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New marketing service launching

Marketing has changed in recent years, requiring new digital tools, said a nationally recognized speaker at a Thursday seminar introducing Propel Marketing to central Illinois businesses.

Ken Mauser, publisher of the Journal Star, introduced the session before more than 120 people at the Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino, one of two such gatherings.

“It’s important to note that Propel is not a third party but part of GateHouse Media, part of the Journal Star. Propel will help people drive more people to Facebook sites with print advertising, helping you to grow your business,” he said.

Growing that business is different now than it was 30 or 40 years ago, said Shannon Kinney, founder of Rockland, Maine-based Dreamlocal Digital.

“Media use is changing. Seventy-three percent of Americans now have smartphones. Seventy percent also feel overwhelmed by the amount of information they’re getting now,” she said.

That means ad pitches need to be more conversational than in the past, said Kinney.

“When you reach people in this way, you win.” she said.

With 1 billion users, Facebook is one way to start a conversation with customers, Kinney said. “Social media is word-of-mouth on steroids.”

But using Facebook requires a professionally designed page, Kinney said.

A business using Facebook also should adopt a thoughtful plan, Kinney said. Because business owners are busy running their business, Propel’s expertise can be tapped for social media management, now available through the Journal Star, she said.

Kinney also outlined how businesses could benefit from using other social media sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Pinterest and Google+.

She also advised companies to post videos of their business on YouTube.

“It’s now the second-largest search engine,” said Kinney, who stressed the need for businesses to consider tailoring marketing efforts to mobile devices. “By 2013, half of all the Internet searches will be done on mobile devices.”

Another benefit provided by Propel is a Web marketing dashboard where customers can track programs to see how they are working, said Kinney.

“I think it’s very brave of a newspaper to provide a service like Propel that offers services at a fraction of the cost of some alternatives,” she said. “But it’s not print that advertisers will cut back on as much as the Yellow Pages or TV.”

 

Steve Tarter can be reached at 686-3260 or starter@pjstar.com.

‘The battle in the UK is on price’ says Accor marketing chief

What is Accor’s place in the hotel industry and how will the revamped Ibis brand compete with the UK’s market leaders, Travelodge and Premier Inn?

“Accor is an important player in the economic segment of the hotel industry, it has a leading position in France and Germany but this is definitely not the case in the UK.

“What we would like, especially in the UK, is for Ibis to be one of those brands not only known for its price and functionality, but also for its comfort.

“In the UK market the leaders, Travelodge and Premiere Inn, are still focused on the basics. We would like to change the experience at Ibis.

“We have an urgency to renovate and bring modernity to the brand, to make it contemporary. We have to bring emotion, design, wellbeing, pleasure, good service and good food to the brand.”

Why did you decide to fold the Etap and All Seasons brands into Ibis to create a ‘megabrand’?

“Ibis has the strongest brand awareness across Europe out of the three brands, as it is the market leader in 12 countries.

“All Season was a small brand within Accor’s Australian portfolio, which was difficult to support and nourish, so we made the decision to have a source brand.

“Now Ibis is a source of confidence and endorsement, holding the values of an economy brand at the Accor Group, allowing us to create two price levels between Ibis and Ibis Budget – there is at least a 30% price difference these.

“Now, Ibis, Ibis Styles and Ibis Budget are colour coded differently and offer different levels of rooms and services, but with the same know-how; the same culture.

“It is the same system that Coca-Cola uses for Regular Coke and Diet Coke, or Beiersdorf for Nivea for men and Nivea for women.”

How have you changed the Ibis brand to meet those needs?

“We have changed the overall look of the brand, its visual identity. Ibis’s brand symbol is a pillow, making it contemporary and new.

“Secondly, we decided that we need to bring a strong tangible to this market, which we have answered with a new bedding and comfort experience in the rooms.

“We have created Ibis Styles, a more urban version of the brand, with each hotel designed by a different new and young designer.

