An interview with Hotelinking: word-of-mouth marketing

Hotelinking is a company started by young people that has revolutionized the hospitality marketing. Word-of-mouth marketing, social networks, and the idea that hotel guests have become more dependent on technology are on the basis of this project. Social networking sites are part of the life of millennial tourists, who wish to share their experiences with their friends and relatives. The Hotelinking team decided to take advantage of this fact and they have created a platform that has a massive impact on social networks: when hotel guests share comments or images on Facebook and Twitter, the system captures data from a social CRM and the hotels get hundreds of thousands of clicks, thus improving direct sales thanks to these visits to their corporate websites. 4 v1.0 This young startup has just won the 14th edition of Eureka, a business and startup competition organized by the local government in Palma de Majorca through PalmaActiva. Today, we are going to interview Hotelinking founders Daniel Alzina and Xisco Lladů. 1. First, congratulations on this award you just received. Who are you? Whatís Hotelinking team like? We all have something in common; our passion is to develop groundbreaking products using an agile methodology. We love it when clients tell us that they see positive results in a short period of time. We are a small team and we hope to continue like this. All of us have solid experience in the world of hospitality, tourism and technology and our product, once implemented, works in a fully automated way. There are almost no incidents and clients donít need to do any further management tasks. We focus on developing high-quality software and we also care a lot about our customers by offering personalized attention. To tell the truth, our technical support team can do their job with minimum resources; they just donít need them. 2. What is Hotelinking and how does it work? Hotelinking is a marketing platform for hotels and hotel chains exclusively aimed at generating more high-quality traffic towards the hotelsí corporate websites. We manage to massively attract guestsí friends and followers to these websites so that new traffic adds up to the existing one. Itís a new source of traceable traffic, which translates into unique clicks towards the hotelís website. Besides, Hotelinking has the following advantages:
  • It captures data from 100% of guests and, then, adds data from social networking sites thanks to the systemís interaction with the hotelís Wi-Fi system.
  • It contributes to the hotelsí brand-building in social networking sites thanks to Facebook recommendations.
  • It improves direct sales from the hotelsí corporate website.
3. When and why did you come up with this idea? I guess there are different factors involved: before we started Hotelinking, we had been working in the hospitality business, so we were used to listening to the needs of hoteliers. Secondly, we belong to a generation of people who are constantly connected to social networks and use our smartphones for almost everything. Third, we love to travel and see what life is like in different countries... This made us realize the great opportunity we had to help hotels to go viral using social networks and a really ďold-fashionedĒ marketing method: word-of-mouth, which is probably the simplest and most effective marketing system. The problem lay in the difficulty to systematize our idea. Then, we were finally able to develop Hotelinking by combining a program of direct rewards, the virality provided by social networks and state-of-the-art technology. 4. Your business model is easily replicable. Why did you choose the hospitality sector? Have you thought of expanding beyond the world of hotels? Word-of-mouth marketing basically depends on volume, and hotels generate a lot of traffic. Imagine a hotel with 100 rooms in a holiday destination. It can welcome up to 10,000 people every year. Our solution works together with the hotelís Wi-Fi so we are able to generate over 35,000 new visits towards the hotelís corporate website for an independent hotel of only 100 rooms. Can you imagine the volume generated by a chain with 50 or 100 hotels? The potential is huge and, until very recently, it was an unexplored area. We are at the beginning of massive referral marketing in the hospitality sector. Hotelinking could be used in restaurants, airlines, shipping lines, online agencies and, of course, retail systems -where there are several applications based on referral marketing, such as Woocommerce, Shoppify or Magento. But the hospitality and travel industries work in a different manner because the market is really fragmented: there are many different providers and search engines and, therefore, the number of integrations is bigger. Itís necessary to have some experience and previous knowledge in the hospitality business before starting a project of this kind. Actually, it would be easier for us to jump into the retail sector than doing it backward, as we would go from complex to simple. 5. Could you provide some figures to show the impact caused by Hotelinking? The peak season has just started in the Balearic Islands and our module, which operates in combination with the hotelsí Wi-Fi system is especially effective during this period. For example, after 20 days using Hotelinking, one of our clients got more than 5,000 e-mails as well as additional information from guestsí social networks (name, nationality, gender, age, number of friends, etc.). 100% of the e-mails are currently in use so we get over 90 percent of clientsí details in an automated manner. Besides, Hotelinking generated more than 1.5 million reactions on Facebook and about 11,500 clicks towards the hotelís website. This is 100% traceable and can be monitored from the control panel hoteliers are provided with.   grafica-ordenador (1) optimized   6. Which social networks are the most important in your project and why? Facebook is the one with more reactions. We have tried to do it through Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. and we have never got better results than when using Facebook. If you count the number of clicks from different social networks to the hotelís corporate website, Facebook redirects more clicks with the same number of shares, so we have decided to redirect our efforts towards that social network, as it generates a higher return for everybody. We are always on the alert for new social networks, as ours is a rapidly-changing scenario. We know that, today, Instagram has many users but, unfortunately, itís locked from a technical point of view and it does not allow the easy interaction with other applications that Facebook does. We hope this situation changes soon. 7. What benefits does the hotel guest get? The guest brings much value to the hotel when interacting with Hotelinking. He or she generates word-of-mouth on social networks, also gives permissions to capture their contact details through Hotelinking (to be used later by the hotel on marketing campaigns), generates new clicks towards the corporate website, and finally generates direct sales by attracting their social media friends. In all cases, guests are instantly gifted when interacting positively with Hotelinking. For instance, in our pre-stay module, guests receive a gift voucher by email, which can be redeemed upon arrival at the hotel. We think instant gratification is the key. 8. Yours is an ambitious project. Are you looking towards the national market or are you planning to go international? Right now, our target is the Spanish market, since itís one of the most important tourism destinations in the world. We think itís essential to be well-established in our own area before we start the internationalization process. Nevertheless, we have some clients in the UK, Mexico and the USA. 9. We wish you lots of luck. Will we see any innovations in the short term? We are constantly developing and improving our platform. We believe that the way people communicate changes really fast and maybe e-mails are slowly falling into disuse because of the spam we have to deal with on a daily basis. This is one of the reasons why people are exploring new, more personal, communication channels, such as Facebook Messenger, which is less invasive. We donít always read all of our e-mails but we rarely go without reading a private Facebook or WhatsApp message. We are doing some research on Facebook Messenger bots in order to send automated communications that may help to provide customer care, transport information, sell products and many other actions. This is another example of how to adapt to the needs of millennial travelers. Hoteliers are starting to count on powerful tools to manage their guestsí free time and change their business practices for the better. Weíd like to thank again the Hotelinking team for their participation and engagement in the hospitality industry. From Winhotel, we encourage them to go on with their plans and ideas. For further information about Hotelinking, you can contact Daniel Alzina on d.alzina@hotelinking.com and Xisco Lladů on x.llado@hotelinking.com. If you want a demo, please click here.