The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) have recognized Steigenberger Hotels for their stellar direct booking performance in 2017, awarding the chain (part of Deutsche Hospitality) Honorable Mention in the 'Best Direct Business Drive of the Year' category at the Region Europe awards in Amsterdam. We have long been admirers of Deutsche Hospitality's direct booking strategy, which has seen them double their volume of direct bookings in just one year.
So, how do they do it? We sat down with Ralf Denke, Vice President E-Business of Deutsche Hospitality, to ask just that - and to find out the advice he'd give to other hoteliers looking to achieve the same success.
TRIPTEASE: Could you tell us about the 'Direct Business Drive' you implemented in 2017? What were your aims, and what were the outcomes?
RD: Driving direct business is an ongoing and constant process in our company. Therefore, all our initiatives and projects aim for decent growth rates in our direct business. It is hard to specify "the one" project which brought us enormously forward. What we did in 2017 is implement certain payment options on our direct channels, we got professional in multivariate [testing], we connected some new metasearches and we released Chatbook - our new conversational booking engine for mobile users.
Our general aim is to increase our direct booking volume 15% each year, and we doubled it in 2017. Our own websites are the second strongest online channel after Booking.com. That's something that makes me proud.
TRIPTEASE: What would your advice be to other hotels trying to grow their direct business?
RD: First of all, try to eliminate all unnecessary third parties in your online distribution - for example, static wholesalers. Rate parity is a requirement for professional online marketing activities, so avoid partnerships with companies that threaten it.
Secondly, build up knowledge inside your own company. Online marketing and metasearch bidding, for example, are not rocket science - they don't have to be done by outside agencies.
Thirdly, and most importantly, focus all your activities on customers' needs - and be open to learning from the distribution channels with more resource than you when it comes to testing.
TRIPTEASE: Why did you decide to develop a voice skill for Amazon's Alexa? Has it improved customer experience for your guests?
RD: In the beginning it was more of a personal interest. I use Alexa a lot and my apartment has turned into smart home heaven - you don't ever need to touch a button for the lights, the sound system, the heating or even the hoover! (My girlfriend doesn't share my Alexa enthusiasm unfortunately...)
We met with Amazon quite some time ago, and decided to partner on creating a voice interface that would be relevant for our customers. You can use the 'skill' to get advice on which of our hotels are the best fit for your mood and travel expectations. At the end, a personal offer is created and sent to the customer. The skill touches the guest at an early stage in the customer journey and brings an element of gamification to their choice. Guests can be inspired to visit one of our hotels in a very easy way.
TRIPTEASE: How does it feel to have received this recognition from HSMAI?
RD: It is always nice to be recognized by the hotel industry and e-business experts. It provides even more motivation for me and my team to contribute innovative ideas to the industry. This recognition really does mean a lot to me.
I have been part of HSMAI since 2015 and I like the way they connect experts in a cross-functional way.
TRIPTEASE: What are Deutsche Hospitality's main aims for 2018?
RD: We're continuing with our international expansion, as well as changing our company culture and enhancing our digital activities. We've founded a Digitalization Board, which I am a member of, to create and realize a digital landscape that fits with our customers' expectations and works for our company setup. CRM and loyalty are big tasks on our agenda, as well as making the customer journey more personalized in general. One big project will be implementing app- and web-based checkin, checkout and door unlock across the portfolio. We've already got this in place at our Jaz in the City and IntercityHotel properties.
TRIPTEASE: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the hotel industry at the moment?
RD: In my opinion, we're facing quite the same challenges as we were three years ago. The hotel industry has a very slow learning curve. As a whole, we're still fighting rate parity issues, though Triptease are really helping with this. OTAs and metasearches have big budgets and therefore far more scope than individual hotels. There are also still technology partners who are deeply integrated in the hotel industry but cannot deliver adequate solutions for our needs. And, overall, we have a growing economy that fills our hotels and increases our rates.
The challenge is to achieve as many things as possible in the bright period where we have budget for fast digitalization and improving our technology. That's what we're doing as a company that wants to be best in class.
Find out more about Deutsche Hospitality's experience with Triptease here, or watch our 2016 interview with Ralf below:
Interested in how other hoteliers have achieved success with Triptease? Check out our other case studies:
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