Why Cancellation Policies Matter

Cancellation policies matter.  Check policies before you book, both the hotel’s cancellation policy and the booking agency, if you’re using one.  Over bookings may not be a frequent problem when booking hotels, but when you’re booking online, be sure to re-confirm with your hotel after receiving your online confirmation.  This will ensure a trouble-free arrival and stay.

When overbookings do occur, it may not be always evident what to do next.  By definition, the hotel is almost always responsible.  If you’ve made payments to confirm your booking, the hotel may be responsible to return your payments, even if you booked through an online agency.   If you are at the hotel, and dealing with an overbooked situation, never leave the property until you have a refund in hand or the hotel’s commitment to refund.

The booking agency often acts as an intermediary to assist with handling overbooked situations.  Instant World Booking’s policies are quite specific, and have been very successful in handling customer disputes with overbooked hotels.  Here’s the response from one of our recent customers from Australia who ran into some trouble with an overbooked hotel in Hong Kong.

Thank you for your understanding and prompt action in regards to this matter. I now hold a high regard for the way your company operates and will forward my thoughts to colleagues and anyone I know who wishes to make reservation bookings online. I will continue to use your company as my first preference when booking online. Thank you.  AG, Australia

Email Marketing Basics for your Hotel, Hostel, or B&B

With the explosion of social media marketing in 2009, email still remains a king amongst a court of princes in online marketing tools.  No matter what methods you use to market your hotel, hostel, or B&B, building loyal customer relationships is on top of the list of ways to grow your business.

Email marketing is still on top of relationship building.  Email creates a private dedicated moment with your customers.  People are picky about which emails they read.  So, if they open your email, you know you’re going to have their attention.

Email also commands a very high ROI.  Recent reports indicate that email can return as much as 45x the amount you spend on it.  It’s cheap and effective, and can build loyal customers.

Email is not going anywhere.  It is the de facto method of business communication, and will be for years to come.  Serious business people use email to communicate, not Tweets or Facebook.

Email complements social media marketing.  Good content is more important than frequency of postings.  Your email newsletter should be a centerpiece of for your communications, offering practical advice and meaningful insights that your audience finds important.  Social media is used to spot customer trends, mine ideas for future newsletter articles, respond to customer concerns, and find new mailing list subscribers.

Two-way communication is key to your business growth.  Good communication is more than talking about your hotel or B&B.  It includes listening to your guests and inviting them to communicate back with you.  Keep track of the temperature of your customers.  Smart hotels frequently survey or poll their guests in their email marketing campaigns.

Personal touch is invaluable and very effective.  The best performing hotels and hostels of 2009 made genuine connections with their guests, and turned many into repeat visitors. They communicated in a personal voice when they wrote their email newsletters.  It always helps to make customers feel like people, not just subscribers.

Free WiFi for Everyone

A recent Instant World Booking tour of Spain and France included many cities as well as a broad selection of hotels, B&Bs, guesthouses, and hostels.  We were surprised to find that less than 1 in 5 properties offer free WiFi to their guests.  One of the best conveniences to offer guests these days in the war to win over new business is free WiFi.

As business travelers, the ability to maintain constant contact with office and associates is critical.  As tourists, we also know the value of keeping up to date with friends and family, especially when on an extended tour.  In fact, while traveling Spain and France, we found it not only difficult to connect while in our hotel rooms, but also as we tried to find backup WiFi internet connections within the city.  For example, in Toledo, Spain, while some hotels offer WiFi to their guests only, ours did not.  We had arranged a stay in one of the city’s nicer 3 star properties, which was also a historic landmark.  While the hotel advertised WiFi, we were disappointed to learn that the service offered was a public network offered at a prohibitive price.  The only backup choice was a bar in the central of the historic district.  The major lesson learned is that our team in Spain vowed never again to book at a hotel that did not offer convenient, free WiFi in the guest room.  We’re sure many other travelers are exercising the same decision-making, especially in these days of excess hotel rooms available.

So, we want to inform all our hotel and lodging partners, offer free WiFi to your guests!  Advertise with a sign at your entrance or lobby, displaying your choice to offer “free WiFi” to your guests.  If you are a hotel that already offers internet access to your guests at a cost, remove that cost immediately.  Intelligent travelers these days know that it costs no more than about $50 to purchase a wireless router and set up wireless internet at minimum in a hotel lobby.  To charge for wireless these days is a message to prospective customers that your are going to be cheap and nickel and dime your guests for every last item.  That’s a real turn-off these days in a troubled economy.  If you operate a street front restaurant or cafe in conjunction with rooms for rent, hang a sign outside offering free WiFi.  This will surely start bringing in additional customers for a bite to eat or coffee.