May 19, 2022

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Travelling Tomorrow

96 - Spring Workshop Takeaways

96 – Spring Workshop Takeaways


Host Ryan Embree discusses insights and takeaways from Travel Media Group’s recent Spring Workshops where he talked one-on-one with hoteliers about their hotel’s digital presence. Discover trends in hospitality and learn how you can position your property for success through review response, social media, and reputation management.

Episode Transcript

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Ryan Embree:
Welcome to Suite Spot where hoteliers check-in and we check out what’s trending in hotel marketing. I’m your host, Ryan Embree.

Ryan Embree:
Hello everybody and welcome to another episode of the Suite Spot. This is your host, as always, Ryan Embree, Director of Marketing at Travel Media Group. And we’ve got a great episode for you today. We do these episodes four times a year because we actually conduct four occupancy workshops for hoteliers. And this season’s workshop is titled “Business is Blooming: How to Grow Occupancy this Spring.” So this is our spring occupancy workshop. It’s one of my favorites because we are coming out of the winter, which is typically a slower time for the industry. And we’re finally starting to see that growth and occupancy. Now the springs the past couple years have obviously been a little bit different with the pandemic and coming out of that. But with these workshops, we are talking about positioning your hotel digitally for success when travelers are searching and they’re doing quite a bit of searching, which we’ll talk about here in second.

Ryan Embree:
So again, these are occupancy workshops where we meet one-on-one with hoteliers in about a 15 to 20 minute session talking about the hotel’s digital presence. How are they positioning themselves coming into the season of spring break, holidays, May, Memorial day, a lot of great things in the spring and really setting ourselves up also for the summer where occupancy really heats up. So with these episodes, what we like to do is, typically when I conduct these workshops, we get some really good takeaways and insights from the hoteliers that we talk about some common themes and threads. So in the past, obviously we’ve talked about the staffing shortage right now, which has been hurting a lot of people. This is our third time doing a spring occupancy workshop. Again in 2020 and 2021, there were very different conversations, which leads me to our first trend that we noticed this workshop versus others, which was the positivity of the hoteliers that we were talking to. The optimism that was out there, that travel is returning.

Ryan Embree:
And as I talk about these travelers doing searches, you know, I’ve got a really amazing stat that we came across, where it says U.S. organic Google search visit growth by industry in Q4 of 2021 versus Q4 in 2020. And the percentage change for travel was at 41%. So that is a lot of eyes looking and planning and being inspired to travel once again. But as I caution the hoteliers that I spoke to on this workshop, they’re gonna be looking at your hotel’s digital presence a lot differently than they did pre-COVID-19 and pre-pandemic. But trend number one, occupancy is growing. It’s here. Whether we like it or not, transient leisure has always been there the past couple years and has been leading the pack in recovery, but we’re also seeing business, weddings come back. So we’ll talk a little bit about that later, but the second trend that I noticed on these conversations that I was having is, you know, we have been as an industry running around, it feels like, trying to figure out what to do to adjust to this pandemic, this new normal that COVID has kind of ushered into our industry.

Ryan Embree:
And then on top of that, you have this staffing shortage, right? Inflation now starting to hit home as well, but we’re starting to see things kind of slow down and hoteliers really finally checking things like their social media, their reviews, review responses. And a lot of the hoteliers I talked to when we took 15 minutes to actually sit down and take a look were really surprised with what they saw. They maybe had a front desk manager or a DOS that had left during these past two years that was in charge of this stuff. And now it’s kinda laid dormant there. So I would encourage you if you’re listening to this, check your Facebook, check your hotel’s Instagram, LinkedIn, hopefully you’re on these sites, but check and see when the last time you posted, because time has been flying by right now and before, you know, it, a lot of these posts that we were seeing were back in 2021 and travelers are looking now more than ever for relevant information.

Ryan Embree:
So if they see something back in, in 2021 or even 2020, it’s not gonna be relevant to them. And it could mean a negative connotation, negative impression for the travelers that are doing research. They’re finally sitting down and checking things like their review sites and seeing on sites like TripAdvisor, OTAs, Google, places where travelers are making booking decisions that the last review that they got was six months ago. We know right now that everything is moving so rapidly. Omicron came in November and swept through the nation. And that changed the way that people perceive traveling and the level of safety of what that was. So again, check like your hotel, social media, your reputation and review responses. That was another thing we were talking about, is finding the time to respond to reviews. And I know for a lot of hoteliers listening to this, it might be one of those things at the bottom of our priority list, but it is so important right now when we talk about our next trend, which is setting expectations versus meeting expectations. And I’ll explain the difference.

Ryan Embree:
So meeting expectations is, think about a traveler walking into an economy hotel and expecting Ritz-Carlton service at an economy level price. Those expectations are a little bit too high, and it could be difficult to meet those expectations. Setting expectations is a completely different conversation. Think of setting expectations as someone walking into your hotel in the summer and expecting to enjoy that beautiful pool that you have, and your pool’s closed for renovations. And they had no idea that that was the case. That is a failure to set expectations from a hotelier standpoint. So there’s a very unique difference there. And when we talk about review response is one of the most powerful places that we can set expectations for our future traveler.