“We have changed the Ibis brand’s public spaces to bring modernity and atmosphere to the hotels. We have created lounges – turning Ibis into a place you can visit to have a drink and spend time at the bar – the same way you would in upscale hotels.

How have you shaped your marketing strategy to communicate these changes?

“As a rule, we wanted to make these changes very quickly in the way they are delivered to market and let our clients see that Ibis is taking a new route, supported by the campaign and the new identity, demonstrated with the message, ‘Brand new Ibis, brand new comfort’.

“In the marketing, the story features the change of the product, the mattress, the rooms – it is like a piece of theatre in which small angels come and change the room.

“There are three films for three brands, the images are very cute, very funny, very unexpected. We have the story of our new beds, called ‘Sweet Bed by Ibis’, which is important to tell through direct communication channels like leaflets within hotels.

“For the Etap brand, which became Ibis Budget, it is important to talk about price and use the message, ‘Dream sleep, dream price’.

“The battle is on price within the UK market, and though we will not play the game exactly the same way as Travelodge and Premier Inn do, we would like clients to feel that we are competitive. However, we will be competing in a different style to the big machines.”

Are you experiencing a shift in the hotel market to have sparked these changes to the Ibis brand experience?

“What we are seeing, and this is the fundamental explanation behind this marketing strategy, is that the economic or budget industry segment is changing.

“Years ago, we were in a market where it was enough to deliver on price and functionality. Now, we are not in a world where rich people are buying luxury products and poor people buy economy – people use their purchasing power in a different way: a consumer can choose to fly easyJet but drive a luxury car.

“There is a de-segmentation happening in the market and now our clients want hotels to bring them the same level of experience as they have in different segments, even at a lower or budget price.

“Ikea is a key brand that demonstrates the process of this de-segmentation. It was the first brand to show that you can sell very economic furniture while bringing design, emotion and beauty to its products.

“The owners, AGM, are applying the rules used by luxury brands when it displays Ikea’s products, collections and models and this method has been used since by Uniqlo and Swatch.”

Pay closer attention to marketing strategies, tourism stakeholders told

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Pay closer attention to marketing strategies, tourism stakeholders told

9/17/2012

By RuthMoisa Alleyne

Local hotel and tourism business practitioners have been encouraged to measure the performance of their marketing strategies so that they know, prove and quantify what specifically is working for them.

Some of the issues discussed by John Fareed as he presented the feature address at the Third Annual General Meeting of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association held last week, were marketing perceptions and strategies, and trends in the global industry. During the lively and interactive session, Fareed, Hospitality Consultant and Principal of John Fareed Hospitality Consulting, said that despite the amount of times the return on marketing investments has been proven, decision makers saw it as an expense. He attributed this to the fact that marketing activities were never measured. “We don’t do a good job, in the hospitality and tourism industry…[even the largest of resorts can] have large marketing budgets and at the end of the year cannot tell you what worked”, he stated, adding that in this sector we “seemed not to care about specific measurements”.

Other areas he touched on were factors which contributed to people perception of the value of Barbados, noting that the fact that such a major airline as Delta did not fly to Barbados was something which we needed looking into.

Strategic marketing
“Your website … does it portray the value that is here, your social media channels … your [public relations]? Are you winning the kind of placements that portray the value that’s here?” Fareed went on ask. The consultant said that too many persons did not use their websites or social media channels as strategic marketing tools, but simply “online versions” of their existing brochures. As a result, many of them later complained that the tools were a waste of time, they were not getting any visitors and they still had to contend with the monthly service fees. “There was no campaign in it, no thought process, simply a brochure now online, that was expected to magically do things,” he explained.

Even with social media, though they are free to set up, it still calls for resources. “[you still have to factor in] who is going to manage all these tweets … but the people that are taking [on social media in a strategic way] are kicking butt. There are so many things you could do [and] if you do nothing else but advertise on social media, I am so proud of you because that is the next thing that is going to [have significant returns] in our industry.”

