Rich media adds direct sales

GuestCentric platform offers independent hoteliers a number of ‘gadgets’ to attract and retain clients

Software-as-a-service business GuestCentric has identified rich media, visibility and customer interaction as ways that independent mid-market hoteliers can generate direct web bookings.

President and chief executive Pedro Colaco says there is a gap in the market for an integrated system that can handle “looking, booking and interaction”.

US-based GuestCentric will initially focus on its home market, with the UK and Spain two and three on its list. Colaco says the UK is “advanced in terms of online” while Spain’s continued growth as a tourist destination means there is an innate pressure on hotels from other distributors.

While the big online travel agents have successfully aggregated independent hotels by dangling a global presence via merchant models or XML feeds, Colaco believes that independent hotels need to exploit the leads and take the bookings direct.

“We encourage them to work with two or three distributors to get as much visibility as possible, but to make sure any customers landing on the property site feel confident enough to book.”

It is important to ensure that customers also stay on a site, Colaco says, and that’s where rich media comes in. The platform has a number of ‘gadgets’ that can populate the site with content, including the more obvious weather and map feeds, but there is also an option where reviews posted on to TripAdvisor will be picked up and put on the property site.

Colaco refers to studies that say consumers who use rich media during the research stage are the highest spenders when it comes to booking.

Visibility via Google is another area where Colaco feels his target market has been let down by the current products in the market. “We can create a budget for AdWords and run the campaign for them.”

The impersonal nature of chain properties gives independent hotels the edge when it comes to customer service, Colaco argues, and being able to interact with customers directly is where all the rich media and visibility is heading towards.

“Recognising returning, high-value guests is the basis of the platform,” he said. Within a year, having set up a viable supplier direct channel, GuestCentric will give hoteliers the tools to ‘leverage their knowledge’ of the customer. Generating targeted promotions is a simple example of what it hopes to offer.

The business was launched in October 2006 with $1.2 million of seed capital. A “significant” second round of funding is due to be announced shortly.

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