Personal thoughts and observations on hospitality, part one

As editor emeritus of Resort News I have spent the first two years of my retirement visiting all the places I desire strictly for enjoyment.

The best bit is that I get to do it as a guest rather than an industry insider. The erstwhile editor of Resort News, Rosie Clarke, thought it would be helpful if I reflected on those visits.

As a septuagenarian, my needs are somewhat different to those of a millennial but, in talking to many fellow travellers of all ages, I have found what is regularly desired in accommodation seems to apply to all ages. 

Rydges Southbank

It’s all about personalisation

Once a month at least, my wife and I go somewhere different. Totally independently.

I always book with the property direct and, as a result, I usually get the best available room for a generally very good rate and usually end up with a few perks on the side. Wherever I stay, there are a few basic expectations: breakky on-site (preferably included in the rate), free parking, a balcony and a view (not of another building!).

The variety of properties has ranged from five-star resorts, metropolitan hotels, strata title apartments, B&Bs, boutiques, ecolodges, motels and holiday parks. Other than two-out-of-four holiday parks that were certainly substandard, I have been disappointed only once and that was at a historic boutique in Toowoomba that certainly did not live up to the “luxurious” boasts on its website and was rather let down by the lacking people skills of its owner.

As a traveller, I classify an accommodation house into one of two categories: one that provides a night’s sleep and you spend as little possible time in; and one that becomes part of the destination itself and is as enjoyable as all other parts of the trip. I have learned to avoid the former, as for the few extra bucks you can turn the egalitarian into an evocative experience.

Star-Grand Penthouse

The booking process

Avoiding booking through an OTA is not an easy experience. For most hotel/resort websites are swamped by half-a-dozen booking agencies with enticing come-ons (based on cost) about the very property you wish to stay at. Care needs to be taken that you actually do get through to the property’s own page.

As a general rule, when you finally arrive at the web page, you are confronted immediately with check in/out dates. Great for the hotel but not for the potential guest. The first things a looker needs to know are: what types of accommodation does the hotel offer; at what rate; and what are the facilities.

Accommodation providers first need to sell their properties. Then (you hope) the looker becomes a booker. The first page needs to overwhelm the looker into dreams of ecstasy about what your property promises.

But, beware, ensure what you promise is what you deliver. Many times, for example, I have wondered how the view on the website was arrived at as only a drone could have taken that image.

Make the booking process easy – too often the looker has to go back and forward to find out details about the room (you might know what your ‘superior suite’ offers but the looker has no idea). Or a superb bed cover with heaps of cushions, neatly crossed rolled up towels, a flower and after-dinner mints… only to find just a normal bed and duvet! And the use of that word luxury.

Ensure any confirmation is instant and followed up by a welcoming email that can also provide an opportunity for gentle upselling. The more personalised these communications are, the more likely they will have the desired effect and response.

Direct phone bookings are important. Many questions potential guests have are not answered or easily found on websites. Yet in many cases, accommodation provider websites don’t show (or hide) email addresses or phone numbers. Those that do answer phone or email inquiries need to be clued up on the property and the destination. This is one area that small hotels/resorts do seem to prevail over chains.

One aspect that most accommodation providers overlook is what incentive is there to book direct. I do it out of respect for the provider’s bottom-line, but I could often get it for less $ from an OTA, albeit acknowledging I could get a lesser room.

Graham Vercoe

Graham is one of our most popular industry reporters. Check out his monthly special reports in Resort News by becoming a subscriber!

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  1. Brilliant observations Graham. All of us in the hotel industry want direct bookings, but as Graham says, websites need to promote phone numbers and email addresses so that a property can engage a guest and keep them away from very slick OTAs. There are lots of lessons to be learned from this article, most of which highlight that hotel marketers and web designers still can’t put themselves in the shoes of a guest who just wants to be convinced by the product and then able to book easily.

  2. We all need to promote booking direct. Of recent my wife has found several properties whose price was 10% to 15% higher when booking direct!!!
    How idiots like these survive in our industry is a mystery to me, why would anyone do that and then have to lose at least 15% in commission to all the OTAs?

    Do they seriously think that customers go direct without first checking the OTAs?

    When my wife queried why the price was higher direct (this was in person as we were parked out the front) she was told “that is our internet special price”. She came back out to the car, picked up her phone, booked via the OTA and then walked back in and said “I have just booked and paid online for booking number XXXXX”. The person behind the counter wasn’t the least bit worried that they had just lost a heap of money.

    If they had matched the OTA price, they would still have been 15% in front!!!!

    Stupid is as stupid does I suppose.

  3. Great article Graham and the comments from Peter and Andrew back that up. This is something that I have personally encountered many times. With staff in reservations or central reservations either not knowing or caring about the business, thus costing the establishment at the very least the commission that is paid to the OTA’s.

    Not only is this costing the establishment revenue, it is bad customer service and when it occurs it can often be a demonstration of the service received during the stay.

    As the saying goes, You only get one chance at a first impression! Make it the right lasting impression.

  4. Such good advice. Our luxury treehouses have our lowest level of pricing and are world class having penthouses as well. We don,t discount on the OTAs In fact our special offers are only available by booking directly through our website or preferably by phone. It is a daily concern ….how can we promote ourselves today. The common complaint is that our photographs do not reflect how good our place is. The general public do not realise that by booking through the OTAs they are directing a huge slice of money out of Australia. I suggest before booking go directly to the website and check out their specials first

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