Global Distribution Systems Q&A: Part 2

In part one of this series, we discussed what the GDS is, and why getting listed in the global distribution system is vital. This time, we’ll get into more of the nitty-gritty.

What kind of costs are involved?

Normally there’s a one-time fee to sign up, then a yearly fee to maintain membership. In addition, there will be a per-reservation surcharge, plus a commission paid to the travel agent or the web portal that booked the room. As you can see, this can be a serious investment, so consider your options carefully. You could manage your GDS presence yourself; hiring a service or purchasing software to help you manage it is yet another cost, but it may be worth it.

What can I do to make sure my investment in GDS isn’t wasted?

  • Keep your GDS listing details up to date. If you’ve added amenities, upgraded rooms, or are undergoing renovations, potential customers will want to know.
  • Include close-by activities and attractions.
  • Post professional photos of the property, rooms, and amenities.
  • Keep track of the time and money you’ve invested in your GDS venture. Regularly review your return-on-investment to make sure you’re staying on course.

What are some examples of GDS management services?

There seems to be almost as many GDS management services as there are hotels! Each one offers a different suite of services and software, one of which is bound to be a good fit. Here we’ve listed a few of the more well known ones, with a short description of unique features they offer:

  • Xotels.com
    A CRS (central reservations system) that allows you to quickly update your GDS details and rates yourself using their user interface.
  • Bookassist.org
    Combines GDS and IDS (internet distribution system) in one interface.
  • Innlink.com
    GDS and IDS management integration with a RevPAR tool.
  • Hotelogix.com
    Condenses the complicated and sometimes intimidating job of GDS management into a simple-to-navigate interface.

Are you ready to go global with your hotel? We can help you plan and implement a successful launch. Contact us today!

Global Distribution Systems Q&A: Part 1

Every year, more and more hotels – from small independents to regional and multi-national chains – are jumping into the global distribution system (GDS) pool. To make sure you don’t wind up over your head in the deep end, we’ve compiled a few of the most often asked questions about hotel GDS, followed by a few examples of hotel GDS services. We’ll cover two this week, and several more next week.

What is the Global Distribution System?

Simply put, the GDS is the ultimate one-stop online source for hotel room rates, inventory, rooms and their descriptions, and available discounts. Every professional travel agent has access to this massive database through portals such as Sabre, Galileo, Amadeus, Pegasus, and Worldspan.

Popular do-it-yourself search-and-reserve engines such as Booking, Travelocity, and Priceline (to name only a few of the most familiar) also tap into the same GDS database.

My hotel already has a website with a booking function. Why do I need a GDS listing?

While it’s vital to have direct booking capability on your web site, GDS bookings are rising so fast, it’s a phenomenon you can’t afford to ignore. Even with the best hotel SEO, the fact is more and more customers are turning from Google searches to web portals like Travelocity to look for hotel rooms that suit their time frame and budget. Why? Ever more detailed search tools offered by GDS-based booking portals make it easier to find exactly what you’re looking for, rather than what Google algorithms select to show you.

Having said this, it should be noted that GDS services are not free. Therefore it’s probably not going to be the right fit for a 3-bedroom bed and breakfast. But if your facility has 25 rooms or more and it’s located in a high-demand travel destination, the benefits of a GDS listing could outweigh the costs.

Tune in this time next week for part two of this Q&A, where we’ll discuss more about the costs involved in global distribution systems, how to protect your investment, and a comparison of several GDS systems.

Global Distribution Strategies: Cracking the Code

Want to crack the code and develop effective global distribution strategies? Know that most of the time, simpler is better for everyone involved, from the manager to the customer.

 

Cracked Code #1: Rating Games

Let’s start with how to define your hotel’s rate codes. Many hotels with their own independent central reservation systems (CRS) develop their own “language” to assign special rates to certain customer segments (military, business, weekend, mid-week, special holiday rates, and more).

 

The problem arises when you input your hotel’s unique rate codes into whatever global distribution system (GDS) you use. If your hotel’s rate codes don’t match up with the codes the GDS uses for the same customer segment, your hotel won’t appear when an online travel agent (OTA) uses those criteria to look for rooms.

 

Happily, all you have to do is ask for a list of your GDS’s rate codes and—just as important—descriptions of what each code means. Once these codes align, you won’t miss out on any opportunities to sell a stay.

