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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Top trends in hospitality for 2019

Accounting for over 10% of global GDP and the creation of one in five new jobs according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, travel and tourism continues to be one of the world’s fastest-growing industries. It is also an industry undergoing rapid transformation, shaped by new technologies and the values and needs of an increasingly diverse range of travellers.

Emerging trends in sustainability, luxury, technology and innovation are all influencing the future direction of the hospitality industry. As worldwide hospitality education leaders, our responsibility is to provide aspiring hospitality professionals with the skills and knowledge they need, and to develop the next generation of leaders for the hospitality industry. Monitoring industry trends and adapting our education programmes accordingly is essential for us to ensure that our curricula are relevant for the industry and our students. With this in mind, these are some of the top trends to watch for in 2019:

Entrepreneurship and innovation

The hospitality industry continues to provide fertile ground for aspiring entrepreneurs, while innovation will be key for established brands to stay relevant and compete with new players.

Innovation strategies should also cater to the different profiles, needs and expectations of travellers. For example, the importance of social experiences to Millennials and Gen Z travellers has given rise to a new breed of urban boutique hotels offering social spaces and activities – sometimes at the expense of individual room size, as evidenced by the success of micro-hotels. Busy business travellers, meanwhile, are most likely to appreciate innovations in technology that enable them to save time.

But to entice luxury travellers, retaining the human touch will be key for hotels to deliver a bespoke experience. Understanding the different needs of guests is essential for brands to develop innovative concepts capable of yielding long-term profit and business growth.

New technologies in hospitality

Thanks to new technologies, hospitality businesses can provide guests with greater customisation, convenience and control. Technology is also transforming the way customers interact with brands – even before and after their stay.

Chatbots, robots and other forms of artificial intelligence provide users with information on-demand and personalised recommendations. Facial recognition technology is opening doors (sometimes literally) to time-saving service, while smart hotel rooms equipped with internet-of-things connectivity allow guests to customise their experience with an app or their own voice. Loyalty programmes based on blockchain and cryptocurrency are also creating interesting new opportunities for brands to engage with customers.

While these examples provide a glimpse of current and future applications of technology to the guest experience, many of these technologies are still in their early stages, with the potential to change the industry in ways we have yet to imagine.

Luxury brand management and guest experience

Balancing heritage with innovation is essential for luxury brands to attract an increasingly diverse range of clients. Relying on brand history alone is no longer enough – brands need to bring their identity into the future in order to stay relevant. However, storytelling is still key for brands to convey their value to customers.

Global brands will need to reflect the increasingly diverse identity of their clients through multicultural awareness and sensitivity. To meet omnichannel customers, brands will need to build seamless transitions between offline and online experiences while retaining the high levels of service that luxury clients expect.

We can also expect to see more luxury brands branching into hotels and other hospitality ventures – adopting the codes of hospitality enables brands to provide customers with a uniquely immersive experience that goes beyond traditional retail. Finally, retaining the human touch throughout these interactions will be essential for luxury brands to nurture the personal relationships that build client loyalty.

Sustainable hospitality

The United Nations have pushed issues of sustainability to the forefront of public awareness, and conscientious Millennials and Gen Z travellers in particular expect global hospitality businesses to take a more comprehensive approach to corporate social responsibility.

Transparency and accountability are becoming more important as travellers want to know the impact of their footprint – not only environmentally, but socially as well. Sustainable and socially responsible strategies now range from the reduction of single-use plastics to the development of social business concepts and the shift towards a circular economy system, in which resources are recycled and regenerated, rather than used once and disposed.

Food and beverage innovations

Sustainability concerns have also become important within the realm of food and beverage. Interest in locally sourced, seasonal food and vegetable-centric cuisine continues to grow among eco-friendly and health-conscious consumers, resulting in the development of farm-to-table – and even seed-to-table – culinary concepts.

However, the pursuit of pleasure is also a key motivator for customers seeking new culinary experiences that delight the senses. Millennials are driving a shift towards the democratisation of dining, blurring the boundaries between formal and casual, and embracing high-quality cuisine at an accessible price point.

Street food and open-fire cooking are introducing diners to a wider range of flavours, traditions and experiences. And in the age of Instagram, visual delights are just as important as deliciousness – something which some of the world’s top pâtissiers already know.

