Techtalk.travel recently hosted a podcast exploring the state of content management for hotels today. They addressed questions like, Which technology solutions are currently supporting effective distribution across all critical channels of content such as imagery, videos, product and rate descriptions? What are the challenges and opportunities? Why is the term ‘static content’ and the distinction between static and dynamic content outdated? What does ‘Content per Channel’ really mean? Content should be thought of by channel as it is managed differently for each (Brand.com, Call Center, Third Party OTA/Wholesale/Meta, Third Party GDS, etc.) – how do we break this down? How is or should content be audited across all channels? What’s the difference between curating vs. distributing content?
Sarah Fults – VP Distribution at MGM Resorts International
Static vs. dynamic content
The discussion began by examining the distinction between the terms “static content” and “dynamic content.” The panelists seemed to agree that the terms, originally defined by the systems used, are outdated today.
Sarah Fults: Today, we just need to look at content as snippets of information that users want to use to find out information about the hotel. We need to look at how we distribute the content differently, how we curate it, and how it’s displayed on the channels.
Gianna Rivera: Those two paths are just two terms that describe the path by which different types of content get to and from the consumer. It’s more about answering the call of the consumer when they’re looking to shop.
Hotels are not only managing the way that the customer sees and digests the information, they then have to manage the expectation of what is out there. Natalie Kimball, shiji’s VP of Strategic Account Management
The importance of having the right data
The conversation then turned to the importance of having high-quality data to inform what content is used when– an element often overlooked by those not closely involved in content management for hotels.
Natalie Kimball: It may not matter to someone booking on a third-party site versus booking on brand.com, so you have to drill down into what your customer actually wants to see. Hotels are not only managing the way that the customer sees and digests the information, they then have to manage the expectation of what is out there.
When you think about how we have data that’s dispersed across so many different platforms within a hotel tech stack, it’s very difficult to bring all of that data into a single point of access, so that all systems can access it. That’s when you have potential bookers coming to your site, they know what they have to put in front of that person.
Sarah Fults: The challenges are going to be different depending on the type of hotel that you have, right? The bigger brands have an advantage. Many of them have content systems that they’ve developed. And then we have the core systems, whether it’s the Property Management System or a Central Reservation System, your content would need to go in that system for brand.com on the booking engine. It comes down to what content you are putting into those systems.
The third parties, mostly the OTAs, are constantly adding and changing content fields because they want to have the advantage over brand.com. So they’re pushing us every single day to make sure we’re in their systems and we’re adding those new fields.
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Budgeting for content
Sarah Fults: It’s a sad case. What’s the first thing to go into your budget in the new year? Content investments. What’s the first thing to come out of Q2? Content investments. It’s the first thing to be added into a budget. And usually, it’s the first thing to be cut.
How do we actually create a better universal content management solution?
Natalie Kimball: We’re still even 20 years later using spreadsheets. We cannot just sit in the middle and say, “Well, here are your images, here’s your IRI, we hope you have a great day.” We have to, as a technology provider, step into the middle and say what data points there are. There has been so much collection of data points between what HTMG has done. We have the data. We need someone to also step in the middle and say, “Here’s how it’s going to work.” And that will take GDS, it will take all of us. It may take, at some point, Wyndham and Hilton and Marriott saying, “We have to stop getting in this hamster wheel.”
Why would the vendors step up and say, “Okay, yeah, we’ll do this,” unless there’s incentive from a commercial side. Maybe the lead needs to come from a major vendor that has enough financial backing to be able to invest in it initially. And when they come to a commercial model that does start to generate revenue, they’ll maybe start to make it up, but perhaps there has to be a loss initially, so that we get it right for the industry.
Gianna Rivera: A lot of our companies think about the various content channels in individual ways. And I don’t think that’s unique to one company or another. We need to continue the conversation there or at least help aid those conversations to become unified in that thought process and help them understand that, at the core, is this issue called content.
High-value visual content
Sarah Fults: One of the biggest challenges is you have to get your hotel ready for this photo shoot. So, for those of us that run at high occupancies, it can be very difficult to find a time to do a photo shoot for a hotel. That’s the number one challenge: Finding the time setting up the room making sure that you even have the knowledge to do that. What angles? Should you take the image of that? How do you do this within the budget? How many years before you have to take the next photo shoot?
Natalie Kimball: It is such an investment. And every GM will say, “What’s my return on investment?” Even if it’s a 2% occupancy increase, that really isn’t enough.
It’s a merchandising tool and the OTAs have proven that to us. There’s a reason why each one of them requires bathroom photos.
I think it’s all about making it easy for a hotel to not have to think about which photo is important and how they’re going to get it. It comes down to automation. And then, do we have the right to use the photo on whichever channel has access to that hosting platform?