Welcome to “Insider Perspectives”, a new series in which we interview travel industry insiders and veterans to hear their insights and stories, drawing upon their unique and impressive backgrounds.
Last time, we talked to Nate Lane, our Senior Director of Digital Platforms at Travel Tripper, to find out what he does in and outside of the office.
This week, we sat down with Joan Evelyn Lee, our Vice President of Operations at Travel Tripper, to learn about the latest hospitality trends as well as her favorite travel destinations.
Tell us about your role at Travel Tripper. What’s the most interesting and enjoyable part of your job?
As the VP of Operations, I wear many hats and get involved with many departments. One of my main responsibilities is to create and implement processes to ensure that we are prepared and successful as the company scales and grows. The company is growing at a fast pace in terms of both the number of hotels and the number of employees. Lots of changes are happening here at Travel Tripper, so I’m very excited to be a part of it.
When it comes to revenue management, what are the common challenges for independent hoteliers?
For an independent hotel with no brand affiliation, increasing exposure or growing brand awareness can be very challenging, so many independent hotels end up depending on the OTAs for a large contribution of their reservations.
Also, hotels struggle to fight OTAs on rate parity. With rogue OTAs such as Amoma and even major OTAs playing the rate parity game internationally or on meta search sites, hotels need a 24/7 online monitor to make sure that their rates are in parity and that they are not losing on direct bookings because of lower rates found elsewhere.
Another challenge that hoteliers often face is figuring out the cost of acquisition on distribution channels.
What are the biggest opportunities for hotels to grow?
One of the main goals that all hotels work towards is to grow their direct channels, which have lower distribution costs. For independent hotels, there is an opportunity in gaining more insight into their customers with CRM systems.
Before, only large chains were using CRM systems, whereas nowadays CRM systems are becoming more widely available for independent hotels. CRM systems contribute to growing the hotel’s direct channels by enabling hoteliers to do personalized marketing (such as email marketing) and to sell member-only rates on the hotels’ websites. Because independents are not fenced with rules or red tape for any marketing or operational initiatives, independents can get creative with their strategies with a faster time to launch as well.
What kind of strategic or operational changes can hotels make to drive strong results?
They should ensure that the customer experience from making a reservation to checking out is a positive and even better, a memorable one that is worthy of a good review.
The website should be easy to use and to find relevant information. The booking engine should be highly effective in converting customers by offering the best rates and promos. Ratings on social media, OTA sites, and TripAdvisor have a significant impact on bookings. There is a strong, positive correlation between the ratings (good or bad) and the amount of bookings they drive for a hotel.
How is today’s distribution landscape different from a few years ago?
Today, apps such as HotelTonight, Brand.com apps, and OTA apps are playing larger role in driving bookings, so hotels continue to see an increase in mobile bookings.
How can hotels take back some control of pricing power despite pressure from OTAs? Or how can they combat OTAs in 2018?
There are many tools that hotels can utilize to help combat OTAs, such as implementing rate parity reports, adopting conversion optimization tools on websites, and displaying loyalty program or membership-only rates. Hotels can check out rate parity reports such as the one offered by OTAInsights, to find out the pricing from multiple OTAs and become aware of the OTA culprits that are undercutting them.
There are website tools that help hotels to improve conversion including price check widget that can be directly implemented on the website to match a rate if a lower rate is found elsewhere.
For example, Travel Tripper offers Rate Match, a price-checking and rate-matching tool that automates a hotel’s Best Rate Guarantee policy on their website. It gives hoteliers the advantage of guaranteed rate parity with OTAs while driving direct bookings on their website (saving on OTA commissions).
In addition, member-only rates are becoming more popular with hotels as they offer the best rate on the hotel’s own website as well as capturing valuable information about the guest.
What’s on your bucket list for travel?
So many places! Parts of Europe that I haven’t explored yet, including Croatia, Portugal, Iceland, and Switzerland. Also, Southeast Asia — particularly Vietnam and Cambodia — is on my bucket list to check out.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
I just came back from a trip from South America. The trip was amazing! I visited Buenos Aires, Mendoza, and Santiago. I also took side trips to the Andes Mountains and the wine regions of both countries were so much fun and educational, and of course delicious!
How do you plan and prepare for your leisure trips?
Once I select the destination, I conduct lots of research on travel sites and travel review sites to help me select the hotels, restaurants, attractions, and tours.
Do you have a passion project or side hustle?
I’m a Food Network junkie and love to cook and try out new recipes. I also love to learn all about wine; I studied under a sommelier many years ago and I try to keep my wine knowledge up to date.