French hotels sue Expedia

The french hotel’s union Synhorcat filed a suit against Expedia, Hotels.com and Tripadvisor on the 15th April. The main points of the suit are:

1. When clicking on a hotel’s photo in Tripadvisor the browser is immediately directed to Expedia whether the hotel has signed with Expedia or not. The hoteliers argue that it should link directly to the official website of the hotel.

2. Expedia sometimes promotes wild discounts such as 75% off without agreement from the hoteliers. And if there is no availability on a hotel. Expedia will still promote the hotel but direct the browser to another hotel thus using the hotel’s popularity to sell other properties.

3. Hotels.com seemingly dissuades users to book directly at the hotel’s website.

These are some of the main points I could understand from the article (see the original article in french here: http://www.zdnet.fr/actualites/internet/0,39020774,39750958,00.htm).

If this case will win or not is uncertain however a few points are clear. Expedia’s model of taking 25% of a hotel’s revenues isn’t appreciated much longer and despite their size, more and more hoteliers aren’t willing to give that type of money to a third party.

Secondly, Tripadvisor will need to open up and become a fully fledged social media. The fact that it is owned by Expedia isn’t going to do Expedia a favour anymore as it may just soon be faced with an anti-trust problem. It is only logical that Tripadvisor favours hotel’s official website. There was a step in that direction this year with the sale to hoteliers of a link to the official website.

Thirdly and most impotantly, websites like Expedia, Booking.com and others all the third party booking systems have a limited future unless they really start to help hoteliers. At the end of the day all they are doing it offer information to the internet users, but charging a huge price for it. Shouldn’t the information be free? Google seems to be making an entry into the field with rates noted on the Google Maps.

Expedia already makes no money on flight tickets… so their only real solution now is going to be to work out a way to give some real added value to hoteliers.

When I built WIHP there was one thing that I knew I had to do from day one and that was HELP hotel’s increase their profits. It has worked wonders so far making us the incontestable leaders in the Paris market. Let’s see how this pans out.

Interview – TendanceHotellerie.fr

TendanceHotellerie.fr is a French website for hoteliers, they do news and information about the French Hotel Industry and it’s a clean look and fell.

Vincent Rajjoo one of the editors there recently interviewed me and I thought I would publish the link. It is mainly for les Francais but if you’re interested you could translate it with one of the online translation tools.

Interview de Vincent Ramelli, Président de WIHP – Lookotel

29 mars 2010 par TH – Mots clés : site web – distribution

Vincent Ramelli - President WIHPQuelle a été votre activité avant de commencer WIHP / Lookotel ?
Avant de créer la Société WIHP et le produitLookotel.com je faisais partie en tant que co-fondateur de la société 1001webpromotions. Et avant cela je travaillais avec une des premières sociétés qui offraient des services internet à Paris.

Comment décriveriez-vous WIHP / Lookotel ?
Nous avons plusieurs produits. WIHP Sites webLookotel.com et WIHP Gestion.
WIHP Sites web est le leader en termes de création de sites web pour les hôtels indépendants sur Paris et probablement en Europe. Nous n’offrons pas des « sites web » nous procurons des réservations aux hôteliers à travers un site performant.
Lookotel.com est un portail unique en Europe dans son genre : sans commission pour les hôteliers ! C’est un grand avantage d’avoir une telle puissance de feu pour faire la promotion de son hôtel à grande échelle. Tous les frais son fixes pour hôtelier. Le but est de faire des réservations en direct depuis le portail ou d’envoyer les clients vers le site officiel de l’hôtel.
WIHP Gestion : notre équipe de professionnels de l’hôtellerie s’occupe de commercialiser une trentaine d’hôtels sélectionnés. L’équipe prend un hôtel et le « booste », en utilisant toutes les possibilités de distribution, les réseaux sociaux, l’amélioration de la décoration de l’hôtel, et de la qualité du service à travers une formation très pointue. Ils gèrent un hôtel sur 6 mois minimum avec une promesse de résultats.

WIHP / Lookotel en quelques chiffres ?
Lookotel : 1 visiteur sur 3 qui voit votre hôtel sur Lookotel.com va cliquer sur votre site. C’est une augmentation de 500% du nombre de visites sur 1 an avec un choix de 250 hôtels sur Paris pour l’internaute.
WIHP Sites web : c’est plus de 15 000 réservations en ligne par mois sur Paris seulement. Et ce sont des sites qui doublent le taux de conversion visites/réservations depuis la mise en ligne des sites de dernière génération.
Et ce n’est pas un hasard – ce sont des centaines d’heures de programmation pour créer un système « analytics » qui nous aide à mesurer la vraie efficacité de nos sites. Comme je le disais nous n’offrons pas un « site web » mais de la réservation et en volume.

Quelles sont les différences entre WIHP / Lookotel et d’autres sociétés de création web ?
Notre différence est que l’on prend soin de mesurer l’efficacité de nos sites en détails ; nous avons des outils que l’on a développés pour cela et on arrive à isoler le problème exact pour chaque site et s’assurer qu’il marche et produit des réservations. Etant propriétaire d’hôtel en parallèle je sais ce que cela veut dire de gérer un hôtel et de payer les factures à la fin du mois. Donc je suis doublement motivé pour m’assurer que nos sites font des réservations pour les hôtels.

