Cookies on HFTP Bytes

This site uses cookies to store information on your computer. Some are essential to make our site work; others help us give you the best possible user experience.
By using the site, you consent to the placement of these cookies. However, you can change your cookie settings at any time. Read our Privacy Notice to learn more.

I understand
  • Next Event


    Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference

    April 10–11, 2019
    Palau de Congressos
    Palma, Mallorca - Spain

  • Upcoming Event


    Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference

    Minneapolis Convention Center

    June 17-20, 2019

  • Upcoming Event


    Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference

    November 12 - 13, 2019
    Festival Arena
    Dubai, UAE

Article by Max Starkov

Hospitality Digital Technology: Challenges, Priorities, and Buzzwords

HEBS Digital 8 March 2019
Background:Today's typical online travel consumer is exposed to more than 38,983 micro-moments in a 60-day timeframe and visits an average of 18 websites via multiple devices across eight sessions before making a hotel booking (Google Research).With the explosion of the "digital way of life", the customer journey has become increasingly complex, forcing hoteliers to overhaul not only their corporate and marketing strategies, but also their technology stack in order to engage, acquire, service and retain these digitally-enabled travel consumers across multiple digital touch points and across all digital channels and devices.Today's hospitality is being transformed into a 100% digital technology-enabled industry powered by online, mobile, cloud, IoT, AI and blockchain tools and applications. Digital technology is making its way into every aspect of the industry: hotel operations, guest services, communications, revenue management, distribution, CRM and marketing.Today's hotelier must understand, know and use digital tech solutions in their everyday environment, and be able to assess, evaluate, recommend and acquire technology solutions to improve guest satisfaction, operational efficiencies, productivity, customer service, and revenue.Types of guest-facing hospitality digital technologyIf we set aside the traditional hotel operations, administrative/back office and HR technology, and the hotel engineering infrastructure and "mechanical" technology (all of which are typically "hidden" from the guests), there are two categories of guest-facing digital technology:Guest Engagement, Acquisition, and Retention Technology- these are technology applications focused on engaging and bringing the guest to the property, continuing the conversation pre-, during and post-stay and eventually turning the guest into a loyal and repeat guest.Guest Services Technology- these are on-property hardware devices and appliances, and software applications (on-premises or cloud-based) that provide or enhance guest services, improve guest comfort and satisfaction and enable customer service and communications.Today, the vast majority of hoteliers are primarily focused on and investing in Guest Services Technology, while underinvesting in Guest Engagement, Acquisition and Retention Technology.Unlike hoteliers, the OTAs are focused exclusively and investing only in Guest Engagement, Acquisition and Retention Technology since they do not have to worry about on-property technology and guest experiences. In other words, hoteliers' technology focus and investments end where the OTA focus and investment begin.It's no wonder that over the last 6 years the OTAs have increased their market share by over 40% at the expense of the hotel direct channel. By investing heavily in technology applications to engage the traveler at all possible touchpoints of the customer journey, OTAs have monopolized the guest relationships and left hoteliers in the dust.This is particularly true for independent hotels and resorts, smaller and mid-size hotel brands.1. GUEST ENGAGEMENT, ACQUISITION AND RETENTION TECHNOLOGYThere are crucial aspects of the Guest Engagement, Acquisition and Retention Technology category which the hospitality industry is ignoring, not excelling in, or dramatically falling behind in including:Online Distribution Technology:Over the past 15 years or so, the industry has become somewhat better at adopting online distribution technology: cloud-based website booking engines (WBE), central reservation systems (CRS) and channel management platforms. Yet, many independent hoteliers still utilize separate WBEs, CRS, and Channel Management vendors. WBEs are used that are not mobile-friendly or have a weak uptime record, and some hotels are even a WBE and CRS provided by an OTA. To reduce friction and lower costs and vendor management efforts, evaluate and select a cloud-based distribution technology vendor that provides all three capabilities: WBE with proven user experience (UX) record, CRS, and Channel Manager, naturally with a two-way API tom your property's PMS.Revenue Management Technology:Over 95% of independent hotels, resorts and casinos do not have an adequate Revenue Management System (RMS). An RMS is a predictive analytics tech platform for accurate and often real-time data processing, demand forecasting, pricing and segment optimization, and channel optimization. An RMS allows the property to sell rooms at the right price, at the right time, through the right channels, and to the right customers, which can result in significant increases in occupancy and revenue. Look for a cloud-based RMS which have lower implementation and ongoing SaaS costs, typically priced per room/month.Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Technology:Over 95% of independents have no meaningful CRM application as part of their hotel tech stack. A CRM technology platform typically provides guest profile data management with ongoing cleansing and de-duping, guest pre-stay communications, in-stay communications, post-stay communications, guest satisfaction surveys, marketing automation, ongoing marketing, loyalty, and guest recognition programs. If your property's repeat guests are 10% and above, you need a CRM solution to help you double or triple that number. A cloud-based CRM is the best way to go today.Online Reputation Management Technology (ORM):Monitoring and reacting to your customer reviews has become a must-do in hospitality. An ORM system typically includes sentiment analysis, comp set analysis, reputation monitoring, guest satisfaction surveys, and analytics. Using ORM, hotels can understand what the sentiments of the traveling public are toward their property versus their competition, and can proactively impact their guests' online reviews and ratings by better understanding their guests and by making improvements that address issues brought up in reviews. By default, ORM services today are cloud and subscription-based.Digital Marketing Technology:All marketing efforts of the property involve digital technology and applications. Marketing is used to engage travel consumers in the Dreaming and Planning Phases, acquiring them in the Booking Phase, and re-engaging them in the Reminiscence and post-stay phase. The digital marketing tech stack includes:SEO technology to manage rankings, monitor competition and provide keyword and ranking recommendations.Dynamic rate marketing applications to engage and convert customers who have expressed interest to travel to your destination.Programmatic and native display advertising.Metasearch marketing.Multichannel campaign applications for offers and promotions.Audience segmentation applications.Demand-side platforms (DSP).Email marketing technology.Social media management tools.Typically, independents and mid-size or smaller hotel brands outsource digital technology needs to specialized tech-enabled digital marketing firms.Website Technology:The property or hotel brand website has become the gravitational center of all hotelier's efforts to engage, acquire and retain the customer. Any marketing efforts of the hotel today lead the potential customers to the hotel website. Today's website technology includes cloud-based Content Management System (CMS), comprehensive merchandising suites, reservation abandonment tools, personalization pricing and content, technical SEO, cloud hosting, and robust analytics suite.Case Study: What Should Your Website Technology Do?Many hoteliers often fail to understand the crucial role the hotel website and its user experience (UX) plays in the overall health of the property and the bottom line. With nearly 59% of online travelers now visiting the hotel website from mobile devices, a mobile-first website design is a must.According to Google, 53% of visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes longer than three seconds to load. On average, hotel websites download in 6 seconds or more. Mobile-first responsive website with cloud hosting and CDN (Content Delivery Network) provides far better server response times and faster download speeds.Your property's mobile-first website must be backed by a mobile-first website technology platform and Content Management System (CMS) that includes mobile-first functionalities specific to the hoteliers' needs, such as:Mobile-first website design, ensuring an optimum mobile user experience and content access plus best-in-class UX booking path strategy to ensure users can easily complete a booking across devices.Automated Schema Markup on the mobile-first hotel website, which help the search engines understand the content and intent of websites, especially dynamic content elements.Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), greatly increasing hotel visibility and creating another entry point to boost mobile visitors and bookings.Advanced merchandising technology platform for pushing specials, including last-minute offers for mobile users as well as automatic time-based offers, etc.Personalization capabilities to target users with one-to-one marketing messages and promotions, based their demographic info, geolocation, feeder market origin, loyalty member affiliation, and many more.Secure cloud hosting platform, featuring a full stack of automated download speed- enhancement tools and bandwidth, specifically designed for mobile users.Today's hoteliers must create and manage a robust digital presence and engage, acquire, service and retain travel consumers in this increasingly mobile-first world. They must understand and invest in digital technology and marketing that enables the best possible user experience, provides the best customer service, increases efficiencies and boosts revenues.2. GUEST SERVICES DIGITAL TECHNOLOGYUntil recently, hotels offered better technology and amenities compared to many guests' own homes. This is no longer the case. Quite often, today's travel consumer enjoys better technology and amenities at home: high-speed internet, voice assistants like Alexa, streaming media like Hulu or Netflix, smart TVs, and IoT-enabled refrigerators and A/Cs.From a technology perspective, the challenge to hoteliers is to create a hotel and room environment that at least matches but preferably exceeds their guests' home environment. In other words, hotel and room technology, amenities, and features should be the same or better than what guests already enjoy at home. These include:Smart Room Technology:High-Speed Internet(HSIA): true HSIA of 200 - 500 MbpsEntertainment: including big screen 4K, Ultra HD or OLED smart TVs, seamless multimedia hubs to enable the "synching" of the guest-own streaming media accounts (Hulu, Amazon Fire TV, AppleTV, Google Play) with the room TV.Voice personal assistants: these natural language processing devices, typically based on Alexa or Google Home, allow the guest to access room service, facilitate guest requests, and manage utilities and amenities such as adjusting room temperature or lights.Smart Barista and Beverage Center: hubs that "know and remember" the guest's preferences and taste.RFID keyless mobile device-enabled locks and security.Smart Utilities Management: through voice assistants, IoT controls, thermal occupancy sensors or hotel app (ex. Cirq+).Frictionless Messaging Communications: with front desk, housekeeping, engineering, concierge and room service (ex. ReviewPro, Zingle, Whistle).Issue Resolution Technology: guest incident tracking, logging, dispatching, and follow up. Virtually connect guests to housekeeping and engineering or work order automation (ex. Runtriz, Guestware)The future of this technology is the Smart Guestroom which will be completely personalized to guest preferences and loyalty member profile. Hilton Hotels via their Connected Room and Marriott via their IoT Guestroom prototypes are already working on synching loyalty member profiles and preferences with the room experience: room temperature, lighting, bathroom accessories, streaming media preferences, beverages, bedding, and more. Recently Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta stated: "Imagine a world where the room knows you, and you know your room."Self-Service Guest Technology:For DIY-obsessed consumers, self-service kiosks, devices, and mobile applications have already entered the marketplace and are enjoying wide adoption, both by hoteliers and guests. The most common devices and applications are:Hotel Check-in/Check-out Kiosks: these lobby-based devices typically provide guest Identification, room upgrades and special offers, early check-ins, room selection/assignment, online registration card and signature, acceptance of the hotel policies, credit card payments and keycards issuance.Mobile Apps: all major hotel chains, and many midsize/smaller hotel brands, provide their loyalty members with mobile check-in from anywhere, room selection/assignment, ability to customize stay, ability to receive alerts (traffic, weather, when the room is ready), get key from Mobile Check-in Desk or mobile key, credit card payments.Interactive Information Kiosks: these guest information kiosks serve as a 24/7 virtual concierge and information source for both property and destination information, which increases lobby functionality, shortens concierge wait times and enhances the guest experience.Virtual Concierge: these mobile or website apps allow 24/7 guest interaction via messaging with the Virtual Concierge, which can make suggestions, order services, and track the status of requests. This technology enhances the guest experience and generates additional revenue from auxiliary services and upsells.Chat Bots: these AI-powered applications have already received wide acceptance and adoption in the marketplace, especially for customer service and call center reservations. All OTAs and major hotel brands have deployed some form of chatbot or AI-powered customer service application. Some OTAs already handle as much as 85% of their online customer service via an AI-powered chatbot, which has led to huge cost-savings and improved customer satisfaction.Self-Ordering Kiosks: these F&B kiosks typically provide full menu ordering with real-time order information sent to the kitchen, inventory management, credit card payments, and printed or emailed receipts.What are the main challenges for hotels to adopt digital technology?Hoteliers are overwhelmed by the amount of technology, data, and digital marketing silos and the need to work with a multitude of vendors in their guest acquisition and services efforts. The typical hotel uses a myriad of vendors that do not talk to each other, and in many cases do not even know each other. There will be one for CRM, a second for the property website, a third for SEO, a fourth for SEM, a fifth for online media, and so on.Each property team, from revenue generation teams like RM, S&M, and CRM to guest services teams such as housekeeping, engineering and front desk, operate in isolation of each other. Each team has its own technology tools, databases, and vendors which are not in communication with the other teams.These are the major impediments to the industry becoming a digital technology-driven and technology-savvy industry:Reluctance to invest in digital technology: This reluctance to invest in digital technology comes from the lack of understanding that we are serving technology obsessed travel consumers who demand a hotel technological experience be equal or better to what they have at home. In this digital age, hospitality technology goes way beyond the flat-screen TV or the property PMS, and should focus on guest-facing digital technology applications and devices like streaming media hubs, voice assistants, messaging capabilities, mobile-first property website, personalization technology, and one-to-one pricing and marketing applications.Antiquated accounting in hospitality: Most of the cloud Guest Engagement, Acquisition and Retention Technology solutions and many of the cloud Guest Services Technology applications are accounted for from the Sales, General and Administrative Expense section of the property P&L. In other words, these new technologies are not being amortized like capital expenses or considered COGS (Cost of Goods Sold). This singular fact makes many property owners and managers reluctant to invest in new types of digital technology applications, most of which are being sold to the property on a subscription SaaS basis.The technology and data fragmentation in hospitality is another big challenge and impediment to progress the industry faces today. Guest data lives in multiple "data islands" that do not talk to each other: PMS, CRM, CRS, Social Media, Web Analytics, Marketing Data, and BI. Very few properties and hotel companies can boast a single view on customer data with live data feeds from ALL touchpoints with the traveler.Most of the time, CRM data is not being utilized to engage and retain past guests. Quite often different teams at the property use different sets of data in their day-to-day operations, creating a total "data integrity mess," which directly affects the property's guest acquisition and retention efforts.The goal here is very clear: bridge the guest data and technology silos in hospitality and create an end-to-end solution, empowering hotels to acquire new guests, engage current guests, and retain past guests by combining digital marketing, website, and CRM data into one cohesive marketing and personalization platform.Lack of proper education and professional development opportunities on digital hospitality technology and the latest technology innovations, trends and best practices. How many hospitality schools today teach hospitality technology courses? Only a few. New York University's Tisch Center for Hospitality launched a brand-new course on Hospitality Technology in the Spring 2019 Semester, which is a great start to educating future hoteliers on the importance of technology in this industry.And finally, we have become an industry of buzzwords and flashy gadgets, in the hope of impressing guests, owners, and investors. These show that your hotel brand is not "falling behind the curve." Recently, an independent hotel introduced room service delivery robots, which would have been great if the rest of the hotel tech stack were in order. The hotel was still using a 6-year old website and had no CRM technology.Hotels should first focus on the fundamentals of the technology stack before implementing more advanced things.Fragmentation in the hospitality tech sector.The global hospitality industry a highly fragmented industry with a lot of technology deficiencies and needs that require smart solutions. The U.S. hospitality industry is a $155 billion industry. This provides endless opportunities for smart technology vendors to thrive and service the industry with state-of-the-art solutions.The technology and data fragmentation at the property, discussed above, is further exacerbated by the fragmentation in tech vendors. The industry needs fewer, as opposed to more, technology vendors.Due to the increasing complexity of hotel tech, vendors are already in need of significant investments to innovate and scale up. As a result, it's expected there will be consolidation and M&A in hotel tech over the next few years.What are some next-generation hotel technology applications?Hoteliers need to monitor, proactively inquire about and familiarize themselves with the Next Generation Technologies that are already making their way into hospitality, including Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Voice Assistants, Chat Bots, Robotics, and Blockchain.It is up to hotel tech vendors to carry the torch and help the industry overcome its technology deficiencies by embracing the rising tide of digital-obsessed travel consumers. Hoteliers need to embrace, learn about, and invest in the next-gen technologies already being adopted.Labor-intensive hotel positions that involve repetitive or structured work such as housekeeping, customer service and call center reps, and F&B waiting staff will see wider adoption of robotics, automation, and other AI-powered devices in the years to come.Over the next 3-5 years we will witness wider adoption and implementation of the following next-gen technologies:Artificial Intelligence (AI): Customer service (chatbots), personalization (one-to-one marketing, one-to-one pricing), database management (single-view customer data) and loyalty programs.Voice Assistants/Voice Search: Integration of major hotel brand CRS with voice assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Home Pod, customer service (voice assistants in hotel rooms).Internet of Things (IoT): Customer service (concierge, hotel lobby, room service); hotel security, operations (power and A/C management).Robotics: Robots will replace jobs around the property, from front desk to housekeeping to kitchen staff.Blockchain:The much-promoted use of blockchain in all aspects of hotel distribution, marketing and operations is another affirmation that we are an industry of buzzwords. Over the past two years, many hoteliers got overly excited by this new technology and its perceived "magic wand" ability to solve industry deficiencies.In my view, blockchain technology will have the following three potential uses in hospitality:Procurement: a mega brand like Marriott deals with tens of thousands of vendors in hundreds of geographies. Utilizing a public or a private version of blockchain technology (like the IBM Blockchain Platform), a major hotel brand can introduce unprecedented traceability and transparency in its supply chain and streamline its procurement logistics.Secure Contracting: blockchain can power secure legal contracts between hotel chains and numerous legal parties: from franchise agreements, preferred vendor contracts, and corporate groups.Universal Digital IDs: in the future, blockchain could provide travel consumers with Universal Digital IDs which could be used for voice hotel reservations and loyalty program memberships. These could ultimately facilitate easier and more secure online transactions.One thing blockchain technology is not good for at this point is hotel distribution. In order to utilize blockchain for hotel distribution, any blockchain player has to tackle the complexity of hospitality technology which consists of many moving parts.Conclusion:The "digital way of life" adopted by today's tech-savvy travel consumer is forcing the hospitality industry to accelerate the adoption of digital technologies and become a 100% digital technology-enabled industry.By being primarily focused on and investing in Guest Services Technology, while underinvesting in Guest Engagement, Acquisition and Retention Technology, hoteliers are allowing the OTAs to gain more visibility and engage, acquire and retain the online travel consumer.OTAs are focused exclusively and investing in Guest Engagement, Acquisition, and Retention Technology. By investing heavily in technology applications to engage the traveler at all possible touchpoints of the customer journey, hoteliers have the opportunity to take market share away from OTAs and keep guests engaged throughout their lifetimes.
Article by Max Starkov

