing Share to AirBNB

AirBNB has been regarded as the great disrupter in the hospitality sector, but a new study shows that – for all the hype – AirBNB is not taking marketshare away from hotels.

The study, compiled by Smith Travel Research using AirBNB source data, offers critical insights into the true market penetration for the room-sharing service.

Among the key findings:

  • AirBNB has 2.3 million listings, far more than the world's largest hotel company, Marriott (1.1 million). However, much of AirBNB's inventory is available only in peak-season, not year-round.

 

  • Airbnb has higher peak-season occupancy because its users skew more heavily to leisure. Hotels have much higher year-round occupancy due to the diverse nature of their business (leisure, business, and group).

 

  • The markets with the highest hotel occupancy also have AirBNB's top occupancies. A deeper analysis shows that AirBNB is capturing excess demand, not shifting share.

 

  • Even on highest compression nights (hotel occupancy >95%) hotels are growing compression ADR faster than ever – at 35% in 2015 – with ADRs far exceeding those of AirBNB.

 

Jan Freitag, senior VP of lodging insights for STR, said that hoteliers are not at significant risk to lose share to AirBNB.

“I think the overall message is that the U.S. hotels industry continues to break demand records,” said Freitag. “We are selling more rooms than ever before on an annualized basis. In 2014, we had a demand record. We had another demand record in 2015. We expect in 2016 we will also top the number of rooms sold. Room demand has been higher than it has ever been.”

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.

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.

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.

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

The One Problem that Costs Hotels the Most Customers

If you consider the number of problems that can befall hotel customers during a stay, it can be a bit overwhelming.

Angry Hotel CustomersBroken remote controls. Plumbing problems. Noise from adjoining guestrooms. Incorrect orders from room service. Room key issues. HVAC issues. Kids running in the halls. Not enough chairs at the pool. Slow service in restaurants. Incorrect room type at check-in.

And the list goes on and on.

Studies show that product problems account for nearly sixty percent of all guest complaints.

But there is one problem – over and above all others – that causes not only dissatisfaction, but a complete break in a hotel customer's trust.

What could negatively impact hotel customer loyalty so greatly? According to data-analysis firm Market Metrix, staff-related problems in hotels can lead to a whopping 26.2% drop in guest loyalty Click to Tweet.

Service problems, on the other hand, make up a much smaller portion of reported problems, but have a much more dramatic impact on guest loyalty. Just look at staff-related problems in the table below. They are only 4.7% of reported problems. But staff problems punch way above their weight causing loyalty to plummet by over 26 points when they do occur.

On the other hand, the nearly 60% of hotel customer complaints COMBINED only account for a 12% drop in hotel customer loyalty.

This study begs the question: With such a large number of guest product complaints, how much time is your hotel spending to fix staff problems?

Television remotes can be replaced, but a disengaged hotel customer may be lost forever.

 

New Study Shows Hotel Reviews Drive Rate & RevPar

A new study from the Cornell School of Hotel Administration details that hotel reviews posted on social travel websites, such as TripAdvisor and Travelocity, positively impact a guest's willingness to book reservations at a premium rate for a reviewed hotel.

"The Impact of Social Media on Lodging Performance," by Chris K. Anderson found that the number of reviews as well as the willingness of consumers to assign credibility to hotel reviews has increased over time. Anderson also found that a 1-point increase on Travelocity's review scale – such as increasing a hotel's review from 3.3 stars to 4.3 stars – drives an 11.2 percent premium in a hotel's rate, while still maintaining occupancy and market share.

Given these results, it's increasingly clear that hoteliers must dedicate resources to monitoring their social reputation, actively review online hotel reviews and invest further in guest experiences on-property to create engaged guests. (Read more on who writes hotel reviews)

Beyond Travelocity, Anderson determined through regression analysis that a 1-percent gain in a hotel's social media reputation is worth 0.89% in average rate lift and a 1.42 percent increase in RevPar. Click to Tweet

The full social media impact study is available online from the Cornell School of Hotel Administration.

Insights: Why Multigenerational Travel is THE Emerging Trend

A recent presentation by Peter Yesawich, vice chairman of MMGY Global, highlighted a number of trends and insights for the hospitality market in the near term. While there was definitely a lot of beneficial information presented, one key insight may emerge as the number on trend in hospitality: multigenerational travel.

"Multigenerational travel" or "mutligen travel" most commonly refers to grandparents traveling with grandchildren, but can reflect any number of generations traveling together.

According to MMGY Global, more than 20% of travelers are grandparents. Of those, 40% have taken a trip with a grandchild during the past year. And eight out of 10 times that a grandchild comes along, so does a parent.

As you can see, the market is already well developed. As more affluent baby-boomers retire and begin traveling alongside children and grandchildren, this market will will just continue to mature (pardon the pun!)

Several elements are key to capturing this target market, but most important among them is a well-developed recreation program that meets the needs of these guests collectively. Broadly inclusive cooking classes, walking tours, and lower-impact activities that can be enjoyed by all age groups are key.

For the hospitality market, multigenerational travel represents one of the few demographics that shows extensive growth potential domestically. Beyond just welcoming family guests, multigen represents a new gateway for luxury hoteliers. Traveling alongside affluent parents and grandparents, economically stretched GenX and GenY consumers are discovering brands that can serve them for decades to come as their affluence grows, making this a significant play for the luxury market.

Who writes hotel reviews?

Travelers today are innundated with resources to assist in planning trips. Among the tools are first-hand "unbiased" published on the major booking sites, including TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Expedia and others. 

But, have you ever wondered, "Who writes these reviews, anyway?"

Olery, a reputation management company, has taken a stab at answering that question and the answers are pretty interesting. 

Generally speaking, Olery found that hotels receive about 300+ reviews per year on average and that 46% of travelers post hotel reviews. Reviewer demographics skew slightly towards female guests, with a plurality of reviews being written by 35-49 year-old guests.

Interestingly, guests on vacation and leisure travel – those who are spending their own money – write the majority of hotel reviews.