Cracking the WIHP with MICE
April 6, 2010 Leave a comment
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.
Cracking the WIHPWith 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.”