TEN REASONS TO LOVE THE INTERNET

The Internet has changed our professional and personal lives. Often, that change has been disruptive, and disruptive change is often viewed negatively. Despite that, I suggest these changes have resulted in developments that benefit us profoundly. Here is my Top 10 list.

E-mail

Yes, e-mail management is a challenge, but e-mail has provided us with the ability to communicate easily, globally and quickly. We ask questions, disseminate information and conduct non-stop dialogues that did not (and could not) occur prior to e-mail inception.

Competitor Information

Visiting competitor hotels to copy group and convention names from their lobby reader board and calls to competitors' reservation offices have been replaced by vastly more informative (and faster) access to their websites. Competitive rate search tools such as Travel Axe, Rate Tiger, and TravelClick's Rate-View, now joined by meta-search sites such as Kayak.com and Sidestep.com, have streamlined and improved this important data collection process.

Recruiting

Classified ads in the local newspaper have, thankfully, given way to employment opportunity buttons on our websites and the array of hospitality-oriented employment sites like Hcareers.com and more general job sites such as Monster.com. These enable us to publicize our openings and draw from a broader, deeper labor pool. Yes, there are still waves of resumes, but now they are electronic.

Information, Information, Information

Need a new source for coffee mugs? Want to find the addresses for travel agents in Milwaukee? The web has almost everything, and search engines like Google, Yahoo and Ask.com help us find it (in sets of 10 entries at a time for 3,853,002 listings!).

The World Is Our Marketplace

In the hospitality industry, the Internet has removed geographic boundaries — our client base is global.

Our Hospitality Encyclopedia

News, vendor announcements, who's moving where, best practices for just about everything, corporate policies, brand standards and staff training …newsletters, manuals, policies and procedures and so much more are now immediately available online. Web-Based Systems. Internet-based property management systems (PMS), point-of-sale systems (POS) and other previously locally installed technology are becoming more widely available. Local hardware maintenance, periodic software upgrades and the need for back-up tapes are beginning to disappear as formerly in-house and directly maintained systems are replaced by web-accessed technology that, incidentally, requires little or no capital expenditure.

Guest Feedback Sites

TripAdvisor.com, Igougo.com, HotelChatter.com — inconvenient for hotels? Maybe. Requiring work to monitor — no doubt! These immensely popular sites are now integral to travel (especially lodging) shopping. TripAdvisor now has five million postings for 220,000 hotels worldwide. Are these sites perfect? No. Biased reviews do occur but readers recognize and discount these. In the end, operators of good properties receive the acclaim they deserve and bookings follow.

Online Bookability

E-purchasing is on a roll. Consumers are increasingly comfortable buying everything from pajamas to Christmas trees to cars online. Hotel reservations are no exception. The Internet booking engines of our brand or property websites, combined with those of the online travel agencies (Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, etc.), are enabling and delivering a growing and increasingly global stream of bookings to us.

Relationships With Our Guests

The web has enabled us to promote our properties more widely and appealingly. Not only has it has enabled instant bookability, equally importantly it has enabled us to continue and strengthen relationships with our guests. The results are both greater use of our properties' facilities and loyalty to both property and brand. Hotel-guest communication unfeasible in the pre-Web world is now not only practical but highly productive.

Are the Internet and its World Wide Web a nuisance? A time trap? A rich resource? A business source? A source of untold future opportunities? Yes to all, without doubt. Are they the enemy? No, not at all.


By John Burns, president, Hospitality Technology Consulting. Reach him at John@burns-htc.com and/or 480 661-6797.

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