Independent hotels & the untapped potential for local content marketing

Editor’s Note: With OTAs and big brands all but shutting out independent hotels and small groups from both paid and organic search results, content marketing has grown in importance as an effective and affordable means of gaining visibility and traffic. Recently I read a smart article on Tnooz by Matthew Barker called SEO is Alive and Kicking in Travel, and I asked Matt to prepare this piece as part of Reknown’s guest post series. Enjoy! – Daniel E. Craig

By Matthew Barker, Founder, I&I Travel Media

Matthew Barker - i&i Travel Media - Reknown MarketingIn a recent Skift interview, Gray Shealy, executive director of the Master’s of Hospitality Management Program at Georgetown University, discussed how hotel chains could follow Airbnb’s lead to better connect guests with the local neighbourhood and provide a more immersive stay in the area:

“…what Airbnb allows a user to do is really have an accessible localized experience… People are looking to relate to people… and get away from the touristed restaurant establishments and things like that.”

Shealy argued that hotel groups should aim to provide a similar degree of connection to their locality, as an extended, hyper-local concierge service. In his view, hotels should become a “knowledge hub, a place, a resource, a library for the traveler.”

The interview was primarily about major hotel groups trying to improve their appeal against the onslaught of Airbnb-style competition. But we’ve been saying exactly the same thing to smaller, independent hotels for many years.

With their intimate local knowledge and expertise, these companies are much better placed to provide true connections and insights to their surrounding areas.

Not only that, but this knowledge can also be used as a powerful marketing asset to drive new bookings. Read more »

Digital Marketing Demystified

Rekown Travel Marketing - Digital Marketing Strategies

By Daniel E. Craig, Reknown

If you struggle to keep up with the dizzying array of acronyms, buzzwords and references used by marketers today, you’re not alone.

Well, I’ve got good news. In the next installment of Reknown’s webinar series with TripAdvisor for Business, we go back to the basics to explain the essentials of digital marketing for hotels.

In Digital Marketing Demystified: Everything You Need to Know but Are Afraid to Ask, we’ll discuss:

  • What is digital marketing?
  • What’s the difference between:
    • Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM)
    • Social media and online reputation management
    • Online travel agencies and metasearch
  • Plus the latest news from TripAdvisor, and a live Q&A with the experts

For the webinar I created the above chart as a quick reference guide to four key digital marketing strategies and how they differ in terms of earned, owned and paid content.

In addition to Brian Payea, Head of Industry Relations at TripAdvisor, the webinar will feature special guests Martin Soler, Chief Marketing Officer at SnapShot in Paris, and Mark Hayward, Digital Marketing Consultant in Puerto Rico.

Reknown & TripAdvisor - Digital Marketing Demystified Webinar

Click here to register. For the full library of TripAdvisor webinars, visit TripAdvisor Insights.

For those wanting more, we’ll cover advanced topics in digital marketing in the fall. Watch out for announcements on Reknown’s Events page.

Also, stay tuned for my next webinar with ReviewPro: We Hear You! Guidelines for Responding to Guest Feedback. We’ll discuss tips, best practices and examples of how to respond to all types of customer feedback, from in-person complaints to guest surveys to online reviews.


Bravo! The End of Rate Parity As We Know It

Freedom from online travel agencies - Reknown Travel Marketing

By Daniel E. Craig, Reknown

There’s a revolution happening in France that could send shockwaves across the international hotel industry.

If the French government succeeds in passing the “Macron” Bill in August this year, online travel agencies in France will no longer be able to enforce rate parity on hotels. The practice has been cited as anti-competitive behavior and not in the consumer’s best interest.

Nor has the practice been in the best interest of hotels. For years, hotels have been bullied by powerful OTAs like Expedia and into giving heavily discounted rates and access to inventory at steep commissions ranging from 12% to 30%. If hotels want premium positioning in OTA search results, they must pay even more.

Travelers love OTAs because they allow them to compare pricing in a destination, as do metasearch channels. OTAs have also opened up markets for hotels they might otherwise not be able to reach. But they have become too powerful and too aggressive.

OTAs have grown exponentially in recent years, reaping huge profits on the backs of hotels. In turn, they use this money to aggressively advertise in order to lure travelers to them, often bidding against hotel brand names. Expedia and Priceline, which owns, are two of Google’s top AdWords clients.