The Mobile-First World Creates Tremendous Revenue Potential for Hoteliers

HEBS Digital 15 February 2019
The shift from desktop to mobile and tablet devices continued its steady pace in 2018. More than 58% of web visitors and more than 51% of page views were generated from mobile devices last year, compared to 38% of web visitors and 40% of page views only three years ago. In 2018, nearly 28% of bookings and 25% of room nights came from mobile devices, compared to 21% of bookings and 17% of room nights in 2015 (HEBS Digital client portfolio data).It's clear that we're already living in a mobile-first world. Mobile devices dominate the travel planning journey: up to half of all desktop bookings worldwide are preceded by a click on a mobile device, and 94% of leisure travelers use multiple devices (mobile, tablet, desktop) when planning and booking travel (Criteo).In hospitality, up to 30% of hotel bookings are done via mobile devices, a percentage dependent on whether the property is branded or independent, its location (rural or metro area), complexity of hotel product (golf resort vs. major city hotel), availability of a loyalty program, and composition of its customer segments (business vs. leisure, transient vs. group).The hospitality industry, by default, has lower mobile booking share compared to the overall projections for the travel industry due to the complexity of managed corporate travel and SMERF group segment procurement, such as mandated GDS bookings for managed corporate travel and the offline RFP process for group travel.The mobile-first world is here to stay:Across HEBS Digital's hotel client portfolio, consisting of hundreds of hotels and resorts of every size, we saw this shift occur in every data category. The most notable developments in 2018:Nearly 28% of bookings, 25% of room nights, and 24% of revenue came from mobile devices. If we include over-the-phone reservations originating from the hotel mobile website, more than 35% of bookings and 30% of revenue originated from the mobile channel.Nearly 58% of web visitors and 51% of page views were generated from mobile devices.Compared to 2015, mobile devices generated:Less than 21% of bookings, 17% of room nights, and 15% of revenue.Less than 38% of web visitors and 40% of page views.Or, compare to 2012 when mobile devices generated:Less than 9.5% of bookings, 8.6% of room nights, and 9% of revenue.Less than 17% of web visitors and 14% of page views.How Should Hoteliers Approach the Mobile-First World?As we continue to experience this shift to mobile and increased complexity in the travel planning process, hoteliers need to find ways to engage their best potential guests across multiple touch points and across all devices, especially mobile. Today's typical online travel consumer is exposed to more than 38,983 micro-moments in any 60-day timeframe. They also visit an average of 18 websites via multiple devices in eight sessions before making a hotel booking (Google Research). This journey results in some serious competition for the travel consumer's attention and has become increasingly dominated by mobile micro-moments and touch points.Here are the top two action steps for hoteliers to address the shift to mobile-first user behavior:#1. Invest in a responsive, mobile-first website.Hoteliers need to keep the property website, which is the foundation of their digital marketing and distribution strategy, up to the mobile-first standards demanded by today's travel consumer. With nearly 59% of website visitors now viewing on mobile devices, a fully responsive mobile-first website design is a must.If your property website is older than two years, it's due for a redesign. Websites older than two years are often lacking the latest best practices in technology, design, and UX, such as a mobile-first design, content merchandising, Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), schema, and technical SEO considerations. An outdated website leads to lower conversions.The website download speeds across various devices also inevitably affects conversion rates on the hotel website: fast download speeds drastically improve the user experience and increase the user's desire to purchase on the site. According to Google, 53% of visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes longer than three seconds to load. Mobile-first responsive websites with cloud hosting and CDN (Content Delivery Network) provide far better server response times and faster download speeds across geographies.A hotel's website must also be backed by a website technology platform that includes mobile-first functionality specific to the hoteliers' needs, such as:Automated schema markup on the hotel website. Schema markup helps search engines understand the content and intent of websites, especially dynamic content elements such as events and happenings pages, special offers, opening hours, and star ratings. These rich snippets make hotel webpages appear more prominently in SERPs, thus improving visibility of a hotel website's overall SEO performance. One of the important benefits is the Featured Snippets, which Google creates dynamically based on the content of your website and places on top of the search results.Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) pages which download fast on mobile and wearable devices and are featured as news and info "teasers" in the Google AMP teaser section in mobile SERPs. This works to increase hotel visibility and create another entry point to boost mobile visitors and bookings, as well as provide another opportunity to outshine the competition.Advanced merchandising technology platform for promoting special offers and packages, including last-minute deals for mobile users.Content personalization capabilities to target users with unique marketing messages and promotions, based on the device they are currently using (mobile vs. desktop), their demographic information, geo location, and loyalty member affiliation.Promotional banners with live rates providing real-time availability and rate information for both mobile users with shorter booking windows and desktop users with longer booking windows.Advanced content management functionality to create and manage custom page layouts designed to showcase a property in its best light.A highly-secure cloud hosting platform.The property website must incorporate the right balance of beauty and science. An excellent design combined with a state-of-the-art website content management system (CMS), supported by a strong merchandising strategy and engaging visual content and copy, all while providing an optimum user experience from top to bottom on all possible devices. This type of website will result in a boost in conversions and revenues from the direct online channel.#2. Engage the mobile-first travel consumer with multi-channel, multi-device marketing.Keeping travelers engaged and reaching them at various touchpoints throughout their journey requires integrating all marketing channels across all possible screens. Effective multi-channel marketing campaigns utilize the full spectrum of digital marketing (SEO, SEM, display, paid social, and email) to promote one cohesive message across channels and devices. This strategy is the most effective way to increase reach and boost revenues for a need period.Campaign Strategy Recommendations for 2019:Establish the overarching business need you are trying to meet with the campaign: drive weekend stays, increase RFPs for meetings and events, increase ADR, or drive last-minute occupancy needs due to a big group cancellation, for example.Use guest data, campaign insights, website analytics, and customer research to build a customer persona of your target audience.Based on this data, create one cohesive campaign message that will most effectively speak to these audiences across all touchpoints and devices.Map the path to purchase for your travel consumer and launch initiatives that will reach guests across devices and throughout all stages of the lifecycle, from the dreaming to planning and booking phases and beyond.Integrate powerful and engaging technology that assists in lead generation, relationship building, and driving direct bookings.Reserve 15-25% of your property's digital marketing budget for multichannel campaigns.To achieve mobile-readiness, hoteliers must invest adequately in a mobile-first website and digital marketing campaigns. Bying, and future guests, hotels can drive more direct bookings throughout the entire path to purchase, especially from the mobile channel.

HEBS Digital Named the Leading Travel Merchandising Solution Provider in North Am

HEBS Digital 25 September 2018
Founded in 1993, the World Travel Awards is an established organization created to acknowledge, reward, and celebrate excellence across all key sectors of the travel, tourism and hospitality industries. Today, the World Travel Awards brand is recognized globally as the ultimate hallmark of industry excellence."At HEBS Digital, we constantly innovate and strive to provide a best-in-class CMS solution for the industry. Our team is focused on delivering new features and functionalities that help power our client's easy-to-use, fast, and revenue generating websites", said Eric Ruvio, Chief Software Engineer at HEBS Digital. "It is humbling when respected organizations like World Travel Awards recognize us for our hard work and dedication."The smartCMS is the core of HEBS Digital's guest acquisition suite and powers some of the most cutting-edge and revenue-driving hospitality websites in the industry today. HEBS Digital's award-winning team of innovative programmers, developers, and designers work together to power the smartCMS and keep it at the forefront of the industry.At HEBS Digital, the team constantly makes edits and updates to improve the smartCMS website technology platform. The team completes updates in 6-week "sprints" with the goal of improving the technology to better serve its users: the hotelier. Some key features and benefits include:A Software as a Service (SaaS) Cloud-First Technology, with 50+ modulesFully responsive multi-property, multi-brand, and single property hotel website designsOptimizations for mobile with innovations like Google AMP EnablementAbility to serve personalized website messagingA Merchandising Platform, allowing the hotelier to sell on value vs. sell on rateA suite of Reservation Recovery tools to recover abandoned reservationsNumerous modules that can be implemented to increase conversion rate of hotel bookings and upsell potentialFull compliance with SEO best practices with innovations such as automated schema codingClients of HEBS Digital who utilize the smartCMS Website Technology Platform see unparalleled results including an average low cost of sale of 4.5% and an average ROI of 2,200% - 22 times the investment in working with HEBS Digital.
Article by Margaret Mastrogiacomo

The Top 5 Things You Need to Know Now in Hotel Digital Marketing: September Edition

HEBS Digital 20 September 2018
1. SEO: The Google search algorithm update on August 1 is now officially rolled out. Overall, the search engine update is considered a broad core algorithm update, so there are no specific optimizations that the SEO community should be focused on. However, now more than ever, marketers should ensure that the website offers a great user experience, rich content, and is valuable and relevant to website visitors. While some sections of the website might drop in ranking, other website content may rise in the rankings and become more favored by the search engines. The arts and entertainment, auto and vehicle, beauty and wellness, finance, and health industries saw the largest impact from this algorithm update, while the travel vertical remains the least affected industry.2. SEM: Google Ads introduces ad strength indicator for responsive search ads. Google has stressed ad diversity as an AdWords best practice for quite some time now. Google claims that the more ad variations an ad group contains, the more impressions and engagement the ad group will achieve. In light of this, a new ad strength meter will measure the relevancy, quantity, and diversity of ad copy for responsive search ads. The meter ranges from "poor" to "excellent" and provides actionable insights for optimizing ad groups for best performance. Google is also introducing reporting for responsive text ads so marketers can gauge the performance of these changes and learn from their optimizations. For hotel marketers, this will help further boost performance of responsive text ads and provide more tools to understand what is working for the hotel brand in search results.3. Display: Go beyond organic marketing with user-generated content. User-generated content is commonplace in social media marketing. However, a new trend in display advertising is turning user-generated content into paid marketing gold. It's no secret that customers are the best brand advocates, and that consumer trust in paid advertising is on the decline. Bearing this in mind, why not take authentic content from your hotel's best brand advocates and get permission to promote this content across channels? This strategy was highly effective for Coca-Cola with their "Share a Coke" campaign, and with so many postcard-ready vacation shots being shared on Instagram every day, this could be the perfect way to showcase a getaway at your hotel through the eyes of a guest.4. Social: Facebook opens up new video ad format to more advertisers. Ad Breaks, a new Facebook in-stream ad unit, will allow advertisers to include a 15-second pre-roll and mid-roll ad unit throughout video on Facebook in addition to image ads displayed just below the video. Pages within the US, UK, Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia with more than 10k followers that were able to generate more than 30k video views in the last 2 months are eligible. This new feature is great for hotel brands with a strong Facebook following and video content. Include special offer and package promotions throughout hotel and destination video or promote a multichannel campaign throughout rich video content.5. Design: Actions speak louder than words with animated typography. A design trend that is gaining even more traction as we move into 2019 is animated typography. Bold typography that takes up major real estate on a page has been a trend for quite some time, and now with interesting and engaging animation, it's making an even stronger impression on website visitors. Animated typography is perfect for highlighting emotive copy and taglines throughout your hotel website and draw a visitor's attention to key selling points of the hotel.

