The UK hotel industry is showing remarkable confidence, despite these challenging times – the first half of 2017 saw the highest number of new rooms opening since 2012.
That’s 40% higher than the same period last year, according to the Q2 2017 Hotel Bulletin, which shows the sheer resilience in the sector.
On the other hand, it means a competitive market is continuing to get even more competitive.
Many of the most successful hotels are turning to technology to stay ahead of the game, using hotel PMS (property management systems) to make their operations more efficient and EPOS management (electronic point of sale) software to manage their restaurants.
We asked some of the best hotels in the country – our customers – how they make software work for them – and here’s what they told us.
Clew Bay Hotel, Ireland: Improved online bookings and reduced reservation costs
Clew Bay sales and marketing manager Shona O’Malley says a hotel PMS integrated with a channel manager has made a huge difference.
“We needed to reduce the costs in our reservations department,” she said.
“Before we used the channel manager, we had to input all rates and availability manually into third party sites weekly – sometimes three times a week in peak season.
“That was very time-consuming – and we felt it might cause unwelcome problems for a hotel with such a prestigious reputation to maintain.
“It was possible to get overbookings, and incorrect rates online, and it took a huge amount of time from everyone. Everything now works much more efficiently for us.”
Shandon Hotel and Spa, Donegal, Ireland: Rates managed and availability advertised better
The award-winning hotel and spa put a hotel PMS in place even before it opened – and established itself rapidly as a leading destination.
With 50 bedrooms, 120 expert staff, two bars, a top-class thermal spa and a leisure centre, the hotel’s number one concern is making sure the guest experience is superlative.
General Manager Carolynne Harrison said: “Our clientele comes mostly from the leisure market, rather than corporate, and around five percent of our business is weddings, with 10 percent groups.
“This means it’s important for us to make sure the rate is always right, competitive and dynamic so we can capture that business.”
Via the hotel software, integrated with a channel manager, Shandon’s rates and availability are automatically pushed out and co-ordinated at all times.
“Bookings are also automatically uploaded to our system, which saves us a lot of staff time,” said Carolynne.
The hotel also has a strong direct booking strategy via its website.
“Some hotels pay commission on their online bookings – but now, thanks to our hotel PMS, we’re pretty much commission-free,” said Carolynne.
The Mercer Collection, South of England: Creating a more personal service
This boutique chain based in Portsmouth has been so successful that it has grown to seven hotels in a short time.
Reservations Manager Ellie Hogston says her group prides itself on creating a great personal guest experience that brings repeat business.
She finds her hotel PMS invaluable in providing that, thanks to the online booking facilities it provides and the information it captures about each guest. This allows her team to tailor everything to their requirements.
“It’s much easier to take a booking now – I can see everything in one place and don’t have to go through different paper folders trying to find the best place to put a guest,” she said.
“This gives a better impression to arriving guests, too, because they aren’t looking at a scrappy bit of paper as you check them in. By just putting in their surname, you can access all the details of a returning guest – it’s great for regular customers.”
Old Bank Hotel and Old Parsonage, Oxford: Boosting marketing in a targeted way
Mogford Limited is a small independent company that runs two boutique hotels, each with a distinctive restaurant. The company also runs Gees, a fine dining restaurant close to the Old Parsonage.
Accommodation Manager Sue Monk and her staff use a hotel PMS and EPOS software to revolutionise operations across the group. She says the comprehensive guest data captured by the system is enabling Mogford to expand its marketing efforts.
Knowing about guest preferences, spending patterns and previous bookings allows the team to create highly targeted offers that have a high likelihood of success.
“Our clientele is divided roughly 50/50 corporate and individual, so I see a lot of ways to market our facilities to these two sectors,” she said.
The Lovat Loch Ness, Scotland: More integrated back of house
In the heart of the Scottish Highlands near Inverness, this stylish independently-owned hotel is a golf destination and provides an opportunity for guests to enjoy fishing, walking and sightseeing.
Owner Caroline Gregory said: “Our aim is always for our guests to experience the ultimate relaxing break, offering a personal touch and calming atmosphere through our hotel and its facilities.
“To ensure this occurs right from the booking experience, our back of house needs to operate seamlessly. We used to rely on various disjointed systems, such as a database, online booking, EPOS, accounting etc, but none could communicate with each other.”
Investing in a hotel PMS that integrates all of these facilities provided the answer.
“We instantly found the hotel easier to manage, and we soon added to the software to be able to offer gift cards, which encourages loyalty and presents an easy way for an even wider audience to enjoy our hotel,” said Caroline.