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Learn how to navigate the world of OTA’s and increase the success of your listing.

Anyone who has worked in the hospitality industry for any time has had to work with Online Travelling Agencies, better known as OTA’s, and has no doubt been frustrated and at times mystified with how they work and how to create the best listing. There is no standard, meaning you have to learn how to work with each separate one. Ranging from fairly simple to extremely complicated – often you are left feeling like you need to be a tech mastermind to effectively navigate them. It’s not always clear, either, why one property ranks higher than others in search results. It can be a time-consuming nightmare for hoteliers, but there’s no doubt about it, they can generate a high volume of bookings and in the current market, they are essential. 

Understanding OTA’s

So what even is an OTA? OTA’s are websites where you can create an account and they promote your property across the globe, advertising rates, rooms, photos, and descriptions. Travelers can see all their options in one place with a simple search and hotels can advertise to a wider range of potential guests. 

The majority of OTA’s work with a commission model where the property does not pay anything for the account; they only pay a commission per successful booking – the average at the moment is 15%. There are hundreds of different OTA’s, from smaller location-specific ones to the larger ones we have all heard of. In this article, we will focus on more general tips that can be applied to most, if not all, OTA’s. 

One important thing to know is that you are not just appearing on that site when you list on one OTA. Most of the bigger OTA’s have merged with many other companies meaning that you will appear on those other sites as well. Then there are metasearch engines, the biggest being Tripadvisor and Google. Metasearch engines typically get results from many sources on the internet, all major OTA’s included, and display the results in a ranked list. This means that you may also appear in these lists if you have a listing on an OTA, though unless you are investing in metasearch management you have no control over where on the ranked list you appear or how often and the guest will be directed to the OTA listing rather than a to a Booking Engine for a direct booking.

Once you have a good understanding of what OTA’s are and what they can do for you, choosing which ones are the best for you to list on is the next step. Generally going with the most popular is a safe bet, but looking into some smaller ones specific to your location could also be beneficial. 

General tips for all OTA’s

While each OTA is unique, there are some general rules to get the best out of your listings that will apply to all channels.  

Photos:

One of the biggest factors in choosing where to stay when potential guests are searching is the photos. This is the first impression they get of your property and what it offers and the photos you display play a much larger role than you may believe. When scrolling through listings, the photos can take up to 50% of the listing space so they need to be the best they can be to attract the guest. Professional photos that are updated every few years are the best but with smartphone cameras these days, it is possible to take good photos yourself, you just need to be mindful of a few things first. 

Make sure the lighting is good, there is nothing worse than a dark photo, making the room appear smaller and unclean. Then check your decor; make the beds, place towels/toiletries, put a vase with flowers on a desk, etc, anything to make the space appear more inviting. Now be mindful of where you are taking the photo from and where things are placed in the photo. Try taking one from a corner and with the camera held up higher angled down to the room, helping to make the space appear larger or at least not smaller than it is. If there is a view from the window, open the curtains and see if you can take a photo of the room while also showing the view from the window. Try to take at least 4 good photos of the room, 1-2 of the bathroom, and 1 or 2 of any extra facilities you have in the room whether it is laundry, tea/coffee station, view from the window. You should also have photos of the property as a whole, some of the reception/lobby area, kitchens, living rooms, restaurant/bar, front of the building, parking spaces, etc.

Once you have the best possible photos for your listings, upload them and decide for each room and which photo is the best to be the main photo. Remember this is the first photo potential guests will see, so it is important to choose the best. Then make sure you order the photos from best to worst after the main photo. If the OTA allows it, write a short description of the photo for the guest. Now your photos are updated, time to manage your reputation.

Reputation:

The first thing you think about when you hear reputation is generally reviews, and this is a big part of it but not the whole picture. There are 3 phases or stages of managing your reputation; pre-stay, during the stay, and post-stay. Reviews are the last step of the reputation process, post-stay, and a bad review indicates a breakdown or a lack of attention paid to the previous steps.

When considering how to manage your reputation pre-stay, transparency is key and should be topmost in your mind at all times. In your OTA’s there are sections where you can update your facilities and policies and many people rush through these sections, as they can be slightly tedious to go through. Whatever you do, DON’T rush through, consider it all carefully and make sure it is up to date. Manage your guests’ expectations before they arrive, and you will avoid bad reviews. Imagine booking a hotel that advertises that pets are allowed, only to arrive with your cat in tow, and turns out they don’t allow pets. Conversely, imagine if you do allow pets, but when the guest is searching it does not say pets are allowed at your property so they book elsewhere. In both cases, there is a lost reservation and in the worst situation an unsatisfied potential guest. Up-to-date facilities and policies that reflect reality will keep your guests happy and avoid miscommunication.

Next in the reputation process is during the stay. This is all about providing the experience that you have advertised you will. If there are facilities that are currently out of service put a guest management strategy in place. Guests should be notified upon check-in of the out-of-order facility and offered a solution or compensation whether it be a discount or an upgrade. It is also extremely important that your staff are trained correctly so guests have a good experience during their stay with you. 

The last step is post-stay and this is where reviews come in. There is not much to be done for your current reputation once you get a bad review but it is important to reply to these reviews and make it clear that you have taken their concerns seriously and have a plan in place to avoid the situation in the future. Avoid dismissing the concerns or replying in a rude manner as all your future potential guests can and will read your reviews and how you reply. Once you have replied, now you have to actually take action and do what you have promised to manage your reputation going forward and avoid the same comments again. Remember, if a potential guest is reading your reviews and the same comments come up in the majority of reviews, they can clearly see that you are aware of a problem and not doing anything to fix the issue. There are cases, however, where a bad review is left that you feel is not accurate. If the person leaving the review never stayed in your property, or they have made false claims in the review, most OTA’s have a system in place where you can contest the review, you may just need to contact them or turn to their help and support pages. 

While it is important to manage your reputation to avoid guest disappointment, it is equally as important to set the correct rate plans to avoid disappointment for you when dealing with cancellations, no-shows, and guest expectations.