HEBS Digital's Sister Company, Serenata CRM, Voted the Best Hotel Technology Provider in Asia

HEBS Digital 11 September 2018
Serenata CRM, the sister company of HEBS Digital and the leading specialist for customer relationship management (CRM) and E-marketing, was recognized as the best hotel technology provider in Asia at the World Travel Awards Asia & Australasia in Hong Kong. This prestigious award is presented annually by a high-ranking international jury made up of global travel and tourism experts."We have had a strong presence in the region for years and count ourselves lucky to enjoy the trust of a distinguished customer base of unique and high-quality brands. That is why this is a special tribute for us, and we are very proud and grateful to be honored with this renowned award in this growing market," said Dieter Dirnberger, CEO of Serenata CRM.Since their inception 25 years ago, the World Travel Awards have evolved into a globally respected brand. Established in 1993, they celebrate excellence across all key sectors of the travel, tourism and hospitality industries. Traditionally, after five regional run-offs in Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, the global winner of the Awards is chosen in a grand finale. This year's World Travel Awards Grand Finale will be held in Lisbon/Portugal in November.Serenata CRM is a three-time consecutive winner of the World Travel Awards, most recently in 2017. Part of NextGuest Technologies, Serenata CRM and HEBS Digital, are the creators of the hospitality industry's first Fully-Integrated Guest Engagement & Acquisition Platform. About Serenata CRMSerenata CRM is a worldwide leading provider of guest communication and CRM solutions for the hotel industry. Founded in 1996, Serenata CRM has many years of experience in the hospitality business and is a subsidiary of NextGuest Technologies, which also includes HEBS Digital as a specialist in digital marketing. Through the cooperation of both companies, Serenata CRM offers comprehensive CRM and E-marketing solutions for the hotel industry. A special focus is placed on attracting new guests by integrating all digital channels. With the integration of guest information from Property Management Systems (PMS), Central reservation Systems (CRS), websites and other systems, Serenata CRM offers a 360deg guest profile view. With Serenata CRM, guests are contacted by a targeted, dynamic and relevant communication before, during and after their stay with the aim of long-term guest loyalty.www.serenata.comAbout NextGuest TechnologiesNextGuest Technologies is an integrated hospitality technology and digital marketing company comprised of HEBS Digital and Serenata CRM. Combining our leading technology with innovative strategy, design, and digital marketing solutions, we are closing the loop on the customer journey with the first fully-integrated guest engagement, acquisition, and marketing platform. NextGuest Technologies helps hoteliers to increase direct bookings and revenue, lower distribution costs, and increase the lifetime value of guests by combining the power of CRM with guest acquisition marketing. Its diverse client portfolio spans the globe and consists of top luxury and boutique hotel chains, independent hotels, resorts, casinos, franchised properties, hotel management companies, and DMO and tourist offices. NextGuest's mission is to continue to build a portfolio of innovative technology companies that are paving the way in the industry--exclusively focusing on companies that are the best at what they do in the hospitality
Article by Max Starkov

Why Offering Local Tours and Activities Is A Huge Revenue Opportunity for Hotels

HEBS Digital 7 August 2018
Background:Offering local tours and activities - i.e. experiences in the destination - is a multibillion dollar business, with the OTAs having shown a growing interest in this sector. Expedia alone is looking to grow its local tours and activities sales fivefold - from approximately $400 million a year to over $2 billion. Expedia currently has 4,000 suppliers providing 27,000 tours and activities worldwide. Airbnb, through its Experiences offering, has been rolling out tours and activities in many of its key destinations with the goal of bringing its offerings to 1,000 cities. Recently, acquired and TripAdvisor acquired, both cloud-based software platforms that enable local tour and activities operators to make their services bookable online.Yet, in spite of all the industry buzz and its huge potential, less than 20% of local tours and activities are bookable online. Why is that? There are two main reasons: the highly fragmented nature of this sector and travel consumer preferences.This sector is greatly fragmented, consisting of millions of small, independently-owned operators. This explains the lack of businesses offering bookings online. They simply do not have the resources available for online booking systems and website technology.Another reason is travel consumer preferences. According to a new consumer report from Arival, which surveyed U.S. adults planning a trip this summer, only 24% of travel consumers will book most of their activities before departure. The rest book while in their destination. Travel consumers are not fully convinced that booking tours and activities in advance brings any value in the form of better choice, better service, unique offerings, meaningful savings, etc. It is no surprise that 85% of activities are booked while on location - many of the best local tours and activities are simply not available online!Why should hoteliers consider offering local tours and activities?The commoditization of the hotel product, in which hotels are forced to compete with the OTAs strictly based on rate, leaves the hotel little opportunity to communicate the value of the hotel product to potential guests. To combat this and "sell on value" as opposed to "sell on rate," hoteliers need an effective merchandising strategy, including offering a vast range of experiences as part of the property website offerings, in multichannel and seasonal campaigns.Travelers are fully onboard: 98% of survey respondents (tnooz) said having "local experiences" in a new city was important.The direct online channel offers limitless opportunities for the hotelier to present the hotel as the "hero of the destination" and the perfect choice to stay while exploring all the destination has to offer such as museums, galleries, family attractions, shopping, dining, nightlife, entertainment, and more. Combine this with a strong website merchandising program, focused on the uniqueness of the hotel product and its value proposition, and you have a successful strategy!Hotels are local businesses and this is a major advantage over the OTAs when selecting and contracting local tour and activity operators, monitoring their performance and customer service, and ensuring timely payments.So, what makes hoteliers best suited to offer their guests local tours and activities?Hoteliers know their guests and their preferences much better than the OTAs, allowing them to customize and tailor the local tours and activities accordingly.Hoteliers know their local neighborhoods and immediate destinations far better than the "far and away" based OTAs.Hoteliers know the local tour and activity providers much better than the OTAs. In many cases hotels have been using trusted local operators for many years now.Locals unite: local properties can connect to local operators on an emotional level, as local business operators, something that is completely absent in any big OTA-small operator relationship.How can hoteliers make money from local tours and activities?By positioning the property as the "hero of the destination", hotel marketers will make the hotel more attractive thus increasing occupancy, an indirect revenue effect.In the same time, there is a strong direct revenue benefit for hoteliers:Bundling local tours and activities with hotel accommodations: city tour, family, museum, theater, shopping and weekend packages, girls and romantic getaways, etc.Referral fees and commissions from sale of local operators' tours and commissions. Hoteliers can easily negotiate a reasonable commission for offering a local operator's tours and activities: advance sales, at the front desk and by the concierge. Typically, the OTAs are charging local tour and activities operators commissions to the tune of 20%-35% to enable and sell their offerings on the OTA online platforms, so there is plenty of room for negotiating a fair reward for the hotel.Action plan for hotels to launch local tours and activities:Hoteliers are uniquely positioned to offer tours and activities and work closely with fellow local business operators. So, where should they start? Develop the product: Based on property specifics such as location, bandwidth, and richness of the local destination, create both:Packages bundling together hotel accommodations with local tours and activities.Experience add-ons, which can be added to a hotel reservation, in advance, upon arrival or while the guest is on property.In both cases the packages and special offers around activities and attractions in the destination should be tailored to fit the demographics and preferences of the hotel guests.Case Study: Local Tours and Activities Offered by a Full-Service Hotel in New York City:Bloomindale's Shop Till You Drop packageBuild-a-bear workshop Fun packageStand Up Comedy PackageManhattan Museum PackageNYS Super Sale Package (Room + 20% off 4 attractions)Guggenheim Museum PackageGotham City Government PackageNYC Business Traveler VIP PackageThis property is one of the very few hotels among the 600 plus hotels in New York City to offer this extensive range of local tours and activities. Partnering with local tours and activities operators could easily solve all the logistics of delivering the local tours and activities product to the hotel guests.It is also important to make the service delivery of tours and activities convenient and attractive to the hotel guests:Offer local tours and activities starting from the hotel or with a pick-up point near the hotel.Offer guaranteed departure of local tours and activities, for example:City Tour, leaving daily from the hotel lobby.Museum Tour, leaving Friday, Saturday and Sunday.Shopping Tour, leaving daily from the hotel lobby. Promote the experiences throughout the guest lifecycle Hotels are uniquely suited to proactively offer local tours and activities throughout the hotel guest lifecycle, at all touchpoints in the Dreaming, Planning and Booking Phases, as well as during the In-Stay and Post-Stay Phases:In the Dreaming Phase:Include local tours and activities in the property's marketing messaging in digital marketing campaigns, including paid search, online media targeting, social media and multichannel campaigns.Include local tours and activities in the CRM marketing automation promotions, sent to past guests and loyalty members.Present the property as the "hero of the destination" in all public relations pieces, pressers, and during visits by social media influencers.In the Planning Phase:On the property website, create Local Travel Guide - destination guides featuring local places of interest, tours, activities and attractions to influence travelers, making the hotel the hero of the destination for advance bookings. An added benefit is that typically these Local Travel Guide have tremendous SEO value that will boost the organic search engine rankings, bookings and revenues.In the Special Offers section of the property website, include detailed descriptions and imagery of the local tours and activities offered by the property, including pricing, schedules, etc.Promote the local tours and packages throughout the merchandizing platform on the property website: via opening promotional slides, Featured Offer banners, marketing messages, lightbox reminders, etc.Case Study: Travel Guide on an Independent Hotel WebsiteHere at HEBS Digital, we include a comprehensive Local Travel Guide on every website we launch for our clients. HEBS Digital worked with an independent hotel to create comprehensive neighborhood guides surrounding the hotel, and after just 30 days live, 57% of visitors came to the guide from search engines. But this Local Travel Guide played an even greater role in the planning phase with 60 bookings initiated in the same timeframe inspiring travel planners to consider booking the accommodations.In the Booking Phase:Run tours and activities promotions on the property website, including via opening promotional slides, Featured Offer banners, marketing messages, lightbox reminders, etc.Promote tours and activities via direct-response marketing initiatives: paid search, email marketing, social media postings, Limited time Offers, etc.Include local tours and activities as add-on booking upsell options:in the CRM reservation confirmationin the CRM pre-stay messagingIn the In-Stay Phase: Upon check in, hand all guests a flyer describing all of the local tours and activities offered by the propertyInclude local tours and activities in the CRM in-stay messagingFeature local tours and activities on the Guest Portal - version of the property website for on-property guestsPromote and sell local tours and activities via the front desk and conciergeIn the Post-Stay Phase: Include local tours and activities in the post-stay CRM messaging and ongoing drip campaigns and marketing automation promotions, targeting past guests and loyalty members. Conclusion:The overall growth in room revenue, occupancy, and RevPAR that many hoteliers have been enjoying in recent years cannot possibly compensate for "the loss of wealth" in the form of steadily increasing distribution costs via the OTA. Revenue capture -- net room revenue that remained with the hotels after distribution costs -- declined from 84.9% in 2015 to an estimated 83.5% in 2018 (Kalibri Labs).By positioning the property as the "hero of the destination," offering local tours and activities by the hotel - bundled with hotel accommodations or offered as add-ons - hoteliers will not only increase occupancy, but also provide proactive hoteliers with much needed incremental revenues and significant competitive advantages over their competitive set and the OTAs.

Now Available for Download: HEBStrategy Q3 2018 Hotel Digital Marketing, Technology, and Trends Whitepaper

HEBS Digital 6 August 2018
Download the HEBStrategy Q3 2018 whitepaper to learn about:What's Trending: Stay in the loop with the must-know trends of the quarter, including an updated Google Maps experience, Alexa for Hospitality and more.From the Design Studio: Get inspiration from some of our most creative clients who use their websites to provide a compelling look at the property while driving direct bookings.Metrics that Matter: Learn how to take a data-driven approach to your creative decisions, and ultimately see a positive impact on your hotel's bottom line.A Look Outside the Industry: Find inspiration in initiatives outside the hospitality industry. We take a closer look at Coca-Cola's Share a Coke campaign as well as an airline's email campaign that captivated users by posing the questions: If you could visit any vacation destination, what would it be and who would you go with?Plus other valuable insider information, including a recap of last quarter, creative concepts from the HEBS Idea Shop, and more.Gain access to these insights when you download the Q3 2018 HEBStrategy whitepaper today.
Article by Max Starkov