Fair game in a free market, and in many respects hoteliers have only themselves to blame. But this has not been a free market. OTA contracts have imposed restrictions that limit hotels’ ability to manage their own rates and inventory.  Read more »

More Resources for Managing Your TripAdvisor Presence

Managing Your TripAdvisor Presence - Five Components - Reknown
By Daniel E. Craig, Founder, Reknown

TripAdvisor 15 Years Anniversay - Reknown Travel MarketingCelebrating its 15th anniversary this year, TripAdvisor continues to disrupt the travel industry with new products, new features and an ever-growing community.

In a recent TripAdvisor survey of 7,215 hospitality business owners worldwide, 82% agreed that review sites have a positive impact on the hospitality industry and service standards. Seventy percent have taken steps to improve quality of service as result of a TripAdvisor review.

According to the TripBarometer Survey of over 10,000 hospitality businesses worldwide, online reputation management is the top investment priority in 2015, outranking renovations, marketing, staff training and technology.

Lately I’ve been busy collaborating with industry players to produce resources to help hospitality businesses around the world take advantage of the opportunities presented by TripAdvisor. These free webinars attract thousands of viewers from around the world.

On the heels of my recent webinar with TripAdvisor, Using Guest Feedback to Guide Improvements & Earn Better Reviews, next week I’ll be hosting another TripAdvisor-themed webinar in collaboration with ReviewPro.

TripAdvisor for Hotels Webinar Panelists - Reknown Travel Marketing
Entitled TripAdvisor for Hotels: How to Drive More Reviews, Referrals & Revenue, this free webinar will bring you the latest news, research and tips from TripAdvisor and will show you ways to earn more positive reviews, more website referrals and more bookings. Read more »

Leadership, Social Media & Service Excellence in Hospitality

Towing - Hospitality Service Excellence - Reknown
By Daniel E. Craig, Reknown

If you’ve been in the hospitality industry for a while, you’ve probably suffered through your share of service training seminars. We all need a refresher from time to time, and today I’d like to discuss customer service within the context of leadership and social media.

At a time when consumers have dozens of channels on which to share their disappointment or delight with the masses, customer service has never been more important to businesses, and management plays a critical role.

Think about the last time you dealt with a guest situation that spiraled out of control. What happened? Was the guest completely irrational, or is it possible that you did or said something to set him off? Sometimes we need to take a hard, honest look at these situations.

During my earlier days in hotels, a woman came to me at the front desk, upset that her car had been towed from the hotel’s parking lot. I quickly interrupted her to explain that the hotel didn’t manage the parking lot. She said she didn’t care, she expected us to pay for the towing charges. Crossing my arms, I told her I was very sorry, but the signage was clear. Realizing she was getting nowhere with me, she said, “Young man, why don’t you run along and get me the manager”? And I said, “Ma’am, I am the manager.”

I had just become a duty manager, and I was drunk on power. I knew that my staff were watching me, and I wanted to show that I couldn’t be pushed around. The woman exploded, threatened to get me fired, and stormed off. I was like, “Whoa crazy lady, take a pill.”

So what do you think, did I handle the situation brilliantly? No? Okay, then what went wrong? Let’s have a closer look.

The Three Stages of Anger
Whether you’re dealing with an upset customer, a friend or a family member, it’s helpful to be aware of the three stages of anger, each of which requires a different approach.

Stage 1: Angry at the problem. In this stage the left side of the brain, which governs logic, is predominant. The customer is annoyed or frustrated but is still rational. With expert handling, it shouldn’t be difficult to appease her, even if you can’t give her exactly what she wants.

Stage 2: Angry at the employee. Here the customer’s thinking shifts to the right side of the brain, which governs emotion. Now it’s personal. Before resolving the problem, you’ll first need to address the emotion.

Stage 3: Furious. This stage is pure right brain. The customer is highly emotional and may resort to threats. Logic is useless, and a great deal of skill will be required to talk her down before you can attempt to resolve the matter.

Beware of Triggers
What causes people to move to Stages 2 and 3? Triggers are the things we do and say that make a situation escalate from bad to worse. There are three types:  Read more »

An Online Reputation Management Checklist

The Virtuous Circle of Online Reputation Management by Reknown Marketing

By Daniel E. Craig, Reknown

Do you ever Google your name? It used to be thought of as vain thing to do, but today it’s good common sense. People Google other people’s names all the time—before a meeting, a job interview, even a date.

