Tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka had increased 18.7 percent, surpassing the target of 1.5 million tourists by August this year alone, according to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority.
“Out of that 1.5 million tourists, 52 percent of them had come through online sales,” said Aniq Rajabdeen, Managing Director of OTB, a consultancy service provider in online sales management for hotels.
“It goes to show that there is a heavy reliance on the part of the consumer to scour for the best deals and rates before making a booking, hence marketing and sales strategies are a logical way for hotels to increase their revenues.”
Rajabdeen said that the hotel’s online presence and sales strategies determine if they are attracting or fending off clients. “The consumer surfs many websites before making a final decision. The hotel’s approach and its online sales plans determine which of those stops moves the guests to generating business in their hotel.”
He opined that most properties big and small have “absolutely no strategy, and are only selling rooms with no formal approach as to how this should be done.” He added that many of the hotels seek advice from the travel agents, who act on their best interest and not necessarily the hotel.
According to him, online sales strategies help hotels make contacts and create demand. “There’s a formalized procedure of understanding what you are promoting and how you are connecting with customers,” he said. “Having an online presence does not help unless you personalize and participate.”
His company Out of The Box Consultancy offers professional online sales management services to assist hoteliers to facilitate and maintain a successful online sales operation. OTB headed by Aniq Rajabdeen will be at the Hotel Hospitality & Food Asia which is on at the SLECC from 16th to the 18th this month.
“OTB helped us generate over US$ 4,000 worth of sales in the first month of operation. They offer advice and develop strategies to grow our hotel’s business through different online distribution sources. We also qualified as a preferred hotel partner with Booking.com.” said Hiran Serasinghe, Director Operations of Heaven Seven Hotels.
Heaven Seven Hotels, Nuwara Eliya achieved 36 ranks higher in the first 12 months to become the 11thbest partner property in Nuwara Eliya for Booking.com.
“After signing up with OTB, our property started to receive bookings in the off season months,” said Anuradha Ponnamperuma of Palm Beach Inn and Sea Shells Cabana. The property achieved 1244 percent growth in online sales revenue in 6 months with over US$ 5,000 incremental online sales revenue in April 2015.
Rajabdeen added that hotels desire direct bookings; however they are heavily dependent on online travel sites for exposure and distribution of their inventory. “Travel agents spend a lot to market tourist destinations and properties affiliated with them, and it is up to the individual properties to create demand for their rooms.”
“The future will see more individual bookings, because of the growing use of social media, internet and mobile technology. Hotels should invest in centralizing their operations for the purpose of efficiency, while maintaining a strategic management system with online sales.” he advised.
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