How Hotel Managers Can Generate Profits Above and Beyond Owner's Expectations

HEBS Digital 19 June 2018
Background:The economic collapse of nearly ten years ago brought not only havoc to the hospitality industry, but also created a new type of hotel owner: the activist owner. These owners are knowledgeable, curious, involved, and demanding.There is a lot happening in 2018 that hotel owners should be happy about. After the best Q1 on record earlier this year, it is shaping up to be another stellar year in hospitality with demand (2.4%) outweighing supply (2%); occupancy increasing by 0.4%; ADRs growing by 2.6%; and RevPAR increasing by 3% (STR, PWC).The hospitality industry is enjoying its longest expansion and healthiest growth in decades, yet, are the owners happy?For one, in spite of record-breaking industry benchmarks, profitability is falling and net room revenue--i.e., revenue that remains with the hotel after accounting for distribution costs (OTA commissions, traditional agency commissions, and other distribution expenses)--has been declining steadily over the past several years. In 2017 U.S. hotels earned roughly $155.2 billion in guest-paid revenue but paid an estimated $25.2 billion to acquire guests in the form of OTA commissions and other distribution costs, retaining significantly lower net room revenue of $130 billion (Kalibri Labs). Revenue capture--i.e., net room revenue that remained with the hotels--declined from 84.9% in 2015 to an estimated 83.5% in 2018 (Kalibri Labs).As far as falling profitability is concerned, 2018 is shaping up to be a repetition of 2017. The overall growth in room revenue, occupancy, and RevPAR that many hoteliers have been enjoying in recent years cannot possibly compensate for "the loss of wealth" in the form of steadily increasing distribution costs via the OTA.So what should hotel management companies (HMC) do to increase profitability for owners and fulfill their fiduciary obligations as responsible managers? Naturally, any good and responsible HMC can do a lot to improve the bottom line for their hotel owners. However, here we will focus only on increased profitability as a result of smarter distribution and digital marketing strategy.1. Lower the Distribution CostsHotel managers understand that distribution cost is one of the very few cost drivers they can proactively influence to reduce overall expenses. Why? Except for distribution costs, hotel operators have difficulties controlling the other main cost drivers in hotel operations:Labor Costs: creeping up due to unionized labor contract and mandated minimum wage/living wage increases in many municipalities.Debt Service: at best, interest rates on commercial loans are staying flat.Franchise Fees (Rewards, Marketing, Royalty, Reservation, etc.) are creeping up, as usual.Utilities: normally 5% of gross. Water, Sewage, Gas & Electric are all creeping up; Water & Sewage are growing fast lately.Real Estate Taxes: always creeping up at the whim of local municipalities.Note: The importance of these cost drivers varies property by property and largely depends on the size of the hotel, the condition of the physical plant, whether property branded or independent, amount of debt, and geographic location.Distribution cost, as a cost driver, has been rising steadily over the last seven years due to OTAs increasing market share versus hotel direct bookings. A few years back, a study by Kalibri Labs, "Demystifying the Digital Marketplace," provided concrete evidence that this dramatic shift exceeded 40%.Direct online bookings are by far the most lucrative and cost-efficient bookings at any hotel, resort, or casino. As a point of reference, across the HEBS Digital hotel client portfolio, the average direct channel distribution costs (bookings via the property website or directly attributable to the digital marketing efforts) are 4.5%, compared to the hefty OTA commissions of 15%-25%.Hotel managers should make it their priority to increase direct bookings, which come at 3-5 times lower cost compared to the OTAs, and improve their overall direct versus OTA distribution ratio, which will improve profitability to ownership.For owners, any dollar "saved" from distribution adds directly to the bottom line (Net Operating Income, or NOI) and the investment return. In this sense, the more inexpensive direct bookings, the better. The fewer expensive OTA bookings, the better.2. Adopt a Portfolio-Focused ApproachWe see time and again HMCs utilizing myriad vendors that do not talk to each other, and in many cases do not even know each other. This may include different website design vendors and digital marketing agencies for the different properties of the managed portfolio, or even different vendors for the same managed property: one for CRM, a second for the property website, a third for SEO, a fourth for SEM, a fifth for online media, and so on. Recently we encountered an HMC with a portfolio of dozen hotels that was using 28 different vendors for their digital marketing!Any HMC can benefit immensely from adopting a portfolio-focused (versus property-focused) approach by hiring a single "Agency of Record" to handle website design and digital marketing for the whole portfolio of managed properties, thus reaping significant savings from economies of scale.Here are just a few of the benefits and cost savings from the portfolio-focused approach:Trusted Partner: The Agency of Record, naturally an expert in hospitality website design, digital marketing and direct bookings becomes a trusted partner, a virtual extension of the HMC corporate team, deeply involved in the well-being of the HMC property portfolio. As a trusted partner, the Agency of Record participates in the HMC's brainstorming and ideation sessions to solve ad hoc and seasonal occupancy needs, target incremental business and market segments, identify cross-selling opportunities among the managed properties, work to eliminate duplicate efforts and budget waste, and generate significant incremental revenues.Property Websites: Design and develop an HMC-specific custom master website design, and then apply it to the HMC corporate website and all properties in the portfolio, whether branded or independent, naturally customizing the design to each property's unique product and brand requirements. This, plus centralized website cloud hosting, analytics and maintenance, can generate savings of 40%-50% that the HMC can pass directly to the owners' bottom line.Account Management: By applying the portfolio-focus approach, the HMC can negotiate with the Agency of Record corporate level fees, retainers, and allotment of website optimization consulting hours that can be used for all of the properties in the portfolio. This allows not only savings of 30%-40% compared to property-level engagements, but the ability each month to shift focus and spend more time and efforts on "ailing" versus "doing well" properties, and solve concrete occupancy needs.Digital Marketing: Balance the marketing initiatives so not to cannibalize revenues from one property to another: keyword allocation strategies in SEM/paid search; SEO keywords allocations; content marketing strategy; GDN targeting and retargeting campaigns; and more. This balanced approach can greatly reduce campaign overlaps among the properties, and generate significant savings of at least 30% from CPC and CPM "waste," duplicate SEO efforts, campaign creative and management efforts, account management and client communications, etc.Marketing Budget Waste: The Agency of Record will conceptualize and propose a balanced portfolio-wide strategic marketing budget, including property-specific digital marketing initiatives, aligned with the managed properties' occupancy and seasonal needs, and for branded hotels in the portfolio--with the marketing strengths and weaknesses of the hotel chains and, thus eliminating duplicate spend, efforts and campaigns, thus eliminating budget waste.HMC Personnel: Working with a single Agency of Record generates significant "time and effort" savings since such a relationship requires less management time at the corporate and property level. Our extensive experience in working with HMCs shows that in many cases HMCs working with HEBS Digital as the Agency of Record have been able to reduce headcount or re-assign HMC personnel to other corporate functions that needed urgent attention. Case Study: Portfolio-Focused Approach for an HMC:A Hotel Management Company (HMC) with a mixed portfolio of franchised, soft-branded, and independent properties, needed to streamline operations, reduce "vendor fatigue," and save guest acquisition costs, all while increasing revenue and profitability.The HMC partnered with HEBS Digital as a portfolio "Agency of Record" to handle direct booking strategy, website design and development, and full-service digital marketing.HEBS Digital assigned a dedicated team of digital strategy and marketing experts to the HMC account, backed by project managers, SEO, SEM, Content Marketing, Online Media, Social Media and Analytics specialists. The dedicated team took a "deep dive" into the HMC portfolio, identified unique product attributes for each of the properties, their feeder markets and key market segments; analyzed their comp sets; dissected the properties' current and past marketing efforts, including what worked and what hadn't; and developed a comprehensive digital marketing strategy and budget for the portfolio and each property. HEBS Digital developed HMC-specific custom master website designs for each of their category of hotels, and then applied it to the respective properties, adhering to each property's unique attributes and brand requirements.The results: Within a year from the start of the engagement, this portfolio-focused approach generated HMC-wide cost savings of over 30% while increasing website revenues by over 40% and generating thousands of corporate online RFPs, weddings, social events and SMERF group requests.3. Increase incremental revenuesWhether the HMC manages only branded hotels, independent hotels or a mix of branded and independent hotels, there are clear ways for increasing profitability and maximizing room revenue. For branded hotels the focus should be on generating incremental revenues above and beyond the contribution by the major hotel chain; for independents the focus should be on maximizing both core and incremental revenue opportunities.Branded Hotels in the HMS Portfolio:What are these incremental revenue opportunities? As the major hotel chains became bigger--organically and through consolidation--they have become more distant and removed from the local environment and concrete occupancy needs of their managed and franchised hotels. This leaves tremendous incremental revenue opportunities on the table from key market segments and in slow seasons:Leisure, family, weekend, senior travelersDrive-in guestsForeign visitorsSmall and mid-size corporate groupsSMERFs and special occasionsDriving bookings during slow seasons with property-specific campaignsThe only viable option to achieve incremental revenues in 2018 and beyond is for the branded hotel to engage and invest in "above and beyond" solutions to achieve bigger and better presence in this overcrowded marketplace and generate incremental revenues above and beyond what the hotel chain brings to the table. This can be achieved by a two-pronged approach:Launching a vanity property website with mobile-first design, smart website technology and CMS, and deep relevant content (textual, visual and promotional) that focuses on incremental market segments like leisure, weekend and family travel, unmanaged business travelers, small and midsize corporate groups, SMERFs and social events and weddings, and foreign tourists.Launching property-specific digital marketing to market the vanity website and target the above incremental market segments, which typically fall outside the focus of the hotel chain and, as well as target important-to-the-property domestic and foreign feeder markets and demographics. These property-specific marketing initiatives include: search engine optimization (SEO), paid search marketing (SEM), online media and retargeting, smart data marketing, dynamic rate marketing, social media marketing, and multichannel campaigns.For the branded hotel, the main objective of the vanity website and property-specific marketing campaigns is to generate incremental revenues above and beyond what provides. When the above best practices are taken into consideration and the correct property-specific digital marketing strategy put into place, the property vanity website will reap significant rewards for the branded hotel. Many of HEBS Digital's branded hotel clients have enjoyed significant incremental customer engagements and incremental revenues from their vanity websites, in many cases similar or exceeding the revenue generated by for the property.The HMC needs to convince ownership to invest in the branded properties' own digital presence above and beyond the brand to generate incremental revenues and improve profitability.Independent Hotels in the HMC Portfolio:There are tremendous incremental revenue opportunities for the independent hotels in the HMC managed portfolio. Working with the Agency of Record the HMC can now focus not only on the property's core market segments (leisure, weekend, transient corporate travelers, small and mid-size corporate groups, social events and weddings, SMERFs, etc.) but also on destination-level limited-time offer and multichannel promotions for the cluster of properties, as well as campaigns targeting foreign travelers, drive-in business, staycations, convention goers, and more.Fortunately, with independents, the HMC and the Agency of Record have a clean slate and only the sky is the limit as far as creativity in the revenue-generation initiatives:Technology: Similar to vanity websites for the branded hotels in the portfolio, they can benefit from the latest UX and website technology innovations. This includes a stunning website design and a cutting-edge website technology platform (CMS), as well as revenue-generation modules like Complete Merchandising Platform, Smart Personalization, Live Rates, Reservation Abandonment Applications, and more.Digital Marketing: Utilizing smart data marketing campaigns, the Agency of Record can utilize the property's knowledge of its past and repeat guests to target new "best" guests and broaden the targeting funnel to engage travelers with intent to visit the property's destination. By using multichannel marketing, with one cohesive marketing campaign, and the same cohesive marketing message (read: promotion) pushed across all potential touch points with online travel consumers (hotel website, SEO, SEM, GDN and online media, social media, PR and email marketing), the independent hotel can build stickiness and traction across channels and devices and dramatically increase revenue. Today's complex multi-touch consumer behavior is what makes multi-channel marketing campaigns the most effective way to address concrete business needs, increase reach, and boost bookings and revenue for the slow season or need period.4. Negotiate Direct Booking Incentives with OwnershipCurrently, hotel managers are not incentivized enough in their management contracts with ownership to generate more direct bookings versus the more expensive OTA bookings. This shouldn't be a hard sale since the owners are the sole losers from this scenario: As illustrated above, OTA commissions are destroying profitability and directly affecting the bottom line.Owners should wake up and incentivize management companies by rewarding them for generating more direct bookings. The management contracts should include special direct booking provisions to incentivize the operator to achieve more direct bookings, easily covered by a fraction of the OTA commission savings.These direct booking provisions and incentives could be:Direct monetary incentive for each direct booking i.e. 5% from direct room revenueEstablishing targets for direct vs. OTA bookings and reward hotel managers when achieving these. Ex. If on January 1 for an independent hotel the direct vs. OTA booking ratio is 40:60 and the management company succeeds in shifting this ratio to 50:50 through the end of the year, for any $1 in new direct room revenue, the management company gets a 5%-8% bonus, i.e., 5c-8c.5. Ask Owners to Invest in Book Direct InitiativesEndemic under-investing in direct online booking-generating technology and digital marketing is one of the main reasons why hospitality has allowed the OTAs to continuously gain market share over the past years.Hotel owners must realize that increasing profitability means boosting direct bookings, maximizing incremental revenue opportunities, lessening dependence on the OTAs and investing adequately in website technology and digital marketing to engage past, present, and future guests and drive direct bookings throughout the entire path to purchase.Ask ownership the following questions:For your branded hotel, are you happy with the major hotel chain contribution? Do you believe there are the incremental revenue opportunities left on the table by you visited your own property website lately and liked the experience?Have you tried to access your property website recently via mobile and felt frustrated from poor usability and download speeds?Have you found your property website when searching on Google?Have you found your property in the Google AMP search results?Have you seen recently an ad for your property across search, online media, social media, mobile, email, etc. promoting seasonal or ad hoc occupancy need?Is your property website WCAG 2.0/ADA compliant thus eliminating legal liabilities for ownership?HEBS Digital has a very comprehensive whitepaper on the subject: The Smart Hotelier's Guide to 2018 Digital Marketing & Technology Budget Planning is available for download. It provides HMCs with a concrete mobile-first roadmap to jumpstart their managed properties' direct bookings and guide its digital marketing and distribution strategy throughout the year and beyond. With so many moving pieces in branded and independent hotels' digital marketing budgets, from enhancing the property website to revenue-generating technology, it's important to create a strong plan of action that is realistic and aligned with your business goals.Conclusion:The main objective for any HMC is to increase profitability and return on investment from the managed properties. As witnessed by many of HEBS Digital's HMC clients, by applying a portfolio-focused approach and working with a single Agency of Record and its dedicated team of direct booking optimization consultants, account managers, digital marketing, website design and technology experts, the HMC can generate significant economies of scale, maximize incremental revenue opportunities, boost profitability to owners, and fulfill their fiduciary obligations as responsible managers via smarter distribution and digital marketing strategy.
Article by Max Starkov

Debunking the Impact of Blockchain on Hotel Distribution

HEBS Digital 13 June 2018
BackgroundA recent article on the Nasdaq website called "How Blockchains Are Changing the Hotel Industry" claims that blockchain-based platforms "offer promising solutions" to particular areas of difficulty in the hospitality industry, including blockchain-based hotel booking platforms. Before we jump on analyzing blockchain technology's impact on hospitality, let's quickly review what this new technology and some of its more popular applications are all about.Blockchain is an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way. Blockchain operates as a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography/secure communications. Each block typically contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp and transaction data.To be used as a distributed ledger, a blockchain is typically managed by a peer-to-peer network (so called miners or ledger keepers), collectively adhering to a protocol for validating new blocks. These miners use specialized software to verify the transactions, which consumes tremendous amounts of power. Once recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks (Wikipedia).Blockchain vs. Bitcoin: Blockchain and Bitcoin are two completely separate terms, though they are being mixed by many authors and in many publications. Bitcoin is one of the many applications of using blockchain technology, while blockchain is the underlying technology platform enabling cryptocurrencies, i.e. artificial digital currency not affiliated with a bank or a national currency issuing institution, such as Bitcoin. Unlike traditional currencies such as the US dollar, which is backed by the full assets of the US government, which are worth an estimated $269.6 trillion, cryptocurrencies are not backed by valuable assets like gold deposits, land, natural resources, etc.Blockchain Technology and Hotel DistributionBlockchain technology may have application in loyalty programs and contracting--here we will focus only on its much-hyped use in hotel distribution. Blockchain has been described in some publications, including in the Nasdaq article quoted above, as the "future of hotel distribution." The authors claim that the main advantages of blockchain distribution are not that this technology introduces tremendous efficiencies in the very archaic hotel distribution space, or that it eliminates the long chain of legacy systems interacting with each other (PMS, CRS, etc.). Rather, the one and only advantage cited in all publications is that blockchain enables "commission-less" distribution--i.e., free distribution--and does this securely.However, there should be a high level of skepticism that at this stage blockchain technology can be used successfully for hotel inventory distribution. Here is why:Hotel Legacy Technology:Any blockchain player has to tackle the complexity of hospitality technology, consisting of many moving parts, including old legacy systems that are barely functioning, co-existing with ultra-modern, next gen apps and promising AI and blockchain implementations. Where do you start? Deep integrations/two-way APIs are needed with legacy systems like PMS, CRS, Hotel Switches, GDS, and Channel Managers in order to build real-time hotel inventory availability and pricing connectivity with hotel chains, mid-size and smaller brands, and independents.Just building an OTA-type CRS with RMS, digital and video content and personalization capabilities, fully interfaced with the numerous legacy systems in travel, would cost any blockchain player that enters the space billions of dollars and take many long years to develop.A blockchain distribution system has to interface with many of these legacy systems, which means a big investment in API development and ongoing maintenance. It also means that the hotel will continue to incur transaction fees from CRS, website booking engines, and more, so where are the savings?To achieve any "commissionless" distribution, the blockchain system needs to replace all of these legacy systems, not just interface with them. Who will pay for this huge investment? Where would a blockchain distribution system recuperate its investments in APIs, ongoing API management, or completely replacing the legacy distribution systems?Hotel Supply:Gaining access to hotel inventory is a major barrier to entry in online travel. It's all about reach: How will a blockchain booking system get access to 750,000 hotels to match the reach already has? Or Expedia's 685,000 hotels? How long would it take for a blockchain player to establish the deep hospitality industry expertise and relationships developed by the OTAs for over 20 years now? Hospitality is a relationship industry that is very hostile to new entrants and vendors.Instant Reservations:Most of the hotel reservations today require instant confirmations for all website, mobile app, voice channel, OTA and GDS bookings. Due to the very definition of blockchain, each transaction must be verified by the miners of the blockchain distributed network. Unfortunately, "instant" and "confirmation" do not go hand in hand for any blockchain technology application.Here is a case study from the most advanced blockchain application: Bitcoin, where the average Bitcoin transaction generally needs six confirmations from miners before it's processed. According to CoinCentral, the average time it takes to mine a block is 10 minutes, so you would expect a transaction to take around an hour on average. However, the recent popularity boom of Bitcoin has caused severe congestion on the network; the average time for one confirmation has recently ranged anywhere from 30 minutes to over 16 hours in extreme cases.Travel consumers will not wait 16 hours to get a confirmed hotel reservation, that's for sure.Highly Fluid Hotel Inventory:Hotel inventory is highly fluid and riddled with transient reservation changes and no shows, re-bookings, and group cancellations. Many hotels experience reservation changes and no shows to the tune of 15%-30% of occupancy on any given night. This inventory fluidity is in stark contrast to the permanent character of any blockchain transaction. Once the transaction (hotel booking) is recorded on the blockchain, it cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks. So how will hotel bookers be able to update their reservation, change the arrival or departure date, add another guest to the reservation, or upgrade their room if their reservation is set in stone? Make a new reservation that will take up to 16 hours to verify?Transactions vs. Content:Hotel reservations require more than simple verifications by blockchain miners. Hotel reservation systems, in addition to carrying real-time hotel inventory availability and pricing, serve as huge depositories of content: rate information and descriptions, booking terms and conditions, hotel and room amenity descriptions, and visual content. Content is definitely not a strong suite for any blockchain platform, which is primarily transaction oriented.Economics of the Blockchain Distribution System: As mentioned, blockchain is being promoted as "commissionless," i.e., no cost to either hotels or travel consumers. Yet, any hotel distribution system needs huge investments in order to function and serve its core purpose:As a distributed system, any blockchain platform needs to verify the transactions by a peer-to-peer network. Where would the money come from to pay for the miners/ledger keepers who need powerful equipment and whose specialized software consume tremendous amounts of power and Internet bandwidth? Someone has to pay for the equipment, time and effort, and with no commissions flowing through the system, this would not be a self-sustainable enterprise.Any blockchain distribution system needs to convince two distinct audiences of its value proposition: hoteliers and travel consumers. To make hoteliers use your system you need to hire a robust sales force to knock on doors and sign-up hoteliers; advertise in industry publications; invest in SEO, SEM, display advertising; and attend and exhibit at industry conferences.To make travel consumers use your new distribution platform you need to invest in travel consumer marketing so that consumers become aware of this new booking channel and embrace it, rather than booking via the hotel websites or the OTAs. As a reference, the OTA triopoly (Booking Holdings, Expedia Group and Ctrip) invest $10 billion a year in consumer advertising.Technology: As mentioned, APIs with existing legacy systems in hospitality are a very expensive proposition. Managing your own inventory management system is very expensive, too. Expedia invested several billion dollars in their new CRS, which is now used by all Expedia portfolio companies, including, Travelocity, and Orbitz.If the blockchain distribution system does not charge any commission, where would the money come from to pay for all the above? The economics simply does not work.Blockchain Distribution and Payment Security:Blockchain transactions have been promoted as super secure. This is crucial for any hotel distribution system. In fact, the perceived security of transacting via blockchain technology has been continuously discredited by many cases of hackers successfully targeting cryptocurrencies. As of today, more than 3 million bitcoins have been lost to hackers, scammers and crypto thieves. "All the hackers in the world are targeting cryptocurrencies," Eric Larcheveque, CEO of cryptocurrency security company Ledger Wallet, said recently. In a much-publicized case, Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, had $70,000 in bitcoin stolen after falling for a simple, yet perfect, scam. CNBC offers an interesting read on the subject.ConclusionThe much-promoted use of blockchain in hotel distribution is another affirmation that we are an industry of buzzwords. Many people are getting overly excited by these new technologies and their perceived "magic wand" ability to solve industry deficiencies.Before we all jump on the blockchain bandwagon, the industry needs to deal with the fundamentals in distribution first, including optimizing the direct channel, fixing an outdated property website, improving SEO, launching multichannel campaigns, and finally doing something about CRM to better engage and retain customers, among other initiatives.Only then would it be advisable to start thinking about all the new fancy technologies out there by partnering with smart vendors who are already working on the subject matter.
Article by Margaret Mastrogiacomo

