How to get around the costly commissions of online distributors? The answer will come as no surprise to hoteliers who have been considering this counterattack for some time now: by grooming their own Internet offer… It will surprise the sector’s leaders even less since for several months now they have been launching revised and updated versions of their websites one after the other. The Web 2.0 phenomenon also had something to do with this and the portals of Marriott, Choice Hotels, Best Western, Sheraton, Kempinski and Accor recently began their metamorphosis. More intuitive surfing, showcased promotions, a wealth of tourist information, sites that are more interactive: by making little touches, hoteliers give themselves the means to impose themselves as the ultimate choice in a universe where clients tend to check out all the sites before making a final choice. In this subtle alchemy to transform hits into reservations, booking engines are coming to the rescue of hoteliers. These functions developed by booking engines support the creation of unique offers that the client will find nowhere else because distributors cannot manage them online. “Hoteliers are able to create promotions by automating -30% discounts for early reservations or proposing packages such as “pay 2 nights get one night free”. Hotel-owned websites are golden,” sustains Jean-Louis Boss, VP marketing at Fastbooking whose portal promotes its direct link to the property’s website.“We give the hotelier the most flexible tools possible, allowing him maximum control,” boasts Xavier Gaucher, sales director of Interfaces Technologies. “It is in the hotelier’s best interest to sell his property as a destination by offering a variety of services: reservations at a restaurant, a bottle of champagne in the room, golf, the spa,” demonstrates Xavier Gaucher. The direct interfacing between the hotel’s different services and online reservations is still rare, but the future should lead to more automation. In the meantime, Jean-Louis Boss advises hoteliers to ?create hours for spa treatment reservations made via Internet. Thus the sale is generated, making it possible to grow the average basket. And, if necessary, the customer may be called to find a solution and shift the reservation.”“Facebook has had some success. It is among the places to be, but only if it is interesting. We are preparing a page in French and thinking about the best way to create this exchange between customers and hoteliers in a community spirit. Facebook can provide reactivity. We may also use this page to pass along information without having to modify the pages of our portal,” Olivier Mouchet, HRS “We have pilots on Twitter. It is clear that when it comes to relations and developing brand loyalty, it’s a must. But will it generate business?” Romain Roulleau, Accor Hospitality.After surveying the competition’s rates online, here comes surveillance of the competition’s quality. FastBooking has just launched a product to help hoteliers have a clear perception of their property’s positioning using all the social networks. FastBooking Social Media was developed to automatically check comments on thousands of community websites and analyze them semantically. Room and breakfast evaluation are scored according to certain criteria, and this is published on the Extranet Fastbooking. “The hotel may thus evaluate itself, but also compare itself with its competitors,” explains Jean-Louis Boss. The booking engine provider can also become a web agency. Backed by its experience in online marketing, Fastbooking offers hoteliers the full creation of their sites as well as management of referencing. The service is free but each reservation generated results in a 15% commission.“Compared to a distributor with a multi-group offer, we obviously cannot compete in terms of number of hotels. But on our sites we offer the strength and reassurance of our brands as well as the guarantee of the best price. Accorhotels.com is our first travel agency and generates more than a billion euros in revenues. Its growth surpassed double-digit figures in 2009, and this should continue in 2010. At the end of last September, we launched a new welcome page that is more dynamic and has a greater wealth of information and highlights promotions. We will bring other innovations in the coming months. In the first semester, the booking process will be simplified. We are also working on the destination axis and the hotel stay is at the core of the travel experience. For a customer the hotel is the gateway to the city. We are also going to integrate destination sub-sites within accorhotels.com. For example we will launch a site about weekends in Paris highlighting current tourist attractions in the capital to stimulate desire to come while offering a possibility to book tourist activities in advance. Newsletters will a relay for these sites with promotions.” : Romain Roulleau, manager e-commerce Accor Group.
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