I have carefully researched your questions and have your answers.
I will break out your questions down individually and answer them
specifically. Then I will provide you with some additional information
you may find helpful.
To give you an overview of what I found, the hospitality industry
includes any business that serves guests. This includes restaurants,
hotels, travel, salons and spas, conventions, and tours. There are
many associations and organizations catering to the hospitality
industry. I'll review all of those for you and provide direct links to
their web sites.
There is a great deal of debate among the hospitality industry
regarding how much emphasis to place on e-commerce. Most people in the
industry agree that web sites are necessary. But there is a continuing
great debate about how much to get involved with e-commerce. Among the
major questions that are asked (which I'll review for you) are: Why is
it so expensive to set up a site that allows people to make
reservations, place orders, or buy services? Is it worth it to set up
such a site? Will the site generate enough interest to be worthwhile?
How do I create an e-commerce site that will be beneficial and
effective for my business?
These questions are debated at length at current industry conferences
and conventions. The simple answer at which most industry experts are
arriving is: E-commerce is needed in the hospitality industry - but
you need to make your e-commerce site an effective marketing tool and
one that is easy to use.
You may find links to hundreds of hospitality groups across the United
States online. The link is
"What is the hospitality industry?"
Hospitality means catering to your every need and meeting every
expectation when you're a guest. You have worked hard all year, and
you're ready to go off to a tropical resort where you can relax and
take it easy. Before you arrive, the hospitality team at the resort
and restaurants you'll be visiting are already working to make sure
all your lodging, recreational, and dining expectations are met while
People who work in the hospitality industry like the idea of helping
people enjoy their time away from work. They like to help people have
fun and cater to them to make their time as enjoyable as possible. If
you work in this industry, you might work for a golf course, a
restaurant, a resort, a hotel, or another tourist- or guest-driven
business. As working in this industry, you might be responsible for
servicing customers, overseeing business operations, managing people,
or managing products needed to serve customers. Those who work in this
industry typically have certain characteristics like the ability to
work well and smile under pressure, a great deal of patience, and
In the past, Bouabidi, I can tell you I personally have worked in the
hospitality industry. I know that working with and for customers can
be quite rewarding but that it also can be challenging. You want to
please every one of their requests. And if you can't help them
yourself, you politely help them find someone who can. It's all about
the service. I know that when you're dealing specifically with the
public, you want to be as prepared as possible to have every product
you need on-hand that they may request. If the customer wants a
particular service or product, you want to be able to supply that to
the customer in a prompt fashion. Working in the hospitality industry
can also be challenging at times. You need to maintain a great deal of
patience and tact, when a customer comes to you with a complaint.
Sometimes customers aren't the kindest of people when their
expectations aren't met. But it's your job to keep your cool, maintain
your patience, and make the situation right for the customer.
So while the dictionary definition of hospitality may be "serving a
guest," hospitality means different things to different people and
mainly, from the research I conducted, it means "meeting expectations
of guests." When you're visiting a restaurant or a hotel or lodge, you
have certain expectations for how certain things should be done.
You're paying a certain amount of money, and for that money you expect
a certain level of service. If that level of service is not met, you
are not happy with your level of hospitality.
Hospitality management is a growing and rewarding career for many. You
may read more about hospitality management online. The link is
Marketing in hospitality is half the battle. It requires careful
planning. I'll go into greater detail in answering your other
questions. You may read an overview of the hospitality industry and
marketing online. The link is
Hospitality is said to be "kindness in welcoming guests or strangers."
You may read a definition of "hospitality" online. The link is
"What sort of things are in the hospitality industry?"
According to experts at Temple University, the hospitality industry is
the second largest industry in the United States. You may read more
about this online. The link is
I have reviewed the websites of many hospitality schools, and they
list things like tourism, sport and recreation, convention and
visitors bureaus, conference centers, resorts, casinos, event
management agencies, hotels and theme parks, athletic programs, sports
governing bodies, professional sports teams, park departments, fitness
clubs, sports marketing agencies, stadiums, restaurants, lodging,
hunting and fishing clubs, recreational boating, tour buses and
organized tours, passenger trains, cruise liners, air travel, toll
roads, and taxi cabs.