Rate Plans:

Your rate plan is the parameters or requirements you set for a particular rate and room. There can be multiple rate plans for one room or just one. OTA’s vary significantly when it comes to the control they give you over setting rate plans, but even the most basic will allow you to choose the cancellation policy of the plan.

There are three ‘main’ cancellation types; free cancellation, non-refundable and flexible. Free cancellation means that the guest can cancel anytime and won’t have to pay anything and is generally the more expensive option as it carries the highest risk of last-minute cancellations for properties. Non-refundable means that no matter when the guest cancels, they will have to pay a fee. The fee they have to pay is generally decided by the property and can be the total price of the reservation, a percentage of the total, or a certain number of nights of the reservation. Flexible policies combine the other two where you can set a certain number of days before the reservation where the guest has free cancellation available, and after the allocated time period has passed the reservation goes to non-refundable. For example, a ‘Flexible – 2-day’ policy means the guest can cancel for free up to 2 days before the reservation but if they cancel less than 2 days before the reservation they will have to pay the allocated amount. 

On top of the rate plan setting the rules for no-shows and cancellations, they can also include different ‘packages’. The most common being breakfast included, but some others can include; weekly stay discounts, monthly stay discounts, all-inclusive, etc. Again, different OTA’s allow different levels of control over these different rate plan types, so for each one, you will have to familiarise yourself with the rate plan section and what it allows. 

Choosing the correct rate plans for your rooms and what it includes is a very individual choice. No one ‘rate plan’ is best for every property. There are so many options so there is a tendency to want to set up one for every situation e.g. non-refundable, free cancellation, room only, bed & breakfast, weekly discounts, monthly discounts, etc. Try to remember that if you try to set up a rate plan for every option, managing all these rate plans will become much more complicated and you are likely to get confused with what each OTA allows and what you have set up in each different channel. 

Think carefully about what you offer and what people coming to your area want, and just choose 2 or 3 different rate plans at most. If you have a lot of last-minute cancellations and don’t receive many last-minute bookings, choosing a stricter rate plan such as 5 days may be the right choice for you. If you are in a high-traffic area where you get many last-minute bookings, a 1-day or even free cancellation policy will give guests more flexibility and increase the likelihood of them booking. 

Having multiple different rate plans in different channels can start to get confusing so using a channel manager to manage all of these different rates and different channels will help significantly. 

Channel Managers:

A channel manager is just what the name suggests – a program that allows you to manage all the different channels/OTA’s you are listed on. The way it works is that you connect the channel manager to each OTA and ‘map’ your rooms and rates so they are all in the channel manager. Then you can set your rates and availabilities in the channel manager and it will update all your channels for you. 

Traditionally, if you have 5 OTA accounts for example, and you receive a booking from one, you now need to login to all 4 other channels and update your availability so you do not receive an overbooking in that room. You can imagine that if you are receiving a lot of bookings this can take up a lot of your time. On the other hand, if you want to change your rates, you also need to log in to all your OTA accounts and update the rates in each one. If you are connected to a channel manager it will receive all your bookings and update the channel’s availabilities automatically and you can also update your rates in one place.

This is a game-changer for anyone wanting to be listed on more than one channel but not wanting to spend all your time constantly updating each one manually. The chance of mistakes leading to overbookings is significantly reduced and your guests will benefit in the end. Many hoteliers make the mistake of thinking this technology is expensive and just for big chain hotels, but small-medium businesses can benefit just as much, if not more, and there are many options out there that will not break the bank. A little research into the options out there is all it takes.

Slow and steady wins the race:

The world of OTAs may seem overwhelming at first glance, but with a little knowledge and research, it can be managed effectively. 

It is tempting to go out and immediately open as many accounts as you can to maximize visibility, but without the knowledge on how to manage all these accounts you will quickly crash and burn and the business will suffer. Start slowly and scale up as you are ready – start with one and take your time to learn it and when you feel like you have a handle on how it works, open another one. Regularly update your photos and information to reflect reality and don’t underestimate the benefits of a channel manager to help manage it all. 

There is the opportunity to benefit greatly from these online channels, and with a little knowledge, you can utilize them to your advantage and boost your business’s online presence. 

Author: Emma Flynn

the lobby boy - pms & channel manager - revenue graph

Improve your bottom line and get an edge in the market against competitors

In the hospitality industry, for properties, the dominant revenue stream – if not the only one – has always been selling rooms. This is not going to change. There are, however, ways to diversify your revenue, boosting your bottom line and creating a more stable income. 

It’s been a year since the hotel industry collapsed due to coronavirus and if there is anything hoteliers have learned in the last year it’s that having all your eggs in one basket is not always a safe and reliable business model. While the likelihood of anything similar to this happening again in our lifetimes is very low, it has highlighted the importance of not being complacent. Just because business seems good now, does not always mean it will stay that way.

We have seen hoteliers of all types adapt and change to the new unstable market and think outside the box to come up with creative strategies of generating more income streams just to survive. It may be time for you to rethink your business strategy and adopt some of these options, which we will explore in this article.

Know your market

Before racing full speed ahead and overhauling your entire business, it is vital that you answer a few basic questions so you are confident in knowing what will be most effective for you moving forward. This is the time to truly understand changing customer behaviors and preferences. Firstly, who have traditionally been your typical customers/guests and has this changed? You may think you already know but it is important to take into account the new COVID-conscious consumers. Likely there will be many more potential guests coming from closer to home rather than abroad. Locals will be more dominant than they have ever been. Is there a way for you to offer locals more services that they may potentially need?

Another thing that will determine what type of consumers you are targeting and what you can do to target them will be your location. Is it in a city or a beach? Winter destination or summer? Why do people typically travel to your area? This will greatly influence what will work for your property and what won’t and knowing these things will help predict more accurately how you can add value to your guests’ experience and what further services you can offer them.

Once you understand who your customers are and why they come to your destination in particular, make sure you are maximizing your occupancy rate before focusing on further income opportunities – remember selling beds/rooms will always be your dominant income stream.  

Increase occupancy rate 

Regardless of ancillary revenue streams, it is a good idea to make sure you are doing everything you can to maximize your occupancy rate before exploring other avenues. 