 

Cracked Code #2: Digital Footprints

If one of your global distribution strategies is to appeal to a customer who appreciates high-quality facilities, amenities, and service, don’t settle for less than high-quality digital images. This goes for the entire scope of the hotel’s online presence, from web site to GDS presence to social media interfaces.

 

Tip: For your hotel’s public face, it’s worth it to invest in the services of a professional photographer. Also consider that what you think is your hotel’s “best face” may not be what the customer finds the most appealing. Think about what types of customers book a stay at different times of the year, whether it’s vacationing families in the summer or business retreat customers in the colder months. Think about what’s important to those customers, and rotate your online images accordingly.

 

Tip: Monitor what pictures your customers post online in places like TripAdvisor and Facebook. If they’re great photos, interact with customers by thanking them and inviting them back. If it shows a flaw in your maintenance program, interact by thanking the customer for calling your attention to the problem, and deal with it promptly. Then post an “after” picture of your own!

 

Cracked Code #3: Global Distribution Strategies—PPC Spotlights

Similarly, your hotel’s pay-per-click (PPC) advertising strategy should evolve with the seasonal ups and downs of your target customer base. PPC is an excellent opportunity to gain equal visibility with competing hotels while spotlighting what’s unique about your particular facility and what you can offer that other hotels don’t.

 

Tip: If you’re serious about PPC advertising, don’t run just one campaign at a time, or even just two or three. Dip all your advertising toes in the water at once! Running up to ten PPC campaigns at a time allows you to more easily monitor which keywords are performing well (that is, translating into bookings), allowing you to tweak or eliminate those that aren’t. Experimentation is your friend, and particularly suited to this type of advertising.

 

Tip: Monitoring your hotel PPC campaigns doesn’t mean logging in once a month. It requires touching base much more often, such as on a daily basis during peak travel season.

 

Cracked Code #4: Think Global, Act Local

Getting customers through the door means more than casting your online advertising net far and wide. Look closer to home, and think about attracting local customers.

 

Tip: Think about what your hotel has to offer the community. The same chef that wows wedding reception guests and business meeting attendees can draw local customers to the hotel restaurant. Hotels situated near a major sports or concert venue can offer area residents a room package in conjunction with a special event.

 

The online world is constantly changing. Make sure your global distribution strategies are evolving with it. For expert advice, contact us today.

Global Distribution Service: 5 Ways to Prep Your Web Site

Like a spider web, everything you do for, in, and around your hotel—from sheet thread count to marketing ideas—is a thread supported by the other connecting threads. Using a global distribution service (GDS) is only one facet of your business plan, but it has the power to make or break your bottom line if the “threads” connected to it are weak.

 

What can you do to ensure the time and energy you put into a GDS platform aren’t wasted? Here are five tips to maximize your success:

  1. Make sure your hotel’s web site is ready to handle the increase in traffic. Nothing destroys your marketing strategy like being shut down by your hosting site due to bandwidth issues.
  2. Check that your web site is visually appealing and uncluttered, and it’s incredibly easy for customers to book a room. A “Book Now” button on every single web page would not be overdoing it.
  3. If your GDS can be embedded in your web site, take advantage of that function. Requiring customers to click away to a different site to book a room can be annoying, and in this day and age of identity theft, raise enough suspicion to drive the customer to a competitor. If possible, keep the customer on your web site from landing page to reservation confirmation.
  4. If you have different classes of rooms with various prices, always list the highest priced option first. Some customers may be in such a hurry they won’t scroll down the page or click to a different page—they’ll just book the first room they see.
  5. Upsell—even after the booking is finished. Use the GDS’s automated confirmation email to its fullest potential. Tailor it to make customers aware of upgrades, meal options, amenities, concierge services, and more.

 

For Additional Ideas

Smart eHotels™ can help you weave the perfect global distribution service strategy. Contact us today!

Hotel GDS Marketing: Getting Your Message Out

At first glance, a hotel GDS (global distribution system) may not seem directly linked to your hotel marketing plan. With more and more travel agents turning to GDS services to book stays for their customers, though, the GDS is becoming prime territory for spending hotel marketing dollars.

Let’s take a look at what the top four GDS channels can add to your hotel marketing plan.

