Outperforming the OTAs: Harness the Power of Digital

Imagine a world where your ideal customers leave your property thrilled, return home and recommend you to all their friends and who thinks of you immediately when it’s time to book their next vacation. Sound too good to be true? It’s not.

Give your customers what they want online, make them feel important, leave a great impression of your brand, and they’ll spread the word to friends and family.

Your website is more than a pretty place to drop your logo and testimonials – at least, it should be. It has the potential to be your primary business development channel. Stay with me and I’ll share how you can take your site from place-filler to place-to-be.

First, a hard, cold dose of reality: more than half of website visits are made by bots, and a third of the money you pump into online ads goes to fraudulent companies lying about their statistics. Furthermore, half of online ad impressions in 2016 were never seen by human eyes, and – despite all this proven data – Expedia and Priceline still spend over US$8 billion a year in advertising.

Are you scandalised yet?

How are you supposed to develop your online business in these circumstances? The answer is that you need a trusted guide to navigate the myriad challenges and complex landscape of digital.

Fortunately, there are simple things you can do to reduce the complexity and realise the full potential of your website. The first, and most basic, is to make sure you and your visitors are secure from hackers by installing an SSL if you haven’t already. An SSL certificate ensures the safety of your most important asset – your guests. Without one, don’t even think about asking for the personal details or credit card information you need to maximise the potential of your site as a sales portal.

Second, your most important asset, after your guests, are your website visitors. They are already interested in your brand, but are you doing everything in your power to capture their direct engagement and convert them? My second suggestion is a strong conversion rate optimisation, or CRO, plan to get the most from your site visitors – ultimately turning them into guests and long-term advocates.

The third, and perhaps most important, thing is reading, understanding and harnessing the power of your own statistics and numbers. Accurate reporting of the right data is critical to pinpointing performance flaws and identifying opportunities.

Lastly is something that many business owners don’t like to hear: you must consider high-quality SEO services as a long-term strategic investment. If it helps, think of SEO and PPC as two equal line items in your traffic budget, one ushers in traffic organically while the other delivers traffic you’ve paid for with each click. In the end, SEO may prove the better investment, you pay for it once and the impact is long term. In the long-run, this expenditure will pay off for your business.

Playing with the big boys

Online travel agencies, or OTAs, are here to stay and have become the singular selling strategy for many brands. The services they offer to consumers are indisputable: a wide array of options, convenience, brand recognition, and competitive prices are among them. But they don’t have to own the guest experience.

By building a direct relationship with your guests – one that gives them a monetary and emotional reason to go to your site directly – you can bypass the big boys.

Begin by offering a best-price guarantee or other benefit for direct booking. Depending on the personality of your property, that could be an upgraded breakfast, a bottle of wine in the room on arrival, or a free 30-minute cooking course. Offer them rewards for coming directly to you rather than one of the big-name booking sites.

Next, develop a customer-relationship management, or CRM, strategy that starts the  moment one of the internet’s 4.2 billion users lands on your site. Do you have a game plan for mobilising engagement through your site; a way of ensuring the visitor experience is positive; and a plan for developing a long-term relationship with your new visitor? Without these, you can’t maximise the monetary potential of your site.

Finally, once you’ve pulled your site visitor in via your website and they’ve tried your property, incentivise future bookings from guests’ friends and family through your site via post-visit contact. Offer a future free night for a referral or discounted packages for birthdays and anniversaries – anything that works for your property.

In the long-term, your marketing and revenue teams will need to learn and develop new skills to manage and maximise the ever-changing and growing online travel market.

But you probably also need expert help in the fields of SEO, CRM, CRO, and data analysis. What are the most challenging parts of your online business? Drop me a line at brian.anderson@quo-global.com and I’ll see how we can help you. You can also give me a call on +66 2260 9494 ext. 128.

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QUO REPORT: Vietnam Rising


All pundits are in agreement: the Vietnamese tourism industry is on the up in a big way. Vietnam has remarkable potential for growth – both in terms of tourist interest and projected revenue.