One of the best ways to do this, is to appeal to more types of customers. More and more people are working from home and according to a survey from Accenture, 79% of people have said they are looking to work from a ‘third space’. This gives properties a great opportunity to capitalise on this need by advertising office spaces for a ‘day rate’ when you have free rooms. Of course, this will require a good desk/workspace and a fast internet connection will be a must but it can also cater to business travellers and remote workers at the same time.

Some other markets you can cater to are family travellers, by offering highchairs & baby cots – if you don’t already – and allowing children under 5 years to stay for free. You can check your settings in OTA’s to change your policies around children to be more family-friendly. 

Lastly, make sure all of your OTA listings are up to date, with new or recent photos, all facilities on offer listed and check that your descriptions are clear and accurate. Many properties don’t realise how vital the photos and facilities are to potential customers when making a decision on where to stay, so make sure everyone is seeing the best of what you have to offer. 

Once you are confident you are getting the most ‘head in beds’ as possible, now it’s time to take advantage of other opportunities and diversify your revenue streams.   

Ways to maximize profitability  

Host activities/entertainment events:

Offering activities/events, not just to paying guests, but to anyone who wants to join is a great opportunity. Many people have been stuck indoors for the better part of a year so allowing locals to participate in these activities may be a great opportunity. Tours have always been the traditional activity to offer and you can even find some local tour companies in your area and partner with them in a mutually beneficial agreement where you advertise their tours and get a percentage of the sale. 

Now that everyone has been forced into lockdown, most people are simply craving any sort of socialisation so you can also offer dinner nights, movie nights, game nights or even an organised picnic in a local park with a small participation fee. Many hostel style accommodations are already set up with a ‘common room’ where you can hold these events. Posting notices around your local area and inviting friends and locals and encouraging them to bring their friends is a good way to get the word out there. Allowing non-guests into these events is also a great way to maintain the ‘atmosphere’ of your property when faced with possible low occupancy.

Make sure to provide something of value – remember people are paying to be there – and try to keep the fee as low as possible while still making a profit. If it’s a movie night, game night or a get-together in a local park, provide some food and drinks. You can also set up some games or activities for everyone to participate in. Teaming up with local performers, musicians or entertainers is a great way to create a worthwhile event that customers will be excited to come back to next time.

The activities that you are able to offer people will be dependent upon the local laws and regulations in your area, so make sure you research well beforehand and follow any social-distancing measures and restrictions on the amount of people allowed at gatherings in private and public areas. 

Extra services:

Most hospitality businesses are likely already set up with some facilities that you can offer to the wider public rather than just paying guests. Things such as; professional laundry services, pool & spa access, restaurant/bar delivery, private transfers, tours, luggage storage etc. When faced with possible low occupancy at your property, offering these services to the public can help generate a small amount of extra income. 

If you have a pool, there are doubtless many locals and even people staying at other properties without a pool that are more than willing to pay a fee to use the pool on a hot summer day. Offering professional laundry services to customers at the door is a great way to use large industrial washing machines sitting idle. If you have a restaurant, team up with local food delivery companies to sell your menu to customers from the comfort of their own home or office.   

The great thing about this option is that it requires minimal to no extra work to implement as you are utilizing facilities that are already available, all it will take is a small amount of marketing to make people aware of what’s on offer.

Upsell extras:

Have some basic items available for sale in the lobby or at reception for guests to purchase. Teaming up with independent local producers/artists to sell their products will bring your guests an authentic home-made item from your area. 

Typical basic grocery items such as; bread, milk, drinks, coffee, tea and ready to eat snacks are a good place to start. You can take this one step further by having some grocery items that are specific to your area. Being an Australian, I know tim-tams and vegemite are good choices and having travelled extensively for years some other specialty items could be ajvar & rakia in the Balkans, stroopwafels in The Netherlands, halva in Turkey and Greece etc. Offering these items to foreigners is a great way to enrich their experience while visiting your area and create a fun and welcoming environment. 

Offer a few useful non-food items as well such as; earplugs, phone chargers, toiletries kits, single-use raincoats, masks, hand sanitizers etc. Depending on your location you can consider more area specific items such as sunscreen, beach towels, hiking gear, ski gear and souvenirs.

In all cases above, especially when trying to bring specific products from your local area, teaming up with independent home-made producers and artisans to sell their products will bring your guest a good quality authentic product they will want to buy while also supporting local businesses.   

New spaces:

There are many spaces that are underused and transforming them to serve a new or dual purpose is another way to boost your bottom line. Larger rooms that are left empty could be good for conference halls or meeting rooms to be rented by the hour, outdoor areas may be well-suited for hosting markets and other events. Local independent fitness instructors may be looking for a space to rent out to hold classes. Maybe you have ‘storage areas’ that aren’t being used and can be reinvented for a new purpose. 

Think of the spaces you are working with and be creative when coming up with possible uses for them. If done right, you can serve the needs of your customer while also crafting a more profitable business model.

Go forth and profit

The suggestions above are just a small portion of what’s available when trying to make extra income. There are countless creative and innovative solutions out there. Thinking outside the box and doing thorough research and planning before deciding on one or more possible routes will be the key to success. 

Above all, make sure you are bringing something of value to your customers while maintaining or improving your current standards of business. You can increase your bottom line and offer a unique and enriching experience to your guests all at the same time.

Author: Emma Flynn

Sources: Accenture

The New Normal - The Lobby Boy

Recommendations to ensure you the best chance of recovery in the new era of tourism 

As vaccines are rolling out, travel corridors are opening and people are preparing to get away from their lockdown locations, the big question on all hoteliers’ minds is how to successfully reopen their property in time for the tourism industries’ eventual recovery. 

The reality is that things will not be the same and guests’ expectations, attitudes, and behaviors have changed. Hoteliers must be ready to change and adapt to them. We have spoken to one hotelier to get his perspective and have put together a list of recommendations to consider during the recovery process. 

The ‘new normal’ and what does it mean for hoteliers?

Identifying what ‘the new normal’ means specifically for post-pandemic tourists and how their priorities have changed is something that all hoteliers should be conscious of before considering reopening. 