The Top 5 Things You Need to Know Now in Hotel Digital Marketing: May Edition

HEBS Digital 31 May 2018
SEO: Google shortens search result snippets and makes significant changes to Google My Business. Google has confirmed that only about five months after increasing the length of search results snippets, it has now decreased the length of these snippets. However, Google has not announced an official character count limit and explains that search snippets are dynamic and will vary in length. In fact, rather than being pulled from the provided meta description, some snippets are dynamically pulled from content visible on the respective landing page. In light of this, there is no urgent need to shorten your meta descriptions. However, it is important to ensure that they are highly relevant to the landing the page, and that all visible copy is engaging (as it may be pulled into search result snippets).In other organic news, Google My Business has officially rolled out new features to add richer content beyond photos and basic information to help boost search rankings. These features include:Google Posts: As announced a couple months back, businesses are now able to share updates to their local listing. Unfortunately, this feature is not currently available for hotels, but it is available for any spa or dining Google My Business listing. Examples of posts include events, announcements, or seasonal content. Posts may take the form of text, photos, or video.Google Q&A: Users can ask questions regarding your property, and you or a member of the public can answer. This is a way to engage with customers and add relevant content to your listing.Google Messaging: Unlike Google Q&A, messages are personal and do not appear on your listing. Messages are sent to the business listing and your property has the ability to respond directly to the customer.Google Bookings: Google bookings integrate with supported scheduling partners to provide appointments and reservations and insights through your GMB account. This feature is particularly useful for an on-site spa or restaurant. SEM: Google Adwords new responsive search ads can show three headlines. The new ad format, now in beta, offers more real estate and dynamically combines an advertiser's headlines and descriptions. To implement, your hotel or SEM specialist can set up one ad with multiple headlines and descriptions, and Google will start testing combinations dynamically to serve the combination deemed most likely to achieve the advertiser's stated goal. One of the top benefits is more real estate for visibility with Google giving responsive search ads more character real estate than expanded text ads. This expanded real estate includes up to three headlines instead of two and up to two 90-character descriptions instead of one 80-character description.Display: Amazon is launching a new display advertising product. This month, Amazon announced they are introducing a new remarketing display advertising offering that will compete with similar offerings from Google and Criteo. What's not clear is whether Amazon-based remarketing will run on third-party sites and/or Amazon's platform. With recent analysis from Morgan Stanley on Amazon attempting to yet again disrupt the travel landscape, while this doesn't currently directly affect the hotel marketing landscape, it is something to keep on the radar. Social: Facebook expands its list of marketing partners. Facebook announced this month that it is expanding its list of third-party solutions to measure ad effectiveness. The company is growing its marketing partners in three specific areas: marketing mix modeling (MMM), viewability, and mobile app measurement (MMPs). The MMM solutions now available through Facebook's marketing partner program represent a newly created partner specialization. To build out its MMM marketing partner program, Facebook has added 18 partners to the category, including: Accenture, Analytic Edge, Analytic Partners, Annalect, Business Science Warsaw, Ebiquity, Ekimetrics, IPG Mediabrands, Ipsos MMA, Inc., Nepa, Neustar, Nielsen, Objective Partner B.V. and Rainman Consulting Pvt. Ltd.Meetrics and DoubleVerify are two new partners offering viewability metrics, and Branch has been added for mobile metrics.What does this change mean for your Facebook ads? This will allow hotel marketers to better measure how Facebook ads are playing a role in the overall marketing mix. Design: Bold and creative typefaces. While sleek and minimal fonts still have their place in cutting edge design, now, because device resolutions are getting sharper and easier to read, the rise of custom fonts are making an appearance across the web. Excluding Internet Explorer, many browsers can support hand-made typefaces that are enabled by CSS for web browsers. The trend of large letters, contrasting sans serif and serif headings help create dynamic parallels, improve UX and best of all, keep the visitor reading your website. Typography has always been a powerful visual tool, able to create personality, evoke emotion and set tone on a website all while conveying important information. Use it to your advantage and be bold.

NextGuest Technologies to Showcase Fully Integrated Guest Acquisition, Engagement, and Retention Platform at HITEC Houston

HEBS Digital 31 May 2018
NextGuest Technologies, an integrated hospitality and digital marketing company comprised of both HEBS Digital and Serenata CRM, will showcase their groundbreaking end-to-end guest acquisition, engagement, and retention platform at HITEC Houston in booth 525.NextGuest originally debuted this platform at HITEC Toronto in 2017. Since launching this platform, NextGuest has proven the necessity of utilizing past guest insights to inform strategy and acquire new guests while still engaging the traveler throughout every touchpoint of the travel journey."With the combination of the smartCMS from HEBS Digital and Serenta's industry-leading CRM technology, NextGuest is perfectly positioned to help hoteliers completely transform their business," said Jason Price, Executive Vice President of HEBS Digital. "We look forward to sharing our expertise with hoteliers at HITEC and to better illustrate how they can own their guest data and make smarter business decisions that ultimately maximize direct website revenue."Meet the NextGuest team at booth 525 at the 2018 HITEC Houston conference, and visit our website to learn more about how NextGuest Technologies can streamline your marketing strategies and increase your website conversions.

HEBS Digital's smartCMS Wins a Stevie Award for The Fifth Consecutive Year at the 2018 American Business Awards

HEBS Digital 23 May 2018
For its 16th year, the American Business Awards accepted over 3,700 nominations to be judged by a panel of more than 200 industry professionals. HEBS Digital is excited to receive this honor and to continue bringing its cutting-edge products and services to its clients."At HEBS Digital, we constantly strive to bring our clients the best products in the industry," said HEBS Digital CTO Jaan Paljasma. "By listening to both client and internal feedback, we are able to create a user-friendly content management system that is created and optimized specifically for hoteliers."HEBS Digital's smartCMS was created to help hoteliers increase revenues from the direct online channel by enabling and empowering them to take ownership of their website content."Our dedicated team works tirelessly to ensure that we are providing a seamless online experience for our clients," said Eric Ruvio, HEBS Digital's Chief Software Engineer. "Every six weeks, our team completes 'sprints' aimed at improving our smartCMS website technology platform to provide a better user experience."Key accomplishments from the past year, include:A Spotlight Search functionality with fast, type-ahead search that allows users to effortlessly find relevant content on the website (See a live example - see search bar at bottom of page) Enhanced Geo Search widget with guided type-ahead for multi-property websites - including large nearby cities and airports (See a live example - see booking widget) Advanced search results with integrated Smart Rates - live real-time availability and rate information - for seamless booking experience with multiple booking engine providers and cross-sell opportunities (See a live example - choose a destination)Enhanced Versioning System, supporting drafts, and approval workflows for multiple users of the smartCMS Website Technology PlatformEnhanced smartCMS website platform performance capable of supporting more than 2,000 hotels and more than 50,000 unique content pages from single website stackAutomated Schema Coding (JSON-LD) where the smartCMS now automatically generates best practice schema code for properties, homepages, content pages, specials, events and rooms pagesAutomatically Publish and Unpublished Pages - as its now possible to set start and end dates for not just Special Offers and Promo Tiles, but for all content pages based on time and date preferences. This is another update that will hopefully not only create efficiencies, but also ensure that website content is fresh and relevant for website visitorsCustomer Relationship Management (CRM) Integration to allow hoteliers the ability to manage their loyalty program through the CMS and create personalized messaging with hotel loyalty program membersLearn more about HEBS Digital's smartCMS website technology platform by visiting Details about The American Business Awards and the list of 2018 Stevie winners are available at
Article by Max Starkov

The OTA's Attempt at Discrediting the Value of the Hotel's Direct Channel

HEBS Digital 11 May 2018
Earlier this week, the European Technology and Travel Services Association (ETTSA) released a report called "Hotel Distribution Costs," examining the costs associated with direct and indirect distribution channels for hotels, together with the impact of channel shift.ETTSA is an organization "representing and promoting the interests of global distribution systems (GDSs) and travel distributors (read: OTAs), towards the industry, policy-makers, opinion formers, consumer groups and all other relevant European stakeholders."The report, prepared by a consultancy called Infrata, concluded that hotels that attempt to boost direct bookings at the expense of agencies and OTAs risk having lower occupancy rates with "no measurable" savings on costs, and suggested the main reason for hoteliers to push direct sales is to "reduce transparency for consumers."The ETTSA report uses "a magic wand" to convince the naive or whoever is listening that hoteliers would be much better if they abandon their useless direct distribution efforts and rely on the OTAs for their distribution. The report's highly selective "analysis":Dramatically overstates the effect of the much discredited "OTA Billboard Effect"-- remember the unfortunate Cornell University "study," financed by the OTAs? This study, disproved many times over, tried to convince hoteliers that they should use OTAs in order to generate more bookings from the property's own website, due to the so-called "Billboard Effect."Underestimates the complexity of the online travel consumer journey: Today's travel consumer engages in 38,983 digital micro-moments in just under two months, and the average travel consumer journey takes about 17 days, eight research sessions, 18 site visits, and six clicks before making a hotel booking (Google Research).Tends to over-estimate the hotel's direct distribution costs and undervalue OTA distribution costs, which go beyond the OTA commissions, and include costs associated with revenue management, APIs, GDS, CRS and channel management systems, etc. OTA channel management alone occupies an increasing share of the revenue manager's bandwidth, which means rising payroll and benefit expenses. Does not account for the fact that direct booking costs are fixed, while OTA distribution costs are percentage of room revenue and grow with higher ADRs or longer length of stay (LOS).Makes the rather offensive claim that hoteliers' direct booking campaigns are motivated by the hotelier's desire to "decrease customer transparency."How much does a direct booking cost?Direct distribution costs vary by type of property (branded vs. independent), hotel category (luxury vs. budget), complexity of hotel product (spa resort vs. limited service), even across geographies (well established online travel marketplace like North America vs. emerging market), and so on.Here at HEBS Digital, the average direct distribution cost is 4.5% across our client portfolio, consisting of thousands of 4- and 5-star independent and "soft branded" hotels, resorts and casinos, small and mid-size luxury and boutique hotel brands. This direct cost includes all of the direct channel expenses, comprising of direct channel strategy, virtual team account manager and website revenue optimization consulting; mobile-first website design and development, amortized over 36 months; smartCMS website technology platform; ongoing cloud hosting and CDN, Adobe Analytics and reporting; professional SEO (technical SEO and on-page) with BrightEdge; SEM/paid search on Google and Bing; online media and GDN retargeting; smart data marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, and more.Compare this to the 15%-25% OTA distribution cost.Direct bookings are more than distribution cost savings, they are about targeting new "best" guests, about generating incremental revenues, about lasting customer engagement and retention.Hilton's CEO Christopher Nassetta said recently in a Skift interview: "We've been working very hard on strategies to have more direct relationships with customers. Direct bookings and loyalty are inextricably intertwined with one another, and they have a direct impact on Hilton's ability to offer a superior guest experience."Why do direct bookings matter?Distribution costs are rising:Distribution Costs: have been rising steadily over the last seven years due to OTAs increasing market share versus hotel direct bookings. A study by Kalibri Labs "Demystifying the Digital Marketplace" provided concrete evidence that this dramatic shift exceeded 40%.Except for distribution costs, hoteliers have limited control over the other main cost drivers in hotel operations:Labor Costs: creeping up due to unionized labor contract and mandated minimum wage/living wage increases in many municipalitiesDebt Service: at best, interest rates on commercial loans are staying flatFranchise Fees (Rewards, Marketing, Royalty, Reservation, etc.) are creeping up, as usualUtilities: normally 5% of gross. Water, Sewage, Gas & Electric are all creeping up; Water & Sewage are growing pretty fast latelyReal Estate Taxes: always creeping up at the whim of local municipalitiesRevenue capture is declining:In spite of a record-breaking performance in Q1, 2018 and the very optimistic forecasts for the rest of the year (STR), hospitality industry profitability is declining. U.S. hotels earned roughly $155.2 billion in guest-paid revenue in 2017, but paid an estimated $25.2 billion to acquire guests in the form of OTA commissions and other distribution costs, retaining significantly lower net room revenue of $130 billion (Kalibri Labs).Revenue capture--i.e., net room revenue that remained with the hotels after accounting for distribution costs (OTA commissions, traditional agency commissions, and other distribution expenses)--declined from 84.9% in 2015 to an estimated 83.5% in 2018 (Kalibri Labs).Guest engagement and retention is in jeopardy:Have you looked recently into what type of guest data the OTAs provide hotels, especially independent hotels? First Name, Last Name, OTA-credit card and OTA-email for communications. This is it!The OTA guest comes, stays, and leaves, and the hotel is left holding a bag of meaningless guest data. There is no CRM possible with this data, no in-stay upselling emails and messaging, no post-stay "Thank you" emails, no OTA guest satisfaction surveys, and no marketing automation or drip campaigns.Very few hotels train their front desk to even try getting additional information from the OTA guests and completing the guest profile data in the PMS.At the minimum, hoteliers, especially independents, should create internal processes and systems to: a) complete the OTA guest profiles in the PMS, b) create a "Next Time Book Direct" program and promote it to the OTA guests, and c) adopt full CRM capabilities at the property, including a Guest Appreciation Program/Reward Program, and include all OTA guests in it.Conclusion:Contrary to the findings of the pseudo-scientific ETTSA report, direct bookings (4.5% or lower distribution cost) are cheaper than OTA bookings that carry commissions of 15-25%, plus other fees.More importantly, direct bookings provide more than just distribution cost savings--they are about acquiring new "best" guests, generating incremental revenues, and creating lasting customer engagement and retention.

