Starwood Now Allows Guests To Post Reviews On Starwood.com

We have been talking about hotels managing their internet reputation ever since the days of MySpace.  Yes, that long ago!  One of our recommendations was to allow guests to post reviews directly onto your own website, instead of a third party site like TripAdvisor.  Finally, a hotel company has gotten it right!  Starwood.com will now allow guests to post reviews (good and bad we assume) after check out.  Guests can post a review for a visit within 18 months after logging in and verifying that they were a guest of the hotel.  They currently have the following guidelines for posting reviews:

  1. Keep your review focused on the hotel
  2. Contact us if you have an issue that requires immediate assistance
  3. Refrain from mentioning competitors or the specific price you paid for the hotel
  4. Do not include any personally identifiable information, such as full names

The Ultimate Arrival Experience in Action

welcome-matIf you our working hard on improving your guest welcome with our Guide to the Ultimate Arrival Experience, we wanted to share a few stories of the Ultimate Arrival Experience in action.  The great thing about these two stories is how they show how our Ultimate Arrival Experience will work for any hotel.  These two hotels were both visited by one of our mystery shoppers during the same week…  both took a similar approach to the arrival experience… but are very different hotels.  The first hotel was a budget friendly Holiday Inn, the second was a ultra-luxurious Ritz-Carlton.

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USA Today reports ‘Hard Times Send Hotel Industry into Survival Mode’

A really good article from USA Today about hotel’s struggling to survive.  Check out the full article on USA Today’s website. 

The article features some high profile hotel closures such as the W Hotel in San Diego and the Ritz-Carlton in Las Vegas.  The article also mentions how 76 California hotels have already fallen into foreclosure and that 330 out of the states 10,000 hotels have defaulted on their mortgage payments in the last year. 

As far as the cuts, the article really only mentions that Concierges are being replaced by lower cost employees and some hotels are changing their approach to food and beverage.

We have noticed quite a few changes at hotels over the last year or so to cut costs or drive revenues.  A few of the changes we see:

  • Many hotels have closed restaurants and bars.  Instead of having 2 or 3, many have closed all but one restaurant and one bar.
  • Hotels have cut costs and gone green by eliminating newspapers and printed folios.
  • Parking rates are on the rise.  Many hotels have increased the parking fees for both self parking and valet parking.
  • Breakfast buffets have really been changing.  The prices have increased and the quality and selection of food has decreased.
  • Overall staffing has really decreased.  Many hotels have eliminated positions like bellmen or concierges.  Also, we see longer lines at check in because the hotels have less GSAs with similar occupancy as in the past.

What are you doing to survive?  Please post in our comment section!

USA Today Reports that Cybercriminals Still Consider Hotels Easy Targets for Credit Card Info

There is a great article in the USA today on how criminals target hotels and steal their guest’s credit card info.  You can read the entire article on the USA Today website by clicking here

The article says that hotels are considered hacker’s number one target and mentions how Wyndham was breached 3 times in the last 12 months. 

Our favorite post from the comment section:  Ladies Man writes “A bigger and far more serious crime is coming down to breakfast and discovering it consists of bagels, honey buns, and those weird chewy off-brand fruit bars. If my credit card info must be stolen, I’d rather find out after I’ve had a large and proper breakfast.”

Why Google AdWords Should Be Near the Top of Your Hotel Marketing Plan

google-adwords-logoIt is no secret that most people start their search for almost everything on the internet these days.  Most of these searches start with Google, yet few hotels have a good marketing plan to take advantage of this.  Using Google AdWords (those little ads that appear on the top and side of your google search) can really impact your hotel revenues.  It is a very cheap (and easily measurable) way to increase your business.

First, don’t assume that people skip over those ads just because you do.  Most people read the ads.  Many people actually have no idea that they are even ads.  If you are new to Google Adwords, click here for a brief tutorial.

Now, what type of keywords should you be buying?  Here are some ideas to get you started:

The name of your hotel – Sounds like a no brainer but most hotels do not buy the name of their own hotel.  You would be suprised how many times I Google the name of a hotel and the hotel’s website does not come up at the top of the list.  Often, the top searches will be third party websites like Expedia.  If you want Expedia to sell all of your rooms for you, there is no need to buy your own name.  Otherwise, this should be your top priority.  Many hotels also buy the names of their competitors.  I am not saying that this is ethical, but it happens.

The word ‘hotel’ and the name of your city and nearby cities – These clicks might be quite a bit more expensive than buying your name because you will be competing with the big third party travel websites.  However, they may really pay off for you with increased bookings.  It may be worth it to appear the top of a Google search instead of on page 5.  Few Google searchers even make it half way down the first page.

The word ‘hotel’ and the name of local attractions – For example, if you are near Disneyland, buy ‘hotel Disneyland’.  Many people search for a hotel simply by Googling ‘hotel near Disneyland’.  The major attractions may be more expensive but keywords with the names of your nearby museums, zoos, or concert halls might be surprisingly cheap.

Keywords to fill your banquet space – If your hotel does meetings, weddings, or other social functions, be sure to buy those keywords.  Get creative.  Buy the keywords for every social function that has ever been at your hotel.

