Driving Top-line Revenues

Enough is Enough!

April 17, 2014

Walking the line between just enough technology and too much technology

By: Drew Rosser, VP of Enterprise Sales, Sceptre Hospitality Resources

When I started in the electronic distribution industry back in early 2000 a booking engine on a hotel’s website was a rather new and innovative thing.  In many cases when calling on hotels I had to ask if they had a website.  On a few occasions I had hoteliers tell me the Internet was a fad.  I’m sure those individuals are not heading up their hotel’s Internet Marketing Strategy today.

Rather incredible how much things have changed.  None of us can imagine a hotel without a website or not using a booking engine.  Now with a multitude of different interfaces between various systems a hotel can operate at such a more efficient way than ever before, thus allowing a hotel to truly maximize rate value and occupancy.

All of these efficiencies and technological innovations have created a hunger for more—more operational efficiencies, access to more data, more insight to what hotel consumers do.  What they do on the hotel website, what they do once they check in.  What they do once they check out, what they say via social media.  As a hotelier how can I tweak my rates based on various conditions or scenarios?  What is my competition doing?

PMS< CRS<IMS<CRM<RMS<CMS<IDS<OTA<GDS I am sure there are more acronyms but you get the picture.  So many different technology providers, new ways of doing things and new data reports are inundating hoteliers.  A hotelier barely has enough time to get comfortable with a new report before they are shown another and another.  Sometimes I feel as if hotels are looking for that silver bullet.  That one thing that will change everything and open up the floodgates to sold out nights and maximum rates.  The trend now seems to be offering device specific rates, such as a Mobile only rate or rates based on geographic locations.  Hoteliers are being sold ideas that make no sense.  Why would you do any of that?

Certainly, there are revenue management strategies that need to be adhered to.  A hotel or hotel chain needs a well-designed and easily navigable website with an excellent booking engine but at some point too much technology, too much data, a too convoluted revenue management strategy is just that, too much.  If as a hotelier you don’t have enough time to truly go through and understand all the reports you are paying for, you have too many.  If you go through them but don’t understand what action to take based on the report, you don’t need it.  My point is that you should not let technology get in your way. It should be an asset not an impediment.

There is no silver bullet.  Hoteliers must go back to being hoteliers.  If your property isn’t clean, if your staff isn’t helpful and courteous, there is no system that can help you.

Advertising with Consortium…Good Idea?

April 10, 2014

By: Eric Gourdie, Strategic Revenue Director at Sceptre Hospitality Resources

Hoteliers, and many others in the industry, won’t say it out loud, but all have thought about it. I’m speaking of the fear all hoteliers have; the fear of becoming forgotten and unknown; a transparent, run-down shack on Highway 1. So, how is this fear overcome?

Whether the hotel is an independent 2 room, escape palace or a 500 room chain hotel, there is one thing in common between them—the ability to utilize consortias to advertise and market the hotel. Marketing and advertising is the key to keeping a hotel afloat and not becoming a Highway 1 road ornament!

Consortias are effective at helping properties gain revenue and increase reservation volume because of their ability to market and advertise. Consortias advertise to some of the most important people in the industry, Travel Agents and Travel Agencies. Many consortias allow hotels to give incentives to travel agents, and/or the agency, to book the hotel. Remember, a hotel must be participating in the accepted consortia program, but this type of service allows the travel agents to become familiar with a hotel, and in turn, increase reservations.

Each consortia is different and they all have different ways of advertising. However, the one thing they do all have in common is the advertising market. E-mail blasts, newsletters, fax blasts, and broadcasts are just a few ways consortiums grab the travel agents’, and agencies’, attention. Looking at the advertising and marketing plan of a consortia your hotel has been accepted to is a great place to start for getting your property recognized.

Contacting the consortias that have accepted your hotel is another great place to begin for advertising and marketing means. They can give different suggestions that tailor to your hotel’s marketing and advertising needs as well as create strategies to accomplish your marketing goals. Contacting them also lets them know about the hotel so they won’t forget in the future!

Another suggestion is to visit the consortia’s offices and introduce yourself and the hotel. Of course, you only want to do this to the consortias that have accepted the hotel, but putting the hotel in front of them, and letting the consortia know the hotel is out there, shows you care and you are interested in their product.