Driving holidays have taken precedence over flying in the last year and this trend will continue, resulting in more local tourists than ever before. Social gatherings and large group tours are no longer in demand, so shifting to offering smaller, more intimate experiences for families or small groups will be beneficial. There are now higher expectations around health, safety and hygiene standards from tourists wanting a sense of control over their environment. This will drive their choices in how and where they decide to stay and what they choose to do on their holidays. 

Predicting these shifted attitudes and acting accordingly will be essential in determining which hoteliers manage to survive and even flourish.

A case study in success: Pepe’s House

We invited Clelia and Juan Pablo, founders and CEO of Pepe’s House Hotel & Boutique Hostels, to ask them a few questions about how they have handled the situation. Both are Colombians, and they started in Colombia with a small Airbnb in 2015, and in 2017 they opened a new hostel with their brand in the city of Cuenca, Ecuador that became the benchmark for international travelers in the south of the country. In 2020, a week before the restrictions, they opened Pepe’s House Micro Hotel & Hostel in Guayaquil, also in Ecuador. Both accommodations are currently open and operating.

Tourism has been the sector most affected by the restrictions derived from the pandemic. Please tell us what happened in your city and your business in the first days when the quarantine and restrictions were enacted.

‘On Sunday, March 15, 2020, the government announced the closure of air, land, and sea borders for tourists and travelers. On March 16, 2020, at midnight the nightmare began that we had no idea was coming. The international travelers who were staying at that time had been called by their consulates asking them to take the first flight back to their home countries.

Cuenca and Guayaquil, and the rest of the country, was blocked and quarantined. We helped travelers to organize their return, we refunded the money from the reservations and some travelers donated the money from the rest of their reservations to us. This happened between Sunday and Monday. We felt like a war or something similar had just started. There was a tense calm and a strange sense of utter uncertainty that persists even today.’

Now let’s talk about your concerns, which are surely those of many hoteliers around the world. What were your concerns in 2020 and what are they now?

‘The first few weeks our only concern was taking care of our team. After almost two months we realized that we were bankrupt and the priorities changed. From that moment the new objective was to take care of ourselves. We thought about canceling the contracts of the rental properties in which we operate. And the miracles began. We reached a new agreement with the property owners that remains until today in 2021.

In 2020 we set a simple goal: if we were operating in March 2021, we had survived, otherwise, we would seek new paths. The first quarter of 2021 started well, with stable occupations of 20% compared to before the Covid, increasing each month a little more, but from the end of March new restrictions returned us to the occupation figures for 2020.

Our new concerns, after surviving 2020, are to continue operating, increase revenues, increase services for travelers and promote the destination and our two accommodations.’

After the initial blockade and quarantines in many cities, the reopening of accommodation and all kinds of businesses began. Tell us about your experience, please.

‘We were lucky. We never closed the operation in Cuenca (in Guayaquil, yes for almost two months). We cared for trapped foreign travelers, government workers, business travelers, local tourists, etc. We can proudly say that only two accommodations never closed in Cuenca and one of them was us (currently less than half of the accommodations have reopened). Big brands, prestigious local brands, and many small accommodations went bankrupt, closed, and some have yet to reopen.

The government provided training on biosafety measures in the hospitality sector and our entire team participated, to reopen operations and receive authorization with two seals and certifications, one of them Safe Travels.

Since the new normal began, we have reached full occupancy about six times or more. This has given us a break to continue operating.’

Reinvention, the word that has become fashionable in many productive sectors, regarding the new normal. Are you doing something different? Did you have to reinvent your business? Did you do anything to attract new tourists?

‘We don’t like the word reinvention. It was a word so widely used, that in the end, it has lost its meaning. However, we adapted by making new agreements with our team, with the owners of the properties we rent, in the way we worked because we had to further optimize all the processes that we did before the pandemic. We closed the shared dorms and they will now function as private rooms until regulations change.

On the other hand, we reopened services such as the cafe bar, we created new services such as movie nights for local people who want to spend a great night on the terrace, we opened the high-speed internet service for digital nomads, we changed our website, we promoted our accommodation among corporate and national travelers more than before (before the pandemic 90% of our guests were international), and we are attentive to trends and success stories to copy best practices.

Something very important is that we have not stopped doing revenue management, offering promos, using hotel software, improving facilities, and so on.’

Vaccinations in different parts of the world are advancing, people are eager to go out and the numbers show markets are in the process of recovery for international tourism. What are your expectations for 2021?

‘We all know that we hit rock bottom and the only thing left is to get afloat. This is possible this year. We believe that in 2021 tourism will explode, but this will depend on the health reality of each country and city. Local/national tourism will continue to be important, and international tourists coming from countries with successful vaccination processes will certainly play a big role as well.

In 2022 we will probably be in numbers close to those of 2019. We expect a lot from this year because governments are understanding that if they accelerate vaccination they can stabilize the economy. And if both things happen, we as a resilient economic sector will benefit and perhaps the nightmare will turn into at worst just a bad memory and at best a learning experience.’ 

So, what can you do?

Despite this unprecedented situation, certain opportunities and decisions can be implemented to ensure a safe reopening. We have done the research and put together some ideas worth considering for every hotelier when reopening to navigate this new, previously unknown, territory. 

It may require more training, new ways of doing business, and possibly even some renovations or changes to the layout of the property, but the industry has changed and hoteliers must be prepared to change and grow with it.

Convert shared to private rooms:

Hostels are arguably one of the hardest hit of all, due to the environment of shared spaces and the promise of a sociable experience for guests; something that is now not as much of a priority as it once was. 

One of the most common changes, that many have already implemented due to new laws and restrictions, is to convert previously shared or dormitory-style rooms into private rooms. This is relatively easy for a 4-bed or even a 6-bed room. They are small enough that there is no need to change the layout of the room or even the number of beds, just start selling them as private rooms. 

Hostelling Scotland has measures in place for their expected reopening on May 28th, with their website stating; For the time being, bookings will be open to private rooms only…’¹

The challenge comes when with larger shared rooms, with some even going up to 32-beds. There is the option of renovating these rooms and creating a divider wall to split the rooms into two separate private rooms, but with most places working on a limited budget, this is not a possibility for all. In this case, the next tip may be useful, reducing the capacity of the room.

