Tnooz - TravelClick Debuts a Media Suite, Revamps its Booking Engine, and Looks at Reputation Management
Sean O'Neill, Tnooz
Read the story at: Tnooz
TravelClick, the New York-based distribution and marketing services company, is well known for the variety of tools it offers to more than 38,000 hotels worldwide.
New this summer, TravelClick has debuted its Media Suite, which analyzes a hotel’s data to recommend more optimized uses of paid media marketing. (The company manages paid search and display media for about 1,000 hotels worldwide.)
The tools aim to help hoteliers systematically monitor rates to make sure they are maintaining rate parity with online travel agencies (OTAs). The goal is to minimize the standard delay to troubleshoot rate parity issues.
TravelClick has been making other moves. The company is launching a new look and feel to its iHotelier booking engine, debuting the 4.0 version shortly. The booking engine market has been heating up, since Amadeus acquired Pyton and Sabre enhanced SynXis.
TravelClick also is looking at whether it can do more to help hotels with reputation management. It is mulling, too, how it can start offering hotels competitive rate-shopping of vacation rental and short-term rental properties, something that other companies, like RateGain, have already been working on. To learn more about the company’s strategy, Tnooz sat down with Michele Gordon, regional director of sales and a 12-year veteran at the company. The interview has been edited for brevity.
Tnooz: When you and your team speak with hotel clients, what are you hearing is the top concern?
Gordon: Volatility. In that, everything’s so unpredictable. They’re struggling to be ahead of the curve in such a volatile market where there are fewer reliable historical trends to base judgments off of.
Tnooz: Benchmarking has gotten harder?
Gordon: Benchmarking has always been difficult, but things are faster-paced now in a way that complicates it in some respects.
Shorter-term bookings, for example. Last-minute bookings used to be an airport location phenomenon. But now it’s everywhere...
Hotels want to confidently understand a fast-paced trend and make a great, strategic move that’s not going to burn them in the long run.
Tnooz: How have things changed for hotels in the past decade?
Gordon: I used to be a TravelClick customer, as an area revenue person for Hilton for a few of its hotels in the Washington, D.C.-area.
Teams used to do the annual budget…. We might redo it a few times, but otherwise it would sit on a shelf.
Today hotel staffs update the budget regularly. They are revising the budget from July into December now. It gets revisited throughout the year.
Some things are better now. What’s improved most is that hotels now have tools that offer a picture of how relevant competitors are setting rates. It’s market-segmented, channel-segmented, so that you’re able to understand where the business is coming.
I meant not just by as a group or transient, but is it coming from the web? From a global distribution system? Is it a call or direct booking somehow? Hotels have a bigger window today into what’s happening on the demand side in real-time than they used to.
Tnooz: TravelClick is not the only provider of business intelligence tools for hotels. What makes its tools stand out?
Gordon: Two things. First, we’ve listened to hotels more closely than others have, for longer than others have. What do hotels need? We either build it or acquire it. We interpret what hotels say they want and then we build visual displays that make the information actionable.
Second, we make it easy to see how rate changes are affecting your marketing. We are unlike anybody else in that we are able to help hotels adjust marketing campaigns in real-time based on real-time rate data changes. Our new Media Suite simplifies this.
Tnooz: Can you give me an example?
Gordon: Let’s talk about digital marketing and deciding on the creative. Our customers will have a price point that they create for their campaigns. We’re bringing rate-shopping information about competitors into those decisions.
We say, “Here’s all the data analytics on return on investment of how many clicks you have per call, per ad, that we put out there. And here are the price points that we’re finding that have been getting booked, as compared to what we have here, along with here’s what the future is looking like.”
How are our customers faring versus the competitors three months from now? We’re able to give rate indexing. Are you above or below your competitors? Is your index moving back and forth? Are you pacing?
The point is to make correlations between a hotel’s rate and its occupancy. Is it affecting you in a positive way? Or is there some diversion to this that’s affecting you in a way that we need to massage and re-calibrate?
Tnooz: What makes for a great decision?
Gordon: A great decision is when you have the multiple voices at the table who have some type of stake and feel confident they’re all looking at the same numbers and have a full picture.
For instance, say a convention is in town. That demand pressure is coming through, but how is that driving the rate? We are a month out, or two months out, from the cut-off date — is everyone either sold out or are the prices high? What’s the mix of group and transient? Are all of the hotel’s staff pulling in the same direction?
The goal is to make better strategic decisions when you are trying to judge what the occupancy is going to be and total hotel health.
Tnooz: When you do the rate-shopping, what about the alternative accommodation sector, Airbnb, vacation rentals and such?
Gordon: We’re trying to work with other partners to bring that in because everyone’s asking about it.
Right now the opposite is true, in that we have all the information for hotels, so someone in Airbnb or VBRO or HomeAway are able to understand what hotels are selling if they subscribe, but not the opposite. Think about it. The information is asymmetric.
Tnooz: What about groups, meetings and events? Does TravelClick tools help with that?
Gordon: For group pricing, yes and no. Demand360 has a group component. Overall pricing during events, city-wide information.
Tnooz: How about advice on strategy?
Gordon: When TravelClick was founded in 1999, one of the primary things that the founders, Richard and Ray, put to the table is that we consult.
We have people in market purposely because we want to understand what is going on. Our conversations are usually, “What are you trying to accomplish?” To quote the overused term, “What’s keeping you up at night?”
We’ll have those conversations. What part of agency demand is important to you? What’s your September like?
Tnooz: Revenue management is a concern for hoteliers. How does TravelClick help with that?
Gordon: In Demand360, there’s actually a section for segmentation. So you can see for the OTAs, who’s performing and how they’re performing in the competitive set.
If I’m not playing in that space, should I? How are the OTAs performing in my competitive set? Or, if I am already in that space, am I getting my share? It helps them to make that decision without a lot of looking around to figure it out.
Tnooz: You mentioned what’s keeping people up at night, and for many hoteliers, it’s their TripAdvisor score.
Gordon: Yes. That’s true. Reputation management is something that we’re actually going to get back into, because it is a big deal.
Guest loyalty is a big part of it, and with our guest management solution, that’s part of what we help them with and understanding the guest loyalty component of it and what their customers are looking for.
It helps to feed into that. But it is a line of business that we’re trying do more with.