Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Maybe the Mayans were right ...

Maybe it is the end of the world because I haven't felt like blogging in six months ... technically 7 but since I'm creeping in at the very end of August, August counts :)

Maybe blogging is becoming a thing of the past?

For those who might be attached to my RSS feed, just wanted to let you know a couple of things:

1. The TourismTechnology.com project may be wrapping up in October, so if you were thinking about a mentoring session, now is the time to sign up.

Details on the mentoring session:

TourismTechnology.com is offering website / social media mentoring sessions.

The session is one on one and customized to your operation and your technology questions / needs.
It takes place at your business, lasts about 3-4 hours.The session costs $125 plus HST


Some things we might talk about include but are not limited to:
How can I make the most of the website I have?

Photos, videos, creative content What if I cannot update my website myself?
Website content - what tourists are looking for
Choosing a developer that's right for you
Trip Advisor, or other comment/feedback forums
Looking ahead to other technologies, creating a technology plan
Social Media, what is right for my business?


2. There will be a series of free webinars this September. Presented by TourismTechnology.com and featuring our presenter from the May workshops, Ross from Colour.

Details on the webinars:

Too often are businesses ignoring opportunities that exist in the digital world and are tweeting for the sake of tweeting. It's time to make the most of what Social Media offers to tourism businesses.

To help the tourism industry in Atlantic Canada, TourismTechnology.com has worked to develop a series of 6 Free Online Marketing Webinars.
These webinars will highlight sure-wins that will allow your business to start seeing measurable results while highlighting some great examples of local and national businesses using social media effectively.

Ross Simmonds and the TourismTechnology.com team to learn how your social media efforts can start impacting the bottom line.

Webinars run from 12:00pm - 1:30pm AST.


Webinar Schedule:


Visit www.tourismtechnology.com for more details or to register for a webinar.

Til next time,

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

From the Archives...

I've really hit  a road block this month. I've put "blog something" in my day planner practically since my last post. It's also an Outlook reminder and I've kept my blog site open in a Chrome tab hoping for some inspiration.

Truth is, I'm not really commenting or creating on any platforms lately. Sure I repost, reshare, and retweet content at least twice a day on Twitter, Facebook and G+ but if you check my feeds, there's very little original content... Of course everything I post is first vetted to make sure it's not drivel and that the link is working.

So the quality is there, but not the original content.


When I figure out why, I'll let you know.

So let's delve into the years gone by and see what I can "reblog" :)

Jack Rabbit  - this is still a good primer / basic description of how Jack Rabbit indexer works in NB. Also note that the department of Tourism and Parks is currently investigating how to feature festivals, events and attractions in the same way. If you have ideas or want to share, please contact Carol Alderdice 

And that reminds me Tourism and Parks in NB recently released this document  on Partnerships and Programs Opportunities for Operators. Very informative, in terms of knowing who is responsible for what in the dept, and a list of their consumer facing social media outlets.

If you're running a Bed and Breakfast or Inn - please check out this post from September with lots of links to resources specifically for that interest group.

Here's a nice post where I lecture you (from August).

And let's talk a bit about what's coming up in the next few months ...

HNL annual conference in Gander in February - TT.com will be there
Online Revealed/ Tourism Summit in Toronto in March  - TT.com going to the T.dot :)
TIAPEI annual conf in Charlottetown in March - going to this as well

Later in March and April, TourismTechnology.com will be offering a series of workshops. Day long in various locations throughout Atlantic Canada. For the bargain basement price of $100 plus HST. Each year we ferret out a spectacular presenter and follow them around as they help educate Operators on Social Media, Marketing, Communication, Tech and other issues.

And then Spring will be here.

And I might be more inspirational.

We'll see.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Your Community will stand up for you

Welcome to 2012

Certainly not a great start to the new year for one local restaurant. I won't name it, but it was recently closed for having inappropriate items in a food cooler. They dealt with the matter, got reinspected, approved and reopened. 

The problem is no one is coming back, and business is slow. Because of the nature of the closure and publicity in the local paper, it is become a running joke and akin to an urban legend. 