Ryan Embree:
Yes, it’s very important to respond to the feedback that is in front of you and to that traveler that took time outta their day to leave you a review for your business. But it’s also setting the expectations for that future traveler. So much has changed over the past two years from breakfast, amenities, even hotel policies, the way we’re cleaning rooms, the way we’re interacting with guests. There could be travelers that when they come onto your property have a completely different expectation. So if you’re not setting those prior to their stay, then you’re failing to set their expectations. And that is actually the number one reason that we are seeing negative reviews online. As a lot of you know, that listen to this, Travel Media Group has a Respond and Resolve solution where we respond to guest reviews. We’ve now hit the unbelievable benchmark of responding to over 750,000 reviews for our hotel partners and are currently responding to a thousand guest hotel reviews a day right now in our headquarters.

Ryan Embree:
And the number one reason, the number one reason that we are seeing these negative reviews come in is because proper expectations are not set. So if we can use review response as a way to communicate and message to future travelers, that’s gonna give us the opportunity to set those proper expectations. And I’ll give you a quick example if you’re following me. So one of the things that has completely changed and I suspect will take a little bit longer transition to get back to normal or pre-COVID is breakfast for our property, right? With the staffing shortage, with people interacting, breakfast buffets, we were told to stay away from those during the thick of the pandemic. Now we are at a place where hotels could be at completely different spectrums of breakfast. Some could be right back to where they were in 2019 with a giant hot breakfast buffet.

Ryan Embree:
Others are still being conservative, breakfast on the go. If your guest walks into your hotel and does not know what they’re going to get in the morning, that is a failure to set expectations. And we’re seeing that sometimes in these reviews. So review response is a great way to set that. Social media, also. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, you wanna make sure that you’re setting these proper guest expectations, because we’re seeing that again, really impacting hotels’ reputations that we’re working with. And then finally, the last trend that we talked about with hoteliers during these workshops is just adjusting to the new normal. Seeing these groups come back and what it’s going to take in order to earn their business. Weddings, last episode, if you are following me the opportunity right now for weddings and wedding blocks for our properties is unbelievable revenue potential out there.

Ryan Embree:
So what are you doing to try to capture that and market your hotel, taking advantage of the bleisure travel trend, right? The business traveler that now works from home all week and wants to start their vacation early. They want to come out to the property on Wednesday, Thursday, or on Wednesday with their family so that the family can enjoy some of the amenities or attractions in your area. And they work from the hotel, extending their vacation, extending the room nights per stay. So how are we attracting? How are we adapting our marketing strategy to capture this new normal traveler that we’re gonna see? And as I wrap up this episode here, I will say, it’s been a very difficult couple years to do this kind of spring workshop. And I’ve had to dig very, very deep in research to try to find some positive news in the industry as it relates to occupancy and ADR, but knock on wood, if everything goes right, this spring, we are in for a monster spring and an even bigger summer.

Ryan Embree:
So the occupancy is going to be there from travelers. But the question I want you to ask yourself is how do you want to be chosen? Do you wanna be chosen because that traveler had initially wanted to stay at the hotel next door and they were all booked or their rate was way too high and they chose your hotel because you were option B or do you want to be option A, do you want your traveler to be excited about the stay that they’re gonna come on property? Do you want them to become an advocate of your hotel after they stay on property? Have you set proper expectations for this traveler when they step in through your lobby and approach the front desk, these are the type of questions that you want to be asking, because again, the occupancy will be there.

Ryan Embree:
But the difference between traveler A that I just explained and traveler B is day and night. And once you get that kind of snowball effect of occupancy and advocates for your property, it just furthers your reach and digital marketing and puts you at a competitive advantage for growing your occupancy. So if you haven’t participated in these workshops, as I mentioned before, we do them every single season. It’s one of my favorite parts of my job here at Travel Media Group. I would love to speak with you about your property, about your location. We know every single hotel is different. So that’s what I love about these workshops. If you’re interested in having a conversation about that, obviously you can reach out to us anytime at travelmediagroup.com and we’d love to speak with you or next time we’ve got it in the summer coming up. If you see that email run across your inbox, schedule a meeting with me, love to talk to you, but I am sure the next time we do these insights, we hopefully, fingers crossed, will have some great, great news to share. So thank you for all the hoteliers that participated in the workshop. Thank you for all for listening. And we’ll talk to you next time on the Suite Spot.

Ryan Embree:
To join our loyalty program, be sure to subscribe and give us a five star rating on iTunes. Suite Spot is produced by Travel Media Group with cover art by Bary Gordon. I’m your host, Ryan Embree and we hope you enjoyed your stay.



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