Reduced capacity:

It’s impossible to leave the house or browse online without the words ‘social distancing’ popping up somewhere. In the absence of the ability to renovate, to better comply with these measures, the next best option is to work at reduced capacity. 

The standard is to work at 50% capacity, so a 32-bed shared room would now be a 16-bed shared room. This can even be leveraged as a ‘guaranteed bottom bunk’ to appeal to potential guests. 

This will also carry over into communal areas such as; dining rooms, kitchens, lounge rooms, smoking areas, etc. The easiest way to do this is to block off every second chair/seating area in the space, using a sticker or sign. Rearranging the space is another option to maximize the number of available spaces and ensure there is adequate distance between each table/seat. In dining areas, having staggered 1 hour ‘eating windows’ will allow all guests a chance to utilize the space. 

Of course, not all places are choosing to open at a reduced capacity, each property is different, and the decision to do so and which percentage will be based on certain factors. The capacity chosen to open at should take into consideration the local laws and regulations if there are any, the amount of space available, the type of guests staying, and how much they value health and safety when traveling.

Reassure guests:

As hoteliers navigate this new territory and prepare to reopen, there is one major thing to be aware of at all times, the new health-conscious traveler. Previously, travelers were more carefree and not so prone to health and safety concerns, but that has changed and it is essential to understand and predict these changes to adequately accommodate them. 

First on the minds of tourists, when choosing where to stay, is safety and good hygiene practices. It must be made clear to potential guests all the measures that have been taken to ensure their safety such as; social-distancing, masks, hand sanitizer available, temperature checks, extra cleaning practices, staff training, reduced capacity, etc. Travelers now value a sense of control in their environment and reassuring them that everything possible to minimize risks has been done will ease their fears. 

With the emergence of consumers demanding more responsible travel policies, there have also been several different ‘Safe Travel’ stamps created. This will help reassure guests from a brand or name that they already know and trust. We recommend the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) ‘Safe Travels’ stamp.   

Another thing to consider, to reassure guests and minimize risks, is automating processes that were previously done manually. 

Tech solutions:

There has always been a multitude of technology options available to hoteliers to automate almost every process. These solutions are now even more useful and necessary than before to minimize the risk of contact and create a safe environment. 

Perhaps the most popular since the start of the pandemic is self check-in. We recommend chekin.com, a relatively inexpensive software. Talk to your PMS or Channel Manager provider and ask if they have this feature, if they have any integrations with companies that offer self check-in or if they plan on adding it soon. 

This may not be in the budget, however, and there are ways to do it manually. Set up an automatic email/message to new guests asking them for their travel document details and any further information required from them for check-in. This can be done from the property’s email or most OTA’s have an automatic message feature to be sent to guests when they book. Send them instructions on how to enter the property, wi-fi password, house rules, and any other information needed for their stay. Lastly, the payment will need to be taken via an online method, either Paypal, stripe, bank transfer, or virtual card. 

QR codes are another great free option open to any hotelier. The way they work is that the code will be posted, the guest can then scan it with their phone (almost all smartphones support QR scanning), they will be directed to a webpage that is linked to the unique code. The only thing needed is a website with the relevant information the QR code will direct to. 

The first step is to use a free QR code generator, we have found one here, or a simple internet search will find one. Follow the steps to create the code and link the content that is being promoted. Download/print the QR code and test that it works. Put it up for guests to scan and get the information needed. 

Some great ways to utilize these codes are for tips on where to eat and local activities in the lobby and in rooms with the house rules, wi-fi password, etc. reducing the need for contact with a receptionist. If you have a restaurant/bar, you can also eliminate the need for physical menus by exchanging them for a QR code at each table, minimizing contact between customers.

There are many more tech solutions available to properties of all types and sizes and finding the most appropriate solutions may just take a quick online search. Consider all possibilities and what will be the most effective and appreciated by the guests.

Be prepared:   

The most important thing when considering reopening is to be prepared. With many laws and regulations changing without warning it is vital to stay up to date with all current local and international news and to be ready to accept guests when the time comes. 

This means having everything clean, in order, and the appropriate signs posted so guests know what is expected of them. Review all OTA accounts and make sure they are updated and ready to go. Train all staff on any new practices that are in place and ensure they know what is expected of them. Have the correct systems needed to manage and run the business smoothly, in place, and ready to go.

A hopeful future

There is hope for the future of the tourism industry and to be a part of that future, hoteliers must be ready to adapt. 

‘…the travel industry is on the road to recovery, and people are eager to start traveling again’² said Wendy Olsen Killion, Senior Vice President of the Expedia Media Solutions Group that just released their quarterly Travel Recovery Trend Report in April.

Understanding how attitudes have changed and catering to these new wants and needs will establish and maintain trust with tourists. The road ahead is not an easy one but paying attention to other success stories, considering different ways of operating, and most importantly being prepared will maximize the chances of a successful recovery. 


Source:

HostellingScotland

Travel Recovery Trend Report

Author: Emma Flynn

PMS & Channel Manager

April 27, 2021 | The Lobby Boy | No Comments

The Lobby Boy PMS & Channel Manafer

We are thrilled to share our latest update, just in time as the tourism industry prepares for a hopeful recovery.   

We have used this time to improve our system and now offer a bundle PMS & Channel Manager, giving us direct connectivity with top OTAs Booking.com, Hostelworld, Expedia, Airbnb and Agoda. 

This allows everything to be done through one system, from the set up & mapping process all the way to setting rates and allocating availability.
Learn more here: www.thelobbyboy.com

Why You Should Have an Effective PMS!

November 4, 2019 | The Lobby Boy | No Comments

Cloud Property Management Software

Hotels not only need a system, but a good and efficient online booking, channel marketing and property management system!

I say this because of a personal experience that I have never gotten over to this very day.

“I was making a booking at some hotel that I won’t mention. Right from the start, I could sense something was wrong and I should have paid more attention to all the red flags, but since most of the hotels were fully booked due to an event in that part of the city, I was desperate.

