In this new series of posts, Industry Inside interviews members of the hospitality industry to get their views, news and opinions on the latest key topics and issues affecting us all.
The first Industry Inside features Rachel, who has been working for various hotel chains for a number of years. Here’s some highlights of our recent interview.
Q Rachel, thank you for sharing your experiences and views with our readers. Please could you provide a brief overview of your previous positions in the hospitality industry?
Most recently I have worked for 5 star properties as a sales manager covering corporate, leisure and MICE markets. Prior to that my main focus has been the MICE market working as Conference and Events Manager in the 4 and 5 star markets, after completing a postgraduate conference and event management course.
Q How important is it for hotels to make use and manage social media in today’s world?
Hotels really do need to manage and make use of social media as a sales and marketing tool. Some hotel companies do not manage these properly and in my experience there are objections from staff – ‘why do we need to use this, it is such a waste of time’. The reality is that clients were too busy to chat and mobile devices have made email and the internet more accessible – so clients would rather communicate in this way. Hotel staff also question why guests will complain via social media, such as TripAdvisr, rather than speaking to the hotel front of house team or duty manager. Most of the time hotels do not have the resources to manage all feedback on social media channels and often don’t see things through. They quickly become unaware of what is happening to their hotel property online or they try to avoid the new era of communication is really happening. You find the larger hotel chains find it much easier to keep on top social media as they have a large marketing teams that can monitor and answer back to hotel guests quickly.
Q – What do you believe is the single most important hotel feature that guests demand from properties?
Service is a big factor, staff and the type of service the hotel has to offer is the most important feature. Hotels always win hands-down with guests being remembered by a name rather than a number, which makes a huge difference. Wi-fi to be expected in most hotels by guests. And if you do have it, the question always asked to reception is ‘why isn’t it free’? The change in people’s lifestyles means their expectations of hotel features have changed, guests are always looking for excellent leisure, gym and spa facilities – especially if they are staying in a hotel for a few days – corporate or leisure. Obviously the style of hotel bedrooms is a big factor. Anything else that is unique or a wow factor is just an added extra and always a bonus to someone looking for a hotel. I think in the future green hotels will be the way forward as more corporate clients are asking for green policies.
Q – Billback is one of the biggest challenges facing business travel agencies and TMC’s, particularly on bookings from the GDS’s – how do you see the situation and what needs to be done to simplify the process?
This is much easier for large hotel chains they can afford to bill back clients or agencies! This is a huge problem for smaller and independent hotels this effects their cash flow and obviously you can’t tell the client this scenario. However, to gain the business from the GDS they do need to allow such credit facilities to be available as otherwise they won’t have any of the larger more global accounts entertain them. So it can challenging for a sales manager as it is an ongoing battle between finance and sales – and the situation is that you have to monitor each client separately.
Q – From your hotel background, which is the most productive distribution method in terms of actually bringing in hotel bookings?
Most bookings came from third-party websites and this sometimes included corporate clients as well – this would also direct people to our own website. This was happening prior to the recession but has changed slightly with hotel guests wanting to make sure they get the best value for money. Third party isn’t so great for hotels as they have to pay out large commissions to these sites.
Q – Working at boutique properties, how do you see this area of the market and what does the future hold? Was business directly effected by the global economic crisis?
The market has become very saturated recently with every hotelier designing boutique hotels including the more larger global organisations jumping onboard with their boutique concept. The market has been badly affected with travel restrictions in place due the current economic climate, clients looking for value for money and corporates demanding lower rates as they have to be seen to be making reductions for their companies. The future will be interesting and unfortunately you can’t predict what is going to happen year on year, as each year has been different until corporate travel increases – then whom knows what will happen to industry.
Q – Share with us your favourite hotel in the world…
Good question – this is a hard one……I have to say my experience at the Sanderson Hotel was pretty amazing the staff were really nice, the decor and design of the hotel was awesome! Also Seaham Hall was amazing a nice Hotel spa resort set in the countryside but still quite contemporary but with a classic twist. The Royal Livingstone Hotel in Zambia was amazing a twist colonial Britain thrown in, staff and rooms were amazing – we even had safari animals thrown in too…..Overall my kind of property modern, contemporary and sleek!
Many thanks to Rachel for talking to Hotel Insight’s blog. If you would like to comment on anything included in this interview, please leave your comments below.