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 Global Distribution Strategies: Maximizing Your Online Footprint, Part 2

In Part 1 of this topic we discussed a few negatives to watch for when developing your hotel global distribution strategy. This time, let’s take a look at how to effectively balance and maximize your hotel’s digital presence.

  1. Spiff Up Your Hotel’s Website
    All things being equal, most customers would rather book directly through a hotel’s website rather than going through a third party. A sharp-looking and easy-to-use website is often a potential customer’s first impression of your facility. Make sure that impression is a positive one.
  2. Be Seen In More Than One Place
    Make sure you choose reservation channels that fit your hotel’s unique attributes. In addition to the large-audience channels like expedia.com, look for channels that cater to small-scale specialty hotels, such as splendia.com.
  3. Go Mobile
    When a business or leisure traveler is far from home and needs reservations fast, most of them are going to turn to their mobile devices. Reservations via mobile devices are increasing by the day, so make sure both your website and booking tools are optimally formatted for small mobile screens.
  4. Encourage Customer Loyalty
    Keeping a careful eye on information you collect about your guests will help you send promotions and rewards to your best customers to keep them coming back – or recommending your hotel to friends and business associates.
  5. Get Social
    Establish a presence on the most popular social media sites, such as Facebook and Pinterest, but don’t just toss up an attractive page and leave it there like a brochure flapping in the breeze. It’s important to interact with your fans and “likers,” so check the page daily to responds to questions and comments, address complaints, answer private messages, and of course, offer web-only promotions.

Let SmarteHotels.com show you how to step ahead of the competition. Contact us today!

Hotel Global Distribution Strategies: Maximizing Your Online Footprint, Part 1

Getting your hotel visible in the fast-moving world of the Internet is what a global distribution strategy is all about. It’s increasingly the best way to get your hotel rooms in front of the right customer, at the right time, for the right price.

While there are a number of advantages of weaving your hotel into the worldwide web (easy transaction processing with instant confirmation, customer information capture, and demand management), all this new technology may come with a few unexpected drawbacks, particularly if you rely too much on one online reservations channel.

 

Commissions and Transaction Fees Eat Profit Margins
Putting all your marketing eggs in one distribution channel basket may fill more rooms, but at what cost? Sites like priceline.com and booking.com use one criterion to lure customers: rock-bottom prices. But is the lowest price always the right price? Not for your target customers—the ones who would have been willing to pay more for the right mix of service, value, location, and amenities.

Worse, offering the lowest price doesn’t always get your hotel front and center on a potential customer’s search results. That’s right—these sites want hotels to pay a premium commission rate for that privilege.

Giving Up Control Over Customer Relationships
In addition, they may withhold vital customer data that prevents you from establishing the bread and butter of hotel management – personal contact.

GDS Ease of Use
When considering making a hotel global distribution system a part of your strategy, don’t forget to examine how easy it is to use. If your target customer is an older, retired, leisure traveler who isn’t as likely to be tech savvy, is it worth it to pay a steep commission for customers who aren’t there?

The solution? Balance. In Part 2 of this two-part article we’ll take a look at how to spread your hotel global distribution efforts in an effective pattern.

Step up your hotel global distribution strategy and get noticed. Contact us today!

Hotel Distribution Strategies: Ways To Build Customer Loyalty

Even with the best hotel distribution strategy, it can be tough to get inside customers’ heads. Offering a great combination of value, service, and amenities at your hotel is still the foundation of running a successful hotel, but a different mindset is evolving among travelers.

More and more, businesses of all kinds are using customer loyalty programs to attract new customers and hopefully maintain a current roster of repeat bookers. As the popularity of these programs grow, the customer is adding one criterion to their search for a hotel reservation: “What’s in it for me?”

It’s not hard to set up a loyalty or rewards program as part of your hotel distribution strategy, but then the question becomes: how do you know if your customer is only in it for the reward, then will move to the next shiny new offer? How do you know if the customer will become the long-term gem you covet?

Answer: You don’t. Not until that customer follows through with another reservation, and another.

There are a few things you can do maximize the chance that your hotel rewards program will draw customers and keep them coming back.

Engage
Build in a variety of ways to interact with your customers, either online or in person. Make it even more attractive by not requiring a purchase to participate.

Load Up Offers With Value
When you’re coming up with rewards to add to your program, make sure they’re at high value to the customer but low cost to the hotel. For example, offering a free service instead of a free night’s stay.

Know The Customer
Reward the customer with things they really want. This means knowing your customer base inside and out. For example, if your customer base consists mainly of business travelers, what are they going to want at the end of a busy, stressful day? Dinner for a family of four or a free cocktail? Free Wi-Fi access, or a free massage?

