Eldorado Resorts Names Steve Callender Senior Vice President of Eastern Regional Operations

Jason L. Gregorec to Succeed Steve Callender as Vice President and General Manager of Tropicana Casino and Resort, Atlantic City

RENO, Nev.–January 18, 2019–Eldorado Resorts, Inc. (NASDAQ: ERI) (“Eldorado” or the “Company”) announced today that Steve Callender has been named Senior Vice President of Operations for the East Region. Mr. Callender most recently served as General Manager of Eldorado’s Tropicana Casino and Resort, Atlantic City, where he has held executive positions since 2010. Jason L. Gregorec, who most recently served as the Chief Executive Officer/General Manager of Greektown Casino-Hotel in Detroit, Michigan, will succeed Steve Callender as Vice President and General Manager of Tropicana Casino and Resort, Atlantic City, subject to customary regulatory approvals. Mr. Callender and Mr. Gregorec’s appointments reflect Eldorado’s ongoing commitment to driving operational excellence, unparalleled guest experiences, talent development and a positive corporate culture to support the Company’s continued growth.

Mr. Callender brings over 40 years of proven gaming industry experience to his new position, where he will report to Anthony L. Carano, Eldorado Resorts’ President & Chief Operating Officer. In his new role, Mr. Callender will have operational responsibility for Tropicana Casino and Resort, Atlantic City, NJ; Eldorado Scioto Downs, Columbus, OH; and Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort, New Cumberland, WV. Mr. Callender began his career at Resorts Casino Hotel, Atlantic City’s first casino in 1978. Over the next decade, he ascended to executive positions of increasing responsibility, eventually assuming the role of Vice President of Casino Operations. Over the following years, Mr. Callender served as Casino Manager for the Atlantic City Hilton, and Senior Vice President of Table Operations at Bally's Atlantic City, where he was instrumental in integrating the acquired Claridge Casino into the Bally’s brand. Following a four year return to Resorts Casino Hotel, Atlantic City as Senior Vice President of Operations, he moved to Tropicana as Vice President of Table Games in 2010.

Mr. Gregorec is a gaming industry veteran with 25 years of experience and a strong record of managing day to day operations, elevating guest service and experiences, driving financial performance, coaching employees and building culture through training and development, managing property renovations and refining direct marketing strategies. Prior to his most recent position as Chief Executive Officer/General Manager of Greektown Casino-Hotel, he served in executive capacities for several of the country’s leading gaming companies including Tropicana Entertainment, Station Casinos, Majestic Star Casinos, and Trump Casinos.

Commenting on the executive changes, Anthony Carano said, “Steve and Jason have extensive, proven gaming industry careers and deep experience that are an excellent match with their new positions and Eldorado’s expanded operating base. We are confident that our facilities and the property management teams in Steve’s region will benefit from his vast industry knowledge and experience. Likewise, Jason’s successful track record in many of the country’s most competitive gaming markets and his focus on the communities where he has operated make him ideally suited to extend Steve’s success at Tropicana Casino and Resort, Atlantic City, which has performed very well since Eldorado’s acquisition of the property last fall.”

Steve Callender is a graduate of Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) and is actively engaged in enriching the Atlantic County community. He served as the 2013 and 2014 General Campaign Chair for the United Way of Greater Philadelphia & Southern New Jersey and in 2009 was casino chair for the Southern Shore Chapter of the American Red Cross. Most recently, Steve was named President of the 200 Club of Atlantic and Cape May Counties and the Atlantic City Casino Industry Executive Chair for the American Red Cross – Penn Jersey Region.

Jason Gregorec earned a degree from the University of Nevada, Reno and has successfully completed Dale Carnegie programs for leadership, communications and human relations. He has served on many gaming industry professional organizations including Vice Chairman of the Casino Association of Indiana and Board of Commissioners and Vice President of the Evansville Convention and Visitors Bureau. He has also served as a Keynote Speaker on the gaming industry at DePaul University Chicago and Roosevelt University Chicago. Mr. Gregorec served in the 12th Special Forces Group, US Army Reserves from 1989 through 1997, supervising and assisting in airborne operations and was deployed to the Middle East for various operations.