Local hoteliers and tourism business persons were also encouraged to take greater interest in getting information from tourists on their departure and suggested the airport departure lounge as a suitable place to do so. He argued that Barbados was behind in when it came to wi-fi access trends, adding that there were not enough power plugs in hotel rooms and that charging persons [so much money] per IP address, per night, was “way not cool”, compared to what was happening in the rest of the world, and taking into consideration the likelihood of each family member having their own devices.

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Hotel Marketing: The Missing Link

How to Market Your Luxury Hotel Property

As we are all feeling the economy’s pinch, it’s no wonder that revenues for luxury hotel chains are on the decline. As hotel owners are struggling to meet capacity, they are now faced with a choice to either cut their prices significantly or to put their marketing hats on and think outside the box. Perhaps when broadly branding their properties with ads placed in magazines or on travel sites aren’t working like they used to, alternative marketing solutions might be the answer.

When tightening the belt and discounting the room rates seems like the most obvious solution, many marketing managers don’t realize that they are also damaging their brand reputation at the same time. As bargain rates become the norm in the mind of the consumer, these “luxury” hotel chains become not so luxurious after all.

Furthermore, some marketing managers will make the erroneous decision to slash their advertising budgets altogether. In an article that I wrote on February 28th, 2011 entitled, When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Do Not Cut Their Advertising Expenses, I discuss the ramifications of cutting marketing expenses during a credit crunch, as doing so opens the doors for competitors to take front stage.

You may be heavily involved in hotel marketing, and feel as though you are in a rut and not equipped with the proper resources to cut through the clutter of the more well-known hotel brands out there.

An often overlooked advertising platform is email marketing to third-party email lists to promote hotel or travel offers. Based on published statistics and industry experience, email marketing has become the simplest and most inexpensive way to broaden the reach to an audience of travelers in an effort to generate new reservations. What better way to capture the attention of your target market than to deliver your message right to their inbox?

Email Answers has an extensive opt-in database of over 3.1 MM frequent travelers that allow hotel chains to streamline their hotel and travel offers to attract visitors from locations worldwide. Given that these consumers and business decision makers have indicated an interest in travel-related offers, we are able to average between an 18%-35% open rate with CTR’s of over 5% using a well-crafted email. However, the true indicator of a successful email campaign lies in the ROI achieved from the bookings and reservations made. Part of our offering after each email deployment is to conduct a conversion study analysis to determine how many people booked at your specific hotel or resort actually came from the email campaign that was deployed. Generating an average ROI of 10 to 1 from all hotel marketing campaigns, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

OK, so what’s involved and how do you get started?

As long as you design an eye-catching HTML email, use short, relevant, and enticing subject lines, and craft a simple and focused message, you will likely reap the benefits of targeted email marketing. Your journey begins with one step. Email Answers is here to help guide your way. Find out how to get started.

Email Answers estimates that in 2012, we will have generated $10-12 million in hotel room reservation income, which does not include additional income earned from hotel guests staying at the property, from a spend of $1-1.2 million in email marketing expenses.

This article is an original contribution by Meredith Thornton.

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Mapov promises order out of hotel booking chaos via maps

Mapov is setting out to simplify the hotel booking experience by combining hotel deals with TripAdvisor reviews and plotting them on a map.

The startup, which is self-funded, was founded by marketing consultant Richard Jackson who has worked in the online travel world for some years with stints at both booking.com and Expedia.

Jackson is supported by a team of four with execs responsible for front-end development, back-end development, PR and social marketing and design.

Competition is everywhere for this fledgling from Google Hotel Finder to hotel metasearch sites such as Trivago and HotelsCombined but it believes the problem of finding the best travel product quickly has not yet been solved.

Mapov doesn’t charge for the service and there is no advertising so the hope is that revenue will come via shared commission from hotel providers. The startup displays the lowest prices available for each hotel and directs users to that hotel provider.

QA with Jonny Giddens, responsible for PR and social marketing for Mapov

How is the way you are solving this problem more special or effective than previous attempts you or the market has seen before and how different do you have to be to succeed?

