82 – 1 on 1 Hotel Workshop Takeaways & Insights

by | August 25, 2021

In this special edition of the Suite Spot, host Ryan Embree discusses the recent Hotel Digital Marketing Workshop Event hosted by Travel Media Group. This season’s theme was titled “How to Keep Occupancy Hot this Fall” and focused on capturing occupancy as children return to school, beginning a slow drop in leisure travel. Ryan talks about the key takeaways and common themes that he uncovered in these 1-on-1 meetings with hoteliers.

This episode keeps its finger on the pulse of the hotel industry and listeners will gain insights into the upcoming fall season. If you are looking for more information on TMG’s Hotel Digital Marketing Workshops or want to submit a topic for a future episode, reach out to us at 407-984-7455.

Ryan Embree:
Welcome to Suite Spot, where hoteliers check in and we check out what’s trending in hotel marketing. I’m your host, Ryan Embree. Hello everyone. And welcome to the Suite Spot. This is your host, Ryan Embree. Thank you for listening, no matter where you are coming from today, we’ve got a special episode and special edition of the Suite Spot. Really excited to share this episode with you all. Will be a little bit of a quicker episode, but super insightful. Now at Travel Media Group, to give you some background, obviously COVID-19 and the pandemic in 2020 impacted our business, just like the hotel industry as a whole. Travel Media Group, we’ve been in business for over 30 years and we only work with hotels. So seeing the impact that COVID-19 and this pandemic had on the industry as a whole was absolutely devastating. And, you know, we were having conversations with hoteliers throughout the entirety of the pandemic and were really feeling what they were feeling. Hotels made a lot of adaptions during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to meet the needs and expectations of guests during this health crisis. At Travel Media Group, we did the same to meet the needs and serve our customers.

Ryan Embree:
One of those really cool initiatives that we started here at Travel Media Group actually began as a virtual trade show, and we didn’t have the opportunity to meet face to face to our hoteliers like we’d done for so many years, really decades of going to these events and trade shows: AAHOA, Choice Hotels, Wyndham, Best Western, all of these that we typically will see. So one of the things that the pandemic forced us to do was adapt to this new normal setting. And with that, we did a virtual trade show where we would meet virtually with our hoteliers and get to talk to them about their properties, what they were experiencing and try to come up with creative ways and ideas to get more business to a property. So that kind of evolved in 2020 into now, 2021, where we do one-on-one workshops with hotels virtually to talk specifically about their property.

Ryan Embree:
Our educational webinars are awesome because they cover a specific subject, but for hoteliers that are looking for a tailored, specific approach for their location and their property, these workshops seem to be a really great channel and way to do that for hotels. So in saying that we have just completed our fall 2021 marketing workshop. And the episode today is actually going to be five distinct takeaways and insights that we were able to uncover in these workshop meetings and sessions with hoteliers. So let’s go ahead and jump right in the first takeaway from our hotel marketing workshops was that people are traveling now. It doesn’t sound like a very resounding takeaway, but when we did this back in the spring of 2021, people were just starting to begin to travel again, we weren’t seeing those occupancy bursts like we’re seeing right now. And like we did over the summer. Now, obviously with the Delta variant, we know that there could be some impacts on that for occupancy.

Ryan Embree:
We know during the fall time that historically even pre-pandemic have been a kind of slower time as children go back to school and we heavily rely on corporate and business travelers to be filling our rooms. But according to some STR data and hotel performance for July, 2021 occupancy as a whole was 69.6%. That’s only 5.5% down from 2019, just 5%. Last year, we were seeing double digits dips. In fact, the ADR was $143.30. That is 6% higher than July of 2019.

Ryan Embree:
So yes, people are traveling and hoteliers are excited, but that takes us to our second takeaway. And that is, although people are traveling, people are not necessarily working right now. Hotels are very understaffed and they can’t get the employees that they once had back into their hotel lobbies back to their housekeeping department. And it’s causing for a lot of the hoteliers that I’ve talked to on these workshops to sometimes stretch their employees very, very thin, or even have to jump into roles that they’d never had to do before.