As these trends reveal, the future of hospitality is increasingly transversal, shaping and being shaped by global movements, industries and consumer values. Despite these rapid changes, among consumer-centric industries such as luxury and hospitality, one constant remains: the importance of the human touch. Human relations continue to play an invaluable role in the delivery of memorable experiences and service, making human talent one of our greatest sources of innovation.

By Benoît-Etienne Domenget, who serves as CEO of Sommet Education, a group encompassing the prestigious Swiss hospitality management schools Glion Institute of Higher Education and Les Roches Global Hospitality Education. A graduate of HEC Paris, Mr Domenget is a seasoned hospitality professional and has held positions as Senior Vice-President Development EMEA and Managing Director Switzerland with AccorHotels.

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How to get payment and booking systems right

Critical to the day-to-day running of a successful hotel is organisation; it’s necessarily a keystone in operational management from back of house to front of house.

But once you’ve got a potential guest about to book, how well can you manage it? The software you choose to deploy for organising your records of guests’ bookings, stays and managing their payments, will make a huge impact on how tight a ship you can keep.

Property management systems give hoteliers a diverse, but simple, range of features to use. From booking systems and management features to digital marketing, choosing the right system can drive up occupancy and boost revenue figures, while simultaneously allowing more time for your hotel and its staff members to flourish. Kate Fuller, marketing manager at Guestline, which offers the Rezlynx property management system says: “[It is about] providing users with an easy-to-use system, enabling them to deal with guests quickly and efficiently, enriching the overall customer journey.”


Many systems available are rather more than high-tech diaries – they have virtually become essential for anyone running a hotel of any size, be it a large branded chain or an independent boutique. A property management system is the core of the operation of a hotel, while payment and booking systems are essential to the smooth running. Payment and booking systems keep track of both current and future guests, from check-in to check-out, laid out clear designs, and these systems will show hoteliers how many rooms they have left for a particular day, and using algorithms help to determine at what rate any vacant rooms should be sold for to maximise occupancy.

Not only does this make the organisational life for a hotelier much easier, it also clearly lays out what days and what price range of consumers still need to be targeted to maximise revenue. Craig Stewart, co-founder and director at Freetobook, an online booking system, says: “Freetobook helps independents make sense of and bring together the whole of the online marketing space – offering new and exciting services that help them grow their business and save time on the manual stuff.”

Using one of these systems will allow you to place a booking button on your website, allowing guests to visit your website, check availability and rates, before ultimately making a booking. In return the hotel will be notified about the guests’ contact details and the booking will be entered onto the diary. Fuller adds: “By managing your rates, Guestline systems enable hoteliers to increase direct bookings, improve rates and reduce OTA commissions. Hotels will also benefit from operational efficiencies and improvements in rate parity.”


Owning a hotel is often a stressful intense job, and for hoteliers that are on the move – perhaps they may have another job or a second hotel in another part of the country, or they are heading away for a business meeting, keeping on top of things while you are away from the hotel can be tricky.

Fortunately there are payment and booking systems offer access on the road. This allows hoteliers to organise operations and deal with any problems or changes quickly and easily. Chris Petty, managing director at Newbook UK, a property management system which offers an array of features, including access to its system on handheld devices, says: “Being able to login to your property management system from any location and device gives the general manager or hotel owner the ability to react to any problem, or pricing change, on the go.”

Peter St Lawrence, GM and shareholder of The Crown at Amersham hotel in Buckinghamshire, says that he will be making the most of “cross-selling opportunities” by bringing his smaller affiliate properties onto the Newbook system as well. Having everything on one system will not only help your organisational skills, it will also encourage you to cross-sell, driving revenue to any other properties that you own.

Using a cloud-based system, Newbook allows hoteliers to use its system with only an internet browser required. Not only does this allow the ease of access, but according to Petty it also helps hoteliers save on costs. “This allows for a much lower setup cost,” he says, “as no on site server or support is necessary, saving in some cases thousands of pounds a year.”


Property management systems can also offer a variety of other functions to help improve the running of a property and drive guest demand to the hotel, including digital marketing features, helping to increase occupancy.

Some property management systems allow you to conduct and track your own email marketing campaigns. Running these campaigns will enable you to reach past customers with deals and offers improving your chance of returning guests. Marketing campaigns will allow you to target specific consumers with exactly what they are looking for, at the time that they are looking for it.