Firstly, if you're going to manage / own a restaurant you need to take a Food Safety course. Just for your own peace of mind. Maybe you don't have to maintain a certification but at least take it once, so you know what is allowed. TIANB offers the NFSTP program, check it out here

And also Responsible Beverage, check that out here , you can do this course online in a couple of hours.

Secondly, if you had a social media community of patrons already built before something like this happens to you, then they would have stood up and defended you.

That's one of the hidden bonuses of Social Media - people don't like to see other people bashing stuff they like, and they will rise up and defend you. If you become a real person to them via online interaction as well as interaction in your establishment, people will start to feel like you're family and want to protect the things they like.

I'm sure this particular restaurant has many loyal patrons who would be vocal about their love of the restaurant but they do not have a venue. In fact I'm sure there have been a few tweets here and there, and maybe some facebook posts but without a standard hashtag or a business page, these one off voices are lost in a crowd. 

I see a couple of people have recently posted positive reviews on Urban Spoon and Trip Advisor, which is great but still not focused enough. 

Also if you had an online community you could offer them a special discount code or coupon to entice them to return. 

Thirdly, though it's just as important as Social Media, you should have an optimized website. I don't believe this particular restaurant has a website, so all the bad press is rising to the top of the Google ranks and they don't have a snowball's chance in heck of pushing those out of the top ten unless they have their own website and are continually refreshing content 

Regrettably I read the owner quoted as saying "they didn't know how to make customers return" and I knew they were automatically thinking expensive old school methods like radio and newsprint. 

This incident might inevitably lead to the closure of this restaurant and in my head I know the outcome could have been different if they had a social media community they could reach out to. Start building yours today. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Good Bye 2011

OK, minus points for totally unoriginal title, but bonus points for blogging more in 2011 than in 2010!

I think that makes me even, points wise.

Which in this economy is a good place to be.

To wrap up the year, I thought I might pass along some general technology tidbits, in no particular order...

1. Never leave your electronics in a car in the cold.

You run the risk of condensation on the inside and condensation leads to rust. Always bring your laptop and cell phone in from the car.

2. Please put a password on your cell phone.

It can be as simple as 3 letters, anything to discourage would be thieves. YOU are responsible for charges on  your cell phone. When someone steals it and starts calling Nigeria, it's your responsibility to pay for that. It's not the phone carrier's fault. You see this same story countless times on the news websites - unsuspecting consumers owing thousands of dollars to the phone carrier. This is true for ALL phones on your account. Try and get long distance calling disabled on your children's phones.

3. Organize your files in folders

The end of the year is the perfect time to Archive old files into folders. In today's digital age, if you don't have a folder structure, you're wasting a lot of your time hunting for things. Use the features of the operating system to sort files by date, or type instead of name.

Create folders inside of folders for years - move everything into place

Especially pictures. My personal pictures folder has main folders for all holidays, and then inside each is a folder for each year. Christmas -- 2008 --- 2009 --- 2010 etc.
You can also do it by year if you wanted 2010 - Easter --- Summer vacation --- Fall -- Ski trip ---Christmas etc.

4. Cull old files and emails

Now is the time to clear out that clutter from your inbox. Permanently delete Deleted Items. You'll feel better starting the year with only the emails you need in front of you.

If you are using Outlook and have old email addresses in your auto complete, you can take some time to clear those out as well. Highlight them and hit the delete key - simple.

Hotmail, Gmail, whatever mail - clear out, clean up!

5. Drink more lattes - they are one of life's simple pleasures if you like milk with your coffee.

6. Use your laptop battery!

If you have a laptop the best way to extend the life of the battery is to USE it. Even if it sits at a desk for 90% of its life, unplug it and run it on battery until it's beeping like mad. It annoys me when people have a new laptop and the battery only lasts 5 minutes - it's not a manufacturing defect, it's because you never used it.

Also unplug it and let it discharge over the weekends. Power it off every once in a while and unplug the cable from the laptop AND the outlet (or power bar). Laptops are a little different from desktops in that they can build up static inside. You don't need to know the details, just unplug it and let it rest every once in a while.

7. The internet is your one stop shop

We're coming into an era of no excuses. There is literally nothing that you cannot find on the internet. And almost nothing the internet cannot help you with.