Ryan Embree:
Like housekeeping, like maintenance, working multiple shifts in a day. And what happens when a hotel is understaffed is tasks have to be prioritized. And if we’re not giving the exceptional customer service and hotel experience that travelers have now come to expect, that is going to be reflective on your online reviews and impact future travelers’ booking decisions, and also set some preconceived notions before even stepping foot in the property. An understaffed workforce right now is a worst case scenario for hoteliers where cleanliness is a top priority. So being able to use your entire staff to make sure that this is a seamless, clean, your travelers feel safe in the experience that they’re going to have at your property.

Ryan Embree:
Now I’ve mentioned this before, but I think it’s important to say again right now, another side of looking at this is how your online reputation at your hotel impacts recruitment. When you’re trying to attract employees to your property, employees are going to do research on their potential workplace. And one of the places that they might look is on social media and on reputation sites. Now, if they’re seeing a hotel that is constantly receiving one-star reviews, they’re talking about the rude staff they’re talking about, the cleanliness is not up to par. An employee is not going to be attracted to that type of position because they don’t want to sit behind a front desk or they don’t want to be that housekeeper that has to interact with these guests that are upset. They would rather go to a hotel that has a great reputation and is going to be a fun place for them to work. So keep that in mind that not only are your guests and travelers looking at your reputation, but potential employees and recruitment impacts reputation as well.

Ryan Embree:
Speaking of which our third takeaway from these hotel workshops was that recent reviews are still very, very difficult to come by. Now in the spring, what happened is that we weren’t seeing the occupancy numbers that we are right now. So with less travelers meant less reviews to be online. However, these reviews are such a premium and critical factor to your occupancy. Right now, things are changing so fast. I mentioned it before with the Delta variant. Now surging in this country, content review content becomes irrelevant a lot sooner than it did in the past. So a review a month ago now can seem very outdated to a traveler in comparison to maybe 2019 when a traveler was doing research. So it was the hotels that I talked to that were getting a lot of feedback and a lot of recent reviews that travelers felt more confident that this was relevant information and was going to be accurate information as they decided to make that booking decision.

Ryan Embree:
So keep that in mind. We’ve also talked on this podcast about how reviews can be such a teaching tool for hoteliers. We can learn customer sentiment about the changes that we’ve made on property or changes that we need to make on property. For example, a lot of hotels have implemented a grab and go breakfast versus maybe a breakfast area where travelers can sit down and have a hot breakfast in the morning. What type of sentiment, how do travelers feel about that? Instead of just asking them at the front desk, we can check our reviews. And if you partner with Travel Media Group and have a powerful tool like sentiment analysis, we can find exactly what travelers are loving about your property and also things that might need to be addressed and changed for the future of the traveler experience. Recent reviews are a huge teaching tool.

Ryan Embree:
We talked about that lot on these hotel workshops. Now the fourth takeaway kind of goes back to the understaffed workforce for the hospitality industry right now, and hoteliers, a lot of the time stretched so thin have to prioritize their objectives and tasks for their days. And one of those priorities that has really fallen behind is responding to online reviews. Now this was an absolute key and something I was watching out for every single time. I did one of these workshops because again, things are changing so quickly, but responding to reviews is the best way that we can set expectations for future guests. The number one issue that we’ve identified in a hotel’s reputation and why a negative review is left is because proper expectations were not set at the time of check-in. One of the places and most impactful places that we can do this is in responding to reviews and travelers are reading those responses.

Ryan Embree:
I guarantee it, they are doing more research than ever when it comes to making these booking decisions, because now their safety and health is involved in this decision. So as a reminder, when we’re responding to this review, not only are we talking to the guests that left the review, but we’re talking to future travelers. Review response also has huge SEO implications. So if we get a positive review talking about our positive location and talking about the cleanliness and friendliness of our staff, these are keywords that we can repeat back into our responses so that when travelers are doing research for the cleanest hotels in my area, the hotels have the best location or friendly service your hotel is coming up. Now, on the other hand of that, if we have negative reviews, we never want to repeat some of these negative keywords words. Words such as COVID-19, bugs or insects is another keywords that we want to avoid in our responses, because we don’t want to ever associate these words with our property and the eyes of search engines like Google.