Stewart recommends that hotels also use a mobile-friendly site. He says: “Hotels using the mobile-friendly website and booking process can increase conversion across multiple devices.” Using a mobile friendly site allows guests to book a room at your hotel, at any time, and anyplace. With a large amount of booking now coming from handheld devices this is an investment that will be sure to pay dividends. Booking systems can also support Google Analytics, meaning you will be able to track your conversion rate, and analyse where your marketing is going right, and where it is not going as well as you’d hoped. The hindsight this provides helps to plan better marketing strategies over time.

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What should a room look like?

A very interesting article by Tammy La Gorce in the New York Times on 26 May got me thinking again about the state of our industry and the ‘infighting’ that is going on to design the ‘best possible’ room  for the new generations of guests. Tammy states that with more than 500, yes, you read correctly, 500 hotel brands operating in the global markets, there are ‘smaller and smaller slices of the market for hotels to capture’.

Ben Schlappig, a hotel blogger, points out that: “Hotel executives are building everything around millennials right now and expect the millennials to want to work in these hip communal lobby spaces or in bed.” However, is the elimination of closet space, writing desks and whatever the designers come up with next the real answer? Is it true that a vast majority of millennials do not want a closet or a desk? And what about the boomers and all the other generations that are still here and will be for years?

I, for one, still like having the desk in my room in case I want to use it. I like to unpack the minute I arrive and have my room set up as my ‘home away from home’, something the brands tout as the feeling you will have when staying with them. But my home has a desk and plenty of closet space, so how can a room without those be my home away from home?

I have written many articles about the looming threat to the independent owners and operators, and have also underlined the coming saturation point of rooms and hotels supply. Luckily for our hospitality industry guests cannot experience a ‘stay online’, and so hotels will always be necessary. This is the opposite of the retail industry which is experiencing the demise of big brand name shops and outlets as people purchase more and more online. In the papers today there is a headline that states that Reitman’s, a Canadian clothing retailer is going to shutter 40 more stores in addition to the 100 stores it closed in 2016.

But this does not mean that the threat is any less for the hotel industry. More and more ‘cookie cutter’ hotels are being built to the new and ever changing trends. Communal lobbies, sparser bedrooms, cutting edge technology and communications; everything is jammed into these cardboard boxes in the attempt to gain occupancy and real estate value.

So where does that leave the independents? The situation in Europe is better than in North America as many of the independent operators are in historical buildings or buildings with some history to include in their branding.

However, all of the independents are caught in the crossfire of the big brand juggernauts who are trying to take over all the different types of hotels in order to clean up on the market.

More and more hotels are added to the supply, and the OTAs are gobbling up more and more of the occupancies. AirBnB and private home owners are adding supply to the vacation market which will reach saturation point at some time in the foreseeable future.

With this frantic competition going on, and with costs going up all the time it is natural to go for the easiest occupancy available and give more rooms to the OTAs. Some properties now have as much as 70% of their rooms taken up by OTAs. Some hotels start cutting staff. Others save on maintenance while others delay renovations.

All of these measures are understandable but inexcusable and will inevitably lead to losses and eventual closings. Can you begin to imagine the hotel battlefield if another recession hits? The answer for independents is to adapt to the new generations of customers and create a niche slice of the market for themselves. This means daring to go in a different direction than just competing with the generics in the hope that it will all be OK in the end.

The first and most important task is to create a good and caring hotel culture. This is not easy but will lead to keeping valuable staff for longer times, save considerably on turnover costs (up to £3,000 and more per employee), create pride and foster better achievements. Do not cut training budgets, but educate more on the diversity of the new generations of guests.

The executives must understand and fulfill the new needs and expectations of the millennials and other new guests. There must be added value to the stay experience. What the baby boomers and the generations before them expected from a stay are radically different than the expectations of the new guests.

Lastly, the branding must be created that differentiates the hotel from the generics. Creative ideas must tie the property to the history of the building or the town. Community involvement must be a mainstay for the hotel, and environmentally friendly policies should be introduced. Perhaps some funds are necessary to alter the interior design to give it a meaningful makeover and refresh the message of the new branding.

All of these changes do not mean that the hotel should not install the latest communication technology, or find a happy medium for the new room design and the furniture that is installed in it. Good maintenance, clean rooms, good facilities, friendly staff and a good F&B standard are still of utmost importance, but that is not enough for tomorrow.

