The four-property Vintage Inn hotel chain
in Niagara-on-The Lake in Ontario, Canada is recognized for luxurious accommodations, award winning food and excellent service. Each property holds a Four-Diamond rating from both Canadian and American Automobile Clubs, and although Vintage Inns maintains a full-service 1-800 reservation center, its skyrocketing reservation growth is coming from Internet channels.
Vintage Inns decided not to offer its inventory through discount-rate sites like Travelocity or Expedia because of its inability to control rates. Still, the company’s operators recognized the future of room sales growth was going to be over the Internet so Vintage Inn partnered with enterprise property management provider, NORTHWIND, to implement a chain-wide technology platform suite with integrated front office, GDS and Internet interfaces utilizing SynXis channel management tools. This proved to be the right strategy; Vintage Inns, with only 400 rooms, is forecasting over $1M in revenue from GDS sources and its website’s booking engine in 2004.
In the first quarter of 2004 Vintage Inns is averaging between $75,000 and $100,000 per month from its electronic channels thanks to a strategy of optimizing its GDS and Internet rates through its Yield Management System. “We have seen a 500 percent increase in revenue from our website and GDS sources over the same period in 2003,” said Ron Doi, Corporate Rooms Revenue Manager for Vintage Inns. “When we upgraded our hotel systems last year we selected the Maestro Enterprise Multi-Property Suite because it unified the automation of all four Vintage Inn properties on one database for personalized guest service. Just as important, Maestro provides centralized Yield Management for our hotels through our SynXis GDS link to the Internet.” Vintage Inns is utilizing Maestro Front Office Management, Sales and Catering, Club Spa, and the GDS+ module that allows individual hotels or chains to sign up with as many GDSes as they like without concern for overbooking or rate erosion. With Maestro’s single-image multi-property database, availability for all Vintage Inn hotels is current across all its booking sources, including GDSes and its call center.
“One of the most significant aspects of the Maestro GDS - SynXis integration is rate integrity,” explained Ron Doi. “We use our Yield Management program to control all Vintage Inn’s rates from one screen at our offices. Shoppers see the same maximized rate for a specific room type whether they look at our GDS offerings, third-party Internet travel sites, or even if they call our voice center. It is easy to manage online inventory and rates because SynXis provides real-time reports that show what is being booked and where our rates are posted.”
When Vintage Inns originally installed its Maestro GDS+ system the chain’s Internet communication was through hubX, which was acquired by SynXis in January 2004. Tom Murray, Vice President of SynXis Technical Services explained, “Yield management capabilities are rare in electronic interfaces, particularly when integrating with GDS. The interface with NORTHWIND provides fully automated two-way communication between Maestro and SynXis electronic reservation services. It leverages Maestro’s yield management and pushes its optimized rate control functionality out to the Web.”
Vintage Inn’s website booking engine is also a significant source of reservations for all its hotels, and Maestro’s rate controls are fully integrated with the site. Reservations from its website cost Vintage Inns only two dollars each, while voice-center reservations cost the company eleven dollars. As a result Vintage Inns markets its website aggressively. To capitalize on its site’s profitability Vintage Inns employs an emerging Internet sales tool called “search engine optimization,” which guides shoppers to property booking sites by making their website attractive to search engines. “We want our website to generate as many reservations as possible,” said Ron Doi. “A considerable percentage of our bookings come from the Internet now, and it is taking the pressure off our call center. Since the vintageinns.com booking engine is integrated with our Maestro Multi-Property reservation system, online shoppers receive accurate real-time availability for all our properties from one screen, and the rates are maximized.” Vintage Inns makes it easier for shoppers to book reservations online by providing Web visitors with detailed last-room availability. It also compensates for closed-out periods with calendars that display alternative open periods and room types at nearby Vintage properties.
Rooms Revenue Manager for Vintage Inns Ron Doi believes people are increasingly time-poor, and their familiarity with the Internet is allowing them to make reservations faster through electronic channels than over the phone, resulting in the jump in Internet reservations. “The traveling public trusts the Internet more today, and will use it to book even more reservations tomorrow,” said Doi. “Hoteliers must take control of their rates and booking process and learn how to sell rooms to a market that has become site loyal, rather than property loyal. We accomplish this at Vintage Inns by standardizing our rates across all our channels so shoppers will never find discounted pricing for our properties. The Maestro GDS+ SynXis technology makes it possible for us to manage all our Internet rates at one time, so rates are uniform and never lower than our site.” Vintage Inns also actively directs everyone who calls its properties to check its website for specials and new activities. Even the chain’s voice center and personal phone greetings suggest that callers check the company’s website.
“The ‘excess inventory’ companies have had their day, and it has passed,” concluded Vintage Inns Ron Doi. “Shoppers will not come back to those sites when they learn the lowest room rates are on the property’s or chain’s website.”