It (booking website)  started by forcing me to first open an account with them. Why would they want me to go through all that hassle?

I went ahead and eventually made the hotel booking and even paid directly through the system using my credit card.

Being somewhat sure that everything was okay, I got out of the cab and walked up to the reception on the day of check in. Showed the receptionist my confirmation reference and for some reason, she couldn’t find my name in the system. She spent half an hour trying to figure out what was happening and eventually called in her immediate supervisor, who informed me that their booking system must have hanged at the time I was making the booking (as if it was my fault).

He also informed me that the hotel was fully booked and that they were going to offer me a refund and not a room. By then I was getting angry and didn’t care to hide it.

To cut a long story short, I had to go back home and miss the conference.

One of the main reasons that hotels exist is so that they can get more guests. The more happy guests, the higher the profits. This is the reason why they need to have a reservations system in place that is easy to use and can be accessed by customers around the clock. This will be convenient since customers can check the status of the hotel and make, amend, or cancel their bookings.

I don’t think you would want to be in my shoes, which is why I insist that a hotel online booking system should be good. “

From my perspective, what are the advantages of a good online hotel booking system?

Cloud Property Management Software
Cloud Property Management Software

24/7/365

It works around the clock and clients can book at their convenience, since it isn’t limited to their working hours. This is convenient to visitors and beneficial to the hotel since the bookings are bound to increase. Imagine being put on hold when booking via a phone call! I personally hate that and would prefer to make the booking to my convenience.

Analytic Tools

A good system should have analytic and insights tools. These can keep track of every reservation and also understand the behaviors of each individual guest who uses it often. This includes the types of rooms they prefer, their meal plans, and any other special requests. This will endear their guests and make them more likely to book again.

Marketing Tool

A good online hotel reservation system can be used as a marketing tool when integrated with social media and blogs. Most people spend a lot of time on social media and optimizing campaigns on the platforms is bound to make potential customers notice the hotel. It would be easier for them to book and pay without having to leave the platforms.

Lower Workload

You don’t have to hire too many staff to do the job that can be done by the online booking system. This means that you get to save more on salaries and increase your revenues. It will not only save reservation staff man-hours, it could also do some of your accounts by accepting payments and updating them.

Decreased Number of No-Shows

When people book rooms themselves through the system, they are more likely to show up since they have paid in advance. The system can automatically release rooms for those that aren’t likely to show up, or those who haven’t paid by the deadline.

Property Management Software
Property Management Software

Payments are Easier and Faster

Guests feel better when they don’t have to stand by the counter, waiting for their payments to be processed. The online system should have a payment platform integrated into it. it also saves the hotel time and staff. When there are cancellations, you can charge cancellation fees where applicable.

A New Booking Trend

The world is an ever evolving place and right now everyone has gone digital. The internet is the most used resource for everything, including looking for hotel accommodation. This means that having an online presence is bound to increase revenues if the right tools are provided to make life more convenient. This automatically means people are more bound to make bookings online as opposed to calling or going to the property.

Customer Support

The online booking system should have an effective support system to handle all sorts of queries regarding to the services they offer. This personalized customer support will make clients more likely to make bookings. This also means that dealing with customers directly will be greatly minimized.

Going Green

Online bookings mean that there will be less paperwork when it comes to booking forms and receipts, among other things. This means that less trees will be cut and the world will remain a healthier place to be.

The Lobby Boy – Cloud Property Management Software

The Lobby Boy is the best booking system you can get, coming with all the advantages we have mentioned above. They have excellent services and customer care, ensuring that the booking system is up to date and won’t hang on you the way another one did for me. your clients will be happy about the ease and convenience, while as a hotel, you’ll offer simplicity when it comes to making reservations, meaning more bookings, and higher revenues.

Tim Osundwa, frequent business traveler 2019.

Hostel Management Software

A digital solution that will improve operations and boost profits.

1.    Efficiency-Oriented Solutions

The Lobby Boy software offers an automated solution to processes, freeing up staff time to focus on other more guest centric and important actions that will improve the stay of guests. Saving time and Reduce Errors

2.    Transparency-Based Communication

Simplified and clearer liaison with the different operational departments from front end, housekeeping and accounting.

3.    Channels of Distribution

Scheduling, advertising and manually coordinating inventory across different online channels, leaves room for mistakes and errors, wastes time, staff resources, and could have a negative impact on the overall guest experience. The Lobby Boy is integrated with Myallocator, managing the distribution of your content simultaneously across hundreds of online channels, whilst your team manages all the bookings within The Lobby Boy system, minimizing issues or mistakes in bookings.

4.    Sophisticated Revenue Tactics

The Lobby Boy software, allows users to implement effective revenue management strategies with accurate and real-time data tracking.

Along with comprehensive performance reporting to further plan and enhance revenues streams and opportunities.

5.    Streamlined Check-Ins/Outs, Bookings, and Billing

You can easily miss out on repeat business due to the lengthy time taken during check-ins and check-outs, and not to mention other things such as billing, credit card processing issues, mini-bar usage, housekeeping, guest requests. So employing The Lobby Boy software means that these are all automated, easily, and efficiently, giving the guests a smoother more pleasant experience.

Hostel Management Software

6.    Real-Time Monitoring

As a business owner or manager, you’ll have more efficient control over bookings, rates, and performance of your facilities since The Lobby Boy software will offer up real-time monitoring and data of all the functions it performs, on all the platforms.

7.    Less Paper, More Green

Using internet-based software means that the operational costs will be reduced when it comes to stationery, storage, and even transportation. Less paper means being green.

8.    More Organizational Productivity

The Lobby Boy software encapsulates all your offerings, systems, processes and services, in one place, organized for efficiency and greater productivity.

9.    Better Customer Service

The Lobby Boy platform is user-friendly, intuitive in the services and functionality, such as taking payments or check-in availability, and it makes it easier for managers to respond to customer concerns or queries.

10. Increased Competitive Edge

When using The Lobby Boy, management can focus on improving the guest experience rather than administration and paperwork. As a result of improved internal processes comes greater guest satisfaction.

The Lobby Boy was created and designed from the ground up with direct involvement of seasoned Hoteliers to meet their day to day operational needs.