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Virgin Hotels Appoints Owen Deignan as New Director of Food & Beverage Operations and Denise Walker as New Vice President of Information Technology

MIAMI, Jan. 18, 2019 — Virgin Hotels, the lifestyle hotel brand by Sir Richard Branson, is pleased to welcome two new members of the team: Owen Deignan as the new Director of Food & Beverage Operations, and Denise Walker as the new Vice President of Information Technology.

Owen Deignan, who was based in Chicago, brings 24 years of experience to the brand, and will be responsible for the food & beverage operations of all Virgin Hotels, including the highly anticipated Virgin Hotels San Francisco, opening in 2019. Deignan will work closely with the senior leadership team to develop and execute Virgin's strategic plan to drive growth and profitability in the culinary space, largely focusing on the evolution of the Commons Club concept and developing individual dining destinations in future Virgin Hotels.

Jay Wetzel, Vice President of Virgin Hotels Food & Beverage, remarked, "Owen was instrumental in the success of Commons Club and crafting the seasonal strategy for Cerise at Virgin Hotels Chicago which has seen unparalleled success this year. In addition, Owen has proved that strong leadership skills, pinpoint focus and comradery are the key ingredients in building a great team."

A graduate of Kendall College with an AAS in Culinary Arts, Deignan has worked with a number of food & beverage visionaries including Jean George Vongerichten, Ian Schrager and Hubert Keller. Prior to joining Virgin Hotels, Owen was Director of Operations of Snap Kitchen, a market-based concept company with Austin roots.

Denise Walker, who is based in Miami, is a seasoned Senior Global IT Leader and Operations Executive, and brings 15 years of experience in corporate operations management from a global company. Walker has successfully developed and led an accomplished, talented team of IT leaders and professionals to support, evolve and transform, IT infrastructure and business solutions one of the most highly-recognized, brands in the hospitality industry, Brookfield Hospitality.

Raul Leal, CEO of Virgin Hotels, stated, "Her track record speaks for itself by increasing performance through strategic planning, business process re-engineering, technology innovation and change management. Walker is a passionate, high-energy, result-driven leader, contributor and collaborator that is motivated to deliver organizational and operational excellence by leveraging her strengths and capabilities."

The company's first property, Virgin Hotels Chicago, opened in 2015. In terms of new development, Virgin Hotels San Francisco is slated to open in 2019. The brand has broken ground on four locations: New York, Dallas, Nashville and Edinburgh, UK. Forthcoming hotels have also been announced in Palm Springs, New Orleans, Silicon Valley and Washington DC Union Market, including the newest acquisition, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas.

To learn more about Virgin Hotels, visit www.virginhotels.com. To learn more about future developments, please visit https://development.virginhotels.com/.

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sbe Partners With Be Grand and CEO Nicolas Carrancedo for Ten Mondrian Hotel & Residential Projects in Mexico

Mondrian Polanco Hotel & Residences to Debut in 2021 Followed by Mondrian Del Valle in 2022

NEW YORK, Jan. 18, 2019 — sbe, a leading international hospitality group that develops, manages and operates award-winning global hospitality brands, today announced a partnership with Be Grand and its CEO Nicolas Carrancedo to continue the aggressive expansion of the Mondrian brand with the first-ever Mondrian Hotel & Residences in Mexico City. This property will also be the first of ten sbe-branded properties that sbe and Be Grand will bring to Mexico City and its metropolitan area in the next five years.  The second project to be announced will be Mondrian Del Valle, which will debut in 2022. The COLLONIER-designed tower will include 248 branded residences. In addition to the Mondrian properties, the upcoming projects will include other acclaimed sbe brands such as SLS and HYDE.  Within these projects, sbe will also bring over 25 restaurant and lounge concepts featuring brands including Carna, Katsuya, Fi'lia, Cleo, S Bar and Doheny Room.

Breaking ground in Q1 of 2019 and set to open in 2021, Mondrian Polanco Hotel & Residences will boast 144 hotel rooms including 15 luxury suites and 126 branded residences. The project will also feature Katsuya as well as another award-winning sbe culinary concept and a soon-to-be-announced signature sbe mixology concept.