Unlike most of our competitors, at Mapov we display the hotel’s photos, reviews and prices on top of a map, in a crisp and uncluttered way. With arrows highlighting the hotel’s location, users can see exactly where it is, whilst still comparing price and availability. This approach makes it very easy for people to find a hotel in the place they want, and at a price they can afford.

Why should people or companies use your startup?

We have re-imagined how people search for hotels with the end user at the forefront. This has helped us create a site that is very intuitive to use whilst at the same time offering the very best prices on more than 220,000 hotels. Our crisp and dynamic approach helps users to see where hotels are in relation to the area they want to visit as well as the usual information of photos and reviews.

Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?

Our primary source of traffic is through search engine marketing on Google.  Although we are competing alongside some really big companies, we are already very pleased with the level of traffic we are getting through this avenue and are consistently experiencing higher than average click-through-rates. We are currently targeting people searching for hotels in some of the top global holiday destinations. We will continue to do this but in addition we plan to target people searching for shorter stays in domestic destinations, as well as, areas where a hotel’s location is very important.

What other options have you considered for the business and the team if the original vision fails?

When we created Mapov we built it in such a way that it could be scaled up and reapplied to a whole range of different services or products. At this stage we are focused on the hotel industry and are committed to being the best and easiest way to find and book a hotel on the internet but, this is by no means the limit of our vision.

What mistakes have you made in the past in business and how have you learned from them?

Marketing an idea is as important as delivering the product. We have also learnt that the quality and productivity of technical teams, makes or breaks businesses a few years down the line.

What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?

Traditionally hotel providers only display hotels in a one-dimensional list. This is good for comparing prices, but bad for the equally important consideration of the hotel’s location. How far is it from the beach? Is it near the train station? Will I be able to walk to the office? This is why we believe that Mapov’s implementation of the map integrated with a hotel’s other attributes (reviews, photos etc.) is its masterstroke.

Tnooz view:

There have been many promises to revolutionise the beast that is hotel booking lately so we’ll watch Mapov with interest and perhaps a little intrepidation for its lofty ambitions.

The use of maps to plot the location is good and with the increasingly innovative ways maps are being used in travel websites, it’s a sensible strategy. The service is also clean and crisp as per its claims.

The plan to build up traffic via search engine marketing on Google is interesting because although the startup claims it doesn’t currently need funding,  you’ve got to wonder how long before it burns all its cash especially as it’s going for top global holiday locations first.

The lack of advertising and shared commission model also raises concerns about how the site will make enough money as many consumers are now educated into using online travel agencies to search only to go and book direct with the hotel.

So, if they can persuade consumers they’re getting the same and best price on Mapov then it will fly. Interesting that the team has also designed Mapov in way that it could apply to other products and services.

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Related posts:

  1. TripFab promises game-changing booking model, urges industry to buy new underwear
  2. Global Hotel Exchange promises a revolution, transparent and market prices to consumers
  3. Not to be outdone by Google hotel maps, TripAdvisor debuts maps with vacation-rental pricing

Bespoke Hotels opens its doors to mid-market independents


Bespoke Hotels opens its doors to mid-market independents

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Category: Hotels

Written by Callum Gildart

Bespoke Hotels this week launched a sales and marketing division for independent mid-market hotels to rival the current services offered to them by international brands and consortiums.

The move follows on from what Bespoke Hotels describes as an “influx” of independent mid-market hotels wishing to join the group to raise their profile in the current financial climate.

Bespoke Hotels aims to provide affordable sales and marketing representation to hotels across the UK and internationally, and act as an alternative to qualifying criteria of international brands and consortiums.

Chairman of Bespoke Hotels Robin Sheppard said: “We have seen an increase in the number of mid-market hotels seeking both old-fashioned sales effort and contemporary, internet led, marketing representation from Bespoke Hotels, particularly as they attempt to raise their profile in the midst of an economic downturn. Bespoke will develop as a hotel brand for independent hoteliers who want to operate their hotel their way, without having to conform too rigidly to brand standards.”