Amadeus Advertising & Communication

As one of the most widely used GDS services, Amadeus knows how travel agents navigate the world of electronic reservations. This company also knows what travel agents are interested in seeing at every point in the process. Your hotel’s message will get placed in front of the travel agents who are booking reservations for your target customer.

Galileo Front Page News

When over 195,000 Galileo subscribers sign in to the system (which is at least twice a day), your hotel’s message will be the first thing they see. With one tap, agents can learn more about your hotel and why they should book their customers with you. Messages can be easily targeted by region or travel agency chain.

Sabre PromoSpots

Like Amadeus, Sabre offers options to place your hotel ad before travel agents right when they’re shopping for hotels for their clients. Two services are especially useful for a hotel marketing campaign:

  • Hotel Spotlight—Premium placement of your hotel’s name on Sabre search result screens.
  • PromoSpots—Triggers your hotel’s current offers and specials when agents key in a code specific to a destination near your hotel.

Worldspan Go!

A product of Travelport, Worldspan Go! is a mobile productivity platform geared specifically for travel agents who aren’t tied to an office terminal. When Travelport’s subscribers are using the system, your finely targeted special promotion allows them to book by clicking the ad.

Need Further Help?

SmarteHotels.com can help put your hotel’s message right where travel agents will see it—on their hotel GDS booking screens. Contact us today!

Global Distribution Strategies: Directing Traffic

Managing all your global distribution channels can make you feel like a traffic cop at a busy intersection. No matter how vigorously you wave your arms, some channels just aren’t going to follow directions. To keep from standing by helplessly as your global distribution strategies go the wrong way down a one-way street, stick to a few simple rules.

Rule #1: Go Where Your Customers Are

Is your target customer a Facebook fanatic or a Conde Nast connoisseur? A Fodor’s foodie or a TripAdvisor top reviewer? Wherever they gather, that’s where you should be to experience the conversation. Learn what they want, need, and expect from a hotel stay. Learn what they’re saying about your hotel—and your competition. You can “lurk” to just listen in, or interact by responding to positive and negative reviews and posting useful travel information on the forums. Be very careful not to appear like you’re there to sell; instead, give general and timely travel tips, which are much appreciated. For example, someone who’s never traveled to your region might like to know what to pack for the weather conditions or receive a heads-up about construction projects that could impact their travel plans.

Rule #2: Work with OTAs

Many hotels may turn their noses up at online travel agents as a channel with little profit potential. However, they’re often a great way to get your hotel’s name in front of potential customers who don’t tend to be brand loyal.

Rule #3: Change with the Times

The content requirements for online distribution channels are constantly changing, so periodically review each site to make sure you’re meeting those requirements. Otherwise, your hotel could quickly lose visibility.

Rule #4: ‘Click’ with the Customer

Remember to keep your hotel’s main web site as simple to navigate as possible, especially for the ever-growing smart phone customer. A customer should be able to book a room in as few clicks or taps as possible, and a smart phone customer would like the same array of tools available as a traditional PC customer.

Rule #5: Pick Your Booking Channels Carefully

Channels that direct customers back to your branded web site are always preferable, though some sites like Facebook are evolving to the point a customer can make a reservation directly from a business’s page. A rapidly growing “traffic cop” is Google Hotel Finder. It’s worth your time to check into how it works and how to get your hotel listed.

Rule #6: Consider Same-Day Bookings

Finally, don’t overlook the possibility of offering last-minute, same-day deals via mobile platforms. Many hotel managers shy away from these because they fear underselling to customers who aren’t in their target market. However, done correctly, this can be a way to attract new customers and cement the brand loyalty of existing customers.

For more tips on managing your global distribution strategies, contact SmarteHotels.com.

Hotel Distribution Strategy: 3 Tips for Analyzing Your Channels

Hotels that are part of large, well-branded corporations often have the luxury of fully staffed marketing departments to help develop an effective hotel distribution strategy. Managers of independent and small-chain hotels, however, are on their own when it comes to identifying potential revenue streams, determining what works best for their facility, and figuring out how to beat the competition. Below are three tips for analyzing your strategy to determine if you have the right channel mix.

 

Tip #1: Think Globally, Grow Locally

With good portal management, a hotel can expect to earn roughly half its income from a modern global distribution system (GDS). After that, it’s time to get creative—and maybe start thinking locally.