"We are extremely proud to begin our longstanding partnership with my dear friend Nicolas Carrancedo and Be Grand, one of the largest and most respected development companies in Mexico," said Sam Nazarian, Founder and CEO of sbe. "We are thrilled to bring the Mondrian brand to this prestigious district and cultural hub in Mexico City, and to break ground on future sbe branded properties in Mexico with Be Grand."

"We are thrilled to start this collaboration with sbe and its CEO, Sam Nazarian. The collaboration will bring a full circle lifestyle experience to Mexico City, from hotel and residences, to world renowned cuisine. We look forward to creating incredibly memorable destinations, through this collaboration with sbe, in our cosmopolitan capital," said Nicolas Carrancedo, CEO of Be Grand.

This project speaks to the overall global expansion of sbe, and the critical role that Mexico plays in the company's international growth. Mondrian Polanco's debut precedes the upcoming openings of nine other sbe-branded properties in collaboration with Be Grand over the next five years.  The debut of Mondrian Polanco Hotel & Residences also substantiates the incredible growth of sbe's residential platform, with 1,300 branded residential units sold to date, valued at $2 billion and $1.8 billion more in the pipeline.

The COLLONIER-designed building will be situated in the heart of Polanco, the main upscale district in Mexico City. Mondrian Polanco Hotel & Residences will offer a plethora of luxe amenities including a lavish signature sbe spa, state-of-the-art fitness center, rooftop garden ballroom and a sprawling pool deck featuring a stunning 25-meter infinity pool.

The anticipated development is poised to become a landmark destination in Polanco, a district that is known as one of the best-kept secret treasures in the world. Mondrian Polanco Hotel & Residences will raise the hospitality bar amongst some of the city's most famous museums and world class restaurants, unveiling sbe's signature lifestyle entertainment to the area, offering visitors and tourists a brand-new luxury lifestyle mecca. 

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South east hotel investment volumes break £1bn in 2018

Investment into south east hotels reached £1.36bn in 2018, a 39% increase on full year 2017 volumes according to international real estate advisor Savills.

The group said the market was “dominated” by portfolio transactions, however, domestic appetite for individual hotel assets remained a “key character of the region”.

The south east was the most active market outside of London, accounting for 20% of the total investment into UK hotels, behind the capital’s 39% share. The north recorded a 17% slice, Scotland 14% and the south west 10%.

Key deals in the region included Aberdeen Standard’s £40m sale of the 297 bedroom Travelodge at Heathrow Terminal 5 to Sidra Capital, and Principal Hotels £24m sale of the 140-bedroom De Vere Theobalds Estate, Waltham Cross to Aprirose.

Investment into south east hotels was made up of 39 individual assets and components of 15 portfolios. In total, 70% (£957m) of investment volumes were accounted for by hotels included in portfolio transactions.

Individual deals also accounted for £403m of investment, with the average lot size being approximately £13m. Additionally, domestic money dominated the single asset market, with UK investors accounting for 76% of individual transaction volumes.

Georgie Liggins, associate in the hotels team at Savills, said: “The south east continues to attract the lion’s share of investment outside of London. Appetite from visitors is driven by its diverse range of attractions from the beaches of Brighton and Norfolk to the historic market towns of Canterbury and Chichester.”

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Noble Investment Group Opens Dual-Branded AC Hotel Atlanta Midtown and Moxy Atlanta Midtown

ATLANTA, Jan. 18, 2019 — Noble Investment Group and Marriott International today announce the opening of the dual-branded AC Hotel Atlanta Midtown and Moxy Atlanta Midtown in the heart of Midtown's thriving business and arts district. With a combined 288 rooms and suites, this is the first-ever combination of the AC Hotels by Marriott and Moxy Hotels brands under one roof. These new additions mark the first Moxy Hotel in Georgia and the third AC Hotel in Atlanta (Noble's second after the AC Hotel Atlanta Buckhead at Phipps Plaza).

Developed on an entire city block between 14th street and 13th street flanked by Peachtree Road and West Peachtree Road, the LEED-certified hotels are central to Midtown's business and commerce hub, a few blocks from Georgia Tech University and in the heart of the region's arts district which include The Woodruff Arts Center (High Museum, Alliance Theatre, Symphony Hall), Museum of Design Atlanta, The Fox Theatre and The Savannah College of Art & Design.