Travel Agents do play a big part in gaining reservations and revenue. Running a Travel Agent Report from WindsurferCRS allows you to view all the different types of travel agencies that are booking at your property. Contact the travel agencies that produce high bookings and are in the same city as the hotel. This is a great way of recognizing the source of reservations. Send a Thank You note, visit their offices, or even send a small gift. This allows other means of exposure to the hotel, and gives travel agents another incentive to book at your property. Utilizing these simple tools to market your hotel can lead to increases in revenue and reservations.

Jason Mier Joins Sceptre Hospitality as Director of Client Experience Management

April 2, 2014

HOUSTON, TX, April 2, 2014— Sceptre Hospitality Resources today announced that Jason Mier has joined the company as SHR’s first Director of Client Experience Management. In this role, Mier will oversee all touch points between SHR and its clients as the company strengthens its focus on client satisfaction and support. Acting as a liaison between the sales and product teams, client services, and customers, Mier is a key addition to the company as SHR responds to its growth, rolls out their new Internet Booking Engine and enhances support features for its WindsurferCRS.

“The addition of Jason to our team is the result of a long search for a person that not only would have the technical qualifications and experience, but that understood our culture of service, integrity, teamwork, and creativity. Many at SHR know and have worked with Jason in the past and I am convinced that he will bring tremendous value to the team and the organization as a whole,” explained Rod Jimenez, SHR’s Chief Operating Officer.

Mier is tasked with reinforcing the value of SHR client experience managers as revenue driving experts and strategic allies to SHR’s clients.  Previously, Mier served as the Key Account Manager—Top Accounts at TravelClick. He has over 20 years of experience in customer service, revenue management, sales and operations within the hospitality sector. Mier holds a Bachelor of Science in Hotel & Revenue Management from the Conrad N. Hilton College and a Minor in Business Marketing from the University of Houston.

About SHR

Sceptre Hospitality Resources is an innovative provider of reservations technology and services for the hospitality industry.  The company serves nearly 3,000 properties on its reservation platform.  SHR’s suite of products includes its proprietary WindsurferCRS, a state of the art central reservations system, MotionNotes, a video messaging platform, SpaLinx, a spa management and appointment booking application, Whiteboard Labs,  a custom web design and development lab,  and Revenue Management for Hire, a cost effective revenue management solution for properties of all sizes and brand affiliations.

Additional information about SHR and hospitality industry trends and tools may be found at the company’s website: sceptrehospitality.com.

The Shopping Cart Metaphor Enhances the Booking Experience and Empowers the Hotelier

March 28, 2014

By: Angelo Directo, Vice President of Design, Sceptre Hospitality Resources

The e-commerce experience is ubiquitous. Most anyone who has bought something online is well-acquainted with this process.

You browse for a product by selecting a category and looking at a list of related items. You then click on an item in that list to get a detailed description, photos, options and pricing. Next, you select from the options such as size, quantity or color, and then place that item into your shopping cart. When you’re ready, you then review your cart, remove unwanted items, edit quantities, check the total price and then checkout. This online shopping experience is well-understood and generally expected when buying products online.

In our new booking engine we take this same, ubiquitous e-commerce experience and apply it to the process of making an online reservation. We intend to re-invent online reservations in a way that enhances the experience for the guest and empowers the hotelier.

For the guest, the experience of making a reservation online is not only more familiar and friendly, but in using a shopping cart metaphor, the guest is more free to shop for an experience within all the products and services offered by a hotel chain. The guest is able to book a reservation that may encompass multiple hotel stays, across multiple properties, each with multiple rooms and occupancies. The guest has simply to pick a property, browse through what is available and add a room stay to his or her shopping cart. Furthermore, given the ease of online shopping this reservation can easily include non-room items and add-ons such as a meal plan, champagne, bike rental or any other hotel-sponsored product or service.

For the hotelier, the shopping cart metaphor turns the booking engine into a true e-commerce storefront. As such the hotelier is empowered to merchandise and sell most anything the hotel has to offer. In our new booking engine the entire gamut of tactics and strategies used by online merchants are now available to the hotelier. Products and services can be grouped together so as to encourage comparative shopping. Persuasive messages can better encourage the up-sell or cross-sell. Overall, the hotelier has a more effective online storefront where he or she can show guests everything that the hotel has to offer in a way that is relevant and controlled.