Now Available for Download: HEBS Digital's GDPR Whitepaper

HEBS Digital 8 May 2018
Download the GDPR Whitepaper: What Hotels Need to Know and How to Prepare to learn about:What the GDPR is: Get familiar with the new data protection and privacy regulation affecting EU citizens.The Most Important Changes that Come with the GDPR: Discover the most important changes that will be affecting hotels.How the GDPR Applies to Hotel Data Policies: There are six main ways that this new regulation will affect data policies.How Your Hotel Can Prepare: Learn the steps you will need to take to ensure compliance throughout your website and digital marketing.Plus, other valuable information regarding the GDPR.Gain access to these insights when you download the GDPR whitepaper today.

NextGuest Technologies and HEBS Digital Names Peter Seidenberg as its Chief Executive Officer

HEBS Digital 3 April 2018
NextGuest Technologies ("NextGuest"), the parent company of HEBS Digital and Serenata CRM, today announces Peter Seidenberg as its Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately. NextGuest Technologies, founded by entrepreneur Max Starkov is an award-winning digital technology and marketing firm. Seidenberg will be responsible for continuing to drive innovation, developing new product offerings, and improving operational practices.Seidenberg has been involved with HEBS Digital and the growth of its holding company NextGuest since 2015, when PPC Enterprises ("PPC") acquired a majority ownership stake in the business. With the company currently in a growth stage, Seidenberg brings operational experience to the organization to support growth and the integration of HEBS Digital and Serenata with the expectation of bringing new innovative products to market."For nearly 20 years I devoted my life to growing this company, and I am confident that Peter will take this company to the next level for our clients," said Max Starkov, Founder & Director of HEBS Digital. "In my retirement, I will continue to be a contributor--writing articles, going to conferences, and more, while Peter will help ensure that NextGuest's operations are set for growth and innovation."Seidenberg comes to NextGuest with a wealth of experience, including a combination of software company operating and investing experience. He was most recently Managing Director at MVC Capital, Inc. ("MVC"), an affiliate of PPC, with over 25 years of experience in private equity and venture capital investing, corporate finance, and general management. Since April of 2005 Seidenberg has played a number of key roles, including acting as MVC's CFO from 2005 to 2013 and executing and monitoring investments from 2005 to 2018.Seidenberg held a variety of leadership positions prior to MVC in finance, operations, business development, and general management capacities. Mr. Seidenberg's previously held positions include Principal and COO of Nebraska Heavy Industries; CFO of Commerce One, Inc. (NASDAQ:CMRC); and Director of Finance and Business Development for Plumtree Software, Inc. (NASDAQ:PLUM). Seidenberg received both his Bachelor's degree and MBA from Cornell University."We are thrilled to have Pete join the team. With his operational leadership, we will find ourselves far better positioned to bring digital marketing expertise and to scale our technology platforms to a wider hospitality audience," said Jason Price, EVP and co-founder of HEBS Digital.When asked about his vision for the future of NextGuest, Seidenberg said, "As we grow NextGuest Technologies, the path to success will be through a customer-centric approach. We will streamline operations so we can deliver better products and services faster; pushing our current and future technology to be more innovative by answering the needs of our clients and the industry; and growing our NextGuest technology and marketing platform with an integrated approach so that we are driving incremental revenue for our clients in the most cost-efficient way."

From Dreaming to Booking Part IV: The Booking Phase

HEBS Digital 22 March 2018
By Margaret Mastrogiacomo, VP StrategyThis article is part four in a five-part series that uncovers top strategies for reaching potential guests in meaningful moments throughout every stage of the travel planning journey to increase direct bookings. This article focuses on the fourth stage of travel planning: the booking phase.Finally, after the daydreaming, advice-seeking, and travel planning comes to an end, the long-awaited moment arrives where travelers are ready to book. This is the moment of truth where your hotel brand must not only be present, but compelling enough to win the direct booking.Below we explore the booking phase of our five-part series, "How to Capitalize on the Full Travel Planning Journey to Drive Direct Bookings", to understand how hotel marketers can win the booking during this stage of the online travel journey. We will uncover what online behaviors are most common in this phase, what marketing channels are most effective, and how to measure success.How does the booking phase take shape?The booking phase is when consumers have narrowed down their accommodation options and are ready to commit to one. Google refers to the micro-moments throughout this phase as "Lets-Book-It" moments, where consumers' have decided on the location as well as the brand they want to book with.According to Google, in this stage, 94% of leisure travelers switch between devices as they plan or book a trip. In these cross-device moments, people often search for "[brand name] + [location]." And, in fact, almost half of these searches happen on mobile.Mobile bookings are on the rise. Google also reports that travelers aren't just researching on mobile, mobile bookings are also increasing. 31% of leisure travelers say they've booked travel on a mobile device, while an even higher percentage of these mobile bookings came from business travelers at 53%. Yet, while mobile bookings are steadily growing, the question remains: while living our lives on a mobile device has become second nature, why are a majority of hotel bookings still happening on desktop?Mobile may rise, but desktop still wins. As much as mobile research and bookings have grown, the majority of travelers, especially those traveling for leisure, still book on desktop. Yet, we can't ignore the role mobile plays throughout the journey. 46% of travelers state that they make their hotel decision on mobile but then move to another device to book.So, why the hesitation? Fear of not finding the best rate on mobile, and overall mobile booking limitations. 69% of leisure travelers worry that they're not finding the best price or making the best decision, while more than half of consumers switch to desktop to double-check hotel prices.Not only do hotel brands face travelers switching devices, they also risk losing customers to competitors or OTAs. According to a study with Ipsos Connect, 88% of travelers with smartphones would switch to another site or app if yours doesn't satisfy their needs--that's a tough statistic to swallow after being there throughout every phase of their journey. In light of this, it cannot be stressed enough that a fully-responsive website with a seamless booking experience across devices is not only a must, it can be a serious deal-breaker.What digital touchpoints are making an impact throughout the booking phase?It's no secret that reaching potential guests in crucial micro-moments throughout the booking phase is the final step in winning the direct booking. In the booking phase alone, a travel consumer can encounter up to 700 digital travel touchpoints, conduct over 52 searches, and consider up to 8 accommodation brands prior to booking. But, throughout these digital touchpoints where exactly are these crucial "lets-book-it" micro-moments?A study conducted by Think with Google has confirmed that the majority of time spent throughout the booking phase is:Maps: 41%Flight Provider: 18%Hotel Provider: 14%Car Provider: 10%Google Search: 7%OTA: 6%Credit Card Rewards: 2%Lifestyle: 2%Social: .4%With almost half of research taking place on search engines and maps, having a strong search strategy throughout the booking phase should be a top priority. Utilizing top travel ad networks that capitalize on first-party travel planning data from flight providers and OTAs (a combined total of 24% of time spent) is also crucial in this phase. Time spent on OTAs can seem misleading as we know that OTAs typically make up a large portion of a hotel's distribution strategy. This breakdown of time spent can simply reveal that while a majority of time goes to the official hotel website, search, and maps; due to loyalty, user-experience, and lack of rate parity, the OTAs can still ultimately win the booking.What type of content are travelers looking for in the booking phase? During the booking phase, travel planners are typically searching for websites and resources they have already visited in the planning phase to follow through on their booking decision. The most common searches in this phase are keywords surrounding the hotel brand in both search and Google images:[Hotel Brand] [Destination]Images of [Hotel Brand][Hotel Brand] [Neighborhood]It's important to own your branded keyword terms in the booking phase to not only accommodate these top searches as potential guests attempt to revisit your website but to ensure you are present in the top position against OTAs.The best marketing mix to reach travelers in the booking phase: SEO with a Focus on Hotel Brand Name and Accommodations: While accommodations pages play a key role in the planning phase and narrowing down the hotel decision, it's even more important to feature well-optimized accommodation pages on your hotel website in the booking phase. Be sure to include hotel schema and rich descriptions of your room types and amenities, and ideally, each room type should have its own dedicated landing page within your accommodations section. To ensure your room types are prominently displayed as soon as potential guests visit your site, showcase room types on your homepage. HEBS Digital offers a Rooms Showcase Module that allows hotels to display room types in a highly-visual, engaging way that puts a spotlight on room amenities, room size, views, and more. Each room type also has its own dedicated image gallery to better aid travelers in finalizing the booking decision.Branded and location keyword terms should also be an SEO focus to ensure you are dominating SERPs for common searches regarding your hotel brand.SEM with a Focus on Branded Keyword Terms, RLSA, and In-Market Audiences for Search: With up to 52 searches conducted on search engines throughout the booking phase, showing up for the right keywords at the right time can make or break your strategy. Hotel name combined with your hotel location like "[Hotel Name] + [Location]" or other branded search terms such as "Images of [Hotel Name]" are some of the top searches in this phase. Be sure that search ads for these top keywords are linking to highly relevant landing pages to ensure a high Google Quality Score which will achieve more cost-effective CPCs.Implementing Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) is also an effective strategy to reach potential guests who have already been to your hotel website and have shown interest with more relevant and tailored messaging throughout search results. Consider implementing this on branded search terms so your ad copy can be personalized to acknowledge that the potential guest has already been to your website and welcome them back. By utilizing this targeting strategy, you can also bid more for a higher position in search results since you know this qualified audience is potentially more likely to book.In-Market Audiences for Search, which is currently available for the Google Display Network and YouTube campaigns, will soon be available for search campaigns. In-Market Audiences will allow your search campaign strategy to target users based on intent signals such as recent search queries and website browsing activity. This targeting option for search ads will make it even easier and cost-effective for hotels to reach potential guests with intent to book.Google Display Network & Remarketing: With millions of websites, news pages, blogs, and Google websites like Gmail and YouTube, the Google Display Network reaches 90% of Internet users worldwide, and similar to the planning phase, GDN continues to play an influential role in the booking phase. With an effective remarketing strategy, your hotel brand can continue to be present at key touchpoints throughout the booking phase that inspires potential guests to take action and help you win the direct booking.Travel Ad Networks & Dynamic Rate Marketing: Travel Ad Networks that utilize first-party data from travel planning websites such as airlines, OTAs, and other travel planning resources are a great way to reach potential guests during the booking phase in key moments of intent. These display networks allow you to reach users during the travel planning process to your destination with personalized messaging and targeting based on the dates, destination, and price points travel planners are researching.Dynamic Rate Marketing display ads take this first-party travel intent data to the next level by allowing your hotel brand to display the best available rate in real-time for the exact arrival date a user searched for in your hotel's destination. This is one of the best ways to reach potential guests with useful rates and information at the exact moment they exhibit travel intent to your hotel's destination.Email Marketing: Email marketing is your brand's opportunity to make potential guests an offer they can't refuse. What better time than the booking phase to send an email? Email marketing is one of the best ways to reach potential guests that have already established a relationship with your brand and to reach guests that may have already stayed and enjoyed your hotel. Email segmentation and personalized offers are key to success, as well as combining email with other marketing strategies. For instance, many top display and travel ad networks can provide an email remarketing pixel that allows you to retarget people who opened your email campaign but have yet to book. These display ads will keep your brand present throughout the travel planning journey long-after email engagement to help win the booking.Facebook Dynamic Ads for Travel: Facebook Dynamic Ads for Travel allow hotels to retarget people on Facebook and Instagram who have displayed intent by visiting the hotel website and initiating a booking. The ads are highly relevant and personalized and can feature dynamic copy and room rates that automatically populate based on the traveler's dates searched, destination, and other details of their trip. With the average person spending up to 50 minutes a day Facebook, this is a great place to reach potential guests directly in their social newsfeeds to better influence the booking decision.Multichannel Campaigns: While a well-planned multichannel campaign will reach potential guests throughout every phase of the travel planning journey with one cohesive message, the power of these marketing initiatives and phases combined are critical in the booking phase to win the direct booking. A successful multichannel campaign answers the five W's of any great narrative: Who, What, Where, When, and Why.Reservation Abandonment: Once you've invested in key marketing initiatives and multichannel campaigns to nurture potential guests through the booking funnel, you have one mission: don't lose the booking. With less than 3% of website visitors ever committing to a booking, reservation abandonment technology plays an important role in winning back the booking if a visitor decides to abandon the booking process. Compelling messaging that ensures a best rate guarantee or even a perk or offer to "sweeten the deal" if they book direct can be a highly effective way to win back your customer.Measuring the Booking Phase: Getting to the Bottom Line.In the booking phase, it should be no surprise that KPIs are revenue-driven metrics with a focus on impacting your bottom line. Top metrics include:Click-through rateBookings InitiatedBookingsCost of Sale (COS)Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)Conversion RateIncremental RevenueOverall, making an impact on travel consumers in the booking phase is your last chance to win the booking. No pressure. Your hotel brand should be present throughout as many meaningful moments of intent in the booking phase as possible, and there's no better time to be there, be useful, and be compelling.Read the previous article in the series.
Article by Margaret Mastrogiacomo