12 Features of The Lobby Boy Software

October 15, 2019 | The Lobby Boy | No Comments

Best Hotel PMS

A digital solution that will improve operations and boost profits.

1.    Mobile Friendly

More and more people are looking for travel and accommodation online using their smartphones or tablets and even go ahead and make the reservations directly from their mobile devices.

The Lobby Boy software is mobile friendly and ideally suited for presenting options for guests, dynamic guest communication, housekeeping schedules, room changes, and of course mobile check-in.

2.    Cloud-Based

Being cloud-based means that users can access this software from anywhere, and at any time.

3.    Today’s Agenda

The software shows the daily status of the rooms, such as the occupancy, check-in and check-outs, lodging status, events, and other things related to your property bookings at a glance.

4.    Property Management System & Channel Management Integration

There is easy synchronization with hundreds of online booking platforms; such as Expedia, Booking, AirBnB, eBookers, and HostelWorld.  Since the software is integrated with Myallocator, all bookings information and confirmations regarding reservations from the different platforms are returned to the user in real-time.

5.    Extras/Services

Users are able to keep track of the extra services requested by individual clients such as meals, alcoholic drinks, car rentals, and even anniversary requests.

6.    Multiple Users

Multiple employees within their respective management roles can have differing account access to monitor all of the accommodation process.

Best Hotel PMS
Best Hotel PMS

7.    Starts from 12.5 €

The pricing of this software is calculated based on the number of rooms, not the number of beds.

8.    Multiple Properties

For users that own more than one property, multiple properties can be managed through the one software. Managed, monitored and reported separately.

9.    Shared Inventory

Sharing the inventory across one or more properties is easily managed within The Lobby Boy, maximizing occupancy rates and guest experience.

10.    Calendar

An easy to use calendar gives you access to your booking schedules on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis.

11.    Agenda

The agenda shows the occupancy and lodging status, such as check-ins, in-house, check-outs, and the number of free rooms.

12.    Easy Room Setup

It is easy for users to manage the rooms of their properties with a simple and intuitive set up process.

The Lobby Boy was created and designed from the ground up with direct involvement of seasoned Hoteliers to meet their day to day operational needs.

Best Property Management Software

Imagine having a property management software system which is specific to the needs of your business! This would include handling multiple booking channels, checking room availability, daily, weekly and monthly rates, taking and amending reservations, accepting payments in multiple currencies, and corresponding with guests before, during, and after their stay.

Well that is the very reasons why The Lobby Boy was created with direct involvement from seasoned Hoteliers, Owners and Managers.

The way the global accommodation market is today with the majority of potential guests searching the internet for the best deals, by location, checking for definitive dates, and making their bookings directly themselves, rather than using third party travel agents means that operators need to be even more tech savvy, aggressively market and provide that ultimate guest experience more than ever before.

Online bookings whilst not a relatively new concept it remained the domain of the much larger Aggregators and Hotel Groups, with their significant financial capacity and IT resources. However, software development like much of technology tends to become more affordable with time and competition thus opening up the opportunity to compete on a more even footing.

So much so that it is now easily within the grasp and being readily adopted by many smaller Hoteliers, Boutique Hotels, Hostels and individual property owners. Particularly now that more people spend a lot of their time online – both guests and accommodation owners, managers/staff.

Best Property Management Software
Best Property Management Software

The old physical paper based and PC booking systems used initially by much smaller accommodation providers, were very cumbersome and limited to collecting basic information – only capturing things like names, places of residence, their rooms, and the estimated time of arrival/departure.

One of the reasons for this was because guests were acquired via traditional media – TV, radio, newspaper, magazine, snail mail, phone calls and walk-ins’. Then greater worldwide internet usage totally disrupted the way that many businesses undertook their operations. With the Travel and Accommodation sector being early adapters and catalysts of online marketing and inevitably the demand for systems improvement.

Hoteliers and other property owners adapted to new innovations and technologies in running and marketing their businesses. Property management systems like The Lobby Boy are a part of that technology in the forefront of improving the overall workflow, integration and guest experience.

The Lobby Boy is a cloud-based software that is designed and built for convenience when it comes to property and channel management. It makes things easier for both property management and guests alike.

It manages to handle different types of properties such as the ones mentioned below, among others:

  • Hotels & Resorts, large and small
  • Condominium Hotels
  • B&B’s
  • Vacation rentals
  • Corporate housing
  • RV Resorts
  • Campsites
  • Private residence clubs, Aribnb’s
  • Workforce housing
  • Timeshare Resorts
Best Property Management Software
Best Property Management Software

12 Features of The Lobby Boy Software

  • Mobile friendly
  • Cloud-based
  • Today’s agenda
  • Property Management System &
    Channel Management Integration
  • Extra Services
  • Multiple users
  • Starts from 12.5 €
  • Multiple properties
  • Shared inventory
  • Calendar
  • Agenda
  • Easy room setup

1.    Mobile Friendly

More and more people are looking for travel and accommodation online using their smartphones or tablets and even go ahead and make the reservations directly from their mobile devices.

The Lobby Boy software is mobile friendly and ideally suited for presenting options for guests, dynamic guest communication, housekeeping schedules, room changes, and of course mobile check-in.

2.    Cloud-Based

Being cloud-based means that users can access this software from anywhere, and at any time.

3.    Today’s Agenda

The software shows the daily status of the rooms, such as the occupancy, check-in and check-outs, lodging status, events, and other things related to your property bookings at a glance.

4.    Property Management System & Channel Management Integration

There is easy synchronization with hundreds of online booking platforms; such as Expedia, Booking, AirBnB, eBookers, and HostelWorld.  Since the software is integrated with Myallocator, all bookings information and confirmations regarding reservations from the different platforms are returned to the user in real-time.

5.    Extras/Services

Users are able to keep track of the extra services requested by individual clients such as meals, alcoholic drinks, car rentals, and even anniversary requests.

6.    Multiple Users

Multiple employees within their respective management roles can have differing account access to monitor all of the accommodation process.

7.    Starts from 12.5 €

The pricing of this software is calculated based on the number of rooms, not the number of beds.