For example, if you don't know how to do number 3 and 4 - find out on the internet.

Start with "creating folders in windows 7" in a google search bar. If video is your preferred learning method, try You Tube.

If you don't know your version of Windows, start with "Find my windows version"

Start with learning about Google. Google help:  http://support.google.com/websearch/?hl=en

7.5 Have a latte while you're learning (see number 5 above) or whatever makes you calm

8. Improve your typing skills.

Really the only thing for this is practice. Google "learn to type". Retype your recipe cards. Whatever it is you're typing doesn't matter, practice on something. If you can get to 20-30 wpm your online life will be more enjoyable.

9. If you have several containers of Christmas decorations, mark on the outside which one you put the ornament hangers in.

And then put a note to yourself inside the other containers about which one you put the ornament hangers in. Then when the Ornament Hanger Goblin comes at some point during the year, you'll know which container to dust for incriminating fingerprints and DNA evidence.

That bugger belongs in jail.

Hmm...digressing a bit there.

Probably time to sign off on 2011 and we'll meet up in 2012.

I'll be available for one-on-one website mentoring in the new year, at the super low rate of $125, just give me a shout.


Monday, December 5, 2011

TourismTechnology.com project survey

Greetings Operator,

During the past three years, the TourismTechnology.com project has offered one-on-one mentoring sessions, and professional workshops in the spring.

The TourismTechnology.com project, in preparation for renewal in October 2012, is looking for feedback and suggestions regarding what technology tools operators would like to learn more about and how operators would prefer to learn about technologies in general.

Please take a few moments to answer our survey. The survey has 14 questions, and will help direct the next three years of the TourismTechnology.com project.

Click here  for the survey

Thank you, 
Réal Robichaud
Executive Director, TIANB

Bonjour chers exploitants,

Au cours des trois dernières années, le projet TechnologieTourisme.com a offert des séances de mentorat individuelles, ainsi que des ateliers professionnels au printemps.

Le projet TechnologieTourisme.com, en préparation pour le renouvellement en Octobre 2012, souhaite recueillir vos commentaires et suggestions quant aux outils que vous souhaiteriez mieux connaître et aux moyens par lesquels vous aimeriez vous familiariser avec les technologies de l'information en général.

Veuillez svp prendre quelques minutes pour compléter notre sondage. Le questionnaire comportant 14  questions contribuera à donner les orientations des trois prochaines années du projet TechnologieTourisme.com.

Cliquer ici pour le sondage

Réal Robichaud
Directeur général, AITNB

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hop like a Jack Rabbit

EXCLUSIVE - for my NB readers  

Let's dispel some of the myths and confusion around Jack Rabbit and online booking :)

Jack Rabbit is first and foremost an INDEXER.

A few times a day the Jack Rabbit "widget" - that white box on the TAP (tourism and parks) consumer facing website (tourismnewbrunswick.ca) hops over to each operators online booking system and asks how many rooms are available.

It doesn't hold anything or take a portion of your rooms, it just asks "how many rooms do you have not booked?" Then later in the day it asks "OK now how many rooms do you have that are not booked?"

It then holds on to this information and so when  a consumer puts date ranges into the white box, it searches its information that it is holding on to and returns results

From there the consumer sees what operators have rooms available, and can choose to book, view the operator's website, start again, etc.

To actually book a room, the consumer must go to the operator's online booking system.

And here's where some people are confused

The operator can run ANY online booking system s/he wants to. The Jack Rabbit will hop over and  "talk" to any online booking system.

There are many many many types of online booking engines and they range from online web based engines to full property management systems. Some which interface with online merchant accounts and some that don't (ie take credit card deposits, hold credit card information)

It's up to the operator to choose which online booking system s/he wants to use.

They also range in pricing from a percentage to a flat monthly fee.

AS AN OPTIONAL BONUS - the people who developed Jack Rabbit will provide any operator who wants it a free online booking system.  This is SEPARATE to the Indexer the Jack Rabbit team runs on the TAP website.

The free online system is basic but they, the Jack Rabbit program team, are also making some improvements to it. Neither TAP or TIANB can make any improvements to the free portion online booking system.