Don’t Make It Too Hard
Building tiers of increasing reward values is a good idea. However, don’t make it so hard to reach the next level that the majority of your customers bail after the first reward.

Join Forces With Other Businesses
You don’t have to go it alone! Partner up with nearby businesses and attractions to enhance the variety of “prizes” you can offer. The possibilities are endless: restaurant meals, movie tickets, museum or zoo passes, night clubs, off-site gyms or spa services, beach toy rentals, merchandise discounts, and more.

Add Enticements
Offering smaller, intermediate rewards between major tiers is a good way to keep customers engaged and working enthusiastically toward that next step up.

Offer Choices
It’s best not to place strict limits as to how and when customers can redeem their rewards, once they’ve achieved that elite status. Give them the flexibility they feel they’ve earned for sticking to the rules of your game.

Add Value Beyond The Dollar Sign
Granted, some customers will always be about price, price, and only price. However, offering price reductions as the main rewards could focus your customers’ attention on the bottom line—which could hurt yours. Sure, most customers think about price, but remember your target customer: is price the only reason they book with your hotel? Probably not.

Pay Attention
If you offer Internet access at your hotel, don’t be afraid to use technology to be just a little bit nosy about what your guests are looking for online. Knowing which local attractions they’re searching out most will help you tailor your rewards program to the things they want most.

Let Smart eHotels™ help you reap the rewards of an effective hotel distribution strategy. Contact us today!

Hotel Distribution Strategy: How to Avoid Business Meeting Glitches

Having a good hotel distribution strategy can help increase your business meeting bookings. But how do you prepare to make those meetings great? Business meeting planners spend months—maybe even all year—planning and preparing for what will hopefully be a productive annual meeting. When they book their meeting dates at your hotel, they have a right to expect you and your staff will devote the same level of professional attention to making their meeting a success.

When it comes to preparing for your business guests’ arrival, it all comes down to the details.

 

Make their agenda your agenda
Obtain an up-to-date meeting schedule to make sure the correct meeting spaces will be available when needed. If two conferences are scheduled at the same time, having a detailed schedule for each will help keep noisy events from being assigned adjacent rooms.

 

Make like MacGyver
Duct tape – don’t leave home without it! A little tape over doorjambs can help keep heavy conference room doors from clattering when someone exits or enters a meeting in progress (Caveat: Make sure you aren’t breaking any fire safety codes).

 

Light or dark?
Have a full understanding of the events to take place so that meeting spaces are fully equipped – including blackout shades for any conference room with windows. Nothing ruins a carefully prepared PowerPoint presentation quicker than a leaky window shade.

 

Make sure everything works
All meeting room equipment should best tested ahead of time. Wi-Fi, Ethernet hookups, lights, audio/visual equipment—it’s all indispensable.

 

Maintenance issues
Be prepared to deal promptly with dead TV remote batteries, bad light bulbs, plumbing issues, all those little annoyances that could color a business guest’s stay negative.

 

Personnel preparation

  • If you don’t have a concierge at your hotel, consider assigning a staff member to take this role exclusively for the conference guests.
  • Schedule adequate bell staff to help the conference planner unload and transport what will inevitably be boxes and boxes of meeting materials and supplies.
  • Empower the front desk staff to deal with minor emergencies. If a reservation is lost, give staff the authority to not only immediately book a room, but compensate the guest for the inconvenience with a room upgrade or voucher for free breakfast.
  • For not-so-minor emergencies, make sure at least two staff members are trained in first aid and CPR. Also consider keeping an AED machine in the office, and have every staff member trained how to use it.

 

Security concerns
Particularly for the increasing number of female business travelers, safety and security are of prime importance. If a guest’s instincts are telling him or her that something isn’t right, be willing to address those concerns quickly and without question, which could include a move to a different room or a few extra walk-bys from the security guard on duty.

SmartEHotels.com can help you adjust your hotel distribution strategy to increase business meeting traffic. Contact us today!

Hotel Distribution Strategy: Tips to Maximize Word-of-Mouth Business

According to a recent consumer survey, hotels are among the most likely businesses to get word-of-mouth recommendations, only few percentage points behind restaurants and doctors. Therefore, it’s essential that your hotel distribution strategy takes every opportunity to maximize word-of-mouth referrals.

These days it isn’t enough to wait for your (hopefully satisfied) client to eventually find themselves in a situation to share their positive experience with someone else in person. It means giving the client incentives to make that referral before their event is over—sometimes even before the sale is closed. It means diving headfirst into the fast-moving world of the Internet to interact with past and future customers who are leaving a trail of comments about your hotel all over the web.