Last year, the United Nations World Travel Organisation (UNWTO) listed Vietnam among the top 10 fastest-growing tourist destinations. Jones Lang LaSalle also cast a vote of confidence, listing Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi among the 26 most attractive cities for hotel investment worldwide.

But what is the word on the street? It’s easy to say ‘invest in Vietnam’, but the potential for growth is more nuanced than that. To take a closer look at what’s happening in the Vietnam market, and what might transpire within the next few years, QUO spoke with some of the country’s most prominent hospitality insiders.

Here are some of the key thoughts from the discussion.

  • Vietnam should be ranked higher in terms of potential growth. Vietnam offers fantastic opportunities for hotelier and investors, as hotel numbers are still low compared to other Asian tourism hotspots.

“I believe Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi should be in the top 20 or 15 most attractive cities in the world for hotel investment,” said Michael Piro, COO of Indochina Land, real estate division of Indochina Capital. “If you look at other Southeast Asia countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, the number of hotels in Vietnam is still very small.”

 Jung Hyun Oh, GM of Novotel Ha Long Bay agreed. “The ‘next big thing’ here should be much more investment right across the country: Phu Quoc, Dalat, Nha Trang, Mui Ne need more luxury resorts, and Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City need mid-scale brands.”

  • The luxury market may not be that attractive to investors. There are certain areas where luxury hotels are in short supply, but overall, it’s not the most profitable market in the country.

  “In Hanoi, there is still room for luxury products, but in general, this sector is not very attractive to investors in term of profitability,” said Olivier Do Ngoc Dung, Managing Director of Dynasty Investments. He remarked that the most interesting sector was that of international-standard budget hotels, currently only seen in HCMC and Hanoi. He also believes in the potential of coastal town Ho Tram, where Dynasty Investments last year signed a partnership agreement with Club Med.

  • The mid-scale market is promising, and could put pressure on luxury brands.

“You see local products with lower quality, but you rarely see internationally-managed, affordable luxury products,” said Michael. “I think the ‘affordable luxury’ concept is going to put pressure on 5-star hotels – it will change the market.” The big players will try to create similar brands, he said, or try to buy local brands to fulfil the affordable niche. “Local operators will also change, as you can start to see at Silverland and Liberty.”

  • Tech will play a role, but not a crucial one. Vietnam has some catching up to do in the tech sphere – will this be a problem in an industry increasingly turning to technology to individualise services?

“I don’t believe that much in the interruption of the artificial intelligence that people are talking about,” said Olivier. “In a country like Vietnam, small or boutique hotels are defined by culture and service. Travellers want human contact, so artificial intelligence will not be a threat. Regarding advances like mobile apps – now that OTAs dominate the market, I’m not sure if mobile applications for checking or planning the whole stay are right for small hotels.”

Michael, whose new project Wink Hotels will embrace technology, explains the millennial attachment to tech. “Today’s travellers want almost everything on their phone. Everyone now has their own Netflix, Apple music, Apple TV, Apple whatever and are now travelling with their own personal content. Everything is being streamlined to automatic devices.” For this reason, Wink will make it possible for guests to easily stream content from their phone to the in-room TV.

On the operations front: “Most hotel experiences that used to be handled by people can now be taken care of by technology,” he said. “There will be greater initial investment in hotels, but lower operating costs over time, because what you used to need 100 people to do, now you can do with 20.”

  • Design should play a more prominent role. While local brands strive to reach international standards, Western travellers are still looking for something authentically local.

“One thing we’re seeing now is that people are looking for hotels with personality. ‘Can I stay somewhere where I can experience something unique? Can I experience something that would create good memories about this place?’” said Luis Riestra, Cluster Director of Sales & Marketing, AccorHotels.

Olivier also believes there’s room for innovation in design – both from an aesthetic and a practical standpoint. “New builds and renovations can incorporate open floorplans, co-working spaces, workout facilities, bars and cafés – all of which are especially appealing to the much-sought-after millennial traveller.” There are some brands in Vietnam already doing this, he noted, such as Kafnu by Next Story Group.

  • Vietnam has changing traveller demographics that will influence the local hospitality scene. New markets such as China and India have for the moment replaced Western visitors as the main source of inbound tourism.