Hospitality is such a major industry that most schools offer classes
to educate those looking to go into such a career. You may find links
to hundreds of hospitality schools across the United States online.
The link is http://www.hospitality-1st.com/PressNews/Schools.html
"How can e-commerce be applied to hospitality industry?"
E-Commerce can be applied to the hospitality industry in many ways.
Primarily e-commerce is used to seek and register new business.
Hospitality businesses are setting up shop online, allowing potential
customers to see what they have to offer, view photos of their
amenities and services, and even to make reservations and purchase
The primary goal of hospitality businesses in terms of e-commerce is
to drive revenue while showing customers first-hand and realistically
what they can expect to experience. After all, hospitality is about
I'll get into this in greater detail in answering the final question
you pose, but because false advertising, cyber-squatting, and improper
branding occurs in record numbers on the Internet, hospitality
businesses need to be sure to be true to their brands when showcasing
what they have to offer on an e-commerce website. Make sure you
advertise what you have to offer--no more, no less.
In the hospitality business, you need to make sure your website is
very clear as to what your business is about, what goods and services
you offer, and how you can make a purchase.
Effective hospitality web sites will offer itemized lists of exactly
how much each service is, photos of the facility, wording that is
straight-forward and doesn't make something sound better or worse than
the services or products that are actually offered, and ways you can
purchase the goods or services.
Many of the larger hospitality businesses already offer ways you can
make purchases on their e-commerce sites. They have found value in
showcasing what they offer and making purchases. They are making money
by allowing visitors to their e-commerce sites to make reservations
and spend money.
For example, hotels can create e-commerce sites that allow visitors to
find out whether rooms are available for rent for particular dates.
These sites can then take credit card information and other payment
types, so customers can reserve rooms.
Restaurants can create e-commerce sites that allow visitors to view
menus, view photos of the foods offered, and even place orders or make
Service clubs and organizations like hunting, golf, or boat rental
clubs can create e-commerce sites that allow visitors to view which
dates and times are available for reservations and make purchases.
Cruise ship companies can create e-commerce sites that allow you to
view which cruises are available on which dates, what types of rooms
are available, and their prices. These sites then can allow customers
to make reservations or purchase cruises.
Taxi companies can create e-commerce sites that allow you to see how
long it could take for a taxi to pick you up at a particular
destination, to get a cost estimate, and to place a taxi order.
Sports organization companies can create e-commerce sites that allow
you to view schedules of the sports teams, find out which seats are
available for which games, and even purchase tickets and other
In addition, many hospitality companies find it fruitful to go so far
as to sell advertising on their sites and allow other, related
hospitality companies to link on their sites. This provides customers
a chance to visit the companies' affiliates and easily plan entire
weekend or vacation getaways in just a few minutes.
Hospitality companies must create e-commerce platforms and plans. One
guide to such a plan can be found online. The link is
"What are the risks and benefits of e-commerce in the hospitality industry?"
The main risks involved with e-commerce in the hospitality industry
are: maintaining your brand name on the site, creating profit when
you're investing a sizable amount, and maintaining the database.
The greatest challenge facing the hospitality industry in terms of
e-commerce is in creating an effective site. Conquering this step is
easier said than done in many cases.
When you create an e-commerce site, you need to make sure your brand
is protected and that customers know exactly what they're getting.
There are many hospitality sites online that are abused in order to
convince customers to buy from them immediately and capture immediate
revenue. There are many sites that will advertise one price for a
service but then will ultimately charge the customer something else.
In addition, there are many sites that charge referral fees on to
customers, commissions, and affiliate programs. Each of these costs
are passed on to customers. If you have a hospitality e-commerce site,
you need to be very cautious about whom you allow to link to your site
and to whom you affiliate. If you allow an unscrupulous company either
knowingly or unknowingly to advertise your site, your brand is at
risk. These affiliates only want to make a profit and will promise
visitors extraordinarily low prices just so they can make a fast buck.