What are the steps you can take to make word-of-mouth business perhaps the most important tool in your hotel distribution strategy?

  • Offer top-notch service, without fail.
    Train your staff to make eye contact and greet everyone who walks through the hotel door. Engage the services of a CRO (central reservations office) voice service to cover the phone so your front desk personnel don’t have to turn away from a customer to answer a call.
    When a wedding, business meeting, or other event is under way at your hotel, make sure your on-staff event planner is accessible and poised to handle any questions or problems, and to go above and beyond the customer’s expectations in solving them.
  • Provide good value for the customer’s dollar.
    Among the top reasons a customer recommends your hotel for someone else’s event, right up there with professional service, is a good price or special deal that closed the sale. Offering a coupon or a special deal for those who come to your hotel based on a past customer’s referral will help build a loyal following.
  • A little thanks goes a long way.
    Never underestimate the power of five little words: “Thank you for your business.” A smile and thanks should be the last impression a departing guest gets of your establishment. After a wedding event or business meeting, a follow-up letter is a nice touch, especially when accompanied by a customer satisfaction survey.
  •  Interact on the Internet.
    As part of your hotel marketing strategy, you probably have a presence on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Don’t just set these up, post occasionally, and ignore them. Check frequently—at least once a day—to respond to comments, questions, and “re-tweets.” Post exclusive social media deals and encourage fans to hit the “share” button.
    Never, ever respond to negative online reviews with more negativity. Remember you’re in a public arena and online posts are forever. A sincere apology and an offer to make it right will be more likely to win over dissatisfied customers and shows a professional face to those you hope to have as future customers.
  • Yelp travels!
    Encourage customers to talk up their experience with your hotel on high-profile review sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor. It’s a good idea to start a channel for your hotel, and link to increasingly popular video reviews that customers upload.
    Find out who the top travel bloggers are, and purchase ad space on their blog. It’s usually inexpensive and could garner your hotel a highly visible review.
  • Be shameless—for a good cause.
    Another way to increase the percentage of customers who recommend your hotel to others is simply to ask them to do it. But do it for a good cause; for example, tell customers that for every send-a-friend referral, the hotel will make a donation to a reputable charity.

Let SmarteHotels.com help you develop a hotel distribution strategy that will reel customers in! Contact us today.

Hotel Global Distribution Systems Part 3: How to Get Visible

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we talked about how to use a global distribution system to reach a wider audience. So how do you get your small or independent hotel’s central reservations system (CRS) hooked up to this mother lode of reservations? It’s as easy as going to one or all of the major GDS sites and following directions, or contacting one of their sales reps directly by phone or email.

Below you’ll find the kind of information you should include to make this “electronic brochure” for your facility as effective as possible:

  • Description
    Develop both a short and long description of your small or independent hotel – in other words, the “elevator speech” version and the slightly longer “standing in line” version. In the short version, summarize the unique characteristics of your facility to appeal to your target customer. In the longer version, don’t simply repeat the short version. Use this space to add more appealing details, like comfort, service, amenities, etc.
  • Amenities
    Make sure you include every one of your facility’s amenities and services: restaurants, Wi-Fi, pool, workout facility, business center, laundry center, security features, and more. Leave nothing out.
  • Location
    Describe where your small or independent hotel is located – center city? Near the airport? Provide an address and an accurate longitude and latitude location so it can be easily found on a GPS.
  • Directions
    Provide accurate directions from the four cardinal directions and from the local airports. Train, bus, and cab information would be good to include, as well.
  • Area attractions
    List tourist attractions in the region for leisure travelers. Business travelers will appreciate listings of corporate headquarters, and businesses that could provide last-minute assistance before an important meeting, such as computer repair, copiers and office suppliers.
  • Room types and descriptions
    Again, leave nothing out: room sizes, niceties like coffee makers and refrigerators, luxury linens, recent renovations, etc.
  • Format counts
    Use complete sentences and “chunk” information into small, easily digestible sections. Bullet points are easy on the eye.
  • Be honest
    The last thing you want is for a customer to think they’re getting more than they are. Be clear and concise, but resist the temptation to wax poetic.

Let eSmartHotels.com help you make your online presence known! Contact us today.

 

Hotel Global Distribution Systems Part 2: All Information, All The Time

In the first piece of this series, we explained what a global distribution system (GDS) is and where it comes from. Now it’s time to discuss a few of the benefits your small or independent hotel can reap from GDS services.

