BAR! Now That I Have Your Attention…

No – sorry….. not that kind of bar! Although, it probably is 5:00 somewhere….. and, I am a little thirsty – LOL.

Best Available Rate…. yes, that kind of BAR!

Are we just using this rate category as a base to build all other rates, or are we in fact strategizing in our revenue management and sales/marketing plans to get consumers to actually buy BAR rate? What are the advantages of a guest booking BAR rates? What are the disadvantages?

Many hotels are treating BAR rates like the old “rack rates”. (Does anyone ever even say rack rate anymore?) This is the rate that we seem to hang our hat on, that just exists because we have to have one, when if fact – it MUST and SHOULD be an integral part of our rate strategy. Your BAR rate should be the realistic rate that you think a customer will pay to stay in your hotel! If your BAR rate is just a rate that you have “out there” and no one ever books it – then it is probably not the right rate!

We must strive to find the rate that our customers will pay for our rooms. And yes, this is the rate that we will build our discounts off….. and yes, we control our discounts by availability, inventory and length of stay. This is the rate that our reservationists and GSRs should be selling. This is the rate that will be parity with the extranets.

Remember the blogs I have written, the many articles I have sent, and that I have spoken to most all of you about the advantages of a Go Direct policy? If not – go back to the Snapshot screen of my blogspot and read the one with Johnny Depp’s picture. You must have this type of strategy in your arsenal of tricks! You and your selling teams must become adept at encouraging guests and potential guests to book through your website or from you directly.

Most importantly, your sales and marketing plans must include strategies to get your customer to buy the rates you want them to pay. If your 2014 plan doesn’t include a BAR rate strategy or a Go Direct strategy – write one in now.

Happy hour!

Linda

Educating Guests on BAR

Are you fully up to snuff on how to most effectively use a Best Available Rate policy in this world of myriad booking channels? You will be after reading this.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Mr. Larry Mogelonsky – CHA
Do your guests know what BAR stands for? Not likely. Unless they have worked or are presently working in the hotel industry, chances are correctly expanding that acronym out to ‘best available rate’ isn’t snap-your-fingers knowledge, nor is its implied meaning.

In its simplest terms, best available rate ensures that the low prices for nightly room rates on third-party suppliers will be matched by the hotel when the consumer contacts with ‘parity’ in mind. This BAR, also known as best rate guarantee, is adeptly used by revenue managers worldwide to incentivize guests to make their reservations directly through the brand.com booking engine as opposed to the OTAs. I’m preaching to the choir on the definition.

However, BAR should also be a primary tool put forward by your sales team and marketers, not just something stowed away in the aft section of your website. The advantages to booking through your brand.com are undeniable and educating guests on many of these straightforward benefits may make them unwavering converts to the ‘book direct’ ideology.

Part of the problem is that hoteliers are nearsighted. Scratch that, all humans are nearsighted. It’s all too easy to assume that when a hotel manager uses the words ‘best rate guarantee’ others will instantly share in their understanding of the term. This is not so. As anecdotal as it may be, I’m constantly running into hospitality outsiders who are oblivious to this hidden gem of knowledge, and they are ecstatic to be enlightened. Here’s how I boil it down for them:

“Take any guestroom price you discover online. Go to the hotel website or call their reservation hotline then ask for parity. Not only will the price be matched, but by booking directly with the hotel, you’re also entitled to loyalty points, room upgrades, amenity vouchers, F&B coupons and tons more.”

The most common responses are various forms of “Whoa!” There’s evidence to support that a wide cross-section are gradually realizing this pseudo-loophole. In the April 2013 PhoCusWright Consumer Travel Report, the migration away from the OTAs is already happening in full swing. Whether BAR awareness is the primary force is open for debate; I believe it is one chief factor alongside the points and perks.

On the other hand, just as prices are used to differentiate your product across various channels, I do not believe that the ideal goal of attaining 100% of online reservations through your brand.com is feasible in the short-term. No doubt the OTAs will find new and creative ways to reverse this recent decline; they all have very fluid designs, they allow consumers to simultaneously book flights or car rentals and they have some of the best advertising budgets a brand could ask for. In short, the battle continues.

To maintain some air of brevity, let’s jump right to the education part of things as ‘enlightened’ guests are far more likely to peruse your brand.com prior to locking in an official reservation on one website or another. Whether that site is yours is still up for grabs.

The website is the obvious place to start – having an indexed page which lists the specifics of your BAR policy is a must. This way, anyone can do the appropriate research at their own convenience. But it’s clearly not enough. A catchy graphic on the homepage may be necessary in addition to a few well-timed e-newsletters.

Like a lot of my sermons on this site, the front desk can play an integral role in information dissemination. Pamphlets, brochures and one-pagers which explain how the system works should be visible and readily available for the plucking. As well, your front desk clerks must be trained on BAR so that they can answer questions and politely shoehorn it into conversation. A quick prompt, “How did you book with us?” can get the ball rolling here.

There are so many other points worth mentioning here – namely, the tone your website conveys, the user friendliness of your site and special non-public rates which circumnavigate rate parity rules – but get the message across face-to-face still has astounding results. Cement it into your managers and your line staff that BAR is a good point of discussion with guests and how more and more will flock to you directly for all future business.

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