Top 5 Things You Need to Know Now in Hotel Digital Marketing: March Edition

HEBS Digital 21 March 2018
By now, your digital marketing strategy should be in full swing. This month, Google My Business listings are getting an upgrade with the ability to add a property description, Facebook announced a new ad targeting option called Trip Consideration that allows hotel brands to reach potential guests in the early stages of travel planning and reaching people with online display ads based on their TV consumption (yes, Netflix included) is all the rage. From SEO to design, read on for the latest trends in hotel digital marketing.1. SEO: Google is adding business descriptions to Google My Business.It appears Google will soon be adding a feature to Google My Business that allows business owners to add a description that will show up in Google's local knowledge panel. A welcomed blast from the past, Google removed this feature back in 2016 when they dropped the Google+ support, but it seems to have been added back via the Google My Business console. Your hotel will once again have the ability to add a rich description highlighting key accommodations, amenities and what sets your hotel apart in order to enhance your listing in local panel search results. Descriptions will be required to be 750 characters or less and cannot include URLs or HTML code.2. SEM: Google message reporting metrics will soon be available.Google rolled out its click-to-message AdWords extension in October 2016. Similar to call extensions, message extensions allow users to message a business directly from the ad. Now Google is announcing formal reporting for messaging available in the next few weeks, which will require users of message extensions to turn on message reporting in account settings.Three primary metrics will be captured:Chat rate: This is similar to CTR (impressions vs. actual messaging interactions).Start time: When users tend to interact with you via messaging. Google claims this metric will help with dayparting.The number of messages exchanged within a single chat session: Google uses this metric to evaluate which ad creatives are driving the most engagement.For hotel brands that include a chat feature on the hotel website, click-to-message Adwords extensions can be a nice addition to your customer service strategy now complete with quantitative metrics.3. Display: Brands can now target people with online display ads based on the TV content they consume. Technology is rapidly changing the way TV viewers discover and consume content. Smart TV ownership has grown drastically in the past few years from 36% in 2011 to 66% in 2016. A new trend in display bridges the gap between TV and digital by leveraging real-time viewership data for targeting and measurement of online display ads.Vendors like Samba TV offer several digital ad opportunities including syncing ads with TV promos and competitors' TV promos, reaching cord-cutters by retargeting streamers across Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, and aligning with top shows and networks.For hotels that have a deep understanding of their target segments' psychographics and show preferences, this could be a great way to reach new users. It is also a great way to reach users who have a passion for travel television as well as steal a share of voice from top competitors by targeting viewers who have seen their ads throughout streaming or TV platforms.4. Social: Reach potential guests in the early stages of travel planning with Facebook's new 'Trip Consideration' targeting.Facebook has announced a new advertising optimization option called Trip Consideration, which will target users who are in the early stages of planning a vacation. Unlike Dynamic Ads for Travel, which retarget site visitors, Trip Consideration will reach people who are still narrowing down their travel destination options based on behaviors exhibited on Facebook or Instagram. With Facebook reporting that 68% of millennials found ideas for their most recent trip on Facebook, and 60% found ideas on Instagram, this can help hotel marketers potentially reach more travel-ready millennials in the dreaming phase of travel planning to make an early impact and steal attention away from competitors.5. Design: Broken grid layouts are trending.While grid layouts are a key element of fully-responsive website design, broken grid layouts offer website visitors a change of pace with something a little more creative and engaging. Broken grids don't ditch the concept of the grid altogether -- instead, they allow images and text elements to drift into and across the gutters that usually serve as hard stops in more traditional layouts. Throughout this web design trend, you'll find the usual discreet boxes of images and text begin to overlap and converge, often creating beautifully unexpected juxtapositions of bitmap and letterform.

Now Available for Download: HEBStrategy Q1 2018 Hotel Digital Marketing, Technology and Trends Whitepaper

HEBS Digital 21 February 2018
From HEBS Digital, the HEBStrategy Q1 edition takes a deep dive into content marketing through the funnel and includes strategies for reaching different audiences with customized content.Download the HEBStrategy Q1 2018 whitepaper to learn about:What's Trending: Stay in the loop with the must-know trends for 2018, including driving engagement through video and reposting user-generated content (UGC).From the Design Studio: How can you use content to turn lookers into bookers? We share some of our favorite examples of strategic approaches to design that have helped to generate more direct bookings.Metrics that Matter: Learn how to take a data-driven approach to your creative decisions, and ultimately see a positive impact on your hotel's bottom line.A Look Outside the Industry: Find inspiration in initiatives outside the hospitality industry. We take a closer look at Gucci's recent Instagram campaign, as well as the innovative video tutorials for Google's Pixel 2 phone.Plus other valuable insider information, including a recap of last quarter, creative concepts from the HEBS Idea Shop, and more.Gain access to these insights when you download the Q1 2018 HEBStrategy whitepaper today.

HEBS Digital Celebrates 2017: A Year of Broadening the Global Footprint, Technology Innovations and Industry Recognition

HEBS Digital 14 December 2017
As the year comes to a close, HEBS Digital is proud to reflect on the firm's many accomplishments of 2017, as well as recognize our clients and team members who made it all possible. Over the last 12 months, HEBS Digital continued to its industry leadership of helping hoteliers across the globe increase direct bookings and lower distribution costs, launched a number of website technology and digital marketing innovations, received a record-breaking 66 industry awards, published numerous whitepapers, and achieved record-breaking ROIs for its clients, among other achievements.Company highlights from 2017 include:Creating Industry's First Past/Future Guest Engagement & Acquisition Platform: HEBS Digital's parent company, Hospitality Tech Holdings LLC, acquired Serenata CRM, the most comprehensive hotel CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform in the hospitality industry today. Combining HEBS Digital with Serenata CRM, HTH has launched the hospitality industry's first Fully-Integrated Past/Future Guest Engagement and Acquisition Technology and Marketing Platform.Technology Innovations: The firm's in-house team continued to release technology innovations that help hoteliers increase direct bookings, lower distribution costs and achieve the perfect balance of beauty and science on their hotel website. This includes v7.04 of the smartCMS, a cloud-based website technology platform that gives hoteliers unprecedented control over their websites and direct online channel streams, Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) Optimizer, Universal Guest Recognition/Loyalty Portal, Advanced Content Manager, Group Pages Module, Enhanced Reservation Abandonment Application Suite, as well as Facebook Dynamic Ads for Travel marketing application.Industry Recognition: HEBS Digital won 66 digital technology, website design, and marketing awards, including a record-breaking 21 awards from the 61st HSMAI Adrian Awards Competition (including 10 Gold Awards), which eclipsed the firm's previous record of 17 awards; five WebAwards, four Hermes Creative Awards, and eight Interactive Media Awards, including six "Best in Class" distinctions. In recognition for growth and development, Inc. Magazine ranked HEBS Digital on its 36th annual Inc. 5000 as one of the nation's fastest-growing private companies.Industry Thought Leadership: Throughout the year, HEBS Digital published thought-provoking whitepapers and articles that highlighted key developments and trends in the industry. Topics included action plans to guide hoteliers how to plan their 2018 digital marketing budgets, how to maximize revenues from the Google ecosystem, and how to close the loop on the travel consumer's "digital journey," and how to plan a property pre-opening digital strategy.Notable Client Website Launches: In 2017 HEBS Digital launched multiple award-winning websites that not only showcased innovations in technology and design but generated impressive returns for our clients, resulting in an average cost of direct distribution of 4.5% across HEBS Digital client portfolio. Notable website launches included an enhanced brand website for RLH Corporation, which features over 1,100 properties and 14 brands (Gold Adrian Award), and a stunning new Loews Hotels & Resorts brand website, which utilizes cutting-edge revenue driving technology, AKA Hotels and Hotel ZaZa new brand websites, and numerous independent and branded hotels, resorts and casino property websites.Noteworthy Industry Speakerships: Members of HEBS Digital's team of digital technology and marketing experts spoke at conferences in North America, APAC and Europe, including the HSMAI Digital Marketing Strategy Conference in NYC, HSMAI Revenue Optimization Conferences in Toronto and Bangkok, Digital Marketing conferences in Singapore, Bangkok, and Phuket."It has been another successful year for HEBS Digital, and we value our clients who collaborate on countless ground-breaking technology innovations and digital marketing initiatives," said Max Starkov President and CEO at HEBS Digital. "As we close the year welcoming new clients such as Viceroy Hotels and Resorts, Hard Rock International, Sage Hospitality, Bartell Hotels, J Collection, and many other marquis hotels, resorts and casinos, I speak on behalf of the entire HEBS Digital team when I say that we are looking forward to great new and exciting achievements to come in the year ahead."In 2018, HEBS Digital will continue to prioritize a strong mobile-first strategy for its clients in order to monetize the drastic shift to mobile, with consideration to Google's upcoming switch to a mobile-first index. Hoteliers that partner with HEBS Digital ahead of this major shift will have the tools in place to maximize their mobile channel presence and direct online revenue.

HEBS Digital Wins Record-Breaking 21 HSMAI Adrian Awards, Including 10 Gold

HEBS Digital 12 December 2017
HEBS Digital, a leading authority in hotel digital technology and marketing innovation, has been honored with a record-breaking 21 Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) Adrian Awards for 2017. These awards mark a new record for HEBS Digital, beating their previous record of 17 awards.Now in its 61st year, the HSMAI Adrian Awards is among the most prestigious hospitality competitions in the world, celebrating the best of the best in the industry. HEBS Digital is pleased to receive the following Adrian Awards in the Digital Marketing category:GOLD AWARDS:RLH Corporation Website Redesign - This award recognizes excellence in website design and technology in merging two distinct brand websites into one single brand website with 1100 properties all over North America, backed by the smartCMS website technology platform.The Watergate Hotel Website Design & Development - a luxurious urban resort in Washington D.C. This award recognizes excellence in website design, backed by the smartCMS website technology platform, to target new customers and increase direct bookings.The Maven Website Design and Development - a unique Downtown Denver, Colorado hotel. This award recognizes excellence in website design to generate direct bookings and increase property awareness, backed by the smartCMS website technology platform.The Resort at Pedregal Integrated Marketing Campaign - a luxury resort in Cabo San Lucas. This award recognizes excellence in an integrated marketing campaign for a successful summer multi-channel marketing campaign with 5,138% ROAS.Hotel ZaZa Website Redesign - a trio of Texas luxury boutique hotels. This award recognizes excellence in website design to improve user experience and increase conversion rate and direct bookings, backed by the smartCMS website technology platform.The Belvedere Hotel Members Only Program - an art deco hotel in New York City. This award recognizes digital marketing innovation for a "members only" area of the website to access exclusive promotions and private sales to increase the property's bottom line, and reflects a positive ROI of 2,414%.The Rittenhouse Hotel Website Redesign - a luxury hotel in Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square. This award recognizes excellence in website design, backed by the smartCMS website technology platform, to create a highly visual website that would garner a high conversion rate to generate a positive ROAS.The Sandman Hotel Website Redesign - an affordable hotel in Santa Rosa, California. This award recognizes excellence in website design, backed by the smartCMS website technology platform, to cultivate a positive brand perception and drive website traffic and direct online revenue.La Fonda on the Plaza Reservation Abandonment Tools - a historic Santa Fe, New Mexico hotel. This award recognizes digital marketing innovation for a "reservation abandonment" feature of the website to help retain more users. Through the bookings recovered, the hotel achieved a 2,507% ROI.Arlo Hotels Digital Marketing Campaign - boutique hotels in New York City. This award recognizes excellence in a direct marketing grand opening campaign to generate brand awareness and increase direct bookings and email opt-ins via a sweepstakes component - collecting close to 3,000 emails.SILVER AWARDS:AKA Hotels Website Redesign - extended stay lodging around the U.S. This award recognizes excellence in website design to communicate the hotel's diverse offerings, backed by the smartCMS website technology platform.InterContinental Miami Website Development - a luxury Miami waterfront hotel. This award recognizes excellence in website design, backed by the smartCMS website technology platform, to elevate InterContinental Miami's overall website presence and boost conversion rates.LUMA Hotel Times Square Grand Opening and Launch - a modern New York City hotel achieves a 1,812% ROI for its first campaign. This award recognizes excellence in digital marketing campaign development to generate brand awareness and revenue for a new hotel brand.Atton Hotels Website Redesign - modern business hotels across South America and Miami. This award recognizes excellence in website design to build overall brand awareness, backed by the smartCMS website technology platform.The Maven Grand Opening and Launch - a unique Downtown Denver, Colorado hotel. This award recognizes excellence in digital marketing campaign development to generate brand awareness and buzz for a new hotel brand. Further, the campaign garnered an impressive 1,184% ROI for the newly opened hotel.The Lucerne Hotel Smart Personalization Engine - a boutique hotel in NYC's Upper West Side. This award recognizes excellence in digital marketing innovation to serve users custom marketing messages using a Smart Personalization Engine to achieve a 6.3% increase in conversion rate.Portola Hotel & Spa's Website Redesign - a top rated hotel in Monterey Bay, California. This award recognizes excellence in website design, backed by the smartCMS website technology platform, to create an easy user experience while increasing direct bookings, revenue, and brand awareness.BRONZE AWARDS:Pure Salt Luxury Hotels Website Design & Development - a luxury hotel brand in Majorca, Spain. This award recognizes excellence in website design to combat an extended slow season and increase direct bookings, backed by the smartCMS website technology platform.LUMA Hotel Times Square Website Design & Development - a modern New York City hotel. This award recognizes excellence in website design to generate revenue at the highest ADR in the first few weeks of the hotel opening, backed by the smartCMS website technology platform.The Huntley Hotel Mobile Website Design & Development - a luxury coastal hotel in Santa Monica, California. This award recognizes excellence in website design to increase overall mobile bookings, backed by the smartCMS website technology platform.The Brown Palace Hotel and Spa Content Marketing - a luxury hotel and spa in Downtown Denver, Colorado. This award recognizes excellence and innovation in multimedia content marketing."For any new hotel, there is an opportunity to develop concepts and turn what was once ideas, into tangible structures in the physical and digital spaces," said Kate Davis, Vice President of Brand Integrity and Marketing at Sage Hospitality (Management Company of The Maven). "Working with HEBS has been a collaborative effort in ensuring the successful launch of The Maven and achieving a Gold Adrian Award-winning, revenue-generating website. We are happy to have them as a strategic partner who is committed to being an extension of our team.""Together, our teams reached for the gold so this is truly a collaborative victory," said Adriana Silva, Marketing Manager at The Resort of Pedregal. "The Resort at Pedregal's story -- and No. 1 Travel + Leisure accolade -- was vividly brought to life throughout the Celebrate Summer campaign, thanks to the boundless creativity of HEBS Digital and JRPG Hospitality Consulting.""Each year, the Adrian Awards elevate the hospitality digital marketing profession, pushing the boundaries of what we view as industry best practices," said Max Starkov, President and CEO of HEBS Digital. "We are both humbled and thrilled to have won an incredible 21 awards from a pool of our admired peers. We are excited to continue on in our mission to drive direct bookings and lower distribution costs for our clients, with whom we share these awards."HEBS Digital will be honored at the HSMAI Adrian Awards Dinner Reception & Gala on February 20, 2018. This annual black-tie event, held at the New York Marriott Marquis, is attended by nearly 1,000 industry leaders, making it a landmark event in hospitality.About HSMAI:The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) is committed to growing business for hotels and their partners, and is the industry's leading advocate for intelligent, sustainable hotel revenue growth. The association provides hotel professionals & their partners with tools, insights, and expertise to fuel sales, inspire marketing, and optimize revenue through programs such as HSMAI's MEET, Adrian Awards, and Revenue Optimization Conference. HSMAI is an individual membership organization comprising more than 7,000 members worldwide, with 40 chapters in the Americas Region. Connect with HSMAI at,,, and