Proprietor of Cantley House, one of the first hotels taken on by the company, Maurice Monk remarked: “I chose to work with Bespoke because I had specific gaps in certain market segments. They listened to me and they customised a plan to suit me. They weren’t offering a one-size-fits-all panacea but they have worked with me in an accurately targeted way.”

Non-executive director of Bespoke Hotels David Clarke added: “We have learnt that many hotels have not joined an organisation because they fear being placed in a strait jacket that affects their ability to run the hotel the way they want. The Bespoke approach is very different. After agreeing that the hotel fits the collection, Bespoke tailors a set of services and distribution channels that give the most cost effective impact. The hotelier decides what is right for their business.”

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Check it out! Hotel on way

With construction on a new hotel at the Black Oak Casino well under way, Tuolumne Me-Wuk tribal leadership expect to announce today that they have hired management for the new addition.

The hotel is expected to open for business by early spring 2013, and Marketing Manager Al O’Brien said on Wednesday that they are finalizing the hiring of a hotel general manager, director of sales and director of operations.

Construction has been under way at the hotel for about a year, and details of the new building’s amenities were announced earlier this summer.

“Basically, we have one more floor to put up before we’ll top it out with the roof trusses,” he said.

The hotel, next to the Black Oak Casino, will boast 148 rooms over four floors, including 30 suites, making it the largest hotel in the county. It will also have a fitness room and outdoor pool. The facility will also offer about 6,000 square feet of space in multiple rooms for meetings, conferences and other public events.

The hotel is the latest project for the growing Black Oak Casino, which was built 11 years ago by the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuks. Construction was completed about a year ago on a gas station and mini-mart next to the 1,000-space parking garage with the intention of serving tourists, local motorists and hotel guests. Future plans also include a golf course and a housing development.

Black Oak Casino was built in 2001, in a 28,000 square-foot metal warehouse with 600 slot machines and six table games. Today, the 164,000 square-foot casino has 1,200 slot machines, 24 table games, a poker room, four restaurants, a stage for live entertainment, a bowling center and an arcade.

Contact Chris Caskey at
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or 588-4527.

Marketing Man: O’Rourke Hospitality’s Brian Fitzgerald

Brian FitzgeraldEverything PR News has engaged in discussion with a number of key decision makers over the last year. PR gurus, creatives, journalists and editors, but not so many marketing experts. We found just such a guru in marketing man Brian Fitzgerald.

The travel and tourism business being as dynamic and changing as any in this digitally charge time, Fitzgerald, of O’Rourke Hospitality Marketing, seemed like the perfect person to tag for a Q A. One problem though, in catching up with professionals on the go, is actually catching them with the time to answer questions. Brian graciously acquiesced over a couple of days. The key insights you will find below, should provide fodder for your marketing and sales cannons. But first, a bit of a background on Fitzgerald and O’Rourke.

Vice President of Digital Strategy, Fitzgerald is an industry veteran formerly a web strategist at TIG Global and Marriott International, expert in PPC, SEO, social media, digital media, as well as all the aspects of measurement and analysis. His company, founded by Tom and Sue O’Rourke in 2001, serves up a complete line of solutions for hospitality clients. Creative to SEO and outright social media engagement, O’Rourke is one of a new breed of industry players. But we will summarize later. Let’s take up mine and Brian’s conversation.

EPR -Jumping right in Brian, as an acknowledged digital marketing expert can you give our readers some insight into how the balance of PPC, SEO, social media, and digital media now stands, at least for hospitality companies? Has the proportion, the balance of needed focus changed in the last year?

Brian-Over the last couple of years Google has produced some studies that they call Think With Google. One of these studies, called the Traveler’s Road to Decision, has a fascinating statistic about consumer behavior when booking travel. The statistic is that the average travel shopper uses 10.2 information sources before buying. What this means for hotel marketers is that you need to be everywhere. You need to be doing SEO, PPC, email marketing, display advertising, partner linking, social media and more. This presents challenges on many fronts, but mainly with budget resources and human resources. How can you pay for all these efforts and who is going to manage them for you? We’re helping more and more hotels figure this out.