"We are thrilled to have two of our lifestyle brands join forces in Atlanta to provide travelers with two very distinct options while visiting the city for business or leisure," said Toni Stoeckl, Vice President, Distinctive Select Service Brands, Marriott International. "With Moxy we threw out the hotel rulebook to create a bold new hotel experience geared toward guests who are looking for shareable, experiential moments when they travel. AC Hotels are designed more for those who want a moment of respite among the hustle and bustle of the city – the opportunity to reflect in an elegant, peaceful space with frictionless service."

Facing 14th Street, the European-inspired AC Hotel Atlanta Midtown offers 133 rooms with sophisticated, sleek design elements; plush seating; and multifunctional workspaces. Playing off the muted palette of the interiors, the hotel showcases abstract sculptures that speak to the motion and fluidity of a dance, inspired by its location in the epicenter of the arts. Neighboring spaces such as the High Museum, Fox Theater, Woodruff Arts Center, Alliance Theatre, and Krog Street Tunnel serve as the inspiration for the hotel's "Gallery of the Arts" concept. A simple, yet sophisticated palette of mixed metals reflect the urban city of Atlanta. Tones of black, white, brass and silver art are harmonized throughout the hotel. Bold mural-style pieces, refined metals and expressive sculptural elements mingle to create movement from dance and theater performances.

Facing 13th Street, the experiential Moxy Atlanta Midtown Hotel offers 155 rooms and communal areas with industrial features including reclaimed pallet ceilings and iron finishes. Guests will check-in at Bar Moxy and be welcomed by a complimentary cocktail, mocktail or coffee. The artwork is playful and captivating, including "Welcome Home," a 54-foot long mural by renowned Atlanta artist, GREG MIKE, which takes center stage in the lobby. Inspired by the "True Colors" mural he painted on Atlanta's iconic Ponce Wall in 2015, this site-specific mural features his signature large format black and white bear peering over couches.

"Both the AC and Moxy hotels have their own distinctive style and vibe which will complement and enhance Midtown Atlanta's standing as a premiere destination for commerce, culture, education, living and visiting," said Tim Dahlen, General Manager.

To learn more about the Moxy Atlanta Midtown, please visit: https://www.marriott.com/hotels/hotel-rooms/atlox-moxy-atlanta-midtown/ 

To learn more about the AC Hotel Atlanta Midtown, please visit: https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/atlcn-ac-hotel-atlanta-midtown/ 

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Easyhotel opens latest property in Ipswich

Super-budget hotel chain Easyhotel has opened its latest hotel in Ipswich, featuring 94 rooms.

Easyhotels said they chose the location as Ipswich is “rapidly becoming a stylish technology hub” with more than 100 technology start-ups have made their home in the town and the Waterfront area.

St John Harvey, chief cultural historian at easyHotel, said: “Alongside its cosmopolitan culture, Ipswich really is a cradle of British innovation and inventiveness. Not many people know that the world’s first commercially marketed powered lawnmower was built by Ransomes in Ipswich in 1902.

“But it’s not all about lawn mowing. The plough, the iron bridge, the fried clam, a fully hydraulic auger for winemakers and fruit growers, a test that has drastically reduced the number of diabetics suffering heel ulcers at the town’s hospital and the HI Kayak rescue method were all invented in the town.”

Commenting on the design of the hotel Easyhotel said they have brought a “sort of upgraded seventies minimalist chic” to the rooms.

St John Harvey added: “Stylish, simple rooms, our signature orange colour, integrated en suites and simple, convenient touches such as integrated bedside USB charging points.”

EasyHotel’s currently owns 11 hotels comprising of 1,219 rooms and has a further 24 franchised hotels with 2,039 rooms. Alongside Ipswich the hotels are located in Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Reading and London.

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Capital Properties Appoints Michael Hoffmann as Managing Director for Perry Cabin Resorts & Golf

ST. MICHAEL'S, Md., Jan. 18, 2019 — Capital Properties has appointed Michael Hoffmann as Managing Director for Perry Cabin Resorts & Golf. Ushering in a new era for the premier resort destination, Hoffmann, Swiss by birth, globetrotter by passion, has more than 30 years of luxury hospitality experience with some of the most sought-after industry brands, such as Claridges, Four Seasons, One&Only, Peninsula, Ritz-Carlton and Waldorf Astoria.