The information that comes up forms your online reputation, and it shapes people’s impressions and guides their actions. While you control some of this content, some content is posted by others. If it’s not accurate and appealing, you’ll want to take action to fix it.

The same goes for businesses. As more consumers turn to online reviews and social media to consult purchase information and advice from the source they trust most—other consumers—reputation management has become a critical function for all types of businesses. A weak, negative or non-existent online presence will hurt your ability to attract customers.

Reputation management is the practice of monitoring, managing and acting on online reviews and social media content related to your business. By using this feedback to guide improvements, you will drive higher customer satisfaction, which will lead to better reviews, attracting more customers. This virtuous circle can be incredibly healthy for your business.

But where to start, and how to implement best practices in your business? Here’s a checklist of the seven essential steps to building and maintaining a strong digital reputation.

1. Perform a Reputation Audit
Start by putting yourself into the shoes of the consumer. Perform a reputation audit by Googling your business name on a desktop, smart phone and tablet. Then do the same for your top three competitors to see how they are positioned. Lastly, search the primary keywords related to your business. Make a list of the things you would like to change.  Read more »

Beating OTAs at their own game with rate transparency on your hotel website

By Daniel E. Craig, Reknown

Triptease Price Check - Reknown Travel MarketingThere’s a lot of buzz in the hotel industry these days about the rising costs of acquisition. It seems that an increasing proportion of rooms revenue is being doled out to third parties in the form of cost-per-click advertising, commissions, booking fees and other activities. Not to mention all the champagne and limos you sales & marketing directors indulge in.

And while some of this is simply the cost of doing business, many hotels are struggling to compete with the advertising might of OTAs. If you’re not careful about controlling costs, you risk making no profit at all. And that means no bonuses for you!

So I was excited to discover a simple yet innovative new product that has the potential to shift some of the profits back to hotels by driving more direct bookings.

Price Check, from London-based Triptease, is a widget that hotels can place on their website to display real-time rates on online travel agencies. Essentially, it turns the hotel website into a simplified metasearch engine. Travelers can compare rates without leaving the site and be confident they’re getting a comparable or better deal by booking direct.  Read more »

What are destinations doing about traveler reviews?

Destinations and Hotel Rating Systems - ReviewPro Reknown Webinar

By Daniel E. Craig, Reknown

Since the advent of social media, travelers have had to navigate an increasingly confusing array of hotel rating systems when planning a trip. What exactly does “five-star” mean these days? Is quality measured in stars, diamonds, bubbles or aggregate scores? And who decides—travelers, governments, associations, the media or hotels?

It’s been fascinating to watch how online reviews have disrupted the travel industry in recent years. Hotels were slow to accept that reviews weren’t going away and that their influence was only increasing. I started squawking about the importance of traveler reviews in 2006, when I was a hotel general manager, and for years I felt like Chicken Little.

Today, however, the hotel industry worldwide uses online reviews to guide operational improvements, marketing messaging, and staff training and evaluation programs.

In fact, in a recent TripAdvisor survey of over 100,000 travelers and business owners, over 85% of respondents said that online review sites have a positive impact on the industry and hospitality standards. (The Caterer, 2015.)

And yet destinations, including DMOs, tourism bureaus and hotel associations, are still struggling to figure out what to do about traveler reviews. As a result, many are missing out on opportunities to tap in to the collective feedback of thousands, even millions, of visitors.

One thing is clear: purveyors of traditional hotel ratings systems must find a way to integrate traveler reviews in order to stay relevant.

So I’m excited to be producing and hosting a groundbreaking webinar on this very topic on behalf of ReviewPro. We’ll discuss how leading destinations, hotel associations and tourism organizations are using traveler reviews and review data to:

  • Integrate the voice of the traveler into hotel rating systems
  • Analyze traveler sentiment
  • Develop targeted marketing campaigns
  • Increase accountability and transparency among hotels
  • Enhance visitor trust, satisfaction and advocacy

The webinar will feature a host of prestigious panelists and contributors from around the world, including:

  • Christopher Imbsen, United Nations World Tourism Organization
  • Dr. David Ermen, PwC Switzerland
  • Josiah Mackenzie, ReviewPro
  • Damien Hanger, Star Ratings Australia
  • Dr. Aris Ikkos, INSETE Greece

Whether you work for a destination, government tourism organization, hotel, hotel association or other tourism entity, you’re invited to join us for this free webinar on Tuesday, March 31.

Click here for details. Hope to see you there!