 

For instance, a hotel with attractive and well-equipped meeting spaces is probably bringing in another 25% of its total revenue with business meetings and conferences. Even if the hotel is not considered a popular destination locale, local groups and organizations always need meeting space, and a smart hotel manager will fill this need.

 

Here are some other local connections that could get your hotel’s name in front of a surprisingly large number of potential customers:

  • Local convention and visitors bureaus
  • Local and regional chambers of commerce
  • Colleges and universities
  • Parking facilities
  • Sports teams (professional all the way down to peewee)
  • Entertainment venues

 

Tip #2: Evaluate Your Online Presence

Look at your hotel’s online presence with an objective eye to determine if the image you’re presenting is appealing to your target customer.

  • Web site—How does your web site compare to the competition’s? This is one instance where it’s perfectly okay to “look off your neighbor’s paper.” Is the copy compelling, and is the site functional? Is it interactive? Are the images of high quality, and are there plenty of them? Is the content search engine optimized?
  • Social media—Does your target customer have a lot of time to spend on social media? For example, busy corporate employees probably don’t, so you wouldn’t want to spend an inordinate amount of time on your Facebook presence. However, if your hotel attracts a lot of college students, you might start posting regularly on Twitter or Instagram.

 

Tip #3: Conduct a Cost/Benefit Analysis

To develop the right mix of distribution channels for your hotel, don’t just throw things out there and wait to see if something “sticks.” Open a spreadsheet and do a cost/benefit analysis.

  • Estimate the demand for each channel. For example, would your typical customer pay extra for exclusive amenities like a flexible check-in, tiered-speed Internet, or a streamlined check-in? Would your customer be interested in gift cards?
  • Determine which channels are most likely to attract potential customers, convert them into paying customers, and keep them coming back.
  • Divide your limited resources accordingly.
  • Develop a strategy to track how much revenue each channel generates.
  • Monitor the competition to determine where you’re going head-to-head and where your facility is tapping a previously ignored niche.

 

Need help developing a hotel distribution strategy? SmarteHotels.com can help. Contact us today.

GDS Services: Get Connected with the Right Portal

Small and independent hotels usually need business services that quickly pay for themselves. However, while it’s critical to get connected to a global distribution system (GDS) to get the hotel’s name out there and grow the business, the wrong GDS services can increase your frustration level and ultimately be a waste of time and money. Following are some tips to pick the right GDS portal for your hotel, particularly if you’re interested in growing your hotel’s international presence.

Channel Mix

The location and focus of your hotel (urban, rural, business-oriented, or leisure) will greatly narrow down your choices for GDS portals. Do you mainly need a connection to the GDS and an online booking engine? Check out Sabre Hospitality, iHotelier by TravelClick, Pegasus Solutions, and Myfidelio.net. If you’re looking more for Internet distribution (IDS), look into SiteMinder.

Watch the Fees

Does the GDS portal cost involve a fixed monthly fee, or can it vary so you’re not paying for unnecessary services during the low season? Are there hidden transaction fees? For example, SiteMinder’s fees are monthly and fixed, and with a month-to-month commitment, it’s easy to back out if you’re not happy. Other GDS services require a three-year commitment to start, with yearly renewals after that.

Mobile and Facebook Connectivity

If a GDS portal service also touts its “high tech” connectivity to mobile and Facebook booking engines, don’t get caught up in the hype. Few customers will download an app specifically for your hotel, and the Facebook feature has yet to show significant promise as a revenue generator.

Speaking the Language

Make sure the GDS portal service you choose supports several languages, not just English.

Who’s Hot?

Following are a few of the most-talked-about GDS services:

  • Idiso.com
  • iHotelier.com by TravelClick
  • HotelREZ.com
  • Sabre Hospitality
  • Pegasus Solutions
  • Myfidelio.net
  • Trust International

The Smart eHotels GDS Tuning Team Can Help

If you’re a little lost in the GDS labyrinth, the SmarteHotels.com GDS Tuning Team can help make sense of it all. Click here to find out how we can help fine-tune your GDS channel.

Hotel Global Distribution System: Questions and Answers

Confused by what a hotel global distribution system is or does? Read on for answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about GDS.

What is a Global Distribution System?

Put simply, a global distribution system (or GDS) is a network that links the four vital sectors of the travel industry: airline reservations, car rentals, hotel reservations, and destination activities. It facilitates automated transactions between vendors (airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, attraction tickets), travel agents that subscribe to the service, and the average travel consumer.

