While branded hotels have the advantage of strong marketing arms, independent hotels face a much more difficult task in getting the word out about their properties. This is especially true when it comes to the increasingly crowded world of social media websites.
Luckily, there’s help in the form of the property management system (PMS). These days, the PMS controls nearly every aspect of hotel outreach, and when it comes to social media and mobile booking, many small and independent hotels are using systems like the PMS to help them reach a bigger audience on websites such as Twitter and Facebook, while simultaneously pulling potential guests into the booking system right from those channels.
One hotel that found these channels to be an effective means of increasing bookings is the Saint Paul Hotel in Minnesota. “It’s a matter of being where your customers are,” says Tabatha Kidder, business development manager for the hotel. “Given the customer segments that are currently embracing social media, we think it’s important to the longevity of the hotel to embrace those channels.”
Kidder says that the hotel has received a boost in its efforts via the PMS, which is integrated into its social media outreach. She says that the integration works differently, depending on which social media outlet the hotel is using. “For Facebook we were able to work with Maestro [its PMS] and have a ‘book now’ button built into our Facebook page,” she says. “While the guest is looking at the page, they can quickly check availability with the hotel and make a reservation. Eventually, it takes them right into the booking engine.
“If we’re talking to the guest through Twitter, what we are really doing is talking to the guest and we may add a link to our “tweet” that takes them to a location where they can make a reservation,” she continues. “We even give them a special promotional code to mention.”
Kidder says the advantage is that social media opens the hotel to a great deal of last minute bookings. “We’re not really using it to talk to the person who might be coming here next year,” she says. “We’re using it to talk to the people who we may be able to sway in their decision.”
Jennifer Ball, reservations and revenue manager at The Barnsley Garden Resort in Georgia, has seen similar benefits to linking up the hotel’s PMS with social media. She says that by working with the PMS her hotel has been able to target and market potential buyers, especially over the Internet. As an independent resort, Ball says the all-encompassing nature of the PMS has been a distinct advantage.
“If we were a Ritz-Carlton or a Four Seasons, we’d have all kinds of analytical information at the ready, plus battalions of revenue managers,” she says. “Having this type of capability in the PMS really helps me get information when I need it.”
Warren Dehan, president of Northwind Hospitality, which makes the Maestro system, says that modern-day PMS is allowing independent hoteliers to better compete for bookings via the Internet, as well as allowing them to better manage their revenue streams. “It’s not only ready to happen, but also it is happening,” he says. “We’ve done a number of things, particularly with social media, to help hotels better reach potential guests and to pull them into the booking process directly.
Dehan says those capabilities also extend to mobile bookings as more travelers use smart phones to not only find hotel locations, but also to book reservations.
While small and independent hotels may be at a disadvantage compared to their bigger, branded brethren, technology, particularly the PMS, is helping to level the playing field just when the channels for reaching customers are increasing more than ever.