In terms of prioritization and balance, we have not seen many changes in the past year. Hotels are doing more testing with social media, display and distribution channels like Groupon, but the core activities are still centered around hotel websites and search. Your hotel website is still your “virtual lobby” where consumers immediately form their first impressions of your property. This continues to be a critical tactic that, amazingly, many hotels still have not properly addressed. Search engines are not going anywhere either. There are over 2 billion searches performed on Google each day. As long as consumers are using Google (and other search engines) to perform research, marketing tactics like SEO and PPC will continue to be at the top of the priority list.

EPR – A lot has been said about the OTAs, their commission models, and alternative monetization means. My question is; “Do you see hoteliers leaning more toward different channels, PPC, free OTAs, and the like?”

Brian – I think every hotel that is paying commissions to OTAs has probably thought about how they might be able to shift business from those expensive distribution channels to less expensive channels. However, I don’t know many hotels that have been successful at figuring out exactly how to do it, it is easier said than done. Over the past year I’ve seen many hotels test the group buy model, but I think most find the costs to be comparable to OTAs.

Your mention of PPC is valid. I would like to see more hotels look at Google as a distribution channel and manage their PPC spend and production the same way they manage their inventory and availability in every other distribution channel. PPC activities have a certain cost associated with them and when compared to the commissions of OTAs, PPC is extremely cheap. Too many hotels set their PPC budget and then that’s it, they spread that budget out over the course of the year and can’t go over the budgeted amount. However, if you’re PPC efforts can produce a desired ROI (or ROAS), why wouldn’t you continue to invest in that channel, capture as much demand as possible as long as you can maintain the ROI/ROAS that you require. I think when viewed and managed this way, PPC can be a channel to help shift business from OTAs to direct.

EPR -Your business revolves around gaining ROI for hoteliers Brian, just how much emphasis do clients put on analytics, proving the conversion aspect, ROI?

Brian – The true answer here is that “it depends”. Some of our clients are perfectly focused on analytics and the ROI of marketing activities. Some are not at all focused on analytics, often because of a lack of comfort with digital marketing in general or because they wear many different hats at the hotel and don’t have time. Other clients are too focused on ROI and analytics and sometimes can’t “see the forest for the trees”. I’ll give an example.

In order to calculate ROI you need to know cost and revenue generated, pretty straightforward. When it comes to specific digital marketing efforts like PPC, SEO, email, etc. that revenue generated number is dictated by your web analytics package and the way that it is setup to attribute data. The most common attribution method is for revenue to be assigned to the “last click”, in other words the last channel that the consumer engaged with before booking. For most hotels the majority of last click activity happens on branded PPC, branded SEO or website direct. This is because when the consumer is ready to book they’ve already done all their research and they know the specific hotel, dates, rate package, etc. that they want to book. The problem here is that any of the other marketing activities that may have helped generate that booking don’t really get any “credit”. The unbranded PPC ad that they saw and clicked two weeks ago and the retargeting display ad that they clicked a week ago don’t get an “assist” for helping convert the consumer.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that it is becoming harder and harder to look at specific digital marketing channels in a silo. You must look at, and understand, how they are influencing the overall consumer journey. Improvements and greater understanding will come to this area over time as analytics packages improve their attribution modeling to give “credit” across channels.

EPR – Given that proving social media and PR ROI has been difficult, for whatever reason, do you think companies are still willing to operate on a “trust” basis?

Brian – I think some of my comments above in regards to ROI are relevant here as well. The problem I see with hotels and social media is a lack of strategy. Most hotels are just running to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and the channel du jour because there is lots of buzz and everyone is talking about social media. What hotels should be doing first is sitting down as a team and asking, “what are we trying to accomplish through social media?” The answer to this question will vary depending on the hotel. If a hotel answers this question by saying, “we want to generate direct revenue”, then they should not proceed any further because they are not understanding social media correctly. More appropriate responses to the question might be – provide customer service, extend and share our hotel’s personality or leverage the audience to evolve our product. Like many things, it is about developing a strategy and then executing it. I believe we are still years away from a channel like Facebook or Twitter being a revenue generating opportunity.