There are many ways a consumer can find an operators website:

  • Rack card at a VIC
  • Google search
  • www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca (TAP)
  • You Tube video search
  • RTA or DMO site listing
  • a direct link from a previous customer / friends / family
  • a facebook ad
  • etc etc etc

Being in the TAP check availability widget is not the be all and end all of people finding your accommodation. It's just one route to it. 

The cost for showing up in that widget is $125 a year

PLUS the cost of an online booking system. OR you can choose the free one from the Jack Rabbit company. 

You must do your RESEARCH on what online booking option is going to work for your operation!!!

Implementing this technology and making the change from that notebook or calendar to online is a BIG one.

It takes planning and commitment and knowledge and money. 

Remember when you wanted to build that garden for your guests to enjoy. So you plotted it out, bought the tiny plants and voila ... your guests sat in front of 5 inch tall hostas and said, "ah, that's cute"

Now it's a few years later, the hostas, which you moved to get more sun, are 2 feet tall and the bistro table set you purchased on clearance is a perfect spot for guests to relax.

The point being, the garden didn't start out as a magical place, and neither will your online booking engine. 
Because you didn't understand flowers  that well, you might have lost some, and had to replant others. Same with online booking - make sure you understand your options.

However in time, your online booking engine will be a magical place and as you sit in your garden, sipping a cup of tea while it takes reservations for you,  you'll wonder how you ever got along without it. 

As always, anyone from the TourismTechnology.com team would be happy to help explain how online reservations works (the other Atlantic Provincial portals are different) and we also have reviewed at least 12 online booking software engines and can dispel some of the myths.


Monday, November 7, 2011

To Tool or not to Tool ...


While at the Altantic Internet Marketing conference last month in Halifax, I attended a great panel session called the Internet Marketer's Toolkit. Each panelist shared their top four or five internet / social media / business tools. Some are free, some are not. But here's the list for your education.

Salesforce - a contact manager software for sales or other applications

Constant Contact - an online email marketing solution. Let's you create mass emails and send them to your stored contact lists

Forrester Research - internet / social media stats for gurus

Social Media sharing buttons - not a tool per se but make sure you have social media sharing on your website and that you use social media buttons on other websites to share interesting content with your followers

Timely.is  - analyzes your past tweets and finds the best time slots for you to send new ones

Namechk - if you're starting a new business, or signing up for social media use namechk to see what user names and domains are available so you can have the most consistent online presence

Hootsuite - an online application that lets you manage your social media like twitter and facebook with one application and one log in

Tweetdeck - same as Hootsuite but different (most people like either Hootsuite or Tweetdeck)

Seesmic - same as Tweetdeck and Hootsuite

Google Blogsearch  - (found under the more button) narrow down your google search to just what is happening in the blog sphere

Ice rocket - real time search of Twitter and Facebook and others

Social Mention - same as ice rocket

Radian 6 - a brand monitoring platform, mainly for larger companies with a lot of people talking about them

bit.ly - a URL shortening service, you can track clicks once you set up an account, then you'll know how many people clicked on a link in your tweet etc.

klout score - mostly for geeks to measure how important they are on the internet - my klout is 11.

Friend or follow - see who you are following but who is not following you and vice versa

Mail Chimp - same as Constant Contact

Survey Monkey - a low cost survey program, with monthly options, sign up for a few months, run a survey, close your account

Google Analytics - analyzes the traffic to your website - you need this.

Google Link Builder - Google has lots of free tools like this one, Google keyword, and Google Local Business listing - check them all out

Hope you find these helpful !


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Content is my current passion

In my last few mentoring sessions I've focused on website content and how it can make or break your site.


Because clients are having a social media backlash at me, and so I trick them into working on their content, which in turn will lead them happily down the path of social media. Watch out, I'm delightfully deceptive.

Review my posts from September 20, August 2 and way back in July 2009

And I found this great article - 10 simple ways to reduce friction

While it's not tourism focused, it's still relevant. I'm talking to all you operators with black backgrounds and white text. Please let's move on from the 90's.

All words on your website should inform the consumer about property details and entice them to contact you immediately. And make sure some of those words are your keywords. Win win.