The time has come for independents to sit down and contemplate their future as small fish in choppy seas where sharks are added daily.

This feature first appeared in the August 2017 issue of Hotel Owner. 

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How to be one step ahead of your customers

The most successful businesses today know that they have to understand their customers better to retain them – but what has changed in recent years is a rising expectation from customers that actually want businesses to anticipate exactly what they’re thinking.

This has put pressure on businesses to react accordingly.

In the hospitality industry, there are some obvious examples of things customers will want to know. For example when they get to your website such as: what’s included in the fee?; are there any additional charges?; what time is check-in and check-out?; what kind of bed is included?; what are the amenities?; and so forth.

Hotels that do a good job of informing their customers will have all of this information readily available. As each and every guest has different expectations of the hotel experience, the same is likely to be the case for those browsing your website. So personalising content, engagement and responses for them could make their experience far more satisfying and encourage a deeper bond with the customer that will keep them coming back, or indeed even spur them on to recommend their friends to visit the hotel.

For those that haven’t got sufficient information, there are easy to use tools that are ideal for the hospitality sector that provide an out-of-the-box solution for FAQs and customer serving tools.

So what’s next? Well, first and foremost, an advanced FAQ section – or help centre – where you can include detailed articles about different topics, perhaps guides on ‘what a day at our hotel looks like’ and ‘what you can do in a week at our hotel’ could be starting points.

To reap rewards in the long-term however, there has to be a focus on managing this help centre. Using analytics, you can find out what the most searched terms are, what the most common questions are and what the biggest frustrations seem to be – and act on making this information more accessible, while also fine-tuning any wider issues at the hotel and website.

For example, if you know that a certain amount of users have searched about late check out times but there is no article to explain the policy, then you’d want to write an article about that so less are tempted to call and ask. While if you know that dozens of prospective customers are enquiring about the availability of car parking because of an event taking place near-by, you know you can write an article that can be published on the homepage explaining whether or not your car park will have sufficient space.

Using a platform that can ingest data from all of the different ways customers can reach you – email, webchat, social media and over the phone – can help you to better manage these queries, but also ensure that you aren’t getting the same queries months later as the answer will be available in the help centre. This will free up your team to focus on adding value to your customers by further personalising the way you interact with them online.

Being proactive in helping your potential and existing customers is what guests now expect. Subsequently, you’ll have a better rapport with guests, and stimulate a better working environment for your own staff. It’s time to be a step ahead of your customers.

Contribution by Naomi Rozenfeld, head of strategic marketing at Wix Answers

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Legionella risk assessments done right

If you are the hotel manager, maintenance manager or property owner you have a legal responsibility and accountability to ensure that occupiers of your premises are suitably protected from water safety risk. You may have appointed, or been appointed as, the Responsible Person. This essential blog is aimed at helping you understand a little more of how a risk assessment can help you and what it must include.

A good risk assessment is a vital part of an effective strategy for the minimisation of risks associated with legionella proliferation in water systems within buildings. In this article we review what a Legionella risk assessment should include to comply with regulations and guidance.

Common failures

There’s nothing new about the concept of Legionella risk assessments but the approach to completing one can vary greatly. When working with clients invariably we review the risk assessments they’ve commissioned with contractors or consultants and often we find the same failings. In practice a report might fall foul of more than one of these mistakes:

Failure 1:  Non-assessment – These come in three types, first we have the “subjective assessment of risk” where there is no structured method of risk evaluation, such as a risk scoring matrix. Another example is the “Flawed assessment of risk”. Often when there is a risk scoring system it can be flawed or illogical, for example many assessors fail to consider occupant susceptibility. The third example may be hard to believe but we have seen examples of so-called risk assessment reports in which there is no indication of risk at all.

Failure 2:  Condition Survey – Badged as a risk assessment, condition surveys are typified by reports that focus on identifying every minor fault or defect and stipulating that all must be rectified regardless of the risk posed in each case, in some cases without a valid indication of risk at all [see Failure 1];  As a Responsible Person you may be encouraged to use the same company to carry out both the risk assessment and any associated remedial works. However, using just one company raises the possibility that the risk assessment will be partisan. For example, the assessor may suggest the need to undertake unnecessary remedial work, knowing this remedial work will result in the sale of additional services. Often these actions pass unquestioned, either due to a lack of time or knowledge on the part of the Responsible Person.