By taking our booking engine into the e-commerce arena, we know that there’s still a long journey ahead of us. As we get better data and feedback from our clients, we will continue to tweak our designs and allow it to evolve into a more conversion-focused experience that addresses the needs of both guest and hotelier.

Sceptre Hospitality Resources Unveils New, Innovative Booking Experience

March 27, 2014

HOUSTON,TX,  March 27, 2014— Sceptre Hospitality Resources today announced their new Internet Booking Engine (IBE) which will be released to the industry in April 2014. The new IBE includes responsive design, a shopping cart style booking process, persuasive messaging, and the brand new Call-to-Continue™ feature, among other exclusive functions.

“It’s exciting to see the result of months of collaborative work between our design and development teams. We’re listening to our clients as we re-define the booking experience. We want to provide hoteliers with better tools to engage the guest and merchandise their offerings. At the same time, we are addressing more complex conversion scenarios which involve multiple contexts and multiple devices,” said Angelo Directo, VP of Design for SHR.

The design and development teams took a fresh approach to the new booking engine to capture conversion and prevent abandonment. The release marks the first real shopping cart experience for hotel booking engines and it includes multiple features to help hotels convert cross-context and mobile visits to the booking engine. These features include the Save for Later and Call to Continue™ options.

Save for Later

If guests are not ready to book, they can save their cart by simply entering an e-mail address. A link to their cart will then be sent to them to complete the booking process at a later time. Hotels can also use this feature to target these guests in future e-mail campaigns to re-engage their attention and increase bookings.

Call to Continue™

If a mobile guest has added items to their cart, but would prefer not to enter their information online to complete the booking, he has the option to call to continue by simply touching a number on the device. This feature sends the reservation information to the hotel’s call center with a unique Cart ID that allows the reservation agent to pick up where the guest left off and complete the booking.

To facilitate promotions and up-selling, the new booking engine offers a Discount Code field on the shopping cart and checkout screens. These screens also highlight any discounts the guest has already received during the booking process.

Add-ons are not new to SHR’s booking engines, but the new IBE allows items to be added in the cart view—even if the itinerary is multi-room and multi-property. Guests have the option of viewing their itinerary costs in an easy to read and understand Summary or Detail format.

The new IBE is fully optimized for single property independents, multi-property groups, and large hotel brands. SHR helps multi-property groups and large hotel brands cross-sell with features such as a comparison view, the ability for a guest to book multiple rooms, even different room types, and multiple stays across many properties in one transaction, and suggestive selling prompts located in the cart view.

If your hotel or hotel chain is interested in more information, please contact SHR at info@sceptrehospitality.com

Millennium & Copthorne Hotels Upgrade to SHR’s WindsurferCRS

March 19, 2014

HOUSTON, TX, March 19, 2014—Sceptre Hospitality Resources today announced that Millennium & Copthorne Hotels migrated their global portfolio of over 100 hotels to SHR’s WindsurferCRS. With hotels throughout Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East, and North America, Millennium & Copthorne is confident that the WindsurferCRS is the best product for the diverse organization.

“The successful implementation of the Windsurfer CRS allows M&C to achieve its strategic objective of increasing direct sales, while at the same time allowing for an integrated approach to distribution. Our distribution system now benefits from seamless play between revenue management, channel distribution and digital marketing due to our new CRS having efficient connectivity with our decision management, channel management and content management systems. The hospitality interpretation, within the internet booking engine, of the online industry’s best practice shopping cart approach is a boon for both marketers and shoppers. This is the start of a significant improvement in the online customer’s buying experience” states Nayan Peshkar, Vice President of Revenue Management & E-commerce Europe for M&C.

The WindsurferCRS platform is the industry’s most flexible central reservation system, featuring user friendly and consistent layouts on all application interfaces, multi property displays with dynamic availability options and enhanced rate management features.

In addition to a direct connection with Travelport, Windsurfer also has direct connections to many Online Travel Agencies including Travelocity, Expedia, Booking.com, Orbitz, TripConnect, Hotelscan, Jetsetter, Roomkey, GHX, wego, LondonTown, and Agoda.

Another important benefit of the migration is the deep integration with other hotel systems used by Millennium, such as Revenue Management Systems and Property Management Systems.  M&C will be utilizing Windsurfer’s two-way-advanced interface with Opera, as well as the Windsurfer interface with IDeaS revenue management, and the Windsurfer Channel Manager.