EPR – Do you think hoteliers understand or misunderstand the digital space, as a general ruile I mean?

Brian – On average I would say hoteliers understand it. However, as soon as they understand it, something changes. So it is something that must constantly be kept up with.

EPR – If you had to name a single most crucial branding tool for a hotel, would it be a website, social media feed, or?

Brian – Let’s define “branding”. To me branding is communicating the essence of your business and your value proposition to the consumer while, potentially, connecting with them in an emotional way. Under that premise, to me, your website would be the most crucial branding tool. Through the use of colors, imagery, taglines, logo and more you are able to convey the important points of your business and connect with the customer.

Your website is your “virtual lobby”. 20 years ago if someone booked your hotel through a travel agent or through your hotel directly, they would likely have very little understanding of your brand. They would definitely have very little understanding of the actual look and feel of your hotel and the physical space. They would first experience these things, and form their immediate opinion, upon arrival at the hotel. At that point, if they are unhappy or disappointed, there is not much they can do. Nowadays, guests form these opinions and critical first impressions as your homepage loads in their web browser. Your website is that first, and potentially last, opportunity to create a great first impression and win that consumer.

EPR – I have asked every one of our other interviewees about their role models and heroes Brian. Can you tell us as an expert in your field, who you looked up to most?

Brian – Working at Marriott International for 7+ years in a variety of ecommerce roles gave me exposure to many, many talented individuals. I won’t name anyone specifically but I learned a lot at Marriott and have a tremendous amount of respect for a lot of the people on their ecommerce team. Outside of the hospitality industry I’ve always been impressed with Rand Fishkin and the folks at SEOmoz.

EPR – Brian, you have been a key decision maker for online strategy for several major players, including Marriott, is it fair to say that bigger hospitality players have a disadvantage in that they tend to react slowly to their market, their competitors?

Brian – I’m not sure that I agree with that point of view. The reality is that there are so many larger players that, even within that segment, there are always early adopters. I think what can sometimes be perceived as slowness is really just a better understanding of and adherence to their prioritization of initiatives. I think big brands and companies are better at quickly identifying things that might just be a fad, and not a long-term opportunity. I think that larger players are often good at quietly using their scale to test things before deciding on whether they are worthy efforts across their entire portfolio.

EPR – In past interviews I have asked experts to relay a general message to those just entering the ranks, young execs facing their first challenges. For O’Rourke, and a lot of other supportive businesses, its seems more appropriate to ask you about “suggestions” for hotels. Is there a “best advice” statement for any hotel owner Brian?

Brian – Whether you’ve hired a marketing partner, an A/V partner or a property management system partner, make sure they are exactly that…a PARTNER. A partner is someone that sticks with you through thick and thin and has the same passion for your industry and property as you do. That would be my advice.

Is seems pretty clear what the reader can take away from Brian’s candid responses, at least the majority of them. ROI, the digital rub for many hoteliers and other business people, becomes a bit more complex to understand and gauge as channels affect consumer behavior in ever more interesting and novel (as well as traditional) ways. And as for “brands”, Brian also sheds light on something we as PR professionals are always attempting to convey, the emotional aspects of products and services. As Brian suggests; “Through the use of colors, imagery, taglines, logo and more you are able to convey the important points of your business and connect with the customer.” A company’s website is still the most crucial element of “emotional” conversion online.

O’Rourke Hospitality Marketing, not unlike WIHP Hotels and a select handful of other more modern players, has a very tailored and refined approach to marketing. The elements, PPC to web design and more, simply must be integrated. Digital channels may be categorized as a single playing field, but the tapestry and facets therein is quite diverse. All of these must be optimized, particularly with such fierce competition. At the end of the day, as they say, a lot depends on who’s advice your business takes, for there is a lot of advice out there.

We thank Brian a lot for taking his valuable time to offer up these answers. A passing note here, he does seem like Marketing Man to me.