Failure 3:  Asset List – Exactly what it says, this is a catalogue that lists every outlet in the building;

Failure 4:  Wish List – Here the risk assessor places unworkable time scales on the risk minimisation actions and/or fails to properly prioritise their recommendations. BS 8580 indicates that risk assessors should be able to justify all of their actions and prioritise them according to risk, for any identified risk there might be short term actions to manage it and longer term actions to eliminate or reduce it;

Failure 5:  Half-a-job – The risk assessment in which not all risk systems are included i.e. air handling units, swimming pools, spa baths and those other risk systems listed HSG 274 Part 3. It’s important that the scope of the assessment is agreed before work commences.

To avoid these mistakes, it’s important to consider carefully your choice of provider, keeping the delivery of Legionella risk assessments separate from the contract to undertake any subsequent remedial work.

Identification, assessment and review of risks

The HSE reissued ACoP L8 in 2013 followed by the supporting technical guidance known as HSG274, which comes in three parts:

  • Part 1 – The control of legionella bacteria in evaporative cooling systems;
  • Part 2 – The control of legionella bacteria in hot and cold water systems;
  • Part 3 – The control of legionella bacteria in other risk systems.

The ACOP L8 and HSG274 suite of documents, offers advice on managing water systems. Including the need to carry out a risk assessment to identify the risks and the means to control them.  The HSE have detailed a checklist in each of the HSG274 documents outlining the most common requirements when assessing risk, some of the more interesting requirements include:

  • Details of management processes;
  • Assessment of the training and competence of those associated with risk management and those involved in control and monitoring activities;
  • Identification of roles and responsibilities;
  • Evidence of proactive management and follow up to the previous risk assessment;
  • An assessment on the validity of the schematic diagram.

Plainly, risk assessments are not just looking at water systems! Service providers must ensure that the requirements detailed in the HSG274 checklists are included in their risk assessment methodology.

To further compliment the guidance, the HSE refers to the British Standard Institution’s BS 8580:2010 ‘Water quality. Risk assessments for Legionella control. Code of Practice’.  This standard is applicable to any premises or work activity where water is used or stored that could cause a reasonably foreseeable risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria. The methodology of the standard covers risk assessments completed for the first time, review and auditing of control measures.

Risk assessments completed to BS8580:2010 methodology should include the following:

  • An assessment of:
    • occupant susceptibility;
    • management processes;
    • processes for monitoring data;
    • record keeping;
    • inherent risk and actual risk.
  • A repeatable means of assessing the level of risk, such as a scoring system or matrix
  • A comparison of the assessed risk to the acceptable level of risk
  • Recommendations designed to reduce the risk to the ALARP level, as required.

Again, this is not an exhaustive list, but here we’ve highlighted the need to consider the level of acceptable risk. ALARP should be considered for each water system as it may vary. This encourages a more pragmatic approach to managing the risk from Legionella bacteria helping to ensure that resources are neither wasted nor under-deployed

Legionella risk assessment reporting

To complete the process the assessor will prepare a formal risk assessment report. BS 8580:2010 indicates that reporting should involve the following:

  1. Firstly, if the assessor identifies any imminent dangers these should be communicated urgently to the responsible person without waiting for the written report.
  2. The written report be clear and unambiguous in its findings and should detail:
    • The results of the risk assessment including tests, measurements, checks and recommended remedial works;
    • An explanation of the scope of the assessment;
    • Identify the key people including duty holder and the responsible person;
    • Be sufficiently detailed to allow an understanding of the key issues and actions required to control it the risk;
    • The report should be written in such a way as to be readily understood by the intended recipients.

Managers will primarily be interested in what they need to do following the risk assessment. For this reason, the report should contain detailed recommendations, listed in order of priority with a suggestion of the reasonable timescale for completion. Using this information, a plan can be developed for implementation taking account of the available resources and the requirements of the risk assessment.


When it comes to these assessments and what they should include, there is clear guidance from both the HSE and BSi that is applicable to all Legionella risk assessments wherever they are carried out. Hospitality & leisure premises are no different in this respect. The manager responsible is required to check the competency of risk assessors, including external service providers. BS 8580:2010 states that the assessor should have “specialist knowledge of Legionella bacteria, relevant water treatment and the water systems to be assessed” and that they “should be able to demonstrate impartiality and integrity”.

