The hospitality industry has advanced to a new level; thanks to Internet that has helped hoteliers market themselves through various online channels. Online marketing helps hotels in establishing a brand identity, reaching out to millions of travelers and marketing rooms on a global platform.
While big brands and hotel chains have dedicated departments and sufficient budgets to handle their sales and marketing online, small hotels find it tough due to inadequate budget, less manpower and absence of technology knowledge to market themselves online.
Here are a few common challenges faced by independent hoteliers in selling their rooms online:
1. Limited budgets and resources: Budget constraint is the biggest problem faced by an independent hotel. Due to this, they are unable to hire resources to look after their online marketing. Moreover, they don’t have the budget to spend on online advertisements and promotions.
If you look at an independent hotel, there will be 4-5 employees who are busy managing the entire operations and multi-tasking between departments. You won’t find a dedicated marketing manager or front desk executive as most of the times, the front desk executive doubles up as a marketing manager. This leads to a lot of errors and stress due to the immense pressure which further leads to high employee turnover. Moreover, these employees are not even well-trained or skilled to sell the rooms online.
2. Lack of online knowledge: While the big brands dominate the online world with the help of the latest technology and talented staff, many a times, independent hotels lack online knowledge of channels that can bring them revenues. Independent hotels are unaware of the benefits of online marketing through OTAs, Social Media, TripAdvisor and more and they often depend only on the local travel agents or word-of-mouth marketing to run their business. They fail to understand that online marketing of their rooms will get them travelers from all around the world which can take their business to another level.
3. Unable to compete with the big brands: For a big brand, it is easy to pay commissions and they sometimes pay up to 30-50% commission just to appear on the first page of the OTA listings. This is something that an independent hotel cannot do as they have limited inventories and let alone competing for the listings, even the 15-25% commission works out to be expensive for them. So, they usually depend on local travel agents but then face the challenge of limited reach and visibility.
4. Lack of reviews: It is believed that reviews strongly influence a traveler’s decision making as 90% of travelers book a hotel based on pure reviews and not fancy advertisements. (Read: Does your hotel have enough reviews to get you views?)
The problem faced by independents is that most of them are unaware of the importance of reviews and even those who are aware don’t have well-trained staff to manage guest reviews on review media sites. They also fear getting negative reviews because there is no one to respond to it or rectify the issues.
5. Not willing to adapt to new-age technology: If an independent hotelier functions on manual methods and is reluctant to change as per the market demands, he will not be able to tap into the power of online tools.
Online tools such as the Hotel Reservation Software, Channel Manager, GDS and more can bring hotels bookings from various sources and automatically update the inventories on the front desk, thereby, eliminating errors and effort put in by the staff in managing and selling inventories.
For example: If an independent hotelier is functioning on manual methods and if there are fluctuations in prices, how will he manage the rates across multiple channels? He will have to manually update the rates and if he makes an error, it will cost the hotel greatly in terms of revenue and reputation. Technology solves this issue by automatically updating the rates across all channels and in real-time. In this fast-paced world, online tools help carry out the tasks efficiently, thereby, giving the staff free hours to manage other important tasks.
Independent hoteliers can give the big brands a tough competition in the online world through new-age technology but a lot of them are apprehensive about using it to their advantage. A centralized distribution system can help hotels market and sell their rooms online without causing inconvenience to the guests or staff. In the next blog, we will elaborate on how technology can help simplify the problems faced by hoteliers in selling rooms online.
"Top 5 challenges independent hotels face in marketing their rooms online",