To overcome this obstacle, hospitality companies should know exactly
with whom they're affiliating online. A good rule of thumb in the
hospitality business is: If you don't know the person or company
personally, either get to know them, or don't do business with them.
There is simply too much false advertising involved with affiliates
with whom hospitality companies are affiliating. In many of these
cases, the hospitality companies find themselves living up to the
lower-priced, illegally-promoted advertisements offered by these
affiliates in order to please customers and protect their reputations.
Hospitality companies are also including specific compliance
guidelines in partnership agreements. These agreements often give the
hospitality company the right to drop the partnership and request a
refund of the lower purchase prices from the affiliate.
"As the mission of the HSMAI Hotel Internet Marketing Committee is to
increase awareness of issues, opportunities and trends, as well as
develop and recommend standards and ethical guidelines as it relates
to hotel Internet marketing, we have already seen positive reactions
from search engine companies as well as some of the Internet merchant
models. This is a first step in the right direction to leverage the
Internet as an effective marketing medium for the hospitality
industry," says Jens Thraenhart, director of Internet strategy at
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and global chair of the HSMAI Hotel Internet
Marketing Committee. You may read more about the Hospitality Sales and
Marketing Association International online. The link is
A second issue that is causing debate in the hosptality industry in
terms of e-commerce is pop-up ads. Make sure your site is free of
pop-up ads, so that enough people will not only enjoy visiting your
site, but that they'll feel comfortable returning. When web browsers
are hit with pop-up ads, the likelihood a web visitor will return to
your site are lower than if your site didn't have the pop ups.
While pop-up ads can be effective when they relate to the nature of
the site, if the pop-up ad is for a prescription medication when the
site is relating to a cruiseliner the customer is typically turned off
to the site instantly.
You also want to make sure you choose the appropriate technology in
light of the goals of your hospitality company. For many hospitality
companies, e-commerce sites initially don't have their own budgets;
they often initially fall under advertising. Look over your business
plan, look at your advertising budget and find out how much you can
spend on technology. A risk ensues for hospitality companies when they
spend more than they can afford on an e-commerce site. You need to
make sure it's in your budget and that you have extra money leftover
for maintenance and other e-commerce-related fees.
A risk also ensues if you don't have an e-commerce strategy. Look at
how you'll generate business on your site. Look at how much revenue
will be created by the site. Create a plan to increase these numbers
over time and budget appropriately.
Maintaining your database. This is perhaps as important as any other
step of creating an e-commerce hospitality site. Make sure your
database is maintained and up-to-date. This may entail hiring a web
designer to oversee this process or it may include making sure your
staff updates the database several times a day. Your online database
that allows visitors to your site to view which dates are available
for your services or that show which seats are available for your
sporting event or which rooms are available at your resort needs to be
consistent with the rest of your computer system.
The benefits to an e-commerce site in the hospitality industry
include: showcasing your offerings to an audience that may not
otherwise see you, creating new customers, new selling opportunities.
An e-commerce site can generate business that you hadn't previously
known. Millions of people shop online to plan trips and getaways. If
your site is easily found, easy to use, and is priced competitively,
you'll find business that you otherwise never would have received.
An e-commerce site can create new repeat customers. Hospitality,
again, is all about meeting expectations. If the experience meets--or
even exceeds--customer expectations, you'll have loyal customers that
you otherwise wouldn't have found.
An e-commerce site offers new selling opportunities that can be at an
affordable cost. Once you have your site up and running, there
typically are few monthly maintenance fees and associated costs. The
site can then pay for itself time after time as long as you have an
effective e-commerce strategy.
One good site that helps hospitality businesses set up e-commerce
sites is GM Merchant Solutions. This is a company that is well
respected in the industry. You may read more about this online. The
link is http://www.merchantusa.net/careers.asp
In addition, I searched an electronic journal and white paper database
for articles and research materials that support the above information
and that you can read in greater length, including the risks and
benefits to e-commerce. You may read these pieces online. The link is
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This was an interesting project to work on this week. I'm glad I had
the opportunity to serve you. Please hit "clarify" if you need any
clarification or additional information.