The week of May 6-12 is officially designated to be National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW). I apologize for not getting my blog post out earlier in the week, but I was traveling and missed my deadline. I figured since I was out and about traveling during Travel and Tourism Week, I was contributing to the celebration. During this week, industry professionals promote and celebrate the value travel holds on the economy, businesses and the personal well-being. In 1984 President Reagan signed a proclamation establishing the week honoring the industry. It is a pleasure to work in this sector of the economy and rewarding to know the nation acknowledges the benefits. The slogan this year for NTTW is Travel Then and Now. The slogan encourages the industry to reflect on past success and promote policies for the future. This reflection is needed more than ever in the industry. The introduction of third-party online travel agents and the internet has created opportunity and disruption for lodging travel properties. It is important to understand the changing dynamics to create a plan for success in Travel and Tourism. Here are some of my reflections on the changing dynamics of lodging properties in travel and tourism.
- The way tourists find their accommodations has changed. Although tour books are still sold, most travelers seek advice from online sites such as Trip Advisor and Yelp. Being represented online is one of the most important items a business can have. Last week I wrote about the importance of Facebook. In addition to Social Media, your personal website is important. When I reflect on e-commerce and the lodging business, I can’t help but think of the new jobs the internet has created for Innkeepers, Hoteliers, and Hosts. An independent owner can try to keep up with all the online marketing, but in addition to making breakfast and cleaning rooms, online items might get away from you. Realize that your online presence is going to put heads in beds and long gone is the one-time entry in a book that sells your rooms.
- The market is flooded with options for travelers. Analyzing your market competitors has gotten almost impossible. To properly plan for the year, a company should do an analysis of their competitors. Most companies will choose 5 similar properties and create a spreadsheet. Today, to make a competitive table, one must learn how to price shop on third-party sites. Data analysis has been taken to a new level by lodging properties. Revenue Management Companies have formed to help hotels and lodgings control revenue and dynamic pricing. You may do a competitive analysis for one month, but that analysis could change not only monthly but daily for pricing. Although this makes it harder for business to keep pricing consistent, it has opened up new doors to allow for capturing possible missed revenue.
- Economy choices are coming into their own. Room sizes are getting smaller and the guests want common spaces. Similar to the hostels of Europe, American Pods are social, fun and affordable places. Of course, there will always be a place for the presidential and honeymoon suite, but more and more travelers are demanding value and cheaper lodging options. Airbnb originally catered to these guests but now hotels are picking up the concept and running with it. Pod Hotels advertise that they maximize space and minimize waste. Pod Hotels are located in destination cities.
- Airbnb has changed the lodging platform by adding experiences. In Airbnb’s effort to create a community of belonging, they added local experiences for travelers. The addition of experiences to a platform perhaps evolved from the age-old tradition of lodging packages. Airbnb Experiences is an a la carte package for travelers. Hotels, such as Marriot has adapted this concept and created Marriot Moments. This redesign of the lodging package, not only freshens up the options but could also create a new revenue stream for a lodging. If done like Airbnb, a lodging could create a listing on their personal website and generate commission revenue for the business. Networking and commission negotiating is an important component to make the experiences work financially for a business.
- Travel Associations have to create ways to help us all live together peacefully. Travel associations are primarily for networking, education, and advocacy. Associations today have to reevaluate their strategies to allow for more types of properties to obtain membership. They also have to learn how to advocate for the membership to a member supplier or allied partner. Some smaller lodging associations have welcomed the Online Travel Agents to join their associations. Platforms such as Airbnb and Booking.com have joined some industry groups. The introduction of disruptors to an advocacy group can be a challenge and a benefit. The leadership will have to walk a fine line to keep everyone happy. Commission rates, fair share revenue, and regulation discussions could get heated when an association has to cater to both sides. I called one of the largest National Lodging Association to ask if Airbnb was a member and they said, “No, they are a competitor”. Apparently large and small associations are taking different strategies with Airbnb and it will be interesting to see where is it goes.
- I would be amiss if I did not mention Property Management Systems. The introduction of property Management systems to the travel world is probably one of the most beneficial business development for lodgings. Property Management systems allow staff to analyze, capture, retain, re-market, organize and brand a company. The technology has allowed businesses to have all important management information in one portal. Long gone are the days of reservations books and phone calls. Property Management Systems (PMS) have truly made day to day functions for properties easier.
I have pointed out just a few industry changes for travel and tourism properties. Although the technology and the members of the travel and tourism world have changed, it is refreshing to know that the personal benefits to those that travel are still consistent. Travel is important because it opens our minds to different cultures and ways of life. The travel world’s message of “welcome” is refreshing and polite. I am pleased to be a part of an industry that for years has promoted happiness and adventure. I hope those in the industry acknowledge that there are challenges to their work but the outcome is important to the County as a whole. So, this week, put down the bed linens, take your nose out of the computer and raise a glass to one of the best industries in the world, Travel.
Cheers to Maine Tourism:
Maine celebrates NTTW with the Annual Meeting of the Maine Tourism Association this week in Lewiston Maine, May 11, 2018.