In his expanded role, Hoffmann will spearhead the Inn's invigorated growth and expansion which includes the recently launched Tennis at Perry Cabin by iconic Cliff Drysdale, the upcoming redevelopment of the Lodge at Perry Cabin and the introduction of LINKS at Perry Cabin, the championship 18-hole golf course designed by legendary Pete Dye.

"Michael has played an integral part of the reimagining of Inn at Perry Cabin and transitioning to Perry Cabin Resorts with the expansion of our world-class tennis program, championship golf course and development of the Lodge," commented Richard Cohen, Owner, Capital Properties. "Beyond his deep understanding of the region's history and his expertise operating some of the finest hotels and destination resorts globally, this expanded role will ensure Perry Cabin Resorts and LINKS at Perry Cabin deliver unforgettable experiences for our guests."

This follows the resort's recent announcement of joining Preferred Hotels & Resorts – the world's largest independent hotel brand that represents more than 700 distinctive hotels, resorts, residences, and unique hotel groups across 85 countries – as the newest experience available within the Preferred Hotels & Resorts Legend Collection. In addition, LINKS at Perry Cabin also joins the Preferred Golf Club, a collection of some of the World's most renowned Courses including Pebble Beach, Old Course at St Andrews and the K Club in Ireland.

The Legend Collection is the ultimate portfolio of exceptional properties in the world's most remarkable destinations. Globally sophisticated and culturally refined, these singular properties feature exquisite accommodations, stellar and intuitive personal service, renowned dining, and exceptional spas, setting the stage for the most unforgettable experiences.

Preferred Golf is a worldwide collection of celebrated golf resorts and affords priority access to once-in-a-lifetime experiences on legendary fairways at more than 65 of the world's most sought-after golf resorts, many of which host the most prestigious tournaments on the professional circuit.

For reservations and more information about Preferred Hotels & Resorts, visit PreferredHotels.com.

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Hotel Concept of the Month: Dimpsey

Slightly different to the usual designs featured in this section, Dimpsey is a five-star luxury retreat and is described as an “all-in experience helping busy people to get some quality time together”. The glamping-style hut aims to leave its guests feeling “rejuvenated, relaxed and reconnected”.

The unique concept is run by couple Emma and Andrew Warren and is located on their small farm – shared with cows, sheep, a few chickens and a goose named George – on the Blackdown Hills in Somerset. It has been the winner of the Small Business Sunday award as well as picking up gold in the Glamping Business of the Year category at the Tourism Awards for Bath, Bristol and Somerset towards the end of 2016.

Speaking about the the concept, Emma comments: “The idea of the glamping experience is to chill out and reconnect with each other, and we have geared everything around making that happen – so from relaxing music to snuggly beds, hearing the owls hoot at night and watching the animals during the day, we’ve totally got chill out covered.”

The 18-foot long hut features a double bed, seating, kitchen area and a bathroom with a shower and flushing toilet. Designed and kitted out to feel like a luxury hotel, Emma and Andrew have ensured that all of its styles are from British designers. Other features include a hot tub, garden oven, logs for the log burner and fire pit, as well as welcome tray and eggs, bacon, butter, milk and bread for breakfast.

Despite its relatively small appearance, the owners of Dimpsey say that it always surprises people with the spaces that it offers. “We wanted the ability to have bunk beds with the top bed folding away and being unobtrusive when not in use – as well as a concealed ladder,” says Emma. The top bed fits perfectly against the wall when not in use and the ladder can be tucked away in a wall slot.

Meanwhile, the bottom bunk is a daybed and has space underneath for storage baskets, while a number of cubby holes are recessed into the wall with power sockets hidden in them. Also featured is a ‘wall bed’, which folds down out of the wall fully made. During the day the space is a bench and tables and then at night the table drops and the bed folds down.

