Five Priorities For Independent Hotels

As independent hoteliers set their 2010 priorities, here are five operational areas essential to building a secure and profitable future:

1. PCI Compliance and Certification
PCI compliance and certification is number-one on the priority list for 2010 because of the consequences of non-compliance. PCI standards guidelines stipulate that by July 1, all credit card acquirers must ensure all merchants that use payment application software only use hotel software systems validated as compliant with the PCI, PA-DSS requirements.

This is a top priority because operators risk penalty fines if they’re not certified compliant by the deadline. Unlike chain properties, independent operators must handle the PCI issue themselves with the help of their tech providers.

2. Direct Website Bookings and eMarketing to Lower Costs
Direct website booking capability is becoming an important strategy for independent operators to market themselves, stay competitive and control booking costs. When an online booking engine is fully integrated and developed by the property management system provider, it can accurately sell last-room availability and show real-time optimized rates across all channels for maximum profitability. The system must also provide a seamless GDS interface to capture third-party online reservations. With systems such as Maestro’s eMarketing tool, all customer e-mails and relevant data can be consolidated from all channels (GDS, POS, CRS, Call Center, etc.) to drive reservations direct to the hotel website booking engine and lower costs per booking.

It’s important to note that when vendors add a booking engine to their PMS “at no cost,” or offer a self-hosted solution, there are often costly fees associated with remote hosting, system maintenance and online travel agency transactions. Booking engines that are self-hosted, are also required to be PCI PA-DSS compliant. As a result, operators must require vendors to provide verification of PCI compliance for both their booking engine and PMS.
3. Focus on Total Guest Experience to Increase Loyalty and Referrals
Personalized service and a positive guest experience will be king in 2010. When properties anticipate guests’ needs and deliver personalized service, the result is repeat business and profitability. The most effective way to deliver high-touch service is with a robust, easily accessed guest database that’s integrated with the property’s PMS to get a 360-degree guest view at every touch point. A property team can leverage this information to deliver amenities and intuitive, personalized service that builds loyalty, increased spending and referrals.

Savvy operators can use BI tools such as Maestro Analytics to view in-depth reports, spending patterns, determine most valued services and create highly targeted lists for effective e-mail and direct-mail campaigns. Effectively targeted campaigns attract guests based on their guest profile, stay patterns and activity preferences to fill rooms during seasonal soft periods. When promotions are intelligently designed and personalized to guests that are most likely to respond, guests feel valued, revenues go up and everyone wins.

4. Yield Management and Revenue Management to Maximize Profits
2010 will be a year of recovery for the hospitality industry. As with the post-9/11 turnaround, operators who use effective yield management and revenue management systems will lead their comp-set with higher RevPARs. The Maestro PMS includes a fully-integrated proactive yield management system that lets operators optimize rates for all segments across all reservation channels, including OTAs to create and maintain smart revenue strategies without resorting to emotional rate slashing tactics.

5. Social Marketing Essential in 2010 for Hoteliers to Stay Connected
How we stay connected is changing and experts agree social media is here to stay. Today’s guests are communicating with friends, family, colleagues and companies they do business with online through Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels. In 2010, the most successful hotels will reach guests and create brand advocates by using social marketing tools and channels to grab the attention of new visitors and keep in touch with their loyal client base.

Maestro’s web Connection suite of online revenue generating tools can leverage viral marketing features such as email ‘forward to a friend’ and ‘Share This’ plug-ins as well as icons and links to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. These systems also develop custom guest and group landing pages that connect online shoppers with trackable Web pages offering unique promotions that increase occupancy while boosting referrals and loyalty.

Warren Dehan is president of NORTHWIND-Maestro PMS

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