“One additional aspect of this project that we are celebrating is that M&C is the inaugural user of SHR’s new Internet Booking Engine, which will be released to the industry at large in the coming weeks”, commented Rod Jimenez, Chief Operating Officer of SHR.  “The new IBE includes responsive design, a shopping cart style booking process, persuasive messaging, and the brand new Call-to-Continue™ feature, among other exclusive functions.”

About SHR

Sceptre Hospitality Resources is devoted to conversion-oriented innovation.  The company serves nearly 3,000 properties on its reservations platform.  In addition to Windsurfer, a state-of-the-art central reservation system (CRS), SHR’s other software and services include MotionNotes, a video messaging platform, SpaLinx, a spa management and appointment booking application, Internet application development, web and booking engine design, and revenue management services.

Additional information about SHR and hospitality industry trends and tools may be found at the company’s website: sceptrehospitality.com.

About Millennium & Copthorne Hotels Plc

Millennium & Copthorne Hotels plc (M&C), listed on the London Stock Exchange since 1996, is a dynamic, global hotel company, which owns, asset manages and/or operates a worldwide portfolio of over 100 hotels across seven distinct global brands – Grand Millennium, Millennium, Grand Copthorne, Copthorne, M Hotel, Studio M and Kingsgate – throughout Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East, and North America.

Millennium Hotels and Resorts (MHR) was established as a global brand by Millennium & Copthorne Hotels plc to provide a common marketing and operating platform across its portfolio. Founded on the philosophy of genuine hospitality, this dynamic hospitality group has an outstanding reputation for excellence, taking pride in exceeding the needs of its business and leisure travelers. The strategic locality of its properties in gateway cities such as London, Paris, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Singapore, Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, and Bangkok makes MHR the perfect address to conduct your business or indulge yourself while on holiday. www.millenniumhotels.com

Sceptre Hospitality Resources Increases Functionality of WindsurferCRS

March 12, 2014

HOUSTON, TX, March 12, 2014— SHR today announced several enhancements to their WindsurferCRS, along with an expansion of their direct connect network and the addition of several Property Management System (PMS) and Revenue Management System (RMS) integrations. The team at SHR is dedicated to online conversion for hotels and all updates made to Windsurfer reflect this focus.  “We are constantly looking for ways to add valuable functionality to our applications and listening to our clients and their strategies so that what we do is immediately relevant to their business” said Estella Hale, Product Manager for the WindsurferCRS.

Inventory Management Enhancements

The inventory screen within Windsurfer has become more user friendly and informative. It highlights frequently searched items, such as number of rooms available and number of rooms reserved, much more effectively. Oversell functionality has been enriched to allow a property to differentiate between the base number of rooms available and indicate additional rooms for oversell at property or room level. Fields have also been added to display newly introduced functionalities such as “Market Segment” and “Sub Channel” that will appear for meta-search sites and additional distribution channels.

Rate Management Enhancements

The rate derivation feature now includes additional variables through which the user can control the deltas.  Hoteliers are able to set rate derivations by season, creating flexibility in their derivation. With the addition of another level of hierarchy for rate derivation, a user can now create a double derivation, allowing for a derived rate to be the master of another rate.

Windsurfer has always allowed the creation of restricted rates, which can be accessed by individualized Rate Codes via the web booking engine, but properties can now create additional access codes for those restricted rates. This feature can be used for existing restricted rates or new restricted rates.

Additional Integrations

With a continued focus on the convergence of systems and ease of distribution, SHR continues to add partners and enhance existing interfaces with PMS providers. SHR has also completed the certified integration with IDeaS Revenue Solutions. The integration supports both BAR and LRV values and hurdles and offers mutual clients a streamlined integration that will result in improved rate optimization coupled with extensive distribution.

SHR understands the importance of constantly expanding its distribution network.  Therefore, direct connections to many distribution sources continue to be added. Direct connections recently added include:  TripConnect, Hotelscan, Jetsetter, LondonTown, WeGo, and Agoda.  This adds to the already existing direct connections to Expedia, Travelocity, Booking.com, and Orbitz, SHR also added a channel management solution which includes connections to over 100 different Online Travel Agencies.