8.    Multiple Properties

For users that own more than one property, multiple properties can be managed through the one software. Managed, monitored and reported separately.

9.    Shared Inventory

Sharing the inventory across one or more properties is easily managed within The Lobby Boy, maximizing occupancy rates and guest experience.

10. Calendar

An easy to use calendar gives you access to your booking schedules on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis.

11. Agenda

The agenda shows the occupancy and lodging status, such as check-ins, in-house, check-outs, and the number of free rooms.

12. Easy Room Setup

It is easy for users to manage the rooms of their properties with a simple and intuitive set up process.

Property Management Software
Property Management Software

10 Benefits of The Lobby Boy Property Management Software

There are many benefits that come with The Lobby Boy software for business owners,:

1.    Efficiency-Oriented Solutions

The Lobby Boy software offers an automated solution to processes, freeing up staff time to focus on other more guest centric and important actions that will improve the stay of guests. Saving time and Reduce Errors

2.    Transparency-Based Communication

Simplified and clearer liaison with the different operational departments from front end, housekeeping and accounting.

3.    Channels of Distribution

Scheduling, advertising and manually coordinating inventory across different online channels, leaves room for mistakes and errors, wastes time, staff resources, and could have a negative impact on the overall guest experience. The Lobby Boy is integrated with Myallocator, managing the distribution of your content simultaneously across hundreds of online channels, whilst your team manages all the bookings within The Lobby Boy system, minimizing issues or mistakes in bookings.

4.    Sophisticated Revenue Tactics

The Lobby Boy software, allows users to implement effective revenue management strategies with accurate and real-time data tracking.

Along with comprehensive performance reporting to further plan and enhance revenues streams and opportunities.

5.    Streamlined Check-Ins/Outs, Bookings, and Billing

You can easily miss out on repeat business due to the lengthy time taken during check-ins and check-outs, and not to mention other things such as billing, credit card processing issues, mini-bar usage, housekeeping, guest requests. So employing The Lobby Boy software means that these are all automated, easily, and efficiently, giving the guests a smoother more pleasant experience.

6.    Real-Time Monitoring

As a business owner or manager, you’ll have more efficient control over bookings, rates, and performance of your facilities since The Lobby Boy software will offer up real-time monitoring and data of all the functions it performs, on all the platforms.

7.    Less Paper, More Green

Using internet-based software means that the operational costs will be reduced when it comes to stationery, storage, and even transportation. Less paper means being green.

8.    More Organizational Productivity

The Lobby Boy software encapsulates all your offerings, systems, processes and services, in one place, organized for efficiency and greater productivity.

9.    Better Customer Service

The Lobby Boy platform is user-friendly, intuitive in the services and functionality, such as taking payments or check-in availability, and it makes it easier for managers to respond to customer concerns or queries.

10. Increased Competitive Edge

When using The Lobby Boy, management can focus on improving the guest experience rather than administration and paperwork. As a result of improved internal processes comes greater guest satisfaction.

Bottom line

In the accommodation business, effective and efficient management of assets is a major concern of property owners and managers. Whilst there are many property management software companies out there not all of them can offer all the functionality and ease of use that The Lobby Boy provides.

The Lobby Boy was created and designed from the ground up with direct involvement of seasoned Hoteliers to meet their day to day operational needs.

A digital solution that will improve operations and boost profits.

Working in the hospitality industry can be very tiring and challenging due to the fact that different circumstances may occur this way making your daily job harder and above everything riskier. Your guest may encounter in different situations, including here your staff too. And in order to keep your guests safe and your staff as well, you should take some measures. Here are some tips which would help in reducing violence.

Be aware that it can happen anywhere: People you might know, or faces you have never seen.

Prepare your staff awareness: teaching them how to approach to different situations that involve their own and clients security. Teach them the appropriate way of stepping-in when they see suspicious behavior before it escalates to violence. There are some sings to look for: aggression, sulking or even a possible temper-tantrum at check in, disregarding the authority, and usage of inappropriate statements.

Availability: Try to be more available and more understanding for your staff in order for them to report to you any suspicious behavior they might occur into.

Creation of Safety policies: When you create your safety policies, you inform your staff what needs to happen if there should be a crisis, including here a violent person or a natural disaster, either way a written plan of action should exist.

Security cameras: By installing security cameras, you are more aware of what is happening around your hostel/hotel, and this way the person responsible can easily deter guests from causing any kind of problem.

Quiet Areas: In order to prevent any potential theft happening in your hostel/hotel, the quiet areas should be patrolled, this way no thief would take that risk, knowing that there are always people there.

Reputation Management

April 23, 2019 | The Lobby Boy | No Comments

We are all aware that online reputation has become very important for every business. And the management of their online reputation should be part of their business strategy. By online reputation you are more aware of how the guests perceive your business. You should engage with your guests by answering to their reviews. When you get positive reviews you should try your best and make sure to make good use of it by maximizing its exposure, whereas you should as well try to response to the negative reviews in a positive way ensuring them that you will try to resolve their problem, and this way you also get some insights on what is going wrong with your business and what you can do to improve your services. Based on some statistics we have obtained around 93% of consumers think that reviews are very important especially when you’re deciding to book a room in a hostel/hotel. And then there’s another 50% of those who decide not to book a room when any reviews do not appear on the page of the specific hostel.

Because reviews are very important, you should try to encourage your guests in writing a review at your page by sending them emails after they have checked out. And it actually not only provides you more reviews but it as well prevents getting fake reviews. You should always try to stimulate conversations, by answering to your guests reviews, they will immediately share it In their profiles and more people will be aware of your existence.
We know that getting bad reviews drives you into thinking a lot of people will take these into account and we will lose a lot of potential guests.

But in reality that is what reputation management is all about, you making good use of bad reviews. You should try to provide an appropriate answer to each of your bad reviews due to the fact that people might start speculating. An 82% of people asked said that when hostels responded to bad reviews improved their perception of the hotel. And a 62% said that it made them actually book a room there.

You should try to make good use of all your reviews on different platforms and this way your potential clients are more aware of the services you provide and your business.