This feature is from the Water Hygiene Centre 

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How hoteliers can stand out from the crowd

Have you ever stayed at your own hotel and put yourself in the shoes of the guest?

Regardless of your personal feelings about technology, you must put them aside and get to grips with the fact that guests expect nothing less than complimentary Wi-Fi in every part of the hotel, realistically nobody wants to have to sit in the reception area to surf the internet.

And then there are those places that haven’t just taken this on board, they have actually gone above and beyond to impress. Take South Lodge and Dormy House for example, they provide guests with a tablet in their room so that they can order room service or book a table for dinner. You should also cater for the generation of smartphone users, preferably with an iPod docking station in the room.

Because of the expensive equipment that we carry around with us, a laptop safe is a nice touch that makes us feel a bit more secure when we have to leave valuable items in the room. And if it has charging facilities in there, so much the better.


With increasing numbers of families wanting luxury breaks, those hotels that cater for children should make sure they go the extra mile. Bovey Castle has a fantastic Lego Room Service, which allows children to select from a Lego menu so that it can be delivered to their room. What child wouldn’t love this? And happy children make happy parents. Alternatively, you could simply make sure you have a good selection of toys, books, games and facilities available. An Ofsted registered crèche, kid’s clubs and babysitting services are all great ideas when catering for families.

Similarly for pet friendly hotels, expect that all owners treat their pet as a member of the family, so you must too. The Hare and Hounds in Tetbury provides a dog walking map, while others have bowls, treats and blankets to ensure your pooch leaves feeling pampered.


A real bone of contention at many hotels is the lack of comfortable pillows. Because each and every guest has different requirements, a creative option is to offer a pillow menu, which will appeal to everyone especially allergy sufferers. At Lainston House there is a fantastic selection of non-allergenic and anti-bacterial pillows, which are dabbed in a soothing lavender sleep balm at turn down.

Hotel 41 in London certainly knows how to welcome you. Sent to guests prior to arrival, the booking preference form lets you choose from a host of additional facilities in your room, including a variety of pillows, yoga mat and even an exercise bike.

If you want to know how to really make a guest feel special, you could always take a leaf out of Lake District hotel The Brimstone’s book. Not only will you find a GHD hair dryer and hair straighteners in each of its suites, the mood lighting; personal host and reading room, where complimentary refreshments are available throughout the day, provide an experience that certainly will not be forgotten in a hurry.


Over the last few decades the coffee revolution has sparked the desire for a quality coffee machine in hotel rooms, as well as fresh milk. At The Arch in London guests can enjoy a decent cup of coffee from the Nespresso Machine. If you really want to push the boat out, homemade cookies or a cake to welcome your guests will go down a treat.

A personal favourite of mine, in terms of overall hotel experience, has to be the Jetty Spa Trail at Gilpin Lake House. They really know how to do things in style there. Beginning with a private aroma consultation so that personalised products can be created for you to take home, you can also enjoy a private swim, salt snug, aroma massage and a glass of champagne in the private hot tub, which sits on the edge of the woodland.

Many hotels now understand the importance of providing guests with branded toiletry products, but St Moritz goes one step further with its own exclusive range of botanical products, which are also suitable for vegetarians to use.

By Zoe Cole of CrispWhiteSheets

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Why marketing is important for hoteliers

The world has changed when it comes to marketing.  From what I’ve seen, very few hoteliers have realised how much it has changed and still live in the dark ages when it comes to promoting their hotels.  Steve Jobs’ dream came true. He changed the world when it came to technology and how we as human beings interact with it.

Let me be honest here and say when it comes to technology and internet marketing, it’s time to ‘ride the waves’ – and not fight them – as they are certainly not going away.  If you do not become a master of this new and extremely important skill within your hotel business, then I’m afraid you will sink. It’s that simple.

I was asked to write this column a few days before Christmas, so I had some time out to think about what I could say to you in a few hundred words that would make you stop and think about your own marketing; something that may make a difference to you if you choose to take action; something that would make a positive difference to how you think and what you do next.

Well here it is.

If you are a hotel owner, CEO, managing director or hotel manager, there is one thing and one thing only that is going to make a huge impact on your business and that is more customers. So, in order to attract these customers, you need to understand how they think and where they are. I don’t know your business. However, I can tell you where your customers are, and that’s the internet. They’re on Facebook, Twitter, on Google and a dozen or so other places where you can get to them easily with the right approach, skills and attitude.

