There’s a short but eminently clear and to-the-point article on – of all places – the State of Indiana local government homepage about mobile websites. In the “Tourism Tech Corner” of the site, Jeremy Williams not only does a superb job of explaining why a mobile website is becoming vital for any hospitality-related business, but also drives home the fact that it’s becoming morevital with every passing month, since use of smart phones for Internet browsing is growing at a tremendous rate.
A torrent of stats from theBandBer.com today, all about the impact of social media and mobile on the accommodation sector. The dominant theme is that big hotel chains are investing more and more heavily in these areas. We all know that the invaluable thing about B&Bs and guest houses is the way they offer travellers a personal, human-scale experience which the chains can’t match – while frequently providing the same modern amenities at a much more reasonable price. But where the likes of Four Seasons go, other properties, of whatever size/type, tend to follow, sooner or later (think online booking and publishing reviews on websites.)
Anyway, here are the numbers…
Google are warning business owners, including hotel and B&B owners, that “fake glowing testimonies” written by reputation management companies on Google+ Local pages will be taken down.
Google+ Local used to just be called Google Places. It’s essentially just normal Google search with a location slant. These local search results appear anytime an online user combines a search item with a geographical modifier, i.e., “B&B York.” The results appear as a listing and as pins on a map. They are sorted by their relevance, which is determined by how close each B&B is to your current location when you search.
As part of its continuing effort to convince people that it really can generate the sort of profits that will justify its huge stock market valuation, Facebook is now trailing its latest wheeze: Graph Search. But what is it and what might it mean for owners of B&Bs, guest houses, cottages and independent hotels?
The fundamental motive behind Graph Search is this: exploiting Facebook’s one billion-plus user base to provide you with results that are appropriate to you, based on what people you are already connected to have liked (or, to be more accurate, “liked”) in the past. So, for instance, if you’re travelling to London and want B&B recommendations, Facebook will serve search results for B&Bs that friends (and friends of friends) have been to.
This may sound at the moment like one of those obscure tech stories only of interest to geeks. But given that so many properties are now reviewed on TripAdvisor, irrespective of size or type, it could have far reaching implications for everyone, from huge chain hotels to tiny B&Bs.
In news that surprised few commentators in the tourism industry, TripAdvisor has finally announced that it’s introducing a test version of “metasearch” for its users. This new service will cover both desktop and mobile versions of the site.
In his latest Guest Blog, Iain Stewart, Co-Director of online booking system Freetobook, draws on his many years’ experience in travel and hotel reservations to offer some friendly advice on keeping your customers happy.
“Most people forget or simply don’t realise that offering an excellent service to your B&B customers starts right from the initial point of contact. It is also at this point that the crucial first impressions are formed by your customers and in many cases this is over the phone or by email. There are some simple small things you can do that will have a big impact on the way your customers view you and your B&B…
Online reviews have had an incalculable impact on the travel business, that much is certain. Whether you’re the GM of a chain hotel or the owner of a B&B, you can’t afford to ignore them. When they’re good, they can act as a morale booster and a valuable “billboard” for your property on sites like TripAdvisor. When they’re fake or malicious they can cause you many sleepless nights. We’ve mentioned in the past that while it’s wrong to try and ‘game’ the system, there’s nothing wrong with asking guests who have genuinely enjoyed their stay to write a review when they return home.
As recently pointed out by travel tech website Tnooz, travellers are becoming more and more discriminating about what they look for in a hotel stay, but this can benefit smaller properties, like B&Bs, inns and guesthouses, rather than big chains.
Some interesting new insights – via USA Today – from online travel company, Orbitz. Its CEO, Barney Hardford, says that mobile devices are becoming disproportionately important when it comes to customers booking rooms at the last moment.
Airbnb is getting a lot of publicity these days, by offering a new way for accommodation owners to connect with potential customers. Founded in August 2008, the company now has over 100,000 listings in 16,000 cities worldwide. On each booking made, guests pay a service fee of 6-12%, while hosts pay a service fee of 3%. Journalists have occasionally picked up on stories of the “crazed, meth addicts trashed my property” variety, though most of these problems seem to afflict private individuals who have let out rooms or whole houses, rather than professional B&B owners who are accustomed to dealing with a constant turnover of guests.