“There should be a re-thinking of the products and service offerings for those customers,” said Olivier. He noted that international guests’ behaviours have changed dramatically in the last few years. South Vietnam used to be seen as a cheap destination – mainly backpackers and recent graduates, but is now attracting higher spenders with more time for leisure and lifestyle experiences.

It should also be noted that Vietnam is hoping to increase the average tourist spend up to US$1,080 by 2020. Vietnam Airlines’ direct flights to Paris, Frankfurt and London and the US (from late 2018) may see traveller numbers from the West increase.

  • International hoteliers should not underestimate local players. Even though Vietnam is still catching up to the West, this is not necessarily a disadvantage.

“Don’t think ‘Oh, Vietnam will take years for that.’ Every day, people become better and faster and smarter,” said Michael. “There is so much money-chasing in Vietnam real estate right now, especially in the hospitality sector, it’s going to force innovation, because to be competitive to survive in the market, you have to be innovative.”

“So how should hotel owners and operators react? I would say ‘watch what’s going on and keep up, stay curve’.”

  • Overall, the success of the Vietnamese hotel and travel industry will be a ‘team effort’. Everyone sees the country’s potential, so interest is coming from a range of sectors.

  “Local owners and operators are really waking up to the opportunities on offer in their own backyard,” said Catherine Monthienvichienchai, Strategy Director at QUO. “There is huge optimism about the future of hospitality in Vietnam, and everyone wants a piece of it. Business owners who’ve made their money in other industries see it as a point of pride to diversify into hospitality; almost to showcase their success.

“Meanwhile, we’re seeing a wave of second-generation owners taking over with a much bigger and bolder vision – many have lived or travelled extensively overseas and have a clear understanding of the international landscape. Whether they create their own brands or work with international operators, they aim high and move fast.”

For periodic market updates, add the QUO blog to your bookmarks list – or subscribe and get all our news. 

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Bangkok: The Future of the World’s Most Visited City

In 2017, Bangkok was the most visited city in the world for the second consecutive year, according to the Mastercard Destination Cities Index.

The capital of Thailand has transformed into a megacity, a status confirmed by large-scale urban redevelopment and massive infrastructure projects.

The 50 billion baht (USD $1.5 billion) Icon Siam development is changing the skyline on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya river and will be the first project to integrate road, rail and river transportation. The BTS and MRT public transport networks are rapidly expanding, with the MRT Blue Line extension further opening up Thonburi while the BTS line to Don Muang airport will alleviate the delays and frustrations caused by traffic gridlock.

Other massive redevelopments underway in the Big Mango include One Bangkok, a 16-hectare mini-metro next to Lumphini Park, and the Grand Rama IX super tower, which at 615 metres will be one of the world’s tallest buildings and an unmissable landmark when complete. And these projects are just the beginning of Bangkok’s megacity makeover.

But what exactly is a megacity and how does Bangkok compare with other global urban conglomerations? Those questions and many others will be answered at the 2018 Thailand Tourism Forum (TTF), the country’s biggest annual hotel event. The 2018 TTF spotlight will shine on Bangkok and speakers from some of the largest Thai conglomerates will discuss Bangkok’s future growth in new districts as well as the reinvention of historic areas.

QUO CEO David Keen will moderate a TTF panel discussion about Bangkok’s brand and how the new economy will shape perceptions of the city. David will be getting the opinions of some highly respected names in the local hotel and development industries including Ingo Schweder, CEO at GOCO Hospitality; Thomas Schmelter, IHG Group’s Director of Operations for Thailand & Indochina; and Cobby Leathers, Head of International Business for Sansiri PCL.

Organised by the American Chamber of Commerce, TTF 2018 is a unique opportunity to hear Thailand’s hotel and hospitality heavyweights candidly discuss the economy, growth and other issues affecting tourism. Attendance at TTF is complimentary but advanced registration is required.

Date: Monday, 22 January 2018

Venue: Grand Ballroom, Level 4, InterContinental Hotel, Bangkok.

Registration: Send an email to TTF@amchamthailand.com or visit AMCHAM website

For more information and to register, go to www.ThailandTourismForum.com