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Hotels: Capture 2009 Travel Dollars with Web Booking Technology

Should recent reports be true, the hospitality industry is due to experience a decrease of international travelers but benefit from increased domestic travel in 2009. However after analyzing booking patterns over the past few months at the Washington Jefferson hotel, New York management has identified an extremely different trend. The hotel's booking windows shrank significantly. Last year, on average, European guests secured reservations three-months ahead of travelling; today it has decreased to a month or less. Similarly, domestic travellers will literally book last minute. That trend shows that hotels need to be prepared for changes in market conditions despite industry predictions. The ability to respond immediately will give operators greater control over rates and inventory distribution.

The careful management of Internet distribution sites such as Expedia and can help hotels maximize revenue from a point of sale that is yet to be fully explored and understood by the hospitality industry. While the Internet is becoming the place of choice for consumers to research travel, many hoteliers still struggle to understand these new demands. Manual inventory updates are time-intensive, offer little reward, require employees to spend long days updating multiple channels with the same information, and can be prone to errors if information updated incorrectly.

Opportunities available to online consumers are pushing hoteliers to run proactive marketing campaigns and take innovative approaches to rate distribution. For example, New York City is a unique, large market with an extremely aggressive approach to online sales. This means New York-based hotels have to make sure that they stay in the market and lead rates against their competitors. Distributing rates across the Internet should go hand-in-hand with understanding competitor tariffs. A poor overview of your rates and availability across all distribution sites, in addition to a lack of competitor knowledge, will prevent you from feeling the benefit of selling rooms online. Using technologies like RateTiger's RTAllocator Pro can give hoteliers the control and flexibility they need to respond to market changes, while ensuring that they are increasing their visibility across the Internet.

Technology benefits
Managing multiple channels may seem challenging at first, but using channel management technology will significantly reduce the time hotels spend updating websites, make you hugely competitive and help you explore new sales opportunities either by optimising existing distribution outlets or by expanding onto more websites.

It is true that when it comes to OTA's the big brands still produce the lion's share of bookings. OTAs invest millions on marketing and are reaping the consumer rewards by having established themselves as a trusted source. Selling across one of these channels instantly gives more consumers access to our hotel.

Although sales managers need to expand market reach online they also have to maintain existing relationships Ã.‚¬" you cannot rely on the large pool of international consumers scrambling around the Internet to find the best deal just yet. Corporate relationship building will continue to remain a significant factor for repeat business in the long-run, providing the bread and butter for many hoteliers.

The right business mix
The key to successfully managing online sales is to deploy a plan that focuses on a mix of technology and the personal touch.

Put yourself out there: Make sure your hotel features on the most popular distribution websites internationally as well as in your region. Check the channel is relevant to your guest demographic and your property is well catalogued by your sales partner.

Take advantage of technology: Implement new business practices, innovation and investments are the key to securing long-term success. Keeping your eye on daily trends and reacting quickly to rate changes will put you ahead of competitors.

Repeat business is power: Allocating time to manage existing relationships and corporate contracts can help you approach revenue and occupancy with the right mix.

Take control and help the business grow: Help the team understand online sales so they can make more regular updates using channel management technologies. It is worth enquiring with technology providers if they provide free technical support and training sessions Ã.‚¬" this will give you a further resource to benefit from.

Greg Ludwiniak is the director of sales & marketing at The Washington Jefferson Hotel, a member of Triumph Hospitality, New York. He has 14 years experience in revenue management, previously managing sales for Hotel Belleclaire in Manhattan. Greg is an early adopter of new technologies and strategies that streamline revenue management and increase channel activity.
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