So, whatever your position within your business, the single most important thing you should be mastering is marketing.  I’ll say it again: without understanding modern day marketing, you quite simply have a limited shelf life.

By Stephen Hargreaves, owner of the Cranleigh Boutique hotel

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Food and drink culture – the rebellion is here

For decades, there has been strict control on how we eat, when we eat and what we eat. Historically, there existed an old routine of only having porridge or sausages in the morning; or only having a club sandwich at noon; or indeed roast beef and mashed potatoes in the evening. The rules were pretty simple then.

But there’s been a definite change in how consumers relate to food and drink, with diners now eating eggs for dinner and chorizo, avocado and hash potatoes for breakfast. And Lifestyles have become less regimented. As the 9-5 structures dissipate, so too has the ‘three meal a day’ requirement.

As people increasingly work from home, eating habits have changed with many consumers now dining out once or even twice a day. They are also much more knowledgeable about the finer details of food – having being exposed to a battering of videos, blogs and TV shows educating us on what works or doesn’t.

The rise of superstar culinary explorers like Anthony Bourdain and TV shows like Chef’s Table and Master Chef have driven a global explosion in food and food related travel. In 2016, for instance, 95% of Americans expressed a desire for unique food experiences while travelling – up from just 47% in 2013.

Although the UK has not always appeared on the global stage in terms of its culinary offerings, we must now export the UK’s status as an emerging ‘foodie’ destination. Farmers markets, microbreweries and coffee roasters are appearing all over the country, while the demand for sustainable local produce has also created restaurant menus that offer a more regional sense of ‘place’ for visitors.

In recent years, we at Jurys Inn & Leonardo Hotels UK and Ireland have introduced new partnerships with famed chefs like Marco Pierre White. Other new food and drink concepts include OddSocks, Kitchen Bar & Restaurant and Costa. These have strengthened our hotels in the marketplace as consumers look for hallmarks of culinary quality in their hotel experience.

It’s therefore very important that we listen closely to what are customers are looking for in their dining experience in terms of Food and Beverage. Because of this, we’ve adapted our offering to include:

Casual Dining

Consumers don’t want menus to be confined to a time of day. They are very clear about what food they want to eat and often look up a menu prior to arriving at a restaurant to ensure what they want is being provided.

The old structure of having separate menus for breakfast, lunch, dinner and in our case a room service menu, is a barrier to accommodating this change in expectation. That is why we recently overhauled our menus to provide just one ‘kitchen’ menu that includes an array of dishes designed to satisfy any appetite. We also have our Odd Socks and Bar & Kitchen offerings that provide for the consumer on the go. This built in ‘to go’ features have become common across many traditional restaurants.

The Oddsocks menu, for instance, aims to cater for all tastes with one strategic and expansive menu. We’ve incorporated a number of different food styles, luxurious food items and traditional classics, ensuring that there is something for everyone, whatever the time of day and mood! This spans from rotisserie style meals and pizzas to delicious Halloumi bites or muscles in tomato, paprika and chorizo broth..

The Food  

While dining has become a more relaxed affair, it doesn’t mean the menu should be. Given the penchant for eating out more among the masses, consumers want to see a dash of flair – as long as it includes some home comforts. We have recently begun changing our menu every six months to ensure we keep up with this expectation. We organise a week-long cook off with our head chef and a Menu Engineer to reflect the feedback we receive through our customer satisfaction tools – and Voila! Our new menu is complete.

Our menus have also been updated to reflect the changing dietary requirements and increased awareness around food. At our Oddsocks locations, we’ve incorporated even more gluten free and vegetarian options for foodies and have experimented away from the mundane, making these dishes more exciting than the typical vegetarian risotto or salad options.

The accompaniment

Food and drink are now more linked than ever. It’s important for all restaurants to keep up with the latest beverage trends. As evidenced by the all-consuming love affair with prosecco and gin – having the right drink or cocktail available can be the difference between choosing one establishment over another. In fact, similar to the Gin revaluation, Rum is experiencing a similar surge in popularity, with enthusiasts seeking out the latest venue showcasing the latest selection.