Don't talk about you, talk about me... or don't talk about me, talk about you? Stop using the words We and Us, and use You and You're and You will.

When designing keep in mind colours, fonts and eye path. The easiest method is to find a comparable site and tell your developer you like that one. In the tourism market, people are browsing 10-30 different options and their eyes are starting to glaze over. You want them to feel like your site is a calm, organized, coherent oasis in a sea of internet sludge.

Images - make sure your images relate to your target market. If you're looking to attract more seniors, then have more seniors in your images.

So what have we done?

Not only have we reviewed and refreshed all our website content, we've pared it down to some tweetable sentences. Sneaky. Plus we can tweet some of the content that we pulled -> re-purposing.

Not only do we have new great relevant images on our website but we can also use some for our facebook and tweets -> re-purposing. And the outtakes are totally awesome for this purpose. Be fun and silly for a minute.

Yes, it's digital magic.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Internet Resources for Bed and Breakfasts

While browsing through the internet I found this great listing of websites for B&B and Inn owners

Check out the original article for the full list and read the comments for some more great tips from readers

I've copied and pasted a few of them below:

There's the B&B Coach, Susan, who is sharing her B&B tips via her paid services and a free blog. Hmmm sounds familiar, like someone close to me does the same thing ... oh right that's me :)


The Quantum Hospitality group, which doesn't seem to be online at the moment but has a lot of great archives


Also don't forget, LinkedIn also has groups for B&B owners. LinkedIn is the more professional version of Facebook. You wouldn't sell your product here but can find others like you in the forums and groups and share problems and experiences.


I'm sure you'll find something educational in the above resources.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How to combine social media and analytics and marketing

You should really read the whole article located HERE

But I really enjoyed the case studies. Use your trip adviser reviews and guest feedback to mold your marketing message - interesting concept that everyone can utilize.

It's about what THEY SEE AND DO and not about what YOU think they are seeing and doing.

Actual hotel case studies:

Case study
We recently worked with a client that was a historical monument. The hotel had been home of many historical celebrities that had written books, poems, symphonies there – even famous paintings worth millions were painted from the window at the hotel.
Logically this was a tremendous marketing advantage for the hotel. It was all over their brochures, site and advertising. But the hotel was failing despite all this marketing.
After a careful study of all the online reviews of the hotel, it was obvious that their potential future guests didn’t much care about what their other guests did in the past. They came to the hotel for the same reasons that the celebrities came to the hotel – a unique setting and view.
All marketing elements were re-done for the hotel. We scrapped absolutely everything and started from scratch. All of the focus was placed on the setting and view. The results were immediate.
Another example
Another hotel had just renovated their property with some of the most exquisite materials available. Each tile or piece of furniture was of the finest quality, and this was a luxury boutique hotel destined to be great success. Obviously everybody knew that “luxury” was going to be a unique selling point for the hotel. So the marketing efforts, press releases, and communications material were all focused on the fine materials and luxury offered.
Not so quick… we studied the hotel’s reviews to find out what people were saying about the hotel. To everyone’s surprise nobody mentioned any of these great products and fine brands but they were all commenting on the hotel’s close proximity to several monuments.
It surprised us because the hotel wasn’t that close to those monuments from a local viewpoint. But in the eyes of the consumer that was the hotel’s biggest advantage. So we changed the site, the marketing and everything to reflect what the guests were saying. The results were almost immediate, and sales through the hotel’s website took off in ways nobody had imagined.
And one more
Apex Hotels is one of the most successful urban hotel brands in the UK, and has made semantic analysis a fundamental part of determining their marketing strategy. “It enables us to instantly understand our unique selling propositions – from the guests’ perspective,” says ecommerce executive Amy Spark.
For example, the team realized their location is much more important to guests than their food offerings, so they played this aspect up in their collateral. The results were impressive. “Semantic analysis ensures we are connecting with our audience, and communicates what they are looking for.”
There is more to review analytics than reputation management. Review analytics are a vital tool for guiding marketing messages to reflect what guests appreciate most about your hotels, and avoid topics that guests don’t care about or aren’t interested in.
Make an effort to understand what your guests are saying about you, combine that with your marketing research, and you’ll have a formula for powerful promotions.