Thursday, 7 May 2009

Travel Marketing

Travel Marketing Tools for Travel Suppliers
(hotels & tourism operators)

Marketing tools for travel marketing and management range from a simple booking engine to managing content on multinational sites and on numerous Internet travel portals and marketing channels. They also include property management systems relating to managing inventory and reservations.

To optimize an Internet marketing campaign, hotels and tourism operators need to deploy multiple strategies such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, Brand advertising (Impression), Direct e-mail marketing (such as iContact) and a spectrum of e-commerce and rates management across channels such as Global Distribution Systems(GDS), Internet Distribution Systems (IDS), Social Media Channels (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), Affiliate Programs, Travel Agents and Tour Operators.

Managing allocation in all channels has become a major problem for travel suppliers (hotels and tourism operators). It is so complex that many hotels and tourism operators opt out and prefer to contract their entire inventory with prime wholesalers and distributors.

The opt-out strategy is a quick fix, but it is not sustainable in the new order. All too often, these dependencies result in huge loss of market when things go wrong. A hotel I know lost its entire distribution when its sole contractor asked for conditions it could not meet. They took their business elsewhere and bookings of 100 rooms per night were gone. It is imperative that hotels and tourism operators build a balanced strategy and take more control of their own brand and marketing.
A wide array of tools, technology and marketing options exists for tourism operators. Channel management systems such as EZYield, rates management with RateGain, Global Distribution via many GDS integration companies and hundreds of Internet Distribution Systems (IDS) like Travelocity, as well a thousand Destination Travel Portals and Travel Guides.

At AXSES, we have developed a marketing suite for small and mid-sized hotels and tourism operators. This was built on our travel booking engine, arcRes The Booking Engine has been vastly expanded to do much more, and it is now a Travel Marketing Suite; an e-commerce platform that works for Social Media and conventional travel channels. See suites

Many hotels have opted to jump on the GDS bandwagon and mistakenly concluded that they are now well represented on thousands of IDS channels, such as Travelocity. Wishful thinking! It was true, at one time, but IDS are opting for direct contracts with hotels – Expedia has signed up nearly 100,000 hotels to its Expedia Special Rates (ESP) program and GDS content is far down the line in priority. That is unfortunate for the hotels, as they must now manage Expedia, Travelocity and all the major distribution contracts that they choose.

Optimising distribution channels requires diligence. To be on the top of the IDS ‘by price’ list, you have to offer the best rate. But it is not always desirable to be at the very top! You need to be high on the list for hotels in your own class and offer a value added service rather that the best price. That way, your ROI and Brand is protected. There are e-commerce companies and consultants that specialize in running IDS campaigns. They arrange the contracts and manage them for you.

The travel industry is working to integrate the marketing channels and you can purchase channel management software. Generally, this software is not easy to use and is too expensive for a small hotel. An industry standard that would ease the management of channels is not imminent.

The GDS representative companies who have built Central Reservation Systems (CRS) that interface hotels to the GDS systems ( Sabre, Amadeus, Travelport and Pegasus) >, are also building systems to help hotels manage many IDS channels (Expedia, etc.) from the same CRS. For example, Genares has integrated their CRS with Expedia/TravelWeb (Expedia Quick Connect). This allows hotels to manage Expedia and TravelWeb rates and allocation using the Genares CRS and saves having to learn another online system. The cost is $4 US per booking. For Orbitz, Travelocity, Priceline and others the fee is $4 plus the GDS fees. The IDS will generally require a minimum of 25% discount from your rack rate. Using the GDS as a channel manager thus will cost anywhere from $4 to $10 per booking in addition to the channel cost (25% minimum). It’s not a lot, if you consider the time it takes to learn all the different systems.

arcRes Travel Bookings for Facebook (arcResBookings) is the first-of-its-kind travel bookings application. It allows any hotel to load rates, property information, room descriptions, photos and rates directly from arcRes into Facebook and manage it from arcRes. It is a huge time saver and makes managing Facebook very easy. Both the booking engine and quotation system are embedded in Facebook, so that guests can easily book directly with the property or tourism operator, or get an immediate quote. See Facebook Travel Bookings (Live example) for Facebook is a part of the arcRes Marketing Suites, a comprehensive e-commerce platform for travel. It is currently the easiest GDS setup in the industry. Contracts are signed online, and the hotel's information, rates and seasons are all loaded directly from information already in arcRes.

As more and better tools for travel marketing become available, the role of the hotel marketer is becoming more technology-driven. Hotels need to invest in hiring the right people and training staff to understand and be comfortable with technology. It cannot be avoided! It is essential to success in the long term.