About SHR

Sceptre Hospitality Resources is devoted to conversion-oriented innovation.  The company serves nearly 3,000 properties on its reservations platform.  In addition to Windsurfer, a state-of-the-art central reservation system (CRS), SHR’s other software and services include MotionNotes, a video messaging platform, SpaLinx, a spa management and appointment booking application, Internet application development, web and booking engine design, and revenue management services.

Additional information about SHR and hospitality industry trends and tools may be found at the company’s website: sceptrehospitality.com.

Four Tips to Successfully Propel Your Property into the Mobile Age

March 7, 2014

By: Rod Jimenez, Chief Operating Officer, Sceptre Hospitality Resources

As smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices evolve, consumers are thrown into an age where they can complete almost any task on-the-go, across multiple devices, at their convenience.  With this growing trend, it makes sense that consumers are changing the way they book hotel rooms.  Given the still somewhat inconvenient mobile payment phase in a smart phone, a growing number of bookings are completed in a cross-context/cross-device environment. For example, a hotel search can be started on a mobile device, continued on a tablet, and confirmed on a desktop or with a call to the hotel’s central reservations office.

It is important for hotels to respond to this trend to deliver an easy, even enjoyable, booking experience for their guests. The following tips will help propel your property into the age of mobile.

1. Incorporate Responsive Design

Responsive design makes it possible to have a consistent experience that adapts to the size of the screen being used to research or book a hotel stay. This should apply not just to a web site, but to the booking engine itself. An added benefit is that this makes the maintenance of different booking engines for desktop, tablet, and smart phones no longer needed, which in turn means savings and efficiency.

2. Change the way you think about your booking engine

The convergence of the hotel website and the booking engine is more important than ever. The line between the two should become blurry very quickly… i.e. Hotels should think of their website as their booking engine and their booking engine as their web site.

3. Create a booking experience, not just a booking process

You should think of the booking process as the first experience a guest has with your property. They will expect the ability to very seamlessly jump between contexts, and you need to deliver. For example, it should be very easy and intuitive for a mobile phone user to complete the payment process via a desktop or even a call to a phone agent. This requires that the booking engine be equipped with features like shopping cart functionality that allows a user to save a cart for later booking and call center integration so that one touch connects the user with a reservations agent who has access to the user’s partially completed booking.

This makes it possible to avoid having the guest repeat the portion of the process he has already completed on the mobile device, which improves conversion and guest satisfaction with the process.

4. Implement mobile payment platforms

Integration of the CRS with mobile payment platforms like Google Wallet will also become important in facilitating conversion from mobile channels. If the guest is detected to be logged into a particular ecosystem, like Google, then it becomes logical to allow him or her to complete a transaction with just one extra click.

This is an exciting trend for hoteliers and the analysis of data on user patterns and behaviors will prove very valuable as CRS providers continue to adapt to this new paradigm.

IDeaS and Sceptre Hospitality Resources Announce Integration to Help Hotels Maximize Productivity and Revenue

December 13, 2013

IDeaS RMS integrates WindsurferCRS to help clients offer the right price to the right customer at the right time

IDeaS Revenue Solutions, the leading provider of pricing and revenue management software, services and consulting to the hospitality industry, today announced the integration of Sceptre Hospitality Resources’ WindsurferCRS with IDeaS Revenue Management System (RMS).

The integration offers clients increased online exposure to a multitude of top-performing local and international booking sites through one fast, easy-to-use and reliable interface. Each day, the IDeaS RMS recommends customized pricing strategies to hotel revenue managers and automatically sends the updated rates to Sceptre’s WindsurferCRS, which promptly forwards the rates to online travel agencies. The streamlined, automated integration results in faster and more extensive rate distribution and improved rate optimization. (more…)

Three Things You Should Know About Channel Management

November 13, 2013

Sceptre Hospitality Resources recently had an article posted on HotelExecutive.com about channel management by Eric Gourdie, Strategic Revenue Director.

With hundreds of distribution channels and many more to come, what is channel management all about and what should be your primary objectives? These are the deliberations of our revenue management and WindsurferCRS leadership teams at a recent Sceptre Hospitality Resources innovation meeting.

Together we came up with three things hoteliers should know about channel management: Know the Facts; Get Connected; and Monitor Costs. (more…)

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