HEBS Digital Wins Six Silver W3 Awards for Conversion-Focused Website Design and Technology, and Compelling Digital Creative

HEBS Digital 28 November 2017
HEBS Digital, the industry-leading firm committed to helping hoteliers acquire, engage and retain hotel guests, is pleased to announce they have been awarded six Silver 2017 W3 Awards for revenue-generating website design, technology, banner ad creative design and marketing. Now in its twelfth annual year, the W3 Awards recognize creative excellence on the web, including websites, online advertising and marketing, mobile sites and apps, video, and social. HEBS Digital is honored to be included on the list of 2017 award winners.HEBS Digital was a Silver Award winner for the following entries:Website: LUMA Hotel Times Square - Located in the heart of New York City, this boutique hotel offers brilliant hospitality with a website to match.Website: InterContinental Chicago - This luxurious Chicago hotel provides a seamless experience, online and off.Website: Tilden Hotel - Located in Union Square, this San Francisco hotel needed a website to align with its hip sensibilities.Website: The Maven - This downtown Denver hotel offers handcrafted hospitality alongside a curated digital experience.Website: Hotel ZaZa - These upscale boutique hotels in Texas needed a website to reflect their bold personality.Banner Ad: The Blackstone - As a new member of Marriott's Autograph Collection, this iconic Chicago hotel wanted to show off its new look.Innovating hospitality design and technology, HEBS Digital creates revenue-driving websites and marketing creative for its clients that help them continue to shift share away from the OTAs. Each website is backed by the award-winning smartCMS website technology platform, which offers industry-leading merchandising capabilities, Smart Personalization capabilities, Reservation Abandonment Applications, and more."We are always humbled to receive awards on behalf of our clients," said Max Starkov. "HEBS Digital is committed to helping the industry push the envelope and be on the cusp of the next new and innovative level of technology and design for our hospitality partners. We are always striving to elevate digital technology, consulting, and marketing in the field and these awards are a reflection of our high standards."View HEBS Digital's award-winning portfolio here. To learn more about the W3 Awards, click here.

HEBS Digital Launches A New Website for Loews Hotels

HEBS Digital 3 November 2017
HEBS Digital announces the launch of the new website for Loews Hotels, resulting in a completely reinvented and revitalized multi-device digital presence. HEBS Digital worked with the Loews Hotel team to create a website that would be both focused on driving conversions and conveying the experience guests would have once at any of the twenty-four properties."The HEBS Digital team created a website with functionality suited to our needs and a design in line with our redefined company architecture," said Jacob Messina, Loews Hotels & Co Senior Director eCommerce & Performance Marketing. "HEBS is an extension of our Commercial team, we are very pleased with the end result and our new website."A successful hotel website must incorporate the right balance of excellent design with technology that is built to drive direct hotel bookings i.e. to incorporate the right balance of "Beauty and Science." When there is the right technology powering the hotel website, hoteliers are able to engage, retain, and acquire past and future guests, and increase direct revenue in this time of flattening occupancy rates and increased distribution costs.The Loews Hotel website is backed by HEBS Digital's award-winning smartCMS Website Technology Platform. Designed specifically for the hospitality industry, the smartCMS drives direct booking via more than 30 revenue-generating modules for need periods and occupancy demands by targeting feeder markets and market segments, loyalty members and past guest and in-market travelers via real-time control of content and promotions.The new Loews Hotels website encompasses a multitude of direct bookings-focused functionalities including:A Spotlight Search functionality with fast, type-ahead search that allows users to effortlessly find relevant content on the website.A suite of reservation abandonment tools to recover abandoned bookings, including lightbox displays and emailers.Live Rates solution which features real-time rates and availability on promo tiles throughout the website.Smart Personalization Engine that serves the most relevant content to the website visitor based on their location and/or if they are a YouFirst loyalty program member.Smart Booking Widget which remembers the visitor's selection and displays it throughout the site and during future visits.YouFirst Rewards loyalty program portal with the ability to view personalized content, member status and level-based perks.Advance Content Manager that enables a visually engaging, rich user experience.Performance enhancements to reduce server response time by 10-15%, increasing overall website user experience and download speeds.A fully responsive website experience built on the latest web coding standards.A fully-integrated, custom booking engine for a streamlined experience on all devices. Website visitors can check availability, make and modify a reservation without leaving the main site."The HEBS Digital team worked incredibly hard to deliver the new Loews Hotels brand website, and in record-breaking time," said HEBS Digital President and CEO Max Starkov. "The Loews Hotel brand is prestigious in the industry, and it was incredibly important to us to bring their signature luxury experience to life digitally as well as deliver a website that would continue to drive outstanding results. We are honored to have been chosen for this project, and look forward to seeing continued and powerful results."To explore the new Loews Hotels website visit Loews Hotels & Co. Established 1960Headquartered in New York City, Loews Hotels & Co is a hospitality company rooted in deep heritage in the hotel industry and excellence in service. The hospitality group encompasses branded independent Loews Hotels, and a solid mix of partner-brand hotels. Loews Hotels & Co. owns and/or operates 24 hotels and resorts across the U.S. and Canada, including Bisha Hotel & Residences, Toronto's newest luxury hotel and the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando, the fifth hotel in partnership with Comcast NBC Universal. Located in major city centers and resort destinations from coast to coast, the Loews Hotels portfolio features properties grounded in family heritage and dedicated delivering unscripted guest moments all with a handcrafted approach. For reservations or more information about Loews Hotels, call 1-800-23-LOEWS or visit:

HEBS Digital Guarantees Hoteliers a Boost in Direct Bookings with a 40% Website Conversion Rate Uplift

HEBS Digital 3 October 2017
To address the needs of today's hotelier to increase direct website bookings and lower distribution costs, HEBS Digital announces a new promotion that guarantees a 40% increase in website conversion rates with the purchase of a new website. Considering that, on average, less than 2% of website visitors ultimately make a booking, this limited-time promotion can have a profound impact on any hoteliers' bottom line.As part of this promotion, hoteliers will receive:A 25% credit towards the design and development of a new responsive websiteThe award-winning smartCMS Website Technology PlatformReservation Abandonment Application Suite set-up fees waivedComplimentary Smart Personalization EngineComplimentary website conversion rate strategy & action plan and 2018 digital marketing budget & action plan"With 2018 industry forecasts projecting flattening or even decreasing occupancy rates, and supply outweighing demand in many major markets, increasing direct bookings and lowering acquisition costs is vital to the health of any hotel," said Max Starkov, President & CEO of HEBS Digital and Hotel360 Technologies. "HEBS Digital is offering the 40% increase in website conversion rate guarantee as a way to demonstrate how committed we are to helping hoteliers do a better job of engaging, retaining, and acquiring guests throughout the customer journey while lowering distribution costs and improving the bottom line ."This promotion is available to hoteliers for a limited time. To view offer and terms and conditions, click here.

HEBS Digital Awarded Nine Travel Weekly Magellan Awards Customer Engagement and Direct Bookings Website Solutions

HEBS Digital 28 September 2017
New York, NY -- Travel Weekly announced the winners of the 2017 Magellan Awards, with HEBS Digital earning nine awards total. With entries from across the U.S. and around the world, the Magellan Award winners represent the best in the travel industry and salute the outstanding travel professionals behind it all.HEBS Digital earned the following Magellan Awards: Gold Awards:Pure Salt Luxury Hotels Website: a collection of two exquisite properties in the MediterraneanThe Maven Website: a new, independent property located in Denver, ColoradoSilver Awards:Atton Hotels Website: the leading chain of hotels in Chile, with additional properties in Peru, Colombia and MiamiRed Lion Hotels Website: an international hospitality company primarily engaged in the franchising, management and ownership of upscale, midscale and economy hotelsSandman Hotel Website: a playful and modern Santa Rosa, California hotel"This year's winners represent the most talented and creative people in not just the travel industry but of any industry," said Arnie Weissmann, editor in chief of Travel Weekly. "They continue to raise the bar, to inspire travel and enhance the travel experience. Their work leaves a lasting impression on our expert judges and readers."All websites offer the perfect combination of "beauty and science", and are backed by the award-winning smartCMS website technology platform, which provides hoteliers robust merchandising capabilities, the ability to showcase engaging visual and textual content, Smart Personalization capabilities, Reservation Abandonment Applications, and a way to provide an optimum website user experience and highest conversion rates on all devices."These prestigious awards are a testament to the successful, long-standing relationships we have with our clients," said Max Starkov, President & CEO of HEBS Digital. "HEBS Digital is passionate about helping hoteliers reach travel consumers through every stage of the lifecycle. With a suite of industry-leading digital technology, marketing and consulting services, HEBS Digital's award-winning website designs are created by the brightest team in the industry. We are constantly striving to reach new heights with the websites we design and develop for our hotel partners."The Magellan Awards are judged and overseen by a one-of-a-kind panel of top travel professionals representing the best names and most accomplished leaders from the industry. For more information about HEBS Digital's award-winning CMS technology, website design and Website Revenue Optimization Consulting solutions that resulted in these awards, please visit the company's website.About Travel WeeklyThrough its portfolio of digital and print products and face-to-face events, Travel Weekly is the most influential provider of news, research, opinion and analysis to the North American travel trade marketplace. Travel Weekly is a division of Secaucus, New Jersey-based Northstar Travel Group, the largest travel business-to-business travel publisher in the world.

HEBS Digital Wins 5 WebAwards for Industry-Leading Technology and Design

HEBS Digital 22 September 2017
New York, NY -- HEBS Digital has won five WebAwards from the Web Marketing Association in the Hotel and Lodging category, including two Hotel and Lodging Standard of Excellence awards and 3 Outstanding Website awards. The firm that provides best-of-class hotel technology and solutions fundamental to engaging and acquiring hotel guests, increasing direct bookings, and lowering acquisition and distribution costs is proud to be included on the list of 2017 WebAward winners.HEBS Digital received the following WebAwards:Outstanding Website - Hotel and Lodging:Atton Hotels - the leading chain of local hotels in Chile, with four properties in Chile, one in Peru, two in Colombia and one in Miami, FloridaPure Salt Luxury Hotels - a collection of luxury hotels located on the island of Mallorca off the coast of Spain, catering to leisure travelers from all over the worldHotel ZaZa - a multi-property brand with a collection of two luxury, Texas boutique hotels, located in Uptown Dallas and Houston Museum DistrictStandard of Excellence - Hotel and Lodging:The Maven - a newly built and unique, independent hotel in Denver's newest micro-district, the Dairy BlockLUMA Hotel Times Square - newly built in the winter of 2017, this upscale boutique hotel is located in the heart of New York CityThe above-mentioned hotel companies appointed HEBS Digital to execute and meet their website and digital marketing goals. All websites are backed by the award-winning smartCMS(r) website technology platform, which provides hoteliers robust merchandising capabilities, the ability to showcase engaging visual and textual content, Smart Personalization capabilities, Reservation Abandonment Applications, and a way to provide an optimum website user experience on all devices."It's an honor to receive these awards on behalf of our clients" said Max Starkov, President & CEO of HEBS Digital. "HEBS Digital is dedicated to helping hoteliers reach travel consumers through every stage of the lifecycle, from the planning and conversion phases, to the pre-stay, in-stay, post-stay and generating loyalty phases. The hotel website plays a very critical role in this journey, as it sets the stage for the guest experience. As a firm that is dedicated to bridging the digital and physical worlds, we are always reaching new heights with the websites we design and develop for our hotel partners."The Web Marketing Association was founded in 1997 to help set a high standard for Internet marketing and development of the best websites on the World Wide Web. Entries from 40 countries were adjudicated in 96 industry categories during this year's competition. Entries were judged on design, copy writing, innovation, content, interactivity, navigation, and use of technology.For more information about HEBS Digital's award-winning CMS technology, website design and Website Revenue Optimization Consulting solutions that resulted in these awards, please visit the company website.

Newest Must-Read hebs Whitepaper: The Smart Hotelier's Guide to 2018 Digital Marketing & Technology Budget Planning

HEBS Digital 20 September 2017
Budgeting season: the time to analyze what initiatives are driving performance, review trends in the industry that should be taken into account when constructing your budget, and start thinking about any major upgrades your property needs to take in its digital technology and marketing strategy.The Smart Hotelier's Guide to 2018 Digital Marketing & Technology Budget Planning whitepaper is created every year to guide hoteliers on the budgeting process by outlining the tools needed to engage, acquire, and covert travel consumers, as well as enhance the on-property guest experience, and inspire guests to book a future stay.Here is a sneak peek of what's included in the whitepaper:Key Industry Factors & Trends to Consider in 2018: an overview of factors that should be considered when finalizing your budget such as the state of the industry, the need to resolve the fragmentation of data and digital marketing strategies, the complexity of the travel planning journey, changes in the Google advertising ecosystem, Airbnb, and more.Action Plan for Creating Your 2018 Budget: HEBS Digital recommends that 3-6% of total room revenue go to the Sales & Marketing line item of the hotel budget. The actual percentage depends on the location of the property, complexity of the business, and ADR. This section also includes recommendations on how to organize the digital technology and marketing part of the overall budget.Breaking Down the Budget: this section takes a deep dive into each digital technology and marketing budget initiative, with updates on the latest developments in each as well as recommendations on what to focus on for 2018.Your 2018 Budget Snapshot: see a breakdown of each line item in the budget and recommendations on what percentage of the budget to allocate for each.The 2018 digital marketing & technology budget should not be looked at as just another expense for the property. This is a direct distribution cost vs. hotel expense, as well as an OTA commission-reducing investment. In this sense, the digital marketing budget provides a dual benefit: it increases direct bookings at the lowest possible distribution cost and it reduces expensive bookings made through the OTAs.With industry forecasts flattening and even decreasing occupancy, and supply outweighing demand in many major markets, the only cost driver hoteliers have any control over is distribution costs. Therefore, increasing direct bookings and lowering acquisition costs is vital to the health of any hotel. A very achievable goal for 2018 should be increasing direct bookings by 15%-25%.Success for hoteliers in 2018 will be based on how much acquisition costs can be lowered and how well they know their guests, along with what actions are taken with that knowledge. Download The Smart Hotelier's Guide to 2018 Digital Marketing B& Technology Budget Planning for your roadmap on how to achieve your property's revenue goals starting now and into 2018.

Request Information

Thank you for your request, we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Please enter your contact details below and we will get back to you with the requested information as soon as possible.
An error occured, please check your input and try again.



Thank you for subscribing. Your email address has been added to our mailing list.
To subscribe to the HITEC Bytes Newsletter please enter your contact details below.
An error occured, please check your input and try again.
I do want to receive the HITEC Bytes email newsletter.
By submitting this form, you have read and agreed to the Privacy Notice of HFTP.
You may unsubscribe to these emails at any time.