Keywords for your hotel restaurant and bars – If your hotel has a unique restaurant or bar, buy up some keywords to increase traffic.  These might be more expensive because you are competing with every restaurant and bar in your area, but could really pay off.

Hopefully, this will help you get up and running right away.  Be sure you have someone on property that is responsible for maintaining the ads at least once per week.  Also, someone should be tracking your website data to see how the ads are increasing your traffic.  Google AdWords makes it really easy to play with different keywords to get the results you need.  Good luck!

Product Review: Simmons EverNU Mattress

Simmons has introduced a new mattress that lets you zip off the top layers of the mattress and replace them.  By doing this, you can extend the life of your hotel’s mattresses.  A mattress can now last up to 14 years according to Simmons.

Check out the full details, including a video on Simmons website by clicking here.

SimmonsOur take:  It seems like a solid idea.  The replacement tops cost about $120.  It seems like a good solution to replace soiled mattresses for about 1/5th of the cost.  We really like any idea that improves the cleanliness of the beds in hotel rooms.  Hotel beds have really come a long way in recent years.  We really believe that the triple sheet system that replaced the disgusting comforters is one of the biggest improvements for hotels in decades.

Hat tip:  We originally were tipped off about this mattress in the Hotel Check-In Blog.

UC Berkeley Economist Predicts ‘As Many As 1 in 5 U.S. Hotels May Default’

UC_Color_LogoGood article today in the LA Times titled ‘Hotel defaults, foreclosures rise in California’.  The article says that more than 300 hotels in California were in foreclosure or default as of September 30th, 2009.  In Southern California alone, there are 140 hotels in default or foreclosure.  The main problem is that many hotel loans were expected to be repaid within 5 or 10 years and were financed at the peak of the market.  The author also blames loose lending and irrational exuberance.

Smith Travel Research is predicting no significant improvement for the hotel industry until 2011 at the earliest.

New Study Says Hotels Only Respond to 4 Percent of Negative Reviews!

trip-advisor-logoWe have been saying for years that one of the most important things to do is to maintain your hotel’s internet reputation.  If you missed some of our articles, click here.

Market Metrix and TripAdvisor did a recent study and found that “85 percent of hotels have no guidelines for monitoring, responding to or acting on guest reviews.”  85 percent!  They also state that “only 4 percent of negative reviews are responded to!”  The entire article can be read here.

The article suggests many of the same techniques that we do for mainting your hotel’s internet reputation.  You wouldn’t ignore a bad comment card, right?  Then why would you ignore a bad internet review of your hotel?  Get a plan in place today!

Ask TrueGuest: Improving In Room Dining

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Dear TrueGuest,

I am the In Room Dining Manager of a large hotel.  Our In Room Dining sales have really dropped over the last year.  Our service scores are also suffering.  Where do a start?

room serviceGreat question!  Many hotels are reporting a drastic decrease in F&B sales per occupied room.  The In Room Dining sales have taken the biggest hit during these tough times.  Guests are really cutting back on the more expensive amenities of the hotels and room service is usually at the top.  Here are our recommendations:

1.  Revisit your menu and specifically your menu prices.  Many hotels dramatically increased their room service menu prices over the restaurant prices.  We recommend that the prices are similar, especially if your hotel is near many other restaurants…  especially if they are within walking distance.  Guests typically look at the room service prices and assume they are the same as in the restaurant.  If a guest feels they are too high, you have lost them as a customer in both room service and the restaurant.  Guests will grab breakfast from a quick mart and eat dinner at the restaurant next door.

2.  Review the basics of room service selling with your Room Service Operators.  Now more than ever, they need to maximize the revenue on every call they receive.  Check out this article on how to increase your room service sales by as much as 50 percent!

3.  For help on improving your service, check out this article on how to deliver room service orders the right way!

Have any tips of your own?  Post them below!  Have a question that you would like answered?  Post it below or send it to us via the contact page.

Cutting Payroll in Your Hotel Restaurants – Busser Edition

If you are like many hotels, you are looking for ways to reduce your costs in your restaurants to compensate for the lower revenues.  In this first cutting payroll edition, we are going to discuss how to cut the busser (bussperson, busboy) position.  Many restaurant chains across the country have now eliminated the busser position.  Take a look at this article describing how chains such as T.G.I. Friday’s have eliminated the position.

busboxFirst, a brief overview of how we see the bussperson position. Bussers are the key to a restaurant’s cleanliness.  They are relatively inexpensive to have on the floor during busy times.  However, they can really hamper good guest service.  Restaurants tend to use bussers to help the servers serve guests by doing things such as offering beverages and pre-bussing.  The problem is that guests cannot tell the difference between a server and a busser.  It does not matter if their uniforms are different.  When an employee approaches a guest’s table and offers a beverage, the guest expects that person is going to serve them.  Unfortunately, they do not always speak English and are not trained to properly serve the guest.  Many guest’s questions are answered with a blank stare or with, “I’ll get the server”.  Servers should serve.  They should be the first to greet the guest when they are seated.  They should take the drink orders and deliver them.  They should pre-buss and should deliver the checks.  A busser should never go to a guest’s table while there is a guest present.  If a busser is doing any of these tasks out of necessity, your server probably is unable to handle the number of tables he/she has been assigned.  You should reduce his/her table count until his/her service improves.

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