The O’Rourke landing page

The O’Rourke landing page

Would You Go To A Hotel To Get Divorced?

The concept of Divorce Hotel is simple. The whole thing takes place over the course of one weekend, in a discreet, high-end hotel, and facilitators provide mediated dialogue, independent lawyers and all the necessary paperwork. In our opinion, not the most indulgent way to spend time in a hotel, but, again, for the sake of an anonymous, “safe” space, we kind of understand the appeal.

According to the article:

“Couples stay in separate rooms. A suite is used for mediation talks. Hotel staff members receive special instructions and are told that these are no ordinary guests. ‘You dont want the hotel crew wishing you a very nice weekend and hoping you have lots of fun here,’ says Mr. Halfens.”

The going rate for such a strategically planned weekend? Anywhere from $3,500 to $10,000. Which might be worth it in the end when both individuals walk out with all the papers signed, sealed and delivered. But without that guarantee of “success,” that sure is a lot of money to spend on the most depressing hotel stay of your life.

And speaking of which, Halfens has apparently (and hilariously) reached out to none other than Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, experienced divorce hotel dwellers themselves, to participate in the program’s launch in the USA. But seeing as neither has respondednor has Halfens been able to come to an agreement with any interested US hotelswe’re not holding our breath on that one.

(Note: The above photo, taken at a Radisson Hotel, in no way represents whatever potential US hotels might end up hosting Divorce Hotel. It’s just a pretty bed)

[Photo: HotelChatter]

Irish hotel rates remain amongst lowest in Europe

Irish hotel rates remain amongst lowest in Europe


Tuesday, 22 May 2012 11:55


Hotel

Irish hotel rates remain amongst lowest in Europe

Irish hotel rates remain amongst the lowest in Europe, according to a comprehensive report published by Hotels.com. Priced as the second cheapest in Western Europe, the Irish hotel market is becoming increasingly competitive as they come out of the recession.

Hotel rates in Ireland actually rose by 4% in 2011, with the visits of U.S. President Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth the primary factor, as well as a large number of high-profile events taking place in the capital city of Dublin. Despite the rise Irish hotel rates will cost incoming delegates the same as they would expect to have paid in 2004, representing excellent value for money.

‘Ireland has always prized itself in being value for money for tourists’ said Jean Evans, Regional Director – Association Relations at the MCI Group and Chairperson of the Association of Irish Professional Conference Organisers (AIPCO) ‘We gained a reputation as an expensive country to visit during the financial boom, but figures such as these give the real truth – we want tourists here and are prepared to work incredibly hard to allow them to do so whether they are looking for a luxury or budget experience.’


For luxury accommodation Ireland remains very competitive against international opposition, with the price of a four-star hotel representing the same cost as a two-star hotel in New York. The Irish hotel industry has benefited from the new 9% VAT rate for tourism services, with the rate extended into 2013. This lowering was part of a comprehensive plan to make the Irish tourism industry even more competitive.


Minister for Transport, Tourism Sport Leo Varadker told the Dail ‘Following recent discussions with the Minister of Finance, I have obtained an assurance that the lower rate of VAT will be maintained during 2013… the maintenance of the lower rate is a further example of the importance which the Government attaches to the tourism industry and the contribution it can make to the economic recovery.’


The percentage changes to Ireland’s hotel industry accurately reflected the general trend throughout the globe, where moderate price rises were seen in the majority of nations. Global hotel prices rose by 4% on average in 2011, with occupancy rates rising by 2 – 3%. This will be the third consecutive year that global hotel rates rose yet the average price still remains similar to that of 2005, reflecting the depth of the financial crisis that the hotel industry is working its way out of.


‘In a way, Ireland is in a very lucky position’ said Christoph Haustein, Director of Sales Marketing at Tifco Hotels ‘We invested heavily in our infrastructure over the past decade which means that once we have made the financial readjustments required, we’ll not only have some of the best hotels in the world; they’ll offer some of the most competitive rates too. This survey has shown we are already well on our way to that ideal balance.’


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