The Service

Consumers are almost over-exposed to food these days with the result that some of the mystery around fine dining has been laid bare. And while there is less emphasis now on the white tablecloth and the dance of the wine tasting, service and a friendly atmosphere are most definitely deciding factors. Food culture has become more equal. Before, when looking for something cheap and cheerful – expectations around service were low. But now, the notion that high service comes at a high price is not accepted anymore.

All of these changes taking place on the high street are echoing a maturing consumer attitude to food and drink that mirrors a very different lifestyle. The explosive growth of food is a key opportunity for the UK, allowing it to capitalise on its rich regional culture and revive its culinary reputation.

The food revolution is here – we just need to make sure we are at the table.

By Barry Rowland, head of operations, Jurys Inn

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Why hotels should be wary of adopting global trends

Q: I’m an independent hotelier with a small property; I’ve always shied away from adopting global trends, but my general manager is talking about introducing some interactive technologies into our guest experience and setting up a whiskey bar? Are either of these a goer?

A: I always advise to beware of trends. They can be a great added-value experience for guests and can generate significant revenues for you, but they can also be an overall expense if they don’t take off. Before ever adopting a trend, take a step back and look at the whole development, rather than focussing on the details. What this allows is for you to assess the relevance of the trend for your particular circumstance and frankly, whether you even like it.

Obviously, some things are here to stay. For example, televisions in every room, then later colour TVs and then flat screens, WiFi and room service were all technically ‘trends’ in their day, but are now expected by hotel guests far and wide. Yet at the other end of the scale, hyped-up trends have included the QR code, underwater sound systems and mood-enhancing coloured lighting, all of which are very niche, and many no longer have a place at all. Each trend will have a cost to adopt and unless they become the mainstay of a guest’s experience, you risk adopting an expensive fad where the cost to your business far outweighs the benefits.

Here’s what to consider before adopting a trend:

  • For me, the single key thing for you to consider is whether you actually like the trend? If you (or your manager) are a whiskey-lover, have a passion for it and actually struggle to talk about anything else, then adopting the ‘niche bar’ trend could be right for you. It’ll draw in a particular audience, allow you to exercise your expertise and it will be a unique selling point for the business. It’s also not dependent on its status as a trend – even if other hotels move on, building your reputation on it will still attract a specific clientele.
  • Size of the market should also be a key factor; you are a small independent hotel and whilst you can set yourself apart and build your reputation, you don’t have to be an industry leader to do so. No one will expect you to be ‘cutting-edge’; instead, they will expect you to offer everything a big hotel struggles to – personalised service and a personal experience. Before adopting a trend, look up any stats on its performance, market value and potential income to give you a good idea of whether you can actually compete. Interactive technologies are a good example here – on the one hand there is a trend for wearable tech and being ‘plugged in’, but then again there is also an ‘anti-technology’ movement such as the ‘digital detox’ service from alldayPA and in one hotel in Germany, they have installed a unique copper grid which is able to block out 96% of all wireless signals, giving guests a rest.
  • It probably goes without saying, but cost should be a huge factor. How much is it going to cost you to implement any trend and can that cost be passed on to guests, or will it become a cost for you to incur? Some things like WiFi is a necessary expense and can in fact drive business to your hotel, whereas other things will simply be a cost with no real benefit.
  • Competition is the final point to keep an eye on; sometimes you will need to adopt a trend to keep up with your competition and ensure you are still sought-after, but sometimes if your competition is adopting a trend then that becomes the exact reason that you shouldn’t. Coming back to your whiskey bar, if lots of the venues in your area choose to adopt this specialism then it’s probably best you don’t, but if you are going to be the only one, you have the chance to drive demand.

Other things you should do is to survey your loyal guests and see what they are looking for, identify other hotels in other areas of the UK who have adopted a trend and see what they think. It can also be helpful to chat to your professional association and see what they have to say about it.

Some of the current trends to keep an eye on are ‘health and wellbeing’, with people looking for restorative stays that provide additional wellbeing treatments alongside their break, specific dietary requirements, particularly in light of the recent allergen law changes, environmental awareness and stewardship, for example including organic produce in your restaurant or putting emphasis on low carbon emissions, as well as ‘bring your pet’ and ‘keeping it niche’.

How long each trend will last is anyone’s guess, but ultimately, if you can create a unique, interesting and very real experience for your guests, it’s likely you’ll be able to build and sustain a demand for your hotel.

By Angie Petkovic. This article first appeared in the August 2015 issue of Hotel Owner

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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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