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HSMAI Announces 2019 Americas Board and Executive Committee

(McLean, VA, January 17, 2019) The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) proudly announces its 2019 Americas Board of Directors and Executive Committee. The board is composed of a diverse range of travel and hospitality executives from a representative mix of HSMAI members.

“As we look to the year ahead, we’re happy to report that the individuals on the 2019 HSMAI Americas Board are well suited to leading our organization during a time of innovation and rich possibilities for the hospitality industry,” said Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHA, president & CEO of HSMAI. “The Americas Board members are purposeful, inventive, and definitely up to the task of ensuring that it is a a value-filled year for HSMAI members and other hospitality professionals.”

Entering his second year as Chair of the HSMAI Americas Board, Mark Thompson, CHBA, CHDM, Senior Vice President of Tourism of VisitDallas, noted some goals for the year, “As we enter only the second year of offering Organizational Membership, the HSMAI Americas Board is proud to be extending the benefits of this new membership category to more than 60 world-class hotel and travel organizations,” said Thompson. “The board looks forward to continuing to develop successful program offerings, such as Curate, for these organizational members, but we are also increasingly committed to continuing to deliver exceptional programming and resources to HSMAI’s individual members and other travel professionals within the Americas at both national and chapter levels.”

HSMAI Americas Executive Committee members:

Chair: Mark Thompson, CHBA, CHDM, Senior Vice President of Tourism, VisitDallas
Chair Elect: Marina MacDonald, CHDM, Chief Marketing Officer, Red Roof Inn
Vice Chair: John Washko, Vice President of Exhibition & Convention Sales, Mohegan Sun
Secretary-Treasurer: Andrew Rubinacci, CHSP, Senior Vice President of Revenue Management and Global Distribution, Omni Hotels & Resorts
Immediate Past Chair: Jeff Senior, Vice President of Marketing, KSL Resorts
President: Robert Gilbert, CHME, CHA, President & CEO, HSMAI

2019 HSMAI Americas Board Members:

  • Calvin Anderson, CRME, Head of Commercial, Oyo Hotels
  • Chris Anderson, Academic Director, Cornell University
  • Brian Berry, Senior Vice President of Global Revenue Management, Hyatt Hotels
  • Katie Briscoe, President, MMGY Global
  • Derek DeCross, Senior Vice President of Global Sales, IHG
  • Kieran Donahue, Vice President of Brand Marketing & Digital Americas, Marriott International
  • Agnelo Fernandes, Chief Strategy Officer & Executive Vice President of Revenue, Terranea Resort; Chair, HSMAI Foundation
  • André Fournier, Executive Vice President of Sales, Marketing & Revenue, CoralTree Hospitality Group
  • Bruce Gudenberg, Executive Director of Industry Relations, Hilton Worldwide
  • Brian Hall, Chief Marketing Officer, Explore St. Louis
  • Jay Hubbs, CHDM, Senior Vice President of eCommerce, Remington Hotels
  • Michael Innocentin, Vice President, E-Commerce & Digital, North & Central America, AccorHotels
  • Matt Jones, Head of Analytics, Travel, Google
  • Sarah Kennedy, Chief Marketing Officer, Marketo
  • Tammy Lucas, CHDM, Vice President of Marketing, Best Western Hotels & Resorts
  • Flo Lugli, Principal, Navesink Advisory Group LLC
  • Hari Nair, Global Senior Vice President, Expedia Group Media Solutions
  • Garth Peterson, CRME, Area Manager – American Sales, IDeaS Revenue Solutions
  • Mark Theis, Vice President of Sales Strategy & Operations – Americas, Hyatt Hotels
  • Michelle Woodley, President, Preferred Hotels & Resorts
  • Lou Zameryka, Regional Director of Global Chains, Booking.com

The HSMAI Americas Board oversees three essential leadership groups, which comprise thought leaders and subject matter experts that serve on the Sales Advisory Board, Marketing Advisory Board, and Revenue Management Advisory Board. The 2019 Americas Board will also continue to support HSMAI’s new Organizational Membership program which has, to date, attracted more than 60 organizations. These organizational members engage in conversations about leading industry issues at the innovative new HSMAI Curate: An HSMAI Executive Insights Forum events held twice each year.