All Information, All The Time

In the “always on” world of the Internet, a global distribution system makes it possible for anyone, anywhere, anytime to book a room at your small or independent hotel. Here are a few more customer-friendly advances that make GDS the ultimate tool:

  • Complete information
    At a glance, a customer has access to all the information they need, and some they may not have known they wanted until that extra something special about your hotel pops up. It could be the price, room features, views, or amenities that puts your facility ahead of the competition.
  • Quick response
    Customers want their information, and they want it now. A global distribution system must deliver that information in a few seconds or less. In addition, customers want instant confirmation that the room they’ve bought from you is, indeed, theirs. That means integrating your email system with the GDS so that an instant confirmation email will shoot out to that customer whether you’re in the office or not.
  • It’s all out there
    Regulations prevent manipulation of the GDS in favor of a few select suppliers, so your small or independent hotel is on equal footing with the big boys. And it’s so easy for customers to compare prices, amenities and reviews that total transparency is the watchword.
  • Corporate accounting
    If your facility caters to business travelers, proper configuration within the GDS makes it more likely your hotel will appear in a corporate traveler’s search results, which could lead to a repeat customer and maybe even the coveted status of a preferred supplier with that company.
  • Data you can use
    Whatever GDS you sign up with, part of the package will be frequent reports that let you track sales figures, determine which sales channels are working best, implement an effective marketing campaign and track its effectiveness, and make note of trends that help you plan for the future.

Next time we’ll talk about what to include in your GDS listing to get all of these benefits!

Smart eHotels is here to help you maximize your GDS sales; contact us today to see how!

Hotel Global Distribution Systems Part 1: Reservation Central

Ah, the good old days, when the first hotelier hung up a shingle outside his cave entrance. Times certainly have changed, but it hasn’t been so very long ago that small and independent hotels were left outside even the earliest automated booking technologies, developed by the airline industry in – hold on to your hats – the mid-1960s!

We’ve come a long way since then. Even now, the hotel industry is still growing into its full potential when it comes to global distribution systems (GDS).

What Is A Global Distribution System?

A global distribution system, or GDS, is the online tool used by travel agents to book airline seats, hotel rooms, rental cars, and related travel services. It’s the engine that drives not only most traditional travel agencies, but also many of the biggest online booking services, like Travelocity, Orbitz, and Kayak.

The most popular of these GDS services are names you may not have heard, because they are the underpinning behind the better-known sites:

  • Amadeus
  • Sabre
  • Travelport (the umbrella company for the Galileo, Apollo, and Worldspan brands)

Though the primary user of the GDS is still the airline industry, the “big three” are now beginning to cater to small and independent hotels, chain hotels, and car rental companies to get them in on what has become a multi-billion-dollar industry. Cruise lines, tour operators, travel insurance companies, vacation rentals, and even destination-oriented activities are not far behind.

While GDS is the electronic reservation tool for more than 160,000 brick-and-mortar travel agencies and more than half a million travel agents worldwide, the Internet has changed pretty much everything. Consumers can buy just about everything without going through a middleman. Gone are the days when, in order to book leisure or business travel, the customer had to darken the door of a travel agent.

Now, individuals can book leisure travel (Travelocity, CheapTickets, etc.) or corporate travel (GetThere, Travelocity Business, Transversa, and more) and handle the entire process without spending a second of phone or face time with another human being.

GDS and Your Small or Independent Hotel

The airline industry has a pretty big head start on the hotel industry as a whole when it comes to utilizing the full potential of GDS services. But that doesn’t mean a small, single-property hotel or independent chain can’t get in on the action and make it much easier for individual customers to find and book rooms.

Getting your small or independent hotel listed in a GDS like Travelport will make your facility visible to a much wider audience. This is the kind of exposure you just can’t buy with traditional marketing efforts.

GDS and Discount Options

A global distribution system makes it possible for a small or independent hotel to attract new customers who take advantage of “flight + hotel” discounts. In addition, the GDS lets customers search for hotel rooms near where they want to go – like amusement parks for leisure travelers, and restaurants or conference centers for corporate travelers.

Customers can view your small or independent hotel on a map in relation to desired activities, and read customer reviews on the same screen. There are even options to sort a search by amenities offered, price, star rating, and more, so if a customer wants a hotel with a pool and a workout room, and your facility offers them, your facility is more likely to get in front of that customer’s eyes.

Travelers who are looking for a desired hotel room at a specific price – remember when we talked about your target audience? – can get an email or text notification the instant a discount on rooms at your facility goes live.

Stay Tuned

Next time we’ll look at some more reasons why you’ll want to get your hotel listed on a GDS.

Smart eHotels has helped many small and independent hotels to maximize their GDS and marketing sales efforts. Contact us today to see how we can help you!