Ryan Embree:
So that is the fourth takeaway from our fall marketing workshops. Our fifth and final takeaway was that social media is still just a huge opportunity for hotels that is still not being fully capitalized on. And I think this also has to do with the understaffed and ranking your priorities. Hotels just don’t have the time to get on social media right now and make four or five posts per week, which is what we suggest at Travel Media Group looks like for a successful social strategy for hotels and really where we’re seeing them drop the ball is on Instagram and LinkedIn. You know, every single time I start one of these workshops, I ask the hotelier on the other side of the screen. What is your objectives and goals? And after 20 hotels are starving for corporate and business and group travel that just dropped off after the pandemic and most, if not all of those hotels that tell me that goal, I will identify that they are not active on LinkedIn, which is the one place that we can have a huge impact on business and corporate group travel.

Ryan Embree:
So leveraging your LinkedIn, doing LinkedIn lives, identifying wedding planners, group planners, local businesses, and associations. These are the type of connections and networking that we do virtually now versus maybe those face-to-face meetings that we were doing prior to COVID-19. So LinkedIn, a huge opportunity. Instagram at the beginning of this hotel recovery, it was young travelers, Gen Z, millennials that were leading the charge in this recovery. They felt more confident and comfortable than ever traveling right now, even in the midst of the pandemic. Well, if you are looking to attract those type of travelers, you need to be speaking their language and the language they speak is done through channels like Instagram. So make sure that you have a heavy presence on Instagram. You’ve got a solid strategy around Instagram. You can identify things like micro influencers, influencers on Instagram are so vital and play an important role. If they see that an influencer is out and traveling to your property, that’s going to instill confidence and comfort and them to make that same booking decision. Still a huge opportunity.

Ryan Embree:
If you’re listening and you’re not active on Instagram and LinkedIn, you are definitely missing out on two platforms that are absolute occupancy drivers. So those are the five takeaways of the fall marketing workshop. I’m really excited to announce on this podcast that we are going to be implementing this strategy and workshop initiative on a quarterly basis. So for every season, we are going to make sure that your hotel is set up for success to drive occupancy. So we just completed – it is August, 2021. Right now we just completed our fall hotel digital marketing workshops. As we head into fall 2021, and our next one is going to be for the winter 2021 workshop. And that is titled Create an Occupancy Flurry This Winter. That is going to be held on December 7th through the 9th, 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Now this workshop initiative is just a 30 minute session. One-on-one with myself, the Director of Marketing at Travel Media Group, and whoever you’d like to involve at your property. And it’s just a strategic call to help drive more occupancy for the season. So we’re going to be doing this in the winter. Again, December 7th through the 9th 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. You can sign up on our website, travelmediagroup.com/workshops, and sign up for a session and we’ll get you locked in and ready for this upcoming winter.

Ryan Embree:
And with this, I’m also really excited to announce a new workshop on demand. So if you don’t want to wait all the way until the winter season, you want to start impacting occupancy now, we’ll also be launching a workshop on demand, which gives you the freedom to book an appointment and workshop with me at any time of the year. No matter when you need that occupancy, we’ll come up with a tailored, customized strategy for your property. So a lot of exciting announcements, I think this is a great initiative to keep Travel Media Group, very close to our hotel partners and all the hotels that are just looking to try to get those extra couple of percentage points in occupancy. So if you’re looking for more information, visit our website at travelmediagroup.com. My name is Ryan Embree. Thank you so much for listening and we’ll talk to you next time on The Suite Spot. To join our loyalty program. Be sure to subscribe and give us a five-star rating on iTunes. Suite Spot is produced by Travel Media Group. Our editor is Marissa Kinzel with cover art by Bary Gordon. I’m your host, Ryan Embree, and we hope you enjoyed your stay.

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