For more information about HSMAI, please contact Andrea Bomar at abomar@hsmai.org.

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Why direct bookings matter

When it comes to direct bookings, there are two key customer streams; existing customers who are returning to you and new customers visiting for the first time. These two audiences have to be tackled in different ways.

Building loyalty with existing customers

I recently did an exercise with a client looking at their bookings over the last three years; one statistic in particular stuck with me. The business has a lot of corporate custom, and each year, approximately 35-40% of their total sales are from repeat guests; even though this represents over a third of the business, of these repeat customers, only 41% book direct with the hotel, the rest rebooking through third-party providers. This repeat custom was therefore costing the business more than £15,000 per year in commission fees alone – a total and unnecessary waste of money! Speaking specifically with a cross-section of these guests, common reasons for using booking engines include ease, and difficulty remembering the hotel’s name.

This statistic is powerful and although I hesitate to do mid-year performance analysis, the initial changes that we made to marketing are already having an impact on commission. For the first six months of the year, average monthly commission is down from £1,250 to £690, and the direct bookings have increased from 41% of repeat customers to 59% – a whopping increase for the business. Achieving this improvement has been done in three ways:

  1. Specifically asking guests to rebook direct and rewarding them for doing so. By reducing the amount lost through commission, we have been able to increase the value of each individual booking to the business. This means there is money in the budget to reward them for their loyalty, and incentives such as wine with dinner, and vouchers for the gin bar have both proved popular.
  2. Contacting the business as well as the individual. By cherry-picking businesses that place fairly regular but inconsistent bookings, we have been able to reward businesses with loyalty rates and in one or two cases, have even worked with the business to provide hotel stays as employee perks. Not all of the businesses have been receptive, due to challenges with procurement processes, but it has been effective enough to warrant doing.
  3. Communicating regularly. You’ll be surprised how few hotels communicate specifically and regularly with their repeat guests.  They may do an emailer to the entire database, but not to this specific segment. By sending regular reminders, offers, updates and even a targeted promotional item, customers are starting to make more direct bookings and less booking engine ones.
  4. The perk is that these customers are already on your database, and there is no need at all for them to use booking engines. This means where your website ranks and performance have a limited impact and you can make small but mighty changes to your revenue, quickly and simply.

Gaining new customers

Gaining new customers is more of a challenge and you will find it difficult to get your own website, with its several thousand visitors, to rank anywhere close to the booking engines who have hundreds of thousands of visitors and much bigger marketing budgets. That doesn’t however mean it is a lost cause, but you do have to be committed to pursuing this custom and understand the impact will be more long-term. You can either use booking engines to drive your new custom, with a top-quality loyalty programme running behind it, and / or invest time and energy into pursuing direct bookings yourself, which will take longer to offset the commission costs, but will have significant long-term benefits.

You need to accept you won’t exceed the rankings of the booking engines, but you can be high enough up the list to attract attention from anyone searching. Your focus needs to be on using available digital platforms to drive awareness and rankings. Search engine rankings are not an exact science, but you can influence rankings quite easily with some of the following tricks:

Keyword your site well – think about what someone will be searching for, and make sure you have a page about it. For example, if people might search “Hotels Oxford Town Centre” then make sure you have a page that talks about your hotel in Oxford Town Centre.

Start a blog – blogs, populated with keywords are a great way to improve rankings; a) they provide space for you to add more keywords, b) they keep the site current and c) they give you scope to link your business to others in the area. For example, writing a blog about guests visiting the Eden Project Bulb Mania will help you appear on the list when someone searches for hotels near the Eden Project (if you are actually nearby of course).

Encourage reviews and PR – getting external sites linking to yours makes it more relevant. Inviting journalists to visit and review, encouraging bloggers to come along, using review sites, all link back to your website and help improve ranking.

Drive traffic via social media and email – don’t forget your own platforms; sharing visual posts and interesting information via social media and email encourages visitors to the site which helps maintain and improve rankings.

Direct bookings can be hugely lucrative, certainly more so than booking engines, but whatever you do, you need to be consistent,  specific, analyse the results and expect gradual changes over time.

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A recent survey from hotel solutions provider HRS has found that the demand for innovative technology in hotels is on the rise


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