Qui sont les clients WIHP / Lookotel ?
Les hôtels indépendants qui veulent changer le pourcentage de remplissage fait en direct.

Quel peut être l’intérêt d’un hôtelier de rejoindre WIHP / Lookotel ?
Si un hôtelier veut espérer arriver à 40 voir 60% de remplissage en direct avec son site web, il a un grand intérêt à faire un site avec WIHP.

Quels sont vos prochains axes de développement ou produits ?
Les sites web sont en évolution constante. Chaque nouveau site est diffèrent et contient de la nouvelle technologie. On vient de lancer un nouveau module de site pour mobile/iphone, et suite à notre expérience de vente de chambres à travers les réseaux sociaux et le web 2.0 on a découvert de nouvelles options que l’on est en train d’intégrer sur nos sites et nos portails. Et pour le reste… ça sera une surprise dès que nous serons prêts.

Inscription WIHP & Lookotel.com

Collection des hôtels WIHP

Cracking the WIHP with MICE

The MICE Report, a magazine for the MICE industry (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions) has an article about WIHP that Cliff James wrote. I thought you may find it interesting and it gives a great overview on what we do and how we do it.

Vincent Ramelli, interview - The MICE Report

Vincent Ramelli, interview - The MICE Report

Cracking the WIHP

With independent hotels currently being charged an average 20% commission on reservations made through online booking agencies, hoteliers are seeking new ways to recoup their revenue. A commission-free solution is now at hand, as the marketing specialist company WIHP provides comprehensive strategies to help hotels increase their direct income. Cliff James talks to WIHP’s General Manager, Vincent Ramelli, about a commission-free future for hoteliers.
Vincent Ramelli understands the nuances of the hotel industry. As the owner of two successful boutique hotels, he has firsthand knowledge of the vagaries of the hospitality trade – in particular, the often exorbitant fees charged by online travel agencies for internet bookings.
However, the route he took to becoming an hotelier included substantial careers in marketing and web promotion. In retrospect, it seems inevitable that Vincent’s areas of expertise would coalesce in the 2009 launch of WIHP (World Independent Hotel Promotion) – a groundbreaking marketing organisation that enhances revenues for hotels with no extra cost to hotel guests.
“Back in the 1990s, I worked for a telecom company and saw how the internet was going to be the future sales channel for travel,” he explains. “I co-founded a company called 1001webpromotions and we began doing websites. With my own hotels, I quickly discovered the importance of having a great online marketing strategy and so I created WIHP to combine hotel management and hotel marketing into one structure that could offer a complete array of services to hotels.”
More than proposing a mere marketing plan, WIHP takes a holistic approach in analysing all aspects of a hotel’s profile and uses pioneering techniques to scrutinize a huge range of information. Vincent explains that their first step when working with a hotel is to gather feedback from hotel guests on websites such as Tripadvisor. “We’ll see what they like and dislike, and this gives us an idea of where the added value is for a hotel and what needs to be remedied. Sometimes hotel owners have a fixed idea of how to promote their hotel. But while the hotel image must be respected, the marketing strategy must be aimed at the potential customers, not the owners.”
This radical approach to devising an effective marketing strategy is augmented by WIHP’s programme of hotel staff training workshops, bespoke website design, and the launch in 2009 of a commission-free online distribution channel, Lookotel.com, which drives internet traffic and direct sales to the hotel’s own website – thereby bypassing the excessive charges of the OTAs.
Having refined a proprietary analytics system that constantly assesses the efficiency of a hotel’s website, the marketing specialists at WIHP know when a website is not producing sales and will work on the issue until a solution is identified.
“What we offer isn’t a website; it’s bookings,” says Vincent, drawing upon his substantial experience in web promotion. “If there are no results, we review our actions and adjust them until they work – and that’s the way with all our products. Having been on the receiving side, we know what hotels need.
“A site is more attractive with special offers and packages. The site also has to be made attractive by the use of real photos and video. Our objective is the same as the hotelier: ensuring the guest arrives directly on the hotel’s website and reserves directly with the hotel.”
As a hotel owner himself, Vincent’s own experiences have informed the quality of service provided by WIHP. He reveals that the company’s vision is to assist other hoteliers market their properties and take their share of the pie in direct bookings, whether that be through website enhancement, search engine optimization, payper-click advertising, offline marketing or through the lookotel.com distribution channel.
Based upon the company’s impressive growth within its first year, WIHP’s specialist approach is proving immensely popular, with more than 350 independent boutique and luxury hotels in various countries already benefiting from the service. In Paris alone, WIHP makes more than 15,000 commission-free bookings for celebrated venues such as Hotel de l’Abbaye, Hotel Ares Eiffel and The Five Hotel.
Vincent Ramelli maintains that hotels are opting for this specialist marketing service because it bears greater return on investment than the alternative. “WIHP provides a bespoke website for around €9000, depending on the options that the hotelier wants to add,” he explains. “Membership of lookotel.com starts at €50 a month, and our marketing management and social marketing campaigns begin at €1500 per month.
“On the other hand, the average commission for regular OTAs is 20% of the revenue brought to the hotel – a huge dent in the monthly budget. We aren’t out of the recession yet so saving 20% on commissions is a big saving. I have two hotels myself, so I know the difference this can make in a budget.”