When a travel agent books a reservation for a client, they’re using the GDS. So is the customer who books reservations himself or herself through a site like Kayak or Travelocity.

Like the Internet itself, there is no one company that runs the global distribution system. It doesn’t manage a hotel’s room inventory – the hotel retains control of that. Rather, it’s a real-time network of linked databases that routes user requests for information to the right place.

Similar to how a user gains access to the Internet through a vendor like a phone or cable company, vendors gain access to the GDS through providers like Travelport, Sabre, and Amadeus.

How does a global distribution system differ from a central reservations system (CRS)?

A central reservation system (CRS) is a system used by individual vendors (hotels, airlines, etc.) to book their own reservations and manage their own inventory. There can be as many CRSs as there are vendors, all using packaged or customized software. The customer interacts directly with the hotel via Internet or phone to book a room.

The GDS lets a customer (travel agent or consumer) search and compare prices, features, and amenities among several hotels, then select and book their stay at the hotel they choose. There often isn’t any direct contact with the hotel itself. Services like Kayak, Expedia, and Travelocity are the portal most consumers use to access these databases.

How does a hotel get into the GDS?

A hotel hooks its room inventory database into the GDS through a portal like Travelport, Amadeus, or Sabre (there are a growing number of portals out there; these are just some of the most well-known). Hotels will pay these portals a fee to facilitate access, not unlike how a private Internet user contracts with an Internet service provider (ISP) to gain access to the web.

As with any business transaction, it’s a good idea to do your research before selecting a portal. Different providers may have access to different types of travel-related databases, so make sure you go with one that specializes in hotels and their needs!

Does my hotel have to have a CRS to get into the GDS?

Not necessarily. A hotel that uses a central reservations system can indeed connect its system to the GDS. Hotels that don’t have a CRS can use a portal service to get listed.

How can the GDS help me stretch my hotel’s marketing dollars?

The global distribution system can help level the playing field between smaller, independently operated hotels and the “big boys” with bottomless marketing budgets. For example, a customer who googles hotels near a major event venue will see what Google wants them to see (Read some of our previous articles on hotel SEO).

On the other hand, the customer who goes onto a booking site like Expedia to search for a room is more likely to spot your hotel, because your two-double-bed rooms will be listed right along with the big chains’ two-double-bed rooms.

Does participating in the GDS mean I lose control of my hotel’s room inventory?

Absolutely not! Whether you connect your CRS to the GDS or work with a provider to get listed, you’re in control of inventory and pricing. It’ll integrate seamlessly into your overall yield management strategy.

Got questions about hotel edistribution? We’ve got the answers. Contact us today!

Hotel eDistribution 101

With a million-and-one ways to market your hotel online, it’s easy to just wave a white flag before you’ve given hotel eDistribution a chance. Fasten your seatbelt; here’s a quick run-down that could help simplify things.

 

Priority One: Your Hotel’s Website

eDistribution is just a fancy way of saying “getting the word out on the web.” Your hotel’s main presence on the web will always be its website. It’s the hotel’s electronic brochure, its business card. Make sure the content is fresh, branded, engaging, and most of all, that all the links work.

Don’t underestimate the rising use of mobile devices to not only find travel information, but to book hotel reservations. You need a website and digital marketing campaigns that are optimized for the small-screen format of mobile devices.

Search engine optimization (SEO) of your website content is all-important in the competition to appear on the top results of search engine queries. So from the home page to individual niche customer landing pages, make sure those critical keywords are in place.

 

Potential Customer: The Planet

Large or small, your hotel is more and more likely these days to have foreign customers. Just like domestic ones, they’re looking for a great place to stay at a great rate. Analyze your website’s user data to find out from which countries your visitors are coming. Then invest the time and effort to create five to ten pages on your site in those languages.

Make sure your hotel is listed on international travel directories, review sites, and booking engines.

 

The Social Media Trap

As popular as social media sites are, these cannot be classified as hotel eDistribution channels. Why? Because customers can’t book directly from a social media site like Twitter or Facebook. Social media is a place to engage and interact with past and potential customers. Because some customers may use social media to express concerns or complaints, a Facebook page could be classified as a customer service tool—one that is public and must be handled as such.

SmarteHotels.com can help you turn on your eDistribution channel! Contact us today.