The Internet has caused massive change in the hotel industry, Greg Petzer, General Manager, Speke Resort Munyonyo reveals, explaining that new technologies, new competitors and newly empowered customers have fundamentally altered the face of the hotel business.
He however says that this massive change also bring opportunity, a pronouncement Dhaval Machhar, the General Manager of Forest Cottages, agrees with. “In last five years internet has played extremely dramatic role in business growth of Hotel industry globally and in Uganda,” Machhar confesses.
“Almost each & every traveler is engaged in any short online search before they go for either official tour or for leisure,” Machhar adds. Petzer further explains that with internet a hotelier can control the information ‘you publish and distribute to most booking channels’.
“With the right information shared across all distribution channels you have limitless ways to know your customers better, coordinate their requests, anticipate their needs, develop appealing promotions and improve service,” Petzer says.
Hoteliers talked to for this article said the use of internet is driving direct online bookings, which is a positive for the industry. Petzer explains that hoteliers in Uganda are equally catching up with the trend.
Petzer says: “Hotels have adopted online booking to make it easy and attractive for international travelers. Many customers from Europe, United States and Asia have gone digital. E-commerce has many uses in business, including in the tourism industry.
“In an increasingly competitive market place, tourism products require an effective distribution strategy for a firm to reach its target tourists and local markets. E-commerce mainly helps in the generation of leads, presenting information about the tourism product to the customers and facilitating the transaction process electronically using the World Wide Web.
“The Internet is here to stay, and many businesses have made their first leap to the Internet with a web site, and many are now moving forwards using the Internet, not only as an advertising and promotion platform, but as an active business platform,”
The internet, according to people in the hotel business gives them a ‘24/7’ platform to receive reservations which are commission free. The internet also reduces workload and as Petzer says ‘it’s simply good customer service’. The option of online payment eases transactions.
Machhar however cautions that cybercrime is on high nowadays, ‘so all guests should take care when using credit cards online’ because ‘you need to make sure you are using secure payment gateway’.
Petzer advises that ‘if you decide to use a third-party site, choose a well-known and reputable brand’. “Get recommendations for trusted travel companies or sites from your network of friends and family,” he advises.
“Use a credit card instead of a debit card to book online. In case the website is phony, you won’t have given the cybercriminals direct access to your bank account. Many credit card companies offer fraud protection,” Petzer further advises.
He says that upon completion of the transaction and reservation ‘always call the company afterward to confirm’. “If there is no record of your reservation, it’s better to know sooner rather than later. You’ll be able to alert your credit card company, report the fraud, and still have time to book reservations with the real deal,”
Asked what factors consumer considers when choosing a hotel online, Petzer explained that description of the hotel, online ratings and reviews, social media presence and content of hotel website are key.
“Our online customers do choose us because of positive guest reviews, budget rates, safari style accommodation with comfortable facilities and of course the forest.” Machhar of Forest Cottage explained.
“Forest cottages is the only place in the heart of Kampala where you can feel like you are somewhere up country. You don’t feel like you are in Kampala. Our place is like a real tropical forest - lush green full of nature. Till date we have spotted more than 25 spices of birds at forest cottages and grows 9 different type of fruits in our forest.”